Glacier day

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April 24th 2022
Published: April 25th 2022
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EPIC day of glacier-related adventures. We have experienced a number of glacier ‘outlets’ today, none of which I have any hope of pronouncing, but all stemming from the big one that google tells me is called Vatnajökull.

Started early, amid a high level of feedback, and related response. Drove for a few hours through the ‘wasteland’ where the mud/flood from the 1918 eruption had made its mark. And then, just as suddenly, we returned to fertile farmland.

Arrived at our tour check in and got kitted up and headed off for our glacier hike. The first part was hot and boring as we walked through the rocky terrain the glacier had created at its front and sides. We finally reached some of the cold white stuff and learned to put on our crampons and how not to kill others with the ice axe. We then stomped our way onto the glacier, luckily on ‘summer ice’ which had been oxidised by exposure to the air and was much easier and safer to walk on. Sampled some glacier water and generally clomped around the place learning about different aspects of a glacier. Well, some of us did…others spent the majority of the time working in conjunction with Scott Morrison’s climate policies to destroy the glacier. While more immediate and violent in nature, I’m sure a 10 year old with an ice axe is at least as effective as a policy-devoid ruling party in eliminating huge chunks of ice, but probably with slightly more chance of catastrophic injury to close observers.

As a special bonus, we managed a sneaky visit to a nearby ice cave. This was particularly special for me, as it’s something that I had really wanted to do when we were scheduled to come in winter, but I knew was going to be a challenge this late in the season. I was disappointed that the ice cave part of the snowmobiling tour had been canceled due to avalanche risk, so I was super excited that we managed to sneak this in, even if not part of the original tour itinerary.

We had to squeeze and crouch our way through to the first cave area, where, thankfully without the ice axe, Beeb entertained herself for the entire time by sticking her tongue to the wall. The rest of us enjoyed the amazing colours and patterns formed by the trapped air bubbles and volcanic ash. Slid our way through into the second small chamber to marvel at the beautiful blues and refracted light…and how much cold a 10 year old tongue can withstand.

Scrambled out and back to the car park, which we were convinced they’d moved further away in our lengthy absence. Quick lunch stop before driving to Fjallsarlon (copied that off the ticket) for our lagoon boat trip. The lagoon was so ‘iceberg rich’ that we had to walk quite a way to the boats, obviously well-received after such a relaxing morning. The ‘safety’ suits were also somewhat questionable but this was quickly forgotten once we were on the water headed towards the gorgeous glacier. This one was larger and wider than the one we had walked on and we were mesmerised by the folds and cracks all the way across it. The icebergs were equally spectacular as they drifted slowly away from the face, down the lagoon. Luckily we defied titanic-like odds (see what I did there?!) and carved a path through them to a slightly closer mooring position for the return trip.

But the day was not done yet. Next stop was Diamond Beach, which is where the icebergs from Jokulsarlon Glacier (thank google for that one) get washed out to sea, many ending up in smaller, glistening pieces on the beach. Against the backdrop of the black sand, and with the afternoon sun dancing against the crystalline ice pieces, it’s a special sight and easy to see how the beach got its name.

After having watched the bergs at Fjallsarlon drift slowly and gracefully on our boat trip on the lagoon (some were 400-500 years old), it was almost comical watching them bob and roll their way to the sea here. Well, we thought it so, others in our party hardly noticed as they tested the relative destructive strength of ice on ice, rock on ice, ice on rock, foot on ice, gravity on ice, white ice on clear ice, clear ice on white ice, two feet on ice…and so it goes on…all the while rejecting the pitied cries to pose for some artistic photos. Results of extensive research indicate that anything breaking ice into 1000 pieces results in squeals of delight. But in the interests of scientific rigour, the experiment must be repeated 732 times. A seal even popped its head out of the water at one point to see what was going on, but sensibly thought better of sticking around lest it was hurled against an iceberg to ‘see what happened’. We had all enjoyed a lovely wander/path of destruction on the beach but time was ticking and our next stop called. And we thought we’d leave something for the next people to see.

This stop was to see source of the massive icebergs at Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon before they begun their path down the channel and became an all too hands on physics lesson. Firstly we stopped at the lagoon overlook which was still and calm. Second, we called at the mouth of the channel where the icebergs seemed to be lining up for their turn to travel out to sea. Majestic and peaceful (largely due to the absence of things to break and throw), they were a beautiful sight against the late afternoon sun (still quite high in the sky at 6.00).

The day had come to a close and we began the long drive back to Vik. We were all absolutely exhausted and starving so very happy to indulge in the traditional Icelandic meal of takeaway Wok On, ordered in transit and ready to be devoured when we arrived back at the apartment. Good sleeping ahead!

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