Day 6, Saturday 30th July: Akrafjall

Greenhouse gas emissions (CO2eq): 361 kilos
Sigurðar saga fóts: 62/252



Up above Akranes, a town at the end of the next peninsula along from Reykjavík, stands Akrafjall, a steep-sided mountain reaching five hundred metres above the sea. Akrafjall forms a basin whose springs and streams in turn form the river Berjadalsá, which rushes straight and swift until at last it clears the mountains and turns north to the sea.


The river Berjadalsá

Not long after the War, the fishermen of Akranes started to find that they were struggling to bring in their usual haul of cod; and although back then the loss of a fishing boat was not uncommon, a couple went missing despite sailing in good weather. People began to talk about U-boats still prowling the Atlantic, perhaps because their crews had not heard that the war was over; or perhaps because they were ghost-boats. But it soon started happening that cows grazing on the coastal pastures went missing too, and it was evident from the trail of torn earth and broken fences that something was dragging itself up from the sea and seizing them.

There was a fisherman called Lúkas, who took no inconsiderable pride in the fact that he was a direct ancestor of one of Akranes’s first settlers, Ketill Bresason, who sailed there from Ireland. He lived in the same place as Ketill, up at Innrihólmur. One day, when he was out fishing, he saw an enormous walrus—more the size of a killer whale—circling the boat and staring at him with huge malevolent eyes. Its tusks were as long as whale-ribs, and as sharp as eagles’ claws. It isn’t mentioned where the walrus came from, though some say it was a witch whom Lúkas’s great-grandfather, the scholar and priest Lúkas Ketilsson, had banished. Others say that its eyes were recognisably those of Þorgeir Hávarsson, another of Lúkas’s ancestors, and who, as it is said in Wikipedia, ‘killed people for trifles and for sport’.

Lúkas turned to shore, but a wind suddenly sprang up against him; he and his crew rowed as hard as they could, but the walrus began churning up the water around them until they could hardly keep the boat from capsizing. When the walrus came close, Lúkas swung at it with the ship’s axe, but the hide of the walrus was as tough as iron. They managed to get the boat close to shore, but then the walrus leapt from the water and snapped at it with its tusks, tearing it in two. Lúkas and his crew swam for shore as fast as they could, but before long only Lúkas was left aloat. He and the walrus grappled each other in the water, and he warded off its most dangerous thrusts with his axe, until he finally came ashore.

Walrus-formed lake

Walrus-formed lake, with enclosure

Realising that he might wind up no better off than the cows, Lúkas ran as fast as his legs would carry him along the Berjadalsá. The walrus followed up the river, and you wouldn’t have known from its speed that it was going upstream, were it not for the enormous splashing it made. It seemed to Lúkas that if he could get up the waterfall at the foot of Akrafjall, the walrus wouldn’t be able to follow him. But it took a mighty leap up the waterfall and was set to spear Lúkas with its tusks. Then Lúkas dived into the river and the walrus came down so hard on the clifftop that it stunned itself, blocking the river so much that a lake started to form.

Inward-facing security fence

Inward-facing security fence

After his efforts with the ship’s axe, Lúkas found the odds of killing the walrus slim, so he and his farm-hands wasted no time building a barbed-wire security-fence around the lake, taking care to make the barbed wire inward-facing, to keep the walrus inside. They built a great concrete dam at its exit to the sea. The walrus still lives there to this day.

Alcatraz for monstrous walruses

Alcatraz for monstrous walruses

* * *

In related news: as the photos show, it didn’t rain all the time on Saturday! Only a lot of the time.


About alarichall
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2 Responses to Day 6, Saturday 30th July: Akrafjall

  1. Yvonne says:

    I wondered how long it would take for a walrus to be mentioned – day 6 pretty good! I’m loving your blog and as each day passes I become more determined to do my PhD in Iceland.

  2. Pingback: Days 26–29, August 19th–22nd: the oldness of the New World, and the awfulness of the Loop | alarichall

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