Does this surf at Neskaupstaðir look a little rough?
There are tall, soaring birch forests, like these in Ásbyrgi, some five metres tall, that shelter sheep…
…and their are small, intimate forests you have to lie down in a pasture to see, which shelter flies. The forest below in Neskaupstaðir might be short, and might fade and rise annually with the sun, but its trees are surely exotic and wondrous. Some of the trees are even copses of flowers.
They offer different kinds of intimacy and bring you differently into the land. In both cases, when you look up again, or step out, you are a different person. That’s because forests are persons. You become them.
Here’s a stone marked by human tools in Neskaupstaðir. It is broken from the old sea cliff behind me, and lying on the old underwater shelf below. Note, too that it sits in a hollow.
That’s not a given. Here’s a sister rock, showing a more natural face to the world.
The thing is, in a country without trees, people burned peat to try to get a little warmth. Peat came from mountain bogs, such as the one that surrounded this rock…
… or this untouched one, in Njardvik, a few fjords to the North.
These bogs are lush, exotic environments. You could say they are the life of the mountain.
When you dig them, though, you are left with a hole and a simplified ecosystem.
They do have the potential to rebuild, however. Here’s one in Neskaupstaðir, hard at it. A photographer could do worse than peer into holes where the Earth is healing the wounds of limited human technology and understanding.
When these bogs run with water, it is often red with iron. It’s hard not to think of them as the blood of the land.
They’re quite wondrous when they spill their blood over the old sea cliffs.
And harder yet, when you see them give birth to fantastical creatures.
These now-rare environments are the survivors of a time in which they gave life to humans in the cold. You could say, easily enough, without the long, long life and sacrifice made by these bogs, there would be no Iceland today.
That’s why the mined-out bogs in Neskaupstaðir have been a nature preserve for nearly fifty years now. It is a way of giving thanks for life.
There’s an art to it.
Others have gone wild, although they are still farms and can be claimed again. This one, in Neskaupstaðir, is accessible only by foot. A boat looks out of the question.
I bet there are eiðars, though!