Djúpivogur, Iceland

Jul 06, 2018 - National Geographic Explorer

National Geographic Explorer arrived in Djúpivogur, a natural harbor in the southeast of Iceland, for a packed day of exploring. Forty-six intrepid explorers disembarked early in the morning and boarded a bus to Vatnajökull, known as Lake Glacier—the largest glacier in Iceland, covering an area of 8,100 km2 or about eight percent of the country. On the way, our bus drove through vast, peaceful landscapes, passing several bays. One of those bays, Swan Bay, is named for the hundreds of whooper swans (Cygnus cygnus) that gather there, filling the area with their slender, white bodies and reverberating sounds.

We arrived at Vatnajökull National Park, and after picking up adequate gear, walked 2.4 km to the glacier’s base. Once fitted with crampons, we walked out onto the glacier and spotted bright blue ice.

We meandered past small waterfalls on our walk back and then boarded the bus for Jökulsárlón or Glacier River Lagoon. At the spectacular lake, we took photos of the icebergs that calve from the glacier.

This region is occupied by abundant wildlife typical of the far North. Great skuas (Stercorarius skua) and Arctic skuas (Stercorarius parasiticus) regularly patrolled the Arctic tern (Sterna paradisaea) colonies. Terns feed at the river mouth, and when they successfully trap fish, they are chased by the Arctic skuas until they release their prey. At times, some of the great skuas prey on the unattended eggs or chicks of the Arctic terns—such is the cycle of life.

On the tundra, we encountered common ringed plovers (Charadrius hiaticula), protecting their chicks from passersby, as well as barnacle geese (Branta leucopsis), a cliff-dwelling species flourishing in Iceland but originally from Greenland and Svalbard, Norway. After enjoying the icebergs and birds, we finally made our way back to the ship.

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About the Author

Javier Cotin


Javier 's passion for birds and nature began as a child exploring the Pyrenees mountains with his father. The mystery that surrounds the Lammergeier silhouette triggered his curiosity and interest towards wildlife. Javier studied biology in Spain and Norway, and was awarded his PhD at the University of Barcelona in 2012, titled “Birds as bioindicators of pollution in terrestrial and aquatic environments”. Within it he mainly studied the trophic ecology and pollution levels of land and waterbirds, with a particular focus on how human activities affect bird populations and dynamics. His work provided important information for conservation management of wetlands and terrestrial habitats and the species that utilize them.

About the Photographer

Susan Seubert

National Geographic Photographer

Award-winning travel and editorial photographer Susan Seubert has photographed more than 30 feature stories for National Geographic Traveler. Her subjects range from Canada to the Caribbean and from Europe to Asia and beyond. Based in Portland, Oregon and Maui, Hawaii, Susan travels throughout the world shooting a variety of subjects and capturing a sense of place through her wide-ranging imagery. She has worked in Europe for National Geographic Traveler magazine and joined numerous National Geographic Expeditions over the years, from Alaska to Antarctica. 

About the Videographer

Ashley Karitis

Video Chronicler

Ashley was raised in Central Oregon where she spent her childhood ski racing, riding horses, playing classical piano, and working summer jobs on a dude ranch. She then attended the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles earning degrees in cinema-television, history, and international relations. Although immersed in the studies of narrative filmmaking, she gravitated toward the process, deeper on-camera conversations, and scientific and human themes explored in documentary production.

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