During the Easter break, the Geography department flew into Reykjavik, Iceland and embarked on a five day tour of the south coast of the island visiting a geothermal power station, waterfalls, geysers, glaciers and the infamous Eyjafjallajökull volcano which left European airspace closed when it erupted during the Easter holiday of 2010.
Upon arrival in the afternoon, we drove past lava fields and crater rows to see the Bridge between Continents – dividing Europe and North America – which runs through the centre of Iceland. Reykjanes power station provided a fascinating insight into the creation and usage of hydroelectric power, which makes Iceland one of the most energy efficient countries in the world (in terms of ratio of population to sustainable energy).
Day two began with a presentation at Hellisheiði geothermal power station. They dig 3 kilometres underground and use water from the earth to create energy. It’s amazing to think that a room not too much bigger than a sports hall can generate enough energy for the whole of Iceland. Two of the most picturesque sights were the Seljalandsfoss and Gljufrabui waterfalls, with a rainbow descending on the latter of the two. We spent time in Eyjafjallajökull and saw the flood plain caused by the glacial flooding. The Sólheimajökull ‘sun house glacier’ was the final stop of the day – it has been retreating since the 19th century and at a rapid rate of 100 metres per year.
Iceland has 700km² of sand flats created by volcanic eruptions and glacial bursts. It was fascinating to see how volcanic activity has impacted the landscape. In Jökulsárlón lies Iceland’s biggest glacial lagoon, which provided stunning scenery and the ideal setting for a photo. In amongst the packed schedule, we stopped at Skaftafell – a national park scaling 12,000km². Day three’s tour concluded at two basalt columns where the force of nature was shown off to its fullest potential with intricate rock formations.
A defining feature of the Icelandic coastline is the black sand caused by volcanic plugs, according to geologists, however Icelandic folk law begs to differ. Their superstitious nature was interesting. But when you live in a country where nature can be so extreme, it’s hard to mock the idea of folk law in yesteryear when what we now acknowledge as factual science had not yet been discovered. Arguably a couple of the highlights came at the Golden Circle where the waterfalls were simply stunning. Despite being a chilly -12°C, the sight was something to behold. We then visited Geysir, which gave its name to all ‘geysers’ in the world. The hot springs left us wowed as we headed back to the hotel and onto Cinema No.2 where we saw a film about the northern lights, the volcanic nature of Iceland and in particular the Eyjafjallajökull eruption of 2010.
On our final morning we visited the Blue Lagoon, set in amongst mossy lava and averaging temperatures between 30-40°C, providing the unique opportunity to swim outside in sub-zero temperatures. The Silica-rich geothermal seawater is drawn from a 2km deep borehole and made for a memorable end to an enthralling time in the Land of Ice and Fire.
We owe a big thank you to Miss Rayner and Mrs Evans for their organisation, patience and humour which fuelled the fun in a unique adventure.
By Liam Buttery