Sightseeing around Lake Myvatn

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Hi, this is Emmett S, coming to you live from Akureyri, our new home base.

Today we travelled from Skalanes, the nature reserve on the East Coast, to Akureyri, a large (for Iceland) city on the North Coast. Our route took us into the barren, windswept highlands. Patches of green moss and grass were interspaced with bare, black and brown dirt and rocks. As we drove along, I imagined how hard it was to traverse that landscape with only a trusty steed for company. Being in any fog or mist would be immediately disorienting. There would be nothing to mark your path except stone cairns. It’s no wonder many parts of Iceland were isolated for so long.

We made a few stops during the day. Our first was at a colorful rock canyon called Moira (not to be confused with Moria from Lord of the Rings).

No retouching of this photo occurred. The water is that color, and the walls are painted by minerals leaching through the porous rocks.

Next we drove to Namafjall Hverir geothermal area, which had hot pots and fumaroles (vents). The area stank of sulfur and the wind was intense. We hopped out of the vans to see a the small vents and bubbling pools, and quickly got back into our vehicles to make a quick trip over the mountain to Lake Myvatn.

A smoking fumarole
A mud pot, boiling away.

At the lake, we did a short hike into a lava tube that contained hot water suitable for swimming. Then the group split. Most of us went on a longer hike to another lava tube, while a few of us went to Sigurgeir’s Bird Museum where we saw the unique moss balls. We also spotted Horned Grebes, a Red-throated Diver, Velvet Scooters, and a Tufted Duck swimming in Lake Myvatn, along with many other waterfowl we didn’t have time to identify.

Underneath this stone crack is hot water for bathing!
These moss balls, made from the filamentous green algae Aegagropila linnaei, only occur in only two places in the entire world – Lake Akan in Japan, and Lake Myvatn in Iceland. They are thought to form due to the action of the wind on the water.

After that, a small group drove ahead to Akureyri to get groceries and make dinner. The rest of the group climbed up to the rim of Hverfjall Caldera, where we were met with lovely views and extremely intense wind. We hiked the entire rim of the caldera, then drove to Akureyri where we had dinner and an early evening. You’ll find out why tomorrow!

The Hverfjall Caldera, from the top. The rim is about 2 miles around.
Leaning into the wind at the top of the caldera.
Some of the crew at Godafoss.

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