When I asked Vice if they'd give me some money to hire a car so I could drive nine hours north of Reykjavik to meet a man living in a fishing hamlet near the tip of the Arctic Circle who keeps the largest collection of preserved penises in the world, they frowned. Apparently they're not a chauffeur service here to provide Icelandic dick tours. But I knew the true value of a room full of pickled schlongs to the curious and worldly Vice reader, so I decided to hitchhike. It was worth it if only for the fact I now know what happens when a whale gets a boner.
There's only one straight road going all the way up from Iceland's capital, Reykjavik to the coastal village of Husavik. It took a day and a half of thumbing rides to make it. Along the road we were picked up by a metal drummer who was making one last road trip to see his family before going on tour around Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, a fisherman from the desolate east who spoke perfect English (which he used to express strong views on what joining the EU would do to Iceland's fishing policy), a chaotic artist in a truck full of canvases with her two young sons in tow, and a guy who made us repeatedly apologize for the British government using anti-terrorist legislation against Iceland. Literally everyone in Iceland is interesting.
Few more so than Sigurdur Hjartarson, aka The Penis Man. He opened up his collection of bell-poles, wangs, longfellows, and dinks in Husavik in 2004 after retiring as a teacher in Reykjavik, where he once taught my friend history. She diplomatically remembers him as being "a very nice man." He, however, remembers her as "beautiful, talented, and sexy" – which is exactly how most parents would like teachers to think of their kids, particularly those who collect severed genitals. He's got a grand total of 273 specimens from 92 species in his collection, which represent every mammal in Iceland and a handful of samples imported (sometimes illegally) from abroad. Sigurdur is currently working on obtaining a human cock. The place is also full of genital paraphernalia and a selection of members "preserved" from corpses of mythical characters like the merman.
You know how at the Natural History Museum they have that big diplodocus skeleton to greet you on the way in? These rocks and that large tree trunk are doing the same thing.
First thing I saw on entering the Penis Man's Grotto was this vile, translucent ghost-choad. I figured it probably belonged to a sea creature of some kind, maybe a jellyfish or a really nasty octopus. For now I'll leave you guessing what it is and tell you at the end.
You know, I often wish my penis had little penis arms on it so it could zip up my flies on its own. (Just so you know, this is actually a coat stand.)
Just in case you're wondering, when you travel halfway up the globe to visit a man who collects cocks because it sounds funny, when you arrive it's funny for about one second and then it's just a load of jars with cocks that don't even look like cocks in them.
Here are some whale penises. Sigurdur has about 20 of these of various sizes in his collection, culled from various types of whale. Some of which he lopped off himself. The largest whale penis was 170 cm and 70 kilos--a good few inches taller than the very tall Italian man who was looking at it at the same time as me and kept saying "Troppo grande, troppo grande!"
In fact, the parts of whale dicks he has on display represent only a fraction of their actual size--these are just the exposed tips that see the light of day. The rest of that in the large jar above would weigh another 450 kilos. The majority of a whale's penis is inside the body of the mammal and is wrapped in an internal loop that can retract or expand to control the passage of fluids. Sigurdur told me that unlike humans, whales are always hard, and that during sex only the internal consistency of the whale's penis changes, which enables it to "leak." I wonder if Sigurdur secretly wishes he was a whale. Here are a bunch of other penis pictures, each one becoming decreasingly less funny as you progress:
Basically just cocks in jars.
This is a pig's corkscrew pizzle. Aroused?
This is the smallest prick in the collection. It's so tiny, you can barely even see it. You can email this picture to your friends and write something like "look, it's your cock!" if you're into that kind of thing.
This is a walking stick for old dudes that are finally ready to let loose after years of repression and limp down the highstreet feeling like they're the Marquis de Sade.
Ever wondered what the Icelandic Olympic Curling Team's cocks look like?
Here is a picture of a picture of an Icelandic supermarket that is shaped like a dick.
As promised, here is the fabled merman's cock. It's covered in algae. That thing next to it is a spooky ghost's penis.
It was after we'd taken a look around the collection we found Sigurdur at his desk making a very important telephone call, perhaps to the guys that run that Freaks of Cock website. We had a little chat.
Vice: What gave you the idea to start collecting penises?
Sigurdur: As a child I was sent into the countryside during summer vacations and there I was given a pizzle--a bull's penis--to whip the animals with. That's what first gave me the idea to collect penises. It's taken me 36 years to amass the collection I have today.
You've got a sample of every mammal in Iceland bar a human, how are you going to rectify this?
I am waiting for a 95-year-old fascist who lives in Akureyri to die, he promised me I could have his penis. I've also got a few other guys who have signed forms handing their privates over once they've died.
When you've completed the set, where will you go from there? Will you move onto collecting vaginas?
No, I could never collect vaginas; the main reason being that they would be hard to extract and preserve, and more importantly I prefer them living. My mission will never end: once I have every species I will work on getting better samples. For example, at the moment my polar bear's penis is in a bad way, it had the penis bone removed by the Icelandic Natural History Museum and I only got the flesh. I want a better polar bear penis. Also, climate change is changing our environment so rapidly that even though I have every mammal for now, soon new mammals will develop as a result of the new climate, and there will be new specimens to collect.
I'm not sure that's right. Which is your favorite in the collection?
I have a Swedish Elk's penis on display, which is pretty special as it was smuggled in illegally. In the foreign mammal collection I really only have penis bones on display as it's illegal to import raw meat to Iceland so I can never get the real deal. However, one of my former students managed to smuggle an entire elk's penis from Sweden in his hand luggage so I'm very grateful for that.
By the way, that ghost choad from the start is the result of a mishap at a plastic bag factory where all the plastic melted into a funny, familiar shape. How did you not guess that?