In 1973, a United States Navy DC plane ran out of fuel and crashed on the South coast of Iceland. Lieutenant Gregory Fletcher, a 26-year-old pilot in training who had only flown 21 hours in a C-117, grabbed the controls of the plane and made a forced landing on the black beach at
“I knew we were flying somewhere over Iceland, but I swear that thing looked like the goddamn moon,” he said.
Fortunately, everyone in that plane survived.
I hate to interrupt at this dramatic point of the story, but there are a couple of things you should know before I continue. First, during the summer months in Iceland, there’s something you’ve maybe heard of called “the Midnight Sun”. This means that the daylight hours are endless. There is no night. When midnight arrives, the sun barely deigns to touch the horizon line, and stays there as it if it were doing some kind of strange dance surrounded by beautiful lights. Only three hours later, it resumes its path to the highest point, leaving us — poor mortals — with the most beautiful sunrise of our lives.
And this happens over and over again, every day — giving us this need, like an addiction, that pushes us to travel only by night. While others sleep, we stay awake and keep driving to not miss a second of this wonderful show.
The second thing you should know is that after midnight, the roads along the coast belong to the fog. It’s just a matter of minutes. A great mass of white mist rushes and assails land like an ancient giant conquering new territories. We were there just to witness it and there was nothing we could do about it. Suddenly, we were surrounded by nothingness in the strangest land.
And there we were, with a combination of fear and admiration, heading to nowhere, trying not to crash like young Fletcher did 40 years ago, not too far away. Guessing at the silhouettes of the landscape, sometimes the road made a turn inland, allowing us to take a breath and move faster.
And just when the fog gave us a break is when we return to the plane. As we drove along, we decided to stop close to a signal that indicated the location of a plane crash. Driving there was prohibited, so we parked the jeep, filled our backpacks and started walking. The walk out to the wreck was otherworldly. The landscape was harsh, but we walked along for a couple of miles until it appeared, right in front of our noses like a ghost: the old DC-3.
We explored the place, unpacked and sat down to have dinner with this old veteran, trying to unravel the true story of what could have happened there. After a while, we collected our things and started to retrace our steps. We drove to a beach surrounded by cliffs. The sun was still there and it had no intention to go anytime soon, so we decided we would stop and sleep for a few hours. Before closing our eyes, we talked about what had happened. We could not believe what we had seen, the night we’d just lived. A real adventure. But yet there were still many miles to go, many hours of light to enjoy, new adventures to live and stories to tell.