National Geographic : 1951 Nov
630 U. S. Army Signal Corps, Official Iceland Pony, Indifferent to Fatigue, Draws a Rake Across a Lava-rimmed Meadow Summer's abundant rainfall and perpetual sunshine make possible two or three hay cuttings in the short growing season. Since damp fields slow down sun curing, some farmers have installed air blowers. A $2,600, 000 nitrogenous fertilizer plant, financed with ECA funds, will help to increase yields. Photographers do not have to unload their "daylight" Kodachrome after supper, either, if they go to Iceland in July. American sol diers played baseball at midnight; and the Icelandic consul for Chicago, Dr. Arni Helga son, told me he came home at 2 a.m. one morning to find his neighbor industriously engaged in giving his house a new coat of paint in broad daylight. Warrior Maidens' Armor Reflects Aurora There is one final delight in Iceland that never fails to stir the visitor. That is the aurora borealis, dancing across the heavens with spears and curtains of light-mauve, green, and white.* Legend says these are the Valkyries, "Choosers of the Slain," warrior maidens armed with helmets, shields, and spears. Mounted on swift steeds, they were sent by Odin to every battlefield to select brave spirits who would rally to his side against the time of the ultimate contest between the forces of good and evil. As the Valkyries rode forth, their armor glinted with strange, flickering rays. When men saw the northern lights they knew the maidens were riding forth in their quest for heroes to conduct to Valhalla. When our scheduled departure time arrived, I was a complete Icelandic convert. Iceland wanted to keep us, too, we think. It stormed. The snow swirled against the airport lights, and an 80-mile-an-hour wind tried to keep us from crossing the field to our big plane. We taxied for half an hour to be sure there were no obstacles on the snow-laden runway. Finally the roar of 8,800 horses settling into harness told us we were on our way home. Thirteen hours and one minute later our bags were being inspected at La Guardia Field. The customs officer looked at my bracelet, my eider down, and my little girl's doll. "Is this all you have to declare from Ice land?" he asked. "Yes, sir," I answered. Neither the inspector nor I could possibly have set a value on the memories I carried home from the land of ice and fire. They were a store of smuggled wealth exempt alike from tax and confiscation. * See "Unlocking Secrets of the Northern Lights," by Carl W. Gartlein, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGA ZINE, November 1947.