Skaftafell

Day 67. 4th September. Skaftafell to Laufskalavarda, South Iceland.

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Glacier, Iceland, Landscape, Laufskalavarda, Macro, Nature, Photography, Skaftafell, Skaftafellsjökull, Travel, Wilderness

This is ice and in fact a glacier – Skaftafellsjökull.  As is the way with glaciers, it can pick up all sorts of debris and thus not look clean.  They also may not be level places to walk on.

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Much of this post is at Skaftafell, but towards the end there are images from the plains below the glaciers.

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Skaftafellsjökull again.

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This looks to me like a woman in a skirt with her knees up and only her legs visible above the water.  She must be cold.

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Glacier meltwater.

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This is a rock ptarmigon, wandering around at my feet.  It would have been better to get down to ground level but I was carrying a pack at the time and by the time I got down he would have been gone.

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While it is an area on glaciers and grand landscapes, some of the things that caught my attention were the miniature landscapes on the ground.

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This is Skeiðarárjökull, much larger than Skaftafellsjökull, particularly known for its massive glacier outburst floods.

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This and following images are from the side of the road, travelling west from Skaftafell.

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Grass and moss on lava.

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We are now at Laufskálavarða, as shown on the map.  This is on Mýrdalssandur, a vast plain below Mýrdalsjökull, Iceland’s fourth largest glacier.  Underneath Mýrdalsjökull is Katla, Iceland’s most active volcano, which makes for some interesting geological events.  It has had more than twenty eruptions since 894 and may be due to go up soonish.  If it erupts it is likely to be much larger than the Eyjafjallajökull eruption of 2010.  That volcano is very close and all three known eruptions have been followed by eruptions of Katla.

According to tradition, there was a large farm on or near this site that was destroyed in the 894 eruption.  A natural lava cairn was then named Laufskálavarða, or Laufskála cairn, in memory of the farm.  Since perhaps that time, there has been a tradition that travellers should leave a rock on a cairn or make a cairn.  This is said to bring good luck for the journey.  Hence all the cairns.

Svínafell

Day 66. 3rd September. Jökulsárlón to Skaftafell including Svinafell, South Iceland.

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From Jökulsárlón I drove towards Skaftafell, which is the headquarters of Skaftafell National Park and the main focus for most people for exploring some of the glaciers that come down from the Vatnajökull ice cap.  This is Svínafellsjökull, a glacier up a brief side road at Svinafell, just before Skaftafell.

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Distant people walking on the ice on Svínafellsjökull (glacier).

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This and the next four images are all from just in front of Svínafellsjökull.

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Svínafell is also the site of an historic farm, close to the glacier, that features in Njal’s Saga.  Commonly said to be the most impressive of the sagas, this is a complex tale of revenge that stretches over several generations.

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Towards the end of the saga, Njall’s sons kill their foster brother Hoskuldur.  Flosi Thordarson, uncle of Hoskuldar’s wife, who lives at Svínafell, assumes responsibility for revenge.  Ultimately, Njall and his sons die in their burning house (further to the west).

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You can find a summary of the saga in Wikipedia, or read the full saga online.  I also found a brief film of an earlier fragment of the saga.  The first 30 minutes is the film, the rest people discussing the saga.

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Ormur Ormsson (1241-1270) also lived at Svinafell and was the last Iceland chieftain to acknowledge Norwegian sovereignty.  He was later delegated as a commissioner of the Norwegian king in Iceland but drowned off the coast of Norway before he could take up the post.

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Now having walked back from Svínafellsjökull, this is looking to the next glacier, Skaftafellsjökull.

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While this, from the same place, must be Svínafellsjökull.

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This is nearly half an hour later.  I think this must be looking across the scoria plain towards the huge Skeiðarárjökull glacier.

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A farmhouse under a cliff and a waterfall.

I am retracing my steps here, going back along the road before turning back again for Skaftafell.   I had missed my intended stop at Hofsnes, where there is a potential tour to a wildlife area and coast, but there was nothing happening on that day anyway.

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