ICELAND 2016

img_4503 ABOUT: Sancton Wood Iceland geography field trip, October 2016

On 23rd October 2016, a team of 29 Sancton Wood students,  from Years 9,10 and 11, along with Mrs Corpas, Mr Parker and Mr Guerin jetted off to the land of fire and ice for an amazing 5 day field trip! We explored everything about this incredible volcanic island from amazing waterfalls cascading off basalt cliffs onto an old sea bed, its layers of cracked lava protruding from the wild landscape in every direction and its black sand beaches through to volcanoes, waterfalls and the mighty basalt columns of the dramatic southern shores. You can scroll down this page to see Mrs Corpas’ day by day journal of the trip which was written each evening for parents and colleagues.

Iceland is essentially one giant volcano made up of hundreds of smaller volcanoes, some of which are still very active (remember the Eyjafjallajökull eruption of 2010 that disrupted European air space? … We got to visit the area most affected). The island is still emerging slowly from the Atlantic ocean as the result of the growing divide between the American and European continents and the tectonic plates that they sit upon. As the plates divide, the enormous rift valley (Thingvellir – which we also visited) is still being created and is one of the few places on our planet where you can see diverging plate boundaries on the surface of the earth.

Iceland is in many ways a land of great heat for it relies upon and uses the abundant geothermal energy simmering beneath its surface (underground water being super-heated by its much closer proximity to Earth’s mantle)  for all parts of its life.  We visited inside a geothermal power station (the 6th largest in the world) and geothermal green houses. We saw (and smelled!) mud pools, hot springs and geysers, and swam in glorious geothermal pools including the iconic Blue Lagoon, fell about in an earthquake simulator and boiled eggs in a geothermal spring in the middle of a tiny town built on a bed of bubbling hot springs (Hveragerdi).

Lastly, but by no means least, Iceland is so named for a reason and we donned our crampons to tackle the last extreme of its southern ice cap on a glacial hike, chasing the retreating glacier Solheimajokull back up the majestic valley it carved thousands of years ago. And then had a go hacking at it with ice picks!

Some of the brilliant geographical themes our students explored  (but this time for real and in person!) included volcanoes, earthquakes and plate tectonics, coastal and marine processes, glacial erosion, geothermal power, geology, tourism, ecosystems and waterfalls and many more.

Please see below for photos of our exciting trip.

Mrs Corpas’ Iceland journal

ICELAND DAY 1

After a slight delay to our flight we arrived safely at Keflavik international airport and found our way to meet our guide and coach driver, all the while marvelling at the bleak but beautiful volcanic landscape around us. Students loved visiting the bridge that spans the continents and the hot springs and taking in the breathtaking coastal scenery before a long coach journey to our hotel and a rather late dinner. Tomorrow we are looking forward to walking behind a waterfall, cooking in a hot spring, visiting a geothermal power station and trying out the earthquake simulator…

Iceland DAY 2

We’re on our way back to the hotel after a very busy and fun day with a strong geothermal theme! We began with a fascinating visit to the Eyjafjallakokull visitor centre followed by a very wet visit to Seljalandsfoss waterfall where everyone braced sleet, hail and spray to climb behind the waterfall and enjoy the spectacular scenery. After lunch we began our geothermal tour, beginning with an exploration of the geothermal gardens of Hverageroi where the students boiled an egg in a geothermal stream and enjoyed eating them with geothermally steamed rye bread! We finished our day with a tour of the Hellosheiol geothermal power station but not before everyone thoroughly enjoyed a thought-provoking visit to the Hveragerdi earthquake simulator. There is no doubt all will be sleeping well tonight. We have to… we’re on a glacier hike tomorrow!

Evening update: great excitement! We have just been for a very icy walk out of town and were treated to an incredible display of the northern lights! The students are absolutely thrilled, their delight exceeded only by Mr Guerin’s, who has fulfilled a life-long dream tonight…

Iceland Day 3:

Today has been truly wet with strong winds and driving rain intermingled with a determined drizzle. Undeterred however, Sancton Wood students pulled on their crampons and tackled icy crevasses and steep slopes as we hiked along a huge glacier tongue. Views were magnificent in spite of the rain and the students discovered that there is something deeply satisfying in getting to hack at 700 year old ice with an ice axe! After lunch we were left breathless by the basalt beaches and textbook arches, stacks and stumps of the stormy beaches of Vik on the south coast. We finished the day on a high with a walk up to the mighty Skogafoss waterfall. The coach is abuzz with excited chatter as we make our way back to our hotel…

Iceland Day 4: 

What a day! Starting with a glorious  soak in a 38 degree geothermally heated swimming pool was truly relaxing and everyone braved the freezing air to visit a mini geyser by the side of the pool, partly to enjoy sinking back into the warm waters in order to defrost afterwards! We then made our way to visit the inside of a geothermal tomato greenhouse and see how tomatoes are pollinated by Dutch bees and grown all year round thanks to everlasting lights and a renewable energy source. We sampled tomatoes and tomato juice and learnt how the process works. Next we popped to the stables next door to stroke Icelandic horses and watch a charming display of their 5 gaits.

Next we began our Golden Circle tour where we marvelled at the majestic Gulfoss falls and visited Geysir to see a geyser erupt 3 times during our visit. Incredible!

Lastly we made our way to the world heritage site of Thingvellir, seat of the oldest outdoor parliament in the world and a stunning rift valley created by the constructive plate boundary of 2 tectonic plates drifting apart. Now we are sleepily making our way back to our last night’s hotel ready for the Blue Lagoon and our journey home tomorrow…

Iceland Day 5- last day!:

We’ve landed! After a slight delay to provide some first aid for a cut lip (all well now!) we are sitting in a traffic jam on M25 waiting to enter the Dartford tunnel (as one tunnel is closed) but all the students are chatting happily as we look forward to getting home.

This morning we drove around Reykjavik to get a feel for the colourful capital of Iceland and see the cathedral, parish church, the observatory and municipal buildings. We finished our fabulous trip with a glorious soak in the iconic Blue Lagoon so that we arrived at Keflavik airport rested and rejuvenated for our long journey home…