Since the beginning of December we have had temperatures well below zero, more than – 20° C some days. Last night it was -16° C. Circumstances have been compared to the winter of 1918, but temperatures this low for such an extended period have not been recorded here in Iceland since then. Talking about extremes, November also broke a record for being the warmest November since the beginning of the century.
Here we are in the middle of January and although forecasts predict temperatures above zero it is only for a day or two and then again frosty weather.
Here in Selfoss there are heaps of snow and with this continuing we do not foresee it melting until spring. Also, it will be interesting to see the heating bills once they arrive. Thanks to hot geothermal water our houses are mostly warm and only big users like swimming pools that have had to close down temporarily.
Not only has the weather been compared to 1918 but also the health of the nation. That year the Spanish flu, also known as the Great Influenza, is believed to have infected around 500 million people all over the world. Now cases of influenza, COVID, RS virus and other respiratory diseases have surged in Iceland and medical centres and hospitals are overcrowded with patients. Thanks to advances in medical science we are nowhere near what happened in 1918.
Now we should just try to enjoy the snow and the Northern Lights that are at a peak at this time of year.
We hope you enjoy these pictures from Selfoss, taken in December and January.
In Stuðlagil Canyon you can see one of Iceland’s largest and most beautiful collection of basalt columns. The canyon is in Jökuldalur, or Glacial Valley, in East Iceland. The drive from Egilsstaðir takes about one hour. The canyon is about 500 m long, with basalt columns of about 20-30 m on both sides of the river.
The longest river in Iceland, Jökulsá á Dal, also called Jökla, runs through the canyon. After the hydroelectric plant at Kárahnjúkar was built in 2007 there is less water in the river. The result is that more of the basalt formations in Stuðlagil Canyon have become visible making the site a very popular scenic attraction.
Stuðlagil Canyon is a place worth visiting. The hike from the east side takes less than 30 minutes (one way) if you drive over the bridge along a dirt road to the new parking area. Visiting the canyon from the west side does not involve a hike. There you go down the canyon by a steep stairway, about 200 steps, leading down to the river. We recommend going from the east side and taking the path although that takes up more of your time. There is more to see from there.
The canyon Stuðlagil has become a popular scenic attraction in the last decade.
One year has passed since the beginning of the volcanic eruption in Geldingadalir. It started March 19 2021 and lasted six months. The longest eruption in Iceland in the 21st century and in many ways different from what was expected. It started calmly but as the weeks passed it became more energetic, with regular pauses in between. In the end a lava shield had formed consisting of many layers of lava.
The eruption became well known worldwide and a lot of tourists visited the site of the eruption. Most with the aim of hiking to the sight and experiencing it from a short distance.
The eruption in Geldingadalir, Reykjanes Peninsula, is an extraordinary event, and the longest lived eruption in the 21 century, lasting 181 days. Although the area has been considered active, the last eruption in Reykjanes Peninsula was around 800 years ago. Geologists say that we are now entering an era of volcanic activity in this area which has several active volcanoes.
The eruption seems to be over but there are still earth quakes in the area and some smoke coming from the crater and the lava. In the middle of November the Icelandic Met Office confirmed that uplift has started again south of Fagradalsfjall and north of Keilir.
The eruption in Geldingadalir started on March 19 2021 after a period of earthquakes.
At first there were several rather small fissures that spewed lava and then closed, and a new one or two opened.
In April one crater became dominant and for six months it went from being very active to less active, with a few short dormant periods in between.
At times the lava flowed extensively and there was concern that it would reach the road and the town of Grindavík. But these were never in any actual danger. The lava flow was never constant resulting in accumulation of layers of lava in the same areas.
There was a lot of interest in this eruption and Icelanders as well as tourists came from all over the World to experience the sensation of seeing a volcanic eruption and feeling the heat from the flowing lava. Most days thousands of people hiked to the site and although it is not far from the urban area it is considered remote wilderness. Rescue teams had a busy time assisting and finding people who had lost their way or were injured e.g. broken bones. Although the eruption has ceased, the site is still a popular scenic attraction.
Ornosk went several trips to the volcanic site and took some interesting pictures. These are a few of them from different times.
It is November already and Christmas around the corner. How time flies. Our web ORNOSK.COM has not been up to par the last year or so. However, better times are ahead. We have moved the hosting to Iceland and problems with SSL certificate and Facebook sharing have been resolved. The last two years have been very special for us, to say the least. Not only COVID restrictions but also some health issues. Yes, we have been seriously reminded that we are not growing any younger. – Our resolve is to continue blogging and emphasise the essential role birds have in our ecosystems.
There has been a peak in solar activity in the last few days but cloudy skies here in the South have often prevented us from seeing them clearly and photographing them. The North of the country, however, has enjoyed clearer skies and some magnificent shows of Aurora Borealis.
These photos were taken by Lake Þingvallavatn a few days ago when the the clouds gave way to the Northern Lights. Its colours were reflected in the frozen lake and the moon lit up the scenery.
A few nights ago we had some strong Northern Lights in green and beautiful red to pink colours. They could be seen dancing across the sky over Selfoss despite the lights from town.
Again we post a picture of the beautiful Rowan tree at Sandfell in Öræfasveit planted in 1923 beside the family farmhouse. In 1947, however, this old church site and parsonage was abandoned. In South Iceland Rown trees rarely reach such a high age as this one, almost 100 years old.
This tree is by many considered the most beautiful Rowan in Iceland. In 2015 it received the title “Tree of the year”by the Icelandic Forestry Association. It is 11 metres high with seven stems. In autumn each stems displays varied colours. This difference is due to the amount of water in each stem, resulting in these magnificent autumn colours of leaves in different stages of wilting. See also Tree of the year 2015.
A lot of flowers are in full bloom now in the interior. Vegetation, however, is more often very scarce at this altitude for several reasons. The weather is not favourable, the soil is sandy and is on the move in stormy weather. Therefore the interior is heavily affected by grazing sheep. Letting these domestic animals lose in the interior for the summer has been a custom in Iceland since the Middle Ages. In the moonlike environment, the black sands made of volcanic minerals and lava, are often dominant and it is no wonder that flowering plants are on the top of the menu for the wandering sheep.
Coming across fields of wild mountain flowers in the highlands is very often a great surprise and nothing less than heavenly. Hiking this week we were so happy to come across such a delight.
The mountainside was covered with different kinds of wild flowers in bloom. These include velvet bells, snow gentian, moonwort, rock speedwell and many more. The blue colours of snow gentians and rock speedwells caught the eye and a great surprise was to see a field of wood cranesbill and meadow buttercups high up in the mountainside.
Tonight was the shortest night of the year – summer solstice. Sunset was at 23:55 and sunrise at 2:57. These are nights full of colour when the sun is setting and rising so soon afterwards. This photo was taken at 2:30 in Selfoss, South Iceland, north over Ölfusá River. There is more or less daylight all night and does not get totally dark until July 20.
Reykjanes Peninsula is always a great area to visit with lots of interesting attractions. Gunnuhver is one of them. It is a hot spring in a bigger geothermal area, near the Lighthouse Reykjanesviti. It is the biggest mud pool in Iceland, 20 meters wide, with temperatures over 300°C. The area is on the Mid Atlantic rift and there are hot springs, mud pools, fumaroles and solfatara. – If you visit the area note especially that it is important to keep to the tracks as the area is highly active.
The hot spring gets its name from a female ghost the ended her days there some 400 years ago, or so they say. She had been a great nuisance until a priest set a trap for her and she fell into the hot spring. Her name was Gunna, thus Gunnuhver.