Daily Archives: 09/04/2007

A Trip to Iceland – The Northern Lights

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The first day in Iceland saw an evening trip into the cold night air on a warm coach full of people expectant on natures free light show, The Northern Lights.

The scientific name for the Northern Lights is “Aurora Borealis”, or aurora for short. The same phenomenon can also be seen in the Southern Hemisphere but known as the Southern Lights, or Aurora Australis.

The Sun is one gigantic nuclear explosion, which emits clouds of plasma. These clouds race through space and some towards earth. As these plasma particles start to enter our shield of defense the atmosphere, they collide with gases which create photons or light particles.

Rich Lacey www.northern-lights.no

These light particles form ribbons of light which dance along the magnetic force lines around the poles at a hight of between 80 to 200 kilometres above sea level.  

Different colours can be observed, according to time of the year, the activity of the sun, and the composition of the nitrogen and oxygen in the atmosphere.

Our bus took us to the site of the worlds first parliament formed in 930 by the Vikings. We were told that this is where the American Tectonic plate and the Eurasian Tectonic plate meet, and we were warned of many fissures around making it a dangerous place. As we got of the bus I edged my way in virtual total darkness, hoping I would not fall down a gap in the earth’s crust.

Venus shone brightly off our left shoulder, the North Star was up above us, as other stars twinkled, but no Northern Lights. We were told that the show does not happen every night.

Then, a white mist like cloud started to appear above us, and within minutes an arc of ribboned light, lit up the night. It could be likened to watching a rain storm in the far distance, etched against a dark sky , but this was far more visual and brighter.

I remember as a young boy in the Midlands of the UK, standing in the field at the back of my parents house looking north and seeing the sky dance with colours. Yes the Northern Lights have been seen as far south as Singapore.

Tonight we only saw white light. It was freezing, and one by one people sought the warmth of the bus. Nature must have known we had had enough, because the show was over, and we set off back home.

Ever eager not to miss this wonder of nature, we gazed out of the bus windows, and suddenly, nature gave us an encore. 

We stopped and again wrapped-up against the intense cold, we stood in awe as right above our heads, the Aurora Borealis gave us a dancing display, it was as if I could have reached up and touched the light. 

Like any encore it was short. We departed to get warm, and for me a hot chocolate. 

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A Trip to Iceland – First Impressions

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My first impressions of Iceland, (situated just south of the Artic Circle), which was limited to the south of the island, was the great lack of ice. Although very cold, -0 degrees and less, there was little or no snow, that what could be seen, was only visible on the mountain tops in the far distance. The land was covered with dead brown grass (it was just finishing winter), with the flat lava landscape covered in moss, and leafless small bushes.

Views of Iceland, lacking any trees and other vegetation

I was told that neighboring Greenland is covered in ice and very un-green, and Iceland is green with vegetation, and the names were swapped to keep away visitors.

The land mostly volcanic, with some of the lava flows been laid down in the 1970’s, has had little time for fauna to establish itself, and certainly not enough time for nutrients to be established to support trees. The Icelanders are planting what they call forests, or small areas of trees.

Perhaps it was Easter, and the Icelanders had gone away for a long weekend to their “summer houses”, but the main shopping street in the capital Reykjavík was empty of shoppers. The street itself did not have the usual high street shops as other major towns or cities. There is no McDonnell’s, no Next dress shop, only one shop name I did recognise being Subway the sandwich shop.

I am told that the international shopping names do exist, but in the preferred shopping malls.

Driving was so leisurely. At no time did I see a traffic jam of more than three cars, there was no rush hour. A big difference to Istanbul, Milan or London.


Although the airport was only some 40 minutes drive, the first indication of how expensive Iceland is came with the cost of transfer from the airport to the hotel, nearly £26. As much as a taxi fare in the UK.

A simple meal in a standard Italian restaurant, the Rossopomodoro which seemed very popular with tourists, a pan fried chicken breast with potatoes and stir fried vegetables with a hot chocolate, (well it was cold) came to £30.

Rossopomodoro, Reykjavík, Iceland

A sandwich at the Blue Lagoon (as seen) over £6.

Entrance into and taking tours was very costly, an evening coach trip to see the Northern Lights over £20.

Very expensive place, Iceland.


Everywhere is very clean, the houses look as if they have just been painted, and all appear to be in a very high state of repair. Perhaps this is due to the contrast between the hard, jagged dark lava and the very angular buildings sitting square on the land.

The hotel Klopp and side street, Reykjavík, Iceland
The hotel Klopp, Klapparstigur 26 101, Reykjavík, was well presented and clean. Our room was as a normal hotel room, except we had a small conservatory where we could watch TV. Only breakfast was provided, but free drinks were always available, and did I need my hot chocolate to warm me up after a trip outside. 

With a population of only 380,000 people, Iceland is a rich country, relaxing, slow and very clean. A big difference to the hustle and bustle of London, Paris and Istanbul having a population of 13 million.

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A Trip to Iceland – The Flight

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I love flying, especially if I have a widow seat, and on a clear, cloudless day.

I wonder, as we speed across the sky, how many of the people below know that someone, me, is looking down upon them. The people on the trains, in the cars travelling on the ribbons of motorways cutting across and scarring the surface of the earth.

I marvel at how humans have spread across the surface of the land, yes surface. We have only scratched the surface. We only dig or excavate a few inches into the surface to build our houses, factories, schools, shops.

I look at the vast areas of emptiness, yet we are said to be over populating the earth. We humans are social beings, we stay in groups, as you look down, there is the proof, houses, flats, apartments, factories, clustered together. At night it is even more noticeable, as towns pollute the dark night with their street lights. 

A last minute decision was made to go to Iceland for a couple of days. It was a place I had always wanted to visit. A place of mystery, of wonders.

With todays cheap travel, a booking was made with Iceland Express a low cost but good carrier. I can see no difference between a scheduled carrier, BA, Turkish Airlines, Virgin etc, and low cost EasyJet. Perhaps the only difference is that you get “free” food on non low cost airlines. At least on low cost carriers you can choose the sandwich you want, unlike other carriers, where you get what you are given, and the cost of the nondescript food bumps up the price of a ticket out of proportion.

As we fly over the UK at 10,000 meters, you look down on a patchwork of fields, vast areas of countryside, how can the UK be full, over polluted?

Either side of the aircraft the coastline can be seen, so the country is not very wide, and I sit here considering the pollution being made by me flying to Iceland. But, wait, what about all the smoke that can be seen from heath fires. On this cloudless day, you can see how far the smoke reaches, as it drifts, polluting as it passes over lands. What about th cars etc?

Looking down, it is possible to make out landmarks, towns and cities I know. Airfields standout like scares on the face of the earth. It is amazing how many old airfields there are, especially in the county of Lincolnshire.

The lakes or lochs of Scotland are like long dark fingers. Mountains, that must be high, yet they look nothing, have little patches of snow, like little pieces of string, as the un-melted snow lies in the gullies. I would have expected to see more snow at this time of year. Maybe global warming? I feel sorry for the skiers and the lack of their main requirement, snow.

We soon leave the UK, flying high above the cotton wool clouds, so bright and white, blinding to the eyes. But what shapes appear as my imagination runs riot, some clouds reaching even further into the blue sky.

Below, in a break in the clouds, I spot a fishing boat ploughing through what looks like an angry sea, as I can see the white of waves breaking in the open ocean. I seem to remember they are called “white horses” from the days I sailed yachts.

Soon it was time to land, and as we descended, the countryside of Iceland looked barren. There was no patch worked fields to be seen, no green, and no trees.

This was going to be an eye opening trip.

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