The staff and students from Bury Church of England School were introduced to some of the worst conditions Iceland has to offer when they stepped out of the airport building on arrival at Keflavik. The driving rain, gale force winds and freezing temperatures were certainly a shock to the system but this hardy lot were undeterred by the extreme conditions and were soon ensconced in the warm, relaxing waters of the Blue Lagoon.
I was greeted by an eager group of students the next morning, excited to see what else Iceland had to offer so it was time to layer up and pull on the waterproofs as the Icelandic adventure had only just begun. Today offered the chance to appreciate just how active and alive the landscape is; cooking eggs in hot springs, walking amongst bubbling mud pots and steaming geothermal areas, brought the sights, sounds and smells of Iceland into reality.
Today we had snow! Enough to see the UK grind to a halt but not enough to stop the Bury students. A visit to Þingvellir National Park always sends a shiver down my spine. Its geological significance along the diverging Mid-Atlantic Ridge and crossing from the Eurasian Plate to the North American Plate is a truly unique experience. The chance to share this with GCSE students and see them start to really grasp the concept of plate tectonics is a special moment. Suddenly the text book theory and the lines on a map start to make sense.
Iceland looks very different in the snow and visiting the partially frozen waterfalls of Gullfoss, Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss is an amazing experience as the spray seems to freeze in mid-air and coats the surrounding basalt rocks in a glistening layer of ice. Walking towards the falls feels like you are entering a mystical and magical kingdom.
Day 4 took us south and Barney the Bear was captivated by the back pebble beach, the thunderous waves from the Atlantic Ocean and the towering basalt columns. Coastal erosion, transportation and deposition are all evident from this enchanting location. It was also a chance to visit a glacier and despite the worrying rate of retreat at Sólheimajökull the scale and majesty of this magnificent glacier is still evident but the question remains, “how long will it last?”
There was a lot of excitement as we passed beneath Eyjafjallajökull. This was a case study the students had undertaken as part of their GCSE studies so the chance to view it first hand and talk to local people who were caught up in the eruption was a really memorable moment. Once again theory becomes reality.
The final morning was spent exploring Reykjavik. A chance to pick up any last minute gifts and souvenirs and see the wonderful views of the surrounding area from the Perlan. Sadly it was time to head to the airport for the return flight. The students had been a credit to their school and I was sad to wave them off at departures. They had survived some of the harshest conditions Iceland has to offer and seen some incredible sights. Hopefully the memories will last a life time.