Iceland’s Westfjords: Látrabjarg, The Cliff At the End of Europe

Látrabjarg is a massive cliff that houses the nesting areas for thousands of birds. It also happens to be the farthest West point in Europe. Impressive as the cliffs are (and smelly!), I preferred to look out over the Atlantic in the direction of the Americas. They say that on a clear day, one might glimpse Greenland here. It was not a clear day.


It was particularly impressive that someone may have well stood in that spot more than a thousand years ago, looking out over the gray waters, and thought:

“Yes, I will go out there into the unknown and have faith that something is there. Something has to lie beyond.” 


Not Leif Erikson himself, perhaps, but someone in the unrecorded 400-700 people in his Viking fleet that landed in Vinland (Nova Scotia). There is no indication that any continents lay across that great grey expanse. In the photo above, you can see that the sky and the horizon merge seamlessly, as if it is not particularly important which is which. Or as if they are one and the same.

Whenever I stand on shores like this one, in the footsteps of those who went into the great unknown hundreds of years ago (or thousands!) the thought of space comes to mind. I think of those who went in great discomfort and what must have been great tension across the wide seas that seemed to be infinite at the time, and how easily I now travel above them in what amounts to a flying living room in a metal tube.

I suppose I feel less intrepid than those who went before, and also those who will come after. Space travel, if it does become something that is much more commonplace than now, will probably not be much more comfortable nor more safe than those long seafaring journeys undertaken by our ancestors. I need to go stand on more Polynesian beaches, to feel the full force of the longest and most impressive of the sort of journeys I imagined on Látrabjarg. Those would be the best analog for long-term, untethered space flights that I hope will eventually come for humanity.

But back on Látrabjarg, there were Puffins! Having eaten them a day earlier, it was strange to see them on the cliffs, totally unimpressed with the tourists all over the place. They are so self-assured that we cannot fly that they just pose for picture after picture.


Well worth the drive to visit this magical place.

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