Dalalæða – Spectacular waterfalls of fog

Some truly stunning special effects can be created by the setting sun. Depending on preceding weather circumstances, presence of clouds, type of terrain, and many other factors. It’s always captivating to see it plunging down into the sea and lighting up the sky in incredible colours, against a backdrop of craggy jumbled rocks. And sometimes, if the conditions are right, something truly spectacular can occur.

A magical phenomenon that literally produces waterfalls of fog.

I was lucky to run into this by chance, on the island of Heimaey (Vestmannaeyjar), just off the south coast of Iceland.

Midnight sun and midnight moon

It had been a bright and sunny day, and I went for a midnight scramble up the cliffs around Herjólfsdalur, to watch the sun set and the moon rise in brightly coloured skies.

Herjólfsdalur natural amphitheatre

Midnight sunset on Herjólfsdalur. The natural amphitheatre of Heimaey is a spectacular sight at any time, yet even more enchanting when it’s surrounded by the colours of sunset.

Midnight sunset

Midnight moonrise over Helgafell.

Midnight moonrise

And then some fog came rolling in from the sea, slowly engulfing the entire island.

It was lying low on the horizon, just off the southeastern coast, as the full moon came rising up above Helgafell. That was a stunning view already.

Midnight fog & moonMidnight fog & moon over Heimaey.

But the magnificent display of fog that was about to ensue completely stole the show.

Distant sea fogDistant sea fog rolling in.

Sea fog sunset

Waves of fog pouring in

It rolled over the outlying islands, gushed into the harbour and flowed into the town below, wrapping itself around the nearby kletturs and volcanoes one by one. It creeped up the Eldfell, like mysterious fingers of fog. It looked like steam was coming off the crater itself.

Fog flowing into the harbourFlowing into Heimaey harbour.

Fog creeping inCreeping in and steaming off the Eldfell.

Heimaklettur engulfed by fogHeimaklettur engulfed by fog.

Engulfed by waterfalls of fog

Then it came pouring over the edges of the ridge where I was standing. There were waterfalls of fog flowing over the rocks all around me. I’ve never seen anything like it. It was incredibly beautiful and utterly mesmerizing. I just stood there for well over an hour, and watched it unfold from my clear viewpoint above it all. Until it was finally swallowed by the fog as well.

Fog waterfallsSpectacular fog waterfalls flowing over the cliffs.

Disappearing klettursDisappearing kletturs.

Klif disappearing into the fogKlif disappearing into a waterfall of fog.

Fog flowing into HerjólfsdalFlowing into Herjólfsdal.

Fog waterfall & flowerFog waterfall & flower.

Misty track

It meant I had to find my way off the mountain through the thick of it… But I didn’t mind. I was so excited to have witnessed such a magical sight!

There’s actually a name for this phenomenon. It’s called ‘dalalæða’ in Icelandic – a low-lying fog that flows into a valley, and sneaks up surrounding hillsides, rocks and mountains.

It can occur on a calm clear night after a blissfully warm & sunny day 🙂

I wonder if there is any equivalent name in English for this kind of fog spectacle…?

Harbour lightsHarbour lights at the bottom of the track.

(c) Nancy Claus – Wilderness Coffee & Natural High

Earth Science Picture of the Day

My dalalæða pictures were published as Earth Science Picture of the Day on Monday 28 August 2017. I am honoured to be featured on this renowned science site, that showcases the beauty of nature and offers explanations of a wide range of fascinating phenomena occurring all around the Earth.

The article shows the picture of the fog flowing into town, and pouring like a waterfall over the edges of the cliffs.


More stories & inspiration

Northern lights – Energy from out of space pouring in

Solar eclipse – A mind-blowing experience

Haleakala – The House of the Rising Sun

Etna – Vigorously steaming from all its craters

Vestmannaeyjar – A force of nature that can’t be denied

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