Iceland: Stunning Crystalline Ice on a Volcanic Black Sand Beach!

Crystalline Ice on Beach Across from Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon:  Ice 1

Crystalline Ice on Beach Across from Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon: Ice 1

Ice 2

Ice 2

Ice 3

Ice 3

Ice 4

Ice 4

Ice 5

Ice 5

Ice 6

Ice 6

Ice 7

Ice 7

Ice 8

Ice 8

Ice 9

Ice 9

Ice 10

Ice 10

Ice 11

Ice 11

Ice 12

Ice 12

Ice 13

Ice 13

Ice 14

Ice 14

One of the most amazing sights we saw in Iceland was crystalline ice on a volcanic black sand beach at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon.  The ice floats out to sea with the tide from the lagoon, and some of it washes onto the volcanic black sand shoreline.  The interplay between ice, light, waves is ever-changing.  Nature’s beauty here is stunning!  Do you have a favorite?

Iceland: Glaciers in “The Land of Fire and Ice”

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

Blue Ice Streaked with Black Volcanic Sand

Blue Ice Streaked with Black Volcanic Sand

Vatnajokull Ice Cap

Vatnajokull Ice Cap

Small Iceberg Floating Downstream

Small Iceberg Floating Downstream

Couple Viewing Icebergs in Lagoon

Couple Viewing Icebergs in Lagoon

Arctic Terns Flying Over Ice

Arctic Terns Flying Over Ice

Iceland contains the largest glaciers in the world outside of Greenland and Antarctica. This “Land of Fire and Ice” has 11% of its landmass permanently covered in ice.  Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon on the country’s south coast is especially beautiful. The icebergs in this lagoon come from the Vatnajokull ice cap (jokull at the end of a word means “glacier” in Icelandic).  The colors and beauty of this area are stunning!  A live webcam is at: http://www.livefromiceland.is/webcams/jokulsarlon/

Iceland: Volcanoes in “The Land of Fire and Ice”

Kerid’s Volcanic Caldera

Kerid’s Volcanic Caldera

Blesi Hot Spring

Blesi Hot Spring

Strokkur Geyser’s Blue Bubble (nicknamed “The Churn”)

Strokkur Geyser’s Blue Bubble (nicknamed “The Churn”)

Strokkur Geyser Erupting

Strokkur Geyser Erupting

Seltun Volcanic Basin

Seltun Volcanic Basin

Graenavatn Explosion Crater Lake

Graenavatn Explosion Crater Lake

View from Bridge Between the Continents – Rift Between the North American Plate (left) and Eurasian Plate (right)

View from Bridge Between the Continents – Rift Between the North American Plate (left) and Eurasian Plate (right)

Iceland sits on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge at the intersection of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates.  This “Land of Fire and Ice” has 30-40 active volcanoes and a major eruption about every 5 years.  A new island named Surtsey formed after an eruption in 1963-1967.  Homes on the offshore island of Heimaey were suddenly covered up by lava and ash in 1973 (thus giving it the nickname “Iceland’s Pompeii”).  A new volcano museum named Eldheimar opened there in May 2014 (http://eldheimar.is/en/).  Worldwide air travel was disrupted for days by the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in 2010.

All of this volcanic activity means that there are numerous places to see geysers, mud pots, fumaroles, and volcanic calderas in Iceland.  Our favorite geyser was Strokkur outside of Reykjavik.  It makes an unbelievable blue bubble for a split second before the water gushes up.   The English word “geyser” comes from Iceland’s original “Geysir” (which means gusher).  All of the places pictured are within an easy day trip from Reykjavik.

Iceland: Cute Horses and Sheep

Four Icelandic Horses

Four Icelandic Horses

Baby Icelandic Horse and Buttercups

Baby Icelandic Horse and Buttercups

Thick Mane of Icelandic Horse

Thick Mane of Icelandic Horse

Icelandic Sheep and Buttercups

Icelandic Sheep and Buttercups

Cute Twin Lambs

Cute Twin Lambs

Icelandic Sheep and Lupines

Icelandic Sheep and Lupines

One of the fun things about driving through the Icelandic countryside was seeing the adorable horses and sheep. Icelandic horses look like small ponies, and first arrived with the Vikings. They have a unique gait (tolt) that lets them move smoothly over rough terrain. Icelandic sheep are world famous for their wool. No other breeds of horse or sheep are permitted in Iceland. The pure bloodlines of these hardy animals have been around for over 1,000 years. We were especially fortunate to visit in June – there were lots of baby horses and lambs in the meadows.

Iceland: Spectacular Waterfalls!

Seljalandsfoss in South Iceland

Seljalandsfoss in South Iceland

Seljalandsfoss Vertical View

Seljalandsfoss Vertical View

Seljalandsfoss Sheets of Falling Water

Seljalandsfoss Sheets of Falling Water

Massive Skogafoss in South Iceland

Massive Skogafoss in South Iceland

Unnamed Waterfall in South Iceland

Unnamed Waterfall in South Iceland

Gullfoss (Golden Falls) near Reykjavik

Gullfoss (Golden Falls) near Reykjavik

Close-up of Gullfoss Gorge

Close-up of Gullfoss Gorge

Godafoss (Waterfall of the Gods) in North Iceland

Godafoss (Waterfall of the Gods) in North Iceland

Unnamed Waterfall in North Iceland

Unnamed Waterfall in North Iceland

Waterfall and Farm in South Iceland

Waterfall and Farm in South Iceland

Iceland has been called the “Land of 10,000 Waterfalls”. Although the actual number is unknown, waterfalls are numerous due to abundant rainfall and glacial ice melt in summer.  “Foss” at the end of a word means waterfall in Icelandic.  These waterfalls are spectacular!

Iceland! Arrival and Blue Lagoon

Swimming in the Blue Lagoon's Steamy Water

Swimming in the Blue Lagoon’s Steamy Water

Water Outflow Entering Lagoon through Volcanic Pumice Stone

Water Outflow Entering Lagoon through Volcanic Pumice Stone

Blue Lagoon's Milky Blue Water within Black Volcanic Landscape

Blue Lagoon’s Milky Blue Water within Black Volcanic Landscape

Green Moss-Covered Lava Field

Green Moss-Covered Lava Field

We recently spent 10 days in Iceland – what a beautiful landscape!  This tiny island is one of the top locations in the world for nature photography. It was voted Best in Travel in 2012 and 2013 by Lonely Planet. It was voted World’s Best Travel Destination in 2012 by National Geographic. It was also voted friendliest country to travelers. It is one of the “greenest” countries in the world because of its use of geothermal power – the air and water are crystal pure. Tourists can expect to see black sand beaches, glaciers, waterfalls, volcanoes, geysers, and boiling mud pots. Every town has its own geothermal-heated swimming pool. Whales are abundant in the waters offshore (activity peaks in June). It is one of the top places in the world for seabirds (half the world’s puffin population nests in this region May to June). Purebred Icelandic horses and sheep graze in the meadows. It is a photographer’s paradise!

Our first stop of the trip was the Blue Lagoon – the number one tourist destination in Iceland (near Reykjavik).  The lagoon’s steamy blue water is popular among bathers for both recreational and therapeutic purposes. The water starts off in superheated form beside a lava flow over a mile below the surface. A geothermal power station vents it from the ground, and the steam is used to run turbines to generate electricity, and to provide heat for the municipal water system. The power station’s outflow of water is released into the Blue Lagoon. The water contains fine white silica silt that is used for spa treatments and beauty products, and is said to be especially beneficial to the skin. A soak in this 99 degree water is exactly what is needed after a long flight.   The landscape’s colors are especially striking – milky blue water, black lava rocks, and green moss. Mosses account for half of all vegetation in Iceland.  Many more posts are coming!

California: Return to Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree and Rocky Landscape

Joshua Tree and Rocky Landscape

Each Joshua Tree Has a Unique Shape

Each Joshua Tree Has a Unique Shape

Flowering Joshua Tree

Flowering Joshua Tree

Strawberry Hedgehog Cactus

Strawberry Hedgehog Cactus

Claret Cup Hedgehog Cactus

Claret Cup Hedgehog Cactus

Joshua Tree is one of our favorite national parks (near Twentynine Palms, California). The trees are giant members of the Yucca family. The largest tree in the park is 42 feet tall, 34 feet wide, and has a trunk 9 feet around. Although trees start off growth as a single stalk, each one quickly develops its own unique shape due to damage to the growing tips. Joshua trees have a very important role in the Mojave High Desert ecosystem. This beautiful landscape has been featured in many movies and TV shows. More info is at: http://www.nps.gov/jotr/naturescience/jtrees.htm   A previous post is at: http://naturetime.wordpress.com/2012/03/19/joshua-tree-national-park/