Blog written by Alec, Hannah, Isabel & Will

July 12, 2010

Today, the group went into Akureyri, the second largest city in Iceland, which is often referred to as the capital of the North. We split into small groups and explored the town and its shops. We walked around the botanical gardens and ate lunch there. Afterwards we went to a famous ice cream shop. It was delicious! We then went to a cultural museum and enjoyed learning about the history of Iceland. We also had fun dressing up like various characters while in the museum and having a mini-photo shoot.

We finished up our time in Akureyri by visiting the museum of Nonni, named after a children’s book author who lived in Iceland. After returning from our adventurous day in the city, we drove back to the hostel and enjoyed bonding time with our NGSE family as we made the final adjustments to our On Assignment projects.

While reflecting on the amazing times we have had together on this trip, our hearts fill with a bittersweet feeling as we realize the end is near!

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July 11th, 2010

Blog written by Angelia, Alex, Jamie & Audrey

On this fine day, we embarked on a fantastic journey into the great unknown. By “the great unknown,” we mean Whale Watching, and by “Whale Watching,” we mean sitting on a boat hoping for whales to show up.  Fortunately, at one point we saw a cluster of porpoises. Not on porpoise though! We’re so clever. After that fantastic journey, we visited a restaurant in Husavik.  Many of us feasted on large pizzas and delicious hamburgers for the first time in weeks!  We also visited a museum, which all of us found very interesting.  The group dispersed and went into various souvenir shops.  We eventually packed out bags in record time, departed from our hostel in Husavik, and traveled three hours by bus to the hostel where we are currently residing, which is an hour away from Akureyri.  Tomorrow we plan to explore this second largest city in Iceland.

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In and Around Myvatn

Here is a blog from Sinead, Kira, Daniel & Valerie.

Yesterday was our last day camping. It was a bittersweet moment, but for some, mostly sweet! We spent the day riding Icelandic horses and hiked around Vitti, also known as “Hell.” We also had the chance to walk around pseudo craters. The view was incredible, but we were slightly distracted by all the meebots (type of fly) in the air. After a long day of walking, we went to see a local music festival in Myvatn. It was so much fun that we didn’t want to leave. As the sun went down for the first time, we headed back to camp.

Today was a travel day, as we went from Myvatn to Husavik. On the way we stopped to see the biggest waterfall yet, Dettifoss, and admire the beauty of the Valley of the Gods. Lately, we’ve been working on our On Assignment projects as we are down to crunch time because the final presentations are tomorrow evening. Aside from completing our projects, we are very excited about celebrating a fellow student’s birthday. Happy Birthday Alex!

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Geothermal Pools & Lava Fields

This blog entry was written by Maggie, Eddie, Sam & Emily.

So far, we have had a wonderful trip in Iceland. We peered in on some puffins on the top of a majestic cliff, ventured across watery wastelands, and snorkeled between tectonic plates. Today, July 8th, we hiked around an entire volcanic crater that erupted 200 years ago and explored around lava fields where Icelanders believe trolls and elves live! After a pleasant lunch on the rocks, we traveled to a nearby hot spring, where we sat and swam in the warm geothermal, healing pools. Despite the cold weather, the blue hot springs and sauna kept everybody warm. Later Eddie and Will walked into the lava fields near camp and discovered many lava caves on the way to the lake nearby. While walking near these lava fields, Sam saw a mother bird and baby chicks. Luckily he didn’t get dive bombed and attacked by the mother bird! In the afternoon, the group walked around downtown Myvatn, exploring the local shops, or stayed at camp working on “On Assignment” projects. For example, Emily and Stanzy, worked intently on editing their movie, while Maggie and Isabel worked on their Martian analogue and temperature studies for climate and geology. All and all, our time in Iceland has been unforgettable and we cannot wait for more adventures to come!

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World’s Best Ice Cream

Here is a blog from four of our students. All the students will be writing a blog about their day and adventures in Iceland. Today, we have a blog and photos from Seamus, Justin, Stanzy & Kitty! Enjoy!

Today was an excellent day in the land of fire and ice! We split into two groups, and ended up having a memorable experience. The first group went and took a hike up a mountain to see one of the many splendid views Iceland has to offer. Afterwards, everyone agreed that it felt like a great accomplishment.    Constance, or “Stanzy” as we like to call her, particularly enjoyed the panoramic view of both the ocean and the stunning valleys, while Justin and Seamus enjoyed taking pictures of the beautiful scenery.

Meanwhile, the second group, or the Climate and Geology Group, went on an adventure to look at the changes in a glacial tongue nearby.  Along the way, they found a quicksand pit, and learned how they are formed.  Once at the glacier, the stunning view of a glacial lagoon filled with icebergs formed from falling off the glacier took Kitty’s breath away.

After an exciting afternoon, we had the best Ice Cream of our lives.  (We voted. It’s the best.) The Ice Cream was made from glacial ice and the cream came from cows on their farm. On the ride back to the hostel, we stopped at a souvenir shop where we bought traditional Icelandic sweaters.

We finished the night out by celebrating one of our team’s birthdays with cake, gummy bears, and break-dancing from one of our leaders.

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Glaciers, Puffins, and Lagoons, Oh My!

After a cold, wet and windy night in the tents, we woke up early in the morning to dress and prepare for our adventures of the day.   Beautiful sunlight was streaming into the glacial valleys, but the clouds overhead threatened to pour rain.

After breakfast, we met our guides at a grass hut in the national park, got fitted for crampons, and then loaded up the bus.  Our first stop was the historic Ingolfshofdi Cape, an isolated island caught between the black sands of the south coast and the North Atlantic Ocean.  On this 15-minute bus ride, we hit a wall of rain.  In fact, the rain was blowing sideways!

To get to the actual cape, we needed to cross 6 km of waters, marshes and sands in a tractor-pulled hay wagon.  As the rain pelted us in this unusual (and uncovered) mode of transportation, we simply bowed down our heads and endured the journey, until finally we saw the land rise up out of the mist.  In the year 874, Ingolfur Arnarson, the first settler of Iceland, jumped ashore and spent his first winter in Iceland on this cape.  We imagine that the weather was similar or likely much worse!

Our hike up to the top of the cape resulted not only in enduring sideways rains, but also sharp black sands, which were being blown into our exposed faces by the 30 mph winds.   Our reward was a view of seagulls and puffins in the cliffs, including some who were brave enough to fly in the high winds.  We have no idea how (or if!) they landed safely.  In addition, we had to raise our arms to protect our heads as we trespassed through skua nesting territory.  The skua is a ferocious Icelandic bird.  We were lucky to see some of their eggs and a lone chick and mother enduring the cold, wet, and windy day.

Thoroughly soaked, we loaded back onto the bus, got warmed up and ate a quick lunch before arriving at Virkisjokull glacier.  Here, we grabbed our ice axes and crampons and hiked a short bit, before coming to the glacier’s icy edge.  Along the way, we passed mossy and barren moraines, indicators of historic and recent glacial retreat.  With crampons and ice axes engaged, we climbed up onto the glacier and got our first views of a blue ice cave and a beautiful, tortuous ice fall, pouring over the mountain slope in the distance.

As we hiked along the glacier, we noted features such as crevasses, moulins, and glacial mice (moss-covered rocks on the glacier’s surface which scurried about when the winds picked up).  We took a group photo on this icy landscape before cold and more rain set in.

After some rest and warm food, while the photo and film teams spent some time editing their incredible footage, the geology/climate team spent more time exploring, this time to the edge of Skaftafell glacier.  We marked where the glacier’s edge had been decades before, explored the various colorful rock types, and even managed to find some glacial quicksand to sink our feet in to.

The next day we packed up the bus after spending the morning editing OA work and exploring some more glacier tongues. On our way to Hofn, we made a stop to visit the Jokulsarlon Lagoon, where scenes from one of the James Bond movies were filmed. We took a ride in a boat that led us through the many icebergs. We learned about how old the ice was that was floating around us and we even tasted a sample of this 1,000 year old ice! Later, the geology students tested ph levels in the water, to find that the water was more acidic then previous water tests they had compiled.

We are now in Hofn, which means Harbor in Icelandic. We have spent the past two days here under dry shelter in a very nice hostel, exploring the very small fishing town, visiting the glacier museum, and hearing from the director of the University of Iceland’s outpost station here in Hofn and visiting the surrounding area. It has been a great place to spend some quality time editing photographs and film footage. Tomorrow we are heading to Myvatn for three days of camping and some extraordinary adventures in the North of Iceland!!!

Here are some photos from our Photography students. All the students are working really hard on their On Assignment projects!!!

Until our next blog…

Photo by Angelia.

Photo by Edward.

Photo by Hannah.

Photo by Jamie.

Photo by Justin.

Photo by Kira.

Photo by Sam.

Photo by Seamus.

Photo by Sinead.

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Volcano Tour

The past few days have been full of amazing activities! On Thursday (July 1st) we woke up a little bit earlier to get a head start on our road trip. The first stop was the geothermal power plant. The guides gave us an informative and quick tour. This was a great stop because the power plant was set up like a small museum, where we learned that 99 percent of the entire country is run by geothermal power. And why not? As we’ve seen, this land has easily accessible hot springs spread out throughout the country.  The film students got a chance to interview a few tourists and get contrasting and interesting ideas about climate change and some B roll.

Next, we got on the bus to head towards Thingvellir National Park and split into two groups. One group went with an adventure guide deep into a cave shaped by lava. We geared up with headlamps and marched inside the ominous hole, like a line of termites.  It was a relief to get out of the cold rain, but at the same time, humbling to know that we were completely dependent on the headlamps. After taking some photos and listening to information about the history and cause of formation of the caves, we sat down and turned our headlamps off. Most of us have never experienced something that dark. We all were quiet and listened to the drops and echoes.  It was serene and meditative.  After we emerged into the light, we swapped groups.

Snorkeling was absolutely beautiful. We got into thick multilayered dry suits and floated through sapphire blue waters—water too cold for fish to swim in. We were surrounded by two tectonic plates—North  American plate on our left, European Plate on our right.

When we said goodbye to our guides, we took a stroll through the historic area of Thingvellir, where the earliest Viking settlers laid down the law of the land.

After all that excitement, we got back on the bus to see the geysers at Geysir. It didn’t get old to watch the geysers erupt every 5-10 minutes. This was a great place for Uly and her climate students to learn about the geological phenomenons in this area. They took soil pH samples. After getting word on possible bad weather, we decided to not camp and instead found a great hostel situated in a farmland with horses and sheep in the distance.  Everyone slept soundly geared up for what the next day awaited.

After a great night of sleep, we loaded up the bus and prepared ourselves for our major volcano visit! We stopped at Gullfoss falls on the way to capture some picturesque Icelandic scenery, where photography students were able to really work on their technical photography skills. We then headed southeast towards Eyjafjalljokull Volcano. We met our guides at the Seijalandsfoss waterfall, most famous for being able to walk behind the falls. We then loaded up the super jeeps (normal 15 passenger vans raised with humungous tires) and began our tour into the valley of the Thorsmark (we cannot actually go up on the volcano due to it’s activity and the amount of ash still there). We were instructed to wear face masks during our tour because there was a lot of ash still blowing off of the volcano and into the valley, which we experienced as we began driving straight through ash storms, making visibility so bad that we could hardly see the vehicle in front of us. This was an incredible experience and really emphasized just how massive and destructive this volcano has been. The students were struck by the amount of ash, and were extremely excited to be involved in what ended up being a rescue mission in the middle of a heavy ash storm. Another vehicle got stuck off road in deep, mucky ash (when the ash mixes with water it turns into a hard substance, similar to that of concrete) and needed assistance. We were hailed to their rescue and our film and photography students documented it all.

After the rescue mission was accomplished successfully, we had a relaxing lunch in what seemed to be another world of green grass and deep canyons, which was only a 10-minute drive from the ash storm. We finished our volcano tour with a canyon hike, which was both beautiful and eventful!!! After a wonderful tour that was entertaining, informational, dramatic, saddening and extremely amazing to see, we began our long drive to Skaftafell National Park. Upon arrival, we set up our military style tents, which for some were a mind puzzle, but a very rewarding experience once all assembled. We enjoyed a late dinner under a beautifully lit sky and sunset (even though the sun never fully set). We had our final meeting as a group with our National Geographic Expert, Ford Cochran. We are sad to see him go, but we are so grateful we were able to work with him and got to spend our first days in Iceland with him. Thank you Ford for all of your hard work, positive energy and shared knowledge!!! The students enjoyed midnight ultimate Frisbee before settling into their designated tents and crashing out from a long day!

More to come on the blogs…Glacier hiking, puffin hunting (with cameras) and blogs from our students!!!

Here are some pictures of our some of our adventures in Iceland so far!!!

Until next time…
Megan, Uly and David

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