The Icelandic South Coast

posted on: Tuesday, October 8, 2013

On the southwestern coast of Iceland lies a rift filled with glacial melt so pure and clean you can drink it. This rift valley known as "Silfra" is a proverbial no-man's land between continents. It is the point of separation between two tectonic plates. To your left is North America, to your right, Europe. This is a geological anomaly. Almost every other place on earth where two continents come together, or more accurately, are being pushed apart, occurs at the sea floor so deep below the surface to see it would only be possible with an underwater submersible. Here, in Iceland, the volcanic seam between the Eurasian and North American continental plates that births this new crust is sitting right here, at the surface. 

When I first read about Silfra and discovered that it is possible to snorkel this rift there was no question that it was something we had to do while we were in Iceland. The entire time we were waiting to leave for this trip after we had booked it months in advance, this was what I was most looking forward to. But when the day finally came and it was a chilly, rainy 50 degrees out I started getting nervous and wondering what exactly I had gotten us into.  

We met our snorkel instructor in Thingvellir National Park and he provided us with the full dry suits necessary to survive the 2 degree celsius water we were about to plunge into. This is glacial melt after all, so cold that no marine life can survive here. Below the surface lives only algae which clings to the rocks in varying shades of shocking fluorescent green. The water is so clear you have nearly 100% visibility up to one hundred meters in front of you.

nervous faces in our thermal underwear just before we suited up.

The crack is so narrow at some points it is possible to reach out and touch both North America and Europe at the same time.

True colors under the surface.
It was surreal, and breathtakingly beautiful, and very, very, very cold.
In Iceland you can follow what's called the Golden Circle route through Thingvellir National Park and on to see some of Iceland's geothermal activity at it's best with Strokkur Geysir and then finally the unbelievable Gulfoss waterfall.  This is quite a spectacular way of seeing the wide range of beauty and startling natural phenomena that Iceland has to offer.
Below are a few examples of Icelandic turf houses we saw along the south coast.
Do you see the one to the left below? It's almost completely camoflaged into it's surroundings.
In Iceland even their outhouses are quaint and welcoming.
Q: What do you call a baby puffin?
A: A pufflin. Only the cutest name for the cutest little creature ever invented.
Now, I don't have any pictures of the babies as they are very good at staying hidden in undergound burrows safely protected from other predatory birds. BUT I promised you pictures of puffin and I'm here to make good on that promise. Below are a few pictures of our adventure out to the Ingólfshöfði headlands, first by way of a tractor drawn hay cart followed by a hike up the black sand beach to reach the cliffs of the headlands where the puffin nest.
puffin resting out at sea
and up close!

And there you have it, Iceland in all it's glory. Thank you again for sticking with me though all of these posts but I really enjoyed sharing this incredible island with everyone out there and getting the chance to re-live and record these moments here in this space with all of you. What an advenure it was!


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