Westfjords Iceland, April 23-24, 2018

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Westfjords Iceland, April 23-24, 2018

Postby Tony Crocker » Tue Jun 26, 2018 4:41 pm

The Westfjords are the most remote part of Iceland, visited by only 5% of tourists. Many establishments are only open in summer. Liz was on a mission in this region: to see Arctic foxes, hopefully in the wild.

There is an Arctic fox museum in Sudavik which we visited on the morning of April 24. Most people think of Arctic foxes as blending in with snow like the one at left in the museum display here:
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But in Iceland's Westfjords 80% of foxes are the blue morph at right above. The foxes here live near the beach where they can feed off washed up fish and shellfish all year, and feed upon migrant birds during the long daylight months. The blue morph has better camouflage for the gravel and seaweed at the shore.

The rarest color is the beige, also known as landrover after the British vehicles introduced during WWII.
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There were a couple of live blue morphs in a fenced area behind the museum.
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The one in back has some sun bleaching from the longer spring daylight. But in summer the lush coats will be shed and the foxes will be darker again.

For April 23 Liz did some research and hired Gudmundur Valdimarsson for 5 hours to search for wild foxes. http://ibctravel.is/about-us/; Foxes are elusive but reputedly Gudmundur has an 80% success rate in this remote area. He has a serious off road vehicle.
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Note the wires leading to the center of each tire. They are connected to a compressed air tank inside the car to adjust air pressure as necessary, driving in sand for example.

We drove along the remote east side of Isofjardardjup.
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The few towns in this region are on the other side. The flat brown area is Aedey Island, popular with breeding eiderducks. Harvesting shed eiderdown from nests is a profitable summer sideline for local sheep farmers.

Gudmundur knew where there was a fox den nearby, as evidenced by these kill remains.
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So we settled in, bundled up on the leeward side of a rock for shelter for 2.5 hours and saw.. nothing. We watched the Eider and Harlequin ducks on the water with binoculars but they were too far away for decent pictures.

Finally we gave up and started driving back to Gudmundur's home. About halfway back he spotted this fox between the road and the water.
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The fox soon took off, eventually disappearing behind some rocks.
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Within 5 minutes the fox reappeared on the inland side.
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The fox blends in more with the rocks than the snow.
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Gudmundur thought this fox was the rare beige landrover while the museum curator the next day saw our pictures and suspected an extremely sun bleached blue morph.

In the late afternoon we drove to Isofjordur, largest town of the Westfjords. We passed by this auto junkyard, huge for being in such a remote location.
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View across Alftafjordur to Sudavik.
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We spent the night in Isafjordur, the largest town in the Westfjords. Driving south from there on April 24, the road enters a tunnel next to the Tungudalur ski area.
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Only the lower beginner lift was running.

After the tunnel, we drive around 3 fjords during the afternoon. The town of Flateyri on the first one has built a trapezoidal barrier to deflect avalanches.
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South of Thingeryi on the second fjord the road turns to gravel and climbs an 1,800 foot pass. The south side of that pass had a tempting road shuttle ski path, but we did not want to risk missing a 6PM ferry to depart the Westfjords.
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The most impressive sight on the afternoon drive was the Dynjandi waterfall at the end of the third fjord.
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We stopped for a closer look and hike up to its base. It's sunny but breezy here.
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This lower fall had a rainbow in the afternoon sun viewed from above.
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Overview of the upper fall:
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The mist forms ice crystals on blades of grass here.
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Mist built snowbanks both in front and behind the falls
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We made it to the ferry south of Flokalundur with almost an hour to spare. We spent the night in Stykkisholmur after 2.5 hours on the ferry.

On the map below the red X is where we viewed the wild fox April 23 and the blue X is the Dynjandi waterfall.
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Tony Crocker
 
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