Hrafnseyri Quiet

October 04, 2012


Photographer: Rebecca Roush
Summary Author: Stu Witmer

On a recent trip around Iceland, we made a stop at Hrafnseyri in the Westfjords to visit the birthplace of Jon Sigurdsson the collector of Icelandic Sagas and leading light behind the country’s independence from Denmark in the 19th century.

Westfjords are remote even by Icelandic standards. The entire country has only about 319,000 inhabitants (2012); more than 60 percent of them live in Greater Reykjavik. In Westfjords the population density is less than one person per sq mi and most of the roads are single-lane gravel. The village of Bildudalur (population: 166) is 8 mi (13 km) south across the Arnarfjordur (the body of water in the center of the photo) and the village of Thingeyri (pop 250) is 10 mi (16 km) north over the high moorlands of Hrafnseyrarheidi. Iceland has no trains at all and no scheduled airlines fly above this area.

Studies show that total silence can drive you over the edge in a very short time and that while your brain quickly notices new sounds it's not so quick to detect when a sound disappears. In this case, I didn't immediately notice the quiet but after a few moments I realized that when I stood still, the major sound was me: My blood circulating, my breath pumping quietly in and out.

There was no appreciable wind this day and since Iceland has few trees, there was no wind rustling the leaves. The lack of trees means there are few songbirds, what birds there are tend to be migratory water fowl that had generally moved on by the time of year we visited. The only native mammal is the arctic fox who prefer this part of Iceland because the long coast line provides plenty of seabirds, which they hunt alone and by stealth. On this day a single distant raven could be heard as well as a couple of geese down on the fjord. The quiet was deafening. Wherever you are, take a moment to really listen to the sounds around you. The sounds of silence are quickly becoming, like truly dark skies at night, rare and precious.

Photo details: Camera Maker: Canon; Camera Model: Canon PowerShot SD1300 IS; Focal Length: 15mm; Aperture: f/5.0; Exposure Time: 1/400 s; ISO equiv: 80; Exposure Bias: none; Metering Mode: Pattern; White Balance: Auto; Flash Fired: No (enforced); Orientation: Normal; Color Space: sRGB; Software: GIMP 2.