Last day at Undirhlíðar

July 4th, 2011

HAFNARFJORDUR, ICELAND: Guest blogger: Lindsey

Today we wrapped up my field work in Undirhlíðar by double-checking our annotated photos and a brief tour of the West wall to confirm our hypothesis that the olivine rich pillow unit continued consistently along this section. We had a quick lunch before heading off to Krysuvik, about 30 minutes south of where we were staying to see some sights we had read about yesterday but had unfortunately missed on our excursion. We first came to Kleifarvatn, a large lake with black sand beaches with a legendary worm-like monster residing in its depths. We spotted it immediately:

Nessy's cousin

We then traveled a little further to Seltun, a large geothermal field seated at the base of a ridge. This area was drilled to supply energy to nearby Hafnarfjordur, but a silica build up in the borehole caused the area to explode in 1999. Another interesting thing to note about this area is the legendary Hverafugl, or “hot spring bird” that supposedly hops into a geothermal vent to hide from humans when they approach. People don’t really believe they exist anymore as a picture has never been taken of one, but older generations believe the birds are apparitions in the steam that represent spirits of the dead. We did not see any Hverafugls, they were clearly hiding.

A geothermal vent at Seltun geothermal field

I decided to stick my hand in to see if it was hot- it was. Can you imagine what the vikings must have thought when they first saw water boiling up out of the ground?

Theory to practice

We then continued a little further to Graenavatn, a strange green lake that is supposedly an old explosion crater. The green color is due to the minerals from the nearby geothermal field as well as algae.


At this point we turned around and came back as we had seen a lot of the peninsula yesterday, and seeing as we haven’t shared the sights on the blog yet, we thought our Estonian colleagues would appreciate seeming some coastline with real cliffs- no offense Nick, your study site is really cute! We started in Hafnarfjordur and ended in Rekjavik (bad map) but saw some incredible things along the way!

The first stop was at Leif the Lucky’s bridge, a spot where you can travel across the bridge from the North American to the Eurasian plate. It was so cold, rainy and windy!

Travis and I halfway between two continents

Stop number 2 was Valahnukur, a coastal area with dramatic black cliffs and powerful waves. We added Icleandic horses to our wildlife list as some were in a field right off the road to the ocean.

Windblown Icelandic horses

The cliffs hosted a large population of seabirds, the most famous of which was the Great Auk, a now extinct breed of flightless bird. The last Great Auk was apparently shot, killed and eaten on a small island 10 km off the coast. Some countries try breeding programs, Iceland has a BBQ.

The Great Auk statue at Valahnukur contemplates its demise

Our last stop of mention yesterday was in Gunnuhver, a geothermal area named after Gunna-a legendary witch/vengeful woman depending on the guide book you read. The story that I like best is that Gunna didn’t like her neighbor, so killed him and his wife. The other villagers instructed her to hold on to a knotted rope, she complied and they then dragged her into the geothermal springs where she perished. We all thought that this story was missing some explanations and was probably literally translated from Icelandic.

Gunna's grave

After a long afternoon of sightseeing, we headed back home to cook dinner at our cozy guesthouse.

Happy Fourth of July to our Estonian colleagues in return! Today we found BBQ sauce and corn-on-the-cob at the grocery store and had a lovely celebratory dinner!

Travis makes liberal use of the lighter fluid

Perhaps if we had been able to combine the Estonian weather with our Icelandic dinner we would have had a pretty good approximation of an American Fourth of July!

Off to Travis’s study site in Blonduous tomorrow.

Tubes, Trolls, and the West Wall

July 4th, 2011

HAFNARFJORDUR, ICELAND- [guest bloggers Travis and Lindsey]

We only spent about 2 hours in Undirhlíðar yesterday due to the gale force winds that sent basalt shrapnel flying into our faces, in particular our eyeballs. It wasn’t raining luckily, as raindrops probably would have been lethal at that wind speed. We made an awesome discovery though on the Northeast wall- A lava tube! We were climbing up a talus pile when we noticed the hole leading down into the wall.

Travis is either falling in or being dragged in by a troll.

Here is what Travis and I hypothesized:
1. Troll den
2. Center of the earth
3. Dinosaurs
Unfortunately, Dr. Pollock didn’t let Travis get into the lava tube, though he tried his best to convince her. Reasons Travis thought getting inside the lava tube was a good idea:
1. We would find the base of the pillow unit
2. She would become the most famous geologist of all time
3. Dr. Wilson would let me
Reasons Dr. Pollock said no:
1. Because I said so

Travis may be convinced not to go into the lava tube but Lindsey still clings to the idea.

We then moved on to the West wall and found basalt that looked drastically different than anything we had found in the East wall.

The West Wall, Undirlihdar Quarry.

Sizable olivine and plagioclase crystals were in all of the rock units we saw in the Southern end of the West wall.


Large olivine phenocrysts within the basalts of the west wall!

Today is our last day of field work in the quarries, we’ll keep you updated on our continued adventures.

Using the iPad in geologic field work-Part 2

July 2nd, 2011

HAFNARFJORDUR, ICELAND- Guest Blogger: Lindsey Bowman

Our Estonia-based colleagues certainly have an advantage when it comes to timely blog posts; lagging three hours behind we are now appearing redundant in our post topic! We too have been using the iPad 2 in the field, particularly today in Vatnsskarth quarry as the rain has turned into intermittent mist. As Dr. Pollock and Travis took notes in their classic Rite in the Rain field books, I trailed along behind and took photos and annotated directly in front of the outcrop they were sketching.

Annotating the East wall of Vatnsskarth

We found it incredibly useful to take the photo and be able to reference the wall directly in front of us, as subtle differences between columnar and pillow basalts are sometimes hard to see in a photo. We also struggled a little with the glare, but found that Iceland’s weather was actually advantageous as we never saw the sun today. Below is an example of a photo annotated in the field:

Base of the pillow ridge showing glacial sediment directly overlain by basaltic pillows.

However, some photos do require more detailed annotation later in the cafe over a latte.

Annotation of a photo taken previously in the field

Below is a photo from Undirhlíðar that I plan to use in some capacity of my I.S.:

Undirhlíðar- SE wall

We also wanted to share one of our equipment finds that leaves us worry-free about tossing the iPad into our day packs with basalt samples and other sharp or heavy objects. Below is the Otterbox case that we have on the iPad, which not only keeps it safe, but also acts as an easel-like stand for when we want to use the iPad on a flat surface.

Otterbox case leaves us worry-free about the iPad's safety!

We have been using the annotation app ArtStudio which we have found to be flexible and intuitive. We are using a Just Mobile AluPen with the app to make drawing easier; like Dr. Wilson, I have found the stylus helpful.

Stylus > Finger

Finally, to keep the iPad safe from the rain and mist, we have found that a gallon-sized ziploc bag works just fine.

Tomorrow we will head back to Undirhlíðar, since we finished in Vatnsskarth today. We are hoping for clear skies, but watching the mist blow through the quarry and across the rocky landscape today was beautiful. Dr. Pollock mentioned how easy it is to visualize Icelandic folklore and legends in weather like this, and honestly, imagining ghostly vikings emerging from the billowing mist didn’t seem all that far-fetched.

First day of field work in Undirhlíðar Quarry

July 1st, 2011

HAFNARFJORDUR, ICELAND: Guest Blogger: Lindsey Bowman

Today Travis, Dr. Pollock and I started our field work in Undirhlíðar Quarry. It was cold, windy and rainy- perfect for our new rain gear!

Geochemists at work

We started mapping the quarry walls in detail where Becky Alcorn ’11 left off, and made it along the East wall in about six hours. We observed some gorgeous pillow lavas, the most abundant formation in the quarry.

Pillow from the East wall

Undirhlíðar is much larger than I had originally imagined it (certainly a  grander scale than Estonian quarries). Here’s a great picture taken by Travis:

Undirhlíðar quarry wall under consideration by Dr. Pollock and Lindsey Bowman

To brighten up this post, I’d like to nod to the colorful and abundant flora of Iceland. Barren? I think not.

Nootka Lupin outside Undirhlithar

Wood crane's bill

The only fauna that we’ve seen besides seagulls are these unfortunate fish- species unknown.

Dried fish- yummy!

Finally, below is a video taken by Travis today to give you an idea of Undirhlíðar in 3D-

Tomorrow we head to Vatnsskarth to continue our field work!

Cafe Hopping in Reykjavik

June 30th, 2011

REYKJAVIK, ICELAND – [Guest bloggers Travis and Lindsey] So we made it to Reykjavik at around 0930 GST. Myself and Lindsey had about maybe 30 minutes of sleep on the plane and were subsequently exhausted. After checking into our guesthouse and shopping for our meals we decided to head into Reykjavik, the capitol city of Iceland. As soon as we parked we headed straight for the nearest cafe to grab a strongly caffeinated beverage. So now we are moving down the main drag moving from cafe to cafe drinking latte after latte. It’s not working too well:

Long flight-no sleep!

Our “inn” is much more like a hostel and we were surprised when we saw the size of our room! It’s basically an octagonal auditorium with vaulted ceilings. We are lucky enough to have the giant space to ourselves; our hostess told us that usually there are many more guests. We will be practicing our I.S. presentations on our very own projector screen in our “guest room” of sorts. The setting of the inn is gorgeous, right near the small harbor in Hafnarfjordur and with some small basalt outcrops in the front yard to remind us of why we’re here.

Travis shows the scale of our giant auditorium/room!

Tomorrow, we start field work in the pillow quarries. Stay tuned!

“A Creative Adventure”: Wooster Geologist Featured in a Higher Education Article

October 5th, 2010

WOOSTER, OHIO–“When College of Wooster Assistant Professor Meagen Pollock stands in front of one of her geology courses, she’s thinking beyond what her students need to accomplish during that class period, or even during that semester. Pollock is constantly thinking about how she can ensure that her students—all her students—develop good research skills.” This is the beginning of an article in the October 2010 AAC&U News, a widely-read publication of the Association of American Colleges & Universities. The topic is Wooster’s signature Independent Study program. Katie Holt of the Wooster’s Department of History is also featured. We are very proud of our colleagues … and just love the fact that one of our geology students in the field is pictured as an example!

Ali Drushal Sloan ('09) doing Independent Study fieldwork in northern Iceland.

Goodbye Iceland

July 20th, 2010

Guest blogger: Becky Alcorn

Unfortunately this is our last night in Iceland so I will not be posting again anytime soon. We did have a great last day though. We spent the morning working on my abstract and packing things up before we found a wonderful geothermal area to relax in after our long week. This evening we drove into Reykjavik to say goodbye to Steina, Meagen’s colleague who helped get us into my field site, and enjoyed a real meal that wasn’t peanut butter and jelly. Overall we had a fantastic trip and I’m excited to work on my IS. I’m very sad to say goodbye to this beautiful country, but it’ll be good to be back home.

Enjoying the geothermal water

Today was our first gloomy day

Wooster Takes on the Volcano

July 19th, 2010

Guest Blogger: Becky Alcorn

We just returned from our trip to the volcano and are too tired to give the full details right now, but here are a few pictures from our trip. Meagen promises to write a future blog post on Eyjafjallajokull.

I can't believe Meagen forgot our inflatable raft. How was I ever supposed to touch Vatnajokull?

They were still getting ash at our campsite!

Eyjafjallajokull! It was incredible! I wanted to touch this one too but our bus was leaving.

So much ash on the glacier (and in my shoes)!

A view of the flood path from the top of the mountain we hiked. An excursion bus drove us through the flood plain since our tiny car would probably have just floated away.

Meagen and I at the top of the mountain with ominous Eyjafjallajokull in the background. We were standing on a slope...she's not really that short.

Right before getting back on the bus we ran into Wooster alumni Lisa Beam and Josh Schaffer returning from a three day hike! Seems like a very small world sometimes.

I’m so tired I don’t even want to title this.

July 17th, 2010

Guest Blogger: Becky Alcorn

Yesterday we spent the day in Undirhlithar mapping the quarry wall that will be the focus of my IS. We climbed the majority of the wall with the exception of a few unstable places and collected a hearty 25 samples (some from places that I’m still not quite sure how we managed to reach). We finished up in Undirhlithar today and traveled farther south to another quarry, Vatnskarth. Here we could see were the lava met the glacial deposit, which was awesome! We collected samples for Meagen and then came back home so I could get to the nitty gritty of labeling my pictures. I spent many hours today sorting through my pictures and labeling where I collected each sample, which is much more tedious and time consuming than it sounds. Tomorrow we’re heading east for two days to camp and see Eyjafjallajokull! We’ll be sure to post when we return, so if you don’t hear from us in a few days we were probably swallowed up by the volcano.

Bustin out the brunton

Collecting a sample from the top of the quarry. I didn't enjoy being up that high but it was worth it.

One of the many pictures I labeled today even though it was beautiful outside.

Let the Work Begin

July 15th, 2010

Guest blogger: Becky Alcorn

Today was our first day of field work in Undirlithar quarry. Although a lot of the quarry has been filled in in the last year, we had a very successful day and found three dikes that can be used in my IS. We began mapping the south wall that will be the focus of my IS and collected several samples for future analysis when we return to Wooster. We’re even returning to the quarry later tonight to continue our work since the sun never sets and we never sleep.

The smallest of the three dikes I will be working with

A close up on some wonderful plagioclase (about 1cm) and olivine crystals in the same dike as above

Trying to see the "sparkly" vesicles in a sample

Breaking in my new rock hammer on my first sample

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