Friday, May 2, 2014

Magical



Trapped
Reykjanes peninsula, the southwestern promontory, is just hanging on to Iceland rather than tumbling in the North Atlantic. Through the blizzard I can see the lighthouse of Reykjanesviti which equally warns ships for land and visitors for the surrounding geothermal fields. And the end of terra firma.


The geothermal fields are noted as Gunnuhver:
'The mud pools and steam vents on the southwest part of Reykjanes close to Reykjanes lighthouse are collectively named Gunnuhver after a female ghost that was laid there. She had caused great disturbance until a priest set a trap for her and she fell into the spring. This happend about 400 years ago'.


Visible
A number of look outs have been built which afford an overview of the steaming cauldrons. As well as Iceland's largest geothermal mud pool.
On the far side of the boiling pits, partially obscured by the blizzard, are a number of futuristic buildings apparently belonging to the Reykjanes power station.

Driving around the geothermal field to the geothermal power plant itself, we're a bit surprised that the Power Plant Earth exhibition, run in the geothermal power station is closed. Closed for the winter.

Somewhere I had seen some photo's of soaking possibilities nearby but whether it's the poor visibility, the snow covered land or simply being at the wrong place, soaking is not so obvious. 
After studying the landscape, I notice that a cement covered culvert is not covered by snow and yes the culvert is transporting hot water away into the blizzard. Knowing that the coast is nearby, we continue to follow the culvert.

Warning: no swimming

Royal
Three hundred meters on, we come to the end of the culvert where the hot water bursts from a pipe to the ever cold North Atlantic ocean. Elements are at work, the blizzard, steam from the water, crashing waves, well maybe it's not such a nice soak. Warning signs abound as well. Maybe when the tide is out?

 
 Where to soak?
Well, first to the left, there a couple of small petri-dish size rock pools. However they are either too small, too hot or too cold. Well, that's a no-go.

To the right though the situation is unclear. Clambering over rocks through the mist, we come to a large and deep pool. Testing reveals that closer to the inlet the water is too hot, however, seawater from crashing waves is coming over the rocks. 

Temperature is not bad. 

Well here goes. 

Strip quickly (very quickly!) and lower oneself carefully into pool. First the welcome heat, however after 30 cm of depth or so, the water gets cooler. A few kicks and the waters start to mix, the hotter water cooling, the cold water doing the opposite.

It may be a cold, blizzardy day, but this is a bath fit for a king.

Life on Mars?
Despite the great soaking opportunities, the origin of these steaming waters is less clear. 
The company-speak by the Power Plant Earth website:
'Power plant earth is an exhibition located in Reykjanesvirkjun, a geothermal power plant owned by HS. Orka hf. The power plant is not far from the edge of Reykjanes, the Reykjanes lighthouse and Bridge between two Continents.
The location is in one of the most beautiful lava fields in Iceland and its natural surroundings make it an extraordinary place to visit; Gunnuhver (one of the largest hot springs in Iceland), the continental rift, rows of craters, Mount Sýrfell and Rauðhólar Hills (landscape like on Mars) are among the many magical sites to see'.
The facts by Wikipedia which adds more background:
'The Reykjanes Power Station is a geothermal power station located in Reykjanes at the southwestern tip of Iceland. As of 2012, the plant generates 100 MWe from two 50 MWe turbines, using steam and brine from a reservoir at 290 to 320°C, which is extracted from 12 wells that are 2700 m deep. This is the first time that geothermal steam of such high temperature has been used for electrical generation'.
Then the truth? Saving Iceland has an extensive report on Iceland's geothermal exploitation and it notes that for the Reykjanes  power station:
'Further extraction in the already exploited area would simply be unsustainable and decrease the area’s capacity. Geologist Sigmundur Einarsson actually believes that the field is already over-exploited. His claim is based on studies from 2009, by the very same NEA, which state that the area’s long-term sustainable production capacity is hardly more than 25 MW'. 
It also details the parents company efforts to obscure direct Canadian ownership, which contravene Icelandic laws.

Other info on this soak is not readily available, so maybe this find will remain obscure?

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