July 03, 2016  •  1 Comment

August 2016


Day 7 map

01 2015-08-16 Map Day 0701 2015-08-16 Map Day 07

Today we go out for a boat ride in a lagoon filled with icebergs, revisit the iceberg beach from last night and then, having hit our farthest point west, start to back track back toward the west.



Today arrived with no rain falling.  We thought the gods were angry at us and put a fire ball in the sky to express their displeasure.  However, we must have repented as the clouds quickly came back – clouds but no rain.  Unperturbed we headed out once again to the East and to the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon (aka Glacier Lagoon).   Yesterday in describing the Iceberg Beach I mentioned this lagoon which is just across the highway from the beach. 

The Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is one of most popular tourist destinations in Iceland (Jokulsarlon literally means "glacial river lagoon"). The glacier which is feeding this lagoon with water and icebergs is the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier and is on the edge of the Vatnajökull National Park.  Are you keeping up with all these easy to remember and pronounceable names? The lagoon started to form around 1934 when the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, which at that time had extended all the way to the sea, started to retreat. In 1956 the size of the lagoon was over 1,000 acres, by 1975 it was almost 2,000 acres (3 square miles) and today it’s thought to be between 7 and 10 square miles and is still growing.  Since 2010 Jokulsarlon is the deepest lake in Iceland with a current depth of 853 feet right in front of the glacier edge and it is getting deeper all the time.  The front of the glacier that used to be at the sea is now about a mile inland with the lagoon covering most of the distance between.

For you movie buffs, this lagoon has been the setting for scenes in several movies including “A View to Kill” (Roger Moore in his last James Bond movie),  “Die Another Day” (another James Bond this time with Peirce Brosnan),  “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider”, and “Batman Begins”

You can take a boat ride in the lagoon (which we did) to see the icebergs up close.  It seems there were two boat ride options.  In one option they put you in full floatation suites and your craft is an inflatable Zodiak.  The other option is a Duck (like many cities in the US have for city tours).  Our tour went on a Duck where there were about 25 people.  If you’re not familiar with a ”Duck” they are modeled after military amphibious landing craft where they act like a boat when in the water, but can then just drive up on the shore and act like a truck. We boarded from a raised wooden platform like a dock but with the Duck on dry land.  These Ducks have wooden benches all the way around their inside perimeter and after donning bulky bright orange Mae West style life jackets we sat shoulder to shoulder on these benches.  However, after we bumped and jerked over what felt like a lava field and entered the water we could stand up and walk around the open middle of the craft.  On the water they gave us a talk about the glacier and lagoon – most of which I described above, fished out a clear piece of ice from the lagoon broke it into pieces and let us taste several thousand year old water – it tasted like water.

On the Duck.

08 7d2001-#663008 7d2001-#6630

The icebergs in the lagoon come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes.  Some are clear some are opaque, some have zebra stripes of dirt and many resemble animals (depending on your imagination).  The opaque (white or blue) are from the younger and top portion of the glacier.  Glaciers are formed when more snow falls in a location each winter than melts each summer.  So each year a new layer of snow is deposited on top and much of it lasts through the summer.  When such snow is buried the following winter by new snow, the weight of the new snow compresses the older layers into ice.  New snow, as we know is white and the white is caused by light reflecting off of air embedded in the snow or ice.  However, as more and more snow and ice forms on top of older layers the pressure increases on the older, deeper, ice in the glacier and that pressure squeezes out the air bubbles.  When this air is squeezed out the ice becomes transparent – like an ice cube from your freezer.

The zebra striping on some icebergs happens when a glacier scrapes dirt and rock off of the mountains along its edges as it grinds its way down a valley.  This debris gets embedded along the edge of the glacier.  This grinding away of sides of the valley tends to undermine the rocks above the glacier which fall on top forming a dark, rocky, dirty layer – or stripe – down the side of the glacier.  Then new snow falls on top forming a white layer.  Year after year this process repeats forming alternating stripes of dark, crud filled ice and clean ice.  Later when these layers finally reach the front of the glacier they break off in sometimes huge chunks and if those chunks land in water (as they usually do) you have a zebra striped iceberg. 

Zebra Stripped Glacier on Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

Iceberg in Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon #03Iceberg in Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon #03

Blue Ice Glacier

Iceberg in Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon #04Iceberg in Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon #04

Two Bears?

Two Bears - Iceberg in Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon #08Two Bears - Iceberg in Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon #08

Above and Below – part ice, part reflection of ice

Iceberg in Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon #09Iceberg in Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon #09

Patterns in ice

Iceberg in Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon #10Iceberg in Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon #10

Speckled Iceberg and its reflection

Iceberg on Jökulsárlón Iceberg Beach #01Iceberg on Jökulsárlón Iceberg Beach #01

Balanced cube and ice tunnel iceberg

03 7d2001-#647703 7d2001-#6477

Pocked ice

Iceberg in Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon #02Iceberg in Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon #02

Rainbow over Glacier Lagoon

Rainbow, Iceberg in Jökulsárlón Iceberg LagoonRainbow, Iceberg in Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon



As we had some time left after the boat ride, and it wasn’t pouring rain like it was last night, we went across the highway and back to the Iceberg Beach we had hit the evening before.  In my mind I had predetermined which stranded icebergs I’d like to take another shot at, so to speak, and I even remembered where on the beach they were.  I even had different camera angle ideas ready to try for the current sun position should it happen to show itself.  So, you can imagine my surprise when we arrived and found that all the icebergs from last night had been washed out to sea and an entirely new set had come up onto the beach.  

But, it wasn’t raining and there was some light so all was good.  You know what they say, “life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans”.  The upshot is that the photography was much better.  Today I was able to use the contrast between the black sand of the beach and the white/blue of the ice much better.  The main challenge was other tourists – first taking shots without them in it and second all the foot prints they left behind (guilty as charged). 

The ice itself was quite varied.  Some had been floating in the lagoon for quite sometime and others had passed through the lagoon rather quickly.  Several of the older chunks of ice had eroded into fantastical shapes.  In addition some of that older ice was compressed ice and somewhat clear while other bergs were newer ice and still had some of that reflective air embedded making them white or blue

Iceberg on Jökulsárlón Iceberg Beach #09Iceberg on Jökulsárlón Iceberg Beach #09

Iceberg on Jökulsárlón Iceberg Beach #11Iceberg on Jökulsárlón Iceberg Beach #11


Iceberg on Jökulsárlón Iceberg Beach #06Iceberg on Jökulsárlón Iceberg Beach #06

Iceberg on Jökulsárlón Iceberg Beach #07Iceberg on Jökulsárlón Iceberg Beach #07


Iceberg on Jökulsárlón Iceberg Beach #08Iceberg on Jökulsárlón Iceberg Beach #08


Iceberg on Jökulsárlón Iceberg Beach #10Iceberg on Jökulsárlón Iceberg Beach #10


Iceberg on Jokulsarlon Iceberg Beach #12Iceberg on Jokulsarlon Iceberg Beach #12

Iceberg on Jökulsárlón Iceberg Beach #13Iceberg on Jökulsárlón Iceberg Beach #13



After our fill of icebergs, we started our back-tracking, all the way back to Vic.  Between Glacier Lagoon and Beach and where we stayed last night near Svinafell we passed mostly unnamed (as far as I could find) glaciers coming down little side canyons from the massive Vatnajökull glacier (remember, it’s the largest in Europe).  Along the way we also passed rivers and waterfalls too numerous to mention but I’ve added several photos taken through the bus window as we zoomed by.   

Unknown Glacier and waterfall

Glacier and waterfall, East of HofGlacier and waterfall, East of Hof

Unknown Glacier

21 7d2001-#676621 7d2001-#6766

Unknown Glacier and River near Svinafell

22 7d2001-#677222 7d2001-#6772

Eventually we made it back to the Svinafell Glacier itself and got a good view of it head on where it melts into its alluvial plain

Svinafell Glacier

23 7d2001-#679523 7d2001-#6795

Once we traveled west of Svinafell, the road got farther from the Vatnajökull glacier and the glacier became more hidden behind the cliffs.  In this section waterfalls fed from the glacier abound.  I’m sure they all have names but I can’t find a map detailed enough to tell me what they’re called.  What is quite stunning is how different they all are as you’ll see below (if you’re reading this through email) or in the Photos section (if you’re reading this on Facebook).  Can you imagine living on a farm by one of these majestic waterfalls which falls right into your backyard?  I’m not saying I’d like to live there being the middle of nowhere – not to mention the winters - but, boy, you can’t beat the scenic aspect of living in such a place. 

Speaking of winters I certainly had one of my stereotypes blown.  I was aware of the story that the Vikings named the much more desolate and colder island farther west “Greenland’ and this warmer and more hospitable island “Iceland” to confuse westward bound settlers such that they’d head to Greenland leaving Iceland to the Vikings. But seeing some climate data was still quite surprising. 

Let’s take Reykjavik as an example and compare it to, say, Boston.  For the coldest month in each location the average day-night range in Reykjavik is (all shown in Fahrenheit) 40-27 compared to Boston’s 35 to 22.  Looking at snow.  The average amount of snow on the ground in Jan is 3” in Reykjavik and 4” in Boston.  So, in those measurements Reykjavik is warmer and has less snow than Boston on average.  What Reykjavik has much more of in winter than Boston is dark.  In Reykjavik the sun is visible for 4 hours on December 21st whereas in Boston it’s visible for 9 hours.  However in the summer things go the other way with a bit over 21 hrs vs a bit over 15 hrs.  No need for daylight savings time with 21 hours of sunshine.

Here are some waterfall photos (you Facebook readers will have to find them in the photos box).  I don’t know the name of many of these waterfalls.

Falls right into this families back yard

Going Home in splenderGoing Home in splender

Real nice small stair-step falls

Farms and Waterfalls, IcelandFarms and Waterfalls, Iceland

Foss a Sidu Waterfall, Kirkjubæjarklaustri Area

Foss a Sidu Waterfall & Basaltic columnsFoss a Sidu Waterfall & Basaltic columns

Foss a Sidu Waterfall, Kirkjubæjarklaustri Area

White farm house by Foss a Sidu WaterfallWhite farm house by Foss a Sidu Waterfall

Foss a Sidu Waterfall, Kirkjubæjarklaustri Area

31 7d2001-#693531 7d2001-#6935

Rt-1 Near Rt-204, Kirkjubæjarklaustri Area

32 7d2001-#694032 7d2001-#6940



Of course each of these falls results in a river going on down to the sea.  Many are small streams that cross the flood plain as a stream but many are full blown river size.  As I talked about in a prior post, when there is a volcanic eruption under the massive glacier it causes quite a massive and powerful flood.  Back by the Svinafell Glacier was one such flood in 1996.  In this flood nearly 1 cubic mile – yes “Mile” – of water came crashing down in less than 2 days.  The flow was two million cubic feet of water per, wait for it, .......... per second.  As you can imagine it took out everything in its path including all the bridges on the newly completed Rt-1 that encircles the entire island.  I’m including a photo of an “I-beam” from one of those bridges later found a ways down stream from where the bridge was that it once held up. 

Beams from washed out bridge.

24 7d2001-#679924 7d2001-#6799

This flood plain (alluvial plain) now is a dark slate gray expanse of volcanic rock and ash with occasional rivers meandering through that look like silver ribbons on a charcoal canvas.

Djupa River at Rt-1, Kalfafell Area

25 7d2001-#680725 7d2001-#6807

Rt-1 E. of Kalfafell

26 7d2001-#681626 7d2001-#6816

After a long and interesting day, with some incredible sites we arrived back in Vik to spend the night.

Sea Stacks near Vik

33 7d2001-#700033 7d2001-#7000

- My Photo web site (

- All images from Iceland (202):

- Favorite images from Iceland (37):

Thanks for reading -- Dan




camper van rental Iceland(non-registered)
Wonderful shots of the glacier lagoon Jökulsárlón. It could be mentioned that the lagoon didn't officially become the deepest lake in Iceland until 2010 and apparently it gets deeper all the time. You can read about it here:
Safe travels!
No comments posted.
January February March April May June July (1) August (1) September October November December
January February March April May (1) June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May (1) June July August September October November December
January February March April (1) May June July August September October November December