Operation PuRGE - Bristol Glaciology Centre - Iceland 2016

The most beautiful view I've ever seen near Lambatungnajokull

The most beautiful view I've ever seen near Lambatungnajokull

The road to nowhere...

The road to nowhere...

Iceland. One of the most beautiful yet wild places I have ever been. We were sent on a field trip to get more glacial flour for the up-coming investigation over the next few weeks. I was the Field Team Leader, supported by two other team members. This was the first research trip I have organised as part of the University of Bristol cohort. It was a great experience and I learnt so much about expedition planning, logistics and time in the field. 

Fallsjokull Glacier, Iceland

Fallsjokull Glacier, Iceland

We flew into Reykjavik (Keflavik) from Bristol after a suprisingly short (2.5hr) flight. Whilst up in the air, the sky was beautiful sunshine and cloudy, however as soon as we started to descend it was thick dense cloud. The weather when we arrived was cloudy, wet - really gloomy. Which didn't really bode well for the trip ahead. Day 1 was spent driving to our accommodation and sorting the kit out for sampling the next day. 

The first day we spent sampling at Fallsjokull, a site that the British Geological team also survey and film regularly. The access was relatively easy and we were blessed by beautiful blue skies. We managed to get all the way to the portal in the snout and sample the freshest flour. It was amazing being so close to such a colossal glacier. It was also extremely crevassed, the spikes really stood out in the sunshine. We went home that night after a long day but moral was high at the prospect of pushing to a far more remote site tomorrow. 

Lambatungnajokull portal - drone image

Lambatungnajokull portal - drone image

The site of Lambatungnajokull is in a remote area, requiring almost a 3 hour off-road 4x4 drive up a river bed, followed by a very intense scramble down a scree / cliff slope. We decided we would give it a go - the weather was in our favour. We managed to get to the site, however, the katabatic winds were unlike anything I have ever experienced - 80km/h+ - we ran out of time trying to get down. Sadly, I had to call it due to time limits and safety. We climbed back up (with difficulty in the wind) and had lunch. As is always the way with these things, after lunch the wind had totally died down. We had 30 mins before we had to leave so we decided to fly the drone and get some aerial footage of the site. It was beautiful. Sadly having since shown it to the last group from Edinburgh Uni to survey it in 2005, they said it is sobering how much it has changed. We left the site and saw some caribou in the valley on the way back - an unreal experience!

After the difficulty sampling at Lambatungnajokull the day before I decided to spend our last sample day at Solheimajokull. A really easy access site that would give us a great high tephra sample compared to Fallsjokull. The weather had turned so was far gloomier. However, it was pretty cool finally standing in front of the glacier that is one of the poster-childs for the Extreme Ice Survey - Jason Borlaug. 

I would love to go back to Iceland, it was an unforgettable place. Lambatungnajokull was one of the most stunning places I have ever seen.