Iceland Sends the Zuiderdam Off With a Volcanic Eruption

Days 60 and 61, 2023 North Atlantic Adventure

Monday and Tuesday, July 10 and 11, 2023; Grundarfjørður, Iceland, and at sea.

Being a news hound from way back, on Monday I had one eye on the internet, watching for signs of a predicted volcanic eruption on the Reykjanes Peninsula just a few kilometers southwest of Reykjovik, our weekend port. And just as we were weighing anchor and leaving the small town of Grundarfjørður, the eruption began. It wasn’t a cataclysmic blow, but rather a long vent along the ground, pouring out steam, toxic gases and lava. Land lay between us and the volcano, perhaps 75 miles away, so we couldn’t see anything.

All the dramatic volcano photos I could find online are under copyright protection, so I’ll just link to a news source. If you want more, just Goggle “Iceland volcano.” Fortunately, it doesn’t seem to have (yet) caused much damage or affected air travel to Europe.

Even though this is my third visit to Iceland, it’s the first time I’ve been to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula on the west side of the Island. Snæfellsjökull volcano, now covered in a glacier, dominates the landscape. I took a morning tour that circled the peninsula, giving us views of the majestic mountain from every side.

We traveled through lava fields that were somewhat reminiscent of my spring tour on Lanzarote in the Canary Islands. Our tour included a walk along the cliffs to the harbor in Arnarstapi, where we saw Gatklettur, or Arch Rock.

Birds nested all along the cliffs, and I wished I had brought my 60x optical zoom camera – the iPhone doesn’t do them justice.

At Djúpalónssandur I opted not to join the long line for the hike down to the black lava and sand pebble beach. Those who did could try lifting large stones that once were used to judge the strength of men seeking work on fishing boats. The stones are known as Fullsterkur (full-strength, 154 kg), Hálfsterkur (half-strength, 100 kg), Hálfdrættingur (weakling, 54 kg) and Amlóði (useless, 23 kg). The remains of a shipwrecked fishing trawler still lie on the beach.

Our weather fortune continued, and we took advantage. Even the polar bear by the Lido pool seemed to enjoy the open roof as we sat at anchor under the snow-capped Snæfellsjökull.

From Iceland we are continuing our sail west toward the southern tip of Greenland. This is familiar territory for me, but not these smooth seas. Last time I sailed this way we had large rolling seas, recorded at 10 degrees of roll at their worst. Dessert plates and wine bottles went flying. I wrote all about it.

With the smooth seas I am spending more time in the afternoon completing my sketches. I am almost finished with the current sketchbook (number five since January), but my previous two books are probably not half full. I’ve ordered another nine sketchbooks for my fall and winter of sailing.

The leaning tower of the Old Church in Delft
The Ring of Brodgar in the Scottish Orkneys
Church in the shadow of Snæfellsjökull

My highlight today was the sea day Mariner Lunch, and more specifically the Medallion Ceremony. I was the only passenger this cruise to receive a Platinum Medallion – for 700 days at sea. Others received Gold (500 days) and Silver (300). They usually deliver the 100-day Bronze medallions to the staterooms. Captain Friso Kramer and Hotel Director Glenn Cowley made the presentation.

Many people understandably confuse the Medallion and Mariner programs. Mariner is a loyalty point program with rewards, and points are based not only on the number of days sailed, but also on onboard spending, with bonus points for booking suites. Medallions are simply for sailing days and carry no benefits. At 700 days, I’m just halfway to President’s Club, the granddaddy of them all, for 1,400 sailing days. We have a half-dozen President’s Club members on board.

I doubt I will wear the medallion again, but for now it is hanging on my stateroom wall. No, I will not attempt to add up the cost of all the cruises that contributed to this achievement.