The Rift

Hey there. This is a continuation of my last post “Reykjavik’s Most Wanted”.

After a short journey we were out of Reykjavik. The sun began to rise from above the distant mountains as we rode on through the Icelandic countryside. There were strange buildings dotted around which were actually the main power stations.

Because of Iceland’s geological instability, there is a lot of underground volcanic activity. As a result of this, there is a lot of hot water forcing it’s way to the surface. The geothermal power stations use the steam that is forced upwards to turn turbines which can then produce power. If one looks over the areas around the stations, one can see many boreholes with steam rising out. As this power source is renewable and completely natural, energy is very green and cheap in Iceland. Many of Reykjavik’s swimming pools are heated using steam from below.

We soon arrived at our first destination. A small farm in the middle of the Icelandic Plains. There were several large greenhouses, all lit up with bright lights. The moment I entered, I was blinded as my glasses immediately fogged up. This farm has it’s own borehole and thus access to much needed steam. The steam is used to heat the greenhouse and provide water for the plants. Tomatoes were grown row by row with extremely tall plants. After listening to a very interesting explanation by the owner of the place, I took a look around before the sound of the coach starting up beckoned me back.

Our next stop was Gulfoss (Golden Waterfall) which was within sight of the Icelandic Highlands. On our way there, we passed the turn off to the area of Geysir. In the distance, a huge column of steam erupted into the sky. It lingered for a few seconds, dancing in the winds before dissipating into nothingness. I turned my attention to the loud sound that lay ahead. A dull drone that seemed to overrule all other sound, like a gigantic beast proclaiming it’s claim to the land. The wind seemed to pick up. This was more than just a waterfall. I had the feeling that it was somehow alive…

As the wind constantly attacked me, I made my way down the slippery wooden walkway into the belly of the beast. There were two huge steppes which seemingly lead the river into the depths of nothingness. The wind chilled me to the bone, mostly due to the increased amount of moisture in the air as a result of the waterfall. After admiring the vast landscape for a few minutes, I ventured inside the building overlooking the falls in order to warm myself up.

An hour later, the coach pulled over at a small group of buildings. This was the Geysir park. Plumes of steam seemed to be seeping out of the ground and the whole place felt very warm compared to everywhere else.

There was a sign with a photo of a temperature gauge with the words 80-100C embossed onto its surface. This obviously meant “Don’t touch the water”. So I touched the water anyway. The small trickle of water ran through the rocks leaving behind mineral deposits. The water wasn’t hot, it was pleasantly warm considering it had been out the ground for a while. I then looked into a smaller geysir. The water was a deep blue which although warm, was crystal clear. I peered down into the water and saw a cave that seemed to go on forever into murky darkness. Science tells us that these channels go very deep into the ground where there is much movement by magma beneath the land. As the water gets warmer, it is forced up through these channels to the surface as steam. A lot of it condenses and forms the pools that dot the landscape. Some, such as Strokkur are fed by a lot of water and some of it eventually escapes as an eruption.

After viewing The Great Geysir (After which this natural phenomena is named), I climbed to the top of the park and just stared over the landscape. It was just pure beauty. Frozen ground extending for miles in every direction with mountains watching over them like silent guardians. My description cannot do it justice. Nor can photos. You really do have to be there.

Later, the coach skidded to a stop in the Þingvellir National Park. Þingvellir is the area where the world’s first parliament was held. It sits in a very wide rift valley between two tectonic plates. The North American Plate and the Eurasian Plate. There are black cliffs on each side. These are the edges of the plates. The land in the middle was once as high as these cliffs but as the plates moved apart, the land in the middle started to sink and become riddled with cracks and crevasses. The rift is about seven kilometres in width and extends for a very long way in either direction. After a short walk at the bottom of the cliff on the North American side, I climbed up a small path to a viewpoint which puts our very own Barr Beacon to shame.

Inside the rift, lots of water has collected and formed Iceland’s largest natural lake, Þingvallavatn. Þingvallavatn covers around 84 square kilometres and is very impressive to look at. I took a lot of photos which I will post when I am back.
Until next time…

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