National Geographic : 1969 Aug
provides scattered communities with plane service. Iceland's leap into the 20th century was so swift that the country skipped right over building railroads or express highways, even on the mainland. Icelanders practically climbed from their ponies into airplanes. A young man walked along the clifftop carrying what looked like a lacrosse racket. "He's after puffins," said Mr. T6masson. "He sweeps them out of the air with the net." Islanders catch more than 50,000 puffins a year for food. Once they ate fulmars, until an epidemic of a type of infectious ornithosis 242 broke out among the birds. Some dressers caught the malady, and the fulmars have rarely been molested since. We left Heimaey on a sunny day with a fair wind in the running sails, but we were a nerv ous crew. The United States Navy's Sailing Directions warned of dangers ahead. "The south coast of Iceland has always been feared by seamen," it said, noting that for 230 miles there is only one harbor of refuge -Hornafjordhur-which we couldn't enter because an 8-knot tidal current, further pow ered by glacial streams, pours out of its mouth.