The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is one of the most popular travel destinations in Iceland. This 90-kilometre stretch of land exhibits some of the country’s most dramatic natural features, such as craggy lava fields, silvery waterfalls, and a majestic glacier volcano. It is also steeped in both folklore and legend, like the haunting of Djúpalónssandur.
The black pebble beach Djúpalónssandur on the western tip of Snæfellsnes is a routine stop for those touring the peninsula. The arched bay of dark cliffs and smooth black stones was once a prosperous fishing outpost, and fascinating remnants of this period can still be found on the beach in the form of four lifting stones.
These stones vary in weight and are all named according to their heft; Amlóði or ‘Useless’ is the lightest one, then comes Hálfdrættingur (‘Weakling’), Hálfsterkur, (‘Half-strong’), and finally Fullsterkur or ‘Full-Strong’. In former times, an individual’s post on a fishing boat was determined by his ability to lift these stones; the strongest men earned the best positions.
According to legend, a few fishermen, who used to cast their nets in the ocean around the Snæfellsnes peninsula, went to Djúpalónssandur beach to test out their strength. All managed to lift the heaviest stones except one, Sigurður, who was promptly given the nickname Sigurður the Weakling.
The strongmen on the crew were mean-spirited and willing to do anything for a good catch. One day, they grabbed an old woman, killed her and used her remains as bait. Her body proved to be an ideal lure and all the men — except Sigurður the Weakling, who refused to take part in this atrocity — hauled in a mass of fish.
One night when the ship was mooring, the old woman came to Sigurður in a dream and spoke to him, warning him that he should not go out with the crew the next day. When Sigurður woke up, he feigned illness and stayed ashore.
The rest of the crew set sail in the morning, but shortly thereafter, news reached land that all of the men on board had drowned. There had been no storm in the area, and no one knows how these experienced fishermen drowned in calm waters.
A little west of Djúpalónssandur is a small stretch of shoreline with a cave. When the tide came in a few days later, the bodies of the fishermen drifted inside. Those who went to retrieve them swore they heard a woman’s voice singing inside the cave, which has ever since been known as Draugahellir or ‘Ghost Cave.’