I could practically feel the blood freeze in my veins this afternoon when I heard that a man had fallen off the cliff at Látrabjarg, on the West Fjords. There was no way he could have survived, was my first thought — and tragically, this was the case.
To me, Látrabjarg is one of the most imposing and awe-inspiring places in Iceland. It is a sheer rock face that rises up more than 100 metres from the sea, and it is the westernmost tip of Iceland – and, indeed, of Europe. I went there for the first time in 2005 and was completely captivated by the place — so much that I wanted to go back as soon as possible. Went there again in 2007 and found it just as amazing the second time.
I suspect part of the appeal was the fact that I was scared sh*tless there. That, and the endless numbers of puffins that live there in holes just below the edge of the cliff and who are so unafraid of people that you can practically reach out and touch them. Like this guy:
Yet going close to that edge terrified me, and there was no way I would have attempted it without lying down on my stomach about 2 or 3 metres away and inching my way forward. Even that was pushing it. And so, I found myself wondering how that accident could have happened. Was that poor man so caught up with watching the birds that he forgot to be cautious? Or was there a strong wind that made him lose his balance?
In any case, this is probably as good a time as any to point anyone who plans to travel to Iceland to the website safetravel.is. It’s set up by ICE-SAR, the Icelandic Search and Rescue Team, a team of volunteers who risk their lives and limbs to search for and rescue people from precarious situations. In many cases those situations involve tourists who are just not aware of the many dangers of Icelandic nature, and who perhaps are not aware that here in Iceland, unlike in many countries in the world, there are hardly any ropes or chains or fences keeping people away from potential harm. In Iceland, you really do enter at your own risk.