Bjargtangar Lighthouse

Látrabjarg, Iceland | C.1948

Photo Credit: Sophie Pietrzok

The westernmost structure in Europe, the Bjargtangar Lighthouse is the only permanent building on Látrabjarg, Iceland’s largest seabird cliff. With millions of birds seasonally populating the island, it is one of the best places in the country to go puffin-watching – and home to some death defying naval rescues.

Iceland hosts around 10 million puffins during the summer who mainly spend their time laying eggs and raising chicks before migrating South at the end of the season. Although Látrabjarg is known for its puffins, it is also a habitat to many other species including guillemots, as well as 40% of the world’s razorbill population.

Even though this spot overlooking the North Atlantic Ocean has had a small beacon since 1913, the white concrete lighthouse was constructed in 1948. The small stature of the two-story structure contrasts massively with the scale of Látrabjarg’s dangerously steep cliffs which have caused numerous rescue operations – one of which was especially well-documented.

On a frigid day in December 1947, thick fog and strong undercurrents dragged a British trawler into dangerous waters. The regional volunteer rescue team joined forces with local farmers to save them thanks to a farmers’ rope (typically used to trawl bird eggs from the cliffs). All 15 of the men were hoisted out of danger. A year later, “The Látrabjarg Rescue” documentary film was shot recounting this 3-day operation, with the actual rescuers re-enacting their brave endeavor.

Seemingly at the edge of the world, the Bjargtangar Lighthouse is quite isolated and a bit tricky to reach. If you do decide to visit the rugged Icelandic landscape or go puffin-watching, just don’t stand too close to that edge!

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