That is the most common greeting in Iceland. After a few days of Icelandic classes, the language is becoming slightly less foreign to me. I can actually pick up a few words here and there, although I will still be far from fluent even at the end of my trip.
It is Sunday night and I have just returned from a really fun weekend adventure. My host mom, sister, and I drove two and a half hours through the winding road that outlines the fjords to stay at their summer house. Two other SIT students also joined us with a few members from their host family. Along the way, we stopped at a very old and very tiny house that has been turned into a coffee and waffle shop. Displayed throughout the house were a lot of photos and items from the families who lived there in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The drive was absolutely gorgeous. Once we got there, we immediately put on our swimsuits and jumped into the naturally heated swimming pool. The pool is heated by a geothermal stream that runs right behind the house. After a little while of relaxing, we drove to a nearby glacier called Drangajökull. It is the only glacier in the Westfjords. The hike took us a few hours round trip, but every minute of it was worth it. We got to stand on a small part of this massive and ancient glacier.
Last week was our first full week of classes. On Monday, we did introduction sessions with our instructors. Dr. David Dvorak, a mechanical engineer professor from the University of Maine, will be teaching our Renewable Energy Technology class. Olafur Gudsteinn is our Icelandic teacher.
For lunch our whole group ate at Tjöruhúsið, or Tar House, a renowned fish restaurant that is also one of the oldest and most historic buildings in the Westfjords. Their fish soup is absolutely incredible, cooked with the catch fresh off the local boats.
After class on Monday, a bunch of us decided to hike to a bowl in between the fjords called Naustahvilft, or the Troll’s Seat as it has been nicknamed. We biked 20 minutes to the base and conquered the steep ascent in a little under 15 minutes. The view was stunning.
At dinner that evening, I was able to stare out the window of my host family’s kitchen and look upon the path we had just hiked.
Tuesday we went over a few basic physics topics such as potential and kinetic energy, capacity factors, and how those topics tie in with different renewable energy sources. We also went through an introduction to hydropower and calculated volumetric flow rates, mass flow rates, and did a few overall turbine performance exercises. After a lunch break, we had 3 hours of Icelandic where we learned basic greetings, and other pleasantries.
Tuesday the 21st, the longest day of the year, my host brother drove me and two of my friends to a spot on the old road that we had biked a few days earlier to watch the sun touch the water and go back up in celebration of the summer solstice. The photo below was taken at approximately midnight. It was an experience I can’t even put into words.
Wednesday morning I biked around for a while before class, stopping to observe the first of many cruise ships to come into town during my stay here. There will be 72 in total this summer. Some of these ships hold more people than the town itself, and usually only stay for a day or so, flooding the streets with tourists and providing business to the local shops.
During lecture, we went over thermal energy conversions, determining the thermal power, thermal efficiency, and maximum theoretical output for various geothermal power plant examples. Another topic we discussed was the Iceland Deep Drilling Project, a four year project led by the energy company HS Orka, who runs one of the geothermal factories we toured during our first week here. We considered the various environmental implications of this large scale project.
After Icelandic, a few of us visited one of the local pubs to watch the Iceland vs. Austria Euro 2016 football (or as Americans call it, soccer) game. Against the odds, they won the game with an exciting goal in the final seconds, putting them through to the next round. Their next game is tomorrow against England and we are all excited to watch as Iceland’s biggest bandwagon fans.
Thursday we covered geothermal heat pump systems and energy in fuels. In the afternoon, we took a short bus ride as a group to a hydroelectric power plant run by Orkubú Vestfjarða, or Energy of the Westfjords. Built in 1936, we got to go inside and observe the turbines of this plant that generate 1100 kW of energy from a nearby waterfall.
Finally we reached the end of the school week. In class Friday we learned about solar power, solar photovoltaics, and solar thermal systems. We were lucky to have another beautifully sunny and warm day that we took advantage of by going on a hike after class to a waterfall.
The weather was pretty gloomy the rest of the weekend, but I am hoping for some sunny days next week while we explore the surrounding area a little more before leaving the Westfjords the following week. There are a few activities planned for us this week including field trips, a scavenger hunt, and another meal at the Tar House (which I am very excited for).
Until next time, bless bless! (goodbye)