Sunday, August 16, 2009

Voyage of the Vikings, Day 23 - At Sea, Glasgow, Scotland to Torshaven, Faroe Islands

We bobbed and weaved a bit in the middle of the night. Wind was 40 to 45 knots on the port bow.

It calmed down around daybreak. It's 8:30 and we are at breakfast. Wind is down to 20 knots, still on the port bow.

We normally sit on the starboard side of the Lido Café, for no very good reason but habit. This morning we are sitting to port, as the bright sunshine is almost blinding on the starboard side.

Kathy is eating poached egg and potatoes. Keith is having Danish and omelet with ham, bacon, tomato, onion, mushroom, and cheese. Very tasty.

Our 9am lecture is titled "The Norse invasion of Iceland". Our lecturer, Professor Michael Millwood, emphasizes Norse settlers, as opposed to Viking raiders. He told a cute story about the use of Ravens for navigation guidance. The folklore says that ravens will fly toward the nearest land, as opposed to pigeons, which fly toward home.

Believe what you wish.

Pretty much the standard settlement story. Malcontent gets in trouble with the local government. Malcontent gets tossed out, sails to someplace new with no authority figures. Malcontent settles and becomes an authority figure and tosses out other malcontents who sail to some other place, etc., etc., etc.


Prof. Millwood’s Slide Showing Late First and

Early Second Millennium Norse Migrations

We were told that much of Iceland is full of lava, but about one sixth of the land near the coast is habitable.

More apocryphal tales about dirty hair and other economic disasters in Norway, leading to the earliest known Norwegian brain drain.

Then we heard more stories about malcontent 8th century lawyers migrating to Iceland to found the Alething, the early Icelandic parliament. We will visit the site of this parliament when we are in Rakjaevic. Keith is looking forward to this visit, because it is situated atop the Mid-Atlantic Rift, which is what he came to Iceland to see.

Apparently religion must have somehow got mixed up in all this, but Keith doesn't understand this part of the story.

By the 13th century the authority figures in Norway got big enough and powerful enough to dominate the authority figures in Iceland, leading to it's loss of independence. Eventually the authority figures in Denmark prevailed over the authority figures in Norway, and Iceland was Danish until World War II, when the US military invaded, to prevent the German dominated Danish government from militarizing the island for the wrong side.

In 1944 Iceland was declared independent. In 2008, Iceland went bankrupt. Currently, all bets are off.

Keith is attempting to photograph some of the slides, but it's tricky, as you can see above. The theater is located in the bow, which feels the sea state more than other parts of the boat. Kathy had a brief encounter with mal-de-mer, but seems ok now. We shall move to the library after the presentation is over. It is more in the middle of the boat, and should not be moving about so much.

10:30 update - we are in the library and Kathy is feeling much better. At 11 we will attempt to capture a computer to sort our photos from the last couple of days.

Noon update - The seas have calmed down a bit more. We spent a tedious hour sorting photos. We love looking at the pictures, but sorting them for this Blog is a frustrating process. We have too many good pix from our Wales tour in nice weather, and too many awful photos of rainy bus windows from yesterday's rainy day tour of Glasgow. In both cases sorting is difficult.

Lunch at 1pm. The poolside buffet is serving Indonesian today. The Indonesian crew has decorated the buffet in celebration of their native food.


Indonesian Buffet Art


Watermelon Art

The Indonesian food is not entirely dissimilar from yesterday's Dutch food. The menu included shrimp salad with sweet soya, gado-gado (sweet shrimp salad), sweet and sour cucumber, krupuk (rice cakes), coconut milk rice pudding, banana fritters, nasi goreng, beef sumatra, spicy green beans, spicy shrimp, spicy roasted chicken parts, egg curry, meatballs, chicken satay, beef satay, and peanut sauce. The similarity to Dutch is not surprising, considering the long association through the Dutch East India Company, which exploited Indonesia as well as India.


Indonesian Buffet

Also available poolside were burgers and dogs, and a pretty complete taco bar. And, of course, all the appetizers, entrees, salads, soups, and desserts in the Lido Café. Nobody leaves hungry.

Nap time follows lunch like night follows day. At 3pm, after his nap, Keith attended the second lecture by geologist Prof. David Smith. This erudite gentleman has the rare gift of being able to take a complex, almost arcane subject and make it clear and interesting.

Prof. Smith’s first lecture a couple of days ago dealt primarily with plate tectonics, with emphasis on the Atlantic basin, the mid Atlantic ridge, and the emergence of Iceland. As a secondary topic, he tossed in just enough climatology to cover ice ages, and their effect on sea level and consequent human migratory patterns.

Today's lecture was focused on the geology of Iceland, with lecture one as background. It was explained that Iceland is the only place in the world where a mid-ocean rift surfaces as a significant land mass. Lava flows have been pouring from the rift and accumulating for millions of years to build Iceland. Diagrams were presented to explain a little bit about how volcanoes work, and why there are different kinds, and maps were provided to show where the historic and contemporary rifts and volcanoes are located.


Dr. Smith’s Slide Showing The Location of the Reykjanes Ridge,

the Piece of the Mid Atlantic Ridge Around Iceland


Dr. Smith’s Slide Showing Detail of the Reykjanes Ridge Near Iceland


Dr. Smith’s Photo of Thingvellir,

a Section of the Mid Atlantic Rift in Iceland,

And site of Alething, the First Icelandic Parliment


Dr. Smith’s Photograph of an Eruption at Surtsey,

a New Volcanic Island off the South Coast of Iceland

I apologize again for the poor quality of the photographs of Dr. Smith’s Slides, which were excellent in the original.

Jumping to climatology, Dr. Smith talked a bit about ocean currents, and the effect of the Gulf Stream on the Icelandic climate and glacier formation. Because of the Gulf Stream and the prevailing winds, most of the contemporary Icelandic glaciation is in the southeast, where we are going day after tomorrow. Most of the current volcanic activity is focused in the south and southwest of the island, where the mid-Atlantic rift comes ashore. We visit this area in a couple of days, when we dock in Rjakaevick.


Dr. Smith’s Slide Showing Ocean Currents Around Iceland

Warm Gulf Stream Currents are Colored Black

Keith is hoping to encounter Dr. Smith around the ship somewhere, as he has a few questions to ask.

Keith regrets that he did not have the sense to photograph the Ice Pilot's slides a couple of weeks ago. He is attempting to make up for this omission by taking pictures of the geologist's slides, for further study at his leisure. Now Keith is anxious to get into the computer lab to sort and view these photos.

Speaking of photos, Keith was going to go topsides this morning and shoot some pictures of the brilliant sunshine reflecting off of the deep blue seas. He got lazy, and decided to put it off until later. Well, it's later, and the only scenes to be taken are of foggy seas. Duh...


The Hazy, Foggy North Atlantic

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