The Land of Fire and Ice
Magical, mysterious, awe-inspiring. Many places on earth claim to be lands of “fire and ice.” Perhaps only Iceland is both at the same time, and today! Part of the mid-Atlantic spreading seafloor ridge, only this portion rises above sea level to create this island nation. Active volcanic flows build new land each day, right in the midst of glaciers. Here lives the largest volcanic canyon in the world, offering splendid display of nature’s phenomenal power. With scenic beauty beyond belief and 24 hours of daylight during summer months, this was an ideal and unusual destination for a photo safari I led recently for the NANPA Foundation (North American Nature Photographer’s Association).
With the help of expert photographer and local Haukur Snorrason, the delightful hospitality and home cooking of his wife Hadda, and the charming accommodations of their Icelandic Guest House, seven fortunate photographers and I saw more of Iceland’s “secret places” that even we could believe. Despite “a touch of rain,” we explored and photographed jaw-dropping waterfalls and remote glacial landscapes, ice caves, lush highlands, hot pools, icebergs on black sand beaches, puffins, whales, and the famed Icelandic horses. Despite the fact that it lies just below the Arctic Circle, Iceland is warmed by the Gulf Stream, so enjoys a temperate climate.
In addition to its current riches, Iceland boasts a powerful human history as well, with early Vikings having created ancient seafaring history under the same midnight sun that gently warms us today. Signs of their earlier world are everywhere, a constant reminder of the ways in which human and natural history have become inextricably intertwined. And with place names such as Skaftafell, Hvannadalshnúkur, Vatnajökull, Eldgjá, and even Reykjavík, all of which defy pronunciation, this is indeed a land that evokes mystery and wonder.