In Iceland, you can stand with one foot in North America and one foot in Europe. No need to be a colossus. Just cross the Bridge Between Continents, spanning the North Atlantic and Eurasian continental plates.
As these plates jostle, slide and collide, they set off earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. In fact, magma spewing from a seam between these plates, the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, formed Iceland.
Iceland’s igneous origin is on display at Reynisfjara Beach, where the cinder-colored sand formed from eroded lava. Off shore, breakers batter the Reynisdrangar Sea Cliffs, also created from cooled lava.
According to Icelandic legend, the cliffs formed one night as two trolls tried to drag a ship to shore. Dawn broke before they completed their task–a fatal mistake for trolls, who must not be exposed to daylight. Consequently, the trolls remain forever petrified.
Another imposing feature along Reynisfjara Beach is Reynisfjall Mountain–a 340 meter (1115 foot) tower. At its base are balsaltic columns. Their honeycombed shape formed as lava cooled and contracted.
The coastal cliffs are fascinating geology exhibits that also showcase bustling bird colonies.
Resembling Pixar characters, puffins prance and pinwheel around Latrabjarg Cliffs. Undersea, their whirring wings become feathered flippers–useful for catching tiny fishes.
Puffins take their human admirers in stride, nonchalant despite people’s curious proximity.
Like puffins, arctic terns nest near coastal waters. They’re journeyed to these ancestral breeding grounds from Antarctica–25,000 miles away! Unlike puffins, they are intolerant of people’s approach. Get too close and they swoop and swerve above you, angling to peck at your head.
Greylag geese prefer to nest in Iceland’s marshes. These birds are believed to be the wild ancestors of today’s domesticated geese.
Rivers and lakes are the preferred habitat of the golden plover. When this wading bird returns each spring, it is always nationwide news. Schoolchildren welcome it in song: “The plover is come to bid farewell to the snow.” According to Iceland Magazine, no bird is loved as dearly. This is understandable when Iceland’s winters bestow only five hours of daylight.
After two weeks in Iceland we were looking forward to a New England spring. As we headed home, our plane swept over frosty Greenland. Maybe next year?
I look forward to meeting you in the classroom.
Keep reading and writing!
Program/author visit video:
SCHOOL PROGRAM / AUTHOR VISIT VIDEO