name, the country of Iceland is one of the hottest spots on the
planet. The volcanic activity that formed the island continues
to feed hot thermal springs and spray gushing steam from geysers.
Iceland sits on a unique base. Unlike most countries that are firmly settled on one of the continental plates, this island nation spans the Eurasian and North American land masses. Where the continental plates drift apart the earth's crust is thin enough to turn underground water into steam.
Fire and Ice
The best place to see this natural wonder in action is in the Haukadalur valley at the Geysir Hot Springs Geothermal Area in Iceland.
The Golden Circle bus tour from Reykjavick drives through the landscape which is dotted with steaming openings in the earth. Our guide explains that Iceland has learned to harness this steam power to provide nonpolluting heat and energy to homes. No reliance on fossil fuels in Iceland. Clean and easy to obtain geothermal heat powers the country.
As we get to the Geysir Hot Springs Geothermal Area a sulfuric smell,
mildly resembling rotten eggs, fills the air. It turns out that
the smell of sulfur is generated by the minerals that the water
brings to the surface as it is heated, The bubbles explode in bursts of
A descriptive chart at the Geysir ranks its size and area
alongside Steamboat geyser and Old Faithful in the US.
the area where the geysers can be seen the group is warned to
stay on the roped paths. The steaming pools of water are hot enough
to burn anyone who accidentally steps in one of them!
A few of
the group test the water with the tip of a finger and confirm
that the water is really hot. The rest of the group decides to
just stay on the paths and trust the guide...
steaming puddles there are several deeper holes with signs in
front of them. The ultimate goal is to see Geysir and Strokker,
the two biggest of the geysers here. While Geysir no longer is
active, Strokker still spouts every 5 to 15 minutes to the delight
of crowds of tourists.
There are about thirty much smaller geysers and hot pools in the area. The first named pool on the path is Litli Geysir ('Little Geysir'). The thick, boiling fluids with the sulfurous smell looks like
an abandoned witches' cauldron. It doesn't spout like its bigger namesake, but just keeps a constant bubble.
Like many of the other pools, the little geyser does not have the buildup of steam that creates the spectacular eruptions in the active geysers naturally tied into earthquake activity in the area.
Strokker, the Churn
This one is still very active. It may be smaller than the 70
to 80 meter high plume of steam that Great Geysir produces, but
the 25 to 35 meters high eruption of steam is an amazing sight.
The eruptions are about on the same level as Old Faithful geyser
National Park in the USA.
In between eruptions, the Strokker is not very impressive. The water is very still except for an occasional movement as it rises and falls. With each upward movement, the tension increases...will this be the eruption?
several moments of expectant waiting, attention wanders to the
people walking in the area and the steaming pools of liquid. The
sulfur smell contributes an eerie feeling to the scene...and the
geyser suddenly erupts!
A giant plume of steam explodes into the air and the show is over...until the next one.
The area also
hosts the Geysir Museum. Visitors are welcomed to a multimedia
exhibition that explains what makes the geysers pop and how the
island of Iceland was created from the activity of volcanoes.
More about Iceland's Geysir Hot Springs around the Web:
Geysir Wikipedia - A good overall piece on the Geysir Hot Springs Area of Iceland with history, pictures and links to many other resources.
Travels in 19th Century Iceland - Geysir - Accounts from early 19th century travelers describe their experiences at seeing Iceland's famous erupting hot springs. The first report provides a wonderful description of the great Geyser...