Hvítserkur a petrified troll?
Located off the North West shore lays one of Iceland’s iconic landmarks. Hvítserkur is a basalt stack that stands 15m tall. Its foundation has been partially hollowed from centuries of erosion, temperature changes, and storms. The remaining structure is formed in a way that gives it the appearance of a dragon bending down to drink the Atlantic water. The formation is a popular subject of tourists and photographers alike, and for great reason. It’s stunning to see.
Hvítserkur comes with its own folklore, as well. There’s a legend stating that the formation is actually a petrified troll from Strandir. Since trolls aren’t Christians, they had a massive disdain for churches and the bells that tolled along with them. One fine day, this troll in particular decided that the church bells at Þingeyraklaustur convent must be torn down. Off he set to achieve his task when he was caught in the midst of daylight. As troll folklore goes, trolls get turned into stone when exposed to the sun’s mighty rays. And thus, Hvítserkur was formed. Reportedly, the locals aren’t fond of this idea and do their best to forget that the massive stone may be a petrified troll.
However, ecologists might be apt to argue with the troll theory. They theorize that Hvítserkur is the plug that is the last remainder of what once was a volcano. A volcanic plug is the neck of a volcano that is created from hardened magma. It’s located in the middle of what would have been the vent of an active volcano. They are responsible for creating excess pressure because they trap volatile magma beneath, often prompting explosive eruptions. This is helpful to know when considering the imagery of the majestic dragon that the rocks have taken the shape of.
Hvítserkur gets its name from its current inhabitants – flocks of gulls and fulmars that take up residence on the stone dragon. Hvítserkur literally translates to “long white shirt” from Icelandic. Due to the birds living on the rock, a high volume of guano is deposited and creates the image of a long white shirt. This isn’t considered a negative quality by the Icelandic people, though. The birds nesting here give the rock the appearance of being alive.
Because of its oddity, it makes a popular tourist attraction that has only recently attracted a lot of international and domestic attention. It has also been commemorated by the Iceland government, who put the Atlantic’s stone monster on a stamp in 1990. In order to prevent further erosion of the volcanic plug, the Icelandic government fortified Hvítserkur by encasing its feet in concrete. When the tide is out, you can clearly see its concrete shoes, keeping it still and allowing it a rest from its constant battle to stand against the Atlantic ocean. Now, the troll is damned to stand forever. It’ll never be able to fall and release the sun’s evil spell, allowing the troll to once more wreak havoc about the local villages.
Visiting the Hvítserkur is quite easy. It’s located on the Vatnsnes peninsula, about 200km from Reykjavík. There’s a parking area that has a path that goes straight down to the shore. However, in the summer time the path isn’t as accessible due to the Arctic tern nesting there, which are birds that are known to be quite aggressive towards anything that moves. If you’d like to walk there in the summer time, it’s recommended that you take a different trail from the parking lot that leads to another trail that will land you right on the beach. Or, if you prefer, you can stay and view the magnificence from above. Either way, you surely won’t be disappointed.