Friday, 27 June 2014

Geology of Iceland: Ice and Fire

Volcanic activity  

Iceland was formed from volcanic eruptions on the Mid-Atlantic ridge. Iceland was formed for about 24 million years. Iceland is the only place where you can stand on the ridge on dry land. That makes Iceland very special and a popular place for geologists to visit and do their researches.


The ridge separates the Eurasia and the American systems which are always going further away from each other. And that can trigger volcanoes or earthquakes. That, along with the hot spot that is under Iceland, makes the country highly active in volcanic activities. The hotspot is probably the reason for the island’s existence because the ridge alone could not have made such a large island. But if Iceland had only been formed by the hot spot it would like a lot similar to the Hawaiian islands. The hot spot is now situated under Vatnajökull.


As an example of Iceland's extreme volcanic activity, 1/3 of the magma that has erupted on the earth for the last 10.000 years came up in Iceland. And that is pretty much for such a small country. In Iceland, a volcano erupts every four years in average. The last eruption was in Grímsvötn on glacier Vatnajökull in the beginning of last November (2004). But that was only a small eruption. But we could see the smoke from it from our school.

Apart from the Mid-Atlantic ridge there are other fracture zones. You can see the fracture zones and the position of the Mid-Atlantic ridge on the picture above.


The picture is copied from the Icelandic weather web page www.vedur.is.

The red dot is a mark for the hot spot and the blue line is the Mid-Atlantic ridge.  The fracture zones are beside the Mid-Atlantic ridge in North and East.

Main volcanoes

In Iceland there are a lot of volcanoes (as maybe mentioned before). Some of them are greater and more famous than the others. Most of them are situated on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge but some of them are on the fracture zones.

The most famous volcano in Iceland, and one of the most famous in the world, is Hekla. Hekla is situated in the south of Iceland. Hekla has erupted 20 times since Iceland was settled and the last time she erupted was in the year 2000.


Although Hekla is the most famous, the most active one is Grímsvötn. Grímsvötn is situated in the middle of the Vatnajökull glacier. And as was mentioned before, Grímsvötn last time erupted in November 2004. Apart from Grímsvötn there are a lot of other volcanoes under Vatnajökull glacier. In Grímsvötn there is the most geothermal area in Iceland. And it is under the glacier. With every eruption in Grímsvötn there follows a glacier burst that comes out in the rivers that lie out from the glacier to the south coast of Iceland.


Can you see now why Iceland is called the land of fire and ice?

It is also interesting that in the neighbourhood of Reykjavík and the Reykjanes, where the majority of all people in Iceland (almost 200.000 people) live there are at least 5 volcanic systems with series of volcanoes that can all still erupt. And if we ought to calculate all the people in Iceland who live 50km or closer to a volcano system we would be dealing with a lot larger number.

Glaciers  

Iceland is widely known for its many glaciers. Some, if not most people have heard that the largest glacier in Europe is there. It is called Vatnajökull glacier (Water glacier). Iceland also has some other large glaciers like Langjökull (Long glacier), Hofsjökull (Temple glacier), Mýrdalsjökull (Swamp Valley Glacier), Drangajökull (Pillar of rock Glacier) and some other smaller glaciers. 11% of the whole country is covered with glaciers.


Glaciers form where more snow snows in the winter than can melt in the summer, so the existence of glaciers depends in the temperature.

Vatnajökull glacier, along with most of the other larger glaciers began to form about 2500 years ago. It began as little glaciers on three mountain peaks and slowly united with each other.


There are five icecaps in Iceland, Vatnajökull, Langjökull, Hofsjökull, Mýrdalsjökull and Drangajökull. From them some smaller glaciers “crawl” (glacier tongues). For a long period of time they can form valleys and fjords.

If Vatnajökull glacier would be swept away in an instant it would only form again on the highest mountains if the weather would be similar as it is for a long time.

On the other hand, the land under the glacier and near it would arise a lot. The area under the center of it would rise about 100 meters and about 50 meters under the edges. The area where we live in and the school is located in would rise about 20 meters and in 50 kilometers distance, the land would rise less than 5 meters. But that scenario would be very unlikely.


Some people believe that a scenario like that would have great influence on volcanoes under the glacier and lead to an era of a lot of volcanic activity where some volcanoes that are under it now could erupt at the same time.

Earthquakes 

In Iceland, a lot of earthquakes occur every day. You can see a map where the earthquakes of the last 48 hours have occurred in Iceland on the Icelandic weather page.


The last two large earthquakes occurred in Iceland in the year 2000. They were between 6,5 and 7 on Richter scale. Earthquakes in Iceland don’t go over 7 on Richter scale because of some unknown reason.

Peter, Iceland24
June 2014
Source: Water and Fire

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Þríhnúkagígur - Inside the volcano

Iceland’s Þríhnúkagígur volcano is thought to be the only place in the world where you can safely explore a volcano’s magma chamber…from the inside. Talk about an experience of a lifetime!


Lowered in a small skyscraper window washer’s pulley lift through a four metre wide hole, down, down, down nearly 150 metres (double the height of Hallgrímskirkja) onto a floor the size of a football pitch in a cavern 150,000 cubic metres by volume, which was once filled with pressurised molten lava waiting to explode upwards. Welcome to Þríhnúkagígur.


The volcano is the only place on earth where the magma chamber is accessible and currently safe to explore. The size of its chamber is enormous; the ground space is roughly the size of a football pitch. The distance from top to bottom is about 150 meters (450 ft.). Þríhnúkagígur last erupted over 4000 years ago.

This Icelandic volcano hasn’t erupted for 4,000 years, so you’re probably safe being inside it. But the frisson of danger is nevertheless pervasive and basely attractive.


Summer 2012 was the first time the crater was open to tourists – and even then only until mid-August. But if you’re lucky you might manage to get onto one of the 5-6 hour tours again in summer 2013, between 15th May and 10th September.


Plans to run the tours for a second summer were late to be revealed and there is no way of knowing if they will run in 2014 or not. Even if they don’t, there are plans afoot to tunnel directly – hopefully discreetly – into the crater and erect a viewing platform in coming years. While this would remove the thrill of the descent, it would allow more people to see the amazing site, and for a less exorbitant price. 

The Volcano is only approximately 30 minutes drive from Reykjavík. Once there, travelers must walk for 40 minutes across a lava field to reach the summit. Then they will take an open cable lift 120 metres down to the bottom of the crater before beginning the hour-long tour with a team of expert guides.

CNN rated Þríhnúkagígur number 13 on its 27 Must See Places Before You Die list…so it must be good!

Peter, June 2014
Iceland24

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Iceland’s favorite waterfalls

Iceland has a great variety of beautiful and powerful waterfalls all around Iceland. Some are hidden in canyons or in the highlands but others are right by the round road. Here I’m going to guide you to Iceland’s favorite waterfalls, where they are and how to get there. At the bottom of the article there is a map to give you a overview of the these great natural wonders.


Gullfoss 

Gullfoss waterfall is located in the southwest Iceland, in the canyon of Hvítá and is one of the three stops in The Golden Circle (including Þingvellir and the geysers of Haukadalur).

Gullfoss is certainly among the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland, hence the name Golden waterfall.

A century ago there were some plans of using Gullfoss or other parts of Hvítá to generate electricity by building power plants, possibly destroying the waterfall. One woman, Sigríður Tómasdóttir, was determined to preserve Gullfoss and threatened to throw herself in the waterfall. Fortunately, the plans were abandoned but a stone memorial is devoted to her.

How to get there: You’ll have to drive a little further than Þingvellir, pass Laugarvatn and Geysir and you will get there. The falls are well marked. The parking lot is right by the platform so no hiking is needed.


Seljalandsfoss 

Seljalandsfoss is one of the most famous waterfalls. It is located in south Iceland, between Selfoss (town) and Skógafoss waterfalls. It is actually close to the famous Eyjafjallajökull.

The falls drops 60 m (200 ft) over the cliffs of the former coastline of Iceland. During the ice age, a glacier covered Iceland and the weight from the glacier pushed the land down and made the coastline. The glacier than melted and the land rose, leaving the old coastline far inland. You can take a short walk on a walking path that leads you behind the falls, which is particularly beautiful during a sunset.

How to get there: It’s right by route 1 (the ring road) and you can see the falls from the road. Can’t miss it!


Skógafoss 

Skógafoss is located in the south of Iceland, a little further than Seljalandsfoss. The cliffs are a former coastline, much like Seljalandsfoss. Those cliffs, among other mountains, mark the borderline between the coastal lowlands and the highlands of Iceland. Skógarfoss is astonishingly white.

According to the history, a Viking from this area, Þrasi Þórólfsson, buried a treasure in a cave behind the waterfall. Many years later a boy found the chest but was only able to grasp the ring on the side of the chest before it disappeared again. When you are looking at the waterfall, you can see that on its right side are steps that lead up to the upper end of the waterfall giving an amazing view of the waterfall and all around it. That is the beginning of a popular hiking trip over Fimmvörðuháls, between Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull and ends in Þórsmörk.

How to get there: The waterfall is right by the Round Road and is easily seen from it.


Dettifoss 

Dettifoss is a waterfall located in Northeast Iceland, in Vatnajökull National Park and gets its water from the river Jökulsá á Fjöllum, a river originating in Vatnajökull glacier.

Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in all of Europe and has an average water flow of 193 m3/sec. The falls are 100 m wide and the fall is 45 m down Jökulsárgljúfur canyon.

How to get there: You can drive up to the waterfall. However, drive carefully, the last spot is a gravel road. It’s best to see this powerful waterfall from the east bank. There is a panel, which gives a great view over Dettifoss and tracks around it to more points of view.


Goðafoss 

Goðafoss is a waterfall located close to Mývatn in the Northern part of Iceland.

The waterfall gets its name from an old story about the Law speaker Thorgeir Ljósvetningagoði. He made the decision that Christianity should be the official religion of Iceland in the year 999 or 1000. This decision was controversial in the Viking times. It is said that on returning back home from Althingi after his conversion, Thorgeir threw his statues of the Viking gods into this waterfall.

How to get there: This beautiful waterfall lies right on the ring road (Road 1) so you can’t miss it.


Glymur 

The waterfall Glymur is Iceland’s highest waterfall with 196 m fall.

It’s located in Hvalfjörðurin the western part of Iceland and takes less than an hour to drive from Reykjavík. Many tourists only go to see Gullfoss and Glymur often is forgotten. The hike up to the waterfall takes about an hour and it’s great to make a little picnic of the trip. The south and north roads start at the same spot but the south one branches off to the right. The best view is from the south side of the river Botnsá. But be careful, the south side trail is somewhat more difficult along the edges of steep drop-offs. When it drops over a small cliff face and descends through a cave down to the river, you can cross it to the southern side.

How to get there: You will have to drive to the end of Hvalfjörður (don’t take the tunnel) and hike from there. The waterfall can be accessed from Botnsá parking area and you can hike up from there on marked hiking paths.


Dynjandi

At one and a half hour's drive from Ísafjörður, Dynjandi is perhaps Iceland's most picturesque - a bold statement for sure, especially since there are many contenders, but it's hard to disagree when you stand in front of the majesty of "Thunderous".

Actually Dynjandi itself is only the tallest in a series of seven waterfalls collectively called Fjallfoss, but while the top one gets all the photo attention, the smaller waterfalls you'll pass on your short hike to the top certainly add to the charm.

There are plenty of beautiful sights on the way to Dynjandi, most notably the stunning fjord trio of Önundarfjörður, Dýrafjörður and Arnarfjörður. You will get enough time for photo stops and also time at Dynjandi to enjoy the views. On the way back we stop at Þingeyri village.


John & Berglind Rós, Iceland24
Junio 2014

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Eldey Island (Southwest Iceland)

Eldey is a 77 m. high rock around 15 km. southwest of the Reykjanes peninsula, only 0.03 km2 in size. The last of the great auks, a species of bird now extinct, was killed at Eldey in 1844.


Its sheer cliffs are home to large numbers of birds, including one of the largest Northern Gannet colonies in the world, with around 16,000 pairs. This colony can now be watched live via two webcams that are located on top of the island.


The island formerly supported a large population of Great Auk after they moved there from Geirfuglasker following a volcanic eruption in 1830. When the colony was discovered in 1835, nearly fifty birds were counted. Museums, desiring the skins of the auk for preservation and display, quickly began collecting birds from the colony.

The last pair, found incubating an egg, were killed there in July 1844, with Jón Brandsson and Sigurður Ísleifsson strangling the adults and Ketill Ketilsson accidentally cracking the last egg of the species with his boot during the struggle.


The steep island was first climbed on 30 May 1894, and in 2008 a webcam was installed on the island to provide constant footage of the birds' daily lives.

Jóhanna, Iceland24
June 2014

Friday, 6 June 2014

Reykjavík Restaurants & Clubs

For a country that banned full-strength beer until 1989, Iceland sure knows how to party.

Beyond the traditional beer halls with pounding music, the 11 nightspots below let you sip craft cocktails in style or dance until dawn.At the end of the list, you'll find some Reykjavik bar-hopping tips to help you fit in.

Kex Hostel


One of the happier stories borne out of Iceland’s 2008 economic crisis, Kex is housed in an abandoned biscuit factory that escaped demolition when plans to build skyscrapers in its place ran out of cash.

The owners transformed the building into a chic hostel, bar and eatery, naming it after the Icelandic word for biscuit.Travelers and Reykjavikers come here to drink beer and catch impromptu gigs.

Johannes Agustsson, founder of local indie record label 12 Tónar, says keep your eye out for up-and-coming female artist Mr Silla and three-piece band Samaris playing at Kex.

Kex Hostel, Skúlagata 28, +354 561 6060

Kaffibarinn



Established for so long that the current staff can’t remember the full story behind its London Underground-styled logo, Kaffibarinn remains one of Reykjavik’s most popular nightspots.

“We put a lot of energy into hiring good DJs and our staff are very close knit, which helps our customers feel engaged,” says a manager, Katherina Hauptmann.

By day it’s a cool coffee shop, but Kaffibarinn gets fiendishly busy at night, when it turns into a bar. Worth trying are Topas or Ópal (local liquorice liqueurs) and Reyka, Icelandic vodka.

Kaffibarinn, Bergstaðastræti 1, +354 551 1588

Gallery Bar (part art gallery - part club)



An example of a hotel bar you’d actually want to visit, the Hotel Holt’s Gallery Bar is one of the smartest spots in town to quaff a quality beverage in peace.

“The bartenders here really know how to make drinks -- not a given elsewhere in Reykjavík, where most people just drink beer,” Andersen says.

There are red leather club chairs to sink into and tempting cocktails of the day.

“You might have the place to yourself, but you’ll be in good company with paintings by some of Iceland’s most renowned artists on the walls.”

Gallery Bar, Bergstadastraeti 37; +354 552 5700

Snaps



Winner of the Reykjavik Grapevine’s “best goddamn restaurant” award for the past two years, Snaps is a top spot for a social drink and a good-value meal.

With its glass walls and hanging plants, the venue feels like a giant, cozy greenhouse -- people drop by for a quick beer and then find they have no reason to leave.

There’s a piano in the corner if you feel like banging out a tune.

Snaps, Þórsgata 1, +354 511 6677

Le Chateau des Dix Gouttes



Known as Tiu Dropar (Ten Drops) by day, this intimate, grandma-chic basement cafe gets a mini-makeover from owner David Bensow every evening before he reopens the venue as a French-themed lounge bar.

One of a few dedicated wine bars emerging in Reykjavik, Le Chateau sells Iceland’s only wine brand, Kvöldsól, made from crowberries, rhubarb, blueberries and Icelandic herbs.

Le Chateau also serves cheese, waffles and charcuterie to the strains of Edith Piaf.

Le Chateau des Dix Gouttes, Laugarvegur 27; +354 551 9380

Micro Bar (need for beer)



Iceland’s newest microbrewery bar, this funky city bolthole supports small brewers from all over Iceland and beyond.

With mountainous wall murals by the native cartoonist Hugleikur Dagsson, it’s a sweet space to pull up a stool and try anything from a local Kaldi draft to a Tactical Nuclear Penguin from Scotland.

Micro Bar is located in, but not affiliated to, the Center Hotel if you can’t be bothered walking home.

Micro Bar, Austurstræti 6; +354 847 9084

Slippbarinn (cocktail bar)



It opened only a year ago, but this vintage-styled watering hole tucked into the foyer of the Scandi-chic Reykjavik Hotel Marina was the city’s first proper cocktail bar. “Cocktail culture in Iceland is very young but catching up quickly,” explains Slippbarinn’s master mixologist, Ásgeir Má.

On any given night you’ll find as many Reykjavik residents as hotel guests sampling Má’s ever-changing creations, all mixed with house-made syrups and freshly squeezed juices.

Located right on the harbor, it’s possible to see the Northern Lights from your bar stool in the right conditions.

Slippbarinn, Mýragata 2; +354 560 8080

Loftið



One of Reykjavik’s newer bars making a concerted move beyond beer, Loftið draws a mix of expats and mature, moneyed locals with its quality cocktails.

Being one of the only establishments in town to enforce a strict dress code helps Loftið maintain an added element of class -- but while you won’t find anyone dancing on tables here, the mood is far from stuffy.

Loftið, Austurstræti 9, +354 551 9400

Kaldi (best Icelandic beer by far)



Designed as a healthier alternative to the additive-heavy international beers widely consumed in Iceland since the end of prohibition, the country’s own Kaldi beer (brewed to a special Czech recipe) went down well with Icelanders on its 2005 launch and has sold well since.

Fortunately, you don’t have to head to its northern Icelandic brewery to drink it fresh -- this industrial-styled Reykjavik brew bar offers four varieties on tap, including the brand’s unfiltered crowd favorite.

Kaldi, Laugarvegur 20b

Source: CNN Travel
Iceland24, June 2014