August 15 - Reykjavik
Update (15th August 2004)
Noon Position : lat 70° 48.9' N, long 15° 08.9' W
Air temperature @ noon today : 5.2°C
Sea temperature @ noon today : 7.3°C
Heat wave in Iceland: The week in brief.
This week has seen the end of our American science cruise and the beginning of another, equally cosmopolitan cruise. We have swapped 17 Americans, 3 Swiss and a Norwegian for 19 Brits, one Australian, one American and an Irishman!
In between, we stopped for a brief but very enjoyable 3 days in Reykjavik, where the locals were experiencing the warmest weather since records began!
For us it was a great opportunity to see a small amount of this incredible country, for Steve Eadie to discover his origins, the Scottish members of the crew to let their hair down with 600 of their countrymen and 3rd officer Douglas Leask to attempt to talk to the entire population of Reykjavik in one night!
Steve finds his roots!!! Click to enlarge.
It was a quick turn-around however and we are now heading north once more, crossing back into the Arctic circle yesterday morning at 9.08. Our destination is 79° north, where we may yet get the chance to see some polar bears!
Science bit in the middle- the final leg.
Last Sunday saw us in the middle of our final transect, across the Denmark Strait, heading for Iceland. This leg involved CTDs at regular intervals, with the three watches working relentlessly to complete all that was needed. The success of the cruise meant that we may have had a little time in hand to do an extra line of samples, had the weather not decided enough was enough and forced us to turn towards port. A very contented science team were disembarked on Thursday morning, all of their cruise objectives and, for PSO Bob Pickart, lifetime ambitions fulfilled. It has been a great pleasure to have our American colleagues on board, and we hope they will be able to come back!
George Tupper and Bob Pickart.
Click to enlarge.
The "military" watch: Kevin Collins, Kimberley Carson and Chris Lumpkin with winch driver Dave Williams.
Click to enlarge.
The next cruise is JR106 (north) and will take us up to the edge of the sea ice around 79° north. We have several teams of scientists on board, all under the guidance of PSO Peter Wadhams. The cruise objectives are to make oceanographic measurements of the sea water using the CTD and also to study the sea ice- by drilling holes from above and surveying it from beneath using an autonomous submarine. At the same time, a team from Scott Polar Research Institute are collecting data about the ocean bed using the swath bathymetry, mapping the changes that glaciers made to this area during the last ice age.
Electrician Nick Dunbar and electronics engineer Pat Cooper take a tea-break in the sunshine during mobilisation of cruise JR106.
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JCR Sporting News
There is little to report on the sporting front this week. With the end of the previous cruise and the few days ashore, participation in sport has taken something of a back-seat this week. However, a few of the lads got to the big match on Thursday night, when Dunfermline drew 2- 2 against the local team.
So, with the new cruise participants on board, it remains to be seen, whether anyone will live up to Selina's reputation at table- tennis, or if anyone can match Dave's triathlon time.
No-one could catch him: Dave Sutherland demonstrates his ball skills, chase by Salina Naef, Bob Pickart and Kjetil Vaage.
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Fun and games in Reykjavik
The ship, dominating the old harbour of Reykjavik. Many of the locals came down to have a look, fascinated by our Falkland Island flag and the ice-breaking bow (now with a little less paint than previously!). Click to enlarge.
We were lucky enough to be allocated a berth in the old harbour, near the city centre of Reykjavik. Just a 5 minute walk from the ship took us into the shopping district, packed full of coffee shops, bars, restaurants and people enjoying the sunshine. Just a short walk further was the Tjorn, a small lake surrounded by lawns, beds of flowers and shady trees.
The Tjorn, a natural habitat for more than 40 species of birds.... in the centre of the city! Click to enlarge.
Hallgrimskirkja Church, made of basalt and a landmark which can be seen far out to sea. Click to enlarge.
The city centre has many old houses, all painted bright colours and with a clapboard exterior. One of the most striking features of the city is the cleanliness and lack of smoke, as the Icelanders make the best use of their natural resources. 72% of the country's primary energy supply comes from renewable resources- the geothermal springs provide heat and domestic hot water, there is plentiful hydroelectric energy as well as wind to generate power and there is also naturally occurring hydrogen. It is the Government's aim to replace all fossil fuels in the public transport sector with hydrogen produced from these renewable energy sources. It is an ambitious scheme, but one which could, they hope, allow Iceland to become completely independent of fossil fuel imports within 50 years.
A reminder of Iceland's Viking heritage, the Sun-Craft sculpture on the Klapparstigur. Click to enlarge.
Although Irish monks originally came to Iceland in AD 700, the age of settlement is traditionally said to be from 874 to 930 AD, when Nordic people fled mainland Scandinavia to escape the political unrest. These settlers established a democratic parliament- the world's first. The site of this parliament was Thingvellir- a remarkable spot, where a great lava plain has been created by the volcano Mt Skjaldbreidur and where the two halves of Iceland, sitting on either the Eurasian or the North American tectonic plates are separating, leaving great fissures in the rocks. It was here, at Thingvellir, that the Icelandic parliament decided the country would convert from Paganism to Christianity in 1000 AD.
Icelandic horses in the Thingvellir Valley, site of the oldest continuous parliament in the world. Click to enlarge.
The Icelandic horses are pure bred and are famous for their stamina and strength, as well as their curious 5 gaits. There are more Icelandic horses elsewhere in the world than in Iceland, but the breed here is pure and dates back to Viking times. The horse was, until recent times, the main form of travel for the local people. Like the Falkland Islanders, the locals ate mainly mutton and lamb, farmed harsh and isolated lands, lived in a small island community and spent their winter months battered by cold and fierce Atlantic weather systems. A home from home for the JCR!
Iceland is well known for its volcanoes and geysers. It is a geologically young country, having many active volcanoes, with the result that the landscape changes continuously. Mt. Hekla erupted as recently as 2000 and earthquakes are a common occurrence. At Geysir, there is an area of "geothermal" activity. Naturally heated water lies in hollow pockets of rock. The water reaches the surface at boiling point, and periodically escapes, shooting high up under great pressure. The whole area smells sulphurous and the rocks are coated with a layer of gray- white deposits left behind by the mineral- rich water.
Strokkur, one of the most reliably performing geysers in the world. The water is shot out of the ground at high pressure and temperature, to a height of 30m every 8- 10 minutes. Click to enlarge.
The blue lagoon, a surreal spa pool. Click to enlarge.
Many of the scientific party managed to visit the blue lagoon, where water is pumped from 2km below the earth's surface at a temperature of 240°C to create heat and energy for the Svatsengi power plant. The run-off water flows into the blue lagoon, at a temperature of 70°C. It is rich in silica and other minerals and is said to have healing properties, particularly for skin complaints such as eczema and psoriasis. Sadly, it doesn't work on wrinkles! The surrounding area is a landscape of volcanic debris, lava covered and black; the car park to the blue lagoon is carved out of the piles of volcanic rubble, and the whole place has the look of a bombed city!
Sad as we were to be leaving Reykjavik, we are looking forward to seeing the coast of Greenland again, working in the ice and getting close to those polar bears!!!!
Land of the midnight sun. Click to enlarge
Many thanks to Keiron Rutherford, Dan Torres, Doug Willis and Simon Wright for their photographs.