Iceland: The south

The second free day and my last in Iceland was spent on an 800km round trip on a Glacial tour in the south. With only a few certain destinations our guide allowed us to pick our subjects as and when we saw them starting with Icelandic Horses; a joy for me but not for many of my peers. Standing between twelve to fourteen hands to the British eyes they are ponies but they are unique as they hold two additional gaits, Tölt and flying pace. Tölt is a four-beat gait where at least one foot is on the ground at any time, which gives a smooth comfortable ride due to the lack of suspension in the gait, a prized quality held by Icelanders as at times in history the roads were treacherous and uneven with the carriage being unsuitable whilst the Flying Pace is unique to few Icelandic horses and is when the legs on the same side move together, which can be achieved at racing speed when there is a moment of suspension when all four legs are off the ground. Seeing these majestic horses in their natural habitat, surrounded by snow capped mountains and in large numbers was beautiful whilst there placid nature allowed a variety of images and nearly the loss of my gloves as one gently rummaged through my pockets.

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In 2010 a volcanic eruption that stretched only 3km caused a lot of havoc for nearly a month with widely spread and extensive ash from the volcano Eyjafjallajökull. Researchers have discovered that the uprising magma had a fierce reaction with the glacial water nearby, this rapid cooling contracted and fragmented it into fine, rough grains of ash making them aerodynamic but this research was conducted after the eruption putting the results into question. The ash that eventually settled was not toxic but in fact acted as fertilizer on the fields ploughed by farmers making it more porous for both oxygen and water.

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The first two eruptions took place in Skógar; our first stop and the location of its 60-metre high Skogáfoss waterfall in the river Skógá. Legends say the settler Þrasi buried his chest of gold under the Skogáfoss waterfall, whilst it’s mystical nature doubles through the creation of a rainbow. “Skógur” stands for “forest” making these “Forest Falls”, but this is most likely due to ancient forests as this area lacks vegetation, with the majority of land covered in water, ice rock and volcanic remains.

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One of the main things I wanted to see during my time in Iceland was the Black basalt beaches, to which I was not disappointed, Vik Beach was nominated one of the most beautiful beaches on Earth in 1991 and I have to agree. Known as the wettest village in Iceland it was only right that the waves came in and soaked me up to my waist and leaving me cold and damp for the remainder of the day. With no land mass between Vik and the arctic leaves it exposed to intense weather and rough seas, with the large puffin population situated on the surrounding cliff edges and right below the Mýdalsjökull glacier which lies upon the Katla Volcano which has been inactive since 1918 with an impending eruption. The sand was proparly created by a hot lava flow falling into the glacial ocean, producing fragmented little pieces we see today.

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One of the main things I wanted to see during my time in Iceland was the Black baisalt beaches, to which I was not disappointed, Vik Beach was nominated one of the most beautiful beaches on Earth in 1991 and I have to agree. Known as the wettest village in Iceland it was only right that the waves came in and soaked me up to my waist and leaving me cold and damp for the remainder of the day. With no land mass between Vik and the arctic leaves it exposed to intense weather and rough seas, with the large puffin population situated on the surrounding cliff edges and right below the Mýdalsjökull glacier which lies upon the Katla Volcano which has been inactive since 1918 with an pending eruption. The sand was proberly created by a hot lava flow falling into the glacial ocean, producing fragmented little pieces we see today.

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Two hundred and thirty miles out of Reykjavik we encountered the highlight and main focus of the day was the glacial lagoon, one of the great wonders of Iceland and the recent creation of the warming climate. First appearing in 1934/5 it was measured at one hundred meters below sea level, which now its surface is sea level with sea water entering at high tide which now measures at three hundred meters in the deepest part, with many huge blocks constantly breaking off the largest glacier of the Vatnajokull ice cap’s glacier tongues; Breioamerkurokull which float into the lagoon or get washed across the black beach in Jokulsarion. Image

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Amongst the magnificent blue glaciers and past the frost-covered waters was a group of Grey seals Halichoerus grypus hulled out in a picturesque manor against the scenic background. Just across the way lies a long black beach covered in drift ice of various shapes, transparency and colour, which have all been driven onto the beach from the robust and unpredictable waves which claim many lives.

ImageThis beach is like nothing I have ever seen before, with ice four times the size and width of me the waves crashed over and moved them as if they were feathers whilst the fragmented sections on the beach glistened in the light like perfectly polished diamonds.Image

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ImageThe mountain river glacier in comparison is not mixed with salt and freezes a lot but will last longer over time. Although the glaciers were not as profound and the water was frozen over, the light fell softly across lighting it angelically whilst being as delicate as the landscape. In a way I found this landscape more appealing as it was so barren and untouched its as if I took a step back in time.

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References

http://www.icelandichorses.co.uk/the_special_gaits_of_the_icelandic_horse.htm

http://www.livescience.com/31127-iceland-volcano-ash-plume-trouble.html

http://en.south.is/WhattoSeeDo/ViewAttraction/skogafoss–waterfall

http://www.extremeiceland.is/en/private-tours/south-iceland-and-jokulsarlon

http://nat.is/Churches/hof_church_skagastrond.htm

http://www.seathos.org/tag/vik-beach-iceland/

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