A zip in the highlands

Tens of kilometres long, several meters wide and more than 10 meters deep – this was one of the most impressive geological features I had ever seen. This huge zip in the middle of a desolate highland southest of Husavik is a gigantic fault, which runs more or less parallel to the Krafla volcanic field, the area we visited yesterday. Both zones form part of the mid-ocean ridge on which Iceland is situated.

The small gravel road leading up into the vast highland could easily be managed by our bus and by our bus driver, except for a short stretch, where road works made a detour necessary. Road works – this sounds almost ridiculous in this desolate place, but obviously there are plans to build a geothermal power plant far up in the highland, which will be used to run a future aluminium smelter in Husavik. The clayey soil close to the gravel road was soaked with water, and it came as now surprise that the bus first started to glide and finally got stuck! Our poor students became really frightened and thought that the bus would turn over, but they were told that Icelandic busses never turn over, and this calmed them down a bit. Luckily the cater pillar driver volunteered to help us out and pulled the whole bus out of the sticky clay. After a few more kilometres through lava fields and sparse vegetation, followed by a long walk over a hummocky field, we arrived at the spectacular fault. The view on the fault from higher ground was really spectacular: a wide crack with huge dissected and tumbled rocks on each side, winding through the flat landscape like a huge snake. One could really feel the power of the continental plates pulling apart, building up strain and stress in the rocks, and then a sudden burst. What a noise it must have been, when the rocks started to crack and tumble over.

The students ended this long day with a visit to one of the hot springs, while Nerys and I continued in our rental car to get some good shots of the small town of Husavik and the surrounding landscape. Husavik is well known for its whale safaris and thousands of tourists come here each year to sail out with the former whaling boats to see the whales.

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