Arctic desert and boiling sulfuric acid
Myvatn Travel Blog› entry 5 of 11 › view all entries
Our drive across the interior of Iceland was simply astounding, showing us whole new aspects to Iceland. For hours we drove across the featureless high-elevation arctic desert, barren black rock with a scattering of moss (sprinkled with purple flowers). After the bland monotonous drive for hours we turned a corner and the stunning ice plateau of Herdubreid rose out of the desert. A perfect cylinder, it climbed up sheer cliffs into snow-topped hights before creating a level surface. I couldn't figure out how such a structure could be formed, it didn't make sense as either a volcanic or glacial feature - according to our trusty Icelandic geology book (bought at a petrol station) it is an excellent example of the result of a short volcanic eruption that takes place underneath a glacier.
We stopped to stare at the magestic site, before pushing on to the active geothermal fields of Namafjall Hverir. These were just fantastic, features due to the rift between the North American and Eurasian plates occuring right at the centre of Iceland. The thinness of the continental crust allows the circulation of magma to deliver massive quantities of heat (and chemicals dissolved in boiling rock) to the surface, creating fumaroles (steam vents, where ground water hits hot rock and is boiled off), solfaras (boiling bits of mud, made liquid by intense heat and constantly discharging reeking sulfur bubbles from the depths of the earth, creating the stench of rotten eggs that permeates the site) and the fantastic colours that stain the landscape, courtesy of rare oxidation and reduction reactions that occur at high heat and high sulphur concentrations.