Advanced Geographical Expedition - Iceland 2012

Iceland volcano

In June 2012 24 human geography, physical geography and tourism students spent three weeks on the Advanced Geographical Expedition to Iceland accompanied by four staff members and Antony Jinman from 'Education through Experience,' a not-for-profit organisation that links expedition activities with school learning.

Advanced fieldwork

Iceland presents a challenging fieldwork environment to undertake studies not normally possible in the UK including:

  • Glacier dynamics and landforms
  • Thufur characteristics
  • Tephra stratigraphy
  • Settlements
  • Economy and land use in a marginal environment

As well as underpinning the assessments linked to the module, the fieldwork has inspired dissertation and PhD projects. Two students who attended the 2010 expedition won funding from the Royal Geographical Society and returned to Iceland in 2011 to work on a river project. Both students are now pursuing PhDs.

Expedition highlights

  • Hiking to the site of the 2010 volcanic eruption (Eyafeadlejorkull)walking on or within touching distance of recent ash, lava, and glacier ice.
  • Walking into the caldera of Askja, site of older eruptions.
  • Swimming in the crater lake at Viti.
  • Learning how power and hot water is provided by geothermal heat and how Iceland has more energy than it can use or export, but has plans to utilise all its glacial rivers with the consequence that there may be no glacial rivers left unmodified.
  • Hiking around a small section of Europe’s largest ice cap, the Vatnajokull, while other students surveyed the glacial landforms at the snout.
  • Driving through lava fields and the desert to get to Vatnajokull and Askja.
  • Visiting a horse farm in Varmilidadh to learn about Icelandic horses and how they have been vital to Iceland’s settlement and economy.
  • Investigating the geomorphology of the black sanded beach and dunes, and emerging cliffs of the Arctic Ocean shore, dodging the anxious kias and hearing stories of the appearances of famished Greenland polar bears carried here on ice flows.
  • Our main base in Northern Iceland was in the Bardardalur Valley at a community-run centre called Kidagil. Here students enjoyed genuine Icelandic hospitality, played football and even tried Icelandic wrestling.

Connecting the expedition to the school classroom

The work of the students and staff in Iceland is being used to link Bristol school pupils with explorers and their experience, bringing the exotic into the classroom. This is being achieved in partnership with the not-for-profit company Education Through Expeditions (ETE).

The expedition and fieldwork completed by UWE geography students is made available to schools via the ETE web platform. This supports activities, lectures, 'Ask The Expert' forums and even live discussions with expedition members whilst they are out in the field. This realises a mutual benefit of helping UWE undergraduates to develop career-relevant science communication and organisational skills, whilst providing access to a resource and experience beyond the reach of most schools.

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