Then and now – transit via Keflavik

Transit via Keflavik airport, Iceland


Expedition member Ian Walton has just returned to California from a July 2016 anniversary visit to the west coast of Greenland, 45 years after the 1971 University of St. Andrews mountaineering expedition.  Here, in the first of a short series of then and now pictures and thoughts, are details of transit via Keflavik airport in Iceland.

Keflavik airport 1971
Camping at Keflavik

In 1971 it was a single room terminal with no passenger comforts, and we had to spend the night before our ongoing flight to Narsarsuaq.  We were hard up students.  So we gathered our packs and headed out to the end of the runway to unroll our sleeping bags on the tundra.  In the middle of the night we were woken by the sound of an American Military Police jeep – Keflavik was still an active NATO base in 1971.  A broad Texas accent said “You can’t sleep here ..…–….. but I don’t see why the hell not!”  And with that the jeep departed and we returned to our interrupted slumbers.  In retrospect, the red flag may have been an unnecessary provocation.

Keflavik airport 2016

In 2016 Keflavik is a multi-building transit air terminal projecting 6 million passengers.  The biggest difficulty is that it is so congested you have to arrive at least three hours before your flight.  And even then, you barely have time for a beer.  And then there’s the sign in the arrivals lobby that rules out any mistaken thought of camping.