“Athena” - Lady with a Past

- “Athena” heads for Greenland – but what stopped it? – and what is it’s dark secret?

My wife Ann and I are not “cruisers” – but the promise in the brochure of a landing in East Greenland was too much to miss. “Athena” set off from Harwich on 9 June 2006 for a first landfall in the Faroe Islands a couple of days later. Here you see her berthed in the Faroese capital, Torshavn.
Built in Sweden with an ice-breaking hull, the ship was originally the “Stockholm”. 50 years ago the bow collided with the Italian “Andrea Doria”, sinking it with loss of life on both ships. In its metamorphosis from liner to cruise ship, “Athena” now seems set to live on for many years yet.
"Athena" at Torshavn

From a transportation point of view, (a) a no-flying cruise appeals to quite a few travellers, and (b) it has to be a less polluting and lower stress way to travel. Maritime-style security worked for us rather than against us, facilitating easy entry to, and departure from, all ports.
Faroes general view This view outside Torshavn encapsulates the feel of the islands – a place experienced by few British visitors, except perhaps Shetlanders, who seem to have good contact with what is to them the next group of islands, though the Faroese landscape itself  has more in common with the Hebrides.


The next ports of call were in Iceland. Despite it being the month of June, there were fresh snowfalls on the north fjord coast.

“Athena” is tied up at Akureyri, Iceland’s  northern capital, and gateway to Lake Myvatn. Climate - surprisingly benign. The distant steam is from  geothermal sources. Myvatn and geothermal steam

– and probably Iceland too by the look of the north coast – endured a hard winter 2005/2006. Despite Global Warming, the ice pack off Greenland’s East coast was still, in June, solid – and “Athena” went to have a look.

Although recent storms - which we had experienced on board "Athena" at sea - had broken up the ice chunks, there were still some biggies out there. The ice was dangerous even to  the ship's Swedish ice-breaking hull, and even stopping for long carried risks in water at -2 degrees Celsius, so the ship headed back towards Iceland. Viewing pack ice off Greenland Giant Iceberg
Further spectacular pictures were obtained on returning to Reykjavik. Although a much-hoped-for helicopter trip in Greenland had obviously not been possible, aerial views (from a six-seater Cessna) of south-west Iceland were stunning. The first image speaks for itself, the second shows the American and European plates separating, the third is of the offshore Westmann islands with possibly Surtsey extreme right. You can also just see the town of Heimaey, which was half over-run by volcanic ash some years ago, but without loss of life. (We were privileged to visit Heimaey shortly after the eruption, landing on a volcanic ash runway).
Iceland aerial view tectonic plates in action
Westman Islands
Finally, it has been said that Iceland is the only country to have preserved all of its steam locomotives...yes, all two of them. They worked the dockside, one being on the quay in Reykjavik.

Having said that, I also spotted narrow gauge tracks in the northern fjord area at Isafjordjur, close to the fishing museum, and to which I have failed to find any reference e.g. motive power - human, horse, etc? So - it's not entirely true there were no railways in Iceland!
Preserved locomotive

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