Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Iceland 9: Krafla

The wind had dropped overnight, but the day dawned grey and overcast.  The lack of wind also resulted in an increase in midge numbers (Myvatn means "Midge Lake") and they were pretty well everywhere we went today.  The day started with a bang, as we observed a Happy Camper (male), just across the field, walk into the lake stark naked and proceed to have a pee.  Harriet got her binoculars trained on him just in time...

We drove past the thermal vents we'd visited last night (now full of coaches) and headed for Krafla, where the most recent eruptions had happened between 1975 and 1984.  On the way we went past a geothermal power station in the middle of what looked like an industrial wasteland.  It's difficult to believe that the wasteland is completely natural, and the power station is simply taking steam from bore holes and using it to power turbines.  As green as it gets in fact.  

We stopped by the side of a steaming stream, and then again at the top of the hill to look back on the power station area.

We then went up to the edge of the Krafla caldera and walked up to the rim.  It was very muddy, and our shoes soon weighed three times more than normal.  As yesterday, everyone was ignoring the "Danger, Keep Out" notices and walking all around the rim of the crater, which was full of water and a certain amount of snow.

The group of tiny people in the top right of the image below gives some sense of scale to the caldera.

I wonder how much Sir Tim Berners-Lee would pay for the following number plate?

By this time the rain was quite heavy, so we decided to move on.  We'd spotted that the power station had a visitors' centre, so we went there to have a look. A very interesting display, looked after by a very bored looking girl.  So bored in fact that we decided to talk to her for a while.  As an engineer I was fascinated by how simple and elegant the system was, using both high and low pressure steam to drive different sized turbines, plus cold water to help with condensing the steam.  Although it's difficult to see in the pictures, the exterior wall of the main turbine hall is actually a set of man-made waterfalls.  All very efficient, and not a smoke stack in sight.