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Fossils and beaches, Tjörnes peninsula

Pictures are at the bottom...

I'd read in the lonely planet, and heard brief mention that there was a fossil museum just north of Húsavík. The curator at the museum in town told me that it was closed now, the old man had died, and it was all now at _this_ museum, but that you could still go to the seashore where the bulk of the fossils had been found, if I was into that sort of thing. (He didn't make it sound very worthwhile) I had other opinions on this though, so headed up for an afternoon's sightseeing.

It's only just north of town, and not particularly well signposted, just an icelandic "attraction" sign (the knotted loop) with some handwriting underneath it saying "fossils" and an arrow. It's a turn towards the sea just north of the farm Ýtritunga. You follow a roughish dirt road along for a bit, and then you get dropped down to the seashore, at the remains of an old dock.

It's a nice spot just by itself, quiet, bathed in afternoon sun, and you feel nice and alone. I stood out on the end of the jetty for a while, watching the sea roll and the sunbeams play in the clouds. Standing on the jetty I also noticed a rather odd whitish lumpy thing floating in to shore, getting washed closer and closer.

It didn't look like the regular flotsam and jetsam, but it didn't look like wood or anything natural either. I was quite curious and went around to where it looked like it might come to land. I started to get wild fancies that this was a lump of ambergris, and I was going to be rich and famous. Eventually I decided that I couldn't risk it coming near to shore, and then washing out again, so I stripped off and waded in to get it while it was near shore. brrr, chilly!

I still wasn't really sure what it was, and I didn't really know what ambergris was meant to look like, so I excitedly stashed it in the car.

But that was just one of the exciting things about this little quiet dock. When I first gotten out of the car, I'd walked up the sandy slop beside the car a bit, wondering if I'd see any fossils, and just seeing dirt. Unusually sandy dirt, not the regular crushed up volcano dirt, but still, just dirt. Fossils aren't always exactly standing around having parties, shouting out and calling attention to themselves.

But! (yet another paragraph starting with but, my english teachers would be thrilled.) coming off the dock I noticed a pile of rocks neatly laid out on a bench. These all turned out to be excellent fossil shells. So many! Just sitting here! I wonder what the ones that someone kept must have looked like! Looking up again, I saw that the sandy slope I'd earlier investigated had a few more layers in it. Where the mouth of a small creek came out, part way up the slope, was a few layers that slanted up and away of pure unadulterated fossil goodness.

Most of the fossils were crushed or broken, but this layer of ancient mud was just completely made up of fossil shells. I'd never seen fossils so densly packed before. Every step was walking on fossil shells, every rock had shell imprints on it. Quite a sight. It quickly became apparent that they were more awesome en masse than individually, being pretty much all the same type and roughly the same size, but still, very very cool.

I poked around for a while, looking for different types, or better examples, and got a few to take home, joining the floating strange thing, and the killer whale teeth from the day before, then was on my way.

Further north, but not actually on my way so much. I had decided to stay in Húsavík another night, the campground was nice, and I was going to get some fresh groceries in the morning before heading out into the proper north east. So I drove north up and around the Tjörnes peninsula having a look at beaches and waves and looking down a couple of side roads before returning home for a nice indoor cooked meal.

I also had a lovely evening for my last night here chatting with a a 4x4 guy (whose name I have unfortunately forgotten) about the "best" roads in iceland. Quite a nice chat, comparing australian and icelandic and english four wheel driving. They offered me a trip down to Askja, and could even return me to my car, but I was headed in other directions, and they're timing was going to be a bit tight, so askja will just have to wait a bit longer....

According to this paper on the tjörnes beds the beds I was looking at are 2-4 million years old. Or something like that. For comparison, the oldest rock sample in iceland is from 16 mya, while the oldest in australia is 3800 mya, and the oldest in england from 2700 mya.

Oh, the floating whitish thing? Just pumice. Just didn't look like normal pumice. It was about as big as my head, and just different somehow to other pumice.

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