Iceland-Lake Mývatn to Akureyri, Northern Lights in Skagafjörður October 26, 2022


Wednesday, October 26, 2022
Iceland-Lake Mývatn to Akureyri with Northern Lights in Skagafjörður

Well, it's Wednesday and it's our last night in Iceland away from the light scatter of Reykjavik. 

The skies this morning are gray and partly cloudy but there are a few breaks visible. The Aurora Forecast is for cloudless skies this evening. 

Lake Mývatn

So we all set off from Hotel Laxá, which would have been the perfect place for Northern Lights viewing but the cloud cover was too thick. It even snowed a little overnight.

We're still in the Lake Mývatn area and out first stop after breakfast is the Skútustaðagígar Craters.

Skútustaðagígar  pseudocraters

The Skútustaðagígar Craters are found in the Lake Mývatn area, which is very volcanic, being in close proximity to the Krafla volcano system. The nature of the lake itself and the volcanism of the region both led to the creation of these unusual formations.

During an eruptions, lava ran across the area of Skútustaðagígar, which at the time was swampy wetlands. The heat caused steam eruptions, which resulted in their crater-like shape.

These pseudocraters are sometimes called rootless craters or rootless cones, as they have no end to them and they are not connected to a direct magma conduit.

They were formed some 2,300 years ago in the eruption of Lúdentaborgir and Þrengslaborgir. The clusters of pseudocraters sit on a scoria mount, which is unique for this type of craters.

The sheep don't seem to mind the brisk October morning air.

Dimmuborgir, lava field

Our next stop is Dimmuborgir or Dark Towers or Dark Castles.

 It is a large area of unusually shaped lava fields east of Mývatn.

The Dimmuborgir area consists of a massive, collapsed lava tube formed by a lava lake flowing in from a large eruption in the Þrengslaborgir and Lúdentsborgir crater row to the East, about 2300 years ago. 

At Dimmuborgir, the lava pooled over a small lake. As the lava flowed across the wet sod, the water of the marsh started to boil, the vapor rising through the lava forming lava pillars from drainpipe size up to several meters in diameter.

Fun fact:
Dimmuborgir was used as a shooting location for HBO's fantasy TV-series "Game of Thrones". Dimmuborgir forms the background of Mance Rayder's wildling camp.

If you are in Iceland at Christmas time you might meet the Yule Lads (their Dimmuborgir cave is pictured below).

The Yule Lads are the offspring of lazy Leppalúði and evil Grýla, the ogress who collects misbehaved children in her large sack and takes them back to her cave to boil and eat them. As the legend goes, bloodthirsty Grýla never goes hungry at Christmastime. Yikes!

As if that's not traumatizing enough for a youngster, there's also the scary Christmas Cat (Jólakötturinn) to worry about. This big black cat, the house pet of Grýla, is rumored to devour anybody who does not receive a new item of clothing — even something as small as a scarf or socks — for Christmas. This could explain why Icelanders are always impeccably well-dressed and ready for any weather.

More info about the Yule Lads: CLICK HERE

Our next stop is to Goðafoss, in modern Icelandic, the name can be read either as "waterfall of the goð (pagan idols)" or "waterfall of the goði (chieftain)."

According to linguist and placename expert Svavar Sigmundsson the name derives from two crags at the falls which resemble pagan idols. 

In 1879-1882, a myth was published in Denmark according to which the waterfall was named when the lawspeaker Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði made Christianity the official religion of Iceland in the year 999 or 1000.  Upon returning home from the Alþingi, Þorgeir supposedly threw his statues of the Norse gods into the waterfall. 

However, although the story of Þorgeir's role in the adoption of Christianity in Iceland is preserved in Ari Þorgilsson's "Íslendingabók", no mention is made of Þorgeir throwing his idols into Goðafoss. 

The legend appears to be a nineteenth-century fabrication. Nevertheless, a window in Akureyrarkirkja, the main church at Akureyri, illustrates this story.

After a walk around the waterfall area we're back on the road and heading to Akureyri. We pass through the Vaðlaheiðargöng tunnel and pop out just above Akureyri harbor. The tunnel shortens the travel between Akureyri and Husavik by 16 km. (And speaking of Husavik-there was a M3.3 earthquake at 5:30 a.m., no one in our crew felt it.)

Nicknamed the "Capital of North Iceland", Akureyri is an important port and fishing center. The area where Akureyri is located was settled in the 9th century by the Norse Viking Helgi magri (the slim) Eyvindarson. But did not receive a municipal charter until 1786.
Sister city to Akureyri is Denver, CO.

After lunch we visit the Akureyri Botanical GardenMost of the flowers have passed but it's still fun to explore.

In 1910, women from Akureyri founded the Park Association to beautify their city. The garden, the first public park in Iceland, was headed until 1953 by the Park Society. During this time the garden area increased to 3.6 hectares. 

Besides being a place of peace and tranquility the garden is a place for scientific research. It has proven that shrubs, trees and other plants can survive on the edge of the Arctic. 

Besides arctic plants, those from the temperate zones and high mountains are grown. Icelandic plants are represented by about 400 species in the southeastern corner of the garden.

By the end of 2007, there were about 7000 species. The garden contains a few wooden houses, of which Eyrarlandsstofa is one of the oldest in Akureyri.

When we return to the van, John Paul discovers a problem with the luggage trailer hitch and asks us to hang out in town while he goes to the bus garage to get us some new wheels.

We walk around the Akureyrarkirkja, a Lutheran church in the center of the city that was designed by Guðjón Samúelsson (1887–1950) and completed in 1940. 

Akureyrarkirkja boasts a large 3200-pipe organ. Unfortunately, we didn't go inside to see it.

We walk around town a some and end up at the Akureyri Backpackers Bar/Hostel, they have Guinness on tap (Jay's a happy boy!)

John Paul gathers us all up, with a new van towing our luggage trailer and we set off for Skagafjörður. John Paul calls our hotel, Hofsstaðir Country Hotel to let them know we'll be late for dinner.

Our crew is so desperate to see Northern Lights that we start checking the sky while driving along in the van.

No Northern Lights but a beautiful sunset gives us hope.

We get our room keys, throw our stuff in our rooms and head for the dining room. Just after our soup course, an amateur astronomer in our group tells us the show has begun. 

We all jump up from our seats and run outside.

Northern Lights

The first wave went from about 7-7:30 p.m. We finished dinner then headed back outside for more lights.

It was spectacular! The light show went on ALL night and into the wee hours of the morning.

Needless to say, we were all VERY happy campers.

According to Wiki
Auroras are the result of disturbances in the magnetosphere caused by the solar wind. Major disturbances result from enhancements in the speed of the solar wind from coronal holes and coronal mass ejections. These disturbances alter the trajectories of charged particles in the magnetospheric plasma. 

These particles, mainly electrons and protons, precipitate into the upper atmosphere (thermosphere/exosphere). The resulting ionization and excitation of atmospheric constituents emit light of varying color and complexity. 

The form of the aurora, occurring within bands around both polar regions, is also dependent on the amount of acceleration imparted to the precipitating particles.

Reds and blues are rare colors but we got to see them Wednesday night!!

Red: At its highest altitudes, excited atomic oxygen emits at 630 nm (red); low concentration of atoms and lower sensitivity of eyes at this wavelength make this color visible only under more intense solar activity. The low number of oxygen atoms and their gradually diminishing concentration is responsible for the faint appearance of the top parts of the "curtains". Scarlet, crimson, and carmine are the most often-seen hues of red for the auroras.

Green: At lower altitudes, the more frequent collisions suppress the 630 nm (red) mode: rather the 557.7 nm emission (green) dominates. A fairly high concentration of atomic oxygen and higher eye sensitivity in green make green auroras the most common. The excited molecular nitrogen (atomic nitrogen being rare due to the high stability of the N2 molecule) plays a role here, as it can transfer energy by collision to an oxygen atom, which then radiates it away at the green wavelength. (Red and green can also mix together to produce pink or yellow hues.) The rapid decrease of concentration of atomic oxygen below about 100 km is responsible for the abrupt-looking end of the lower edges of the curtains. Both the 557.7 and 630.0 nm wavelengths correspond to forbidden transitions of atomic oxygen, a slow mechanism responsible for the graduality (0.7 s and 107 s respectively) of flaring and fading.

Blue: At yet lower altitudes, atomic oxygen is uncommon, and molecular nitrogen and ionized molecular nitrogen take over in producing visible light emission, radiating at a large number of wavelengths in both red and blue parts of the spectrum, with 428 nm (blue) being dominant. Blue and purple emissions, typically at the lower edges of the "curtains", show up at the highest levels of solar activity. The molecular nitrogen transitions are much faster than the atomic oxygen ones.

Yellow and pink are a mix of red and green or blue. Other shades of red, as well as orange, may be seen on rare occasions; yellow-green is moderately common. As red, green, and blue are linearly independent colors, additive synthesis could, in theory, produce most human-perceived colors, but the ones mentioned in this article comprise a virtually exhaustive list.

WHATEVER-it was gorgeous!

More Northern Lights photos: CLICK HERE

More photos from Lake Mývatn to Akureyri: CLICK HERE

Tomorrow we explore West Iceland and return to Reykjavik