A Day in Skálanes

By Hope Finch

Today was the first full day at Skálanes, the day was spent conducting two geographical lab activities. These two activities were “Exercise 7 Reading and Landscape” and “Exercise 8 soil profiling”. The first exercise was conducted after breakfast from 10 am to 11 am around the Farm House. In order to successfully complete this exercise, we explored the surroundings of the Farmhouse and observed the topography and cultural features of the landscape. Immediately after venturing outside one of our LJMU colleagues was pooped on by one of the many aggressive arctic terns (a type of bird) native to Iceland. After exploring the field for a while, we needed to concentrate on one scene and create a field sketch. After the first exercise, everyone re-grouped to complete/add to our observations while enjoying homemade tomato soup and bread courtesy of the SCSU and LJMU students. In the farmhouse there was what seemed to be an unlimited source of tea. However, before long the Brits had ravished their supply of tea bags after not having their beloved refreshment for five very long days (don’t get between Brits and their tea). After eating we socialized for a while then went out into the field to conduct our second experiment “Soil profiling”. In this activity we conducted research in Skálanes, focusing on the soil. We conducted a localized geographical soil sampling test. By completing this exercise we learned the importance of testing soil before any action occurs on the land. This must happen due to the many inconsistencies within soil. Meaning, the soil could be too saturated in water, very dry, or hollow beneath the top soil. All these characteristics present an opportunity to study the environment and learn what the geographical location endured over a course of years. The soil we observed in Skálanes showed evidence of volcanic eruption, human disturbance, an abundance of organic matter, and a nutrient rich soil and glacier till identified 1 meter from the surface. Another interesting and rather strange test conducted in the field was the tasting of soil after Dr. Heidkamp convinced one of the more adventurous LJMU students to have a taste. In conclusion, we had a very enriching and comical day due to all the geographical activities conducted which included the understanding and importance of observation. After the trek through the swarm of Tarn we were back at the farmhouse for some relaxation and to wrap up the aluminum module started prior. A film chronicling the aluminum industry was presented, and a greater understanding of the politics and environmental history behind Alcoa was tied into the prior course module.