Delicious Food = Science Completed

with No Comments

A lot had to be done today, but when did that ever bother anyone getting their stomachs full and tastebuds stimulated?

After an early rise, a group of us headed out to the field at 8 AM to capture imagery from the drone, while the others stayed back at the schoolhouse to finish testing the soil samples collected earlier at the Sólheimajökull glacier. Being part of the group on the field, I was flying the drones through the flight paths we had previously made to capture two different types of imagery, Visual Lens Imagery (VLI) and Near Infra-Red (NIR), of the sites of interest. We planned to use the imagery captured from the drone flights to analyze the sites further, which would give us information regarding earlier settlement on the sites; for instance, the NIR imagery allows the camera of the drone to visualize the land in terms of colors that the average human eye cannot detect and thus, it proves to be useful for detecting differences in vegetation of the land.

Following the morning session of flying, we headed back to get some lunch and were already expecting a great meal based on what we were served yesterday, but our expectations were again exceeded with amazing food: beef meatballs with cheese, white rice, salad, creamy cheese sauce (I don’t know the name but it’s really good, I swear!). Given the satisfaction earned from this meal, we were determined to finish all the remaining work we had, so we headed back onto the field and stayed till 5:30 PM, with some delays experienced due to technical difficulties with one of the drones.

Drone team in their element (job not well done – needed a smaller altitude for this picture)
As we were flying the drones, excavation was occurring at this site of archaeological interest

Further proof of hospitality we received from Stodvarfjordur: Brekken offered to serve us dinner when they learnt that we will not be around for lunch tomorrow! And guess what? We stuffed ourselves again with the delectable pizza we were served. To finish off the day, our beloved faculty leaders E & C gave a brief presentation in the schoolhouse about the whole project, with the main audience being the local crowd.

The only picture of the pizzas I could capture given the rapid rate at which they were being consumed, but I can confirm that there was no lack of either quality or quantity
E & C talking about the project while Rannveig (on C’s right side) was translating

When You Give A Classic’s Major a Blog Post (on the same day they see an archaeological dig)

with No Comments

Camping is always an adventure, even if said camping is in a schoolhouse.

The schoolhouse in Stöd is both clean and cozy, with a carpeted little atrium–that has become a kind of common space–and plenty of little nooks and crannies (like the upstairs foosball table, or the little office space I am currently using to write this blog post). Everyone has been impressed with the living situation, enjoying the space to roam and the opportunity to get a little bit of personal space during the quiet moments.

The day started busy, a quick but enjoyable breakfast and then a hop over to the dig site at Stöd. The site has been, thus far, a four-year venture– with multiple hands and great minds involved. The day before, Rannveig expressed that coming to work at the site was like a holiday, she only does it one month out of a year–so, the equivalent of four months of excavation. While four months may not seem like a lot of time, the site itself is exceedingly impressive. I am an Ancient Classics Major with a Medieval Archaeology minor, thus, the dig at Stöd was like walking into a candy store. While this is the first archaeological dig site I have viewed in progress, I have seen the final product of excavations and know a little bit about the process; I was very impressed by the amount the Stöd team had uncovered and how intact a lot of it appeared to be. Yes, the site does look like barebones to the naked eye–however, the number of walls and floors they have excavated and the length is surprising. You can actually imagine the structure there–whereas, there are a lot of sites (mostly older) that just look like a pile of rocks or scattered artifacts.

We were met at the site by Rannveig and Bjarni and educated on the history and rough outline of information about the site. What they have found is that there are the remains of two separate buildings, one bigger and older building and a smaller and newer building built inside the older. It is assumed that whoever created the smaller structure found the ruins of the older and found it more convenient and maybe offered more insulation to build within it. Additionally, the question that hangs in the balance is whether or not it was truly a settlement or just a waypoint (the latter being more common for Vikings to build). This depends on what DNA they find (especially in Midden heaps), if there are remnants of cattle then it is more likely that it is a settlement and not a waypoint.

After we were all caught up we parted ways, separating into teams. We had Porter, Lilli, Jordan, Li, and Mubi working on drones–flying the flight plans and collecting visual data on the site (the first batch of photos were high definition photos which will later be used for a 3-D display of sorts; the second half was with the NRA camera, to help see if there is anything below the surface by capturing the UV light from the plants). Another team (E, Katherine, Joyce, and Sydney) was in charge of the soil samples we collected at Solo. Meanwhile, C ran around answering questions and helping as the Jack-Of-All-Trades and vehicle driver. And I was left to soak up as much information about the site and feed my passion–getting a feel for what a dig looks like, meeting everyone, asking questions, and observing the excavation as it is and what it will hopefully turn into.

 

 

 

Since it was a holiday (Wit Monday, following Pentecost), the Stöd team was not digging today, however, they were available for questions and willing to share information. By about lunchtime I had been shown the artifacts (AMAZING! There are stones, a nail head, a part of an Arabic coin, some beautiful beads, etc.) and I had discussed the finds in their newest test pit (they found a bit of a wall and a hearth); while also asking some basic questions about identification of settlement and what the work looks like on a normal day.


Again, it was a holiday so all the businesses were closed today. Except, there was a wonderful restaurant/gift shop called Brekkan which welcomed us in and served us lunch. It was a fabulous meal! Baked Fish with a cream sauce, fries (or chips), some sweet dark bread, and salad with grapes. It was all delicious and very much appreciated. Everyone at the table had their fill (maybe even a little too much–I certainly felt like I had to be rolled out the door afterward) and sat, very satisfied. 

We came back to the schoolhouse to gather more layers (the wind was biting cold and the sun was just not warm enough to make up for it like our previous nine days) and to split up again. This time Lilli stayed behind to work on uploading the available drone photos, while the rest of the drone team headed back out to take the NRA photos. Soil people stayed behind to continue their diligent work in the dining room area of the schoolhouse kitchen (you gotta do what you gotta do).

I left with the drone group to continue my archaeology observation. I worked for a time creating a (ROUGH) sketch of the site, sitting in the grass and feeling the brisk cold wind. I certainly appreciated the blanket scarf I had picked up after lunch and the warm sun on my back. As I sat I heard unique bird calls, though I was unable to identify where they were coming from and what species was calling out. It is fascinating to observe the variety of birds that live in Iceland, so many species that are different from the ones I am used to in the States (in addition, I’ve grown up in Alabama and Indiana my whole life, which limits my avian knowledge to a limited area).
After sketching, I sat in Rannveig’s “office” (the back of a huge van, with camper chairs and a tiny table). This is where we discussed the different sections of the site (using my sketch as a reference), how it compares to other sites, the work she has done in the past, my research knowledge of Norse raiding and settlement in Ireland, and about the different jobs and activities Rannveig has done or is a part of throughout a year’s time. It is interesting to note, there are several positions open for archaeologists to become consultants for the government or building/electricity organizations, but it lasts about half the year due to weather constrictions.
The drone group finished up around 3:15pm (15:15) and we packed up. We were all eager to take showers in the pool facility and looking forward to taking a dip into the hot tub or swim in the pool. The facilities did not disappoint. We were all able to rinse off and enjoy the hot tub or pool, whichever suited the fancy. I noticed Joyce, Roger, C, Mubi, and Katherine floating around in the pool– while Sydney, E, and Lillian lounged in the hot tub (Rannveig joined the hot tub later–as did most of those swimming in the pool).

It took a bit of encouragement from Sydney to get me out in the open–the wind was still freezing, but this time I was wet from the shower and in a bathing suit. The hot tub appeared way too far away and when I opened the door the first time, and the wind hit me like a wall of ice. E later commented on how it appeared as if watching a cartoon– the door opened, I yelped, and the door was quickly closed again. However, nothing was colder than the 4-6 celsius cold tub. Sydney dipped inside first, staying in long enough for a photo! She later said it was as cold as the glacier runoff she had waded through at Solo (after dipping into the tub myself, I have a newfound appreciation for the determination Sydney, C, Jordan, and Porter had to science that day, at Solo– jeeeeez, it’s cold!). After a bit, most of us at least tried the cold tub– including Lilli, C, Rannveig, and I– which, honestly, really added to the whole swimming in Ice(land) experience.
In a minute, we are going to be treated to Grilled Cheeses and Tomato Soup made by Lilli and Porter. And C has recently collected all the NRA photos and pieced them together–now we wait for the code to be able to adjust the light according to the native plants.
Exciting new developments in Archaeology!!! Hopefully more is revealed as we continue to explore and experiment.

 

 

In which we take a scenic drive

with No Comments

Hello dear readers! We awoke to another day of beautiful weather and warm sunshine, which was enjoyed by the small herd of napping horses along the river. Charlie and I can’t figure out what we’ve done right to have 9 straight days of sun but the students are starting to doubt they need all that rain gear we emphasized so strongly …

 

Today we drove from Kirkjubæjuarklauster to Stöðvarfjördur with many stops in between. This drive took us from the south coast of Iceland to about half way up the east coast. Our first destination was to another glacier coming from the Vatnajökull ice cap (the largest in Europe) called Kviárjökull. We are scouting this glacier to see if it’s a good candidate for additional sampling in the future, so we can compare data from Sólheimajökull with another Icelandic glacier.

Note the mounds leading up to the glacier (moraines) – these mark places the front of the glacier has been in past years.

Our second stop is the lovely “Glacier Lagoon,” or Jökulsárion, where the Norðlingalægðarjökull glacier calves into the sea. This is the only glacier that calves directly into the sea in all of Iceland. We saw seals swimming in the lagoon along with eider ducks, gulls, Arctic terns and a few foolish/brave humans in kayaks!

The round black dots are indeed seal heads – 4 in total!
Stunning. I’ve never seen Iceland skies this clear.

 

After driving past 3 other outlet glaciers, we took a brief detour to the fishing town Höfn, where we were treated to a fabulous view of Vatnajökull and its outlet glaciers.

How many outlet glaciers can you count?

 

The day was getting more cloudy (finally!) as we drove another stretch of Route 1 to the small village of Djúpivogur for a bathroom break and important re-caffination. Yours truly also acquired a traditional Icelandic doughnut. Yum! The town is quite old and has a number of buildings dating from the late 1800s and early 1900s. They are also, apparently, quite proud of their toilets.

After journeying along a few more fjords and twisty roads, passing a number of camping vans along the way, we arrived at our destination – a schoolhouse in the small village of Stöðvarfjördur, a 5 minute drive away from the archaeological site we’ll be working at Monday and Tuesday. This site is significant for a number of reasons, which you can read about here and here. Tomorrow we will work with the drones, flying over the site and gathering information such as Near Infrared, which can point us to locations that were previously populated by humans. On Tuesday we’ll use that information to collect soil samples and test differences between microbial populations in soils that have been previously inhabited versus those that have not. But perhaps most importantly, the school has a washing machine, which has allowed us to finally get some clean clothes.

Good thing tomorrow is a holiday and school is not in session!

Wish us luck on all our work in the next few days. Signing off, your friendly neighborhood molecular biologist!

Between Two Glaciers

with No Comments

The first thing we did today was pack and travel. We left our hostel in Vik early this morning, making a stop to collect groceries for the next few days, and set out north-east to Klaustur.

Klauster is a small town, right between Mýrdalsjökull, the glacier we worked at yesterday, and Vatnajökull, which is the second largest glacier in Europe. In Klauster we learned a lot about the history of the region, especially about the 1783 eruption of the volcanic fissure Lakagígar, a devastating natural disaster that we read about in the semester leading up to the trip.

Vatnajökull looms in the distance

After a short film about the eruption in a local visitor center, we went on a hike around the nearby cliffs, getting an excellent view of the ocean and the town below, as well as Systravatn, a beautiful lake at the top of the cliffs. At the end of the hike, we were about to see Kirkjugólf (The Church Floor), a formation called columnar basalt which forms when a lava flow cools under the right conditions.

Kirkjugólf (The Church Floor)

Today was mostly a historical and cultural day, and a break from our scientific work, but it was really cool to see the places and landmarks we have studied in person.

Sólheimajökull Day 2: RIP Carmen

with No Comments

Its Lillian again with our second and final day at Sólheimajökull! Today we took soil samples around the glacier.

 

After having a great breakfast of egg fried rice using the dinner leftovers, we headed again from Vik to Sólheimajökull. Then we split up into three teams to take soil samples. We use the samples to measure microbial DNA. This can show us how the environment has changed after the glacier has receded. C and E had a map they created of sample sites that covered a wide range of years that the glacier receded from each spot. Then they split the spots up into three sets based on location.

 

Charlie, along with Sydney, Porter, and Jordan volunteered to take the most demanding set of samples, which required more strenuous hiking, including crossing rivers! The remaining two groups were led by Roger, who was the student leader of the day, and Em.

Group 2 selfie with Sólheimajökull in the background!

 

Group 3 selfie!

 

 

It took long hikes through the valley to reach all the samples

 

We could both see and hear Group 3 across the valley! Kathryn is in the light blue coat, and Roger is in the orange coat.

 

Group 3 found this beautiful waterfall while taking samples!

 

Group 2 saw some great plants trying their best in a fragile ecosystem!

 

All the groups were able to make it to most of the sample sites. However, we are sad to say that we lost one of our drones, Carmen, during the sampling. Carmen encountered errors while flying, and we were unable to control it. We used the last image it captured to try and find it to no avail. Later, I found more data of the flight on the app we use to fly the Spark drones, and it is most likely that Carmen flew into the lake by Sólheimajökull. We are hoping to find funds to replace Carmen soon.

 

After we came back to Vik, we had a great dinner of chili made by Kaela! Then we packed up our things as we prepared for driving to Klauster the next day.

 

Carmen’s final flight 🙁

 

Sólheimajökull Day 1: Crampon, Crampoff

with No Comments

Hello! My name is Lillian and I’m a senior Computer Science major. Today we hiked the glacier Sólheimajökull! Sólheimajökull is an outlet glacier of the glacier Mýrdalsjökull, meaning that it originates from Mýrdalsjökull through a valley. Sólheimajökull is also interesting in that it is covered in lots of ash from the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010.

We woke up in Vik to the sound of roosters. For a few people in the group, this was a nice reminder of home! Then we piled into the vans for the half-hour drive to the glacier.

One hen came up to hang out with us!

 

Gummi and Oddur lead us on our hike on Sólheimajökull. They both work in Reykjavík and have lead the IFS group on Sólheimajökull for multiple years. We divided into two groups, one with Gummi and Em and one with Oddur and Charlie. Then we split up with one group walking along the northwest side and one group walking the southeast side of the glacier. Before walking on the glacier, we had to put crampons on our boots in order to hike the glacier with more traction.

Walking to the glacier from the parking lot. This area would have been covered by the glacier within 20 years ago, but due to climate change, it is receding quickly.
Gummi and Em’s group with a great view past the tip of the glacier!
Oddur and Charlie’s group (minus me taking the photo)

 

After the two groups met on the top of the glacier, we ate lunch and did some drone flying!

We had a hard time not getting a little sunburnt on the glacer, but we’re clearly having a great time!
Obligatory drone selfie!

 

After lunch, each group climbed down the glacier opposite the way we came.

 

Sólheimajökull had many deep crevasses that Gummi and Oddur helped us navigate around.
A neat discovery found under a mound of ash and ice by my group!

 

After thanking and saying goodbye to Gummi and Oddur, we left to travel back to Vik. On the way, we stopped by Reynisfjara Beach, famous for its basalt columns, and for being the site of multiple films and movies, including Rogue One and Game of Thrones!

Group photo sitting on the basalt columns!

 

Group photo in the cave in the basalt wall!

 

Part of Charlie’s job description is to help students to get good photo ops.

 

After arriving back in Vik, we had an amazing Chinese dinner cooked by Li with the help of Joyce, Roger, and Mubi! Then we prepared to take soil samples around Sólheimajökull the next day.

Mountain Hike, Off the Island, Onto the South Coast

with No Comments

The first thing we did after waking up was hiking up the 2nd mountain. For me, it was Helgafell, which is older compared to Eldfell, and is located towards the southeast part of the island of Heimaey. While hiking, we continued monitoring the altitude we were measuring yesterday with elevation platforms.

On the hike up to Helgafell, with the Sun shining down on us
View of airport and the southern end of Heimaey from the top of Helgafell

We returned to the hostel to feed ourselves lunch and to pack up for our ferry back to the mainland. Then we all got into our vans and drove towards Vik, a town close to the southern coast of Iceland, where we planned to stay for the next 3 nights. To finish off, E made some delicious veggie soup with bread and salad that had to be devoured.

Graffiti spotted on the way to the ferry from Heimaey
We stopped at Seljalandsfoss, a wonderful tourist attraction, on the way to Vik

Eldheimar Museum and Hiking

with No Comments

Tuesday, June 4, 2019         No rain = beautiful weather, again

For the morning, the group of students walked to the Eldheimar museum and learned about the volcano eruption in Heimaey in 1973. It is a very cool museum where we walked around with audio guides that sense our location and play the corresponding audio. It is built around an excavation site after the eruption. We were able to see the ruin of a house, the model of the path of the lava flow which almost closed the port of the island, learn about what people were doing during the time and a newly created island by lava, Surtsey.

In the afternoon, we split up into two groups. One group hiked the Helgafell and the other hiked Eldfell. I hiked Helgafell. It was really fun with loose rocks and steep slopes. Despite being forecasted to be around 0 Celsius and windy, it was so warm and we had to shed layers during our hike. Our little science exercise for the hikes was to measure the pressure at sea level and at the top of each mountain that we hiked, and compare the margin of errors between devices and with the elevation marked (the accurate standard). Tomorrow, we will hike the other mountain and do the same thing.

A group photo with the puffin before we split.

The Eldfell group.

The view from Helgafell. If we look towards Eldfell, we can distinguish the new land that was created by the lava.

Cat of the Day! We met this cute little cat on our way back from Helgafell.

After dinner at Gott (a very nice restaurant), we (people shown in the picture above) biked to the south side of the island to see puffins. It was a rough bike ride! But it was worth it. Sheep and horses also became our friends for the ride.

Since we were on the south of the island, we hypothesized this was Surtsey.

 

On the way to Heimaey

with No Comments

The weather has been unbelievably fabulous for three days on a roll. On the morning of Monday, June 3, 2019, the IFS group said goodbye to the Igdlo Hostel in Reykjavík and headed southeast. Our final destination for the day is Heimaey, a small island to the south of Iceland that can be reached by ferry. On our way to the ferry station, we stopped at the Commonwealth farm and a dam.

After packing and loading the van, we played cards while waiting for the people who went shopping to come back at the Igdlo picnic table.

It was noon and windy when we got off the car! The Commonwealth Farm is a replica of what has been dug up at the archeological sites in Iceland. We visited with the goal of getting a better idea of what we will be working with at the archeological site in Stod. The replica consists of a turf house and a small church next to it. In the turf house, we found items such as clothing, swords, wools, benches, and “bedrooms.” It shows how people back then might have lived and worked. Some of us commented it as no privacy because mostly everyone slept on a long bed bench altogether, with the one or two exceptions of high-status people sleeping in a small closet with space to lay down.

E is holding a sword in the turf house.

The right is the small church and the left is the turf house.

 

What are they looking at?

The dam!

 

Then, we had very much fun searching for a former forest that was destroyed by the eruption of Hekla in 1104.

Why was it fun?

Our van almost got stuck in the soft gravel. Fortunately, everyone got off the van except Charlie, the driver, and we were unstuck. The image below shows the track.

Our search for the forest was stopped by a small creek, so we enjoyed the view and played skipping rocks.

It was time to hop on the ferry. The experience was exciting for some of us, but not so much for those with motion sickness. I enjoyed bird watching with binoculars and the ocean breeze!

The tail of the ferry producing waves.

We arrived at the Heimaey Hostel save and sound. Thanks to Kathryn and Jordan, we had delicious pasta to fill our stomach before going to bed!

Waterfalls Galore

with No Comments

Hello all, it’s me again, Kathryn! Today we put our tourists caps on again and went to the National Museum. The museum was incredibly informative, it told the story of the people of Iceland (how they got there, who they were, and what they became). My favorite exhibit in the museum was of the bath-house (I don’t recall the name in Icelandic). What is interesting about the bath-house is that it slowly evolved into the main-house because it was the warmest place to be. My favorite place in the museum was this little corner on the second floor where there was a chess table next to some books with some extremely comfy couches (I almost feel asleep there!).

This is the bath-house that in it’s later stages no longer resembled one.

This is the little nook I mentioned above. Sydney and Porter played a game of chess. You can take your guess on who won.

After the museum we headed to the Althing (the oldest and first form of Icelandic government). The location of the Althing is important for both historical/cultural reasons and geological ones. The Althing is where the North American and European plates are separating to form new land.

Currently Lilli is between the North American (right) and European (left) plates. This walk way leads to where the Althing was held.

This is flag is where it was held. The Althing was a long event and folks would set up tents to claim their spot, and you can still see those imprints in the ground.

A little past the Althing is this beautiful waterfall, the first one I’ve seen in Iceland (I have been told that there are many waterfalls in Iceland). The nice thing about Iceland is that because the water is so clean, you can re-fill your water bottle there. And I can tell you that it is the best water I’ve ever had.

After finish touring the Althing, we left to go see another, much bigger waterfall. On the way, we were able to see Hekla (by some miracle) through the haze, and drove through the town called Geyser. Interestingly, geysers (the geological phenomenon) is named after the town because there are so many of them. We did not stop there because according to E and C, it is just a tourist trap.

For size reference, there is a trail on the right side of the photo where people are walking.

This is a much nicer photo of the waterfall courtesy of Roger and his fancy camera.

And the obligatory group photo and a rainbow in the background.

To finish off the day Mubi served everyone an absolutely delicious meal of stir-fry ramen. Well, it’s time for bed for me, even though it’s still light out (that’s going to take some getting used to).

 

1 2 3 4 5 23