Same sh*t, different day

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One doesn’t really hear things that go bump in the night in Iceland in the summer. Maybe it’s because there is really no “night” here. You know, kinda like that whole tree falling in the forest bit? So when I heard a strange gurgling sound in the wee hours of the morning on our last day at Skalanes, I was a little worried, but I drifted quickly back to sleep when no one else in the room became restless.

In the morning, we all woke to rain and wind. I wandered down to the main gathering area for coffee and breakfast and realized that something had definitely gone bump in the night…the sewer system…again. Thank goodness we are a group of Earlhamites. We live with an adventuresome spirit, a positive state of non-expectancy, assume positive intent, and apparently we do plumbing, which in this case was a true example of servant leadership. (Thank you, Charlie, Nic, Kellan and Faith!)  

While not an ideal way to begin the day, there was much to do to prepare for our very early shuttle tomorrow to Egilsstadur for the flight back to Reykjavik. Arlo, Mads and Lilly trekked to our Skalanes campsite to retrieve the tents, deerskins and sleeping bags. They reported the ground was completely saturated and the rivers were rushing. Meanwhile, each science group carefully repacked gear that will return to Earlham with us and this is also our signal that it is time to begin to curate the data we’ve collected thus far. We will be working on this during our time in Reykjavik.

As the logistics of the day concluded, we took the time to enjoy our last night at this special place. On this last night at Skalanes, several took a walk to the cliffs to see the puffins while others tried to redeem themselves in final matches of Catan and Uchre. It’s off to bed for all, as tomorrow is an early day of travel. Skalanes has truly become a home away from home for many of us. This place is an incredible retreat each year for learning with and from each other (and often times with others from institutions around the world – nice to see our friends from Glasgow again!), analyzing and curating data and one of the most beautiful spaces contemplation and reflection. Until next time, Skalanes. 

Settling in at Skalanes: Home away from home

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It feels good to be settled for a bit after several long days of travel. And what a place to settle. [Audible deep breath in…and out]

Since we are here for some time and there is much work to be done, we started our day by organizing science gear and planning the research we will do here on the property as well as some of the experiments we will perform on soil samples we collected at Solheimajoekull glacier. Our group has also settled into a nice cooking and chore rotation.

After lunch today, Oli and Rannveig took us on a walk to the cliffs east southeast of the house. Oli shared with us the history of Skalanes, information about the bird colonies here, and the role that lupine plays in fertilizing the soil in Iceland.

We saw lots of fulmars, a type of ocean bird; kittiwakes, a type of gull; and puffins, adorably cute. We have been enjoying the unique sounds of the snipes, discovered that male eider ducks make sounds similar to owls, and we’ve been trying to steer clear of the Arctic terns as they work to protect their nests. I am still researching which bird pooped on me as we began our walk. [Note: this is the second time a bird has pooped on me while on a trip with Charlie; at least we weren’t on our way to visit Earlham alumni and donors this time!]

While Skalanes hosts student and faculty scientists and outdoor education enthusiasts like our Earlham group, it also relies on tourism. Today, we enjoyed welcoming a group from a tour boat who came to hike a bit, take in the views of the fjord and the cliffs, and do some birding.

Tonight, several are enjoying the sauna before a full day of science tomorrow. I’m heading to the showers. I think it was the tern.


A Quiet Working 4th of July

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It was great to have yesterday off to rest and also prepare for the start of the week. We seem to lose track of the days here, but I count that as one of the pros of this amazing “classroom” in which we are studying and working together. We have worked into the “roto” of chores around the lodge with the group from the University of Glasgow in Scotland. The time spent doing simple daily tasks  has been a great way to get to know each other and to learn more about each others’ research. They are also blogging about their time in Iceland.

We made a punch list of things we would like to accomplish over the next week. Today’s priorities included taking soil samples from the gardens at Skalanes, working on lidar and the drone systems, adapting the new data model into the vis, fine-tuning Field Day, and working with Rannveig to learn about the locations of known archaelogical sites on the Skalanes property.

It is a little strange to be abroad on the U.S. Independence Day. There are no fireworks, no special holiday gatherings, and no long weekend. The only red, white and blue in sight is the Icelandic flag. Nonetheless, we celebrate our freedom to be able to travel to such a magnificent country to learn and work together.

Rannveig and Erin check the Skalanes map for archaeological sites.


Rannveig shows Erin a recent dig, believed to be the wall of a house.
Rannveig shows Erin a recent dig, believed to be the wall of a house.


The only red, white and blue in sight.