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Nordic Adventure, Part 8: Puffins and Porpoise and Whales, Oh My!

While I was in Reykjavik, I took two separate boat trips.  The first was a one hour puffin-watching cruise.  I mentioned puffins in the previous post, because I ate some smoked puffin meat.

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I mentioned that the puffin meat tasted kind of fishy-  I assume it’s because they spend a lot of their life hanging out in the water, just bobbing on the currents.

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There were hundreds of them around.

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For scale, remember this:  The body of a puffin is roughly the size of a twelve ounce can of Coke.

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The puffins nest on small islands with no human inhabitants, all around the coastline of Iceland.  I actually wanted to go sky-fishing, which is how they’re caught, but that’s not really something tourists can easily do.  Sky-fishing involves going to one of the islands and snatching them out of the air with a giant net on a long pole.   I don’t want to hurt them, I just think it would be kind of fun to catch birds with a giant butterfly net and then let them go.  If you want to see sky-fishing in action, go to Youtube and search for “Gordon Ramsay Puffin.”  Be warned, however-  he kills, cooks, and eats the one he catches.

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One of the things I learned about puffins is this adorable factoid:  Baby puffins are called pufflings.  Sometimes the pufflings get confused and wind up in the streets of Reykjavik.  When this happens, people generally take them back to the shore and once there’s water, the birds figure out easily where to go.

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The second boat ride I took was a three hour whale-watching cruise.    There are several competing companies that do this, but I suspect they talk to each other, because my blue vessel was shadowed for the entire duration of the cruise by this red vessel.

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You may have noticed that many of the people in that picture are wearing coats that match the boat- that’s because they provide overalls you can wear if it’s too cold.  I didn’t bother with the coveralls because I was already pretty well layered up, but it was tempting because they’re really  fashionable.

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I really didn’t think we’d see anything, but I was happy to be proven wrong.  Our spotter called one type of dolphin that I didn’t actually see, and at one point, this minke whale.  The whale was pretty shy and didn’t hang out for more than a few minutes.

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The harbor porpoises, on the other hand, were not shy at all.  They were curious and playful.

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There was a pod of about seven or eight of them keeping time with our boat for a good portion of the cruise.

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Still, without the spotter, I’m not entirely certain I would have seen anything.  The reflection on the water makes it difficult to spot anything unless you’re at a pretty decent elevation, or unless they hang out on the surface a lot, like these little guys.

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Have you ever been whale-watching?  Did you spot anything?

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Nordic Adventure, Part 3: Skansen

The heart of the Djurgården in Stockholm is the Skansen open air park and museum.  Skansen, founded in 1891 by Artur Hazelius, is 75 acres of traditional Swedish houses and a small zoo.  There’s even a funicular.  Skansen attracts more than 1.3 million visitors each year.  Skansen is so large that I actually got lost inside-  I thought I was heading toward an exit but I was completely turned around and wound up on an entirely different side of the park.

This is not the main entrance.  I thought it was at first, but this is actually a smaller side entrance.

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Here’s another rune stone.

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My favorite part of Skansen was, naturally, the zoo.   This is a baby reindeer and a mama reindeer.  The baby was way cute.  I try not to think too much about how delicious the reindeer was that I’d eaten two days previous.

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Another reindeer, looking a little more stereotypical.

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It was a warm day and the moose wasn’t having any of it.  This moose really just wanted a hammock and a beer.

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Even the seal was complaining about the heat, and he was in the water already!

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That’s a big horse there.

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There were a couple of bear cubs playing around.  They look so cute that it’s easy to forget just how deadly these fuzzy fellows can be.

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This is a lynx.  It’s fascinating to me that despite being a large predator, the lynx behaved exactly the same as every cat I’ve ever known.  The elegant turned back when it didn’t want to acknowledge all the people trying to take photographs of it, the sudden attraction to the motion of a bird that landed in its enclosure, and the normal kitty stalking that all cats do when something fuzzy gets their attention. This picture doesn’t really showcase the black fur points on his eartips or show just how big his paws were, but in every other regard, a lynx is just another slightly larger cat.

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Toats ma goats?

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This is a wolverine.  He was bounding around his enclosure so quickly that it was incredibly difficult to get a clear photo.

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…and a meerkat.

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Golden Lion Tamarin.  Tiny little fellows.

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The lemurs were sharing space with the humans-  the walkway here was right through the lemur enclosure.  Mostly they ignored me.

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These two were just on the other side of a railing.

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I actually had to step over this one’s tail to get by.  He was totally enjoying the sunlight.

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Babboons, I think.

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I took so many pictures of the meerkats.  They’re so adorable.

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A type of Ray, I think.  I forgot to check the label.  There were some regular stingrays in this tank.

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Tree snake, just hanging out.  Erm, no pun intended.

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Have you ever been to Skansen?