Iceland really does have an ice cap atop the island. It’s called Vatnajokull. The average thickness of the ice is 400 m (1,300 ft), with a maximum thickness of 1,000 m (3,300 ft). Beneath this huge ice field is a whole array of volcanos and fissures, many of which are still quite active. This ice field is surrounded by glaciers that have been oozing downhill, as it were, for hundreds of years now. They are mostly receding now, due to the effects of climate change, and have left many kilometers of gravel and rock behind in its path to the sea.
One of the “easiest” ones to visit is Skaftafellsjökull glacier, “just steps away” from the parking lot… I hasten to add that Miami is also “just steps away” from Seattle, too… in reality though, the glacier is only about a thirty minute fast”stroll” through low scrubby terrain. Less than two miles.
After five minutes, it doesn’t seem to be getting any closer.
After ten minutes, we left George and Pat behind.
After fifteen minutes, the trail changed from flat gravel to a rockier path. It was at this point where some skinny little 98+ year old Asian lady charged up the trail towards me like I was standing still. Damn her, nobody likes a showoff! As you can surely imagine, especially with my being young, masculine, and virile like Rambo (and totally exhausted from previous hikes on previous days… and they were uphill, into the wind, both ways!*), I might have allegedly been a little embarrassed that she was overtaking me so rapidly. So… I did the only reasonable thing: I shaded my eyes from the sun and scanned back toward the parking lot… pretending to be looking and waiting for someone… all the while trying not to breath too heavily!
After twenty minutes of huffing, puffing, and trekking, I discovered a really nice, brand-new, baby carriage abandoned along the path, all alone next to the rocks, it’s little wheels looking pitifully inadequate for the task at hand.. (Do they make motorized ATV prams with tundra tyres?)
After about twenty-five minutes I was beginning to wonder what the… then there it was. Cool, frosty, huge, dirty, sooty, treacherous, were the words that came to mind. I love glaciers.
Although it’s a little difficult, if you squint (a lot) and peer along the base of the glacier, you can see two people walking along the face… no, no, not those, the Other two! I think I can see the tumultuous tourist crowds of… um… four adult people down there.
Okay, okay, If you don’t want to squint, let me zoom in with the ol’ Z-Key… See ’em now?
I wonder… did they see the sign that suggested it was probably not a good idea to climb across the glacier? Why, you ask? Glaciers have crevasses, or cracks in the ice, that may only go down ten meters or so, or forty meters, or…
Oh. And they have moulins, too. Moulins are the holes or wells that drain meltwater from the top of the glacier to the base gravel. I think that one should always avoid stepping into these, at least during the early part of your day, in order to continue enjoying your afternoon. And your life. If the fall doesn’t do you immediately lethal harm, you should be probably be aware that your badly broken body will more that likely be laying in water that’s 2 degrees Celsius. The good news!? Your consciousness and your pain’s not going to last very long.
Oh, did I mention quicksand? No, really. Quicksand forms when large blocks of ice break away from the glacier and melt on mud or sand. It is not always visible, so the caution remains: always walk on coarser gravel. Sounded legit to me, so I stayed on the ruff stuff.
Thos clear ice is eons old, pure, except for a few germs that may have survived a few thousand years, and very, very cold. I purloined (yes, blatantly stole) some this out of a bay in Antarctica a couple of years ago. Loaded it into the floor of the zodiac and hauled it back to the ship to share with everyone, and that ice lasted for hours laying in a big sink. That stuff’s so COLD… “How cold is it?” …it’s SO COLD that a chunk will still be in your glass on your third scotch. Maybe even more.
Your mileage may vary.
You know, I think that it’s almost time for me to check my own mileage. I believe I’ll head back to the hotel to get a double scotch, get naked, get horizontal, and get some shut-eye. In that precise order.
We got ice for our drinks today, but tomorrow, we’re gonna get rowdy and SHOOT THE BIRDS. A lot of birds. Then for a nice on-board fresh seafood buffet like you’ve never been to before. Did I say “fresh”? Oh, baby!