The anchorman stands at the top of the cliff, securing a rope for the young islanders who swing like Tarzan from ledge to ledge below. Pausing from time to time, the daredevils inspect the tiny, white, speckled ovals that litter the bluff’s steep face. From the upper deck of Le Soléal, a 466-foot cruise ship sailing off the isle of Heimaey in Iceland’s Westman archipelago, the spectacle onshore looks like an extreme version of rock collecting. But Alfred Alfredsson, a local guide for passengers of the new Compagnie du Ponant ship, says the practice of gathering the eggs of the Atlantic puffin is a centuries-old tradition in the Westman Islands, which is home to the world’s largest population of the seabirds. Residents have been collecting puffin eggs for sport, as well as sustenance, since the Viking Age.
Published online in the Robb Report, November 01, 2013.