Posts Tagged "iceland"

The Humble Tour Guide, Bridge to the Natural World

Posted by on May 11, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Science, Tourism | 0 comments

The Humble Tour Guide, Bridge to the Natural World

Spread the News:ShareTour guides play an important role in visitors’ interactions with the natural world. Harald Schaller, a graduate student at the University of Iceland studying geography, argues in a chapter in the book, Tour guides in nature-based tourism: Perceptions of nature and governance of protected areas, that the tour guide is a key stakeholder in protected areas. Schaller shows in this chapter that tour guides not only translate, or help visitors find their path, but also shape visitors’ perception of nature. Furthermore, they guard fragile natural tourist sites, like glacial areas. “Tour guides are important in understanding the dynamics of the interaction of humans with nature and with each other,” Schaller wrote. Understanding the interaction between humans and nature helps decision-makers get insight into visitors’ perception of nature’s vulnerability and the way nature changes over time. For instance, tour guides working in many areas in Iceland areas have the opportunity to witness glacier retreat.   Schaller provides insight into the position of tour guides in vulnerable tourist sites. He shows how they play a role in visitors’ perception of the environment, and concludes that  tour guides should be seen as stakeholders in the decision-making process of protecting vulnerable tourist areas. His chapter begins with the author’s journey to Iceland, talking with local tour guides and exploring how other tour guides view the environment in which they are guiding the tourists. Tour guides have a long history. They are both pathfinders and mentors; they interpret information. The information they provide for people make their journey more safe and interesting. With the boom of tourism industry, the need for tour guides is also increasing. The individual concept of the environment is often linked to someone’s personal background, such as culture, experience, and beliefs. Therefore tour guides’ personal background could affect the guiding service they provide. According to World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), 2013, tourism creates one out of eleven jobs globally. The tourism industry in Iceland is expanding, so there is tremendous need for guides. However, in Iceland the quantity and stability of the labor supply is fluctuating, because many of the tour guides are migrants and seasonal workers. This poses risks for the sustainability of Iceland’s tourism industry, since the quality and consistency of guiding service suffers when there are not enough professional and experienced tour guides. As the growth of tourism continues, the expanding number of visitors threaten the future of this nature-based tourist industry. “[P]eople are more concerned with ticking Iceland off their bucket list and with sharing more of their experience online, rather than caring for the delicate environment,” Schaller writes in his article.  In an email message to GlacierHub, he mentioned his concern for what he terms “the fragility of Icelandic environments.” He added, “Due to the increased visitation (beyond expectation for many), degradation of the natural environment happens. This, in turn, threatens the future of tourism, since the image of a wild and untouched environment is affected by this increase.” Human cognition of the environment is not merely influenced by the physical existence of surroundings, such as lakes, mountains or animals, but also through their interaction with these natural surroundings. Schaller cites other sources who share this view. Lund (2013) and Ingold (2011) agreed that the environment is not a passive being. Instead, as one engages with the environment, it appears more clearly, and changes as physical interactions with it continue. So the natural environment could be seen as part of the personal experience within us as well as the objective existence of the environment.     A person’s conception of an environment is shaped by the visitors’ own memories, values and cultural background before they...

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Assembling Stories of the 2010 Volcanic Eruption in Iceland

Posted by on Mar 17, 2016 in Communities, Experiences, Featured Posts, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Assembling Stories of the 2010 Volcanic Eruption in Iceland

Spread the News:ShareLike many other people, I was affected by the eruption of Mt. Eyjafjallajökull six years ago.  I have begun a project which focuses on the mountain, a glacier-covered volcano in southern Iceland, and its dramatic eruption.  I am writing to invite you and others to contribute stories about this event to the project, which is titled Volcanologues.   The eruption began on 20 March 2010. The interaction of magma with water during the second phase of the eruption, beginning on 14 April, created a plume of volcanic ash that covered large areas of northern Europe, blocking air traffic over most of Europe for six days. About twenty countries closed their airspace to commercial jet traffic. Approximately ten million people had their travel schedules interrupted without any warning, and had to scramble to adjust their plans.   Eyjafjallajökull and the glacier which covers it have always had a significant presence for me. Not only did some of my ancestors live on a small farm right under the glacier, but also I could see the mountain from Heimaey, the island I was born and raised, as well as more recently from my summer home in southern Iceland. In Reykjavik, I followed news on the levels of toxic gases which were emitted, and I measured the amount of ash that fell by my house. I also had to cancel a trip for a major conference in Poland. Most importantly, later on I was stranded in Norway due to one of the last clouds of volcanic ash. The trip home, which ordinarily would require  only three hours, lasted 26 hours–a strange experience, one that remained in my mind longer than I anticipated. During the months following the eruption, I kept meeting many people who described similar experiences, often in far more dramatic terms than I had used in speaking to my family and friends. It occurred to me that it would be interesting to collect eruption stories. I hesitated, perhaps because I somehow felt guilty that a volcano in my backyard was causing all these troubles! Recently, however, such a project has appealed to me, partly because I have been organizing a research project, “Domesticating Volcanoes” at the Center for Advanced Study in Oslo and partly because I have been developing the notion of “geosociality,” along with anthropologist Heather Anne Swanson, focusing on the commingling of humans and the earth “itself.” Hosted at the University of Iceland, the Volcanologues project will document the complex impacts of the eruption on people from different parts of the world. Anyone who has a story to tell is inviteded to share their experience. Collectively, these stories will illuminate personal dramas in the wake of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption, providing an engaging window into unprecedented natural events and their aftermaths. I ask those who are interested in contributing to submit a short essay, possibly along with a related image (a photo, a drawing, or a document), to volcanologues2010@gmail.com. The average text should be between 500 and 1000 words. It should include a title, name and email address of the author, and a statement of consent: “I hereby grant Gisli Palsson permission to publish my essay on his Volcanologues website and in a printed collection of essays.” I would like to thank my friend Ragnar Th. Sigurdsson for the permission to use his striking photographs of the eruption. His work can be viewed at Arctic Images. Spread the...

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Tourists on Thin Ice in Glacial Lagoon

Posted by on Mar 15, 2016 in Featured Posts, News, Tourism, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Tourists on Thin Ice in Glacial Lagoon

Spread the News:ShareIn February, a group of nearly 50 tourists drew national attention in Iceland when, ignoring posted signs, they wandered onto a sheet of ice. Luckily they were called by back to shore by a tour guide who spotted them, according to Iceland Magazine. However, the event raised the question of tourist safety, which is a growing concern in the area. The event happened at the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, a popular destination in southeast Iceland and the terminus of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier. The group, which included some parents with children, braved the ice in order to get a closer view of seals. They jumped over cracks between floating ice. Though the ice appeared stable, the tourists had placed themselves at risk of being stranded since the ice sheets could have drifted apart. The Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon is a draw for tourists in the area, since it contains strikingly impressive icebergs and is conveniently situated on Iceland’s Ring Road. Dr. Þorvarður Árnason, an environmental scientist at the University of Iceland, said that the lagoon’s ice is made complicated by its tidal connection with the Atlantic Ocean. “Foreign tourists coming to Jökulsárlón during the winter are probably not aware of this,” he wrote in an email message. “They think this is a ‘normal’ frozen lake… and do not consider the danger of the incoming tide of warm oceanic water which can melt the surface ice and also causes the floating icebergs to start moving, so that the ice around them can crack.” The incident has become known locally as “the stranding of the tourists,” according to M Jackson, a researcher in the area who spoke with GlacierHub. Jackson is based near Jökulsárlón and is on a 9-month visit to Iceland to collect first-hand observations and accounts of glaciers’ impacts and relationships with humans. In Iceland, Jackson said that the problem of tourist safety is frequent and well-known. She spoke with tourists at Jökulsárlón in the days following the incident. When she went to the lagoon, tourists were again walking out onto the ice and she asked them about safety when they returned to shore. Some said they were following footprints in the snow, while others thought it was similar to walking on frozen lakes back home. Others said danger wasn’t a concern. The responses indicated that tourists were both unfamiliar with the dangers of the lagoon ice and neglectful of “individual and community safety,” Jackson wrote via email. “There appears to be a disregard for the dangers foreign tourists are placing themselves in and the dangers they are placing others in—the rescuers who will volunteer to help them.” Jackson lives in the town of Höfn, a fishing town of 1,700 near Jökulsárlón, and said that resident volunteers from the town are the first line of response for situations like the one that arose. Volunteer groups fit into a long tradition in Iceland, according to a recent article in the New Yorker. The Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue’s original goal was to save fishermen lost at sea. In 1950, they saved both the victims of a plane crash on a glacier as well as a team of first responders from the American military who got stranded. The work is seen as a form of community service, with employers allowing volunteers to take time off for for training and emergencies. The presence of this system has encouraged abuse, and tourists are seen as taking unnecessary risks because they count on it. Though the tourist group at Jökulsárlón was able to walk back to shore and did not need saving, incidents such as this still ring alarm bells in Höfn. Jackson said that when...

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Roundup: Hockey, Daredevil Tourists, Microbial Diets

Posted by on Feb 29, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Roundup, Uncategorized | 1 comment

Roundup: Hockey, Daredevil Tourists, Microbial Diets

Spread the News:ShareEach week, we highlight three stories from the forefront of glacier news. Hockey Warms Up Village in Kyrgyzstan From Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: “In the mountains of northern Kyrgyzstan, winters can be long and cold. So people in the tiny village of Kenesh have come up with a healthy way to keep active and fit. Each day, almost all of the villagers lace up their skates, and grab a stick to play ice hockey.” Watch the video to find out more about this unique practice. Tourists on Frozen Lagoons Test Limits of Safety From Iceland Magazine: “Tour guides and visitors at Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon in South East Iceland watched in shock and disbelief as a large group of people had managed to get themselves near the centre of the lagoon by jumping between ice floats and walking on the frozen lagoon.” Read more about the risks involved. Poor Diet Limits Microbial Growth on Debris-Covered Glaciers From Soil Biology and Biochemistry: “Photosynthetic microbial communities are important to the functioning of early successional ecosystems, but we know very little about the factors that limit the growth of these communities, especially in remote glacial and periglacial environments. The goal of the present study was to gain insight into the degree to which nutrients limit the growth of photosynthetic microbes in sediments from the surface of the Toklat Glacier in central Alaska.” Read more about how nutrient availability is affecting life on glaciers. Spread the...

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Photo Friday: Iceland through Instagram

Posted by on Sep 25, 2015 in All Posts, Experiences, Featured Posts, Images | 0 comments

Photo Friday: Iceland through Instagram

Spread the News:ShareThis week, Fulbright scholar and researcher M Jackson shares a glimpse of her work and travel in Höfn, Iceland, which she deems “cryosphere paradise,” as captured through Instagram. Iceland Icelandic glaciers Iceland Hoffellsjökull's flood plain, which has recently experienced high volumes of rain. Iceland All the water coming off Hoffellsjökull discharges onto this large sandur, which also happens to be traversed by the country's only highway. All the water is shunted under what is known locally as "the bouncy bridge." Iceland Icelandic ice and glaciers Iceland An aerial view of Icelandic town of Höfn (noted in red, population 2,000), which perches at the tip of a 40 sq km lagoon. In this lagoon, the North Atlantic ocean and the Vatnajökull ice cap converse in sediment loads and brackish waters. Iceland An Icelandic glaciated valley M Jackson is a U.S. Ph.D. candidate at the University of Oregon. She’s currently based in Höfn, Iceland, through a U.S. Fulbright-National Science Foundation Arctic Research Grant, where she’s researching glacier/society relationships.  The images here are all within an hour’s drive of Jackson’s home in Artbjarg, Höfn, and show the outlet glaciers pouring from the largest ice cap in Europe, Vatnajökull. Jackson will spend the winter exploring these glaciers and getting to know the Icelandic people who live near their peripheries. Many thanks to M Jackson for sharing her photos with us. You can follow her on Instagram at @mlejackson. This is her second appearance in GlacierHub, following an an earlier post on her previous research. Spread the...

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