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Breiðamerkurlón | by arnitr
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Breiðamerkurlón

Many visitors to Iceland stop at the Breiðamerkurlón, the hauntingly beautiful glacial lagoon on the eastern part of the south coast. Stop there and inspect the various floating icebergs, many of them more resembling the work of a manic sculptor than blocks of ice. To add to the uniqueness are the green and blue hues in the clear and white tones of the ancient glacier ice. For some years a tourist outfitter has run some boats on the lagoon and a boattrip among the icebergs by far surpasses watching the lagoon from the shore.

 

The lagoon stems from the glacier Breiðamerkurjökull which is a branch from the Vatnajökull, Europs largest glacier, in dramatic view if the weather is fairly clear. Breiðamerkurjökull is what is called in Iceland a "skriðjökull" á branch that moves forward during cold spells when the mother glacier gathers "weight". Skriðjöklar, or we could call them crawling glaciers, which would be a direct translation, then tend to retreat when lasting weather warms up. Which has been going on over the past years. These glaciers are not at all like the mother glaciers, their surfaces are rough and cut up, due to them advancing and retreating consistently. They are also usually covered with glacial mud.

 

The glacier has been moving to and fro quite a lot in recent history, for example a farmstead, Fjall, established in the year 900 at the east rim of the glacier, was buried under it during the years 1695 to 1709 and it stayed buried until late in the twentieth century when the receding glacier uneartherd it again. During that cold spell, the glacier crawled forward and at one point in time there were a mere 250 meter between the tip of the crawling glacier to the pounding shore. The glacier and the Atlantic were close enough to turn up a whirlpool during high tide and bad weather, making it a death trap for travelers needing to cross it with no boats, only a horse or two. Many lives were claimed.

 

The glacier has been receding over the last years but that has not made the lagoon any less scenic. Today it has produced the Jökulsá á Breiðamerkursandi, by far the shortest of Icelands many huge south coast muddy glacial rivers. But by no means the least of them. It is crossed by a bridge at its mouth and the icebergs can in fact be observed without ever stepping out of the car. There is a problem here, due to this change, the Atlantic is consistently gnawing away at the shoreline and moving menacingly toward the bridge. There is real trouble forseen and engineers are at work. How they are going to stop the North Atlantic remains to be seen though.

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Taken on August 14, 2007