It all began with a single sentence in a weblog put up about Iceland: “A farmer is searching for help at a climate station and sheep farm.”
It was 2012, and, after learning pictures within the industrial German metropolis of Dortmund, I used to be prepared for a change. I’d lengthy deliberate on visiting Iceland, and once I learn concerning the secluded farm, all the pieces got here collectively. I replied to the put up, landed the job, bought most of my issues and booked my flight.
Marsibil Erlendsdottir, the farmer and climate station attendant, picked me up on the small airport in Egilsstadir, close to Iceland’s easternmost edge.
The drive to the climate station took practically two hours — by way of snow-covered mountain passes, alongside waterfalls, previous reindeer and empty summer season homes. As we neared our vacation spot, the highway grew slender and tough. Finally, we arrived on the finish of an remoted fjord, the place a small yellow lighthouse appeared within the distance.
“Welcome to the tip of the world,” Ms. Erlendsdottir mentioned, laughing.
The Icelandic Meteorological Office runs 71 manned climate stations across the nation, 57 of which report the precipitation, snow depth and floor cowl as soon as per day. Ms. Erlendsdottir, who goes by Billa, oversees one of many 14 stations that additionally report on cloud cowl, climate situations and different meteorological phenomena.
Every three hours, day and night time, regardless of the climate, Billa checks the readings on the climate devices at her station and relays them — temperatures, air strain, wind situations, and others — to the workplace in Reykjavik.
Her experiences, together with these from the remainder of the nation, are revealed on-line and broadcast over the radio. For farmers who depend on the forecasts, the data Billa gives might help dictate their each day work. For fishermen on the excessive seas, the data might be the distinction between life and loss of life.
There has been a climate station on this space since 1938, and it has at all times been operated by actual individuals. (Given the area’s harsh situations, automation wouldn’t be doable, Billa says.)
The area is extremely distant. In the coldest months of the 12 months, the farm is barely accessible by boat and, when storms hit, might be minimize off from the skin world for days on finish.
Billa grew up on the climate station along with her brother and 5 sisters. She married one of many native fishermen and had a household of her personal, elevating two youngsters — considered one of whom, her son, was born on a ship on the best way to the hospital.
Billa’s husband died lately, leaving her to run the climate station and the farm on her personal. Billa might simply have left the place, however she determined to remain.
“It by no means will get boring right here,” she mentioned.
I initially labored with Billa for 10 months. Having grown up on a farm in Poland, I discovered a lot of the work acquainted: caring for the sheep, serving to to coach the Border collies, repairing fences, gathering hay.
Billa doesn’t benefit from the highlight. It took greater than a 12 months earlier than she was snug sufficient for me to take her portrait.
In the meantime, I started documenting her life and work, following the rhythm of her days — and of the climate experiences.
Like Billa, I get pleasure from spending day without work the grid, and so I saved returning to the farm, the place there isn’t any cellphone reception. In whole I’ve spent round two and a half years there.
The space turns into particularly inaccessible within the winter months, when the daylight lasts for only some hours and the lighthouse’s always spinning beam cuts by way of the darkness.
For months on finish, the farm is blanketed by snow, and sounds are muted — besides the sound of the encircling sea. In winter, the crushing waves develop into progressively wilder, the wind ever stronger, the climate situations much less predictable.
But even within the harshest snowstorm, Billa leaves her home to look after the animals and test the instrument shelter.
Every season brings its personal duties. In spring, when the sheep give start, the animals have to be monitored 24 hours a day. In summer season, the hay for the winter months must be collected. And through the autumn, the sheep are carried down from the mountains.
In addition to all of the farm work, Billa additionally maintains the lighthouse, which was inbuilt 1908. Her retailer cabinet should at all times be nicely stocked, provided that the closest grocery store is 50 miles away.
In the winter, it takes an hour by boat to get to the closest retailers. A mail boat comes as soon as each two weeks, however solely when the climate situations permit it.
The circumstances listed below are immensely demanding, however residing in concord with nature gives Billa with a way of interior peace. She can’t sit nonetheless and spends as a lot time as doable outdoors.
A number of years in the past, Billa’s daughter, Adalheidur, who goes by Heida, completed her research in Reykjavik and moved again to the farm to accompany and assist her mom.
“If I ever moved away, my mom would undoubtedly keep right here on her personal,” Heida mentioned.
“Here,” she added, “she feels free.”