Bathtub with a view

Husavik and its fault zone were also the focus of day 3 of the field trip. However, Nerys and I decided that we had seen enough rocks for the moment and that we would need more typical Iceland shots for the film. Therefore we drove around with our rental car and tried to find scenic farms, beautiful mountain views, rivers, Icelandic horses, sheep, cows and flowers.

There is s much to see in the area south and east of Akureyri and around Husavik – the open ocean, the cliffs, the wide green valleys dotted with farms, torrential water falls, meandering rivers glittering in the sun shine, small patches of mountain birch forest, snow covered mountains, grazing sheep and cows, farmers working their fields, and new born foals running and playing with their mothers.

Just after lunch we joined the group again to look at the ‘end’ of the fault, which is exposed in a cliff along the coast. Again we went for a long walk, crossing several small creeks, which drain into the sea. The coastal sand is made up of fine-grained black lava, and is interspersed with white shell fragments and rounded pebbles originating from volcanic rocks. It was quite tough to walk along the beach. The wind was very strong and the terns, which were breeding or protecting their youngsters nearby, were very aggressive. However we were rewarded for all the dangers by the most beautiful zeolite minerals, which grow in the cavities and fractures of the lava rocks.

Stop #2 was at the water-monitoring site above Husavik. For the last 10 years, Alasdair and his group have regularly been monitoring and measuring the chemical content of the water running out of a 1500 m deep borehole here. They do this to see how and if the chemical content of this deep water (the aquifer is at 1200 m depth) changes before and after an earthquake. By having a long monitoring series, it might be possible to draw precise conclusions on how and why the chemistry of the deep water changes in relation to an earthquake, and to see if these data sets might be used in the future to better understand processes deep in the crust in connection with an earthquake. The two bathtubs filled with hot water from the borehole, are a fun part of the monitoring station. People can come here to enjoy a bath in the warm water, to relax and to contemplate the beautiful view over the bay of Husavik. Of course many of the students had a quick bath!

Husavik and its surroundings are so beautiful, and it is therefore hard to imagine that the town is actually situated on one of the most dangerous fault zones. But it has been some time since the last large earthquake, which occurred in the year 1872, and had a magnitude of 7 on the Richter scale. The last earthquake happened nine years ago, but it was of a lesser magnitude. This is probably the reason why people, who are living here, are not too afraid of earthquakes.

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The second last stop of the day was again along the beach. For a change, and after having seen so many volcanic rocks, we now checked out up-lifted beach/shallow marine sandstones with distinct shell layers, ripples, cross-bedding and nice cut and fill structures. Unfortunately we could not spend too much time here, because the students had been booked on a whale watching tour at 5 pm. However we managed to kidnap Alasdair for the long overdue interview we wanted to make with him about his research. The big challenge was to find a quiet spot with little wind … not an easy task on Iceland. We tried at several locations and ended up on a slope overlooking the harbour of Husavik – just right in the middle of the fault zone. A great place for an interview about earthquakes and what damage they can create.

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