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Matt Willen Matt Willen | Saturday 16. Mayá2009

Blogging, Bands, and Guillemot Eggs

It is 1:30 in the morning, and I‘m writing at this time of night/morning for two reasons: first because I have discovered that doing this blogging thing on a regular basis takes a tremendous amount of effort, especially if one doesn‘t want it to turn in to "now I am drinking a cup of cappucino [or Jamesons for that matter]" account, and so I need to put in time when I can; and second because I have several things on my mind.


First: I traveled this afternoon with three men (Siggi, Runa, and Gummi) by boat (about 18 feet) from Bolungarvik out of Skultufjord to the north coast of the Westfjords to a sea cliff, to collect Guillemot eggs. About a 40 minute trip by boat, rather pounding on the way out. Arriving at the cliffs, we departed, scrambled up 10/15 meters of fourth class cliffs to a sort of "flat" area, where Runa and Siggi looked for eggs, found none and then climbed (via ropes) to a second level another 15 meters above. Guillemot eggs are something of a delicacy and can be harvested for about two weeks a year in May, just after they are laid and before the chicks begin to develop within. We were too early (as it happens), and thus the mighty harvest yielded only two eggs (as opposed to possibly a hundred or more)-one guillemot and one fulmar (The white and grey bird in the photos is a fulmar). The guillemot egg is about twice the size of an extra large chicken egg, blue with black specks. The fulmar is a little larger yet, and generally white. While the trip was not as successful as everyone would have liked (compounded somewhat by the fact that a fog drifted in off the Greenland Strait just as we arrived which made the views rather difficult to soak in), it was nonetheless quite a pleasant day out on open water with three very generous men-to the extent that they gave me the entire harvest to sample for myself. I intended to share it with Gusti, but he had his dinner prepared, and so I made them my for myself. Given their size, the two eggs boiled were more than sufficient for an entire meal.


As I was eating, I was thinking that the question most people would likely ask is "What do they taste like." Interesting question: It is kind of like asking, "What does rattlesnake taste like?" and the answer, of course, is chicken, though in reality it tastes like something quite other than chicken-like, for instance, rattlesnake. So the eggs...well, they tasted like eggs, any eggs you might buy in the store. But, by the same token, neither of them tasted like eggs that I might buy in the store, much less like each other, though both could be classified as far as taste and substance is concerned as an egg. Both were different, though in a rather subtle sense. Both were quite good. I thought to myself that the question of what they taste like seems, well, less important than the difference. That is, to say that a Guillemot egg tastes something like any other egg explains less about the distinctive quality of the Guillemot egg than it does the not-so-distinctive qualities of eggs with which readers are probably most familiar.


OK, so perhaps this is a lot of nonsense about eggs. But if you have read the earlier pages of this blog you may remember that a question that seemed perplexing to me was the one posed by many Americans to whom I spoke about my first trip to Iceland of what the Icelandic people are like. And in reality, to respond by saying that they are a lot like us Americans says a lot less about people and how they live in Iceland, much less a specific region of Iceland, than it does about us Americans. And so the question that still remains, very strongly for me, is how to convey not simply that ‘this is like that‘, but how to convey the difference, particularly from the perspective of an outsider. I think maybe this is where photographs come into play, as they can help to show things as they are and allow the viewer to say, "This is similar and this is different." Ok enough on that.


Second: I went to see a band tonight at the Hotel Isafjord. In several respects, there were many similarities that I noticed between the band I watched and the band that I play with, the Aran Band, a couple of times a year in Johnstown, PA. They had a certain loose-ness about them, a certain "Let‘s just play music, have a few beers, and have a good time" feel about them that seemed very, very familiar. They covered music by an Icelandic folk/R&R singer called Megas (the link will take you to a blog that has a You Tube video of Megas embedded-scroll down). I had never heard of him nor heard him before, and given my limited facility with the Icelandic language (I recognize individual words amidst sentences, but that leaves me somewhat in the dark-imagine reading every fifth or eighth word of this entry and see where that leaves you-I find myself not quite aware of what I am getting into, which is kind of fun), I wasn´t certain if the act was serious or a spoof. After some time, it occurred to me that it was quite serious, and quite good, and extremely entertaining, though to classify it would be difficult. I was reminded of Joe Cocker, though again that says little about Megas, or the band. Have a look at the link. What you won't see on the link is the lead singer's father removing his dentures and depositing them in a glass of beer while he accompanies the band with a couple of songs (a distinctive feature of last night's entertainment), nor the fact that one of them landed on the floor after being fished out which set several tables in the pub to searching for dentures and laughing quite hysterically.


So with that, sorry about the long entry. I am taking tomorrow(Sunday) off from blogging, as I am making a trip to Látrabarg tomorrow. A long day trip, about 250 km the last 60 of which are on a rather bad road. I visited there last summer, the western most point of Europe, known for its bird cliffs. There is an event at the lighthouse there, though again I am not certain about what.



David Downing, Saturday 23 May | 16:52


The website looks great! Fabulous pix!

The landscape, though, reminds me somewhat of Elephant Island (ill-fated Shakelton expedition) and Ellesmere Island (even more ill-fated Greely expedition). So do be careful and maybe take along some pemmican rations next time you hit the road.

How's your Icelandic? Tolkien started a group called the Kolbitar (Coal-biters--the idea is that it is so cold, you are close enough to the fire to bite the coal) that sat around tranlated the Elder Eddas line by line. There's an idea for entertainment for you on a long arctic night.


Chris Brooks, Sunday 24 May | 16:28

Hi Matt,

The photos are incredible. The air must be so clear up there. You look as great as ever. Will you make a book of photos? Coffee table book, perhaps? Your writing voice is so honest with no pretense.

Hope you are really enjoying your stay!


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