Sunday, August 10, 2014

Iceland Day 3: Jökulsárlón and Skaftafell

And then suddenly, a couple of hours drive from Vík, we were in the Arctic. Actually it was the famous glacial pool right off the ring road, Jökulsárlón. We arrived on a rare sunny day.
Newly flipped iceberg ready to float out to sea
Chunks of ice break off from the Vatnajökull glacier some 7 km away and then float down the pool to their eventual demise in the ocean.
Glacial tongue and ice cap
The current warming trend, a combination of global warming and volcanic activity, means the glacial pool gets larger every year and the glacier gets farther away.
Rabbit and hippo? ice formations
We took the obligatory duckboat tour of the pool to see the day's variety of icebergs, each with its own personality.
Arctic Terns
Would you believe there is a colony of Arctic Terns here too?
Snow Bunting
As well as parking lot Snow Buntings (in breeding plumage--something we don't see in Massachusetts).
Arctic Skua (AKA Parasitic Jaeger)
At Jökulsárlón the skua population moves past "common" to "abundant."
Great Skua
Indeed, some skuas become beggars, hanging around the tourist area looking for hand-outs and garbage. I didn't see a skua successfully intimidating any humans into dropping their ham sandwiches. I did see one catch its own fish.
Resident Great Skua in tourist area, regarded as a pet 
If you ever visit Jökulsárlón make sure to walk down to the beach where the icebergs wash out to sea.
Iceberg on the beach
There is something magically wistful about the scene. Children's books about icebergs who always wanted to see the ocean immediately come to mind. 
Great Skuas and Parasitic Jaegers
It is best to avoid the beach during the height of breeding season. Great Skuas are notorious for following through on their threats. And they are huge. But in August, they provide a lively spectacle.
Another glacial tongue visible from the road
There are actually numerous glacial tongues and glacial pools fairly close to the ring road. In this part of Iceland it is easy to experience "too-much-magnificence" syndrome.
View from trail to Svartifoss, Skaftafell National Park
It was time to experience the sights of Iceland at a more human scale.

Next day: The "Golden Circle."

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