The land of 'Fire and Ice' becomes the land of Fourth Year Geography students

Back in July, the Fourth Year Geographers at St George's College undertook a trip of a lifetime, as they headed to the land of 'Fire and Ice' - Iceland.

Fourth Year student Lottie has written all about the group's experiences to give an insight into what they got up to.

"Iceland. It’s a land of fire, ice and incredible natural landscapes, and in July 2017 it also became a land of Fourth Year Geography students. After a quick flight from Heathrow Airport – with built-in television screens! – we arrived in the heart of one of the world’s last true wildernesses.

Our first stop on the tour around Iceland was Thingvellir National Park, where we were able to walk between the North American and European tectonic plates, whilst at the same time admiring an impressive waterfall. This waterfall, however, would be only one of the many we were to visit during the school trip – including walking behind the breathtaking sheet of rushing water known as 'Gullfoss', or the Golden Waterfall.

Waterfalls were not the only areas of water we visited in those four days. A highlight of the trip for many students was the four different swimming pools we visited, some of which boasted slides and even a climbing wall. By far the most enjoyable of these – for me anyway – was the Blue Lagoon, a geothermically heated pool surrounded by the surreal landscapes of moss-covered lava fields. This is just one example of how the people of Iceland use the power of their volcanoes to improve life for everyone, without damaging the stunning natural world around them.

Volcanoes themselves were obviously a huge part of the tour. Whether staying in Hotel Ork or the Skalinn Centre, we were never far from one; the views ranged from spotting a majestic ice-capped mountain in the distance, to standing in the more than a little menacing shadow of the famously unpronounceable 'Eyjafallajokull'. Each volcano we visited was unique: one was almost perfectly bowl-shaped with a peaceful lake in the centre, one was warm enough on the surface to toast sandwiches and one, on the island of Heimay, was a reminder that volcanoes and people cannot always coexist in harmony. We visited a museum to further our knowledge of the natural disasters that still occur in Iceland, learning how a successful evacuation took place amongst houses half-buried in ash.

This is the fire part of Iceland, but what about the ice? The two coaches which carried us from place to place were in fact named Fire and Ice, giving rise to some interesting theme songs (‘Oh, This Bus is Called Fire’ and ‘Ice Ice Baby’ respectively). Iceland did not in fact get its name from ‘ice’ but from the word ‘island’, although the ‘ice’ part is not an unfitting name in the slightest. We were lucky enough to climb a hill with a superb view of one of the largest glaciers in the world, a wall of powerful ice more exciting than any textbook illustration. I’m sure my whole year group would agree on the educational importance of seeing something like this in real life – plus, we all got some much-needed exercise climbing up so many mountains!

Other highlights of the trip included visiting a gigantic geyser, so significant among its kind that it is in fact called Geysir, and watching it erupt. Iceland is famous for landmarks such as these, created not by humans but by nature. Speaking of what Iceland is famous for, what visit to the country would be complete without puffins? A boat tour allowed us to see these tiny, iconic seabirds alongside seals, fulmars (‘the name means “stinky bird”!’ explained the boat driver, adding that he had unfortunate personal experience) and even whales. I’m undecided as to whether my most dreamlike memory from that day would be standing on the deck surrounded by huge flocks of gliding gulls, listening to the boat driver playing the saxophone in a cave or climbing bizarre rock formations on a black sand beach.

Both exhausted and exhilarated, we finally arrived back in the town of Reykjavik. This provided both students and teachers alike with an opportunity to visit the shops and buy some souvenirs, including gifts for geography teacher Mr Buckingham on his last school trip with the College. What better place to go for this school trip than to a country as incredible as Iceland? On the plane back to the UK, I wondered if I would ever see anywhere like it again.

It might be known as a land of fire and ice, but it is also a land of geysers, geothermal energy, puffins, swimming pools, partly toasted cheese sandwiches and, in one exciting and thankfully happily-resolved development, bags falling off cliffs. Both the impressive natural features of the country and the memories we created ourselves will forever be remembered as the wonder that is, Iceland."

Lottie Armitage

11 October 2017

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