Foxes and Whales

I didn’t expect to see much wildlife in Iceland. In fact there’s only one indigenous mammal and a few bird species on the island itself, and I was pretty sure that the arctic fox was far too reclusive and man-fearing a creature to ever show its face to tourists. Imagine my surprise then when one evening, after enjoying a bowl of moss soup in the guesthouse where we were staying, I came outside to see what looked very much like a fox cub. We only saw it for a few seconds before it scurried away to hide, but it was there again the next morning at breakfast and it let us get surprisingly close.

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In fact that morning there were two of them. They’re obviously used to being around humans (and the guesthouse kitchen, hoping for scraps). And in case you’re wondering, yes their fur goes white in the winter, and turns grey in the summer.

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Hello.

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The main avian attraction is the puffin, but these were particularly hard to photograph as their nesting areas on the cliffs are fenced off, although that didn’t stop some idiots climbing over the fences and trying to get closer. In fact it amazed me how often people disregarded the signs and stomped across areas of delicate vegetation.

But we had better luck with the marine mammals. We stopped in the former whaling town of Húsavík from where it was possible to get on a boat and spend three hours off the northern coast of Iceland hoping to see cetaceans.

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We weren’t the only ones out that day. In this shot there’s something lurking in the space between the two boats.

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Two humpbacked somethings, in fact.

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In this shot you might just be able to make out a light area at right. There’s something even more tantalising and evocative about seeing them through the water like this than when they break the surface.

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Deep breath.

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We saw them on and off over the course of about an hour. There wasn’t much else about other than the occasional puffin.

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And then finally we saw what we’d been waiting for: the iconic whale sight of tail flukes as they went for a deeper dive.

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