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09 January 201812:25PMviking-raidtravel


I was surprised at just how solid the glacier felt.

climbing a glacier

It feels like solid ground and acts like solid ground. Even though there's evidence scattered all around you that the sheet you're standing on is grinding inexorably forwards, it still feels immovable and immutable.

touching a glacier

Reaching out and touching it really felt more like touching cold glass than it did ice. And while my fingers came away wet, it didn't seem to make any appreciable dent in the ice. This isn't freezer ice. This ice is hard. It's been ice for a thousand years, and it has no intentions of stopping any time soon.

And yet.


Jumping into a frozen lake in the middle of winter in Iceland is quite possibly the dumbest thing I've ever done.

the divers

It's always a bad sign when they have to defrost the dry-suits before you can get in them. It's an even worse sign when the guide tells you it's "probably best to just forget that your hands exist for the next little while." It's defiitely not a good sign when you touch literally anything metal and have to peel the neoprene away again, frozen.

I'm not going to lie, there were a good few minutes there before we got in that I was convinced I was going to die. Or worse; be miserable.

The cliche at this point is to say "but it was all worth it in the end." Well, I'm still not certain it was quite worth the ordeal of getting changed in the middle of a carpark at -7 degrees. Maybe it's best not to try and balance those two out and instead accept the biting, burning cold as an integral part of the experience.

the lake

They say it feels like flying, which is also a cliche. It really wasn't. It's much more accurate to say that the distance between me and the lake bottom collapsed. I rely, to some extent, on murk and flotsam and bubbles to give me perspective and judge distances when I'm underwater. The vague haze in the distance, even in the clearest water, lets me know how far away things are and how deep the bottom is. In Silfra, there's nothing. It's like staring at a lake bottom encased in glass.

Apparently we spent half an hour out there. I couldn't tell you, because I spent it all hypnotised by the deep.


Our first clue that something was up was that we seemed to be driving into a cloud.

ground-level cloud

Steam and vapour clung to the landscape, giving everything an eerie, dreamlike quality. Huddled around a field in the distance were figures, some clutching tripods and gear, others frozen looking the other way with their hands outstretched. They're hoping to catch the famous Geysir, namesake of all geysers, mid eruption.


Unfortunately, as spectacular as it is, this is not the great Geysir. It's Geysir's little brother Strokkur. Strokkur erupts much more regularly than Geysir, who is a few minutes further away through the mists.

Statistically though, most of these people are going to mislabelled their picture of Strokkur. Which is kind of a pity, not just because Strokkur deserves credit for its punctuality, but also because the real Geysir is pretty cool too.

Metaphorically, at least.


Geysir is somewhat more peaceful-looking and hasn't erupted for years. In fact, it almost looks tempting to climb in, especially when it's below zero outside. This would be a terrible idea because Geysir is about as close to boiling as you can get without actually becoming vapour - sometimes the pressure deeper in the water column keeps water liquid at around 125°. Fortunately, common sense prevailed and I managed to avoid being cooked alive in a naturally-occurrinf pot of boiling water surrounded by sulphurous mists.

I stick my finger in some geothermal water

Well, mostly anyway.

 solid liquid gas

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