Category Archives: Landscape

What do you do if you are lost…

Stafafura – Lodgepole pine – Pinus contorta

“What do you do if you are lost in an Icelandic forest?” used to be a popular joke, the answer being “you stand up!” Today this joke is obsolete. Spruce and pine forests are growing very fast all over the country and the trees at Snæfoksstaðir probably at least 12-15 metres high or more.

A Sunday stroll in the forest makes the weekend perfect. Nothing beats being outside in the fresh air, surrounded by  trees and bird song.

Winter Solstice

Selfoss, South Iceland at 13:30, 21 Dec.
The shortest day of the year and the longest night have just passed. We wake up to a new day which is supposedly a tiny bit longer than the last one and hopefully a bit brighter. Winter solstice was yesterday. December has been dark, literally speaking. No snow here in South Iceland to brighten up our days, mostly rain with overcast skies. Christmas lights, however, make up for the lack of daylight in the Yuletide celebrations. – Happy holidays and peace on Earth.

Remains of an ancient birch forest

Drumbabót with a view to Glacier Mýrdalsjökull

The forest in Drumbabót was destroyed by a huge flood originated from an eruption in Glacier Mýrdalsjökull some 45 km away. The surge of water and glacial sediment swept away and broke tree stems as big as 30 cm in diameter. This eruption in the autumn of 822, most likely in the volcano Katla, wreaked havoc. Forest remains have in the last century been emerging from the sands by the River Þverá in Fljótshlíð, South Iceland. These are the remains of an ancient birch forest, which covered an area of over 100 hectares. This gives credence to the Icelandic Sagas which say that Iceland was more or less covered with trees from mountain to shore at the time of the settlement which is believed to have begun some fifty year later.

Hafnarhólmi – Borgarfjörður Eystri in East Iceland

Lundi – Puffin – Fratercula arctica

Hafnarhólmi islet by Borgarfjörður Eystri in East Iceland is a perfect place to observe Puffins and Kittiwakes, as well as some other sea birds. The time of year is late April until the middle of August but then the birds return out to sea. Not only is it a nice spot for birders but Borgarfjörður Eystri is also special for its beautiful mountain scenery although it is a bit out of the way and the roads are sometimes rough.

Hafnarhólmi is part of the small harbour giving it shelter from the open sea. The islet is covered with Puffin holes and Puffins can be seen flying in and out of them. When Puffins are observed in sea cliffs often you can only see them from above unless in a boat. Here you can look almost straight into the holes and might even see a little one peering out. In Hafnarhólmi you can expect to see Puffins, Kittiwakes, Fulmars and Common Eiders.

Hafnarhólmi is by the harbour located a few km from the small town. To facilitate birdwatching several staircases have been built, as well as a bird hide. Access to the area is free but guests are asked to donate to help maintain the area.

Longest day of the year

It is summer solstice – the shortest night of the year. Sunset was at 23:55 and sunrise at 2:57. These are magical nights when the sun is setting and rising so soon afterwards. This photo was taken at 1:30, in the darkest hours, over Ölfusá River and Mount Ingólfsfjall. Now is such a lovely time to go camping because everything is easier when there is light.

At 1:30 in the night

There is more or less daylight all the time and does not get totally dark until July 20. No northern lights can be seen until the middle of August.

Eldgjá Canyon – South East Interior

Eldgjá

Eldgjá canyon was formed in an eruption in the year 939 – 940 and the lava it produced is typical for the Katla Volcanic System.  It is a 75 km long crack, up to 600 meters wide and 200 meters deep – the longest volcanic canyon in the world.  The eruption produced about 4.5 km3 of aerosols and 18 to 19 km3 of lava which spread over 800 km2 – making it the largest lava field in historic times.

The stone arch in 1977

Ófærufoss is an interesting waterfall that was formed in the eruption. The waterfalls are two and there used to be a very spectacular stone arch across the lower one. It was very popular to walk over this stone bridge but, alas, in spring floods in 1993 the stone arch collapsed.

Ófærufoss without the stone arch

Brighter days

In February the sun crawls a little bit higher in the sky. We feel its rays warming up our days albeit just slightly.  After the darkness of December and January it feels nice to go out during midday to feel its rays on ones skin. Although the weather has been very turbulent we have had a few nice days in the last couple of weeks as these photos show.

Frost formations

Frost Boils, ca. one foot in diameter, South Iceland.

Circles or “Frost Boils” are formed when wet surfaces and mud freezes. This happens where there is no vegetation to bind the soil. The soil expands and pushes up the gravel that is in the way, the bigger stones moving outwards to the sides creating a circle. These rings are about one foot in diameter but in the highlands where there is permafrost they can become several meters.

Winter Solstice

Today, December 21, is the northern winter solstice. It is when the sun’s elevation in the sky is at its lowest, i.e. the shortest day of the year and the longest night. Here in Selfoss  sunrise  was at 11:15 and sunset at 15:29 and the sun is just 2.7° over the horizon at midday.

After tomorrow the days will start to get longer, something almost everyone looks forward to. Happy Solstice 🙂