Migration

September 18, 2006

The puffins leave Iceland toward the end of August. The nights incrementally fade from bright to dim to properly dark. The stars poke tiny holes in that new darkness, and eventually the Northern Lights dance across the sky as autumn approaches. During our final days of work, flocks of birds were heading to warmer places, and the sheep that had been running wild in the mountains all summer were being rounded up. The lush green landscapes began to age into softer golden hues, and the rowan trees hung low, laden with their bright red berries.

Oh yes, and I started wearing a hat, gloves, and five layers of thermals and fleeces and waterproofs to work every day. The waterproofs functioned as a much-needed windbreak, as our worksite was consistently sliced with cold blustery wind (but thankfully very little rain). We were back at the viewing platform in the bubbling mud, building boardwalks to try to keep people out of the scalding water. Earlier I sent a photo of the framework that we began and the steamy backdrop for our work… Well-meaning tourists often stopped and asked if we were building a) a coffee shop b) a visitor’s center c) toilets and d) a house. They also suggested that we use power tools, because it would be so much easier to cut all those boards with a “real” saw. Cross-cultural communication being what it is, I usually just said we didn’t have an extension cord quite long enough to reach the car park (from which they had just walked) that was probably about a mile away. They seemed satisfied with that answer.

So here I am, back home (at my parents’), doing some really rank laundry and relearning the comforts of modern life. The first thing I noticed when I got out of the car at 1:30 a.m. this morning after the ride back from Detroit was the crickets. I can’t remember if there aren’t crickets in Iceland, or if I just couldn’t hear them because of howling wind, pattering rain, and cursing campers fumbling their way toward the toilets in the middle of the night. Of course the warmth also struck me like a hot breath, as it was still above 70 degrees (that’s 22 deg C, Chas) when we got back. Today it’s raining a bit, but the rain is so vertical and gentle that it almost seems quaint, like the weather is just playing at being bad.

Thanks for sharing my adventure with me, and I hope you found it interesting and entertaining!

Takk fyrir daginn (thanks for the day),
~shannon from Temperance, Michigan, USA, where every day is New Sock Day

Some cows hanging out in front of a pseudocrater near Lake Mývatn

Some cows hanging out in front of a pseudocrater near Lake Mývatn

There are herds of reindeer roaming in northeast Iceland- we were lucky enough to spot these after leaving Leirnjúkur to head south.

There are herds of reindeer roaming in northeast Iceland- we were lucky enough to spot these after leaving Leirnjúkur to head south.

We also made a trip into the interior to see this sad sight... the controversial Kárahnjúkar Hydroelectric Dam. Two glacial rivers are being dammed to create a power plant. The dam is 730 meters long and 200 meters high. As a volunteer for the Environment Agency of Iceland, you can guess which side of the argument I'm on.

We also made a trip into the interior to see this sad sight… the controversial Kárahnjúkar Hydroelectric Dam. Two glacial rivers are being dammed to create a power plant. The dam is 730 meters long and 200 meters high. As a volunteer for the Environment Agency of Iceland, you can guess which side of the argument I’m on.

To get some perspective, look for the tiny specks of color on these roads. They are industrial-sized trucks, backhoes, and digging machinery.

To get some perspective, look for the tiny specks of color on these roads. They are industrial-sized trucks, backhoes, and digging machinery.

The reservoir created by this dam will eventually reach the edge of the Brúarjökull glacier. The place where I am standing when I took this photo, and everything you see, will be underwater. The wildlife will be destroyed and the landscape permanently changed. Completion of this project is scheduled for 2009. Many Icelanders have been making a pilgrimage to the site to say goodbye to the land before it disappears.

The reservoir created by this dam will eventually reach the edge of the Brúarjökull glacier. The place where I am standing when I took this photo, and everything you see, will be underwater. The wildlife will be destroyed and the landscape permanently changed. Completion of this project is scheduled for 2009. Many Icelanders have been making a pilgrimage to the site to say goodbye to the land before it disappears.

This camping and climbing equipment was found on Skaftafellsjökull in July 2006. It belonged to two British undergraduate students, Ian Harrison and Tony Prosser from the University of Nottingham, England. The students were participating in scientific fieldwork in the summer of 1953 on Morsárjökull, a valley glacier in Skaftafell National Park. They intended to hike up to Oræfajökull after they had made scientific observations at a camp north of Ragnarstindur. They never returned.

This camping and climbing equipment was found on Skaftafellsjökull in July 2006. It belonged to two British undergraduate students, Ian Harrison and Tony Prosser from the University of Nottingham, England. The students were participating in scientific fieldwork in the summer of 1953 on Morsárjökull, a valley glacier in Skaftafell National Park. They intended to hike up to Oræfajökull after they had made scientific observations at a camp north of Ragnarstindur. They never returned.

At the time of their departure, the weather was clear and sunny, but it suddenly became much worse. A search was issued, both from land and air, but for 53 years not a trace of them was found. No one knows what happened. There is a saying in Iceland that the glacier always returns what is given to it, eventually.

At the time of their departure, the weather was clear and sunny, but it suddenly became much worse. A search was issued, both from land and air, but for 53 years not a trace of them was found. No one knows what happened.
There is a saying in Iceland that the glacier always returns what is given to it, eventually.


Back to Iceland 2006