Every year, in May, hundreds of thousands of lambs are born in Iceland. After spending a short time in the sheep houses on the farms, both sheep and lambs are released into the highlands and nearby mountains, where they roam freely until September. When autumn arrives farmers along with their families, friends, and other helpers, go sheep herding and bring the animals back.
One of the most challenging places where sheep are gathered in the autumn is Breiðamerkurfjall, a mountain that stands in between two glaciers’ outlets of the mighty Vatnajökull Glacier, Fjallsjökull and Breiðamerkurjökull. Years ago, the mountain was surrounded by glaciers and farmers used the glaciers as some kind of snow bridges whilst sheep herding. However, the situation has changed drastically as for more than 100 years Vatnajökull glacier has been retreating and the glaciers no longer encircle the mountain. It would seem like the disappearing glaciers would make the lives of the Icelandic sheep farmers’ easier but that is not the case…
As the glacier outlets have been retreating a few glacial lagoons have been formed at the base of the glaciers. As a result, Breiðamerkurfjall has become inaccessible on foot. Now it is necessary to cross a river flowing from Breiðárlón to Fjallsárlón to get to the mountain. Today farmers use a special wooden floating barge to transport the sheep back and forth.
In the article below you can find some interesting pictures and a short video showing the process of herding and transporting the sheep through the river. While visiting Fjallsárlón you can also go for a wonderful hike all the way to the place where the barge is being used.
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