My Iceland Adventure, Part 5
When we left the Westfjords we took a ferry to Flatey (Flah’ tee) Island, a beautiful small island with a handful of houses and a hotel. Hotel Flatey consists of two converted warehouses which accommodate a total of 27 people. My room was a single, small with eaves, but certainly comfortable and suitable for our stay. The restaurant at the hotel served delicious soups and dinners, and the stay on the island was peaceful and relaxing.
The island has a number of summer homes and places that the seasonal hotel employees stay while working on the island. The buildings are so colorful. You could easily walk the entire island and we did so many times.
There are only two couples who live on the island full time. The remaining activity on the island is for tourists and summer home residents. I had the good fortune to meet one of the residents, an older lady who told me they live on the island year-round to take care of their sheep. She calls a friend on Snaefellsness Peninsula who does her grocery shopping for her and puts it on the ferry for her to pick up. She told me the hardest part about being on the island in the winter is lack of social activity. She and her husband have four children, eleven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren who live in Iceland. The photos of the church with the tractor are of her husband. I was there to try to get a photo of the church with two buildings that look like they are very close to it, but in fact, they are some distance away.
One interesting thing I learned from the trip to Flatey has to do with the collection of eider down. I have done a little reading on this and it is fascinating. The eider duck is plentiful on Flatey and nearby islands. Women harvest the down from nests for use in pillows and comforters. Due to hormonal changes during the egg-laying period, the females sheds this incredibly light and soft down into the nest. This leaves an egg-warming spot on her belly, but the down also provides protection for the eggs and young from predators. Eider down is the only down on the market that comes from a live wild female bird, and it is not plucked from the bird, so it does no harm to collect it. When the down is removed from the nest, the collectors replace it with grasses and hay they have carried for that purpose. The majority of eiderdown on the world market comes from Iceland. One comforter with eiderdown filling may contain raw material from over 60 nests. I didn’t get a good photo of the down because at the time I didn’t realize how significant it was. I was mainly interested in the eggs in the nest. We were walking down a path beside a fence, and startled the mother off the nest. I snapped a quick photo so she would return. I wish I had been more careful.