The Race Between Continents

HON195 Student Post: Emma Cost, Environmental Planning and Policy Major; Honors Minor

The Race Between Continents

My day started with my friend Katie anxiously shaking me awake. “Emma, there’s Belgian waffles for breakfast again!” I already knew this was the start to a great day in Iceland. I ran to breakfast, late per usual, and quickly devoured waffles.

Today’s agenda was focused more on the fishing industry of Iceland and less on tourist hot spots. Yet Einar, our wonderful tour guide, always has tricks up his sleeve! As we were riding on the bus, Einar pointed out the bridge up the road revealing it was the continental rift. Our sleepy eyes immediately opened wide and suddenly there was more energy on the bus.

We arrived at this symbolic bridge, hurried out of the van, and walked from Europe to North America together on a narrow, wooden and metal bridge. No big deal.


We wandered underneath the bridge and there was a black volcanic sand ridge 18 meters wide with rock walls on both sides of us. It was absolutely liberating to stand between two continents. We were in our own unlabeled space created by two tectonic plates that moved away from each other in opposite directions to open up the space we were standing in. Science is fascinating. This ridge was the true definition of “no man’s land”.


Our student group, which tends to get competitive at times, decided to have a race from North America to Europe, and back. Why walk between continents when you can race across them? Our inner child burst out of all of us, racing back and forth on the ridge. A couple were tripping over volcanic rocks, some were laughing so hard they couldn’t breathe, and then there were the others taking the race way too seriously like they were going to win the olympic gold medal or something. Okay, that was me.

Click here to watch a video of the race!

After we spent some time going back and forth between North America and Europe, we boarded the van and visited a geothermal area in Grindavik called Gunnuhver. There were various sized hot springs spread across a large chunk of uninhabited land. There were warning signs everywhere to stay on the dedicated path because the rocks underneath and around the bridges were threatening. There was one particular hot spring that was pouring out steam. The sound was familiar, it sounded just like a waterfall, but a waterfall of steam.There was an overpowering smell of rotten eggs which was the sulfur in the water. I ran through the large cloud of steam with my friend Lexi. We were soaked after, and it was so difficult to see that I almost fell off the bridge! It was totally worth it though.

After we were done exploring we boarded the van once again damp and smelling like rotten eggs. Our next visit was Stakkavik. Stakkavik is a family business that was founded by our host’s husband, brother in law, and father in law. Our host, Margarét, informed us about their factory and business as a whole.  We received special permission to explore their factory because our Geocamp host, Oli, knew one of the owners of the company. Their number one priority is delivering fresh fish to plates in less than 48 hours. As soon as we left, they were already shipping the fish they caught this morning on flights all over the world. They have 3-4 boats that go to sea and catch 15 tons of fish a day on average. That’s absolutely insane! They mainly catch three types of fish: Cod, Atlantic Catfish, and Haddock. They process the fish in the factory, which is what we witnessed as a group. We saw a brilliant assembly line taking place in front of us. It started in the 80’s with much less machinery than they have now, and they have progressed and expanded as a family business, perfecting the process completely. It was astonishing. My friend Katie and I were running around trying to figure out the order of events from start to finish in the factory.  Part of the floor was even see through and we could see the factory workers cutting the fish beneath us. The company is very innovative, they do not allow the fat and bones go to waste. A large portion of the scraps is sold to other processing factories that take the scraps and use it for animal food to attract wild animals such as fox. The other portion is used as bait to attract the larger fish in the sea. Stakkavik is an exceptional company because they catch, process, and exchange the fish all on their own. This was surprising because when we visited the Portland Fish Exchange, their main job is to sell the fish that other fishermen from other companies catch. Stakkavik exports to countries such as: Belgium, France, and some of our states like New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts. The tour strictly forbid photographs and cell phones so unfortunately there are no photographs to share!

By the time we left Stakkavik, we were all starving. We went to Hjá Höllu for lunch. I ordered vegetable soup with Icelandic bread on the side. Every single piece of bread I’ve in Iceland has been delicious. It’s very soft and chewy, with delicious grains to add flavor and texture.


After lunch we stopped at Power Plant Earth in Reykjanes. The museum revolved around space and gravity material- with interactive models such as an earthquake simulator which was my personal favorite. You stood on a stool-like object and chose the magnitude of an earthquake, and it would replicate the feeling of standing on the ground while an earthquake was occurring. There were models of the solar system, an Einstein library, and lots of information spread throughout the museum. It was very colorful and attracted many different age levels.


We arrived back at Geocamp around dinner time and had a delicious meal cooked by our Geocamp chef. For dinner we had curried cod, a mixed salad with fruit, nuts, and different kinds of lettuce. She warmed baguette that we spread with butter, and for dessert she made us chocolate bars. It was a great day of learning, with several tourist stops on the side, and appetizing food. Day six is officially completed and we have passed the halfway mark in Iceland. Our journey here in Iceland is flying by way too quickly.




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