Tuesday 10. October 2017

Studying in the open nature of the Westfjords

Field trips to some of the more remote areas of the Westfjords are an annual event in the fall for the new Coastal and Marine Management students who come each year to the University Centre of the Westfjords. These are day trips where students go either by boat or bus on an excursion to experience the wild nature of the Westfjords at its best.

This year´s field trip took place in late September where the students headed off to Hesteyri in Hornstrandir Nature Preserve and to the island of Vigur in Ísafjarðardjúp Fjord. The trip was a success not the least because of the incredible fall weather the group experienced, as can be seen on the photos attached.

Various lectures here and there

The group sailed off to Hesteyri with a local company called Sjóferðir Hafsteins og Kiddýjar, which services the remote areas of the northern part of the Westfjords. In Hesteyri the students both enjoyed spectacular nature and  learned about the community that once thrived in Hesteyri and its ties to the marine environment, such as the history of  whaling and herring fisheries. Catherine Chambers, who is the program director of the CMM program at the UW Centre and Kristín Ósk Jónasdóttir, the administrative director at the UW Centre, coordinated the trip and they had organized various lectures that took place here and there along the way, both on shore and on the boat back home. Kristín Ósk is also a ranger in Hornstrandir and she specializes in this particular region.

At Hesteyri

When the group arrived at Hesteyri the students and staff walked through the old village on their way to the remains of a whaling station at Stekkeyri. On the way to Stekkeyri the students participated in a small intitiation ceremony – crossing a cold river water barefoot. That was the only way to get to the whaling station and the students all made it across safe and sound.

At Stekkeyri the students learned about the various masters thesis projects that have been done in this region by CMM students in the past and they discussed possible research projects they themselves could take on. The wild life at Hesteyri was spectacular on this beautiful fall day, a gray sea eagle hovered above them, seals where enjoying the sun on the beach and a minke whale swam close by.

In Vigur

After a three hour stay at Hesteyri the group headed off to the beautiful island of Vigur in Ísafjarðardjúp Fjord. There the students learned about the life on the island where farming was once the main livelihood. The island is also a well known eider duck nesting site and now that, along with a growing tourism, is the main source of income for the islanders.

While enjoying a traditional Icelandic coffee and cake buffet, the students participated in a discussion on Local Ecological Knowledge in research, such as the importance of fishermen’s knowledge in understanding the complex marine ecosystem. The lecture is a part of the course called CMM Fall Seminar, which covers hot topics and new research related to coastal and marine management. Catherine had to cut the lecture short in Vigur and continue it on board the boat back home since the waves by the island had become quite strong so the captain suggested a speedy departure. After the lecture on board the students then learned Icelandic sea songs and sayings.

It was a tired bunch of students and staff that docked in Ísafjörður harbour that fall evening after a long day of excursion. But it is safe to say that during this one day of outing the students gained valuable experience from the beautiful nature of the Westfjords as well as diverse knowledge on multiple issues.

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The ocean spray didn't affect the good spirit on board the boat to Hesteyri. Photo: Paul Verhoeff.
The ocean spray didn't affect the good spirit on board the boat to Hesteyri. Photo: Paul Verhoeff.
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