56 Year 11 Geography students visited the Land of Fire and Ice from 11th – 15th February 2016 to expand their knowledge and understanding of topics covered in class. Stephen Oldfield reviews the fieldtrip.
Day 1 – Thursday 11th February 2016
After a pleasant flight with Icelandair from Manchester to Reykjavik, the breath-taking four days kicked off in style by venturing to ‘Blue Lagoon’ (a geothermal spa pool). Leaving the changing rooms to the pool was at first a shock – it was so cold – nevertheless it made entering the water a more stimulating experience. The natural face masks and steaming water made detoxing from periods of exam stress more the easier.
Following the Blue Lagoon we checked in at our accommodation, ‘Hotel Cabin’, before going for an evening stroll into the centre of Reykjavik to their famous ‘Reykjavik Hamburger Factory’. What a fine way to end our first day.
Day 2 – Friday 12th February 2016
Day 2 began by visiting ‘On Power’ (a geothermal power plant). We learnt about how geothermal energy is sourced from the ground and how the tectonic structure of Iceland enables this to happen. When learning the ways in which geothermal energy is transformed, it was astounding to hear that as of today, 99.9% of houses in Iceland are heated with geothermal energy – what a smart way of saving the planet!
Without any delay, we visited ‘Seljalandsfoss Waterfall’. Wow! This artistic band of water cascaded off a cliff edge before thundering into a plunge pool at the base of the waterfall.
Last but not least, we ventured up ‘Solheimajokull’ (a glacier): to our surprise this was not straightforward. Never before have I felt so geared up to pursue an activity; it was only when I set forth onto the glacier after the short walk that I understood why. The crampons were ideal footwear to grip onto the ice; if only I wouldn’t look too silly walking in them in two inches of snow back home! We used an axe to carve out chunks of ice to suck on – you would have had to have tasted it to understand why doing this was such an addiction. In fact, one person relished the taste of the ice so much they collected some it in their water bottle and saved it for later!
Our place of residence for the evening was ‘Hotel Dyrholaey’, where we also enjoyed our evening meal and relaxed.
Day 3 – Saturday 13th February 2016
To begin day 3, we took the coach to the South Coast of ‘VIK’ where we set off on a coastal walk. Although the weather was a little extreme to stay out too long, we revised the topic of coasts by consolidating what we had learnt in Swanage last July. After admiring the scenery, we took some group photographs before visiting the second waterfall of the trip, ‘Skogafoss’. Approaching the waterfall was a great challenge, as to get there we had to slide over a rink of ice. Although terrifying, we laughed with each other as we struggled to stop ourselves slipping over in many places; nearly all of us did it at least once – where are those crampons when you need them?
After lunch, which I enjoyed sitting on a rock, gazing at the waterfall in amazement, we took a trip to ‘Eyjafjallajokull’. You may remember, this was the volcano which erupted in April 2010 when many flights were cancelled as the area was coated with ash. Imagine living under it, wouldn’t it be dreadful to have to clear 400 tonnes of ash! In fact, we were able to show empathy as we held a short Q&A session with one of the residents at the farm. Prior to this, we watched a video about their experience which showed how they dealt with the issue. What a great idea they had to leave the ash next to the roadside for tourists to collect!
Finally, we took a trip to ‘Hveragerdi’ to explore another geographical feature – hot springs. In the freezing conditions they were overly tempting to bathe in, however in reality were not so safe, being temperatures of around 80 degrees. We toured the village to see how Iceland can grow a lot of its own fruit and vegetables in greenhouses harnessing the Earth’s heat. Our third evening was spent at ‘Hotel Vatnsholt – a working farm, just outside Selfoss. We were in the middle of nowhere but unfortunately the Northern Lights did not appear. At this location, many of us enjoyed spending time playing in the snow and socialising in the communal areas before retiring to our rooms at 22:30.
Day 4 – Sunday 14th February 2016
Day 4 was another day of stunning scenery. We set off from the hotel at around 9:00 to complete the ‘Golden Circle’ tour – In the morning we visited another waterfall, ‘Gullfoss’ – the Golden Falls. It consists of two intertwined waterfalls with a total height of 31 metres. As it was Valentine’s Day, this was the perfect location for the lovers and potential lovers to have photographs together. I am sure their last Valentine’s Day wasn’t spent in a location like this!
In the afternoon, we visited the geothermal area of hot pools and erupting geysers. One particular Geyser – Strokkur, erupted every eight minutes, making it a great opportunity to capture some magnificent photographs. After this, we proceeded to Thingviller National Park, where the North American plate is moving away from the Eurasian plate. It is also the site of the world’s first parliament – Althingi. It was then back to Reykjavik, via Perlan, to gain a great oversight of the city.
We then checked in at ‘Hotel Cabin’ before beginning the jam packed evening at ‘Rossopomodoro Pizzeria’ where we were served a selection of pizza and pasta dishes whilst sharing our favourite experiences of the trip. Penultimately, we visited ‘Laugardalur’ outdoor geothermal pool. Although the water was tepid, this wasn’t too much of an issue as we retired to the Hot tub at the side of the pool – I understood why it was a little overcrowded. To conclude four awesome days, at 22:15 we spent some time deciphering the Northern Lights in the sky. Although the visibility rating was higher than the previous night, they were still difficult to clearly pick out. Nevertheless, we can still claim to have witnessed this magical phenomenon.
Day 5 – Monday 15th February 2016
Waking up the following morning at 3:30 for a flight at 8:00 was a struggle, particularly as we were leaving such an extraordinary location behind, however with brilliant photographs and spectacular experiences with great people and sights, I don’t think any of us will be leaving memories behind.
Thank you to all the staff of on the trip from making it such fun, particularly to Mr Douglas who prepared tirelessly for an experience I am confident everybody enjoyed.
By Stephen Oldfield