From Captain's Journal
Students across years eight to thirteen were invited to participate in an extra-curricular trip to Iceland during February half-term break. Thirty-nine students were accompanied by teachers Ms Habib, Ms Scotland, Ms Gumus, Mr Gunnell and Mr Muller.
We started off an early journey leaving Istanbul at eight am on Friday. There was a very long layover before we could check our luggage in so we camped outside a coffee shop with free wi-fi and an area where the students and teachers could relax. Over the seven hours there were lots of card games and even hide and seek! We landed in Iceland just before three am Turkey time and the border control was very surprised to see so many nationalities in one school trip visiting Iceland. We made our hour journey to the hotel in the centre of Reykjavik before getting up at 8am for breakfast. Students were very happy with the abundance of croissants and cakes available for breakfast. We met our teacher guide, Roger, at breakfast and we listened as he told us about being the Iceland expert; Roger has visited Iceland for the last twenty-five years and has seen many changes to this tectonic island. We also learnt our first Icelandic word, ‘Góðan daginn’ which means ‘good day’ and we were able to say this to our Icelandic coach driver Emil each day.
Our first full day in Iceland was windy, cold and exciting! We travelled between two continents, this time tectonic plates and not the Bosphorus which we are more accustomed to back in Istanbul. Students were able to cross the bridge and for some, look at their first lava ash from a recent eruption in the area. After this we then walked among pahoehoe and a’a lavas that formed eight hundred years ago in eruptions known as the “Reykjanes Fires”. Our journey then carried on past amongst mud pools and steam vents and viewed the vigorously bubbling Gunnuhver, Iceland’s largest mud pool with a diameter of twenty metres. These form where steam generated from a geothermal reservoir emanates and condenses, mixing with surface water. Our last stop of the day was probably our highlight of the day, the volcanic ridge of Fagradalsfjall, which means ‘beautiful valley’s mountain’.Eruptions took place here from March to September 2021 and again in summer 2022. It was an incredible experience to see the steam still being generated from the black lava in the snow. Students decided to have extra fun rolling down the snow covered volcano valley, making snow angels and free-falling holding hands. We then checked into our hotel which was in the middle of the Icelandic countryside. Our rooms were luxurious for a school trip and there were lots of comfy areas for the students to sit and watch movies and play games after their exciting first day.
After waking up and eating breakfast students had to make their own lunch - luckily no-one forgot! We made our way to the not so ‘secret lagoon’. It was below freezing outside and students were thrilled to get into a thermal pool where the water remains thirty-eight-forty celsius throughout the year. After this we then were fortunate to eat tomatoes grown in Iceland greenhouses. Students were able to explore the vertical farming methods and try fresh tomato juice. Some students bought the home made pasta sauce so please do check their bags as you may have a surprise waiting for you! Our last stop of the day (due to bad weather) was the Geysir. We waited just a few minutes before Strokkur erupted thirty metres into the air. When we returned back to the hotel we had some rest time before dinner and a forced game of bingo…which the students secretly loved! Two students in the group waited for the Northern Lights to make an appearance - their efforts paid off and they saw a slight green glow in the clouds.
The weather had cleared up for day three in Iceland and we were very excited as we checked out of our hotel as we had an incredible experience waiting for us - a glacier walk! Our first stop was the Lava Centre where we learnt all about the recent volcanic eruptions in Iceland and we got to try different flavoured salts from Iceland. Second stop was the Katla geopark so that some Year 12 students could complete their fieldwork collection for their Geography Internal Assessment. Others explored the Seljalandsfoss waterfall and some made their way to the snack bar and souvenir shop. Unfortunately we could not walk behind the waterfall due to the ice but it didn’t stop our photo opportunities for the Instagram and Snapchat feeds. Finally we reached the Solheimajokull glacier tongue. We listened to our safety advice and put on our equipment to be able to hike up the glacier. As a group we found the experience exhilarating - we watched each other eat the glacier ice, jump over crevasses and do press ups over the meltwater; definitely an experience we will never forget! Our final stop of the day was Reynisfjara, a beach made up of black volcanic sand and basalt pillar cliffs. The waves reached over twenty metres at some point so we made sure we stayed a safe distance and even had time to take a stop in a cafe for a quick cup of tea and a well deserved soft drink. We made our way to the next hotel where we had a fantastic evening meal of, ‘the best mushroom soup the teachers had ever tasted’, and a really filling lasagne which meant that none of us even wanted the dessert!
Our final day in Iceland was filled with lots of fun. We travelled to a geothermal greenhouse where we met Tammy, our guide. We were able to put eggs into geothermal water to cook, which we ate at the end of our tour alongside homemade bread that had been cooking for over twenty four hours. It was a delicious snack after breakfast. IGCSE Geography students in year eleven were then able to see one of their geography case studies in action, Hellisheidi Geothermal Power Station. We were able to see how the power station worked and how much electricity was provided for the capital city due to tectonic activity. A two hour journey to the capital followed where the students were finally able to spend some of their money on souvenirs and the teachers rewarded themselves with a hot chocolate and shared some ‘Bolludagur’ - buns that are given on Lent. It is said that traditionally you are not meant to buy your own buns and instead you earn them by spanking people with a wooden stick with colourful paper decorations on the end - we would like to report that no students or teachers were harmed for a bun! We checked into our final hotel before walking the forty-five minutes back into town to eat at the Hard Rock cafe where the students said it was the best meal of the week! We tried to have an early night as we had to get up at three am for our coach journey back to the airport. Overall we had an amazing time and it was definitely one we will not forget.