In March of this year I spent seven days on a road trip discovering the incredible southern coast of Iceland. It was an amazing trip that has left me with tons of memories as well as a strong desire to head back and visit the rest of the country.
As always, I arrived equipped with my recorders and managed to capture some really interesting and unique soundscapes. Recording here was really challenging due to the weather conditions – lots of wind and very, very cold – but the aural soundscapes I encountered were simply amazing.
After a couple of relaxing days in the capital Reykjavik, we hit the road in our rental car. On day one we decided to visit the Golden Circle, a popular tourist route that loops from Reykjavík into central Iceland and back. One of the sites along this route is Stokkur Geysir.
Strokkur is a fountain geyser in the Haukadalur geothermal area beside the Hvítá River. It erupts about every 5–10 minutes and shoots steam up to 15 – 20 m high. Being located close to Reykjavik, it attracts a lot of tourists. This recording captures the moment the geysir erupted and the crowd’s reaction as it happened.
It would have been great to have captured the sound of the eruption alone, but I’d need to have visited very early (or in middle of night) to record with no crowds. At the same time, the crowd reaction really captures the atmosphere of the site. You never really know when Stokkur will erupt so there is a real sense of anticipation. And each time the geyser erupted, the crowd instinctively screamed and cheered.
As our road trip took us further along the South coast, we stopped to admire the beauty of Skogafoss waterfall. The weather was stunning – blue skies and sunshine, creating a stunning rainbow from the spray. I walked carefully along the rocks covered with frozen moss and recorded the sound of the waterfall crashing onto the rocky floor.
We hit the road again and about a hundred kilometres further East we arrived at our next destination, the small fishing village of Vik. One of the outstanding features of Vik is the stunning volcanic black sand beach. With the North Atlantic ocean waves crashing onto the sand, I took the opportunity to sit and record the soundscape.
Whilst recording the waves, I soon realised there were a lot of seabirds nesting in the cliffs. I got as close as I could without disturbing them and captured these two recordings.
The wind really was strong and it was extremely challenging trying to record here. With time not on my side, I had to settle for a little bit of wind noise in the recording.
Towards the end of our trip, we explored the Reykjanes area in South-western Iceland, known for it’s young lava field and geothermic activity. Seltun Geothermic Park, situated in the south of Reykjanes, sits in the middle of the fissure zone on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge which traverses Iceland.
Upon arrival at the area, the first sight we discovered was a boiling river – water boiling at 100 degrees C as it flowed along the lava riverbed.
Mud pools also form where steam from boiling geothermal resevoir water emanates, condenses and mixes with surface water. I managed to get my mics about 15 cm from the source.
If I were to summarise Iceland in two words it would be : silence and purity. There were moments on the trip where we found ourselves surrounded by a landscape of black sand and rocks – no plant life whatsoever – with no animals and no human-made noise : total silence.
I can’t wait to go back and visit more of Iceland, though I will definitely try to visit in Summer next time!