Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon in June 2017
We are worn down by the weather after numerous stops in biting cold along the sandur, ready to forge on to our farmstay along the eastern coast. Fortunately other visitors signal the path to the most amazing site in Iceland. As we pass through a whiteout of winds and snow, a few brave souls bundled in winter jackets cut in and out of the looming white ice dunes crowding the edge of the road. We strain to see what the attraction might be and take the left fork at the next turn. We are stunned by beauty: Jokulsarlon, the glacial lagoon, arctic nursery for icebergs calving off Fjallsjokull and Vatnajokull glaciers. There are not enough names for the colors of glacial blue! Shades of turquoise, sapphire, azure and every ultramarine in the cool spectrum are pressed and radiant in layers of ice. This is an experience that will thrill us over and over again throughout Iceland – the unique bevy of blues from glacial melt. The lagoon meanders into Jokulsa to the sea populated by raucous flocks of gulls, skuas, and arctic terns, all haggling for territory. It is the shortest river in Iceland, looking more like a channel. Icebergs may float about the lagoon for up to five years before making the short transit to the ocean. The geography seems ancient, yet the lagoon is merely 80 years old. In the 1930’s Breidamerkurjökull, a tongue of the great Vatnajökull Glacier came right up to the Ring Road. The lagoon is growing at a staggering 500 meters per year due to glacial melt from climate change. Barely visible across the expanse of water are the two large tracks trailing off Breidamerkurjökull. Breidamerkurfjall Mountain is an offshoot of Iceland’s largest mountain, Öræfajökull. This congregation of glaciers and mountains comprise Vatnajokull National Park Iceland’s largest park in the Skaftafell region, where most Icelanders head for vacation. The storm obscures the majestic peaks, but we pull on sweaters, coats, hats, gloves, everything we’ve got and step out into the storm, snow blowing horizontally, to absorb the views. A few tour boats bustle tourists closer to the glacier pack. We prefer the grand view, the vista of calving tracks across the translucent bay, the distance to take in animate melodies of rushing waters and pelagic birds. The colorist in me delights when two figures in shocking red coats step into my composition of blues for complimentary balance. We stay as long as we have feeling in our fingertips. Breathing in beauty, framing it in photographs, capturing it in video. We collapse into the car exhausted from the cocktail of cold and beauty, another 50 kilometers to go to our farmstay. Hours among glaciers is worth the delay.