Friday, August 22, 2014

Volcanoes! Glaciers! And... Biofuel?

Back by popular demand... *pause for laughter*

Day 8

First thing in the morning, we visited the infamous Eyjafjallajökull, which erupted a few years ago and delayed airlines all over Europe. Unfortunately, we didn't actually visit the volcano itself and go inside it (something similar would come later), but we instead toured the visiting center and learned about the volcano's history through a film. After that, we were given a lecture on biofuels in Iceland, specifically by processing of rapeseed. I think the most valuable thing that I learned from the trip was how to say "Eyjafjallajökull" with the assistance of Sam Buckstein's persistence and Alex Huynh's baby onesie that wrote out how to say the name phonetically.

Right nearby the visitor center was a biofuel farm that put into practice the processes that the lecturer spoke about earlier. We were allowed to tour the facilities, taste the produced oil and even the byproduct that was fed to the livestock (muy tasty).  

Observe the proper byproduct eating etiquette. PC: Paige McIlroy
Oil pours out to the left and the poopy pellets that you can eat fall into the yellow container. PC: Justin McKay
After the formal education was done for the day, we headed over to Skógar, which contained the great waterfall Skógarfoss. 
Skogy Fossy. PC: Paige McIlroy

This one, huge waterfall was preceded by several smaller waterfalls, several of which we were able to see as we hiked the trail that followed them. Here's a bit of the view: 
The provider of many of these lovely pictures. IT'S JUSTIN! Camera Credit: Justin McKay
Before we turned back on the trail, we ate lunch and learned how to play an Icelandic wrestling game. You and an opponent grab each others' belts. You rock side to side until a referee yells "GLEEMA!" at which point you try to throw your opponent onto his/her back while keeping your hands glued to his/her belt. Some of the matchups were a bit unfair: I vaguely recall an Israeli Army soldier upon hearing "GLEEMA!" pick up his opponent, a petite environmental engineer, and placing her gently on the ground by only her waistband. Needless to say, it was a lot of fun. Oh, and I shouldn't forget to mention I stole Matt Roveto's phone and I captured the chase with a series of photos using his phone:

The order is all messed up because Blogspot is awful... It's not even in reverse order.

Despite being worn down by Icelandic wrestling, we proceeded to Mýrdalsjökull, one of Iceland's several glaciers. Why might we be going on to a glacier, you might ask? To walk on it, obviously. We were actually looking at this glacier the previous day from the opposite side of it when we made a bus stop coming back from our wilderness camping adventure. When we got our crampons on (things you tie to your shoes with spikes on them) and were instructed on how to walk on the glacier, we did just that: walk on a glacier! It was actually pretty wild, seeing all the different formations on what I thought would be one slab of ice. Another thing that's unique about certain Icelandic glaciers is the layers of ash, not dirt, that cover the sheets of ice due to the frequent volcanic eruptions. Depending on the thickness of the ash, little cones can start to form on the glacier as the thicker layers protect the ice from melting while the thinner layers of ash aren't able to insulate the ice as well from the sunlight.

The cones! PC: Justin McKay

Once we reached the farthest point of our journey up the glacier, we looked back and our guide pointed to where the glacier tongue used to reach out to in comparison to where it is today. It's really hard to describe in words the difference in the glacier's reach in such a short time as a few decades. A key theme on this trip for me was connecting what I have read to what I have experienced. Seeing does so much more to one's drive to follow a passion than simply thinking or hearing about it. I believe that's what makes this trip so valuable.

When we got back down from the glacier, we headed back to our little cabins and worked on our capstones some more. Due to poor internet service, plans were shifted so that our capstone presentations would take place later in the day, allowing us the morning at Reykjavik University to put the final touches on our presentation.

Quality Picture of the Day:

There were a lot of good pictures from today, but I think this takes the cake, considering the fact that it takes place on top of a glacier.

Just flexin'... dat booty. PC: Laura Lano

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