In the past month I’ve made two visits to Iceland as a Field Studies Guide. These trips are to show school pupils studying for Geography at GCSE or A Level various sites relating to various aspects of geography including plate tectonics, glaciers and volcanic activity.
Iceland sits astride the mid-Atlantic ridge that separates the American and Eurasian tectonic plates. These two plates are moving apart at the rate of about 2mm per year. ?Hotspots? where magma rises closer to the earth’s surface also give rise to high levels of volcanic activity.
A presentation at one of Iceland’s geo-thermal powerstations explained how they have the ultimate source of renwable energy. 90% of Iceland’s hot water is geo-thermal and electricity too is generated using steam turbines.
The ?Blue Lagoon?, a geo-thermally heated outside pool in the middle of an old lava field is a ?must do?. The water a milky blue from the high silica content, steam rising from the water and temperatures reaching that of a hot bath. A real treat. It was an environmental accident that has turned into a major tourist attraction.
It was wonderful to see the Aurore Borealis (or Northern Lights) on three consecutive nights from Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. I had seen the Aurore Borealis on only two occasions before; both from the Highlands of Scotland. Once from a bivouac on the Cuillin of Skye and another time descending from Ben Nevis shortly after nightfall in early January.
We also visited Geysir and saw the eruption of the Stokkur the most active of the geysirs at the site. This geysir goes off every 5 to 10 minutes launching boiling water into the air. Also on the programme was the Thingvellir National Park and the middle of the ?graben? (the land between two tectonic plates) and we walked from ?Europe? up on to the ?American? plate.
Iceland hit the headlines in 2010 with the eruption of the volcano Eyjafjallaj?kull that flung volcanic dust high into the atmosphere disrupting flights throughout Europe. Iceland has many volcanoes with Hekla and Katla being some of the most watched over in the south of the country.