L undi! We traveled south all the way to Vik, where we walked on black sand beaches and saw mysterious offshore stacks. Friendly villagers suggested we climb up to the cliffs to see puffins! We hiked a mountain path through fog and rain and when we thought we were up high enough we edged out to the cliffs. Yes, there they were circling the sky and perched outside their grassy burrows. What a thrill!
Iceland is a rough and natural place. We watched miles of vast lands of grazing sheep and ponies. Volcanic desert pass us by on the trip to Vik and I feel “Lost in Iceland”.
The island is breathtaking as the ferry floats through the fjords. Birds circle above and I study the sky for the short black bodies I came to see. I use binoculars and see sheep grazing high on the cliffs. Coming to port in Vestmannaeyjar, we feel a little unbalanced from being 3 hours on the rocky seas and were relieved to find a car waiting to take us to the hotel.
The Icelandic people on the ferry and on the island are lively. They are celebrating a national holiday weekend and the island swells to five times its normal population. Flocks of people dressed in yellow hip-waders and woolen sweaters make their way toward a glow in the bright midnight sky. We join the festival in the valley which has clearly been going on for days. We walked through campsites to a raging bonfire where thousands of Icelanders swayed arm in arm in a hillside sing-along. Flares and fireworks energized the crowd. The festival went on like that into the morning and we found ourselves “Lost beyond Iceland”.
Pufflings stay hidden while the parents find food until one day when the puffling is ready to take its first flight to sea. One night it finds its way out of the burrow, walks off the edge of a cliff, and plops into the sea.
Each year in mid-August, pufflings leave their cliff nests to take their first flight to life at sea. Millions of these young birds can be seen leaving Heimaey Island in south Iceland.
Many pufflings are drawn by bright lights to the nearby towns and are rescued by the island children at night with their cardboard boxes prepared to gather the lost and totally bewildered pufflings. In the morning, the children take them down to the shore to release them out to sea.
Bruce McMillan, children’s author and photo illustrator, has photographed several of his book in Iceland, including “Nights of the Pufflings”. He is known on the island as “Bruce McMillan and his puffin patrol”. He is currently working in Iceland on a chapter book of a young boy growing up on Heimaey Island.
Nights of the Pufflings
An outdoor museum displays contemporary artwork portraying common Icelanders
A skilled puffin hunter uses a net to disrupt a puffin’s path
A *kind farmer remembers dancing down in the village when he was young and carefree *Kind: Icelandic nickname for horned sheep