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(all photos by Lee Narraway)

View from the crater rim

BLOG UPDATE by SOI Educator John Crump

Iceland is splitting...

A thousand years ago around this time families from all over Iceland followed a network of trails to Thingvellir. They walked along glacial valleys, over hills or along the coast. Some took more than two weeks to make the journey. 

Thingvellir is a rift valley, part of the mid-Atlantic ridge. The longest mountain range in the world, only one part of which pokes above the ocean -- Iceland. And Iceland it’s the only mountain range with a valley on top. This is the place where Iceland is coming apart, where the tectonic forces that gave birth to this island 20 million years ago are pulling the island apart.  


Thingvellir is where the North American plate and the Eurasian plates move away from each other at the blistering speed of 2 centimetres a year. It is also the site of the first and longest running European Parliament, as Icelanders are pleased to point out.

From 930 to 1262 AD, when Iceland came under the suzerainty of the Norwegian king, people gathered to hear the laws spoken, settle disputes, sell and trade and -- perhaps most important -- find spouses. The latter was especially important in a country that had no villages or towns. People lived in scattered farms and there was little opportunity for sustained social contact.

But why here? Is there something special about Thingvellir? From the edges of the North American plate one looks out over Thingvallavatn, the largest lake in the country, with its distinctive volcanic islands. In the distance, a dark crease marks the side of another eroded volcanic ridge -- the edge of the Eurasian plate. No one knows for sure what first brought people here but the place has a natural acoustic quality that would have allowed voices to carry. I has fresh water. And, when it is quiet and deserted this UNESCO World Heritage Site has a feeling of power about it that is hard to describe. Maybe it’s the geological forces beneath your feet. Or maybe it comes from imagining what the place would have looked like invaded by several thousand medieval Icelanders in homespun and fur, carrying their goods and weapons (which were not taken into the meeting area) on small, sturdy Icelandic horses.  

Today is a different kind of invasion -- 125 students and educators led by Icelandic scholar, poet and rock climber Ari Trausti Gudmundsson. Ari tells us about this place and its geological and historical importance. We are moving from what author and educator James Raffan calls “public knowledge” to “personal knowledge”. Raffan, who has written nearly 20 books and is now on a journey tracing the Arctic Circle, explained that “personal knowledge is the knowledge that derives from action.”

It is the philosophy that Students on Ice lives by. Over 11 years, SOI has taken more than 1600 young people to the Arctic and Antarctic. These students are not passive receptacles into which the educators onboard pour knowledge into, although there are a lot of lectures and lessons over the next two weeks.  Rather, they will be agents of their own learning. Just as they have been doing in Iceland, in the Arctic the real learning will happen through whatever connection they make to the places they will be in. 

And those connections will come in unexpected ways, as happened at Thingvellir. The Iceland Government declared a minute of silence to honour the victims of last week’s bombing and shooting rampage in Oslo. It wasn’t lost on the students that most of the victims were around their age. 

Words ceased. Heads bowed. Silence in Thingvellir.


Students hike up a volcanic crater


Mikaela Cockney-MacNeil, Inuvik, NT

This is our third day on the SOI trip and our third day in Iceland. Though we have done many things in the short time we have been here, I will talk about meeting the President of Iceland. Before we were driven to meet him, we had just come from exploring the geysers in Iceland, so we were all very under dressed for the occasion. I had also lost my camera on the drive to the President’s house, so I got no pictures. But the experience alone will be enough to stay in my mind forever. When we got there, we waited to see him. It was a very formal beginning. He came out, stood in one room, and one at a time we would walk up to him and shake his hand, then we would go into the next room. We were served Coca-Cola and water in wine glasses (very fancy) while we waited for the President to come into the room, and give a sort of speech, and answer some of our questions. When we were all standing (and then asked by photographers to sit down), he began. It was incredibly inspirational. It really got me thinking about what I can do to help my environment and how lucky I am to live in such a friendly place like the North, where you get invited to a President’s house without being searched. He also was gracious enough to answer our questions, and re-inspire us each time. This is a true example of the sort of experiences that will change our perspective of life and society and the environment that we will have on the trip.  Before I go, a quick shout out to my mother, who got me to apply for a Students on Ice Scholarship, and I’m sorry this didn’t get out the first day, we have a shortage of computers. I am alive, mom, and I’m having a fantastic time!  

George Sallerina, Gjoa Haven, NU
Today I woke up at 7 am. I ate breakfast and then went to pick up the baggage at around 10:00. We left on a bus to a crater. We went to lunch at around 12:15 at a half barn half restaurant. We saw some horses, ponies and dogs. After lunch we went to a seal museum/conservatory. We saw 12 seals at a seal watching spot. Around 6:30 pm we checked in to the new hotel, ate supper and than had our after the day lecture.   

Samantha Lyall, Nain, NL 

I’m starting to get to know a few people; a lot of them are interested in my traditional ways of hunting and the fact that I can throat sing. We went to Iceland’s oldest National Park today, where the Eurasian and North American plates meet. It was really interesting. We also had a moment of silence for the tragedy that happened in Norway. After that, we headed to the Geysers of Iceland and seen water gushing into the sky. It was pretty spectacular. Andrea, Saladie and I made two Inukshuks on top of the hill. It was a really good hike. Then, we went to the Presidents residence and had a nice little chat with him and showed him some drum dancing and throat singing. It was a really good experience for me because I have never met somebody so important before; he was a really nice man. But, I found it funny when they served us coke in wine glasses. This adventure gets more and more exciting by the hour. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.  

Cassandra Elphinstone, Nanaimo, BC

I learned today about the directions and their meanings. Each direction has a colour, animal, and personality associated with it. North is red, the buffalo and describes an outward way of being. East is the eagle and represented by yellow. East is about seeing the whole picture, like an eagle soaring through the sky. Green is the colour of south. South is a mouse and sees the smaller details. Lastly is west, the bear. It is described as looking inward and black is its colour.  I had a discussion today with Ellen and Victoria about these directions. We talked about finding a balance in life of all these directions. Perhaps one of the most precious things to learn in life is moderation. Being able to look inward and still make change and influence the outside world.  Seeing the whole but not missing the details within. This trip so far has been amazing the people have so much knowledge to spread. It is such a rare opportunity to meet them in this spectacular place.  

Waterfalls about in Iceland


Victoria Wee, Coquitlam, BC

Hello world! We have hopped back onto the bus and are rolling through the famous flat plains of Iceland. In case you are wondering why I am using present tense, that’s because I’m writing while we jolt along the road—definitely one of my most impressive feats I’ve got to say. We were just at a volcano crater. I spent a lot of the climb up the volcano wondering what in the world the volcano’s name is. Apparently it was written on a plaque at the bottom of the volcano, but me being the “Ooh volcano! Crater! Aaah! Got to climb! Maintenant!” type of person, I missed it entirely! The crater was magnificent but also kind of innocent lying there, all covered in gravel and dirt and minerals and what not. It didn’t blow up in my face though, so that’s a definite highlight.   

Bridget Graham Beachburg, ON

Day 4 already, seems like a lifetime and the blink of an eye all at once. I feel so blessed to be on this expedition, and the people I have met have inspired me, and I continue to be blown away. This morning, I climbed my first volcano and pictures and words will never do it justice. In my short time here, I have fallen madly in love with Iceland. I am incredibly impressed with their use of geothermal energy and I am enjoying the sights as well as the clean crisp air. I feel so lucky to be from Canada, and I definitely plan to explore it more when I return. I know that I will bring a new outlook back to Canada with me, and I will take the time to enjoy and soak up all the beauty around me.  

Qayaqjuaq and an Icelandic Horse

Amanda Mackey, Barrie, ON

Iceland it the most incredible country I have ever experienced. Growing up in Toronto, Canada, the magnificent, powerful mountains and volcanoes and carefree society is a huge contrast of what I am used to. The landscape here is something that is nearly impossible to describe. Massive mountains and volcanoes towering above the moss covered debris from previous volcanic eruptions, surrounded by the most stunning lakes. The land is so unspoiled, the people so true to their history and roots. I feel so incredibly blessed to be able to sit here and look out my window at the wonder of it all. Yesterday, we were honored to visit the President of Iceland. It was an extremely humbling experience to be in the presence of such a powerful, incredible man. He talked in a way that was both intellectual, but age-appropriate, and we hung on every word. I am so excited to continue my way across the country, and so eager to see what else is in store for all of us.  

Sherilyn Sewoee, Arviat, NU

Iceland is very different from Nunavut, but it is very amazing in Iceland. I saw some beautiful waterfalls; I could even hear the water roaring. I'm very glad that I joined Students On Ice because my life is changing, After all I saw during these days I feel amazing. Meeting all these people from different countries- they make me so welcome! They are special! 

Darcy Kuppaq, Hall Beach, NU

I love it here. I met the president of Iceland today. I saw ponies, I ate Icelandic food, and I met interesting people like Angie. She is a Korean and I always wanted to meet people like her. All my dreams are coming true. 

Angie Jo, Gyeounggi-do, South Korea

The people and places I've been so wonderfully, amazingly lucky to meet and see these last few days are changing my life. Iceland is strange and beautiful, full of mountains that seem to rise out of nowhere, curved and ridged like the backs of dinosaurs or dragons sleeping on the land. The sheer power of the land can be felt as soon as you look out the window, with green and violet and grey and black and blue as far as the eye can see under an immense sky. We've heard the tale of the "hidden people" of Iceland; Elves from Adam and Eve's children and creatures like trolls are a rich part of Iceland’s culture --- maybe that's why this land seems steeped in magic and history. I want to take this chance to thank my parents, from my heart, for sending me to this beautiful place with such extraordinary people. I love you, I love these people, and I love Iceland!  


SOI Educator James Raffan and student Doreen Kanayuk

Trevor de Zeeuw, Burnaby, BC

The highlight of today was scaling Grabrok Volcano. It was interesting to see the vegetation change at the higher altitudes in comparison to at sea level in Reykjavik. Looking out the window you notice everything is greener, showing much more grass, small flowers and shrubbery. Although Grabrok isn't very tall, the incline made for an interesting hike over loose gravel and small rocks. When we reached the summit, every expeditioner stood in awe of the limitless view across low grass plains and rolling hills that abruptly turned into steep mountain slopes once again. Inside the volcano was a large hollowed out cone that left steep slopes of bubbled volcanic rock. The outskirts of the volcano were on an even steeper gradient, so students walked full circle around the rim before making their decent. One thing that I found interesting was a pair of eight roomed foundations of piled stone that were at the base of the volcano. Each one penetrated roughly half a meter out of the ground. Once all the students had made it back to the bus we were headed to a farm bed and breakfast. I particularly enjoyed this because we were able to eat our lunch outside on the sundeck (even though it was only 14 C outside).  So far the trip has been a great success, but I'm eager to board the research vessel and set sail for Greenland.  

Bo Yeon JangHo Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Living in the city, my world has always been fringed by forests of skyscrapers and fields of pavement. Green is a color not often seen in the industrialized world; and the occasional flashes that do occur are garishly out of place. They are reminders of a nearly-forgotten world that used to be. Not so in Iceland. There are clouds in Iceland, clouds as bright, silky, and moody as anywhere else in the world. But these clouds shade a sun that looks down on acres and acres of never-ending wilderness, with only a few bright patches of white and red and black.  

The past few days have gone by in a blur- a very distinct blur, vibrant and memorable, but I won't delineate because if I did, I'd fill two books and a half. While we only touched the surface of Iceland's many wonders, we saw it from unusual and unique point of views. I walked Thingvellir with a botanist who was extremely well-versed in both arctic and bipolar plants, learning how to identify heather, sorrel, and willow and even spotting some carnivorous plants. I talked with Gabriel the laser physicist, who had helped develop a way of surveillance that enabled people to spot whoever was looking at them (a former military secret years and years ago.) There was no formal learning environment, no curriculum, but each person on the trip, students, staff, and chaperone alike, had things to say that was unique and meaningful. But they were more than dry tomes of knowledge; talking with them, laughing with them, eating with them (and finding out who had a fish allergy) made the information as well as the people fleshed out and real. We're not only learning new things, we're seeing for ourselves where all that information comes from, how we know the things we know, and feeling the land. To me at least, this expedition lets us get in touch with the place in more ways than we would ever have done before, seeing it as a breathing cohesive whole, and adjusting it to our own lenses of experience.   

Speed Dating with SOI Educator Johnny Issaluk

Karsten Heuer, Canmore, AB

"About every five minutes."That's what our guide says about the main geyser, which erupts like Yellowstone's Old Faithful, here in one of Iceland's popular geothermal areas. A dozen tour buses sit quietly while a hundred cameras are pointed. Three minutes. Four. A hush of languages falls across the crowd of tourists. Then, without warning, a gush of steam erupts and all those languages - French, English, Icelandic, Inuktitut and German - turn into a unilingual roar. Diversity and beauty. What is it that unites us? Today, a bolt of liquid lightning straight from the earth's core.

Bella Crane, Lawrenceville, NJ

Meeting the President of Iceland was certainly a fantastic experience and one that none of us, students and staff alike, are soon to forget. After driving up through the 'security' gate, one which lacks a surrounding fence or barrier, we all unloaded and marveled at, first, the Presidential Prius, and, second, the beauty and quaintness of the house and lawn, and thirdly, at least for me, the total lack of security surrounding the building. The formal first meeting was brief for each of us, as we stumbled forward to shake hands with the President, filled with awe. Later, as he spoke to us, full of enthusiasm and humor, we all marveled at the magnificence of this man who had taken huge measures, both in Iceland and internationally, to protect the Earth and the Arctic. The President is truly inspiring, and, in all ways, is a great role model for anybody and everybody.  

Maria Migliorero, Monaco

 As soon as we landed in Iceland, our group activities began, setting the tone of what our trip will be like. A swim into the Blue Lagoon was what everyone needed after our long travels. Thirty- two hours of no sleep combined to the wonderful landscape made it seem like a dream for me. Not only was the lagoon pleasant for the body - the boiling water made us forget the surrounding clouds and wind- but it was also a delight a delight for the eyes ; milky water in the middle of typical Icelandic lava rocks. After this relaxing moment, we began our visit to Iceland by learning about the Vikings at the museum


More speeding with SOI Educator Eric Galbraith

Nausheen Rajan, Ocoee, FL

Being in Iceland is an unforgettable and one-of-a-kind experience! I still am in disbelief at all the nature I'm taking in. I've been staying away from my camera so I can capture my exhilarating experience through my own lens. There are so many wonderful participants, educators, and leaders among us... and honestly, it is so inspiring to see all of us together on the same journey. I have already made so many great friends, and am curious to learn about the stories of others. Blue Lagoon was definitely a very unique experience, and the water was like no other. Another highlight has been meeting the President of Iceland. He was so supportive, and really saw us as equal and believes that we will make a difference. The nature around us is breathtaking, and really brings peace to the soul. Witnessing throat singing was also very thrilling, and it really shows you how ignorant we are of the world, when there are so many beautiful cultures to explore. One of our educators, Ari, really took my breath away with his knowledge and I can't wait to learn more from him. I am excited to see how the rest of this trip unravels, and how all of us as individuals pieces will come together to create a beautiful mosaic to bring back home extensive knowledge to share and grow from. The Earth has so much to offer from us, and it is our responsibility to take care of it. While learning about the Arctic, I hope to discover more about myself too! It's all about looking at the planet with not one, but many angles. Capturing the details, and taking a mental picture so I always remember what this feels like. I know I will come back anew. Who knows? Our generation, the youth, might even one day start the very first Youth Arctic Council....we can CHANGE, and more importantly, LEAD the world, together.

Nausheen, Maria, Bella and Yashvi share a laugh on the bus ride

Nicolas Taylor, Mount Pearl, NL

The expedition so far has been simply astonishing! Magnificent waterfalls, breath-taking geysers, the amazing boundary of the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates, and the most impressive so far was meeting the President of Iceland! We have recently ventured to Iceland from Toronto, and since our arrival, our schedule has been full - without a single moment to even think of being bored. Between tours, lectures and meals, we have had almost no free time but regardless I am enjoying this expedition very much and Iceland is a beautiful place. I can't wait to continue the journey with the great people that I have already become good friends with and with an itinerary like ours, I just can't wait to see more of the Arctic!




Good morning!

Today, the team says goodbye to Reykjavik and southern Iceland. Early this morning, they will pack up the buses and turn north towards Akureyri where they will board the MV Clipper Adventurer tomorrow afternoon and set sail into the Arctic seas...

But let's not get ahead of ourselves...

Lest you think that everything on this journey will be downhill after personally meeting a Head of State... you have never been to the remarkable Grábrók crater in western Iceland. The Grábrók crater was formed in a fissure eruption about 3000 years ago - and is essentially a "dead volcano." This morning, guided by Iceland's premier volcanist, Ari Trausti, the team will have the rare opportunity to climb, explore and learn all about this amazing phenomenon.


The famous Grábrók crater

Lunch will be fun today.. the team is visiting the famous Gauksmyri County Farm for some authentic Icelandic fare. The meal includes freshly baked bread lamb soup, a hearty vegetable soup... and perhaps more soup - as well as some regional specialities!

In the afternoon, the buses roll into the tiny hamlet of Hvammstangi, where the team will be the guests of honour at the Icelandic Seal Centre and Institute of Freshwater Fisheries for presentations and some hiking to see seals along their first of MANY fjords: Hunafjordur.

The village of Hvammstangi and home to the Icelandic Seal Centre

By the end of the day, the team will be checking into their hotel in Saudarkrokur along the northern coast of the country. After dinner there will be a presentation or two and then it will be lights out by 10:30 PM.

Tomorrow, the team will board their floating home... The Clipper Adventurer!


Stay tuned for more!



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