Today was my last day in Iceland. Exhausted after a long night of staying up with the other students in the hostel, we woke up, packed up our things, and headed towards the heart of Reykjavik where we would be spending a few hours exploring before heading to the airport. There I found a coffee shop that served wine during breakfast and although I thought it was a bit unusual, I appreciated the culture that was embedded in Reykjavik. I was surprised to see graffiti and street art all over, it gave the city a different aesthetic and feel than the rest of the country. Being right by the water front I saw a lot of ships and ports where boats would dock. I really didn’t want to leave Iceland. Around 12PM we headed towards the airport where we would board our flights back home. Finally at around 5P.M my flight back to NYC was boarding. I remember a slight feeling of sadness coming over me. Being from the city its hard to realize how beautiful the world truly is, and I knew I would miss the fresh air, beautiful mountains, and the welcoming vibes in the culture. As I headed home thousands of feet in the air, I realized that no matter where you are on planet Earth, there is a way of using the resources around us efficiently, in a sustainable manner, to minimize waste and optimize energy usage. This experience truly made me want to raise awareness in sustainability and renewable energy systems back home and in other highly populated areas and cities throughout the world.
Today was our final day at Reykjavik University. We had spent the entire time learning about the different designs, thermal kinetics and implementations of geothermal energy plants, as well as the different designs of hydropower turbines. It was finally time to present our capstone projects before the panel of judges and bring together all the data we had collected. My group specifically focused on diversifying the energy economy in Iceland and making it more sustainable by using byproducts of an already existing industry as the energy source for a new industry in order to minimize waste. Iceland has a very predominant chlor alkali industry that by-produces huge amounts of hydrogen. We suggested that recycling this hydrogen for usage in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as a source of “gas” would be an excellent way of minimizing waste and integrating a new and sustainable energy source in Iceland’s economy. Being that most of the emissions in Iceland come from the use of petroleum and diesel engines, we hope to reduce those emissions by substituting the public transportation buses with hydrogen fuel cell buses for a cleaner transportation system, and eventually introducing private hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in Iceland for individuals that drive cars. This idea immediately sparked an interest in the judges as we were being asked to predict how this will benefit other countries and other economies as well. After the presentation was over, we took our final examination and successfully completed the classes at Reykjavik University. Afterwards, we visited our last hydropower plant about 10 minutes away from the University and then headed straight to one of the best ice cream spots in town!
I found it extremely interesting that the home of Volcano Katla, lies beneath Glacier Mýrdalsjökull! It’s such a strange juxtaposition in geography and nature to see Earth’s two extremes so closely related. I was amazed by how beautiful it is to be on top of a glacier. Arriving to Katla-Mýrdalsjökull, we all made sure we had our crampons locked onto our boots tightly for the hike. Hiking a glacier was a little more difficult than i thought it would be, stomping around just to make sure the spikes on the crampons actually gripped onto the ice was a workout on its own! We came across a small ice cave and even made sure we were blessed by the Vikings by putting volcanic ash on our faces! Old Icelandic folk tales say that the only way to make it down a glacier as successfully as you made it up the glacier, is to make sure volcanic ash is on your face! Being at the top of the glacier was truly beautiful experience, I felt like the world froze still for just a moment in time. After hiking Mýrdalsjökull, we stopped at a Rapeseed-Oil farm. It was truly awesome to see the same rape-seed oil used for cooking, be put into the same bus we were riding on as biofuel!! I was amazed by how efficient the process to excrete the biofuel/ cooking oil was!
Today we start packing up our tents and getting ready to head out of the Katla Valley site. After an hour or so of loading up the trucks we were on our way! Heading back towards civilization was super fun. Our group ambassador at the time, Helga, wanted to show us what a true Icelandic Super-Jeep experience was like. We drove through rivers and streams and even helped 2 stranded folks get out of the mountains! Since the glacial streams are constantly changing, the rivers are also constantly shifting! From one minute to the next you can definitely find yourself stuck out there on foot. After some Super Jeep fun, we drive into a Volcanic Crater to see it for ourselves. Getting out of the Super Jeeps and stepping on to volcanic rocks and sediment was surreal. Not to mention black sand beaches and beautiful waterfalls afterwards!! I was really inspired by a small scale, homemade hydro-power plant at a farm we stopped at on our way towards our next hostel. I thought this was an amazing concept that could go a long way in the states if we began to establish homemade projects that can produce sustainable energy to the very farm that implements them. It’s a great way to squeeze a little extra energy out of the resources that surround us!!
I’ve never felt such a thrill. Being so high up on the mountains is surreal, the view that comes with being at a higher altitude is absolutely breath taking. This was the most memorable part of the trip for me personally. I had never felt so in tune with myself as a person walking on the edge of mountains and sliding down snow caps! Its amazing what adrenaline can do to a person. Walking as a group we managed to make the hike there and back within 5 hours. We had to pack our own lunch for the hike. Even though I couldn’t feel my hands or face, it was the best lunch experience EVER!! By the time we got back to the tents I was just about ready to collapse, but after a nice nap and some yoga, I felt like I could keep hiking for hours! We did some midnight hiking and exploring, it was pretty confusing yet really cool to be hiking at midnight whilst in broad daylight. There is only about 2/3 hours of “nighttime” during the summer in Iceland!