Trans-Iceland Expedition (1965)

Trans-Iceland Expedition, 1965

By I. R. Jones U.VI

The Trans-Iceland Expedition 1965, of which I was a member, Ieft Harrow on August 14th bound for Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. The journey, by boat from Leith, took three days, passing through the Orkneys, south of the Faeroes, and past Surtsey, a volcanic island which is erupting in the sea. After packing all the food and equipment into our two Land-rovers we set off from Reykjavik on our drive across the country. Our first camp was at Thingvellir, the site of the first Icelandic parliament in 920 A.D., the first in the world.

From there we went to the Great Geyser, where pools of super-heated water erupt into the air every few minutes, reaching heights of over fifty feet. In the same area are large deposits of sulphur, which are bright yellow and give off a nauseating smell. The same day we visited Gullfoss, the "golden falls" - a wonderful series of waterfalls which always have a rainbow over them. That night was spent in a mountain hut in southern Iceland run by an Englishman, who now lives there permanently. After leaving this hut we set out on a trek of two hundred and fifty miles across the uninhabited interior lava plateau of Iceland, the crossing of which was one of the main aims of the expedition.

Enough food, water and diesel oil for five days had to be carried, as this region can prove very inhospitable. Whilst in Reykjavik at the beginning of our trip, everyone had advised against attempting this part of the journey, as it was considered to be too dangerous. However, we were fortunate in having favourable circumstances, and we succeeded in the crossing, although we had to drive through a number of deep rivers, and the water was coming over the bonnet of the Land rovers and through the doors. This crossing took us three-and-a-hall days, along a non-existent track, marked occasionally by posts or cairns, and often in a raging blizzard. While we were camped one night between two ice-caps, a nearby river froze, and so did the paraffin in our cooking stoves. Even our cameras were frozen and useless for days afterwards.

The weather remained cold for the rest of the trip, and it snowed almost every day, making conditions rather unpleasant at times. After leaving the desert we drove to Lake Myyata, a bird sanctuary, and then up to the Arctic Ocean, only twenty-five miles from the Arctic Circle. Then we spent two days of bitterly cold conditions in Akureyri, the main town of Northern Iceland, where the harbour was full of trawlers sheltering from the dreadful storms in the Arctic. Heading inland, we drove back towards Reykjavik through the mountains of the interior, and after visiting a whaling-station on the west coast we arrived back in Reykjavik alter fourteen days of non-stop travel, having covered 1,500 miles through treacherous country, and along non-existent roads.

The expedition was filmed for the B.B.C.'s Adventure series by an Australian cameraman in the party, and it is also hoped to produce an article for the Geographical Magazine. The whole trip was a really wonderful experience, made all the more exciting by the astonishing things we saw: geysers, wonderful waterfalls, sulphur pits, boiling mud pools, extinct volcanoes, steam vents, and bottomless fissures in the earth. After such an adventurous and exciting holiday, the only problem now is "Where shall we go next year?"


1966 School Magazine


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