SEEDS 24. Vatnajökull National Park & Kirkjubæjarklaustur
Two groups of our volunteers have just returned from their two weeks projects nearby Vatnajökull glacier, leaving a successfully completed project and lots of good times behind us, and bringing many good memories and new friendships back home.
Each group worked in different places at the same time working on the same tasks and exchanged the work place after one week so that everyone could see as much of Iceland as possible. One part of their job, taking place at Morsadallur valley near Skaftafell, was to monitor and help to stop the spread of the invasive Lupine plant at the borders of Vatnajökull National park, to protect the unique and fragile ecosystem of the park and so it is not overwhelmed by a "purple flood".
This Environmental Agency of Iceland (Umhverfisstofnun) project was lead by the Soil Conservation Service of Iceland and supervised by the University of Iceland, which provided the necessary scientific background. The volunteers had therefore opportunity to join a brand new research project and "to touch the science" using GPS units for marking infested areas and computers to process collected data. A method of area mapping was also tested, as this year is the first in which systematic approach of delupination with 100x100 metres squares grid is used.
It is not always good to be a "guinea pig" for scientists but for our groups it was a lot of fun, experience and even though it was sometimes dull to walk up and down the stone desert without seeing a piece of green, the feeling of having the job accomplished always balanced the troubles. Nevertheless, the delupination effort still goes on and the very same project will continue next June and July, since the lupines are most vulnerable in that time of the year. SEEDS volunteers will be there again to help!
The second mission of our groups was much easier to accomplish because there were no invasive species to deal with in Kirkjubæjarklaustur, only a brand new bird-watching house near the lake that needed to be connected by a walking path. If you enjoy working with shovels, wheel barrows and lava (which most of us do!), you would love this job and it's great to see someone using the path right after the last bucket of lava is in place. Still, with our work being easier and accommodation being very comfortable (even though the tents in Skaftafell were luxurious!), the second part of a project was more relaxed and volunteers had plenty of possibilities how to spend their free time.
Whether playing piano, juggling, hiking, swimming or just throwing stones to the local host’s "lava dog" Tina, everyone was having a great time, so great that it passed too quickly. We will all miss birds attacking our heads, misty fog around the guest house, mysterious stories about Dutch Saint Nicolaus and the Elven city on the other bank of the lake. But most of all we will miss Hörður with his special humour that crosses language borders, and Eva, whose kind care and hospitality caused some of us to be afraid of stepping on a weighing scales.
And last but not least, a message for our volunteers: Thank you guys! We are sending our best regards to Finland, Denmark, Canada, Korea, England and United States and we are looking forward to see you on the next projects!