During late May 2016, 16 students and three members of the Department of Environmental Earth Sciences faculty travelled to Iceland to study geology for 10 days. This was the department’s first trip to Iceland and marked a new chapter in its efforts to expand and diversify experiential learning opportunities for EES majors.
The group arrived in Iceland at 4 a.m. and immediately set out from the airport at sunrise to visit Reykjanes Peninsula, only 10 miles away. By 9 a.m. they were soaking in the famous Blue Lagoon spa, surely the best way to recover from a five-hour overnight flight!
Every day thereafter the group was treated to Iceland’s gorgeous natural scenery, volcanoes of every size and type, incredibly raw tectonic landscapes, vast icecaps and glaciers, and thunderous waterfalls. They also took time to experience Iceland’s modern society, which has managed to develop an thriving sustainable lifestyle in one of Earth’s harshest environments.
“The trip was a wonderful learning experience and a true geo-adventure for our students,” said Professor Dickson Cunningham. Students climbed volcanoes, walked on a glacier, sailed past icebergs, scampered behind waterfalls, tiptoed past hot springs and geysers, stared in awe at huge volcanic cliffs on black sand beaches and stood on the rift boundary that separates the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. They also examined traditional Icelandic folklore and society, visited a modern geothermal power plant and explored Reykjavik’s attractive city culture.
“Iceland never disappoints its visitors and while we all felt fulfilled by our group experience, there was also some sadness in leaving such a marvelous country,” said Cunningham. “As we took off to return home, a few of us gazed out the window hoping to see one last puffin!”