I had little of idea of what to expect from my trip to Grimsey, other than to voyage to a rocky, though inhabited, island in the Arctic Ocean, and with the assurance that I’d be falling over the arctic terns and puffins that I hoped to photograph there. Rather than flying from Akureyri, I took the boat so that I could enjoy the sense of travelling there, and as we sailed out of Dalvik through the calm waters of Eyjafjordur it occurred to me that in the time that it would take to reach the harbour at Grimsey, I could also have flown from Reykjavik to London!
The weather was bright and dry so I decided to sit out on deck and watch the rugged North Icelandic coastline diminish in size while waiting for the outline of Grimsey to gradually emerge on the horizon. As we sailed North from the mouth of the fjord, where the night before I had been treated to sightings of a humpback whale, the ocean began to swell and roll. Glad that I had taken my medication before departure, I zipped up my coat, put up my hood and enjoyed the chance to sit and watch the miles of empty ocean stretching out due west ahead of me, with nothing between the rail of the boat and Greenland.
Not unlike a small harbour somewhere in England, our arrival at Grimsey‘s quayside some two hours later was a brief and bustling burst of activity as the foot passengers and the few cars on board disembarked and the cargo of provisions was unloaded. However the big difference here was the vast number of birds all around us — I can only describe it as a carpet of terns.
Grimsey is definitely very isolated, but as I learnt from my guide (also a nurse and the owner of the island’s guesthouse) the island supports a community of about 65 with a well-stocked village shop, school and community hall, church, restaurant, café and craft shop, and a place that offers scooter hire.
After lunch and a quick visit to the shop (where I met a lady from England shopping for an Anglo-American reunion house party) I set off with my guide to explore the island. We drove to the airport runway and crossed into the Arctic circle where we duly photographed the signpost to prove it, and then took the path along the cliffs and into a photographer’s paradise — blue sea, white horses, fabulous geology, wild flowers and countless birds completely unconcerned by my presence. Later we drove round to a bay, strewn with seaweed and upon closer inspection alive with wading birds completely camouflaged until I got really close.
Julia visited Grimsey in August 2014. For visitors to North Iceland, day trips and longer stays to Grimsey are available by ship and/or air. Please contact us for more information.