Local News

Geopark Reps Attend Drifting Apart Meeting


On February 25, representatives of the IATNL and Outer Bay of Islands Enhancement Committee (OBIEC) traveled to Iceland to attend the final meeting of the 3-year EU Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme funded Drifting Apart project.



Paul Wylezol and Arne Helgeland were joined by Alan Shepherd at the 2-day meeting and tour held just outside of Reykjavik.



They were representing Cabox Aspiring Geopark spanning the Bay of Islands Ophiolite Complex from Lewis Hills to Tablelands and east to the Ancient Continental Slope of the lower Humber Valley.



The two-day event began the evening of February 26 with a reception at Reykjanes UNESCO Global Geopark Visitor Center, with special guest Ms Eliza Reid, First Lady of Iceland.



The visitor center includes Duus Museum and its Batafloti Boat Model Exhibit, featuring over 100 boats by model boat builder Grimur Karlsson.


Arne Helgeland (left) and Alan Shepherd at Batafloti Model Boat Exhibit


The first full day of the event began with a day-long meeting at Keilir - Atlantic Center of Excellence, located in a former NATO military base.



After opening remarks by Magnus Stefansson, Mayor of the Municipality Gardur, Key Note Speaker Patrick McKeever, Secretary of the International Geoscience and Geoparks Programme, gave a presentation on the development and application process of UNESCO Global Geoparks.


Patrick McKeever giving a presentation on UNESCO Global Geoparks


That was followed by a number of presentations on the Drifting Apart project by key partners, including Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust and Marble Arches Cave Geopark in Northern Ireland, Magma Geopark in Norway, Shetland Geopark in Scotland, and Stonehammer Geopark in New Brunswick.


Group photo of Drifting Apart Representatives


During breaks participants had the opportunity to don Oculus Rift goggles to sample Drifting Apart Work Package 4's Virtual Reality project, managed by Magma Geopark in Norway.


IATNL's Arne Helgeland using Oculus Rift goggles to view Virtual Reality


After the meeting, the scene shifted to the Blue Lagoon


(left to right) Paul, Arne and Alan at twilight Blue Lagoon


for a delicious dinner at Lava Restaurant.



For Arne and Alan, second dessert was $50 per shot whiskey, with no worries they'd drink enough to miss the tour bus in the morning!



The tour began at 8:30am with a short drive to Bru Milli Heimsalfa (Bridge Between Continents) in Reykjanes UNESCO Global Geopark.



After Paul (left) and Arne accelerated the "drifting apart" of the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates



the scene moved to Gunnuhver Geyser, named after the legend of ghost Gudrun Onundardottir.


Gunnuhver Geyser
Gunnuhver Geyser (click to enlarge)
Alan (left) and Paul at Gunnuhver Geyser


From the geyser, the tour moved on to Kvikan House of Culture and Natural Resources in the fishing community of Grindavík.



Grindavík's history goes back to when it was a major trading centre during the Middle Ages in the booming Hanseatic period. It was raided by pirates many times and has been the site of numerous shipwrecks over the ages. There is still an active fishing fleet in the village and most of its catch goes to the local factory that specialises in processing salt fish for export. The museum does a fine job presenting this history with a series of modeled exhibits.




From Grindavík the tour moved on to Eyjafjallajökull Cinema featuring a 20 minute dramatic film about the spectacular eruption of a volcano located in the middle of a glacier in Katla Geopark on Iceland's south coast.



The cataclysmic event disrupted air travel over much of Western Europe during the Spring 2010.



After the film, the group traveled a short distance to Sólheimajökull for a one-hour walk to the receding glacier



Alan (left), Arne and Paul at Sólheimajökull


before visiting Samgongusafnid Museum of Transportation.




Alongside the museum is a heritage village of 19th century Icelandic buildings, including church, houses, barns and workshops.


Heritage Village near Samgongusafnid
Heritage village near Samgongusafnid Museum (click to enlarge)



Approximately 1km to the west is spectacular Skogafoss, widely considered to be one of Iceland's most beautiful waterfalls. Spanning a width of 50 feet (16 meters), it drops 200 vertical feet (60 meters) to mist-shrouded groups of tourists gathered below. It is situated on the River Skoga, which originates from both Eyjafjallajökull glacier and the western part of Myrdalsjökull glacier.


Paul with Katla Geopark Manager Brynja Davidsdottir


The last stop of the day was Lava Centre in Hvolsvöllur, an interactive, high-tech educational exhibition depicting volcanic activity, earthquakes and the creation of Iceland over millions of years.



Lava Centre
Alan shows the power of pointing at one of the high-tech interactive displays (click to enlarge)



The final Drifting Apart meeting and tour was a memorable and inspiring event that certainly left a lot of food for thought. After dinner at the Lava Centre and a 2-hour bus ride back to the hotel, Paul, Arne and Alan made a toast to Iceland and reflected on the long journey ahead, both for Cabox Aspiring Geopark and the travellers returning home. But for Paul and Alan that return flight was not before a two-day tour of Reykjavik, including a visit with Palli Gudmundsson, manager of the Iceland Touring Association, IAT partner in Iceland.


Palli (left), Paul and Alan at the ITA office in Reykjavik