It's a lonely beacon at the edge of the world. The Þrídrangaviti Lighthouse seems almost impossible. Add a scene where a search and rescue helicopter attempts to lift a crew member from the lighthouse perched literally on the edge of a towering yet tiny island in the middle of the ocean, and the thrill is on.
In the scene from FlyOver Iceland, the location can stop you in your tracks. Where is this incredible place? How did they ever film this shot? For the team behind the production of the ground-breaking film, it was months in the making and a result of outstanding professional collaboration.
The Þrídrangaviti (pronounced thr-ee-drahng-a-vi-ti) Lighthouse seems like one of the loneliest places in the entire world. A whitewashed lighthouse sits high atop a rocky outcrop, nestled gingerly on the only flat surface. The island itself is located close to the Westman Islands (or Vestmannaeyjar in Icelandic), a volcanic archipelago off Iceland's south coast. Built right before World War II, all materials for the red-roofed lighthouse were flown in by helicopter and hand-assembled by a crew of men who clung to the side of the cliff in the name of navigation and maritime safety.
Each FlyOver shot involves a crew of the best-in-industry, ranging from producers and camera operators to directors and one incredibly-talented helicopter pilot. Also, each shot involves a human element to provide both scale and story, and collaborating with the Icelandic Coast Guard for the lighthouse shot is a perfect example of outstanding teamwork. Once the FlyOver production team had spotted the lighthouse, they pitched the scene idea to the Coast Guard and the ball got rolling.
During pre-production research for FlyOver Iceland, the crew came across a photo of the lighthouse and the location was an easy addition to the shot list. The idea was to combine this amazing location with the Icelandic Coast Guard—to recreate a rescue operation in which the Coast Guard pulled a person from the lighthouse up into a helicopter.
"They're both strong symbols for Iceland itself," says producer Andre Janse. "A rock in the middle of the ocean, a harsh and dangerous place, where amazingly talented and dedicated people work against and with the elements."
It was a difficult and dangerous operation, Janse says. The fact that the film crew was also shooting from a helicopter only heightened the stakes.
"Our helicopter was equipped with the camera, and this enormous orange Coast Guard helicopter was undertaking very difficult choreography to make our FlyOver shot work," Janse says. "This operation only worked because we worked with highly trained professionals."
FlyOver's film-helicopter pilot Jón Björnsson—a local legend—actually trained the Coast Guard Helicopter pilot, who claimed he learned all he knows about helicopter flying from Björnsson.
It's nearly impossible to visit the Þrídrangaviti Lighthouse. And yet it represents the isolation, exposure and ingenuity of Iceland so well. Get a look at it yourself in the thrilling FlyOver Iceland flight-ride.
"They're both strong symbols for Iceland itself...A rock in the middle of the ocean, [...] talented and dedicated people."