Iceland is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean. It was settled by Norwegians in the 9th Century, and today has a population of 330,000, making it the most sparsely populated country in Europe. But it is certainly geologically the most interesting place in Europe, sitting on a hotspot on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. It basically rose out of the sea, in volcanic eruptions, and is highly active, with volcanoes and geysers — the most famous one being Geysir, from which the English word derives.
Well, my geologist wife has been dying to visit the place for a long time, and she convinced me to take my first real holiday in 16 years to the place. We booked a fairly luxurious round trip with a German group and spent a week circling the island on the Ring Road N1, which connects all the inhabited parts of Iceland and passes the most interesting geological places.
So let’s dive in. The flight from Hamburg was comfortably short — just over three hours — and after an evening in the capital Reykjavik we embarked on the Ring Road trip, clockwise. In the following pictorial part you can click the images for a larger view — wait a second or two for it to resolve.
The Humpback (Megaptera novaeangliae) is a species of baleen whale, about 15 meters (50 feet) long and weighing 35 tons. They migrate up to 25,000 km (16,000 mi) per year, coming to the polar waters in the summer to feed and then swimming to tropical waters in winter to breed, there subsisting wholly on fat reserves.
Baleen whales, the biggest creatures to ever have inhabited the earth, feed exclusively on tiny krill and small fish. They do this by gulping huge quantities of water which they then press out of their mouths with their gigantic tongue, forcing the water through strong, flexible filters, baleen, made out of keratin (like the material in your hair and fingernails). Humpbacks have several hundred baleen plates hanging from their upper jaw.
This is roughly half the Iceland trip — here’s part two of my report. I would like to mention that on our first evening in the capital Reykjavik we explored the location of the chess Match of the Century, between Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer, which happened almost exactly forty-five years ago. I am writing up reports commentating this great event. This is the first part — more will follow in the series, each article appearing 45 years to the day after the events took place.