Full steam ahead

'The Boiler' in Hveragerdi
Boiling eggs in a geothermal stream.

We’re such geeks. I mean really, we visited two things today and one of them was a power plant.

Our first stop was a small town that is renowned for having geothermal springs in its centre. The town’s greenhouses, heating, three swimming pools and much more are heated by the springs. Walking about through clouds of sulphurous steam and seeing some amazing growths in the streams was great. We were heartily amused to read of one of the holes we saw having been used as a dump. Then an earthquake caused a massive geyser-like eruption which deposited the rubbish over the entire town. There was a nostalgic display of broken pottery and toy parts collected from the distributed refuse.

Hellisheidarvirkjun power plant.
Hellisheidarvirkjun power plant.

There was also a lovely little display on how bacteria grown in the springs are used in a variety of endeavours from forensic genetic sequencing to toothpaste (by the way, is there any strange thing that isn’t in toothpaste?).

The boys boiled eggs in the hot springs. While a fun activity, it isn’t very interactive once you’ve dipped the egg into the water and so both eggs came out too runny to be eaten. Was still entertaining though.

Then the geothermal power plant. 85 per cent of Iceland’s power comes from geothermal and hydro-electricity.  and a huge amount of their hot water comes as a by-product of geothermal. It is in many ways the ultimate sustainable energy source. We were all blown away by a great demonstration which really showed both how complex geothermal energy is and how sustainable it is.

Iceland conquered.

The power plant allowed us to see in real-life all the stages shown in the amazing interactive explanation –  including standing just above the turbines. We were amazed – we simply cannot imagine being allowed so close in Australia, the UK or the US.  Partly security. Partly because the Icelanders are clearly proud of their power generation. I can’t imagine seeing anything like this at a coal-burning plant in Australia.

And then we were heading back into Reykjavik. There was a sense of sadness in completing our circumnavigation of Iceland which has been just awe-inspiring. This was tempered by a sense of relief in handing the car back;   although driving Iceland was about as good as it gets in many ways, there was a lot of driving. We parked exactly where we’d picked the car up; having completed exactly 2673.8km.

Stop all engines.

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