On a mild spring night in Iceland, when the wind barely ruffles the hair on your head, it’s neither too hot nor too cold, and a soft light shines through the high clouds, driving around the Reykjanes peninsula is a magical experience. The spell is broken as soon as I turn on to the road to Krísuvíkurbjarg, however; the rocky trail to Southwest Iceland’s largest bird cliff is less travelled for a reason. But there’s no turning back now. At the end of the road, I have a meeting with members of the Hafnarfjörður Search and Rescue squad, who have been visiting the cliff every spring for decades. Their goal has always been the same, though their purpose has shifted.
When I finally get to the cliff, two large jeeps have already arrived, with a blur of activity around them. Long lines extend from one of the jeeps standing about 60m (200ft) from the cliff’s edge. At the other end of the line is a rescue squad volunteer in red overalls and a white helmet, with an orange pack around his waist. His name is Símon Halldórsson, and it’s hardly the first time he’s preparing to lower himself over the edge of this cliff. “I was 15 when I went over for the first time, and that was about 30 years ago,” he says as he signals the driver of the jeep that he’s ready to descend.