In an article published by “The New York Times”, locals of eleven top tourist destinations were asked what it’s like to experience a place, that is normally filled with tourists, all empty during current travel restrictions due to COVID-19. 
Gentle Giants’ CEO Stefán Guðmundsson was one of the persons questioned.

“I saw a tall spout the other day, about half a mile north, and have been wondering if it was a fin whale or maybe the blue whale. I didn’t check. The ship’s deck was loaded with lumpfish and the fish do not ask to see whales.

My whale-watching boat, The Aþena, was originally built for fishing and her purpose is back to basics for the time being. The vast Skjalfandi Bay, nudging the Arctic Circle, has provided a livelihood for my family of fishermen the past 150 years.

Given the bleak prospect for tourists, it seems like I am about to add another year to the legacy.

The town of Husavik is the whale-watching capital of Iceland — some say Europe — and my fleet is one of three tour operators. I was first in my family to sail out with binoculars instead of fishing gear, about 20 years and 350,000 passengers ago.

The season starts when the whales finish their migration from winter waters. That was early March this year, around the time Iceland closed its borders.

In my fourth week of fishing, I counted six or eight humpbacks and minke whales feeding on a school of capelin. All that is missing are audiences.

Sunny days are the strangest. Sailing into harbor you expect to see people lined up for tours and dining outside. Back then you almost needed a navigator’s eye to find good parking.

I don’t miss it just yet but I do wonder when the time will come again. Fishing takes my mind off the problems ahead and there isn’t much I can do about them anyway.

What will Iceland without international tourists really look like? I hope at least Icelanders grab the opportunity when the summer holidays begin and see for themselves.

Meanwhile, the whales will be out there, performing for their friends and fishermen.”

— As told to Egill Bjarnason

If you got curious to read all eleven stories, the full article can be found here!

- Sarah

Hunang Hunang logo