This week I’m going to be taking notes in SXSW talks by way of my blog. Here’s some brief notes from: Rebooting Iceland: Crowdsourcing Innovation in Uncertain Times
During my recent expedition across Iceland, I had the opportunity to venture northwards towards the North Pole to the rock island outpost of Grimsey. Read about my complete Expedition Around Iceland From Wikipedia: Grímsey is a small Icelandic island, 40 kilometres (25 mi) off the north coast of the main island of Iceland and straddling the Arctic Circle, which shifts northward by about 14.5 meters per year. In January 2011 Grímsey had 86 inhabitants. Until a vote in 2009 to amalgamate with Akureyri, it constituted the hreppur (municipality) of Grímseyjarhreppur, part of the county of Eyjafjarðarsýsla. The only settlement is Sandvík. Contents Grímsey is the northernmost inhabited Icelandic territory; the islet of Kolbeinsey lies further north, but is uninhabited. The closest land is the island of Flatey, Skjálfandi, 39.4 kilometres (24.5 mi) to the south. The Arctic Circle runs through the island, while the entirety of mainland Iceland lies south of the Arctic Circle. There are steep cliffs everywhere except on the southern shoreline. Grímsey has an area of 5.3 square kilometres (2.0 sq mi), and a maximum elevation of 105 metres (344 ft). A few photos:
This past July, 2010, I explored Iceland with my Finnish friend Sari Laukka. We rented a car in Iceland’s capital Reykjavik, and drove a complete lap around the country on Route 1. Route 1 is the only road that circumnavigates the entire country, and passes through an incredible amount of different terrain. Overall, the trip took us a full 7 days, and we drove almost 2000km in our small Ford Ka. Blog Posts from Iceland Road Tripping Around Iceland Intro Day One – Keflavik to Reykjavik Day Two – Reykjavik to Blonduos Day Three – Blonduos To Akureyri Day Four – Akureyri to Myvatn Day Five – Myvatn to Seydisfjordur Day Six – Seydisfjordur to Skaftafell Day Seven – Skaftafell to Vik Day Eight – Vik to Reykjavik Day Nine – Reykjavik Day Ten – Reykjavik to New York (Photos)
Today was our big East Iceland to South Iceland transit day, and we spent a significant portion of it on Route Once winding through foggy East fjords. We woke up at the beautiful campground in picturesque Seyðisfjörður, made a quick pit stop at the local supermarket for breakfast, and then hit the road. This South-Eastern section of Route One is still relatively new, and portions of it are still just dirt roads. Also, although portions of it are straight, the majority of the road here winds up and down the fjords, giving an incredible view out to the ocean. Sleepy fishing villages dot the coast, and we stopped at both Djúpivogur and Hofn for quick breaks. Hofn was especially nice, with a great information office too. Our big stop of the day was at the Jokulsarlon Lagoon. This spectacular lagoon sits at the end of the Breidamerkurjokull glacier, and is filled with huge floating chunks of blue shimmering ice. The lagoon is spectacular, and we did a quick hike around it. At the end of the lagoon, the water from the melting glacier flows out under a bridge, and forms a short river until it gets to the coast. At the intersection of the glacial melt river and the ocean, huge waves are created, and the black sand beach is littered with blocks of ice ranging from car sized to ice cube size. The contrast of the white ice on the black sand with waves crashing in the background was especially beautiful. Also notably, this lagoon was used in the James Bond film “Die Another Day” – the lagoon was specially frozen, and six Aston Martins were blown up on the ice. After Jokulsarlon, we continued on to Skaftafell, where we had a quick dinner, and then took an evening hike with one of the park rangers. Tonight we’re getting to sleep a bit early, in preparation for an early wake up and a day of hiking on the glaciers descending off of Hvannadalshnukur.
Although Iceland lies far north, its only stake of the arctic circle lies in the middle of a small rock island in the North Atlantic called Grímsey. We woke up early this morning at Joseph’s apartment, and make a quick getaway back to the bus depot in the center of Akureyri. We took the local bus an hour up the fjord to the small fishing village of Dalvik. Dalvik was a quaint fishing village, and from there, we caught the Grimsey ferry to Iceland’s northernmost point, and the only spot that crosses the arctic circle, Grimsey. The ferry ride was 3.5 hours, and for the first 2 hours of the trip across to Grimsey, our boat was surrounded by a thick, surreal layer of fog. Since we were sailing directly north towards the arctic circle, it felt like we were going into an unknown apocalypse – random sea birds swooping out of the fog at us, occasional dolphins swimming with the ship, and a stiff breeze over the bow. In addition to being a passenger ferry, the ship also acts as Grimsey’s main lifeline for food and supplies. While all the passengers were loading on, forklifts also loaded the cargo hold with palates of groceries, farm equipment, and empty fish containers coming back from a successful day at the market. Once we had docked in Grimsey, we were greeted by some of the locals – there are only 90 or so permanent residents of this northern rock, and the only real source of outsiders is from the three-times-a-week ferry, or daily prop plane flights into its small landing strip. Because of the predictable weekly small influx of tourists, the one restaurant and one shop get staffed by a few of the local kids on just these days. Along with our new Czech friend Petra, the three of had a relaxing lunch at the one restaurant, and then started the northerly hike towards the arctic circle. The actual crossing is somewhat un-spectacular – a simple signpost and line for photos – but significant nonetheless. After the line, the hike continues north another hour, to the puffin-inhabited northern cliffs of the island. Our stay at the northern tip, looking off to the north pole was short, and after that we hiked back to the harbor to relax before our ferry ride back. We returned by ferry to Dalvik, and then by bus to Akureyri. Petra was still with us, and we piled back in the car, picked up Petra’s gear at the camping site, got a quick Indian Food dinner at the Curry Shack, and then hit the road for Myvatn. Tonight the three of us are camping by Lake Myvatn, and plan on waking up early tomorrow morning to try out the Myvatn Nature Baths, and then explore the volcanic landscape.
Since the earth’s crust is so thin in Iceland, natural geothermal pools of water, locally called “hot pots”, are in almost every town. This morning Sari and I woke up at Christina’s apartment in Blönduós, and together with our Slovakian hitchhiker friend Martina, hopped back in the car and drove a ways down the road to Sau?arkrokur. We stopped for a minute to let Martina out at the petrol station in town, and then turned off Route 1, onto a smaller dirt road to the north. Dropping Martina off at a petrol station on the side of the road felt a bit strange, but since she was hitchhiking around Route 1, she said it was no problem, and that she’s surely find her next ride easily. She was traveling with a medium sized camping backpack, and had mostly been spending the nights camping in her tent at local campsites in the towns she was dropped off in. We turned off Route 1 and headed north towards the small farming town of Reykir, which is named after the region’s role in Iceland’s famous “Grettir’s Saga”. According to the Saga, Grettir swam ashore here, after a long 7.5 km swim from the flat-topped island of Dragney, and soothed himself at Reykir. Grettislaug is the geothermal pool that Grettir relaxed at during the 12th century, and still exists today. Sari and I arrived at Grettislaug in the afternoon, enjoyed a relaxing time sitting in the geothermal pool looking north into the Skagafjordur bay. After Grettislaug, we drove on to the 18th century turf farm museum Glaumbaer. The museum is a collection of 12 turf houses that give real-world insight into the living conditions that 18th century Icelandic farmers endured. Our last stop of the day was for well deserved pizza in downtown Akureyri, and then a quick walk around town, through the botanical gardens. Tonight we’re staying with Joseph, and tomorrow we’re waking up early to take the ferry to Grimsey.
Iceland is beautiful. Last night Sari finally got in to Reykjavik around 3:00, and met me, where I was already asleep, at Sabrina’s house. This morning we woke up early, and after walking around the Reykjavik harbor and finding breakfast, we hit the road for the Blue Lagoon. Since the earth’s crust is so thin in Iceland, the country is able to generate a significant amount of its power geothermally. They drill deep into the earth, and run water lines through hot portions of the earths crust, to make steam and drive electric turbines. When this heated water is done being used for power generation, it’s pumped out to large pools on the volcanic flats. Since the water is very pure and warm, it’s used by the public for bathing and relaxing, and the largest one, built just outside of Reykjavik, is the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon has an other worldly feel – the large steaming lake of milky white water is surrounded by a pitch black field of sharp lava rocks, with the steaming cooling towers from the power plant gleaming in the distance. Because of the minerals that are washed out from deep in the earth by the water, the lagoon is lined with a perfectly white, smooth silica mud. The mud is routinely used as a skin creme, which immediate softening effects. We had a great time relaxing for a few morning hours at the Blue Lagoon, and then got back in the car and drove north on Route 1 for Borgarnes. Arriving in Borgarnes, we passed through a 5km long underwater tunnel. Notably, when the tunnel was build in the sub-sea rock, the drilled out walls were never covered with anything – they’s still the raw rock, so it feels a bit like a very large mine shaft. Stark contrast to the tile-lined tunnels in NYC. In Borgarnes, we stopped briefly for a run through the town’s museum to learn about the Icelandic Sagas, and the drove through the dramatic western coastal terrain towards Blonduos. Tonight we’re staying with Christina at her apartment in Blonduos, along with another couchsurfer, Martina from Slovokia. We had a great dinner at the one local restaurant, hung out with the geese on the edge of the water, and now at 12:26 am, the sun has finally sunk below the horizon, and we’re going to sleep.
For that last 10 days in July, I’ll be taking a road trip around Iceland. My friend Sari and I are flying into Reykjavik, renting a car, and driving a full loop on Iceland’s Route 1. During the trip, we’ll be staying on couches, in hostels, B&B’s, Hotels, on farms, and in tents. I’m bringing along my iPhone 4, and will be hopefully posting daily updates to my blog, Jeffilla. All Iceland Road Trip posts will be tagged with “Iceland2010“. Stay tuned! I’ll also be updating my location in the field with my Spot Satellite Messenger – Track me! More reading on Iceland: New York Times Travel: Iceland’s Ring Road: The Ultimate Road Trip Iceland Tourist Board US Dept. Of State: Background Note: Iceland Photos tagged Iceland on Flickr