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iceland

From left to right: Hope, Steve, Kelly, Tim, Miles, Sophie, Andri, Patrick, Charlie, Tom, Peter, Scott, Dan

By Steven Cardinal and Miles Mcconville

So today marks our halfway mark on our grand adventure in the beautiful Skálanes, Iceland. Today the students of SCSU AND Liverpool John Moores University continued working on the projects that we’ve been assigned for the next few days.

The projects are aimed at consolidating the knowledge and skills the group has learnt so far on the trip, such as studying the hydrology of local rivers, looking at the sea bird population, and investigating snow conditions.

Some students accompanied Dr. Heidkamp on an expedition to install another weather station in the area on top of Baegsli (938 meters). Unfortunately, weather conditions and wet terrain prohibited those hiking from reaching their destination. Although it was a bummer the goal wasn’t reached, we did learn a valuable lesson in trusting our gut when a situation is presented that doesn’t feel 100% safe. The mountains are not going anywhere and will still be there to climb another day.

Meanwhile, one group traveled to the mountain pass behind Seyðisfjörður to measure snow levels and density. Stakes had been placed earlier in the week and were revisited to see their progress. Due to the unseasonably high temperatures we have seen around 15cm of snow melt over the past three days. The site will continue to be monitored over the coming days to track its progress and record its findings.

Later on in the evening, we had the pleasure of meeting Andri Snaer Magnason, Icelandic presidential hopeful and author of the book Dreamland, which discusses the environmental concerns surrounding hydroelectric power and aluminium smelting processes within the country. Hearing Andri discuss the impacts of damming opened our eyes to how not to just accept an environmental solution without doing some research.

Not long after we were treated to a boat ride out in the fjord guided by Oli, the owner of the Skálanes nature reserve. It was a blessing to interact with both of these amazing individuals today. They have broadened our horizons on what it really means to care for nature and why it is so important to protect it. We can’t wait to see what else this adventure will offer us.

By Janee Petersen and Jacob Gant

All Work No Play

Today was the first time that work dominated the entirety of the day. Many of us were on cooking, dishes, or cleaning duty. This even included cleaning the guesthouse bathrooms.  Everyone is expected to help with the day to day operations of Skálanes.

The course work began immediately after breakfast with an orientation of the weather stations which we will be installing here within the next few days.  The weather stations will monitor conditions such as precipitations, temperature, wind speed and the barometric pressure.  They should collect data at Skálanes for years to come.

Next was a lecture and lab exercise on hydraulic river modeling. We took various measurements and readings from a stream running through the property. The rest of the day was spent working on individual research projects.  Some of us have projects relating to Skálanes and those of us who will be doing research in other parts of Iceland were paired up with our friends from Liverpool to help with their projects.

Although today was low key and we stayed inside for most of the day, it was still an all-inspiring experience to be able to do homework, listen to music and hang out with our new British friends in such a beautiful place.

Ps. We all needed the rest anyways considering Iceland is the land of no sleep (New York has nothing on us).

 

By Kelly Bickell, Becca Hubley, and Luke

Explorations Around Skalanes

The students are noticing a recurring theme where activities are considerably more extreme than expected. We started the day as potato farmers. Using our knowledge that we acquired yesterday doing soil profiles, we had to test soil in a wide array of areas in Skalanes to find the most suitable spot to grow potatoes.

The SCSU and LJMU students took advantage of the 60 degree Fahrenheit weather by hanging out on the farm house deck once we all finished our field work, which overlooks the ocean, meadows and snow covered mountains. Once the students felt rejuvenated from naps under the hot sun, mushroom soup, and laughter, Skalanes employees and the professors led two groups of students up nearby mountains in an effort to plant weather stations at high altitudes.

A small group of students climbed a more challenging ridge in order to place a temperature meter at higher altitude, as well as planted snow stakes for an LJMU student’s dissertation data collection. Although the climb to the top of the ridge was long, steep and tiring, it was worth it to see the incredible view.

We all ended our night with a bumpy car ride, pizza and drinks in Seydisfjordur, and what seemed like the longest walk ever back to the farm house at sunrise. Yesterday was a good day.

Striated Mountainside

By Sarah Gummo, Hope Finch, and Grace Skyrrow

I had legit chicken nuggets that were lamb. – Charlie Comstock

Here are a few important things that Dr. Heidkamp conveniently failed to mention when we signed up for this trip:

  1. We’d be fording frigid rivers on foot (at 1 am and with disastrous but hilarious results).
  2. We’d be surrounded by angry Arctic Terns who find pleasure in dive bombing and pecking unprotected heads.
  3. Iceland doesn’t believe in common roadside safety features such as guard rails.

Hope and Peter Drenched

Despite wet boots, sore heads, and mild strokes from straddling cliffs in our sweatbox vehicles, we have all enjoyed another beautiful day in Iceland. After departing from our beloved Berunes Hostel, we enjoyed a packed car ride past waterfalls, striated mountainsides, and through one extremely long tunnel, which has been the only bit of darkness experienced since our arrival on Sunday.

We were then given a guided tour through the Alcoa Aluminum Plant, which ended with our first giant meal of the trip at the plant’s canteen. We continued our drive after lunch, stopping at Karahnjukar Power Plant and Fljotsdalur Station briefly, before soaking at Laugarfell Hot Spring and eating soup and bread. Our final drive in the stinkmobiles ended, and we were left on the side of a winding gravel road to make a 3 km hike.

Hike to Skalanes

 

The trek to Skalanes is where things really got interesting, ending in near hypothermia (only if you ask Hope), drenched pants, and one great story.

We have arrived at Skalanes, with a heightened respect for beds and an awe-inspiring view.

Iceland

By Charlie Comstock & Alexa Gorlick

From Skaftafell National Park to Berunes

After awaking from the longest sleep we intend on getting on the trip, we immediately began to dissemble our twenty person tent, which was much easier than putting it together. We packed up the vans and were on the road by 9am.

Our first destination was Kviárjökull, a glacier that is home to some of the largest moraines in Europe! A moraine is a deposit of sediments that shows where a glacier once stood. Here we took part in a field lab, where we measured the size of lichen attached to the rocks, to discover approximately how old the moraines are.

After a few hours of driving we arrived at our next expedition, a glacial lagoon called, Jökulsárlón. Here we saw vivid blue waters, with blue icebergs floating in the distance. One of our schoolmates from LJMU, Liverpool was even daring enough to step in the frigid waters!

After this we then visited a beach called Hvalnes, where we took a quick break to stretch our legs and discovered round, smooth black rocks made up the shore of the beach.

Then we visited Djúpivogur, a small fishing village that has a population of about 350 people. The village consists of many young close-knit families that depend on the fishing and tourist industries to survive. We wanted to find out some firsthand information about the town, so we decided to talk to a couple of locals. Our first victim was not a local and happened to be a tourist from Sweden.

We enjoyed each other’s company as we walked back to the center of town. Upon saying our good-byes to each other she cheerfully let us know that we were “typical Americans and a little chatty.” After putting our money together at a local shop, we purchased pasta and sauce to make a family dinner in Berunes. We just arrived to the hostel, and we are so pleased with the accommodations. We can’t wait to spend the night in Berunes but it’s also dinner time here so we have to talk to you tomorrow!

By Steve Cardinal

Little Antartica

Today was a much better day, it’s truly amazing how much better you feel after three hours of much needed sleep!! The adventures we experienced today continued early at 7:30 am, and were just as high paced as yesterday.  But alas, we were still unequipped and unprepared, shocker right?! After eating a yogurt and an apple we walked to the Vatnajokull Glacier National Park ready to go on an average day of the mill Icelandic hike, but of course, our assumptions were oh so very wrong.  Right when we arrived to the front building, employees immediately began fitting us with crampons (a spiked iron shoe attachment), a harness and an ice axe.  After a bus ride with our new pals from Liverpool, we arrived at the foot of the Vatnajokull Glacier; the biggest glacier in Europe, which we were about to hike.  After meeting with our spunky guide from New Zealand, and reviewing the proper safety techniques, we strapped on our crampons and started our glacial trek not knowing that it would the most breath taking, all-inspiring endeavor of our young-adult lives.  Words can’t describe how describe how truly amazing this adventure was for all of us, after surviving this grueling, yet enriching experience, I believe a game of whiffle ball is in order to cap off such an indescribable day

P.S. Glacial stream water is super refreshing.

Students at Iceland

By Becca Hubley and Jacob Gant

Today, our study abroad group arrived at an airport in Iceland at 11:30pm, marking the first day of our two-and-a-half week trip. Rather than getting rest following our five hour flight, we started doing things immediately. We took a tour of the capital, Reykjavik, as well as the surrounding areas, explored the Blue Lagoon, visited and hiked two waterfalls, drove through a fishing village named Grindavik, visited a geothermal hot spot, walked around two black sand beaches, shopped in a few grocery stores, and met up with our English counterparts from Liverpool John Moores University. We did not sleep at all through these endeavors by the way. By evening, we all felt as though we had already been in Iceland for three solid days. Although it felt like the longest day our group had ever encountered, we also felt that it had already been one of the best days we’ve ever experienced in our lives.

Students at Iceland

Iceland is impossibly gorgeous and there were absolutely no words for the way it took our breath away. But.. nothing can prepare us for the ten-hour hike up a glacier that we face tomorrow.