Relax and Recap

Today we got some much needed time to rest and recuperate back at the hostel after camping at the Hotel Husafell campgrounds. Our stream crew sampled four lakes during this three day/ two night outing, including one experiencing bottom drainage, one fed by glacial runoff from Langjokull, a shallow system near Reydarvatn, and a long and thin tectonic lake. Our major achievement was getting not one, but two successful sediment cores! We fought strong winds and swarms of flies to core the lake and extract the sediment for over an hour each time. This will help us to better understand the past condition of these lakes and to see how they have changed over time in temperature and composition. Ridge and stream work was capped off each day with time around the instant grill singing songs about geology and limnology, roasting marshmallows, and telling plenty of scary ghost stories.

We also looked at Ok, a large shield volcano that once had a glacier on top, but has since melted. Don’t worry though, it hasn’t erupted since the Pleistoscene era and is inactive now. In that area, we hiked down a ridge to find our glacial input lake off a steep cliff. It was bright turquoise and stretched along the base of a tuya, or flat-topped volcano. It was also very, very cold! After that, the whole group drove up to and walked on the second largest glacier in Iceland, known as Langjokull, which is Icelandic for “long glacier.” We brought the Dickinson flag along for the photo shoot of course, to fly high in the snow. We definitely felt like we had conquered Iceland. Now it’s time to sit back, relax, and enjoy our day off.  Ya know, the Viking Festival started today… I know what I’m doing this afternoon.

Stream Team Dream Team!


group pic

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.


View of moraine

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.


View of Gigjokull

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!


Pillow Lavas

Day 4: Ventures into a quarry.

Group in quarry

This morning we walked around the Undirlindur quarry to see pillow lavas! After sleeping in a little bit this morning and eating breakfast together, we loaded up our day packs and hit the road. We arrived at the quarry, which thankfully was less windy than yesterday. We climbed down the rocky slope, and Ben used the quarry to teach us some fundamental principles of geology. After our tour of the quarry and intrusive/extrusive rocks, we came back to the hostel to eat lunch.

Pillow Lava with pencil to scale

We had the afternoon for free time while the professor’s planned our next few days, so we went into Reykjavik to explore. We stopped in to some shops, had coffee, and saw Hallgrimskirkja, the largest church in Iceland. Reykjavik was absolutely beautiful and quaint. We ended the evening with dinner together downtown. We have a long day tomorrow of field work and camping, so we need to go rest our heads on pillows (hopefully not as hard as pillow lavas).


Blown away!

Day 3: Today we took a windy hike to Lake Grænavatn!

After our first productive day in the field, we’ve all been getting into the swing of things and becoming accustomed to our daily routine: wake up, eat a healthy breakfast of Skyr and fish paste from a tube (or not!), load up the vans with equipment, and hit the road. We returned to the lava fields and made our way to the base of a considerably steep ridge in hopes that we could reach Graenavatn on the other side. Despite the relentless wind, one couldn’t have hoped for a more beautiful day in Iceland. It really is breathtaking to see the clear, blue sky over the expanse of green moss and the remnants of lava flows that erupted thousands of years ago.

Mountain stream outlet

After a one-mile uphill hike, we arrived at the lake and had a quick lunch consisting of sandwiches, crackers and cheese spread, and chocolate-covered digestive biscuits (a group favorite). Unfortunately, the wind made it impossible to take the boat out and take water chemistry measurements, but thankfully we were still able to collect some water samples and dredge for zooplankton. After we examined the zooplankton under the microscope, we were excited to find a hydra, a type of predatory zooplankton with long tentacles. We named him Daniel!

Hot spring

After our time at the lake, we hiked back to the vans and drove to see some geothermal springs, where boiling sulphuric water bubbles to the earth’s surface. Their magnificence definitely made up for the smell! Think: rotten eggs.

Overall, it was another exciting day full of science and sightseeing. Can’t wait to see where we go next!


Hello from Iceland!

A geology lesson

Day 2: Greetings from one of the most beautiful places on Earth!

Today was our first day in the filed, and we started it off with an Icelandic staple: Skyr and granola. After going over some logistics, we journeyed into the vast and astonishingly beautiful lava fields of the Reykjanes Peninsula, in the hopes of scouting out some lakes to sample over the coming weeks. After a bumpy ride and a couple of stops to examine past volcanic activity and extraordinary geological structures, we arrived at Lake Djupavatn, a medium-sized lake surrounded on both sides by steep volcanic rock. A team of four set out to take samples in our raft, while the others explored the lake outlet and surrounding geology. As much as I’d love to go on, the day has been long and we’ll be up early to continue exploring.

Getting ready to sample the lake

We’ll all be updating the blog, so stay tuned!