Land of Fire, Ice..and Aurorae

My wife and I returned a week ago from a trip to Iceland to see the Northern Lights and some of the scenic wonders of this far-north country. We did see the lights, and they were a magnificent sight! Although we went out every night but one (jet lag and regular nightly expeditions until 2 am required one night of recovery), it was not until our fifth night there when we had all but abandoned hope that the aurorae began to dance for us. To get those gorgeous pictures you see online requires a more expensive camera than ours! Nonetheless, we did get some pictures even though the brightest display was in a light-polluted restaurant parking lot.  (Picture of Eyjafjallajökull eruption from Wikimedia Commons, picture of Jane and Neal Sumerlin by Robert Naeye, all other pictures by Jane Sumerlin.)




Even if we had not seen the lights, it would have been a wonderful trip. Iceland is an other-worldly place of great beauty. It truly feels at times as though you are on another planet. The mid-Atlantic rift valley that separates the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates runs right across the island.


This isn’t like a state border where you can stand in Texas and Arkansas at the same time; the whole valley is part of the rift.  This is just one of many fissures.

Volcanic craters are a relatively common sight. Not impact craters as are almost all of those on the moon, formed from something smacking into the ground, these are formed by magma erupting from under the ground. This one erupted about 6500 years ago and is filled with ice at the bottom.


You may recall that in 2010 a volcano erupted in Iceland that curtailed air travel to Europe for some weeks. This was Eyjafjallajökull, a name I could hear 100 times and still be unable to pronounce.  This image is from the 2010 eruption; it was quiet during our visit.

Iceland uses the geothermal energy that lies just below the surface for almost all of its power generation and space heating. We were never cold when we were inside. When we were outside it was a different story!


Glaciers and volcanoes, land of fire and ice, very tourist-friendly, almost everyone speaks English, and (pleasant surprise) excellent restaurants in Reykjavik. I highly recommend it!




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