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Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is a truly special place in a land filled with amazing and unbelievable sights. Like the glaciers that surround it, the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is constantly shifting and changing with the seasons and with time.

The road approaching the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is itself extremely photogenic – the stark black gravel contrasting the saturated blue skies, silhouettes of the power line pylons breaking the distant blue horizon

The first thing that will strike you is its black beach. I love black sand beaches, there’s something moody and enigmatic about them. When I visited my first black sand beach in New Zealand as a child, I wondered why the sand was coloured the way it was. Now I know – the sand is made from basaltic magma – which is black.

The first sight of the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is truly breathtaking, especially on such a bright sunny day

The lagoon is a product of the Earth in flux. First, the raw material for the sand had to be created – this happened from the explosions of the many volcanoes in the area. It was followed then by the formation of the glaciers themselves over the hardened basalt.

Each and every iceberg is perfectly reflected in the still waters of the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon… well, as long as the tour boats are not messing it up

Over time, as the glaciers moved, the rock underneath was ground below their weight and became the fine sand we see today. Then came, of course, the icebergs themselves – these beautiful, oftentimes brilliant blue, crystalline structures that are a wonder to behold – were formed not so long ago in this area, around the 1930s when the industrial age was well underway in Europe.

The Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is both a beautiful wonder and a harsh reminder of the damage we are doing to our Earth. The pace with which the lake enlarges every year has accelerated since the 1970s, and is a strong sign that global warming is taking its toll on our fragile arctic environment.Nevertheless, this did not detract from its beauty, Now, for someone from a tropical country, seeing an iceberg was definitely a milestone. The last and only time I had seen an iceberg prior to visiting this lagoon was when I watched Titanic.

Incredible expanse of the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, seen here from the water level

The icebergs dot the beach and float in the ocean, coming in many shapes and sizes. Many were really huge and had interesting colouring. The coolest ones had striations all along their sides, like they were cross sectioned so we could see the story of their formation laid bare.

They weren’t complicated really, brilliant white tops sometimes followed by bright blue or blue-green centres, striped occassionally by black sediment. The brillaint blue/blue-green centers were what fascinated me the most. I’ve never seen ice that blue, what makes it so? How can something which we normally percieve as white or transparent become so richly colored?

One could not even imagine that many shades of blue, particularly the ones in the middle that appear like cutouts from some 50s science fiction flick

Apparently the brigh aquamarine colors are the result of the ice being massively compacted. So, glaciers are formed by compressed snow. As more snow falls on already compressed snow, the bottom most layers become increasingly compacted. As this happens, air gets squeezed out between the lower layers of the forming glacier, changing the structure of the ice. When a chunk of glacier eventually breaks off, its ultra compact centre gets exposed to light. Because of its structure, it refracts light differently, absorbing most of the red wavelengths present. The light that’s reflected back out then is thus of the most brilliant blue you’ll ever encounter in nature.

Here is Isabella, utterly mesmerised by the sight before her, the glacier “river” seen at the top, slowly bringing new icebergs into the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

We had a wonderful time in Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. It was funny being among so many large chunks of ice strewn randomly around. It’s not a common sight we encounter everyday – or ever, really, unless you live far north. And there was something about this set up that made every visitor behave like a child – like how it was when we were seeing the world for the first time.

On our stroll along the beach, we saw many people touching the icebergs, trying to pick up large bits of ice that were floating in the water and even some adults attempting to taste the ice. Its not something I would recommend, but I can see the intrigue thousand year old ice might hold for some tastebuds.

We believe that these are Eider Ducks, calmly minding their own business in the aquamarine waters of the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

The other amazing thing about the lagoon was how still and crystalline clear its water could get. They say the impressive reflective qualities of the lagoon is the result of the mixing of fresh and salt water. When the water is completely still (sadly, it almost never is due to the boat tours in the lagoon), you can almost feel like there’s another world in reverse on the other side.

We recommend getting to the lagoon as early as you can, as it gets filled up with people pretty quick, especially on a nice, sunny, summer’s day. Personally, I can’t think of another season to view this place. I think you really need the crisp strong sunlight to bring out the icebergs and the crystalline quality of the black sand.

Many “diamonds” are to be found on the black sand beaches of the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, making for some great abstract images

We spent quite a lot of time strolling in the sand, marvelling at this beautiful wonder. The sun was so bright I almost felt like it was possible to go for a swim in the lake – but this is not possible of course. Eventually we had to leave this crystalline wonderland – for another amazing activity – Puffin watching!

About The Author

Danijel is a professional travel and music photographer and video producer.

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