What a day. I hardly know where to begin! We damaged more gear today than we’ve ever damaged in a single day. Not much of an accomplishment!
We returned to Jökulsárlón for sunrise. Jay was shooting on the beach, when a rogue wave came in. It came up past his waist, shifted his balance, and pulled him under water… along with his tripod, camera, and backpack. He says he flipped around under water three times before he could get himself back on his feet. Somehow, he managed to hang onto his gear… but the camera and lens are done for. Amazingly, not a single drop of water touched the lenses and back-up camera inside his Loka bag from F-Stop. As far as I’m concerned, that’s incredible. The bag was completely under water for at least 15 seconds… and nothing inside is damaged. His down jacket was inside that bag, too… dry as a bone. A good thing, too… since freezing winds make it tough to get warm after a dunking like that. He got a single shot before he went down…
After checking to make sure Jay was ok, I returned to the beach to shoot. I watched one iceberg for a while… but decided it was too far in. I didn’t want to end up taking a swim, so I chose another berg. (Of course, the guy who decided to shoot that berg after I abandoned it is just fine! Go figure!) I watched the waves for a while, and then set up to shoot. I took a few shots before another big wave came in. No problem… I was far enough up the beach that even a rogue wave couldn’t do much to me without trying harder. My feet were wet, but I was ready for that – I wear neoprene water shoes when I’m shooting in water. A second wave added to the momentum of the first one – and as it came in, I started to back off. I wasn’t at all worried at that point – I’ve withstood much larger waves before. But then a third wave came in. Normally, one wave pulls out as the next rolls in – and the backwards momentum reduces the power of the incoming wave. This time, the first two waves came one upon the other… building momentum as they merged. They were still pushing forward as the third wave came in… and the momentum of the triple wave picked up all the icebergs scattered on the beach and pushed them past me.
At that point, the water was about at my waist. I stopped trying to outrun the wave and braced myself as I’ve done so many times before. But the water wasn’t the problem. All that forward momentum suddenly reversed as three waves pulled back toward the sea as one, and the sudden rush pulled all those lovely bergs back towards me in a rush. The one that hit my knee took me down, and several others slammed into me as I tried to regain my balance. My camera was underwater for just a moment… enough to make it pretty much useless for the rest of the trip. The lens survived, and my fabulous F-Stop bag saved the rest of my gear. But I was in extreme pain.
I pulled myself up the beach, somehow, and ended up lying on the sand – blacking out over and over again as I fought the pain in my knee. After a few minutes (and some help from a good friend – thanks, Neal!) I pulled myself up and headed back to the car. My rain gear and several layers of clothes had actually kept me relatively dry – and the water was surprisingly warm despite the ice floating in it. I got pretty cold as I removed the wet layers, but luckily, my spare set of gloves were still dry inside my camera bag (WOW!), and my dry boots and socks were waiting for me in the car. Dry clothes never felt so good!
I’ll have to get some x-rays when I return to the US – but for now, I’m doing ok. The bruises are getting nasty fast – it looks like I was hit by four bergs. The knee is the worst, but I have a stunning bruise high on my right leg, an odd collection of deep black marks on my left ankle, and a small bruise on my right foot. I’m glad I was wearing so many layers of clothes! Cushioning!
And all that before breakfast!
We returned to the hotel after shooting (and swimming involuntarily) at Jökulsárlón. Today’s plan was a “Super Jeep” tour! The trip was incredible! The road to Laki is unpaved – and the Super Jeeps were equipped with giant tires to get us across rivers and over the rough terrain. The views were breathtaking – moss-covered rocks, giant volcanic craters, huge waterfalls… and then the view from the top. Wow! We could see a string of craters stretching into the distance. A shining lake glowing with reflected sunlight. Yes! Sunlight! Did I mention that it was a beautiful day? Only a few drops of rain in between gloriously beautiful clouds… and a lovely sunset for a finale. It was icy cold at the top – and the winds were strong – but it was great to see the sun!
Afterward, they took us back to the hotel. Jay and I were both exhausted after our morning ordeals – and we were relieved to finally crawl into bed. I slept like the dead. What a day!