Jökulsárlón in Iceland: Floating on the moon

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It might have been a regular plane that took me there, but a lot of the landscape in Iceland got me thinking that I’d ended up on the moon.

Iceland was a destination I had long looked forward to visiting because of the incredible other-worldly views I’d seen in the photographs of friends. On our first full day there, we headed to the glacier lagoon in the Vatnajökull National Park on the southern coast of Iceland. 

The large lake, Jökulsárlón, is formed by the melting glaciers, and the lake and surrounds has starred in movies like A View to a Kill, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Batman Begins, and more: it seems there’s no better place on Earth to evoke this unique atmosphere of being very, very far from home. Gazing around you see low mossy slopes, black sand, rocks and lava remnants, a weird mix of a moon-like wasteland and volcanic wilds.

When you reach the water, it’s another beast entirely. We jumped on board an amphibious vehicle and drove straight into the lake itself, and just stared. It was unlike any lake I’d ever seen, though something like what I’d imagine cruising near Antarctica might be like.

My five-year-old son was given plenty of attention by the guide on our boat: speaking in flawless English, like many Icelanders do, he explained the sights and then fished out a chunk of iceberg and handed it to my son. Cold and slippery, my son soon let it slip over the side of the boat back into the lake, his gloves not quite enough to keep out the chill. 

Our vessel continued gliding past pure blue ice, chunks broken off the glacier, which would break up further and then head out to sea through a channel carved by nature over time between the glacier and the coastline. We had spent time on the beach already.

As Australians, a beach usually means perfect white sand and gentle blue waves. The beach at the point where Jökulsárlón meets the sea is black dirt covered with chunks of ice of varying sizes, and more pieces of ice floating past in the sea, gradually melting. I kept snapping photos, though in retrospect I needn’t have; this was a scene so unique to us that it would easily fix in our minds forever.

It was a bittersweet moment when our amphibious vehicle switched back from floating to driving and carried us out of the lake and back towards the starting point. While I would have loved to stay on board and stare at the glacier and floating ice chunks forever, my son’s lips were blue and I was starting to get uncomfortably cold myself. We took ourselves into the cafe for a hot chocolate, but made sure we got a seat near the window, so we could continue to gaze over Jökulsárlón for as long as possible.

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