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Frozen Svínafellsjökull lagoon in Skaftafell, Iceland, with ice cracks caused by the moving glacier




Frozen Svínafellsjökull lagoon in Skaftafell, Iceland, with parallel ice cracks caused by the moving glacier


The Spirit of Iceland

During winter, the Svínafellsjökull glacier in Skaftafell, Iceland, fills the air with loud crackling noises from the pressurized ice of the frozen glacier lagoon. The ice of Svínafellsjökull, which flows steeply down to the valley, follows gravity at a speed of one meter (3.3 ft) per day. This corresponds to an impressive glacier movement of one centimeter (0.4 inch) within 15 minutes. Thus it is easily possible to observe the movement of the glacier. The glacier squeezes the up to 40 cm (1.3 ft) thick ice of the bordering frozen glacial lake. Under this immense pressure, the ice forms an impressive network of white lines in a multitude of tension cracks, which is ramping up against the 100 m (330 ft) high black hills of the glacier end moraines of Svínafellsjökull.
The moraine wall consists of dark and angular rock debris, a volcanic breccia. This unsorted rock rubble is eroded and transported by the glacial forces on its way into the valley and deposited at its end. The material originates from the various types of rock that build up the volcanoes under the ice cap of Vatnajökull.
Dramatic cloud sceneries with stray sunbeams hover over the landscape and create unique moods of light. They result from the low elevation of the sun in winter and the broken, multi-layered cloud decks. In the lee of the ice cap, beautiful wavy structures of lenticular clouds are formed, which are induced by the powerful air flow aloft. The indirect sunlight triggers the different hues and soft light intensities at the surface.
The constant crackling sounds of the ice at temperatures around -8°C (17°F) together with the ice-cold blowing winds and impressive lenticular foehn clouds made this experience on the ice truly exceptional.

January 2011
Canon 5D MkII, Canon L 16-35 mm, f/16, 2 sec, ISO 50, Lee GND, tripod

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