40 intrepid Middle School geographers are on their way to Iceland with the Geography Department exploring a number of exciting aspects of physical and human Geography. Iceland, the renowned volcanic island in the North Atlantic, is famed for its wealth of features and over the next 5 days pupils will experience a variety of sites including the Secret Lagoon, Thingvellir National Park, a geothermal power plant, several spectacular waterfalls and a glacier walk before arriving in Reykjavik for some free time.
Updates from the Trip Leader Mr Wright are below:
Monday 3 April 2017
A busy last full day was ahead of us as we left our comfy hotel base in Hella. An early start saw us get to Reykjavik for mid-morning where we arrived seemingly in the middle of nowhere! Our instructors appeared and with the groups split in two we started the day's main activities. One group travelled further down the road to an area of geothermal activity to look at the mud and water puddles - boiling water pools surrounded by a coloured lunar landscape, together with the smell of sulphur in the air. By this time it was snowing quite hard so a snowball fight ensued too!
The other group descended into the lava caves for an exciting hour underground. These caves were formed 2,000 years ago by lava continuing to flow underground once the top crust had been produced. It provided a remarkable insight into what it must have been like at the time, with the vivid colours and ceiling stalactites hanging as though the lava had only just stopped flowing. We followed the tubes for several hundred metres. We then swapped groups so all had a chance do both activities.
Afterwards, we travelled the short distance to Reykjavik, stopping first at the main church - the very modern Hallgrímskirkja. We had a quick guided tour before we all had a couple of hours’ free time to explore and shop. Finally we had a look at the Harpa - the ultra-modern signature building on Reykjavik's waterfront which serves as a concert hall. We then returned to the hotel ready for the early start home after a fantastic few days in this unique country.
Sunday 2 April 2017
With a long day planned, breakfast was slightly earlier today at 07.30 allowing for a half eight getaway. Sadly the glorious weather we had for the last two days had given way to constant rain and driving wind.
Our first stop was the famous Seljalandsfoss waterfall. The magnificent water feature was certainly not short of water although the wind meant that we sadly couldn't walk behind the waterfall itself, as the path was closed.
Unfortunately, as we left for the mini-volcano Stora Dimon, a gust of wind blew the windscreen wipers off the windscreen and on opening the door it blew back, damaging one of the side windows. Whilst all the passengers were unaffected we needed to get the window fixed, so we headed for the Eyjafjallajökull visitor centre just down the road. As a result, the pupils enjoyed a very interesting video presentation on the famous 20180 eruption which halted all European air traffic. Whilst they were enjoying the presentation, the local farmer and centre owner kindly carried out a temporary fix on the window, which allowed us to continue the day until a replacement coach arrived from Reykjavik. We were certainly very grateful for this Icelandic ingenuity and kindness!
So it was on to Reynishverfi beach - a famous black volcanic sand beach with many nearby features such as basalt columns and caves. The waves crashing on the beach were spectacular.
The next activity of the day was for many one of the highlights- the walk on the Sólheimajökull glacier. Despite the high winds along the coast this area was fairly sheltered, although still raining. We kitted up with ice axes and crampons before hiking up the valley to the glacier, which has already retreated over a kilometre over the last 20 years. We spent over an hour and a half exploring it and learning how glaciers work, as well as how climate change is causing them to shrink at an alarming rate...
Finally we returned to the hotel via Skógafoss to dry off before heading to the local pizza restaurant for a well earned feed and chat at the end of long and interesting day.
Saturday 1 April 2017
After a great night's sleep we convened for breakfast before hitting the road to experience the 'Golden Circle' - the three main sites of south west Iceland. We started at the Kerið Crater, which was left in the ground by a volcano around 5,000 years ago - we learned from Paul, our guide, as to how it formed and then we walked around the rim before heading down to the bottom to get a different perspective on this amazing feature.
We then travelled towards Reykjavik to visit the Hellisheiði geothermal power plant, which uses superheated water and steam from over 1,000 m below the ground to provide hot water and space heating for the capital city.
From there it was a short hop to the Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park, a World Heritage Site. This is where a fault line has opened up in the earth's crust as the two tectonic plates on which Iceland sits move apart by 2cm each year. We were able to walk along this fissure seeing the upper parts of the plates from the side.
Afterwards we moved onto Geysir to see the hot pools and where the Strokkur Geysir erupts every few minutes, hurling steam and water far into the air - hard to photograph when you don't know exactly when it's going to happen!
Our final stop was at Gullfoss, a spectacular double tiered waterfall, where the pupils were asked to put their Geography knowledge into action and explain what was happening. From there we headed back the hotel in Hella, happy but tired after a fascinating but busy 10 hour day!
Friday 30 March 2017
On the last day of the Spring Term, the moment had finally arrived for us to depart to Iceland. After a short and relatively speedy journey to Manchester Airport, we wound our way through security before being ushered pretty quickly onto the Icelandair flight to Keflavik - only two and a half hours and we'd be there!
On arrival we were greeted by magnificent blue skies and relatively balmy temperatures of 8 degrees and we soon met up with Paul (our guide for the five days) and our coach driver. We made a quick getaway and we were soon driving though some of the young (2-3,000-year-old) lava fields which make up the peninsular to the south-west of Reykjavik. After a blast along the coast road, we arrived at the Secret Lagoon - the oldest geothermal swimming pool in Iceland. The chance to bathe and splash around in the 36-degree water was truly sublime! We spent about an hour or so there before it was time to move back towards the coast to Hella to our hotel. Once we arrived at the hotel, sorted rooms and had dinner, Paul gave us a quick briefing on what to expect on day 2 before we finally hit the hay.