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Students Experience Fire and Ice on Iceland Trip

Twenty-two Year 10-13 students were given a fantastic opportunity this term to experience Iceland in all its natural splendour.

A lot of travelling was involved with Iceland being reached by plane over 1000 miles away. With our tour guide Hilmar, we walked over 30 miles and this allowed the group to experience many of the fantastic natural wonders and rich cultural differences that the country has to offer including volcanoes and volcanic beaches, glaciers, waterfalls, a geothermal power station, lagoons, earthquake hotspots and even a rift valley between the Eurasion and North American plates.

Our experience started with entry into the Blue Lagoon. The lagoon is a man-made lagoon which is fed by the water output of the nearby geothermal power plant Svartsengi and is renewed every two days. The warm waters are rich in minerals like silica and sulphur and the students enjoyed spending two hours in the 38°C waters equipped with face masks! For many this was the highlight of the four days!

Other sites that were visited included several waterfalls and it was even possible to walk behind one although it did result in people getting very wet. On the theme of water, the group also visited the site of ‘Geysir’ – the hot spring that gave its name to all geysers.

Joe and Daniel standing in front of the huge river that feeds Gulfoss Waterfall and opposite the impressive Geysir.
Alex, Xander and Charles join Harry in taking in the site and sound of the powerful Gulfoss waterfall.

The eruption of the volcano, Eyjafjallajökull, in 2010 disrupted European airspace for an entire week and the group were able to see the effects of the eruption first hand in terms of the scale of the damage it did to the surrounding farmland, roads, bridges and local community. To be able to stand in front of a real, active volcano was a moment of awe and wonder for the students and staff.

Part of the reason there are volcanoes in this part of the world is due to the divergence of two tectonic plates. An extremely interesting geological rift valley is the result of this landscape moving apart at the rate of 2cm per year. It was highly valuable for the pupils to see this for themselves and appreciate its true scale.

The pupils posing in front of the North American plate.

Tectonic activity has also brought many benefits to Iceland and we were invited to attend a guided tour of The Hellisheiði Power Station which is the third-largest geothermal power station in the world. The students were fascinated by the size of the plant and just how useful geothermal energy is to countries such as Iceland, Kenya and China.

Year 13 A level students standing with the volcano behind them that feeds the huge geothermal power station.

Culturally, the trip included visits to museums as well as Reykjavík's Hallgrímskirkja church which is a major landmark in the city and an incredibly impressive building in its own right. Reykjavik is an interesting and quirky city and the students really enjoyed taking in the sights and sounds, including the Volcano House museum.

Our final location was a real highlight for the A level Geographers. The heavy rain and wind abated at just the right moment, meaning that we could travel up to the mountains to see Sohlheimajokull glacier in all its glory. The students could see different types of moraine and moulin in the flesh, something that a text book can’t deliver. This will really aide their understanding for the exams in the summer of 2018.

Our final evening allowed us to celebrate as a group at a local restaurant and then it was time to say goodbye to a tremendous country.

A massive thanks to Mrs Christmas for accompanying the trip. Also, a huge amount of thanks to the parents for your understanding and support throughout the trip. Finally, thank you to the students, you were an absolute pleasure to take away for the four days and we hope that you look back on the visit with a real sense of pride and achievement.

The trip will be running again in the future so keep an eye out for details over the next academic year within the Geography Department.

Mr Reader - Assistant Principal and Iceland trip leader