We missed a day, but we’re back online! Yesterday we went camping for the first time to explore the glaciers Gigjokull and Eyjafjallajokull. First we had a healthy breakfast from a local bakery, mainly cinnamon buns and doughnuts, and then we hit the road! We drove down the south coast of Iceland, with some amazing views of volcanos such as Hekla and Katla. We finally arrived at Gigjokull, which is a glacier attached to the larger glacier Eyjafjallajokull. Quite a mouthful! We split into two groups, a stream team and a mountain team, to tackle this project. I worked on the stream team, but don’t worry; another post on the mountain team’s experience will be up soon! In 2010 Eyjafjallajokulll erupted; you probably heard about the ash cloud disrupting flights in Northern Europe. However, the eruption also cause a lot of the ice from the glaciers to melt, and the water had to go somewhere. The water flooded out of Gigjokull. Before the eruption, there was a lagoon at the base of Gigjokull, formed by the pile of debris left behind when a glacier retreats, called a moraine. The flooding from the eruption caused the water to burst through the constraints of the moraine, washing out the lagoon.
The stream team’s work started as a simple project; collect water samples from a glacial meltwater stream running through the former lagoon. We saw something curious; there were two streams which combined to form one larger one, but there was an obvious physical difference. One was cloudy and milky, which is characteristic of glacial meltwater and is called glacial flour. The other, however, was very clear and productive! We traced the clear stream to two connected lakes, both clear with plant matter attached to the bottom. This raises many questions; where is the water coming from, if the water is glacial meltwater why is it so clear, etc. We sampled all of the water systems in the lagoon so we could try and get a clearer picture of what is happening when we get back from the field. When we were exploring, we also discovered that the floor of the former lagoon had pockmarks from what we believe are old, dried lake beds. Why did these dry up, while two other lakes were apparently thriving? There is obviously more research which needs to be done.
At the end of the day we arrived at our campsite and made our dinner. We started with dessert, because what camp is complete without s’mores? There was a race to see who could get their tent up the fastest, which our tent lost miserably. However, all of the tents went up without an issue, and despite being a little chilly at the end of the night, our sleeping bags kept us warm until the morning! Until next time!