Monday, October 19, 2009

ICELAND SAGA: Day Trip to Husavik

This post may be a bit...unsettling...for a couple different reasons.  I apologize in advance.

One of the activities we were most excited about on our trip was the day trip we were taking to Husavik, about a one and a half hour bus ride from Akureyri, to go whale watching.  We bought our tickets that morning through Gentle Giants for an early afternoon tour and headed to the Husavik Whale Museum to kill time, which was so neat.  They had really great displays on the various species of whales, and the similarities and differences between them.  I seriously didn't even know that narwhales existed.  The "unicorn of the sea," these whales have long horns on their heads, possibly used for combat.  The museum also had about 8 real skeletons from whales that have beached over the past few decades.  Sad, but fascinating.  After spending a couple hours at the museum, plus I was (eh hem, still am) reading Moby Dick, I was totally ready to head out to sea and look at a real whale in its natural habitat first hand.

For those of you that have not ever been whale watching, perhaps like me, you may have pictured it to involve getting on a small boat and going into the middle of the ocean, where you would then drift along for a couple hours and see what you could see--hopefully some whales, but you're not expecting it to be guaranteed. This was so not the case. The entire tour felt like we were on an adventure, on a hunt. Everyone was constantly on the lookout for any possible movement in the water (Was that a fin? Did I just see a fin? Or was that just a little wave? See that dark shape underneath the water? What dark shape? Maybe that's a whale?), and when something was spotted in the distance the captain of the boat would rev up the engine and get us to the distant blob as quickly as possible. I admit, this was exciting. Joe and I were right at the front of the boat, and if I closed my eyes (which I didn't) I could have imagined I was flying like Kate Winslet. "I'm flying, Joe! Ha ha! I'm FLYING!" "No you're not, Julie." "Yes, I am! I'm really flying!" It was exciting to go fast in a boat knowing I was about to see a real live whale. That was cool. What really did not sit well with us the more we talked about it after the tour was this: So, we get close to a whale, which is great. The particular species we ended up spotting, the bottlenose whale, comes up for three or four breaths and then goes back under for about a five minute dive. There are a good 30 seconds between each breath, and no one can tell exactly where the whale will surface each time. So, if it comes up the first time at the boat's 10 o'clock and surfaces the second time at the boat's 3 o'clock well the captain hurries up and starts the engine to point us to the 3 o'clock. And if on the third surfacing the whale is at our 11 o'clock, the process is started all over again, which I feel is completely unnecessary and disruptive to the whales. It felt incredibly exploitative, and no aspect of the tour embraced everything one may consider a whale to be: majestic, peaceful, gentle, graceful. All so we could see the back of a whale.

This is the view of Husavik from the middle of the harbor.

A boat very similar to the one we were on.

The boat we were on.

I would love to try whale watching again, but I want to make sure to do the research better.  For me, it is imperative that the watching be done in a non-disruptive manner.  A girl we met on our trip said she had a friend who went on a tour in the Northwest, and they were in a paddle boat the whole time making their way along the sea and coming across whales--not chasing them.  I think that sounds amazing and breathtaking, unlike the tour we went on, which was disappointing and troubling.

Before the bus to Akureyri came we had a couple hours left in Husavik, so we decided to pop into the most bizarre museum I can think of and have ever come across.  Know that I was uncomfortable the entire time we were in there.  It was like a car accident.

Ta dah!  It's the Iceland Phallological Museum!  First of all, I don't think that "phallological" is a word.  Anybody know?  Secondly, with over 100 specimens of nearly every type of animal found in Iceland, this museum takes its subject completely seriously.  I did not take many pictures inside, because I was too busy trying to wipe the shocked expression from my face.  Note: the man at the front desk encouraged the taking of photographs.  This place was CRAZY.  Here is Joe standing next to a walrus penis.  As you can see, it starts at his hip and is taller than him.  As you can also see, there are specimens mounted on shields, as if they are moose heads.  One of them is coming out of Joe's head.  Sorry, Joe.

Did you know that a sperm whale's penis measures longer than 5 feet?  I learned this because this specimen is as tall as me.  I do not know what is on the wall behind me.

One of the smallest specimens at the museum was a hamster penis.  I'm pretty sure this was the smallest actual penis on display.  The only things smaller were a few hamster penis bones that could be viewed with the assistance of a magnifying glass.

What I did NOT take pictures of were the just absolutely terrifying looking horse specimens, many of which were crammed into mason jars--most of them coiled around until they stuck out of the surface of the formaldehyde.  Just picture (Hmm, should I give you this mental picture?? Yes, yes I should.) a withered looking elephant nose with lots and lots of extra skin.  I also didn't photograph the several lamps made out of goat scrotums that were for sale.  You can use your imagination.  Why, you may be asking me right now, would they do this?  My only answer is I don't know.

Alright then, I refuse to end the blog post on that note.  Enjoy these pictures from around Husavik and the bus ride on the way back to Akureyri.

This is a view of Akureyri.

And how about another look at that church with the neon cross to get your mind off things?

Here is the dinky neighborhood Catholic church that I can't help thinking all the Lutherans giggle at every time they pass it.

1 comment:

  1. Wanna travel around Iceland?
    Netbus is a licensed Icelandic tour and travel provider, offering welcoming bus trips across Iceland, professional guided coach tours and airport transfers upon request. Over the course of 50 years, Netbus has always believed in providing quality service at cheap prices. Netbus also believes in providing its customers with expert knowledge about Iceland and the country’s unique landscape and history. Visit the Blue lagoon, Gullfoss, Geysir, Thingvellir & more.