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Iceland: Part Two

Sunday, May 4th, 2008

Day 8 in Iceland dawned bright, but windy. I packed the car and continued my trip east. The drive today was dominated by the icefield of Vatnajokull. This is the biggest icefield in Europe. It stretches for 150 km along the coast and into the interior. Numerous glaciers descend toward the coast from the icefield. After leaving Vik, the farmland quickly gave way to miles of wasteland or polar desert. The road past through large swathes of terrain made up of braided river channels and gravel fields. Wherever the glaciers descended, the wind really picked up in speed. Dust and gravel blew over the road in visible clouds. I was very concerned that the car paint would be damaged as you could hear it hitting the car. I stopped at several points to look at various glacial terminuses. When I exited the car, I had to be careful to hold onto the door to keep it from being snatched open in the wind. (I met another group later whose car door was damaged in this manner. It would no longer shut straight.) The highlight of this portion was the glacial lake of Jokulsarlon. It was formed in the early twentieth century when the glacier retreated. From the parking lot, I walked down to the shore of the lake and sat for a while and watched the large ice blocks moving in the lake. Seals could be seen in the distance bobbing up and down in the water. The outlet of the lake was a small river which led to the ocean. Icebergs floated down this outlet to the ocean where they were ground up on the beach. It was great just to sit there and listen. Over the howl of the wind, one could hear the ice creaking, groaning, and breaking up in the water. While I was doing this, a spotted seal surfaced right near me and swam on its back watching me. While walking along the lake shore I came across a dead baby seal that must have been crushed in the iceflows. [read on]