Sitting Pretty

30 09 2012

Boat props are all over town. Just jump up on one!


Sea Shells in Your Soy Milk!

29 09 2012

No Joke! The company Íslenska kalkthörungafélagid (Iceland Calcium Algae Company) harvests calcareous algae & shell bits, dries, and processes them. It is shipped out as a powder in huge bags like this before being added to Soy Milk.

You See a Waterfall, I See Potential Energy!

28 09 2012

This past weekend I got to visit the Mjolkarvirkjun Power Plant which supplies most of the energy to the region. It only requires one operator and he was happy to show us around.

I have the power to cut power to 7000 people! Hahaha! The biggest threat to energy security is actually iced power lines. This is common and towns rely on costly diesel generators until power is restored.

The Westfjords have very little natural hot water and little geothermal potential. The energy at this plant is therefore generated by harnessing the power of falling water. The lake is mainly fed by springs elements but also get some water from the melting snow. With receding glaciers the lake has declined significantly in recent decades. The plant uses lake water from the highlands nearly 500 feet above the plant, then funnels the water down the pipes and into the powerhouse at the bottom. The average flow of water to the electrical power turbines is about 2.3 cubic meters per second. The two turbine generators produce 11 megawatts per year!

Okay so whats the problem with that? After all the only outflow is water and there are no carbon emissions.

The dry skeleton of a past waterfall is visible on the right. The water that once cascaded down into the pools has been trapped and squeezed into the pipe which provides the water pressure to turn two massive turbines.

Why care about the destruction of THAT waterfall, when you have THIS one right down the road…

Towering 100m, the Dynjandi waterfall is one of the most spectacular in Iceland. Meaning thunderous, it can be seen and heard across the fjord. Dynjandi is actually a series of 7 smaller waterfalls, each more prodigious than the last, culminating in the trapezoidal falls pictured here.

Bright Colors in the West

27 09 2012

Sunset over the town of Patreksfjordur. Nothing else needs to be said, enjoy!

Green Roofs

26 09 2012

Traditional Icelandic home of turf, stone and wood  in Hrafnseyri, Arnarfjörður, where Jón Sigurðsson was born. The independence struggle of the Icelanders under the leadership of Sigurðsson was conducted without a shot being fired or a single man killed.

The World is Our Classroom

25 09 2012

This area is free-range, as long as you don’t get too close to the cliff edge. Luckily no one dropped out of the course – literally!  Increased foot traffic threatens the area. The land is privately owned and any attempts for management have been by the locals with no federal support. (And yes, that is a person up there)

This weekend our class and profs hopped on a bus that was ‘born’ in 1984 and took a field trip to the Southern Westfjords. We got to experience many things, see many landscapes, and meet with many people. While nothing was unimpressive, my favorite had to be the Látrabjarg cliffs, the westernmost point of Europe. From the beach to the very top they reach 444m high and are a natural phenomena on a grand scale. The cliffs are occupied by millions of Puffins, Gannets, Guillmots and Razorbills.

How can one not think this guy is adorable? There were no Puffins when we were at the cliffs as most of the breeding birds had already gone south for the winter.

For centuries, the cliff was a major local source of food for these remote rural communities. Farmers would catch birds and gather eggs, risking their lives as they dangled precariously from ropes over the cliff top. Sometimes as many as 40,000 eggs and 36,000 birds were taken. Eggs are still collected from the cliff today, partly to keep alive this tradition that has been handed from one generation to the next for centuries. This is a rich tradition that employs many unique tools and harvesting techniques. The bird populations are on the decline, but the science points to food scarcity as the reason and not egg harvest since the locals only take around 1% of the total eggs. As they are the biggest bird cliff in the northern Atlantic, Látrabjarg is fast becoming a tourist destination. The area is in the process of becoming a national park and the utility and conservation of the resource is being debated.

A GREAT account of the tradition is in the following blog:

This presentation by a Conservation Officer was inside a lighthouse. He told us of the many issues in the process of making the area a national park, the stakeholders, and the intended outcomes. As an expert on both the ecology and local community, he had a great mind to pick!

Brighten Your Day

23 09 2012

Last day of summer! This beautiful rainbow spanned the entire fjord. Now I have to find where that leprechaun is hiding that pot o gold.