Jökursarlón Lagoon, Vatnajökull Glacier, Iceland

The Faltering of Europe's King Glacier

cold rest
It focuses on a floating ice bank in the Jökursarlón lagoon, off the Vatnajökull glacier.
mini icebergs
Freshly released ice patches from the Vatnajökull glacier in the Jökursarlón lagoon.
on Icelandic land
Visitors walk along the shore of the Jökursarlón lagoon.
the possible landing
Seabirds rest on an ice shelf in the Jökursarlón lagoon.
pure ice
Guide Karl Gudmunsson displays an ice fragment from the Jökursarlón lagoon.
Boreal solemnity
Visitors to the Jökursarlón lagoon pose for a group photo.
Zodiac with passengers approaching Vatnajökull glacier.
One of the whimsical icebergs in the Jökursarlón lagoon.
Zodiac passengers admire an iceberg subject to the forces of Vatnajökull, permanent from erosion.
watching the ice pass
Moment of contemplation on the edge of the Jökursarlón lagoon.
Visitors to the Jökursarlón lagoon walk along a rocky shore.
Only in Greenland and Antarctica are glaciers comparable to Vatnajökull, the supreme glacier of the old continent. And yet, even this colossus that gives more meaning to the term ice land is surrendering to the relentless siege of global warming.

The road that descends from Höfn to Iceland's south coast no longer winds along the deep fjords of the east as it once did.

The narrow spaces between the frigid North Atlantic sea and the foothills of the slopes widen and give way to the first large alluvial surfaces, endless black sands, mottled by random colonies of pebbles that, by the time of June, the flows created by summer ice take over of assault.

We passed more farms set against the slopes and, here and there, irrigated by gentle waterfalls. Again, over steep mountains with verdant bases and snow-capped peaks.

We advance through these boreal domains, still and always marveling at the imposing landscape, when, suddenly, we notice the first fronts of ice rivers that shyly insinuate themselves between narrow valleys.

At the level of the coastal road, the scenery returns to the predominant green, but there is little doubt that the majestic Vatnajökull is hidden behind the mountain range.

Visitors on the shore of the Jökursarlón lagoon, Iceland

Visitors walk along the shore of the Jökursarlón lagoon.

Jökursarlón and Host Karl Gudmundsson

From then on, the vision repeats itself a few times, until we reach the vicinity of the Jökursarlón lagoon, where the glacier loses its timidity and approaches the sea that probes with dissident icebergs that float with the tide and currents.

Some, fearless, even cross the adjoining straits and, with the ebb of low tide, venture into the great North Atlantic. Others remain solidary in a vast community of patches of blue ice.

Iceberg da One of the whimsical shaped icebergs in the Jökursarlón lagoon, Iceland

One of the whimsical icebergs in the Jökursarlón lagoon.

In the vicinity of the lagoon, Karl Gudmundsson welcomes us in the trailer used by the company that serves as a counter and changing room. As we prepare for the zodiac inflatable boat excursion in Jökursarlón, we go into playful mode with the host and guide.

In Iceland's winter and less touristy season, Karl is a fisherman. It works from the Westman Islands, off the center of the south coast. Our comment on the similarities of the dialects inspires him to vent curious: “our Icelandic, if it resembles any other language, it will be Norwegian and Danish, but it is not that close.

You know, I was once at a table with people from Norway, Sweden and Denmark and they got away with it perfectly. Only I didn't catch anything. It's funny because we have the same ancestors but we continued to use the more archaic forms.

In fact, that's a bit how they see us. To a Norwegian or a Dane, Icelanders are all farmers or fishermen. To me, to be honest, I'm glad they think we're like that!”

Between Icebergs to the southern front of the great Vatnajökull glacier

More passengers arrive. Karl tries to get them into the zodiac.

And the zodiac in water. We set sail at low speed to the heart of the lagoon, zigzagging between icebergs of all shapes and sizes.

Until we approach the glacier's vast front that we glimpse extending up the slope, we imagine that even close to its supreme heights, the icy hill of Hvannadalshnukur (2119 m), the highest in Iceland and its neighbor to the west, the Grimsvötn volcano which, in 2004, massively melted the ice and caused real river floods.

Zodiac with passengers, Vatnajökull glacier, Iceland

Zodiac with passengers approaching Vatnajökull glacier.

The Jökulsarlón lagoon that we plowed is less than a century old. It is fed by Breidamerkurjökull, one of the thirty tongues of the great Vatnajökull glacier, the supreme glacier on the European continent, with an incredible surface area of ​​around 8100km2, neither more nor less than 8% of the territory of Iceland.

Vatnajökull arises in the wettest part of Iceland, the southeast. Its southern slope receives annual rainfall exceeding 4000 liters per square meter.

Only one other Icelandic glacier, Myrdallsjökull, receives more rainfall and releases more water into the ocean than the southern slope of Vatnajökull. In such a way that the Olfusa, Iceland's highest flowing river, would take upwards of two hundred years to carry all the water from Vatnajökull to the North Atlantic.

The northern slope of Vatnajökull is much drier. This difference explains the asymmetry of ice thickness: 800 meters on average in the south and only 500 meters in the north.

This also explains why the Vatnajökull oscillates to balance itself, being 17 meters above sea level in the south and only 500m in the north.

zodiac passengers

Zodiac passengers admire a block of ice from the Vatnajökull glacier, subject to the permanent forces of erosion.

fire under the ice

Even stranger: as with several other glaciers in Iceland, the Vatnajökull survives despite the existence of several active volcanoes below its glacier cap.

In 1996, one of them, Grimsvötn, gave rise to a massive torrent that flooded the alluvial plains to the south. In 2004, and 2011, this same volcano had considerable eruptions with plumes of smoke and ash that reached 20km in altitude and interrupted air traffic for several days.

Vatnajökull's Recess in Unthinkable Times

Until some time ago, the ice from Vatnajökull reached the sea. In the mid-70s, the colossus retreated.

Volatile arms of water that drained towards the ocean caused another violent flooding of the landscape. They forced the construction of a huge viaduct to complete the Ring Road that goes around Iceland in 1339km.

Seal in Jökursarlón lagoon, Iceland

It focuses on a floating ice bank in the Jökursarlón lagoon, off the Vatnajökull glacier.

Karl can barely remember when the glacier entered from the sea. Seals, these, were present in both sectors of the ecosystem. Karl spots a specimen dozing on a flat slab of ice.

Get as close as you can, enough that the onboard camera zooms can help photographers.

The animal is little or not bothered by the distant harassment. One or the other turns their heads in the direction of the boat and then returns to their original pose. Karl returns his sacred respect.

He picks up an almost transparent stone from the water and enlightens outsiders about its incredible purity and antiquity, often renewed, by the way.

Guide displays ice lagoon from Jökursarlón, Iceland

Guide Karl Gudmunsson displays an ice fragment from the Jökursarlón lagoon.

The great Vatnajökull has been retreating and, contrary to what you might think, volcanoes have little or nothing to do with this reality that worries the international community, Icelanders in general.

And, in particular, those of Höfn and other villages close to the Vatnajökull, which depend on the balance between the millenary volume of the glacier and that of the offshore sea.

Damage to the Old Icelandic Way of Life

In recent times, as temperatures in the Arctic rise at a faster rate than in any other part of the planet, not even the king of glaciers resists.

In the offshore North Atlantic, warming waters meant that only the most resilient fish species remained. This is, however, the least of the problems. The glacier has melted in such a way that the land has risen from the sea and it is increasingly difficult to move the deepest trawlers in and out of the port of Höfn.

Simultaneously, the extreme reduction in the volume and weight of the Vatnajökull has been causing the drainage of millenary fjords, the alteration of underground sediments and even damage to the city's canalization.

The damage is so serious that the Icelandic authorities have decided to secure a new port in Finnafjord, in an inhospitable setting on the east coast of the island. This, bearing in mind the future capitalization of international maritime traffic intensified by the melting of the Arctic ice cap and by the systematic navigation of commercial and even tourist vessels.

Sung Celebration of the Greatness of Vatnajökull

A group of Icelandic singers in fraternization visit that scene with the purpose of registering with the icebergs in the background. The photographer on duty has some work to do to align them in the ideal frame, as well as to catch the participants' attention at the same time. It finally achieves it.

Visitor group photo Jökursarlón lagoon, Iceland

Visitors to the Jökursarlón lagoon pose for a group photo.

Soon after, the entourage, all in dark suits, shares impromptu jokes. Reorganizes itself and offers to foreigners present there an unforgettable choir recital. As suddenly as they had appeared at those stops, they return to the bus and, like us, hit the road.

There is so much more to discover in southern Iceland and around its largest glacier. The vast Skaftafell National Park is the most famous in the country and provides many other stunning scenery along the glacier's southern front, which is over 100km.

If it's not the ice, it's the thaw. Vatnajökull's frigid water feeds countless mountain rivers with adventurous paths.

We leave the car in an almost empty parking lot and overcome a steep trail that follows the flow of one of these streams. A kilometer later, we end up in a rocky dead end and see the stream crashing down an improbable cliff.

There flows one of the most eccentric waterfalls on the island, Svartifoss, surrounded by hexagonal columns of basalt formed by lava flows that have cooled very slowly but now collapse without warning and all too often, which is why the authorities have limited the approach to the black walls.

We return to the car and the Ring Road. Gradually, Vatnajökull is left behind. The waterfalls it feeds, these, continue to plunge from waterlogged precipices, for many more kilometers.

Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina

The Resisting Glacier

Warming is supposedly global, but not everywhere. In Patagonia, some rivers of ice resist. From time to time, the advance of the Perito Moreno causes landslides that bring Argentina to a halt.

icy blue planet

They form at high latitudes and/or altitudes. In Alaska or New Zealand, Argentina or Chile, rivers of ice are always stunning visions of an Earth as frigid as it is inhospitable.
Seydisfjordur, Iceland

From the Art of Fishing to the Fishing of Art

When shipowners from Reykjavik bought the Seydisfjordur fishing fleet, the village had to adapt. Today, it captures Dieter Roth's art disciples and other bohemian and creative souls.
Juneau, Alaska

The Little Capital of Greater Alaska

From June to August, Juneau disappears behind cruise ships that dock at its dockside. Even so, it is in this small capital that the fate of the 49th American state is decided.
Jok​ülsárlón Lagoon, Iceland

The Chant and the Ice

Created by water from the Arctic Ocean and the melting of Europe's largest glacier, Jokülsárlón forms a frigid and imposing domain. Icelanders revere her and pay her surprising tributes.

The Geothermal Coziness of the Ice Island

Most visitors value Iceland's volcanic scenery for its beauty. Icelanders also draw from them heat and energy crucial to the life they lead to the Arctic gates.
Thingvellir National Park, Iceland

The Origins of the Remote Viking Democracy

The foundations of popular government that come to mind are the Hellenic ones. But what is believed to have been the world's first parliament was inaugurated in the middle of the XNUMXth century, in Iceland's icy interior.

The Island of Fire, Ice and Waterfalls

Europe's supreme cascade rushes into Iceland. But it's not the only one. On this boreal island, with constant rain or snow and in the midst of battle between volcanoes and glaciers, endless torrents crash.
Husavik a Myvatn, Iceland

Endless Snow on the Island of Fire

When, in mid-May, Iceland already enjoys some sun warmth but the cold and snow persist, the inhabitants give in to an intriguing summer anxiety.
Puerto Natales-Puerto Montt, Chile

Cruise on board a Freighter

After a long begging of backpackers, the Chilean company NAVIMAG decided to admit them on board. Since then, many travelers have explored the Patagonian canals, side by side with containers and livestock.
Seward, Alaska

The Alaskan Dog Mushing Summer

It's almost 30 degrees and the glaciers are melting. In Alaska, entrepreneurs have little time to get rich. Until the end of August, dog mushing cannot stop.
Prince William Sound, Alaska

Journey through a Glacial Alaska

Nestled against the Chugach Mountains, Prince William Sound is home to some of Alaska's stunning scenery. Neither powerful earthquakes nor a devastating oil spill affected its natural splendor.
Esteros del Iberá, Pantanal Argentina, Alligator
Iberá Wetlands, Argentina

The Pantanal of the Pampas

On the world map, south of the famous brazilian wetland, a little-known flooded region appears, but almost as vast and rich in biodiversity. the Guarani expression Y bera defines it as “shining waters”. The adjective fits more than its strong luminance.
Mount Lamjung Kailas Himal, Nepal, altitude sickness, mountain prevent treat, travel
Annapurna (circuit)
Annapurna Circuit: 2nd - Chame to Upper BananaNepal

(I) Eminent Annapurnas

We woke up in Chame, still below 3000m. There we saw, for the first time, the snowy and highest peaks of the Himalayas. From there, we set off for another walk along the Annapurna Circuit through the foothills and slopes of the great mountain range. towards Upper Banana.
Sirocco, Arabia, Helsinki
Architecture & Design
Helsinki, Finland

The Design that Came from the Cold

With much of the territory above the Arctic Circle, Finns respond to the climate with efficient solutions and an obsession with art, aesthetics and modernism inspired by neighboring Scandinavia.
Boats on ice, Hailuoto Island, Finland.
Hailuoto, Finland

A Refuge in the Gulf of Bothnia

During winter, the island of Hailuoto is connected to the rest of Finland by the country's longest ice road. Most of its 986 inhabitants esteem, above all, the distance that the island grants them.
The Crucifixion in Helsinki
Ceremonies and Festivities
Helsinki, Finland

A Frigid-Scholarly Via Crucis

When Holy Week arrives, Helsinki shows its belief. Despite the freezing cold, little dressed actors star in a sophisticated re-enactment of Via Crucis through streets full of spectators.
Chania Crete Greece, Venetian Port
Chania, Crete, Greece

Chania: In the West of Crete's History

Chania was Minoan, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Venetian and Ottoman. It got to the present Hellenic nation as the most seductive city in Crete.
World Food

Gastronomy Without Borders or Prejudice

Each people, their recipes and delicacies. In certain cases, the same ones that delight entire nations repel many others. For those who travel the world, the most important ingredient is a very open mind.
Bride gets in car, traditional wedding, Meiji temple, Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo, Japan

A Matchmaking Sanctuary

Tokyo's Meiji Temple was erected to honor the deified spirits of one of the most influential couples in Japanese history. Over time, it specialized in celebrating traditional weddings.

Man: an Ever Tested Species

It's in our genes. For the pleasure of participating, for titles, honor or money, competitions give meaning to the world. Some are more eccentric than others.
Herd in Manang, Annapurna Circuit, Nepal
Annapurna Circuit: 8th Manang, Nepal

Manang: the Last Acclimatization in Civilization

Six days after leaving Besisahar we finally arrived in Manang (3519m). Located at the foot of the Annapurna III and Gangapurna Mountains, Manang is the civilization that pampers and prepares hikers for the ever-dreaded crossing of Thorong La Gorge (5416 m).
Jean Marie Tjibaou Cultural Center, New Caledonia, Greater Calhau, South Pacific
Grande Terre, New Caledonia

South Pacific Great Boulder

James Cook thus named distant New Caledonia because it reminded him of his father's Scotland, whereas the French settlers were less romantic. Endowed with one of the largest nickel reserves in the world, they named Le Caillou the mother island of the archipelago. Not even its mining prevents it from being one of the most dazzling patches of Earth in Oceania.
sunlight photography, sun, lights
Got2Globe Photo Portfolio
Natural Light (Part 2)

One Sun, So Many Lights

Most travel photos are taken in sunlight. Sunlight and weather form a capricious interaction. Learn how to predict, detect and use at its best.
royal of Catorce, San Luis Potosi, Mexico, Chapel of Guadalupe
Real de Catorce, San Luis Potosí, Mexico

The Depreciation of Silver that Led to that of the Pueblo (Part II)

With the turn of the XNUMXth century, the value of the precious metal hit bottom. From a prodigious town, Real de Catorce became a ghost. Still discovering, we explore the ruins of the mines at their origin and the charm of the Pueblo resurrected.
Christian believers leaving a church, Upolu, Western Samoa
Upolu, Samoa  

The Broken Heart of Polynesia

The imagery of the paradisiacal South Pacific is unquestionable in Samoa, but its tropical beauty does not pay the bills for either the nation or the inhabitants. Anyone who visits this archipelago finds a people divided between subjecting themselves to tradition and the financial stagnation or uprooting themselves in countries with broader horizons.
Era Susi towed by dog, Oulanka, Finland
Winter White
PN Oulanka, Finland

A Slightly Lonesome Wolf

Jukka “Era-Susi” Nordman has created one of the largest packs of sled dogs in the world. He became one of Finland's most iconic characters but remains faithful to his nickname: Wilderness Wolf.
silhouette and poem, Cora coralina, Goias Velho, Brazil
Goiás Velho, Brazil

The Life and Work of a Marginal Writer

Born in Goiás, Ana Lins Bretas spent most of her life far from her castrating family and the city. Returning to its origins, it continued to portray the prejudiced mentality of the Brazilian countryside
Capelinhos volcano, Misterios, Faial, Azores
Capelinhos Volcano, Faial, Azores

On the trail of the Capelinhos Mistery

From one coast of the island to the opposite one, through the mists, patches of pasture and forests typical of the Azores, we discover Faial and the Mystery of its most unpredictable volcano.
Mother Armenia Statue, Yerevan, Armenia
Yerevan, Armenia

A Capital between East and West

Heiress of the Soviet civilization, aligned with the great Russia, Armenia allows itself to be seduced by the most democratic and sophisticated ways of Western Europe. In recent times, the two worlds have collided in the streets of your capital. From popular and political dispute, Yerevan will dictate the new course of the nation.
Natural Parks
Annapurna Circuit: 5th- Ngawal-BragaNepal

Towards the Nepalese Braga

We spent another morning of glorious weather discovering Ngawal. There is a short journey towards Manang, the main town on the way to the zenith of the Annapurna circuit. We stayed for Braga (Braka). The hamlet would soon prove to be one of its most unforgettable places.
on Stage, Antigua, Guatemala
UNESCO World Heritage
Antigua (Antilles), Guatemala

Hispanic Guatemala, the Antigua Fashion

In 1743, several earthquakes razed one of the most charming pioneer colonial cities in the Americas. Antigua has regenerated but preserves the religiosity and drama of its epic-tragic past.
Correspondence verification
Rovaniemi, Finland

From the Finnish Lapland to the Arctic. A Visit to the Land of Santa

Fed up with waiting for the bearded old man to descend down the chimney, we reverse the story. We took advantage of a trip to Finnish Lapland and passed through its furtive home.
El Nido, Palawan the Last Philippine Border
El Nido, Philippines

El Nido, Palawan: The Last Philippine Frontier

One of the most fascinating seascapes in the world, the vastness of the rugged islets of Bacuit hides gaudy coral reefs, small beaches and idyllic lagoons. To discover it, just one fart.
Candia, Tooth of Buddha, Ceylon, lake
Kandy, Sri Lanka

The Dental Root of Sinhalese Buddhism

Located in the mountainous heart of Sri Lanka, at the end of the XNUMXth century, Kandy became the capital of the last kingdom of old Ceylon and resisted successive colonial conquest attempts. The city also preserved and exhibited a sacred tooth of the Buddha and, thus, became Ceylon's Buddhist center.
Chepe Express, Chihuahua Al Pacifico Railway
On Rails
Creel to Los Mochis, Mexico

The Barrancas del Cobre & the CHEPE Iron Horse

The Sierra Madre Occidental's relief turned the dream into a construction nightmare that lasted six decades. In 1961, at last, the prodigious Chihuahua al Pacifico Railroad was opened. Its 643km cross some of the most dramatic scenery in Mexico.
city ​​hall, capital, oslo, norway
Oslo, Norway

A Overcapitalized Capital

One of Norway's problems has been deciding how to invest the billions of euros from its record-breaking sovereign wealth fund. But even immoderate resources don't save Oslo from its social inconsistencies.
Saksun, Faroe Islands, Streymoy, warning
Daily life
Saksun, StreymoyFaroe Islands

The Faroese Village That Doesn't Want to be Disneyland

Saksun is one of several stunning small villages in the Faroe Islands that more and more outsiders visit. It is distinguished by the aversion to tourists of its main rural owner, author of repeated antipathies and attacks against the invaders of his land.
ice tunnel, black gold route, Valdez, Alaska, USA
Valdez, Alaska

On the Black Gold Route

In 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil tanker caused a massive environmental disaster. The vessel stopped plying the seas, but the victim city that gave it its name continues on the path of crude oil from the Arctic Ocean.
Passengers, scenic flights-Southern Alps, New Zealand
Scenic Flights
Aoraki / Mount Cook, New Zealand

The Aeronautical Conquest of the Southern Alps

In 1955, pilot Harry Wigley created a system for taking off and landing on asphalt or snow. Since then, his company has unveiled, from the air, some of the greatest scenery in Oceania.