Glaciers, Part 2

The marvels of Day 2 didn’t stop with glaciers, though I confess I spent the rest of the day peeking back over my shoulders to check on the glaciers as we went.

Iceland Glacier 5
Look! Do you see that thing?! It grows up ABOVE the mountain tops.

Our next stop was at the basalt column cliffs and black sand beaches of Reynisdrangur where Dustin let me drool on the rocks to my heart’s content. The formations are stunning and sometimes even alien. These rocks are literally the earth being created.

Iceland Rocks 4
Coolest columnar basalt cliffs I’ve seen to date. It doesn’t hurt that they’re above a black stone beach.
Iceland Rocks 3
Yep, the formation is just like Devil’s Tower.
Iceland Rocks Selfie 3
These photos never capture scale. Let’s just say there’s a lot of cooled lava above our heads.
Iceland Rocks 5
Do you have any idea how amazing this guy is to let me run amok on a volcanic island for four days?
Iceland Rocks 1
Lava rocks! I mean, seriously!
Iceland Rocks Selfie 2
Holes in cliffs, black sand beach, volcanoes everywhere.

 

And sometimes the rocks look like trolls.

Iceland Rocks 6
See them? They’re really tiny at the top of this photo, by the cliff on the horizon.
Iceland Rock Troll
And sometimes they look a whole lot more like trolls. This is a sculpture of Bardur, a giant who lived on the glacier here.

We finished our day in a cozy little guesthouse that served Swiss food for dinner and didn’t offer coffee in the morning. (Coffee is serious business in this country. We are still confused.) This was particularly difficult since the morning of Day 3 saw Dustin insisting we be on the road by 8am.

“It’ll be worth it,” he said, as I hauled my jet-lagged booty out to the car.

We headed up to the Snaeffelsness, a peninsula on the western coast of the country that is home to some of the most gorgeous coastal mountain scenery I’ve seen.

Iceland Rainbow 1
And rainbows. Sorry about the bad photo. There will be more bad photos of rainbows coming up.

And also this wooly sheep. He was on the road and stopped to say hi.

Iceland Sheep 1Iceland Sheep 2

Iceland Sheep 3
Uh… hey. Got any cookies?

Most importantly, Snaefelsness is home to the Snaeffelsjokull, a glacier covering a volcano made famous by Jules Verne as the start of the adventures in Journey to the Center of the Earth. And the best part was that there was a snow cat waiting on the side of the road when we pulled off.

Y’know that thing about the best laid plans? Well, occasionally they spring leaks in their heating systems and can no longer be driven up the sides of glaciers, even for people who have giant crushes on glaciers and really need to be driven up onto one.

And thus did the Awesome Glacier Adventure turn into the Glacier Adventure That Was Not To Be.

But Iceland is full of amazing things, so we pulled over to the side of the road and climbed into this volcano instead.

Iceland Volcano 1
Just another roadside attraction.
Iceland Volcano 2
Peering into the crater.
Iceland Volcano 3
Deciding to venture into the crater.
Iceland Volcano 4
I’m in this picture. Do you see me?

Next up, the conclusion of my epic glacial adventures.

Diggin’ in the Dirt #3

Ooooh, is this delinquent and late!

Let’s see. Been a couple weeks since I sent out an update, and I bet I’ve done interesting things in the meanwhile.

We’ll begin with work, shall we? The last couple weeks have blended more or less together in my brain. Where I am working, there are three different trenches. A different team works in each trench. The trench I work in is the boringest trench ever. Here’s the proof:

In trench #1, they have found foundation walls and floors of Roman houses. And that’s just the stuff on top. If you look deeper, you have several different floors (some of terra cotta, some of dirt packed nice and hard, some showing signs of being burned down), and a lot of very cool Roman Treasures (one Roman’s garbage is another archaeologist’s treasure…)

There's a wall in there. You can see it right?

In trench #2, they have the gardens which belong to the houses in #1. Of course, by now, there isn’t much left of the gardens proper, but you can see traces in the soil of where the garden walls were, plus pits probably used for refuse, a few animal pens, and a well. The well is so cool I can hardly believe it. You can see layers and layers and layers of stuff.

In trench #3 (where I am), we have some rocks. In fact, we also have a Roman wall, but they found that well before I arrived, so it isn’t interesting anymore. No, all we have are rocks and post holes.

What is a post hole, you ask? I forget what a good question that is. Okay – pretend you have a post – y’know, a big ol’ stick of wood. You probably want to use it to build a house. You want your house to be sturdy, so you dig a really deep hole in the ground, then stick your post in the hole, and fill it back up with dirt. Now you have a good sturdy post against which you can build a wall or on top of which you can settle a roof.

Now, pretend 2000 years have passed. Most of the post is gone – might have been burned down, might have gotten knocked over – but your hole was so deep, that the part underground stayed there. Since a post is made of wood, after 2000 years, it will disintegrate and turn back into soil. The neat part is that it will be a different color from the soil around it, so when the archaeologists come knocking, we know it used to be there.

First, we see it on top of the ground. (“We.” Haha. You have to have a really good eye to spot one of these on top.) They use cranes to scrape off a nice thick layer of topsoil, then if they spot a potential post hole, they send me over to dig half of it out and see if it still looks like a post hole from the side. The following is a very nice post hole.

From the top.

(posthole, as seen from the surface)

Profile

(posthole from the side)

And that is the story of post holes! Fortunately, “rocks” need somewhat less explanation. It is very vaguely possible that the rocks we’re finding *might* have been a prehistoric (pre-Roman) floor, but I find it very hard to believe. Call me a beginner, but… I have a feeling maybe they’re just pretending it’s interesting so they can keep the Americans busy while they work on the important things.

Rocks.

In fact, to let you know just how uninteresting Trench #3 is, consider this: Two fridays ago, all four Dutch workers in Trench #3 had the day off. It happens sometimes. David (also American) and I were the only ones left. Normally, what you’d expect is that they’d reassign us to different trenches for the day, but no. Trench #3 was so unexciting that they let us work there more or less without supervision. Nothing at all that we could screw up that would cause any heartache, I suppose.

In truth, it was kind of fun to work “unsupervised.” (Yeah, Kiki checked in on us every hour or so, but we never really needed much.) Makes a person feel mildly competent. We drew maps of the trench and dug up post holes and drew pictures of the post holes. I got to hone my fine dutch skills by filling out the paperwork. It’s a good thing we didn’t find anything other than post holes, because that’s about the limit of my vocabulary: “coupe door paalgat.” In Dutch, I can also ask where my tools are, count as high as you’d like, and name most of the things that come out of the dirt (bricks, bits of pots, bones, rocks, rocks, and more rocks). Not exactly the kind of vocabulary that will do a person any good in casual conversation (well, unless all your friends are archaeologists), but hey – it’s a start!

So, onward and upward! During my free time, I’ve been doing lots of interesting things! Last weekend, we took a trip on the
Panenkoekenbot (Pancake Boat) down to Germany. It’s a three hour, all-you-can-eat Pancake cruise. Dutch pancakes are flatter than American pancakes but nearly as filling. I was only able to eat two, despite my very best intentions to eat a stack as tall as I am. We got to go visit the captain’s cabin and Kinga and Angela played in the ball-pit. It was great fun.

Balls. Whee!

This weekend I took a couple days off and went back down to Belgium. I was supposed to finish up my last minute errands, but I was ill-prepared, so I didn’t get much done. I stayed with my English friends and had a really lovely, relaxing time. I came back this morning and have continued relaxing all day. The weather is still lousy, so I don’t feel too badly about sending emails all day.

But I had better wrap this up before my housemates all come home. We’re going out to dinner tonight, as two of them are leaving to go home (to the States) this week.

So until next week, I hope all is well. I send many hugs and much love to all!