We were up early in Akureyri and on our way to the geologic hinterlands of Iceland. We headed out to see some of the landscapes, geologic and biologic features unique to the Land of Fire and Ice. First stop Goðafoss, the “waterfall of the Gods.” The view lived up to the name, and all who joined the trip were awarded with a classic Icelandic picture. Not our first waterfall by any means, but perhaps our most photogenic, and a spectacular view for sure!
Our second stop brought us to Mývatn, a shallow lake rich with birdlife and luckily for us, no midges for which the lake is named! The area has interesting volcanic “pseudocraters,” formed when lava flows over wetlands causing flash boiling of the water and phreatomagmatic explosions. While volcanic in nature, these rootless pseudocraters are not linked directly to a magma chamber. From Mývatn, it was a short ride to the Dimmuborgir lava field, where we hiked through a labyrinth of exotic volcanic towers, exposed lava tubes, and jumbled blocks. Without our Icelandic guide to lead the way, we could easily get lost within this chaotic landscape. We left the region by noon and arrived at our lunch stop to recharge an our afternoon exploration of Námaskarð geothermal area.
The stop in and around Námaskarð displayed the classic features of a geothermal region with smelly, steaming, and bubbling mud pots, colorful soils, and roaring fumaroles. Leaving the region, we passed a geothermal powerplant, one of many in Iceland that provide about thirty percent of the country’s energy. Last stop on the tour was Hverfjall crater, a beautiful and nearly symmetrical tephra cone that formed approximately 2,500 years before present by another phreatomagmatic eruption linked to the Krafla volcanic system. A short hike to the top provided views of the crater’s interior and the surrounding landscape. We returned to the coach and headed for Húsavík to meet our ship. Rounding the last turn into town, we could see National Geographic Resolution entering the harbor. Our timing was perfect!
Our day was not over. After dinner, we sailed north to the tiny island of Grímsey, smack dab on the Arctic Circle. The wind abated, the swell dropped, and we launched Zodiacs for our late-night exploration of the island. In addition to the opportunity to visit the monument to the Arctic Circle, guests were provided with their best views so far of the Atlantic puffin. Hundreds of the iconic birds posed patiently at their burrows with fish hanging from their beaks. I’ll bet thousands of photos were taken! It was a spectacular ending to an eventful day! Even the sun broke out, casting an amazing glow on the volcanic peaks to the east. Time for bed!