All I wanted to do was sleep off the near-pneumonia cough and cold I had acquired almost a month prior. Upgraded to a sinus infection about a week before, I was still 2 days from finishing the round of antibiotics and felt like death. Now, James and I had to leave the plane for a rental car that would only just fit the two of us with our luggage and find a place to camp.
It was April in Iceland, where average high temperatures were somewhere around freezing, and we planned to spend the next 32 nights sleeping in a tent. Forget adventure, in that moment I thought I was going to freeze to death.
After the first morning’s three-hour nap sitting up in the tiny rental, we stayed the next night thankfully free from wind near Þingvellir National Park, where I slept away the infection for a solid 16 hours inside my sleeping bag. Best night’s sleep of my life.
|Our third night, Þingvellir also displayed our first-ever Aurora sighting over Öxarárfoss|
The rest of the month is now a whirlwind of memories; breathtaking scenery, great people, and cold nights. One thing I remember clearly, though, is the ice. Incomprehensibly large ice fields. Glaciers riddled with massive crevasses. Cobalt icebergs swept up on black sand beaches.
Iceland was the first time I’d seen glaciers or icebergs close enough to appreciate the immensity of their size and power. Although we never got the chance to walk on a glacier this trip, the sight of them stayed with me. It sparked something.
The first glaciers we experienced were of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula – Don’t worry, I still can’t pronounce it, either. Everything on the volcanic peak, Snæfellsjökull, was still covered in snow, but it was perfectly clear that there were glaciers even before I really understood what a glacier was. Through the snow cover, massive crevasses split the ice over and over down the steep slope of the volcano.
|Camp overlooking Snæfellsnes Peninsula|
Two weeks later, we spent a night about a mile from a glacier. I remember distinctly seeing it in the late evening light, a broken icefall appearing as though it was tumbling over the mountain pass in the distance. I don’t recall which glacier it was, but this one was particularly talkative. All night I listened to the thundering of ice cracking and breaking. I couldn’t help but smile in excitement, and we would soon get to experience the product of such power: the icebergs of Jökulsárlón.
Glaciers around the world calve off chunks from their terminus, creating icebergs. Glacial Lagoons, though are something unique and fascinating. Instead of just floating off to sea or melting in a glacial lake, the icebergs created by the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier fall into a massive lagoon that ebbs and flows with the tides. Smaller icebergs float out to sea, and larger bergs become trapped by the shallow waters near the ocean side. They just float around in different currents, drifting, melting, turning, flipping, until they shrink enough to float away or melt altogether. Several bergs that make it to open ocean are later washed back inland and up onto the surreal black sand beaches. The contrast of the crystal clear to deep blue colors of the icebergs against the black volcanic sand of the beaches is simply mesmerizing.
|Small iceberg on Jökulsárlón beach|
|Three people explore the rocky edge of Jökulsárlón|
Our entire first day at Jökulsárlón, the sky was dark with rain clouds. Even in the dreary darkness, I couldn’t get over the intensity of the deep blue emanating from a number of bergs floating in the lagoon. We walked the shoreline for about a half mile and back in the rain, taking photos and recording videos and time-lapse sequences. I remember being struck by how quickly everything changed. These icebergs created a photographic subject like nothing I’d ever experienced with landscapes; They were so rapidly changing, so dynamic, I was absolutely enthralled. The next day was a beautiful mix of clouds and sunshine, occasionally opening up just long enough to play with some highlighting of bergs in the much smaller Fjallsárlón to the West. I couldn’t get enough of the icebergs – we spent four days photographing them.
|Iceberg of Fjallsárlón highlighted by sunshine in a narrow break through the clouds|
Later, we passed by a visitor center and multiple guide companies offering glacier tours. We were within hours walking distance of a number of glaciers but we couldn’t afford a guide to take us out. We also wouldn’t risk walking out onto a currently snow-covered glacier with our, at the time, very limited knowledge and no gear to speak of for traveling on snow or ice. The glaciers of Iceland would have to wait for another time. I was left with a wild wonder and curiosity, though. I was determined to learn more about these incredible rivers of ice.
In the summer following our return from Iceland, I would find myself driving to Alaska. "Just visiting" I told myself…
As I learn and experience more of these icy wonders, I will take this blog in a much different direction. It will become something of a travel journal to share my experiences with new glaciers, but also to share knowledge of the glacial process. My goal is to experience, photograph and share as many of the world's glaciers as possible while they are still around.
I hope my images will spark some wonder in you as well. Together, we will do everything we can to enjoy and share their beauty and, hopefully, do something to keep them around just a little bit longer.
Thanks for reading,
More photos below, and even more, here.
|The many icebergs of Fjallsárlón in front of Fjallsjökull Glacier that produces them|
|James tries out the glacier ice|
|Very large berg in Jökulsárlón|
|Family of seals in the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon|