Three Wet Days in Iceland

Since we still don’t have a house to move in to, we thought we’d go on holiday for a week or so, and since the weather has been so lovely in Britain, we opted for Iceland, where we figured we’d be bound to get the sort of weather we expect from an English summer!

Day one saw us fly in to Reykjavik and spend a pleasant afternoon visiting the thermal areas and lava flows nearby. We started with Krisuvik, which featured boiling springs and mud pools, and then continued along the south coast to Reykjarnes, which had lots of steaming springs plus an uncapped borehole putting out steam under huge pressure with an ear-splitting roar. We also walked out to the south-easternmost point in Iceland, which had some spectacular cliffs and a bright red old lava flow. From there we headed to Reykjavik to wander around the town.

Hot springs near Krisuvik.
Hot springs near Krisuvik in the rain.

The next morning we began with another walk around Reykjavik, and lunch with my old friend Ari who now works at Reykjavik University. The city itself is lovely – interesting architecture, very friendly, and full of interesting shops. Then we set off to see some more of the countryside. First stop was Thingvellir, originally the place where major gatherings happened, and also where Iceland declared its independence. It also happens to be a spectacular landscape, with dramatic canyons caused by spreading as it is right on the mid-Atlantic ridge. A fantastic place to see geology in action!

Looking up the hill to Reykjavik Cathedral.
Looking up the hill to Reykjavik Cathedral.

After Thingvellir, we drove on to Geysir, the namesake of geysers all over the world. Sadly it doesn’t play any more, but the area features lots of small erupting springs as well as the spectacular Strokkur, a geyser that erupts (quite briefly) every 5 minutes or so. It’s really spectacular as you can look right into the pool it erupts from, so you can see the bubble of steam come up the throat of the geyser and push the water into a great hemisphere before it shoots skywards. Another fine feature of the village of Geysir is that the camp-site is right next to the thermal area so we were lulled to sleep by the sound of mud pools!

Strokkur begins an eruption.
Strokkur begins an eruption.

The next morning, after a brief second visit to Strokkur, we headed on to Gullfoss, one of Iceland’s biggest waterfalls, where a massive river tumbles into a slot canyon, sending spray everywhere. Unfortunately, as with each of the preceding days, the weather wasn’t being kind to us, so we got to see Gullfoss in the pouring rain.

Given the weather forecast, we decided to head East in search of sunshine. After leaving Gullfoss we drove on to Seljalandsfoss, another spectacular waterfall that you can walk behind. A short walk further on was another waterfall, this time falling into a canyon so tight there was just room for the river. Heading in to the canyon was rather like caving with a huge waterfall pouring in through the ceiling!

Seljalandsfoss in the rain.
Seljalandsfoss in the rain.

We continued East to Seljavellir, a beautiful, waterfall-filled valley with a hot spring in the middle of it. The 20 minute walk in the rain from the car, featuring a river-crossing, was made worthwhile by the lovely swimming pool in the middle of nowhere. We spent quite a time in the warm water before reluctantly getting out into the now heavy rain for the walk and wade back to the car. We continued to drive East, camping for the night at the foot of a huge glacier at Skaftafell…

Swimming in the thermal pool at Seljavellir.
Swimming in the thermal pool at Seljavellir in the rain.

Core blimey!

Today we got our first chance to look around the newly completed core store at work! The store is immense. It holds around 10 000 tonnes of rock and brings together 3,000,000,000 years of earth history into one building.

The older part of the core store holds a collossal 200 km of onshore core, plus around 150 km more as cuttings and a further 15,000 discrete borehole samples! The new extension will be housing the BGS collections currently held elsewhere, and these comprise 12,000 m of offshore core and a further 15,000 seabed samples.

You may wonder why the British Geological Survey would want to hold so much geological material. Well first, geologists really like rock, most of them just can’t get enough of it and secondly, core is really expensive to drill and so our archives provide academics and commercial companies with the chance to view core for almost nothing.


There are lots and lots of these core aisles …. probably about 10-12 in total in the older parts of the store.

More core!

You can just about see the gaggle of friends at the end of the aisle!

And here are the new empty racks awaiting material. The new stacks are really clever. They’re all motorised so that the geologists can fit even more rock into one room!

Space for much more core!

The motorised stacks in the new building

Oh schist that’s so gneiss, amirite?

Rab MM 2010

The Rab mountain marathon this year began from Bampton in the eastern Lakes. Unfortunately I wasn’t feeling particularly on form and hence both days were a bit of a trial (for me and for Richard, given my moans). Nevertheless, we kept going, partly so that we could try out the new 850 g tent. Unfortunately we managed to pitch it on the coldest, most uncomfortable piece of field imaginable, so the night was long and tiresome. Anyway, we got around and came a respectable second. Although, because we had previously won the prize that was being offered for second place, we swopped prizes with the third place team and hence came away with very lovely sets of hats and gloves.

Prize giving
Drying out the new tent!

On a different note, for those with iphones, download the free British Geological Survey app “igeology” to see what is beneath your feet.