Sunday, 20 February 2011

Iceland Trip Day 2

The only dissapointment from the weekend was that we never did see the Northern Lights. But not from lack of trying !On the final night we were out for 6 hours until 2 AM in the most remote spots and suffering bitter cold temperatures.
It was always going to be out of our control and it was never guaranteed. So the holy grail must continue ..umm maybe Norway next time !

It was a brilliant trip and our guide was excellent making sure we saw all the best sights and giving a detailled commentary. It was great that we could also wander off and do our own thing as well.

Our final stop was Pingvellir National Park. A large lava field situated right on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where the European and North American plates are moving apart. An extremely eerie and extraordinary place with yet more stunning scenery.

The stunning backdrop to the steaming springs.

Smaller springs bubble away constantly.

Water at a depth of 23 metres is around 120°C, but cannot boil because of the weight of the water pushing down on it from above. When this water is forced up to around 16 metres, some of the water may be above boiling point, and this sets off the chain reaction.The pressure decrease allows more water to boil and flash boil into steam, which drives the unboiled water further up the 'pipeline'. As this happens closer and closer to the surface, with increasing velocity, the water and steam is forced out, and it is this mixture of water & steam that forms the eruption. Sorry about the physics lesson!

The English word geyser (a spouting hot spring) derives from Geysir. The name Geysir itself is derived from the Icelandic verb geysa, "to gush", the verb from Old Norse. So now you know - whatever these erupting hot springs are something else. The plumes are said to reach up to 80 metres on some of the less active ones !
Strokkur is one of Iceland's most famous geysirs, erupting regularly every 4-8 minutes generally.

'Gullfloss' Spectacular and powerful.

By now the land has become extremely barren and volcanic. Our next stop is Gulfloss “Golden Falls.”Iceland's most stunning waterfall. The falls are amazing and there is a raw sense of power. I followed the trail down a rickety icy staircase and along a narrow ledge leading to the main drop.This is a truly spectacular two-tiered waterfall (with each tier dropping at right angles to each other) drops a total of 32m while spanning the entire width of the Hvítá River.'White River'.

As we drove it was possible to see many Icelandic horses roaming the countryside. Icelandic horses are long-lived and hardy. They have few diseases; Icelandic law prevents horses from being imported into the country and exported animals are not allowed to return.

There had been an early morning snowstorm so everywhere was totally white which added to the beauty of the winter landscape.
We stopped at Skálholt Church, the ancient seat of the Icelandic Bishops making it a cultural and political centre. It was here that I discovered an old school friend of mine was on the same trip! Someone I hadn't seen for 25 years, you just can't go anywhere without seing someone you know it seems.

Today we were doing the guided 'Golden Circle Tour'. Which is an introduction to the best known historical sites and natural phenomenas Iceland has to offer.
First of all a few facts and figures about Iceland.
It has a population of about 320,000 and a total area of 103,000 km2 (39,769 sq miles) Iceland is volcanically and geologically active. The southwestern region is where two thirds of the people live. The landscape is dotted with mountains and glaciers, while many glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. Iceland is warmed by the Gulf Stream and has a temperate climate so the name 'Iceland' is not really appropriate. From North to South is approximately 300 miles, East to West is approximately 500 miles.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Pete,

    I guess there aren't many people who live up there since it's so damn cold. Some of those pics are breathtakingly beautiful. That is a real shame that you couldn't see the Northern Lights. I've heard about them and to my understanding, they should be the same ones that you would see in Alaska too but I am not sure though, Other than that great post...