Busy weekend at Skálanes

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Some would think that weekends are for relaxing and doing nothing. Not for this group though! Despite it being a Saturday, we were hard at work as usual in Skálanes. The day started nice and early with breakfast to get us charged and ready for the work we were about to do. Some of us did drone flying over the land from the coastline all the way to the first ridge behind the house and the Ytri-Sanda river. Some of us worked on GCP locating, others on GoPro footage and WebODM work. All hands on deck!

Drone gear

As the evening started setting in, we all sat down for dinner together in the dinning room, as tradition. We had rice, chicken and bean curry. Yum! Perfect meal after a long day.

After dinner, some of us decided to go for a hike up one of the ridges behind the house. We set out at around 8:30pm, bundled up in warm clothes and full of excitement to get to the top of the ridge. The hike was a rollercoaster of emotions. Fear of climbing up the steep ridge (It is very steep indeed! Watch out for the rocks if you decide to go up yourself and try not to look down hahaha), happiness from finally making it to the top and appreciation for how beautiful the view was. The Skálanes house looked so small from the top of the ridge.

View from the top of the ridge

We started heading back to home-base because the weather was getting bad. Lots of rain and wind. We made it back around midnight. I must say, despite how scary the hike was, it was totally worth it. Iceland truly is a beautiful place.

Small open plane on top of the ridge

Another busy and fun day in books. We all look forward to what the next couple of days and weeks have in store for us. Lots more research to do!

First day at Skalanes! (6/21)

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We may have arrived at Skalanes yesterday, but today was our first full day, and the first day we got to work on our projects. We spent the morning flying the drones, while we had sun. It was clear and sunny this morning, but got really foggy in the afternoon, so foggy we couldn’t even see the fjord from the house. After we got some of the flying done we worked on getting images from the drones onto computers so we could start analysis. Today we split into two groups, the ones who flew drones over what we call the Transect to capture images, and a smaller group who went to capture images of part of the river, the Ytri-Sanda.

Streamlined charging stations setup by one of our leaders, Seth.
After hopping in the car and refusing to move we had no choice but to let Fyrir join us at Skalanes. He even joined one of our groups on their trek to take images of the Ytri-Sanda.

We also took the day to prepare for one of our projects on the fjord. A few of our group members worked on setting up some GoPro cameras for our project on the fjord. Two graduate students we are working with worked on calibrating some of the other equipment for the same project on the fjord.

A beautiful image of the fjord taken with one of the drones.

Tonight we read some of Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology after dinner, only a few chapters in, but a few of us are hooked.

Arrival at Skálanes!

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Today’s Journey

Yesterday evening, we were warned about today. Seth gathered us all in the parking lot in front of our tiny cabins and started off with, “Tomorrow will be a busy day.”

He said that we would have to drive to Egilsstaðir to pick up some researchers from the University of Southern Connecticut joining is at Skálanes and pick up food for our time there. Once we had gotten all of the people and all of the groceries, we’d then juggle the vehicles to transport all of the people and luggage to Skálanes.

Last night’s accommodations

I sensed that staying at these admittedly very cramped cabins with no hot water was not the most popular choice amongst us, but I found them to be very cozy. After a good night’s rest, we woke to a rainy morning.

The plan, made last night, had been to eat breakfast in the parking lot. This did not happen. We stayed in our warm, dry cabins as long as we could, eating our breakfast from the cooler that Clayton so bravely brought to the four of us in our cabin through the drizzle.

After that was the drive to Egilsstaðir. In this part of the country, Route 1 snakes along the coastline, allowing us to look at the fjords and the mountains between them from both sides as the road passed around them.

We finally arrived in Egilsstaðir. The group waited in the parking lot of a Bónus grocery store. As the ones flying in were picked up from the Egilsstaðir airport, we bought the food we would need at Skálanes.

The Egilsstaðir Bónus

We need a lot of food to feed the 20 people at Skálanes. This will not be the last trip.

Checking out

After a long wait for everyone to return from the airport, we drove to Seyðisfjörður, the last town before Skálanes, to arrange the luggage. Because we have to drive through a river on the road to Skálanes, we can’t take our normal vehicles there, instead relying on one rugged wrangler to carry all of our luggage.

At the last gravel parking lot before the river crossing, we parked the van for the last time before Skálanes.

Our first glimpse of Skálanes before the walk. It’s the white speck in the distance, to the left.

We were given a choice: to wait until the next trip of the motor vehicle or to start walking. I chose the latter, obviously. It was cold and wet but I think not a soul who walked regretted it.

When the end of the walk was nearing, This sign was posted on the path:

And Justin, being the tallest, felt their wrath.

Seth gives us a warm welcome after our ordeal as we arrive at Skálanes for the first time ever

Now, I could have simply gone to bed now, but I had heard of a bird watching platform just a little bit farther east, and I’ll leave you with this:

Look right in the center of the image, just to the left of the lupine.


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Hello all!

This is Justin, I’m a rising senior biochemistry major and your host for our first blog post!


All of the students and a few faculty have checked in and made it through TSA with no problems! For some of us, flying internationally is a new experience so smoothness throughout the process of getting to Iceland is the goal.


Charlie, one of the faculty leads, has been stuck in TSA for 45 minutes. A minor setback but the flight boards in 80 minutes so we aren’t too worried!


Charlie made it to the gate. Everyone is accounted for and we’re on track for boarding at 18:40


We are not on track as we thought but never late than never. We are boarding now!

20:31? (time zones are weird)

We are 40 minutes into the flight and so far everyone is doing well.

Flight path wise we are right on the border of Canada between Detroit and Toronto. For our first blog post, I thought it would be fun to provide updates at different portions of our trip but Im realizing it’s harder than it looks as we switch back and forth between time zones .

One thing I found both funny and cool is that before takeoff, many in the group pulled out phone apps for measuring altitudes and air pressure. As a group of scientists, there’s no place or limit for curiosity.

Looking at the flight path, we should fly over Greenland. It’s nighttime and very foggy right now so it might be a close call whether we’ll be able to see it well, but fingers crossed. See you all in the next update!


We just passed over Greenland! For those who aren’t familiar, the name Greenland is very deceptive, as the island is mountainous and entirely covered in snow.

Here are some pictures taken by Joe, another student who you’ll get to know more about throughout the trip. He captured these pictures on his Canon camera (he does really cool photography stuff).

I sat near Joe and Issac (who you’ll also meet) and we were in awe of the landscape. We all agreed that seeing Greenland alone made the trip worth it!


We only have 38 minutes left of the flight! Most people were asleep for most of the journey, but it looks like the majority of us are awake now.


30 minutes left. We’ve started to drop altitude slightly, indicating that landing is approaching. If you look at the picture below you’ll notice a bank of clouds. We suspect that the presence of these clouds means there’s land nearby. Iceland might just be hiding behind them!


20 minutes left! I decided to interview Clayton, another student you’ll meet, to gauge his thoughts and emotions right now. It’s worth mentioning that he has never traveled outside of Ohio and Richmond, Indiana. So many of us have been eagerly awaiting Clayton’s perspective on the flight. Here’s a quote from our conversation:

“The initial takeoff is probably one of the most amazing things I’ve experienced” – Clayton


Only 10 minutes until landing. We’ve descended about 6000 meters in the last 15 minutes.

Apart from that, there’s nothing new to report.

See you on the ground!


We’ve landed! And we spotted lots of lupines in bloom. The plan here is for us to get our baggage, and head to the hostel where we will stay for a day before heading to our next destination.


A few of us are visiting the National Museum of Iceland, while others went on a quest for groceries needed for dinner. Now, here’s a tricky question for you: What do you think these bottles are?

Surprisingly, they are actually chemicals for film processing! Initially, I mistook them for bottles of medicine. It’s fascinating how things can be deceiving at first glance.

We plan to continue exploring until the museum closes in about an hour. Our next update will be back at the hostel!


Everyone has enjoyed a delicious dinner and we have the rest of the night to relax before embarking on our 7-hour road trip to our next destination.

Seth, Charlie, and Porter teamed up to cook pasta and it was amazing! We also had salad on the side with a dressing from Stevie, another student who you’ll meet. Stevie spoke very highly of this dressing during our car ride and I can confirm that it lived up to its reputation!

With dinner taken care of, we can now retreat to our rooms and unwind before hitting the road tomorrow morning. We’re excited about the many opportunities we’ll have to explore the stunning landscapes and wonders Iceland has to offer.

Thank you for joining me on our first day and I look forward to seeing you again soon!