From Iceland — The Rocks of Tjörnin Called Tjörnin Rocks

The Rocks of Tjörnin Called Tjörnin Rocks

Published July 4, 2023

The Rocks of Tjörnin Called Tjörnin Rocks
Photo by
Art Bicnick

Waves crash against mossy stones. Plants sprout from every corner of this lush natural landscape. The squawk of seagulls intermingles with the sounds of morning traffic. A man on a scooter shouts an expletive at a closely-passing car as he rolls along the shore overlooking Iceland’s most famous island. This isn’t some distant beach, it’s central Reykjavik.

The capital region is host to several bodies of water that tourists like to call lakes but locals insist are merely ponds. In fact, you have probably visited Iceland’s most famous pond, Tjörnin, which conveniently translates to – you guessed it — The Pond. 

During the winter months, a popular pastime of locals is penguin shuffling or skating along its frozen banks, gliding around tourists who have never in their lives glimpsed water in its frozen state. In the summer, it’s time to feed the birds. So much feeding takes place here that Wikipedia claims the pond is referred to as “the biggest bread soup in the world.” Yet, sitting in the center of the soup is one oft overlooked island.

The island is small, roughly 12 meters in diameter, and mostly composed of solid mossy stone, decayed plant matter and bird shit piled so high as to form small hillocks within its vibrant geography. The island, though, is seemingly unnamed. When asked about what the island is called, locals spoke only in hushed tones. Some said it was once a pumping station that failed due to “avian infrastructural difficulties” and others simply said it was cursed. Once again, I must do my own research.

Google Maps, conveniently, has two location markers tied to the island. One is Ostrov, which appears to be a nonexistent museum with an address that leads you to the large church on the banks. The other marker is of a choir called Kliður, which translates to “The Clumps” (somehow a perfect name for this chunk of land). Wikipedia also provides no name for this mysterious pond islet. So, in an exercise of touristy colonialism, I have decided to name it Tjörnin Rocks. Furthermore, in an act of unending hubris, I have labelled it such on Google Maps. (Icelanders! Please go change its name to something creative and culturally relevant.)

It’s only been 24 hours since I put up the marker and the reviews have already been coming in! DefinitelyNotBjörk writes “OMG, Tjörnin Rocks really rock!” xX_ParadiseLost_Xx writes “Help, I’ve been stuck on this rock since the ice thawed.” HitchcockLover writes “THE BIRDS THE BIRDS THE BIRDS AAAAAH!” 

One review sticks out to me, though. Mysterious31Stranger writes, “What’s that metal box on the island. Makes it look ugly 1/5 stars.” Ugly? What on earth were they talking about? I stood on the shores squinting and noticed it. Poking out of the bushes, a small metal box, just like Mysterious31Stranger said. I tried to resist the urge, but curiosity got the better of me. I hired a guide to ferry me to Tjörnin Rocks.

As our dinghy approached the shore the smell of bird shit overwhelmed my nostrils. Geese circled overhead like vultures. I could see it in their eyes. They were warning me not to go, not to step on this hallowed land. Cutting through the bushes, I discovered what that box was. What I saw… what I learned should not be put into words. Some secrets are better left forgotten.

I can only urge other explorers, do not visit the island. The locals were right, it is cursed.

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