To those who have seen its verdant shores, it will come as no surprise to learn that Kauai is one of the wettest places on Earth. The peak of Mt. Wai’ale’ale, perpetually shrouded in mist at 5,148 feet, receives approximately 450 inches of rain each year. But even natives of the Garden Isle were shocked by the storms of April 2018, when 49.69 inches of rain fell on Kauai’s north shore in a 24-hour period, setting a new national record—and drowning farms, roads, and homes—in the process.
On November 4, 1875, under dark skies and a mounting gale, the sidewheeler Pacific collided with the sailing ship Orpheus as it rounded Cape Flattery en route to San Francisco. The Pacific sank almost immediately; only two of its 250 passengers and crew lived to tell the tale.
In the waning days of this past July, a killer whale—soon to be known to the world as Tahlequah—gave birth to a calf in the waters off the coast of Victoria, British Columbia. The event was a cause for celebration for Tahlequah’s endangered pod, whose 75 members had not seen a live birth in nearly three years. But within less than an hour, the calf had stopped moving.
Like so many adolescents who reached their formative years in an era of grunge, my introduction to Seattle came through music. I first heard its beauty in the voice of Chris Cornell, and I felt its darkness and melancholy in Kurt Cobain’s anguished howl. The city was strangely captivating for a place I’d never been—sparkling blue in summer, misty gray all winter, and the source of so much that channeled my teenage emotions.
It may not rival the stories of Grettir the Strong or Erik the Red, but our own Icelandic saga continues in the geologic wilds of North Iceland. This is the realm of charred lava fields, desolate peaks, and waterfalls named for the gods—not to mention a memorable stretch of the Ring Road that traverses remnants of ice and fire.