Iceland Vorferð 2022
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Iceland Vorferð 2022

Report and photos by Erik Sturkell.


The Icelandic glaciological society (JÖRFÍ) organised the first spring trip (Vorferð) to Vatnajökull from the 25th to the 31st of May, which I took part in. This was the first trip of two as the spring trip is popular. The approach point onto the glacier was this year again at Skálafellsjökull (Jöklasel) as the condition in front of Tungájökull at Jökulheimar had not improved. We left Reykjavík on the evening of the 25th at 6 PM and drove to the hostel in Vangstaðir. The next day we went up to the approach point at 800 m elevation (fig. 1). I traveled by snow scoter, and we deployed a GPS instrument at the northern most part of Esjufjall. From there we continued to the huts at Grímsfjall and found the houses buried in snow (Fig. 2). After some digging the doors was cleared. Hours later the main group arrived with two snowmobiles and two cars. This was probably the last trip in the society (JÖRFÍ) that the snowmobile BOLI took part as it has been sold and the first trip with the long new Ford that the society had purchased. The long Ford called Langjökull replacing the red Ford. The first day had some wind but for the rest of the trip, the weather was fantastic! After the sun deck was cleaned people took advantage of it an enjoyed the sun (Fig. 3). The next day we went down into the caldera and looked for a GPS station placed on the floating ice prior to the flood in November. The original plan was to retrieve the station at the end of the year, but it did not happen and in January – February meters of snow fell, and the GPS was lost in snow. We had the coordinates of the place the station was set up and at the mast a recon responder (system to find snow flood victims) was installed. But it was futile, no response. We called Benni and got the last known coordinates for the station, which was about 50–60 meters away. As the lake under the glacier in Grímsvötn drained the ice moved towards the southern caldera wall. With this coordinate we located the station. The snow mobile was called in and dug down just above the wind generator mast. This was located and now we know where to find the GPS. The GPS antenna had been cracked by the snow load as it had been buried under 4–5 meters of snow. This rescue operation worked very well but took many hours. The next day in the morning I went to the GPS site at the nunatak Husbonden near Pallsfjall in the western part of Vatnajökull. We passed by Grímsfjöll and continued towards Kverkfjöll. About halfway we caught up with the Ford and the snowmobile. I relocated to the Ford and one of the Belgium seismologists took the snow scoter. They deployed a temporary net in Kverkfjöll and needed the speed and the mobility of the snow scoter. We arrived to Kverkfjöll and went down to the lake Gingissig (Fig. 4). We concluded the Kverkfjöll visit with some tourist stops such. As the view to the north (Fig. 5) over the northern volcanic zone. This day was long, and we slept late the next day, I stayed in I this day reading a thesis (with help from teddy bear Grímur, see featured photo), cleared snow from the housed including the sun deck (Fig. 3) and helped with the food. The next day (30th of May) I travelled by snow scoter to retrieve the GPS instrument at Husbonden and move it to the nunatak Vötter. This nunatak is located 16 kilometer south of the huts at Grímsfjöll. In the evening we had a barbeque. After five nights at Grímsfjöll we drove (slowly) back to Skálafellsjökull. Some people on snow scoters past Esjufjall and picked up the GPS – thanks! The GPS on Vötter was retrieved by the second group. At the glacier edge the second group waited. Our descend was very slow and we reached the edge at almost 5 PM instead of 2 PM as planned. In the evening we drove back to Reykjavík. It is 390 km so I hope in the future we can approach the glacier from Jökulheimar again. Thanks, Hrafnhildur for organising the trip (Fig. 6), Ibi for arranging all food and all participants on this fantastic trip!

Figure 1. The road up to Skalafell glacier.
Figure 2. The buried houses at Sviahjukur estri on the caldera rim of the volcano Grímsvötn; a) the new hut; b) the old hut.
Figure 3. The sun deck Infront of the new hut with participant enjoying the good weather.
Figure 4. The lake Gingissig in Kverkfjöll.
Figure 5. View toward the north with Askja (Dyngjufjöll)
Figure 6. Hrafhildur organizing the activity.
Sunset over Vatnajökull
Sunset over Vatnajökull