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Iceland Expedition

Iceland Expedition 16th June to 22nd July 1968

The idea of visiting Iceland and traversing the Vatnajokull to the central volcanic depression was raised by Ian Curphey just after the 1967 Gouffre Berger Expedition in France. Here we had met a French journalist who had parachuted onto the new island called Surtsey that was formed from a recent volcanic eruption. He had told us what a wonderful and diverse place Iceland was and we were keen to see it.

The Vatnajokull is the largest glacier in Iceland and covers over 8% of the island being 8300 square kilometres in area. There are over 400 metres of ice depth at the centre in an area called the Grimsvotn Depression and this is an area of frequent volcanic activity. We also planned to climb Mount Hekla, an active volcano and visit areas of high volcanic activity complete with Geysers and see some of the most fantastic waterfalls.

This expedition seemed a good idea at the time and Alan Wicks, Alan Eaves, Etienne Lemaire (GAS) and Barrie Parker put our names forward as Ian who had previously spent three separate winters in the Antarctic as a dog team handler would do all of the tricky navigation. It was important to have Etienne with us as not only was he great company but he also brought with him funding from Belgium as long as we carried out tasks set by Leuven University in Brussels. This task involved taking photographs of Fan Moraines on various glaciers.

Expedition Members

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Etienne Lemaire

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Barrie Parker

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Alan Wicks

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Ian Curphy

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Alan Eaves

We decided to go during the period of the longest days between June and July but that eventually proved to be a mistake. At this time of year although the surface snow would hold our weight without a problem, the minute we put on our 65lb rucksacks we went through the snow crust normally above our knees and frequently up to our thighs.

We purchased a battered old Ford van for £50 (sold it for £45 on our return) and using some of the Norwegian compo rations left over from the Gouffre Berger expedition set forth leaving Nottingham on Sunday 16th June.

The following account has been taken directly from the expedition log of events kept by Barrie Parker.

Sunday 16th June to Thursday 20th June

Left Nottingham at mid-day but after only 50 miles had a water problem with the van that was quickly resolved. Drove to Jedburgh and slept in a field but were woken by some inquisitive Highland cattle. We then headed to Edinburgh Docks to load the van onto MS Gulfoss a little Danish vessel.

The ship departed at 6.00 pm. We had an excellent dinner and as it was Iceland Independence Day we were introduced by the Captain to Brennavin (The Black Death) a form of Aquavit that seemed to go down very well. Unfortunately it came up just as quickly once we got into the North Atlantic. Both Alan's and I were confined to our bunks eating only cream crackers and oranges whilst Ian and Etienne ate wonderful Danish pastries  that they bought into our cabin to scoff over our Mal de Mer caused by the very rough sea condition.

On the 19th Ian called us onto the deck to get our first sightings of the Vatnajokull. It’s bloody huge and very awe inspiring. We see in the distance many huge waterfalls the biggest being Skogafoss and pass through the Vestmannaeyjar (Westman Isles) where the island of Surtsey rose from the sea bed during a volcanic eruption in Spring 1967.

We are now noticing that it never gets dark here and one day seems to run into another with only one hour of dusk in between.

We arrive at Reykjavik at 6.00 am in the morning but can’t have our van until it is unloaded at mid-day, but in between we report to the British Embassy and give them our travel programme.

Leave Reykjavik and pass through Hveragerdi where we see large areas of greenhouses growing a huge range of fruit and vegetables all heated by thermal power from underground sources. The smell of sulphur is all pervading all over the little town. This, like all of the towns here including the capital Reykjavik, is built of corrugated iron sheets some of which are very colourfully painted. 

We quickly noticed that the roads in the capital were tarmacked but once outside they consist only of rolled black volcanic lava that leaves a dust storm behind every passing vehicle. We purchase bread in Selfoss and camp by the roadside a few miles out of town and the two Alans and I eat our first real meal since we got on the boat apart from cream crackers and oranges.

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Thermal Heated Greenhouse's growing fruit & vegatables

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Icelands M1 Highway

Friday 21st June to Saturday 22nd June

We travel on the only south eastern road across vast ash deserts and stop off at Skogafoss waterfall. The melt-water from the Myrdalsjokull a drop of nearly 200 feet very spectacular. The landscape is very much like being on the moon apart from the melt-water deltas that we have to drive through praying that the engine does not pack up midstream.

We see the Oraefajokull in the distance where we would like to have started the ice trek from but between us and there is the Skeidararsandur, a vast flooded desert comprising 16 miles of melt-water streams and quicksand and no roads. This is formed by the melt-water of the Vatnajokull.

We drive as far as we can to the village of Nupsstadur and make our camp and prepare our rucksacks for the next day. We have over 20 miles of steep climbing to go before we can get onto the glacier leading us onto the Vatnajokull proper but it is hard going with 65lbs on our backs. The terrain is horrendous, rough ground, lava fields covered in moss, dried up stream beds and some quicksand areas. We only cover 11 miles in the day. We camp in a lovely valley surrounded by four waterfalls and after a good meal we are in bed at 8.30pm in brilliant sunshine and sleep for a solid 12 hours.

Sunday 23rd June

Yesterday took its toll of our strength and the three of us who had previously been seasick suffered most through lack of food for several days. Once again the going is rough with a mixture of ash fields, volcanic deserts and streams and eventually have to get on the tongue of the Skeidararjokull earlier than expected as our way had been blocked by large melt-water rivers and quicksand. The ice is black with ash and heavily crevassed and we have to rest frequently due to the weight on our backs.

Ian goes into a small crevasse up to his waist and I shortly follow going up to my waist into a water filled one. Shortly after Alan Eaves goes into another one but only one leg is wet but in falling over he hurts his shoulder. We would have preferred to camp off this glacier tongue but could not get off due to the quicksand moraine. So we made an early camp and as soon as the tents were up we all went inside and instantly fell asleep for 2 solid hours before summoning up the strength to get a meal. We then slept for a solid 14 hours but had only covered 10 miles again.

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The Skogafoss waterfall

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The Skeidararsandur Plain

Monday 24th June

Our destination for today is Geirvortur only 5 miles distant but with a rise of 1800 feet. The snow is alternating between hard and soft but mainly over our boots and every step becomes an effort and many thoughts cross our minds (what the hell are we doing here) is one of many. After seven hours we make camp in the lee of several Nunataks 250 feet tall using them as shelter from the icy wind. Today we only travelled 6 miles and Alan W has a large blister on his heel, Alan E has a burst blister and a black shoulder and upper arm from his fall yesterday and my clothes are still soaking. We decided to camp early in the hope that during our cooking some of my clothes would dry out. Our current altitude is 4500 feet and hopefully tomorrow we will rise a further 1000 feet. Using food and fuel as we go the loads on our backs will hopefully reduce.

Tuesday 25th to Wednesday 26th June

Awakened by noise of falling boulders from the Nunataks and fierce winds blowing the tents, fortunately they are fastened together end to end for more stability. We go outside to find heavy snow has covered our rucksacks and we are in a complete white-out. We rest up for the whole day as travel would be impossible. The water we boiled last night from snow is a solid block of ice. The only thing we had to read is the instructions from the side of the Muesli package and the only time we go out is to fulfil the needs of nature which we do tied to a rope as it would be impossible to find the tent in nil visibility. Although I don’t eat my margarine ration I am pleased to have it as my finger ends have split and I use it to rub into them. About 6.30pm the weather slightly improves and we walk round the tent for a short time and Ettienne finds a large crevasse very near the tent but as long as we are careful we are in no immediate danger.

All night the wind is blowing fiercely and this helps to blow away the white-out. We leave the camp at mid-day and after crossing a large crevasse by a snow bridge we pass the mountain ridges of Poradarhyrna, Palsfjall and hope to reach our target of Haabunger nearly 12 miles away . The rest stops become more frequent and the sun is hot and the UV levels very high and we lather on high factor glacier cream and it leaves us with Panda eyes where our goggles fit. Today we covered about 10 miles plus an extra mile for a detour during the white-out where most of the journey we were knee deep in snow. We camp on the slopes of Haabunger. This barren landscape is very beautiful in the sunlight making the ice crystals glitter and shine.

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Now you see why we went out on a rope to pee in a whiteout

Ian wondering if he could jump over the crevasse

Alan Wickes taking a rest

Etienne with a very small rucksack

Thursday 27th June

Depart after a bad night’s sleep due to being wet as the previous day we had to pack the tents wet and water seeped through. We leave in complete white-out conditions. It’s rather like walking through a ball of cotton wool. Thank God Ian is navigating as the rest of us really don’t know where we are and he is having to allow for the magnetic variation being so near the North Pole. He thinks we are within 10 miles of the Grimsvotn Depression and we have covered approximately 8 miles in 5 hours so we should be nearly there. Then the mist started to lift and we were able to get a sighting on a small Nunatak that is the gateway to Grimsvotn. We immediately get fresh energy and move quickly down the slope to find the supposed lake but instead find ourselves on high snow cliffs and these are heavily crevassed. In the distance we see what we think are two craters.

We camp high up on a slope in freezing conditions and have another bad night due to the angle of the tents and the cold. For the past 4 days we have had to sleep in wet clothes in the hopes of drying them without any real success. Our faces especially noses and ears are very painful due to UV burns and this also makes sleeping difficult.

Friday 28th June

We were woken very early at 3.00am by the cold and bright sunlight and by 9.00am it is boiling and we can see the whole of the Grimsvotn Depression. We leave the tents with only ice axes and cameras to explore. The whole of the lake area is under snow and frozen ice but how thick we don’t know? We also don’t know where it starts or finishes but we do see fantastic cornices and crevasses all steaming in the sun and with volcanic activity all around us.

After 4 hours sightseeing we go back to camp and have a meal and then pack for the return journey. We leave in good weather and snow conditions and cover 8 miles to the next camp site. This was mainly due to good conditions in which to navigate and due to the fact that some of our old footprints were visible. We set up camp at about 9.00pm after a good 18 hour day. The temperature is dropping rapidly but the sun is still shining.

Saturday 29th June

Up at 6.00am and there had been a harsh frost but the visibility is excellent and we can see over to the Oraefajokull and the Skeidararsandur that are over 30 miles away. The snow conditions are excellent too and as we can still see our old tracks we make rapid progress without the navigation problem.

We hope to make our old camp site at Geirvortur and stop at midday to have a brew but as we finish the weather changes and soft snow falls from the East. Half an hour later the wind changes to the North and very heavy snow arrives.

The going is terrible and each step we sink in up to our knees, going down is frightening as the area around Geirvortur is heavily crevassed and with our still very heavy rucksacks it is energy sapping.

We try to make our way off the Vatnajokull and at 3.15pm we have a well-earned rest on the moraine side of the final snow bridge. We eventually walk down a moraine valley between the Vatnajokull and the Sidurjokull and camp on a shingle island close to a melt-water stream. This is our first running water we have seen for 6 days and we make the most of it. A fresh wind is blowing so we take the opportunity to get out of our wet clothes and also dry our sleeping bags in the first time for 7 days. This is a real luxury and after a good curry meal we retire early as today we have marched for 9 hours and covered 13 miles in good and bad snow conditions.

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Fairly typical whiteout conditions

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At camp on the Vatnajokull

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Grimsvotn, the central volcanic depression

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Alan Wicks with Thors Cornice in the background

Sunday 30th June

Awake half the night in gale force winds and dust storms. Up at 8-00 am have a quick breakfast but before we can take down the tents they are blown down. Everything is covered in dust. It’s in our eyes, ears and everywhere.

We follow the edge of the Sidurjokull glacier but after the first 2 miles we are forced to leave the moraine valley and go up onto the glacier itself due to quick sands and a raging river. The glacier here is heavily crevassed with 3 feet wide and very deep crevasses crossing our path. We also find ice caves with melt-water rivers running through them in underground tunnels through to the final glacier tongue. The path we originally took is heavily scarred with deep tributaries and it is impossible to go back the way we came. We eventually leave the Sidurjokull by an ice bridge and then after crossing moraine plains and lava fields we make our way down to Fossafjell where we camp near a Polish Expedition who are carrying out a glacial research program.

We pitch the tents in pouring rain and have a couple of hours sleep and count up our various injuries:

Alan Eaves has very bad blisters but thankfully his shoulder is much better.
Alan Wicks has a bad back, badly blistered heels and sore toes.
Ian has had a bad eye for 2 days.
Ettienne has UV burns on his lips that cause bleeding and his legs are very tired due to deep snow jarring.
I have frost opened finger ends that bleed at frequent intervals. Thank God for my wasted margarine ration that I rub into them.

Beginning to think glacial crossing is harder than caving.

We go to meet the Poles and they invite us for tea and biscuits and we are surprised to learn that in the last 14 days they have only managed to work on 2 days so it would seem we were less bothered by foul weather than they were. By coincidence we found out that one of the Poles lives in a flat above one of Etienne’s friends.

They show us aerial shots of the Sidurjokull on which their expedition is based and discuss details of glaciation, geomorphology and meteorology in the area. We exchange food and eventually leave their camp at 12.30am in broad daylight. I still can’t get my head around days of 23 hours light.

Monday 1st July

Up at 8-00am and the weather is good so we wash and clean up our clothes for the first time in 10 days and we can bathe in a small stream.

The Poles have left for the glacier and we walk around the area that is very beautiful and interesting. We meet a farmer on a horse and Alan Eaves exchanges a few words with him as he speaks Norwegian that is similar to Icelandic.

Our sores, cuts and blisters are on the mend and tomorrow we plan to go back to the van that we parked in the valley at Kalfafell.

Tuesday 2nd July

Up at 8.00am have breakfast and strike camp then return the 10 miles to Kalfafell where we arrive at 2.00pm. The weather was overcast but very good for marching. Pitch camp, clean up all of our equipment and spend the day eating and talking and planning our next venture whilst walking around the area.

Wednesday 3rd July

Up at 8.00am and after a leisurely breakfast decide to drive to the Skeidararsandur but we only go for 4 miles before we have to leave the van and walk due to the poor road conditions.  We pass the radio station, a farm and church both built of turf and very picturesque.

We continue past vast cliffs over 2000 feet high and onto a bank overlooking the Skeidararsandur and upon reflection we find that we could not have crossed this vast water covered plain.

When the poles had visited this area they had very big high trucks and those on foot had chest high waders. We walk back to the van and drive back to camp and discover that although it was a supposed rest day we still had walked over 10 miles.

After a very good 3 course dinner we lay on our airbeds, read, play cards and write up our diary notes until nearly midnight and it’s still broad daylight and very warm. The view is magnificent.

Thursday 4th July

Up at 9.00am and after breakfast strike camp and drive to Vik. The crossing of the lava fields across the Myrdalssandur was very dusty and the van, all of the contents and us are covered in black dust.

We do a bit of shopping in Vik then drive on for about 20 miles to a camp site where we have a good dinner and read and write until after midnight. During the night we hear the large road scraper going by resurfacing the road.

Friday 5th July

Up at 8.00am and after breakfast drive to Skogafoss where we visit the folk museum with a very nice guide who tells us about the various exhibits and then refuses to take the normal fee (£1 for the 5 of us).

We then drive across the ash deserts and up into the mountains to see Gullfoss a very huge waterfall that is criss-crossed by rainbows and drops in 3 huge very spectacular steps. This waterfall is melt-water from the Langjokull.

We camp a few miles from the falls but the road conditions make it impossible to go to Hagavatn where we wanted to visit volcanic caves.

After a good dinner spent a pleasant evening reading, playing cards and writing.

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Resurfacing the road

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Gullfoss Waterfalls, melt-water from the Langjokull

Saturday 6th July

Strike camp after breakfast and another dusty drive to Geysir in the National Park that is only 15 miles away. The weather is beautiful and Geysir is a very strange place with boiling water, hot springs, exploding geysers and boiling mud pits and the whole area smells of sulphur. A geyser called Stokkur explodes every 2 minutes sending boiling water over sixty feet into the air.

We then visit an open air swimming pool that is thermally heated by one of the geysers to a temperature of 100 degrees F and we stay in for most of the afternoon.

We then camp a few miles from Geysir in a lovely spot between 2 streams that we bath in. Alan Wicks gives me a good King John hair cut followed by our usual dinner and cards. Weather looking unsettled.

Sunday 7th July

Up late and walk down to Geysir 3 miles away where we spend 3 hours taking photographs of this strange and wonderful place. We revisit the swimming pool but today it is hotter than ever and not pleasant at all.

We walked back to the campsite and after dinner walked further up the valley and found some excellent rocks and most unusual rock formations. After walking back to camp went to bed past midnight.

Monday 8th July

Up early and after breakfast we pack up and drive to Langavatn that is a little holiday resort by a lake complete with hot water where we can swim and sunbathe but it is too cold in the wind despite the sunshine.

Back to tents and usual evening activities.
The camp site is not brilliant but as we plan an early start to go on a 3 day ridge walk we feel we can leave the tents here in safety.

Tuesday 9th July

Depart campsite after breakfast and climb the Laugarvatnfjall 2,000 foot hill leaving behind two tents erected and taking the other two with us along with rations for 3 days. Cover about 7 miles in 6 hours in good weather and camp by a small stream in a valley near Middalfjell.  With thunder clouds overhead and thunder and lightning in the distance we think we will have a bad night but it goes around us.

From the ridge we can overlook Thingfellirvatn in the distance.

Wednesday 10th July

Wake to the sound of pouring rain and after breakfast we lay in the tents until 1.00pm but the rain is still pouring down and we realise that we cannot go further up into the mountains so we decide to go back to our base camp. This takes only 3 hours as it is all downhill but when we arrive we are soaked to the skin but we have dry clothes in the van so it matters little.
Late dinner and usual evening activities and retire after midnight still raining very heavily.

Thursday 11th July

After breakfast we break camp and drive to Tingvellir the site of one of the first parliaments in the world and find a good campsite near a waterfall. The journey was across lava fields and very poor roads and the van has developed a squeak. Inspection followed by good clean of wheel bearings and repack with grease. We check brakes that appear to be sticking probably due to the dust.

The weather is poor again and we have frequent heavy showers with scattered sunny spells in between but we climb up the waterfall near Speakers rock but the weather is too poor for photographs.

After tea the weather improves and we take many photographs of the deep volcanic fault lines of Rift Volcanos across the plain near the camp. These are steep sided 50 feet cliffs dropping into crystal clear water 50 feet deep with a temperature of 3 degrees. The rope lava formations all around are fantastic and really show how volcanic activity leaves landscapes.

Ian and I go back up the waterfall as the weather has improved to take photographs. However we find ourselves on the wrong side of the fall and have to traverse around it and here we are attacked by Arctic Terns who are nesting above Speakers seat rock. We meet up with the others who climbed up by another route but as evening draws on it gets very cold and we return to the tents. After dinner and cards go to bed beyond midnight.

Friday 12th July

Woken at 4.00am by Alan Eaves being violently sick. I think it was the fruit soup he was devouring yesterday. This continued every 2 hours throughout the day but by evening he was feeling a little better.

The rest of us go off to climb Skjaldbeidur an extinct Shield Volcano some 15 miles away. The journey was quite hair raising with the hills and bad roads. We eventually arrive at the plain that leads to the volcano. We have to cross rivers, dust bowls, lava fields and large areas of lava flows. After 3 hours of solid climbing we eventually arrive at the top having crossed several snow fields in the last hour. The summit gives way to a huge caldera, a snow filled crater that makes a good photographic subject and whilst there admiring the view a light aircraft comes over the top very low and is another photo opportunity. From the top it gave a great view of the Langjokull in the distance.

We make good time on the way down to the dust desert area where we meet a fierce dust storm allowing only very short visibility and whereas we could see the van for the whole 6 mile upward journey, on the return we could not see it until we were less than 400 yards from it.

The whole area was very interesting. In fact perhaps the most interesting in the last few days and we had walked over 20 miles being our best mileage for the whole trip so far.

Spent the evening discussing the trip and dined and did the usual, books cards and went to bed after midnight. A very long but excellent day.

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Volcanic Caldera

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Crossing the Dust Desert

Saturday 13th July

Up late after a long hard day and late to bed yesterday, went for a wash in the ice cold water of the volcanic fractures near our camp site. Most of us only managed a wash but Etienne had to go for a swim but only for a couple of minutes.

We walked into Thingvellir village as Ian and Alan wanted films. Not a lot to see so returned to camp to pack up and head for Hveragerdi crossing several lava fields. We stopped at Selfoss but all of the shops were shut. Passing through Hveragerdi we find a sign pointing to an area of hot springs where we decide to make camp, however on the way we have to cross several rivers and in one the van stopped. We lift the engine cover inside the van and looking down at the engine it was strange to see a fast flowing river underneath and so we had to take off our boots and push it to the bank.

We find a lovely place to camp and all around us are fumaroles (Very hot vents from the volcanic activity under this area), clear streams full of watercress and boiling hot streams to wash our clothes and boil our tinned steak and kidney puddings in. Real paradise and after a good dinner we go off to look at some of the larger fumaroles further up the volcanic slope, but once again it’s raining heavily so no photographs today. We walk on and find more boiling water holes and boiling mud pits also vast areas of Ochre Silica beds that are very beautiful.

We return to camp soaking wet through but look forward to tomorrow in hopes that the weather will be better for photos as you don’t see things like this very often in a lifetime.

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Boiling hot geyser

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Boiling mud pits

Sunday 14th July

Woken at 5.00am by some drunken yobs looking for a fight. They think we are Germans, but after we get out of our tents they decide it will not be a good day for a fight and drive off with us chasing. We return to our tents and manage to doze off again and after a good breakfast decide to go off into the next valley. On the way there we come across a huge sheep round-up with dozens of men on horses and dozens of dogs. It’s quite spectacular and we stop and watch the dogs working as they bring the sheep down from the high mountains surrounding us.

We find an excellent area of volcanic activity and take dozens of photos as today the weather is beautiful.

We return to camp and I have a very hot bath in the stream next to my tent and have dinner cooked in a nearby geyser. The evening is still very warm and we bring our beds out and lay in the sun until 9.00pm. Just before going to bed we pile rocks up outside our tents just in case the drunks return and we can give them a little surprise.

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Sulphur Deposits

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Our dinner cooking in a boiling pool while we go of for a walk

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Nice way to have a hot bath

Monday 15th July

Awake to the noise of rain and we find low cloud and mist. What a change from yesterday evening. Both Ian and I are not too well with stomach trouble and think it may be result of too much sulphur in the water.

We pack up camp after the others have had their breakfast and leave Hveragerdi driving through endless lava and ash fields to Krisuvik a real Lunar landscape with the strong smell of sulphur pervading the atmosphere. This is an area of bubbling hot springs, boiling mud pits and whole areas yellow with sulphur banks. It is a bit as I imagine Hell to be like and no doubt I will soon find out. The whole ground is shaking and throbbing with the volcanic power just under our feet and fortunately we cannot camp here but have to go a couple of miles from the activity to a pleasant camp site by the side of a lake at Kleifarvatn.

Ian is still unwell and we leave him and walk to the north of the lake where we find some marvellous wind shaped rocks and sculptured volcanic ash where we will come back to tomorrow and take photos if the weather is better. On the way back to camp we find some caves but they are really only rock shelters.

After dinner a short lakeside walk looking at the good examples of lava tubes then returned to camp and cards and early bed.

Tuesday 16th July

Up early in poor weather and after breakfast we strike camp amid a plague of midges. Re-visited some of yesterday’s hot spring sites at Krisuvik to take photos and collect rock samples including lava bombs and some of the lovely coloured volcanic pool deposits. Between us we have collected several stones in weight of rock samples. We then re-visit the erosion and wind sculptured rock formations for further photos.

Onwards to Hafnarfjordur through extensive lava fields to do a little food shopping and on to a camp site just out of town at Helgafell near a lake. After dinner we walk the hills behind the camp site and then sit and talk until 1.30 am as with the long hours of daylight it is difficult to see when one day starts and finishes.

Wednesday 17th July

Awakened early by another drunk in a white car looking for trouble and he nearly found it! We feel that this isolated island must breed a high proportion of nut cases due to marrying their sisters!

After breakfast we pack up camp and go back to the docks in Hafnarfjordur and watch the fishing boats unload. Some children arrive with fishing lines and a net attached to a tennis racket frame and a wheel barrow. Within a very few minutes they have filled the barrow and when we asked what they were going to do with their catch they said it was for their grand-mothers cat! Perhaps it was a big cat, lion or tiger?

We visit the drying storage facilities of the fishing fleet’s cod catch. It covers several acres with salted cod stiff as cardboard awaiting transport to Portugal and the West Indies where it is considered quite a delicacy.

We drive then to Reykjavik and find an excellent free camp site with a very warm glass sided swimming pool we all go in and have a great time. There is also a sauna and all around the pool are smaller pools of hot water with seats submerged where people sit with water up to their necks.

We walk into town and collect our mail. I have 2 from J that really makes my day. Then back for dinner, cards and bed by 11.30pm.

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Boys fishing for food for Grandmothers cat

Cod drying for Portugal and the West Indies where it is considered a delicacy

Thursday 18th July

Up early for a swim followed by a leisurely breakfast then into town to visit the shops and National Museum and take photos of Leif Eriksonn’s statue.

That afternoon there is a football match between Iceland and Norway and Norway win 4-0 that really pleases Alan. Quiet evening dinner followed by cards and into bed by midnight.

Friday 19th July

Awakened at 4.00am by three drunks and Alan and I go over and explain that if they don’t shut up there will be trouble. When we finally get back to sleep we are woken up by Etienne who is laying in a pool of water as he did not blow up his lilo the night before and it is raining heavily.  We walk back into town visit the Folk Museum and buy presents and look around the new church building.  Alan goes to the hospital and gives a pint of blood and finds it a good opportunity to meet a very nice nurse. We browse the numerous book shops mainly to keep out of the heavy rain. Manage to sell some of our spare rations to some French campers and then a huge party in 2 buses arrives complete with a large kitchen. It looks like a circus without the animals.

Saturday 20th July

Up at 6.00am and people all around are packing up their tents. We go for a quick swim, breakfast and leave for the docks at 9.00am in heavy rain although we don’t depart until 1.00 pm to board the Gullfoss. We have to be early as they have to load the vehicles onto the deck which is a very slow job. All have to be crane lifted.

We sail from Reykjavik at 3.00pm but the ship has to stop mid fiord to take on 6 passengers from another boat who had missed the sailing. Down for tea at 3.45pm cakes and Danish pastries. I managed to eat quite a lot but don’t go down to dinner in the evening as I don’t think it would be a good idea for my standards of sailing when only Slight Swell is almost too much for me. What the hell am I doing in the North Atlantic in bad weather? I get up at 11.00pm and have a chat to Ian and Etienne who are sitting in the bar but back to bed by midnight.

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Loading our van onto the Gulfoss

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Statue of Leife Ericson who discovered Iceland

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We say farewell to Iceland

Sunday 21st July

Awake at 7.00am and breakfast at 8.00am boiled eggs, bread and six different types of cheese and coffee. I go back to our cabin and talk to a Frenchman who is sharing with us. He has been living in Reykjavik for four years and was a most interesting chap. He had spent some time on Surtsey, the newly risen volcanic island.

I read and sleep until 12.00 pm when we have lunch of Italian soup, roast lamb with roast potatoes, peas and a huge bowl of ice cream with added honey chips, raspberry sauce and wafers. Back to the cabin to read, write and sleep until tea time a big plate of Danish pastries and tea.

I go below again and read as I think having dinner may be pushing my luck. The sea has a good swell but sleeping and reading lying flat seems to be best for me and I eventually drop off at midnight.

Monday 22nd July

Awake early again as I had not put my watch to English time and after a light breakfast went back to my bunk and so on until dinner that I miss in preference to fruit (Sick rations). During the day I go up onto the deck to see the Shetland Isles and then some time later the Orkney's later passing Aberdeen before going to sleep.

Tuesday 23rd July

Boat docked at 4.00am and woken up at 6.30am for breakfast, clear customs and collect the van and depart Edinburgh at 10.00am. Etienne leaves with another Frenchman who will take him back to France and we take another French man Amond Dayon with us as far as Nottingham.

Journey south with only a minor problem of tyre pressures and arrive home at 5.30 pm.
What a great trip in the things we saw and tales to tell. Very good for the diet as I lost over twenty pounds most of it on the Vatnajokull.

Twenty years after our trip a series of bridges were built across the Skeidararsandur plain. However, some time later in 2004, the Grimsvotn volcano exploded and melted a huge section of the icecap. Pieces of the glacier larger than houses were carried by the raging melt-water and demolished the bridges.

Barrie Parker
Pegasus Club Nottingham
July 1968

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