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.