Iceland Field Trip!
Twenty Earth Science educators and enthusiasts recently joined Missy Holzer (NETSA Appointed Director), Michael Passow (NESTA Past President) and Cheryl Manning (NESTA President) on a tour of some of the best volcanology, glaciology, hotspot and divergent plate tectonics, and geothermal energy generation on our planet. NESTA joined with Holbrook Travel to bring this experience to our members and friends.
While in Iceland, our guide was Hrefna Jensdóttir, a graduate of the Geology Department at the University of Iceland.
Hrefna retrieved us from the airport and whisked us to the Blue Lagoon where we had the chance to soak away our jet lag. After a quick bite to eat, we were off to begin our education. We visited our first geothermal power plant and educational center then headed to a nearby beach to see pillow lavas, Eldey Island, and one of the many lighthouses of Iceland.
We stayed in the Vatnsholt Guesthouse for first three nights giving us easy access to Iceland's Golden Circle and the southwestern arm of the North Atlantic's mid-ocean ridge. This region of Iceland receives quite a bit of moisture, creating a richly green environment with low birch, willows, lupine, buttercups, and geranium growing between the fields of hay and grains.
Geothermally powered greenhouses provide the energy needed to grow tomatoes, peppers, herbs, and other crops year-round.
Rivers are full and the waterfalls are huge.
Hot springs are common but geysers are rare even though Geysir, Iceland is home to this erupting phenomenon.
In the center of the rift lies one of Iceland's largest lakes, Þingvellir, the site where the world's first parliament met in the 930s. During the Medieval period, criminals were hung off of the cliffs and women were drowned for adultery. Today, things are a bit more civilized and you can hike the trails, canoe or kayak the lake, and even dive or snorkel the waters of the mid-Atlantic Ridge.
Eyjafjallajökull looms to the east and Hekla to the North and we are ready to explore the glaciers and active volcanoes.
To get there, we must transfer to a bus specially built to cross the ever-changing rivers so filled with silt, you cannot see the boulders and cobbles on the bottom.
This is the land of Þórsmörk (Thorsmark) with its wide flood plains knit together by anastamosing streams, huge boulders washed from the adjacent canyons by glaciers, floods, and jökulhlaups.
Bordering the flood plains are huge cliffs bisected by tumbling streams and rivers that are more waterfall than running streams.
Above the canyons lie the glaciers and ice sheets of Iceland, some fingers of which reach almost to the floodplain.
Under the glaciers lie the forces that created this land: volcanoes. While predominantly basaltic in composition, the chemistry is more felsic in some locals. Fissure eruptions generate pahoehoe and aa that cool to create beautiful columnar jointed cliffs. Reflections of these forms are seen mimicked in Iceland's architecture.
There are shield volcanoes like Surtsey of the Westmannier Islands, stratovolcanoes like Hekla and Eyjafjallajökull, and cinder cones like Hverfjall in the north. These volcanoes inspire art and legend.
This landscape is humbling and inspiring. We can't wait to get back to Iceland to adventure and explore. We look forward to hearing from our fellow adventurers and how they incorporate what they have learned in their classrooms. We can't wait for NESTA's trip next summer when we venture to parts unknown!!