It’s not until you experience it for yourself, that the raw power of the geothermal heat that lies beneath Iceland’s varied landscape really makes an impression. The concept of swimming in a pool filled with geothermally heated water is easy to grasp, seeing the zig zag pipes making their way towards Reykjavik to deliver hot water to the city is believable, if a bit odd, and the smell of sulphur near to a hot spring or in some hotel bathrooms is something you get used to. More difficult to grapple with until you’ve done it are things like this: to lie in a shallow river situated in a remote valley in water that’s 35-40°C (which is blissful), boil eggs for breakfast in a net in a hot spring and to eat a dinner of bread, lamb or salmon earth cooked to perfection in hot mud. Experiences like these are a powerful way to connect with the awe and magic of nature and in my view, a reminder that they are natural forces to work with and not against.
How does this happen? Iceland is positioned astride the spreading Eurasian and American tectonic plates, it is located over a hot spot, and has a climate that provides plenty of water that filters through porous rock and collects underground. With a thin layer of ‘crust’ at the surface, the temperature rises considerably at relatively shallow depths, creating the catalogue of wonders that geologists and vast numbers of visitors to Iceland find so fascinating. Most will take the trip around the Golden Circle to witness Strokkur, Iceland’s obliging geyser that sends a towering plume of steam up into the sky about every 7 minutes, just one example of many features that include boiling and spitting mud pools, hissing fumaroles and wonderful steaming streams.
Harnessing the power of the heat from the earth has provided Iceland with space heating, greenhouse cultivation, fantastic swimming and showering facilities and in some places ice-free pavements. Isolated farms use their own bore holes and some of the best salt ever is produced using geothermal processes. It’s a technology that’s interesting to understand and as a carbon free source of energy, it feels so good to use and enjoy.