2014 GSA Annual Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia (19–22 October 2014)

Paper No. 10-11
Presentation Time: 11:00 AM

LAND OF ICE AND FIRE: SUMMER FIELD STUDY IN ICELAND


TEWKSBURY, Barbara J., Dept of Geosciences, Hamilton College, Clinton, NY 13323-1218 and TEWKSBURY, David A., Department of Geosciences, Hamilton College, 198 College Hill Rd, Clinton, NY 13323-1218, btewksbu@hamilton.edu

Iceland is an extraordinary place for students to study volcanic, tectonic, glacial, and hydrologic processes that interact in unique ways that are not typical of US field trip venues. For nearly 25 years, the Department of Geosciences at Hamilton College has offered a summer field study course in Iceland roughly once every four years. We have run both two- and three-week programs. The two-week program has focused on South Iceland from Reykjavík to the southern Vatnajökull, plus Reykjanes, the island of Heimaey, Landmannalaugar, and Hekla. The three week program has added a loop through East Iceland and the Myvatn/Krafla area with a back-country excursion to the north side of the Vatnajökull and Askja volcano plus a return across the Central Highlands. We have run the field course as a set of short field study exercises that target the unique features of each location. To prepare students for the trip, we have required a semester-long seminar that includes geologic background, history, a bit of language, and reading in several of the Iceland sagas.

Iceland is a friendly place to travel and an easy place to bring students. The language barrier is negligible in most areas, crime is low, food and water are safe for consumption everywhere, and risks are typically no greater than those at US field sites. Logistics are straightforward and arrangements easily made. Although there are no travel restrictions for foreigners, driving safely in the back country requires considerable expertise because few rivers have bridges. Consequently, we have always hired an outfitter with a skilled driver and a 4WD bus. Surprisingly, hiring an outfitter has actually been cheaper than renting vehicles and doing our own driving. The outfitter also has provided a cook and tents. To keep costs down, we have camped while in the countryside and stayed in the Youth Hostel while in Reykjavík. Including airfare from Boston, costs for summer 2015 are estimated at $3K per person for 15 days for a group of 20-25 people.

We have developed a set of forms for international travel that serve as a template for all of our international travel and can be modified for use at other institutions. We have also written a field guide for our Iceland field study. These documents, plus the pre-field seminar assignments, are available on request.

Handouts
  • GSA 2014 Iceland trip final.pptx (26.8 MB)