We spent three days in the area of Lake Myvatn which was created by a large lava eruption 2300 years ago. On the east side of the lake we visited the Namafjall geothermal field, also known as Hverir. This was the part of the trip that I found most interesting. The boiling mud pots, the colors of the earth, the steam vents through rock-covered boreholes were fascinating and new to me. There is a lot of hot steam there, so areas are roped off, but there were plenty of places to photograph activity and to walk for good views. There is a hiking trail into the mountain, which I used for a few higher shots, but the steepness and the rockiness of the terrain discouraged me from following the trail all the way over the mountain.
The mud pots are formed in geothermal area where there is little water. The water that is available rises to the surface of the soil which is rich in volcanic ash, clay and fine particulates. The blue color of the water is probably due to silica, and the surrounding tan color of the rock is a wonderful color contrast.
This terrain gave us the opportunity to learn about the geothermal energy of Iceland, and one of our outings included a trip to see the fifth largest power plant in the country, Krafla. The five major geothermal power plants in Iceland produce about 26% of the nation’s electricity. Geothermal heating meets the heating and hot water requirements of 87% of the buildings in Iceland. Apart from geothermal energy, 73% of the their electricity is generated by hydro power, and .1% from fossil fuels. The goal of Iceland is to completely eliminate fossil fuels for power generation, and that will be accomplished in the near future.
One way that geothermal hot water was demonstrated to me most clearly was with the hot tub at one of the cabins where we stayed. Our photographer instructor was testing the water for use in a few hours and found it to be cold. Having had a hot tub at my home, I knew he couldn’t get the temperature high enough for possibly a day by my method. His solution was to empty the hot tub, refill it with water from underground, and voila, instant hot water! No chemicals required because the water doesn’t sit in the hot tub for days or weeks as it does here. In Reykjavik there are underground pipes that carry hot water for heating the streets and sidewalks in winter to melt the snow!
The next post will take us to the western parts of Iceland, a thirteen-hour drive from Myvatn to the area near Latrabarg, the west fjords.