Thursday, 31 March 2011

Iceland Day 1

Dear All

A few things from the Iceland trip so far! Firstly, it is cold here, not as cold as it was when we dd weather in class, but icy!!

Todays activity was caving, more on that later, looking at the Rift Valley and the Inland Lake, and then one of Icelands most impressive waterfalls, Gullfoss.

So, the Rift Valley first of all, it was a great start to the trip, placing the day in context with the tectonics of the region. The Rift Vally is one f Icealnds main features, and divides the country nearly in two, most major fracture zones run parallel to it, and within it are some of the islands most significant landforms. It is in effect, a smaller version of the East African Rift Valley, a low lying area, very marshy in this case, filled with lakes and volcanoes, and to which many rivers flow towards. On a more cultural note, it is also the location of the worlds earliest, and still active parliament (├×ingvellir). It is a particularly pretty spot, and the Parliament (below) is located on the easternmost edge of the North American Plate, and in fact, you can put one foot on either plate in parts of the rift. Where the plates are pulling apart through rifting, a series of normal extensional faults has caused the land in the centre, this photo is taken looking down the junction between the two, the cliff on the left is the American, and the cliff on the right is the European plates:

The Rift is a very pretty area, which we were due to go underneath in our caving adventure, and adventure it was! We went down into an old lava tube, formed from the cooling of the exterior of the lava flows, and where it is insulated in the middle, the lava continues to flow, often collapsing to form the often photographed skylights in Hawaii. Ours was around 7000 years old, but made a tube roughly 5 by 5m througout. The cave was rather icy, and had some spectacular ice formations waiting for us, like these:

Along with the stalacmites of ice, the stalactites where also pretty impressive:

On emerging from the cave, there were a full variety of facial expressions, some obviously thrilled with their caving experiences, some rather relieved to be out of the snow!

See the facebook page after we get back for more photos!

Next up, after a short drive, we were at Geysir National Park. There are some videos of both mud pots and geysirs, but they are particularly difficult to photograph! However, the pools of silica saturated water that were a variety of shades of blue were fantastic, here are two:

The videos and many more pictures will be uploaded into the blog when we return and have a more steady internet connection! Last stop of the day was Gullfoss, a huge fault guided waterfall with two main sections. At low flow (really) this year, the waterfall was impressive, with clear blue waters from its glacial source. Gullfoss is one of the most impressive waterfalls i have ever seen, unfortunately it had got a bit overcast by then, but still well worth a look!

The next post will hopefully be tonight, filled with moss, more waterfalls and some rather wet students, but we have just had a truly fantastic roast lamb dinner with Eva's secret recipe gravy. Yum. 

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