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Iceland 2017 - GCSE Geography Field Trip

During the October half term, a very lucky group of Year 11 Geographers, ourselves included, got the incredible opportunity to visit Iceland for four days and see the various wonders it has to offer.  After a rather early start on Friday morning, we all set off eagerly to Heathrow, where we all stocked up on a very delicious set of pancakes and maple syrup before boarding our flight to Iceland. After a very short 3 hours up in the air filled with watching movies on Icelandair’s entertainment system, we arrived in Iceland.  All of us were very happy to find out that our first item on the agenda for our jam-packed trip was dinner in a very lovely cabin-like restaurant, where we ate delicious lasagne and chocolate pudding.

After a very long day of travelling, we all got the pleasure of relaxing in Iceland’s famous and absolutely beautiful Blue Lagoon. Here, we quickly showered and changed into our bathing suits before entering the 30 degree water. For about 2 hours, we relaxed in the warm water, drank delightfully cold Pepsis from the swim-up bar and gave ourselves facemasks using the natural clay found embedded in-between the crevices of the rocks surrounding the lagoon. When our session came to an end, we headed back to our hotel and were all in bed by 10 after a fantastic first day in Iceland.

On the second day, our exciting itinerary did not fail to amaze us all further, commencing our day at Seljalandsfoss: a beautiful, cascading waterfall where we were able to walk behind it and watch the incredible 60 metre waterfall spill over a former sea cliff, whilst experiencing a decent spray coming from the exceptionally quick water. Following this incredible experience, we were amazed further by our Glacier Walk at the foot of Hekla, an Icelandic volcano. After fitting on our crampons and learning how to use an ice axe, we started to walk up the glacier where amazingly the remnants of volcanic ash from Hekla’s eruption of 1918 and the Eyjafjallajökull eruption of 2010 were still present. When we reached a rather flat plain of ice, we managed to put our newly found ice axe skills to work and created many small dents on the ice’s surface. We then returned back to land and ate our lunch with the incredible views of Iceland’s landscape surrounding us.

Next, we visited our second waterfall of the day called Skogafoss which was even larger and more powerful than the previous one, followed by a lovely walk along the black sand beach, Reynishverfi, where we saw the impressive basalt cliffs and caves.  For our last part of the second day, we visited Loftsalir where we saw an incredible display of unusual rock formations and took many pictures with the beautiful ocean backdrop behind us.  We then headed back to our hotel, where we participated in a pub-style quiz, testing our movie, music, general knowledge and Icelandic Geography skills.

It was around 6:30 when, as usual, we were woken up unwillingly. Halfway through the trip now and there was still much to be done. Another action packed day lay ahead of us and in our opinions probably the best day. After this early start, we were whisked off on the coach to the Eyjafjallajökull Visitor centre, situated just below the volcano and next to a farm. Here we got to admire the picturesque views of the glacier in the distance and a fairly typical farm just over the road. A truly spectacular vision of nature.

At the visitor centre we were sat down and watched a film about the volcanic eruption and, in particular, the story of the farm and the family who occupied it. Through real life videos of the spectacular event and with the family telling their story it gave us an account of what exactly happened and the effects for the people. The volcano “Eyjafjallajökull” meaning ‘island mountain glacier’ is a type of volcano on a constructive plate boundary where the two huge tectonic plates move apart (North American and Eurasian).   A 500m wide fissure opened up underneath an ice sheet and produced ash and lava set to cause chaos. The farm ended up being fine. The cattle were kept in barns and the crops in the end were better than ever due to the nutritious ash that lay over it. This video gave good insight into the eruption and helped to further our understanding and give context to the eruption.

After this we were treated to another lagoon, but this time it was the ‘Secret Lagoon’. It turned out not to be so secret though being rather busy with tourists in such a small place. I think most of us thought that this lagoon wasn't as good as the Blue Lagoon. There was much more of a sulphuric smell and it was quite hot! But it was nice to experience it and we enjoyed exploring the geyser situated next to the lagoon. They told us, quite obviously, not to go in the fenced off bit but if you got near a stream which fed into the lagoon you could experience the heat of the geyser and it was very hot! I think also the fact that the Blue Lagoon was more developed and you had access to the bar was an added benefit. After a quick dip in the lagoon with fish and chips for some afterwards we hastily moved on to our next destination.

Gulfoss waterfall is one of the most photographed waterfalls in Iceland and rightly so. Dropping 33m and spanning far and wide this waterfall is truly amazing. We could walk down to a viewing platform situated right next to the waterfall which gave us a close up view of it and really put the size into perspective. A short stop here and away we went to the Geysers. There are very few geysers in Iceland and this group ranging from very small to very large geysers were quite the sight. Only one spouted a significant amount of water which made us wait for a while to see it. And when it did eventually erupt it was a bit of a disappointment really only spouting up a couple of metres. Luckily later we managed to see it make a huge eruption of boiling water and mist which was much to our surprise as you can’t really tell when it will erupt.

I think this is a good time to mention our wonderful tour guide Marta. She was extremely interesting giving us good insight into the places whilst keeping us awake on the bus journeys with her amusing jokes. She was an excellent tour guide and gave us good information about Iceland. Here at the Geysers she told us about the different names of each one and told us information like that the biggest geyser does not erupt anymore due to it being dormant for now.  Throughout the trip she was very informative and we were all sad to see her go at the end.

Back to the trip. After our trip to the Geysers we went off to see, and in our opinion one of the highlights of the trip, the plate boundary between the Eurasian Plate and the North American Plate. This constructive plate boundary is a sight to be marvelled at with 8km of new land between the two continents. This land is used for peace talks as it is considered to not be on a specific continent. Also this place is valid highly by the Icelandic people with them holding their special events here and gatherings. We absolutely agree that this is an amazing place. This area has been used for Game of Thrones and other TV shows and we can see why. Walking up to the top of the cliff edge is quite daunting with the looming edge of the cliff above you, but it is quite something to look at and we’re glad we got to see it.

After this walk we were quite glad to be back on the bus and much to our enjoyment we then went for dinner at the Hamburger Factory in Reykjavík. The food was very good here and a welcome break to the hotel food and service station sandwiches.  It was also quite an experience too. It has this sort of retro feel to it and we like how when a new baby is born in Iceland they ring a bell. The food is also great and we enjoyed the chance to have a good chat with friends around a proper meal.  The Burgers are slightly different from the fact that they are square burgers not the traditional round. We found this different and weird but a nice change.

Then we went back for our last night in Iceland. We stayed in the T10 hotel which was pretty good. It had everything we needed and gave us a laugh when we saw our mates being stuck in a room of 7! Anyway after a good sleep and a bit more of a lie in we had breakfast and got on our way.

Less of a set day this time with us having an hour or so to wander around Reykjavík and experience the city where 60% of the population resides in. It was quite a difference compared to the rest of Iceland because there were actually skyscrapers and modern buildings. Although it is very pricey to buy things here, probably due to the fact that Iceland’s major income is from Tourism.  After our meander through the city we walked to another filming. This time it was about Iceland’s creation, entitled ‘Fire Ice and Northern Lights’. This gave us more of an insight into the creation of Iceland and it was very informative for us (excluding the ones who fell asleep!). This gave us a good break from the busy day.

Before we left we were treated to one more activity, the Perlan viewing platform over Reykjavík. This gave us some stunning views of the city and gave context to just how big the city was compared to Iceland. After this quick trip we were shortly hustled off to the coach and to the Airport which meant we had to go home.

Well what a trip!  Filled with exciting experiences across a truly magnificent country; a once in a lifetime opportunity to see a place that is constantly changing and who knows, it may be completely different in 10, 20, 30 years. Only time will tell.  We would like to say a huge ‘thank you’ to Mr Smith and the Geography Team for organising it for us – we will never forget it.

Written by Chloe Smyth and Calum Fryatt

Year 11 Geographers