It’s not always just dirt under your feet! Here, in Iceland, people are walking around with lots of power in the ground below. That’s because this area has a lot of volcanic activity. It makes certain places in the earth very hot, and sometimes there are even boiling mud pots (called “solfataras”) or little fizzing streaks of steam (called “fumaroles”). The sulfur in the earth is very smelly, almost like rotten eggs, but it also produces beautiful colors. As you can see, I couldn’t put my camera down today!
The heat underground is not only good for photography. It serves many other purposes. Most importantly, it produces geothermal energy. This means that people can literally convert the hot water underground into electricity. In Iceland, 99.98% of their electricity and heating comes from geothermal energy, while around the world, only 1.8% of the world’s energy is created this way. Most of the world’s electrical energy (68%) comes from non-renewable resources like coal, oil and gas. It’s really awesome that Iceland has this resource! We got to visit a geothermal power plant and learn about how they work this magic.
Check out all the pipes that run out of the power plant! You can see a big patch of snow in this photo also, proving that even though it is hot underground, it is pretty cold outside. We are very close to the Arctic Circle up here! I bought an extra jacket today because it was below 40 degrees Fahrenheit!
Icelandic people use the hot earth in all sorts of other creative ways. For instance, check out this photo below of a local bakery. See where the steam is coming out in the front of the photo? They put the dough underground overnight, and in the morning, they come retrieve the hot loaf of bread. In the back, you can see that the water is full of minerals like sulfur and silica because of the beautiful light blue color.
The hot earth is also great for bathing. If you’ve been reading my blog carefully, you might remember that I went in the onsen (hot spring baths) at Lake Akan in Japan (or go back and check it out here). This was pretty different. While they were both natural hot springs, the Japanese version was much more like a spa with lots of hot tubs that were marked with different temperatures. Here, the water was smelly like sulfer, bright blue, and more like a big pool. As we swam around, we could feel streams of hot water coming in different places. Some spots were much hotter than others, and sometimes streams of water made us jump back away from a burning hot spot. It was fresh water, not salt, and the chemicals are supposed to be very good for your skin. My skin did feel very silky and fresh afterwards!
It’s funny that a place like ICE-land is so full of HOT land, isn’t it? Maybe they should rename this country!