Jokullsarlon Glacial Lagoon 7.16.09

July 17th, 2009

(Melissa and Joan 7.16.09):   In 1932 a tongue of the Vatnajökull glacier, the largest in Europe, began to melt, creating a flow of water into the ocean. As the flow increased it formed a lagoon into which chunks of ice now float as they break loose from the glacier. This is the Jökullsarlon glacial lagoon, an ice fairyland. DSC00564 The lagoon is an astonishing 284 meters deep, making it the deepest lake or lagoon in Iceland. We rode in on an amphibious craft originally built for the US military in Stamford, CT, and cruised around, gaping at ice floes melting into fantastic forms and hoping to see some of the seals that live in the lagoon. (The guide said they were mostly at sea now, but Dale claims he saw one.)

Joan ice floes 2009-07-17 010 Joan the duckboat 2009-07-17 007

Joan on the duckboat 2009-07-17 006

The guide retrieved a chunk of clear ice from the lagoon about the size of a salmon from the Pike Street Market

Joan -- ice chunk  2009-07-17 019[here’s Tom with the ice chunk]

and informed us that it was between 1000-1500 years old. She then broke off pieces with a hammer and gave us pieces to taste; it was absolutely clean and fresh-tasting. She explained that climate change is responsible for the melting, but here the glacier is melting at an accelerated rate because of the salt water that flows into the lagoon from the ocean. (Salt speeds melting by decreasing the freezing point, as we all know from our driveways in winter.) The lagoon is actually half salt water, and at this rate, the estimate is that it will disappear by the end of the century because this entire piece of the glacier will have melted. The ice, as you can see from the photos, looks blue in places. This is because water absorbs all other colors of the rainbow but reflects blue. However, the eye doesn’t notice the blue in small quantities of water or ice. (Lakes and oceans are blue, but a glass of water taken from them is clear.) The guide also told us that the ice we saw was only 10% of each little iceberg, with the other 90% underwater; at that point we checked to make sure that the amphibious craft’s name was not Titanic.DSC00563 DSC00560 IMG_0226

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