Thursday, 5 July 2012

We've been rained on.....

....but only for a couple of hours on the 2nd July whilst we were in the mountains north east of the Vatnajökull ice cap above the Lagerfljot lake. 

The Kárahnjúkar Dam

Having toured through a few fjords on Sunday and camped in the beautiful countryside outside of a small village called Eider, we headed up to the mountains with the intention of getting a few samples near the base of a mountain called Laugerfell. The map had the route to the mountain down as a mountain track, similar to the tracks we took whilst in the Kjölur area. However, the construction of a dam at the top of the Kárahnjúkar valley that was completed in 2006 meant that a tarmac road now exists all the way to Kárahnjúkar, making travel - and sampling - far easier.  
Rockwall of the 200m Kárahnjúkar dam.Photo: Alasdair Monteith, 2012
One big gorge, but then the reservoir has a capacity of 2.1 cubic kilometers. Photo: Alasdair Monteith, 2012

Kárahnjúkar generates around 4,600 GWh a year in electricity for an aluminium plant. The building of the dam raises a few interesting questions around sustainability and energy production as the dam sits in a large wilderness area and it's construction and will have had a significant impact on the environment both upstream and downstream. But when your economy is in recovery, you have access to cheap and relatively green energy, and aluminium makes up 37% of your exports, you can see the benefits from a  politicians point of view. Particularly if the alternative was aluminium plants powered by coal fired power stations.

Back in the fjords

Leaving the mountains (and rain) behind we headed across to the fjords area again and down into a small fishing and ferry town called Seydisfjordur. At this distance from Hekla the ash layers we're hunting become significantly thinner, harder to find and difficult to identify. Sampling conditions were hellish at times, as can be seen in the photo below of our lunch stop location. 

Just about acceptable as a lunch time stop ;-) Photo: Alasdair Monteith, 2012

The long and winding road back to Reykjavik

Today (Wednesday 4th June) we set off on the long road back to Reykjavik to pick up a couple of friends/field assistants for the next sampling sessions and catch up on some well earned rest and climbing. The incredible geography of Iceland kept coming though as we passed the Jökulsárlón floating icebergs calved from glaciers descending from the Vatnajökull ice cap as can be seen in the video below.

We also drove through the Laki lava fields, vast areas of land covered by a prolonged eruption of the Laki fissure in 1783. The scale of the eruption is hard to picture, but the fact that it formed the second largest basaltic lava flow in historic times and produced tephra that covered 8000km², puts the likes of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption of 2010 into perspective.

Looking across the eastern Laki lava field.  Photo: Alasdair Monteith, 2012

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