Local Heart, Global Soul

February 5, 2016

Not Cold? Yes, Icelanders Have A Sense Of Humour!

Filed under: ICELAND,Icelandic Landscape — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

We leave the Eyjafjallajökull visitor centre and make our way back to Reykjavik.

It’s now late afternoon and the light is getting visibly less as we drive back to the capital city.

As with the journey out of the city, the weather is completely unpredictable, clear one moment but closer to the city we again strike white-out conditions, the snow swirling across the road and slowing traffic.

Then, about ten kilometres further we drop in elevation and are out of the snow in no time just going to prove that the landscape here is constantly full of surprises.

We hear back at the hotel that so far this year (February 2013 when we went) the winter has been “warm”, the snow “almost nothing” when compared to “normal” years and lot of lamentations about global warming.

Of course for us it’s all relative, and for family freezing is still means freezing we were very pleased indeed to get back out of the strong icily cold wind, even if we were only buffeted between the thirty metres between the car park and the hotel!

Yes, I think that officially confirms us as wimps! Just call me a lily livered Lettuce !

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

February 4, 2016

Eyjafjallajökull: The Highlight Of Our Trip…

Filed under: Eyjafjallajökull Volcano,ICELAND,Icelandic Landscape,PHOTOGRAPHY — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

We leave Iceland’s Seljalandsfoss waterfall and head to the destination that we have been heading for as the last “item” in the travel loop we are taking today.

The staff at our hotel recomended a visitor center that has been set up since the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in 2010 that bought air travel to a standstill all over Europe.

We arrive to find a compact building, one half of which has been made into a small movie theatre for the screening of a film that documents the lead up to the eruption, the eruption and both the short and long term aftermath.

Much of the footage is from local Icelandic television, is very personal and clearly shows that people arrived swiftly from all over Iceland to help shovel ash of land and buildings, rescue stock and help with the rapid evacuation of farms in the area effected by the ash fall.

After the film showing it was especially surprising to find that the farmer’s wife who featured predominantly in the film, was the same lady serving us at the souvenir counter in the small room next door.

This visitor centre is a family run affair that came about due to the enormous volume of tourists who descended on the farm after the eruption, and the surreal experience of having tour bus loads of Japanese tourists delicately scooping ash into little plastic bags as the Icelandic family attempted to shovel thick layers of the stuff off their roof, garden, vehicles and every conceivable surface.

The lady is wonderfully friendly, delighted that we recognised her from the film (apparently many people just rush in, look and rush out, not making the connection as to who is serving them behind the counter), and very patient to all of the questions we have. There are information boards dotted around, and from them I learn:

Eyjafjallajökull (1,651m) is among the oldest active central volcano in Iceland. The mountain, about 800,000 years old, is built of lava flows from interglacial periods and hyaloclastites (tuff) from glacial periods.

Volcanic fissures line the flanks and ridges radiate west and east from the summit. A small caldera (2.5 km across) has formed in the summit region. The glacier cover (75 square kilometres) is 50-100 metres thick: in the caldera the depth reaches 250m. Recent eruption sites are indicated.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Lulls between eruption phases in Eyjafjallajökull typically lasted about 36 hours. In the early hours of 14 April 2010, a fissure 2 kilometres long opened up under te 200m thick ice in the summit crater, cutting through the southern rim.

Magma from two main vents melted it’s way through the ice and soon grey, fine-grained ash was carried high into the air. The ash fell mainly on the area to the east and south of the volcano and was carried by winds to mainland Europe.

The maximum initial eruption rate was about 1,000 cubic metres of tephra per second. The ash was formed partly by expansion of volcanic gas in the intermediate magma and partly on contact of magma with ice and water during the first week.

The magma that surfaced at the summit at Eyjafjallajokull was formed through the mixing of basalt rising from below and silica-rick magma that may have been in place under the volcano since the 19th Century eruption. The fine-grained ash became coarser as activity declined. Lava lumps and bombs were thrown out of the crater, accompanied by loud booms.

Lava started to flow and melted it’s way out of through the outlet glacier Gigjokull. The lava flow ceases, but explosive activity increased again in early May. After 18 May the eruption declined and continuous activity was over by 23 May. The total amount of tephra erupted came to 250-300 million cubic metres and the lava volume was 25-30 million cubic metres. As dense magma, the volume of eruptives is estimated at 0.17 cubic kilometres.

Although the Eyjafjallajökull eruption temporarily threatened those under Eyjafjallajökull, people never gave up. Farming continued and crops and animals were nurtured. Welcome to the Visitor Centre, where you can get a “taste” of life at the foot of Eyjafjallajökull, of the eruption and it’s influence, and see how Man and Nature coexist through the good times and the bad.

We are so impressed with this place that we decide to buy all of our souvenirs here, and although Himself and I feared that Kiwi Daughter and Little Mr might be bored here, they enjoyed it immensely, raving about it not only at the time but also telling everyone back at home in the Netherlands that is was without doubt the highlight of their trip. In fact they still talk about their visit to this place every time the word “Iceland” is mentioned, so we are delighted that a far longer than predicted car journey has paid off.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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The Eyjafjallajökull volcano is located at the very back and under the cloud, behind  the red roofed buildings…

around iceland 11d (Small)

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

February 2, 2016

A Longer Than Expected Journey Reveals An Unexpected Find…

Filed under: ICELAND,Icelandic Landscape,PHOTOGRAPHY — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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Our next step in our Icelandic travels takes is more or less south of Gullfoss and the Strukker geyser.  At times the weather closed in quite a bit but by the time we got closer to the coast it was clear again and I took a few photos. The scenery is as beautiful as ever… we are searching for a destination that we have heard about from staff in our hotel but we haven’t reached yet. The kids are getting rather tired by now so we are hoping that when we finally find it, it’s worth the extra time in the car. All of a sudden Kiwi Daughter spots something and yells out from the back seat… judging by the looks of things, we are about to take an unexpected detour…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The green line is the journey so far today, the red line is the part of the journey that this post covers…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

February 1, 2016

Strokkur Churns Out The Show, Reliably Like Clockwork…

Filed under: ICELAND,Icelandic Landscape,PHOTOGRAPHY,Strokkur Geyser — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Family Kiwidutch are continuing their sightseeing journey around the southern tip of Iceland.

From Gullfoss we head southwards to another one of the “must see” scenic things in the so nicknamed ” Golden Triangle” in Iceland; the Strokkur geyser.

I find two webpages that give me further information, one is a Wikipedia page and the other, the other from a site called ” Extreme Iceland, About Iceland” (links to both sites, as usual at the bottom of this post).

“Strokkur” (Icelandic for “churn”) is a fountain geyser in the geothermal area beside the Hvítá River in Iceland in the southwest part of the country, east of Reykjavík.

It is one of Iceland’s most famous geysers, erupting about every 8-10 minutes 15 – 20 m high, sometimes up to 40 m high.

Strokkur is part of Haukadalur geothermal area, where are located various other geothermal features: mud pools, fumaroles, algal deposits, and other geysers beside and around it, such as “Geysir”.

Strokkur was first mentioned in 1789, after an earthquake unblocked the conduit of the geyser. Its activity fluctuated in the 19th century; in 1815 its height was estimated to be as much as 60 metres.”

My camera was struggling with the biting wind that threatened to blow me off my feet. I had to lean a lot on the crutches to make headway and stop frequently. The upside to my slow progress was that I was able to see the geyser erupt several times from different distances and angles. Whilst I walked I tried to keep the camera inside my jacket, but as soon as it was out and exposed to the cold and wind it started to faulter, the shutter taking longer and longer to close, even getting completely stuck several times. I am therefore rather pleased with these photos because I expected almost nothing to come out at all. The video was taken with my pocket point and shoot that spent as much time as possible in an inner jacket pocket to protect it from the cold. The information continues…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

” It continued to erupt until the turn of the 20th century, when another earthquake blocked the conduit again.

In 1963, upon the advice of the Geysir Committee, locals cleaned out the blocked conduit through the bottom of the basin, and the geyser has been regularly erupting ever since.

Strokkur and its surrounding areas regularly attracts tourists to view the geyser, as it is one of very few natural geysers to erupt frequently and reliably.

The Geysir field is situated at the northern edge of the southern lowlands, at an altitude of 105-120 m above sea level. Until recently, the area was called Hverasandar. The hot springs are located to the east of a little mountain called Laugafell.

The geothermal field is believed to have a total surface area of approximately 3 km². Most of the springs are aligned along a 100 m wide strip of land running in the same direction as the tectonic lines in the area, from south to southwest.

The strip is 500 m long and culminates near what once was the seat of the lords of Haukadalur. Today we find a church there. Here and there, at a considerably shorter distance from the ancient seat than from the hot springs, we find a 20-150 cm thick layer of siliceous sinter, mostly covered by earth, or in some cases even out in the open as the mound at Hvitamelur.

Hvitamelur was once a spouting spring, but it is now absolutely dry. We can still discern the rims of the ancient basin, and the singer safeguards quite a few plant fossils.

In other words, hot spring water must have covered large areas from which the geothermal field seems virtually to have moved. The heart of the geothermal area is now 2 km to the south of the Haukadalur seat, but two little springs have been left behind, Marteinslaug and Gufubadshver. As for the centre of the field, the northernmost springs, such as “Geysir” itself, are believed to be the oldest.”

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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Strokkur Geyser Iceland
Extreme Iceland

January 30, 2016

The “Golden” Falls Are Almost Whiter Than White At The Moment…

Filed under: ICELAND,Icelandic Landscape,PHOTOGRAPHY — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Family Kiwidutch have arrived at our first destination of today: The Gullfoss (Golden Falls) waterfall. I’ll start this post with some text taken off an Information board on the pathway by the falls:

“No waterfall in Europe can match Gullfoss.

In wilderness and fury it outdoes the Niagara Falls of the United States.

Thousands of unharnessed horsepowers flow continously into the gorge, year in year out.

Soon however Gullfoss will be harnessed for electricty production to supply inhabitants of the south of the country with abundance of light and heat.”

(This is taken from a travel book by two Danes in the retinue of Kind Frederick VII after a visit to Gullfoss, 1907)

The main text on the Information board continues:

” Gullfoss is a unique natural phenomenon that triggers varying impressions in people. It’s conservation and thereby it’s existence in it’s present form has a unique history. Gullfoss and the surrounding area were made a nature reserve in 1979 to give people the best possible opportunity to enjoy this unique natural scene.
The areas ecosystem is also protected, and it’s vegetation remains untouched. Attempts are made to minimise man’s footprint, to keep man-made structures to a minimum and not to disturb the land and geological formations. In the year 1907 an Englishman wanted to harness the power of Gullfoss for electricity generation. Tómas Tómasson , a farmer in Brattholt at the time, declined the offer saying: “I will not sell my friend”.

Later on, the waterfall was leased to foreign investors. The farmer’s daughter in Brattholt, Sigríður Tómasdóttir, sought to have the rental contract voided but her attempt failed in court. The construction of a proposed power plant never happened and in the year 1929 the rental contract was cancelled due to non-receipt of payments. Sigríður’s struggle for the waterfall was selfless and unique. She often worked around the clock to follow up her case, made long journeys along mountain roads, waded across great rivers throughout the year and had many meetings with government officials in Reykjavik. In view of this struggle Sigríður has often been called Iceland’s first environmentalist.”

Of course, since our visit was in February 2014, we see a pretty amazing display of Mother Nature attempting to freeze up both the river and the waterfalls… there are spiky ice-works all around us, hardly surprising as the chill wind buffets us. There is another path that leads on the left hand side further towards the falls, I think that it’s probably too dangerous to negotiate in winter so may be closed, or it’s just so cold out in this wind that no-one wants to venture out that far. I certainly did not, keeping my walking to the bare minimum. That said, having looked at photographs on the internet taken of Gullfoss in the summer time, I think that we have by far the most dramatic view.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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The lower pathway that appears closed… (and a second top viewing area that we didn’t even discover at the time but only saw when we looked at the photos later).

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

January 29, 2016

Strangely Stacked Piles Of Rocks Stay Put Whilst We Are Almost Blown Away…

Filed under: ICELAND,Icelandic Landscape,PHOTOGRAPHY — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Following yesterday’s post, Family Kiwidutch are exploring a small section of Iceland.

There is a massive “interior” of the country that is so rough that even with a four wheel drive vehicle tourists are prohibited from entering.

Iceland is far bigger than we expected so even the tiny snippet of the country that we are taking in at the moment, will amount to a very long day trip.

We started out from our hotel in Reykjavik heading towards Laugarvatin, the countryside is changing and the weather is unpredictable but the scenery is so amazing we are captivated by it’s bleak beauty.

We stop at the Pingvallavatn lake and Himself and the kids get out of the car to stretch their legs.

The real reason they want to get out and walk is because the entire lake edge is filled with small rocks piled up like cairns, hundreds of them, and our curiosity is piqued.
Their attempts to “take a short walk” to the strange little rock piles are however well and truly thwarted by the wind that is gusting so strongly they are struggling to stay upright.

We already knew it was windy before they got out, Himself had been exclaiming loudly as he drove that he had to grip the steering wheel very tightly to control the car as we were buffeted by large gusts. I take photographs of the children attempting to make their own cairns, the photos are edited of course for reasons of family privacy, and the trip was two years ago, so they have grown and are not so recognisable anyway. I have no idea if these piles of rocks are something that have been built up by visitors over many years so if there is some other reason behind their formation. It’s a very blustery mystery…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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January 28, 2016

Starting Out We Encounter A Strangly Changing Landscape…

Filed under: ICELAND,Icelandic Landscape,PHOTOGRAPHY — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Knowing that the hours of daylight during an Iceland Winter are very short, we have been careful to try and make to the most of each day by getting up early, breakfasting and being ready to set out as soon as the sun rose.

On this occasion we head north and east of Reykjavik, towards a large lake called Pingvallavatn and part of the way towards our first destination of today: Laugarvatn.

The weather is changeable to say the least, it appears that both the weather and the landscape change almost with every turn, one moment it’s dark and overcast, the next it’s patchy, then it’s snowing heavily with the wind driving snow across the road.

One area is a complete white out, everywhere around us is white, the sky is a pale grey, and then suddenly a few kilometres later the rocks are bare and the landscape is completely different.

The landscape is rugged and jagged one moment and flat and almost featureless the next. The lake is large and as icily frozen as the others we have seen so far this trip. Interestingly this means that the trip is far from boring, the kids give casual glances up from their iPads but are impressed when the snow gets deep and enveloping. Himself and I find the changing scenery utterly fascinating and compelling in it’s strange, stark, dramatic style.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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