Iceland: Expedition Scouting

Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica) at Laetrabjarg in the Westfjords

Polar explorer and photographer Chris Linder traveled to Iceland In mid-August with a group of fellow Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute associates, in part to scout locations for next year’s Visionary Wild expedition, tentatively scheduled for August 19 – 26, 2012. In the following report from the field, Chris has kindly shared his thoughts and a few images from the trip. Watch for details about the 2012 Iceland Expedition in the coming weeks.

Misty mountains in Snaefellssnes National Park

Scouting Iceland

or… In the land of Gore-Tex and Speedos

by Chris Linder

As I lounged in a geothermally heated river watching the last rays of sunlight play across tan and maroon rhyolite hills in the Icelandic highlands, I pondered how to characterize a workshop here without resorting to the “fire and ice” cliché.  Even after multiple visits to Iceland’s most photogenic destinations over the last ten years, I was about to concede defeat: the cliché has its merits.

Rhyolite hills at Landmannalaugar

Iceland sits astride the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are pulling apart.  This causes the “fire”—geothermally active areas comprise nearly a third of Iceland’s land area (including the soothing pool I was relaxing in).  This geothermal activity, manifested in steaming fumaroles, spurting geysers, and bubbling mudpots, is one reason why the Icelandic landscape has such an otherworldly beauty.  Couple this heat with the “ice”—sprawling glaciers like Vatnajökull (the largest ice cap in Europe) and iceberg-filled lagoons, and there you have it…  In my humble opinion, one of the most photogenic countries in the world.

Crevassed glacier ice at Kverkfjall

This scouting trip was an intensive journey through nearly all of Iceland’s landscapes, from puffin-encrusted cliffs in the Westfjords to the remote and rugged Highlands.  With our trusty Jeep Cherokee, my companions and I drove many kilometers of two-track and forded more rivers than I can count – most routes through the Highlands are not bridged.

Crossing a river on the way to Landmannalaugar

14,000 photographs later, I’m ready to plan out an adventure in August 2012 for a select group of photographers to my favorite places in Iceland.  Stay tuned to the Visionary Wild site for more details.

Lake Öskjuvatn in the Askja caldera

So what to do about the cliché?  As I watched bathers scamper across the boardwalk to the hot spring under a spattering of cold rain, a thought came to mind: land of Gore-Tex and Speedos?  I think I’ll have to keep working on it….