Thursday, July 21, 2011

Day 26: July 21, 2011

We spent the day appreciating Husavik, a charming port town in northern Iceland. Knowing its reputation as the country's whale-watching capitol, we joined a 3-hour boat tour. Hordur and Arni Sigurbjarnarson, brothers who run a local whale watching company called North Sailing, learned about our charity bike ride from Jon Erlinger Jonasson (our friend at the Iceland Mission to the UN) and generously gave us complementary tickets.

It was sunny with a gentle breeze - perfect whale watching weather. And we were not disappointed. As we cruised out of Husavik's harbor toward the open ocean, we saw several white-beaked dolphins darting powerfully through the glistening waters. Puffins zoomed nearby, flapping their stubby wings almost frantically as they took off and landed on the undulating water. Graceful arctic terns, probably my favorite bird, performed aerial stunts overhead, their distinctive split tails, grey wings and white bellies streaming by in a blur.

After about an hour, we saw a sudden white spray in the distance. A majestic humpback whale was calmly coasting through the water. It seemed undisturbed by our presence, as the boat approached to within several dozen meters. The whale took several breaths, spewing out of it's blowhole, before taking a dive, its broad tail flipped out of the water for a brief moment before disappearing into the deep to munch on krill. After about a minute, it resurfaced near the same spot, giving us a chance to get a good look, and repeated the pattern.

Sho and Saya rushed around the ship, hoping to find the best spot to see the glorious creature, and chatted excitedly about how cool it was to be so close to such a massive animal.

Sho said, "He seems so peaceful."

Saya said, "I want to pet him."

We watched the whale for about twenty minutes before returning to the harbor, where we spent an hour in Husavik's whale museum. Sho and Saya explored the museum with vigor, comparing the exhibits to what they had just seen in the wild. Saya was also enthralled by the narwhal and asked if they were "pretend, just like unicorns.". I told her that sometimes fact is stranger than fiction.

The museum included some recent newspaper articles about whales killed by consuming large amounts of plastic. I thought about the Plastiki expedition that highlighted the ridiculous amount of plastic that is now churning in the oceans, and I wished there were a feasible way to solve the problem.

Sho, Saya and I made time in the afternoon for Sho to get in some soccer practice on one of Husavik's many impressive soccer fields. Sho is trying to keep up his skills during this ride, so that he'll be ready to play on his school team in the fall. He's certainly getting in some good endurance training with all the cycling we're doing.

It was another memorable day on this trip. A chance to discover a charming town and to watch my kids internalize a connection with the natural world that I hope will persist into adulthood. Perhaps these experiences will help them counter the constant pressure to consume and acquire material wealth. Perhaps they will grow into adults with a sense of stewardship for the world and see the natural environment as something more than a resource to be exploited for personal gain.

Here are some pics:

Husavik harbor:

Hordur Sigurbjarnarson:

Saya pointing out a puffin from the whale-watching boat:

Another whale-watching boat:

Humpback whale:

White-beaked dolphin:

Saya being herself:

Sho and Saya with our whale-watching guide:

- An Iceland Bike Adventure post


  1. Hi.

    What an adventure!! You and your family are a living proof that having children doesn't mean you have to stop living life extravagantly (spelling?).

    Your whale-watching guide happens to be a member of two famous Icelandic bands. Viking metal band Skálmöld and folk band Ljótu hálfvitarnir. Check them out on youtube.

    Good luck on your adventure!

  2. Hraustur,

    Sorry for not responding until now -- I missed seeing your comment during the ride. Thank you for the note and appreciating that kids can be part of a life of adventure. :-) Our guide was such a cool guy: knowledgable, friendly, interested in nature, and a rocker!

    -- Charles