Thursday, August 18, 2016

Thursday, August 18th, Isafjordur, Iceland


Directly in front of us, almost the whole morning, were rainbows.  We drove up and down the sides of six fjords on Iceland's West Fjords today, and were constantly encouraged to follow their lead.  It was pretty magical.

Along the way,  we encountered the first road signs used in this country.  Cairns (piles of stones) have been constructed all across the country since 1100AD marking the early routes taken.  Usually about four feet tall, and about two hundred yards apart, these markers were used to guide travelers to settlements.
Lately, it seems that hikers and environmental artists have chosen to build tightly-packed straight-sided stone structures which have you wondering who would spend that much time on something few will ever see.

But then the cairns along the road have been there for centuries.

This part of Iceland is where its fishing industry began, and we visited a local museum displaying the history of cod fishing.  They had an excellent video, which followed the exploits of the members of a coastal fishing crew over their 18-hour day (and had me wondering how they captured all of those great segments inside the 6-person oar boat in the winter at sea).

But, as interesting as it was, the collection of accordions donated by a local resident was the hit of the museum.

Lastly, the Arctic Fox Center at Sudavik is the real prize of the day.  Did you know that the reasons they can survive in extreme cold are: 1) they have 20,000 hairs/cubic inch (a cat has 200); they have very small ears and noses; and 3) their unique blood system design utilizes something called "counter current exchange" in the legs. The paws are necessarily cold, but blood can circulate to bring nutrients to the paws without losing much heat from the body. Proximity of arteries and veins in the leg results in heat exchange, so that as the blood flows down it becomes cooler, and doesn't lose much heat to the snow. As the (cold) blood flows back up from the paws through the veins, it picks up heat from the blood flowing in the opposite direction, so that it returns to the torso in a warm state, allowing the fox to maintain a comfortable temperature, without losing it to the snow.

Arctic foxes were the first mammal to occupy Iceland, long before the last Ice Age, and this area has the highest concentration of them in the world.

To see all of the photos taken today, click on Thursday, August 18th.

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