JULY 25: JOURNAL UPDATES
(all photos by Lee Narraway)
The SOI Team in front of the Presidential Residence
Michael Gardiner, Torbay NL
Today we take the "Golden Circle" for a tour around Iceland. We drive to our first hike through a land that makes one not surprised the Icelandic people believe in a hidden people. There seems to be an infinite number of mountains, rugged trench-like terrain, and valleys where one would not be surprised to stumble upon a village of elves or trolls. The first event of the day was the first hike of the expedition we got a chance to get up close to the vegetation and take pictures of the panorama. It was a perfect day for pictures with the clouds providing contrast to the high mountain peaks. It gave me a feeling for the sense of adventure; it seems that in this so great landscape the words that come to mind at first do not do the sights justice. Ari our tour guide taught about us the ancient law making and how we were in the spot that this happened so long ago. He got us to think about how those ancient people would have had no idea that we would be there now and to get us to look at who would be there 1100 years in the future. After the hike we got to see a water fall and I saw my first geyser. We were also taught the geo-mechanics of how they work and it gave me an idea of how sometimes what we see is only a fraction of what is truly happening. After the Geysers we had the honor to visit the President of Iceland. This unexpected opportunity was an amazing one as we not only met him but got to listen to him talk about his passion for the arctic and Iceland. He talked with great insight about a lot of the political and environmental issues that will face the arctic nations in years to come. Something he said that really stuck with me was that the fate of the Arctic is the fate of the world.
President of Iceland meets with the SOI team at his private residence
So far this expedition is fun and the food is good and the people are friendly. I also got to share a room with my friend Reagan! Yay. We also got to see the Gullfoss waterfalls and many other things. My birthday was awesome too, but I missed home, just that one day. Hope you read this Mom & Dad. Love you. And tell Sissy to feed Sassy. Almost forgot, we met the President of Iceland.
Mike Jensen, Staff, Winnipeg Manitoba
Toronto - Reykjavik, Iceland
Apologies blog readers, if you are getting this a couple of days later. It's been... hectic, to say the least. But it wouldn't be an SOI expedition if it wasn't! Saturday was travel day for almost all students and staff. My role was on the Meet and Greet team (an awesome team, if any of you read this later) at Pearson International, greeting all the students arriving by plane. All told, about 25 students flew in between 3pm Friday and 4:30pm Saturday and I'm happy to say I was one of the first SOI faces they met when they arrived... well, those that DID arrive, anyway. Despite all attempts to make everything go smoothly, delays, lost luggage, and scheduling issues make things interesting. Happily thought, all but two students (from Tennessee) arrived on time for the early evening group check-in. (UPDATE: both are now here, having arrived on later flights!)
The flight was uneventful, and most people slept, or chatted quietly with the people in their rows. As with my previous expeditions, it was fascinating to see how quickly this diverse group of teenagers can bond together so quickly. By the time we arrived in Reykjavik, it was like some of them had known each other for years.
Sadly, I'm going to end things off here. Sorry, it wasn't an interesting update - I promise I'll do better next time! But just wanted to let everyone know I've arrived safe and sound, and expect to see more in the next day or so!
Thingvellir National Park Geyser Blows
Today we began our day on a hike through the place where the oldest existing parliament was established. It was an eye opening journey through the nature of Iceland. During the one minute of silence, where we kept in mind the people that were killed in Norway the last Friday. I thought of the people in that country that were joined to us simultaneously in this moment of silence, and I also absorbed the pure silence of the land...Which is not so silent. The soft sounds of wind rippling through the tall grass...Ones heart pumping after an exhilarating walk. I could feel the vast presence of the rocky, rough cliffs that surrounded us, as well as the distant mountains and volcanoes. Along the way I learned that more than half of Icelanders believe in elves, trolls, and hidden people. All of these mythical creatures are based on stories from religion and explanations for what science did not cover during the early years of the Vikings. The Vikings believed that trolls lived inside or were the large rocks that cover the mountains and valleys of Iceland, and that they only came out at night. When the sun rose, the trolls ran to hide. They knew nothing of seismic activity, and thus the rolling troll rocks were responsible for the sudden dramatic shaking of the earth. It fascinates me how the Vikings had such imagination in relation to the nature of things around them. I also learned that Iceland is mainly dependent on hydropower and geothermic power to generate heat and electricity. It amazes me that such a vast nation can be so sustainable. To me, Iceland is an example of how it is possible for us to break past the illusionistic bars of society. It is a humble, beautiful place that I am falling more and more in love with by the moment.
Angie Jo and Cassandra Elphinstone
Trevor de Zeeuw, Derek Gill and Nick Talor
Regan Burden, Port Hope Simpson, Labrador
I am currently writing to you from Room 318 of our hotel in Reykjavik, Iceland. That actually hasn't sunk in yet. Out flight left from TO around 9:20 their time and we got in Iceland around 7:10 Icelandic time (the flight was only like 5 hours!). And I got a window seat, score! I also got to sit Jean Francois, and Jonathon Chatman. Jean or JF as he's more commonly known on these expeditions was at one point the youngest Canadian to climb Mount Everest – which is really awesome and inspiring, so I was really glad to sit next to him and talk about that and his other mountaineering trips. It was also cool to spend some time with Jonathon because he seems to be a really nice person and he's only from St. John's so it'll be super easy to keep in touch and I know for sure that I'll see him again. Anyway, enough about my sleepless flight, let's talk about Iceland.
When we landed, after we went through customs of course, we boarded a bus and head to the Blue Lagoon. Oh, and I forgot to add that it was extremely windy in Iceland when we landed. And it definitely hadn't let up by the time we headed into the lovely geothermal spa. So, not only can I say that I soaked in the Blue Lagoon, but I can also say that I've tasted it as well. Even though it felt like most of the water was beating up against my face and going down my throat, it is definitely something I would like to indulge in again.
After everyone cleaned up from the water, we got on the buses again and headed to another location on the Blue Lagoon site where we had our first team meeting. It was so exciting to get everyone together and to hear bits and pieces of their background and also to hear about what they're excited for.
Then, if can't already tell, it was a very busy day. We headed to a Viking Museum. First we ate lunch and then I got a chance to talk with Tyler of the Water Brothers. He and his brother of course, are doing a television program that will air on TVO sometime in February. I chatted with him about some of the episodes and their experiences and it seems pretty awesome. So, SOI followers go check it out, and you can also go to their website www.thewaterbrothers.ca.
Anyway, back to the Museum itself, there was a really awesome boat that the founder of the museum, who actually came out to talk with us, built himself. It was a replica of a Viking ship that sailed from Iceland to Greenland to Northern Labrador, and he took the same journey which ironically enough is the journey we are taking too. We also got to enjoy some throat singing from two of the expedition students and on the museum workers.
Then we checked into our hotel rooms, all most of us did was shower and sleep. Then we went to the Park of the People and played some really strange, but fun icebreaker games. We took our first group picture on what I'm going to call a statue. We did some more walking around and then headed to a restaurant called the Viking and had some pizza.
After supper we went to the conference room and received a couple of presentations about volcanoes and the Continental plates as well as the geothermal stuff. This was cool because we were visiting some of those places the next day.
After that we just went back to the hotel, now if you'll excuse me. I'm going to sleep.
Simmi Sigurgeirsson meets the President of Iceland
Victoria Wee, Coquitlam, British Columbia
I can finally say I am in the beautiful land of Iceland! What a wonderful place. I don’t know that I have ever been in a place that is so soothing and that reflects nature in such a pure and unadulterated form. We have spent two full days in Iceland as of now, but with all the jam-packed action and what with meeting – and shaking hands with—the President of Iceland, taking a photo with him – thrice!--, driving along Iceland’s Golden Circle, snapping pictures madly as Icelandic horses grazed by the side of the highway, stepping foot on an Viking ship, watching awestruck as geysers erupted around me, picking my way precariously around the cliff overlooking Golden Waterfall, listening and absorbing the wonderful and soul-touching presentations from Ari Trausti Gudmundsson—who is an incredibly articulate, intelligent, and thoroughly kind geophysicist and writer that happens to be on first name terms with the President (his name is Ollie if you were curious)— and so much more that my head is fairly erupting itself with beauty and thought, or thought and beauty. Actually from reflecting now on all I have seen and learned, thought and beauty have never seemed more synonymous to me. One sight that struck me the most on the journey today was how blended the past and present are. I was sitting beside Sara, who blogs for the WWF, and we were so awestruck by a simple sight: there were rocks and debris scattered around the grassy area below soaring rock walls—and one massive rock piece was graffiti! Graffiti! Can you believe it? I still can’t? Well, actually maybe I can believe it, but I’m still a bit mind-blown. Sara and I were thinking about all the graffiti represented… human creation, aerosols, cans, aluminum, paint, creativity, words… against all that that single slab of rock represented… nature’s creation, power, solidity… As Ari said, a very important word is mixture. Also on a similar thought, at the Viking museum we were at yesterday, I was giggling to myself when under the Viking ship—I saw a Mac. I’m still giggling (although when I think no one’s looking, very closely anyway haha).
Expedition Leader and SOI Founder Geoff Green meets the President
Cassandra Elphinstone, Nanaimo, BC
After a half hour drive through the amazing barren landscape of Iceland we arrived at Parliament Plains. You could see where the Eurasian and North American Plates were separating. It held an unusual presence, making one feel very small. We all sat in the same place that centuries before the chiefs, of Icelandic tribes had come together. The chiefs used the cliff behind the spot to create an echo like a small amphitheatre. After hiking through the valley we got back on the bus. Icelandic horses, famous for their five gaits, could be seen all along the side of the road. Next we arrived at my favourite spot of the day, the Golden Waterfall. It was a breathtaking sight. I have never seen such a wide waterfall before. It turned out there was a change of plans and we got to spend even longer at the waterfall. I walked to the top of the waterfall and got soaked by the spray. Standing looking down on the ravine created by the waterfall I felt so free. Today I also had a fascinating discussion with the youngest Canadian to climb Mount Everest. I am extremely interested in mountaineering and the discussion really helped me realize how I could accomplish my goals. Contacts I learned are very important in attempting mountaineering, especially on mountains such as Mount Everest. So far the best part of the trip has been the interesting unique people I have met. The discussions I have had with everyone have made me look at many things in a new way.
David (Hiquaq) Serkoak and Sylvia Cloutier entertain at the Presidential Residence
July 25 UPDATE 12:50 PM EDT
Just a quick update to report that all is well and that the students are having a great day. As we speak they are at the gates of the Presidential Residence en route to meet the President of Iceland!
We have uploaded Video #1 on to the Expedition Video page which details some of yesterday's adventures including the visit to a very windy Blue Lagoon! You can find the link to the Expedition Videos on the left side of the page.
Because the team is travelling so much these first few days, they haven't had time to set-up the satellite system to transmit photos and journals... However, we have been assured that we should be receiving a big batch of them from the past two days anytime now. Of course, once the team is on the ship on the 27th - we will be receiving regular, daily updates of journals and photos...
And in the meantime, you can follow Geoff Green's tweets, too...
Stay tuned for more!
July 25 UPDATE 8:00 AM EDT
The great fault line at Thingvellir - where the geological plates of America and Europe are tearing slowly apart.
Good morning! Our team had an extraordinary day yesterday. All are well, excited and happy! Yesterday's early morning arrival, a dip in the hot springs, a special tour and presentation at the Blue Lagoon, followed by a full evening of programming left the students exhausted ... and we understand from the staff that the participants literally dragged themselves to bed - half an hour earlier than "lights out"!
Another full day in Iceland awaits...
Today, the team will board buses and tour the surrounding countryside...
The team will visit Thingviller National Park. No single place epitomizes the history of Iceland and the Icelandic nation better than Thingviller on the river Öxará.
At Thingviller – literally "Parliament Plains" – the general assembly was established around 930 and continued to convene there until 1798. Major events in the history of Iceland have taken place at Thingviller and therefore the place is held in high esteem by all Icelanders. Historic ruins, waterfalls, geysers, hot springs and extraordinary hiking surround this amazing part of Iceland.
Geologically, the area holds special significance. Thingviller is home to a great fault line, where the geological plates of America and Europe are tearing slowly apart. Students will explore this fascinating part of the world.
For lunch, the participants will be treated to a special Icelandic menu!
And if that wasn't enough for the day... At 5 PM today, the whole team will travel to
Bessastaðir - the Presidential Residence - where they will have a special reception with the President of the Republic of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson!
Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson. President of the Republic of Iceland
Bessastaðir - the Presidential Residence
Stay Tuned for Further Updates!