Iceland: Day 5

The day was a little less intense than the last few. It was gloriously sunny until mid- afternoon, not too windy, and a warm 20 degrees F. First, a nice walk around a small peninsula that juts into Lake Myvatn that included stunning elevated views of the lake and the standing rock formations along parts of the shore line. Also a walk through a forest of some native species (dwarf birch trees) and planted trees and other vegetation. It is interesting to note that the trees in the photo below are approximately 70 years old.

Lichens and mosses are on all surfaces. Lichens are well known pioneer species, so wherever the lava substrate is covered, it is either with lichens, or once was. The trees too, often have several lichen species on them of differing shades and forms. Some are familiar: reindeer moss is lush in this habitat. 

Today's favorite scene is of wending among the forest of birch trees, where our path curved along a little glade of snow. Up they flew: about 10 pure white ptarmigan with their black tails weaving through the warp of whitish-grey birches, then dividing in a cursive "Y" ahead of us. It will be a long time - I hope - before I forget the sense of steward for my covey that I felt at that moment. I am simply content to see that they were in that little forest. I did not need to capture them in any way (not with binoculars, or camera, or other,) and I pray that our presence did not disturb them long.

Next we went to an area of pseudo craters, and walked up and around several of the mounds. We paused often to take-in the view and geologic explanations of these pseudo craters and Lake Myvatn, once noting the horse riders crossing the ice.

At lunch we joined with all of Iceland for a traditional meal of pea soup, to which is added boiled potato, carrots, turnip, and salted lamb, on this Explosion Day - the last day of Carnavle, an Icelandic version of Fat Tuesday.

The afternoon took us to the geothermal fields of bubbling mud holes and frothy emissions of sulfur-laden steam. Ethereal to see, mesmerizing to fathom, and, for me,  repulsive to smell. Give me barrels of ode-d'lobster bait any day of the week. Much more pleasant was the next stop, where a local member of the community had baked us dark rye bread (very like Boston brown bread) in a hole that she owns for such baking. The bread had been cooking for 24 hours in this geothermal "oven", and was delicious, with or without slathered butter. Across the road from her oven the steam rising from the bore holes of the geothermal power plant were also billowing out. Ninety per cent of Iceland's heat and electricity is produced with It's geothermal resource.

The day ended with a remarkable visit to the Lake Myvatn visitors center. It is a wonderfully presented resource, and was tremendously enhance by Martina's discussion of Iceland geology - plate tectonics, glaciers, volcanoes and so much more. 

Snowing and blowing fiercely now, in spite of good aurora activity, sky and weather conditions do not allow for a view of the northern lights tonight. Peace.

Today's birds: Barrow's goldeneye, whooping swans, raven, & ptarmigan.

 

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70year old forest. 

 

 Geothermal field emitting sulfur-laden gases

Geothermal field emitting sulfur-laden gases