Alien Landscape

This was my second visit to Iceland.  Two years ago I went with my husband, and this time I returned with my fourth daughter Susie. As soon as we began to leave the airport area in Reykjavik  my daughter said. “Wow Mum, this landscape looks like another planet.” A good observation.

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Iceland is totally volcanic, with very little soil for growing crops. The landscape is made up from previous volcanic eruptions where eventually the rocks and boulders become covered in a type of moss/lichen which in places becomes quite thick. The Icelandic sheep wander from mossy knoll to mossy knoll  grazing.

Our first stop was at boiling mud pools. Signs reminded people not to touch because of burns. However, I am sure some people ignored the warnings to their cost.  It was a large area where steam was coming up through crevices and you could hear the hissing as well as see the steam. It was erie seeing wispy tendrils of steam rising in so many places.  A reminder that under the surface the ground rumbled and gurgled with intense heat. I wondered how the local people lived with the day to day knowledge that things could change very quickly and disrupt their lives.


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In other parts it was pools of boiling blue grey and brown mud. Murky, and strange to watch as it boiled and bubbled. Macbeth came to mind of the witches as they chanted over their boiling potions.


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We went to Volcano House in Reykjavik where they had great exhibits of volcanic rock and black sand. Also a very interesting movie on past eruptions.  We were encouraged to experiment with a piece of rock by putting it in a glass of water. It was so light and porous that it floated. It was very much a hands on experience type of place which was great for kids and adults alike. The exhibition was free, but there was a charge for the movie. You could also eat fish and chips in the adjoining restaurant. All food in Iceland is expensive compared to North American standards.


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Most of the attractions in Iceland are free. But then there is a charge to use the washrooms. Usually $1-$2 US. They are very serious about this.  You can pay by credit card and often have to enter through turnstiles which scan your ticket obtained from the machines..


This is a photo I took on a black volcanic sand beach in Vik. Notice the grey porous rock which caught my eye.

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Iceland is a place where a mid-ocean ridge can be seen on land

What’s more, Iceland is probably the only place in the world where the effects of two major tectonic plates drifting apart can easily be observed above sea level.

As well as its astounding beauty, the dramatic landscape at Þingvellir (Thingvellir) offers a chance to sight, on land and in shallow waters, the tectonic processes occurring along the submarine parts of a divergent ridge; processes that have been at play for millions of years.


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It felt strange being able to walk between these two plates from different continents.


The tectonic plates whose turbulent interactions formed Iceland, are the Eurasian tectonic plate and the North American tectonic plate. Spanning the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, Iceland emerged as a result of the divergent, spreading, boundary between these two continents.

A  tectonic plate, often also referred to as lithospheric plate, is a massive slab of solid rock that floats separately from the other tectonic plates, interacting with them along the boundaries. The continents are embedded in the tectonic plates and drift inertly along. The reason that tectonic plates are able to move, despite their colossal weight, is that the two types of crust, continental and oceanic, differ significantly in composition. The continental crust is predominantly made up of granitic rocks, whilst the oceanic crust consists of higher density basaltic rocks (therefore heavier), enabling the tectonic plates to float, not unlike icebergs.


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So much water and peat type bogs I think they were.   Beyond we found the large cracks that were full of crystal clear water.


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Yes, people have thrown in coins despite notices asking you not to do it.

At the back we saw a family of geese swimming off into the distance. It was a wondrous sight to see flowers, birds and wildlife


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These cracks were quite deep. The water was so clear and the reflections quite beautiful.

In this area on the higher ground was the site of the first parliament. The people were Vikings and justice was swift and cruel.

Everywhere we went it was magical and did not quite feel real. But, Oh so pretty.