Chigwell Sixth Form Geographers visit Iceland

Posted on 7th Jun 2023 in School News, Geography, School Trips

At the start of the Easter break, twenty-eight Year 13 students and three members of staff from Chigwell School enjoyed a visit to Iceland on the annual geography trip.

On the first day of the trip, the students took in the attractions of the capital Reykjavik. Among these was the Hallgrimskirkja church which is one of the most iconic buildings in Iceland, reminiscent of something from Lord of the Rings, and can be seen from across the city. The design is modelled on natural rock columns found throughout Iceland and the students took in all that it had to offer. The students also found the design of the Harpa concert hall and the harbour areas very interesting.

On the second day of the trip we visited a number of beautiful waterfalls. The first was Seljalandsfoss, which spills 60m over a former sea cliff, now sited far inland due to isostatic rebound. The students then visited the Eyjafjallajökull Visitor Centre at Thorvaldseyri to gain insight into the impacts of the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption on the local community. The centre features breathtaking images of the eruption and an interesting documentary film about how the family at Thorvaldseyri farm coped during and after the event.

The second waterfall, Skógafoss, was another of Iceland’s most impressive waterfalls with a wide, thundering curtain of water 60m high. One of the most impressive sites on the trip was Sólheimajökull which means ‘sun house glacier’, which has been retreating since the end of the 19th century at a rate of around 100m per year. The students were able to marvel at the jumble of crevasses on the glacier’s surface and the chaos of stony moraines, rock and sand, revealed as it melts. This is one of several outlet glaciers from the Mýrdalsjökull icecap, which conceals one of Iceland’s most active volcanoes. We finished the day by walking along the black volcanic beach to see magnificent basalt cliffs and caves. The students took an array of photos standing and sitting on the basalt columns and many commented on what an amazing day it had been.

On the final day the students visited Gullfoss. These double falls drop around 33m then plunge into a mile-long gorge; one of Iceland’s most photographed waterfalls. They also visited the site of Geysir, a spouting hot spring that gave its name to all the world’s geysers. Although it doesn’t often spout nowadays, its neighbour ‘Strokkur’ erupts every 10-15 minutes reaching a height of around 30m. We then visited Efstidalur dairy farm where the barn has been converted into a restaurant, with windows into the cow shed, where you can watch the cows and calves in their daily environment. The farm makes its own milk products such as ice cream, skyr, feta cheese and more. We then went on to Thingvellir which is the National Park where Iceland’s parliament was established in 930AD. The site straddles the Mid-Atlantic Ridge; its rift valley forming where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates pull apart at an average of 3cm a year.

One of the final stops was the Blue Lagoon, which is one of Iceland’s most popular visitor attractions; the Blue Lagoon is a spacious bathing pool set in a moody landscape of mossy lava. Averaging a temperature of 30-40 ̊C, its silica-rich geothermal seawater is drawn from a 2,000m deep borehole.