Encouraging excellence, valuing people

Iceland Trip 2019  

March 20th - 23rd 2019, a group of 30 SCHS  Year 10 pupils and 4 members of staff are travelling to Iceland to explore the physical and human geography of the island. They will be exploring characteristics of cold environments, rivers, coasts and tectonics as well as exploring energy sources - topics which are part of their GCSE exam. They are also hoping to get the chance to view the northern lights - weather dependent! Updates and photographs along their journey will appear below. 

Thank you to Miss Coney for her fun and informative updates and thank you to Miss Coney, Mr Giannino, Mrs Ames and Miss Crayfourd for keeping everyone safe and happy.

Day 4: Black sand beaches, waterfalls and more snow ball fights

Our final day in Iceland began the usual way: waffles, cereal, waffles, toast and more waffles. Everyone made their way downstairs with their suitcases, but we soon realised, after a head count, that we were a man down. Thankfully, Logan was soon located, just outside his bedroom. He was stuck with his shoe lace in the door, unable to move (see picture). Mr Giannino was ready to amputate, but luckily Harrison stepped in with his key card, and freed Logan from captivity.


We set off early, keen to experience as much as possible before our flight home that evening. Our first stop was Dyrhólaey, a black volcanic beach as seen in Game of Thrones. It was a bizarre sight, crisp white snow settling on the black sand. We were able to observe some hexagonal basalt columns, coastal land forms and enormous waves. Mr Giannino was able to provide everyone with another fascinating geography lesson and the horizontal blizzard only added to the experience. When frost bite started to set in, we piled back onto the coach.


We had a brief stop for our final lunch of cheese toasties, before heading off in search of our last two waterfalls. Near the south shore, we stopped off at two incredible 60m waterfalls - Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss. Glacial in origin, these waterfalls were breathtaking and the photos don’t do them justice.


We had to drag ourselves away, reluctantly, from these awe inspiring sights in order to catch our return flight. An amazing time was had by everyone and the students were all incredibly well behaved and polite. They were a credit to both the school and their families.


The staff would like to award the following prizes from the trip:
Greatest escape: Logan Pritchard
Slowest at packing: Libby Lowe
Most number of bread rolls consumed: Callum Lay
Best at keeping other students in line: Grace Bresnihan
Most glamorous in a blizzard: Phoebe Banner
Most inappropriately dressed in a blizzard: Louis Boon
Most interesting (eccentric) commentary: Euan Jones
Most number of falls: Miss Crayfourd
Luckiest escape after losing a mobile phone: Frances Fuller and Harry Fearn (joint winners)
Best Viking impression: Mr Giannino

Day 3: Plate boundaries, stacks and stumps, and exploring Reykjavik


We started our third day early, demolishing more waffles, toast, fruit and cereal. We hopped on our bus for our planned day at the coast, only to be told that the ever changing Icelandic weather had scuppered our plans. The road we planned to take to the coast had been closed due to heavy snowfall, high winds and the risk of ice. Our guide made some quick rearrangements and we decided to swap our plans for Day 3 and 4, since better weather was forecast for tomorrow.


With that, we headed off for the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Here, we were able to walk across a bridge suspended over the margin between the Eurasian and North American plates. After a quick geography lesson on plate tectonics, the students were able to blow off some steam (all geography puns intended) with a snow ball fight in the rift between this constructive boundary.


The next stop on our day trip was the coastline of the Reykjanes Peninsular. Despite the fierce wind chill and bitter temperatures, we disembarked from the coach to observe. As the enormous waves of the North Atlantic crashed against the coast, we were able to see some excellent examples of coastal erosion. Here, there were stacks, stumps, caves and wave cut platforms. There was also evidence of undercutting, abrasion, cliff collapse, and weathering. The students listened intently as Mr Giannino delighted them with an introduction to their next topic: Coastal Landscapes.

With our stomachs rumbling, we then went off in search of our lunch. We all tucked into toasties and chips in a local cafe, which overlooked the fishing harbour of Grindavík.


After lunch, things got pretty steamy (literally - we visited a geothermal vent). With the familiar smell of sulphur greeting our nostrils, we walked through the labyrinth of geothermal vents and bubbling mud pools. It was a surreal experience, as we could only see a couple of metres ahead of us due to the plumes of steam erupting from vents. We emerged from the steam, like contestants on Stars in Your Eyes, drenched in condensation.


Our coach then headed back to the capital and we completed our afternoon by exploring Reykjavik, where the students took much delight in trying on various pieces of Viking merchandise. Miss Crayfourd managed to fall down for the fifth time in 3 days, and this time there was no ice to blame. We then headed to the Hard Rock Cafe and tucked into a delicious meal of burgers, pasta, salads and ice cream. The ice cream prepared us well for our Baltic (or technically Arctic) walk back to the hotel in a blizzard of snow, with Mr Giannino bravely leading the way back like Captain Scott (though in this case, there were less fatalities).

Day 2:

Volcanic craters, geothermal lagoons, stunning waterfalls, and a top Geyser

We started our first full day with a delicious breakfast of waffles, cereal, fruit and toast, before setting off on the Golden Circle tour. Our first stop was a visit to Kerið, a snow filled volcanic crater. We had the opportunity to walk around the outside and take in the sights, before carefully descending down path into the crater itself. 

Next on our itinerary was a visit to the Secret Lagoon, where we enjoyed a dip in the geothermal pools. It was a very unusual experience, swimming in the hot lagoon, whilst the snow was settling on the top of our heads! We all relaxed in the lagoon until our fingers turned to prunes, before making the dash out in the snow to get changed. 

We piled back on the coach, to head off to our lunch at Gullfoss waterfall, where we tucked in warming bowls of hearty Icelandic soup (or cream of tomato, for the less adventurous). As everyone filled up on bowls of soup and bread, Callum, Lucas and Euan competed for the SCHS record for the most bread rolls consumed in one sitting. Congratulations to Callum, who currently holds the record of 10. 

We left the cafe with full bellies, and ventured out to see the stunning sights of the Gullfoss Waterfall. Gullfoss runs in off the freezing cold glacier and has formed a two step waterfall, plunging down into a deep, narrow gorge. No visit to a breathtaking waterfall is complete without a quick trip to the adjoining gift shop.

Next up was a visit to a top Geysir. The pungent smell of sulphur (think eggs) assaulted our senses as we stepped off the coach, but we persevered, in search of boiling mud pits and exploding Geysers. The most impressive Geysir in this area is the lively Strokkur, which shoots water up 30m in the air every few minutes. We all stood with frozen hands, desperate to capture the perfect shot of the Geysir erupting, which, for some, was the perfect time for their phones to run out of battery. 

Our final stop on our Golden Circle tour was Þingvellir National Park. Here, we gazed across from one tectonic plate to another, where the North American and Eurasian plates had torn apart. We wandered into the No Man's Land between the two, where we met a group of enthusiastic American ladies, who complimented our clan on their impeccable behaviour and upbeat attitude. At this point, Mr Giannino delighted us all with a History lesson, as this was the original meeting place of the world's first Parliament. Our journey back to the coach descended into a snowball fight, as our students finally gave in to the temptation to just play in the thick snow that now lay around us. Mr Giannino and Miss Coney refereed from the side lines, though Miss Crayfourd and Mrs Ames may have been caught in the crossfire. 

We finished our busy day with a dinner in Reykjavik, where we tucked into a buffet of (more) soup, salads, and a delicious variety of main courses. We walked back to our hotel, where we had the opportunity for some much needed downtime, so that we could relax and recharge, in preparation for our adventures tomorrow.

Day 1:

Ice Baths, Hamburgers, & a Hunt for the Northern Lights

30 very sleepy Year 10 geographers embarked, with their accompanying even sleepier 4 members of staff, at 3am this morning on an adventure to Iceland! 

Our journey went very smoothly and before we knew it we were touching down in Reykjavik at 11am. We were confronted as we piled off the plane with very windy -1 degree conditions, which our guide later informed us felt more like -10! We arrived at our hotel at about 1pm, unpacked and layered up on our thermals, before heading out again. 

Our first stop was the Laugardalslaug swimming pool, which Mr Giannino expertly navigated us to, through the wind and snow. This is a huge complex which includes outdoor hot tubs, flumes, floating foam motorbikes and, as some of our more intrepid explorers soon discovered, an ice bath. Whilst Miss Coney and Mrs Ames relaxed in the outdoor hot tubs, they were entertained by the sight (and noise!) of numerous South Charnwood students hopping in and out of the ice bath. Though they assured us it felt amazing once you were out, we decided to selflessly allow them to enjoy this opportunity on their own. After a couple of hours spent whizzing down the flumes, relaxing in the hot tubs, and a couple more ice baths, we dried ourselves off and set off for our dinner at the Hamburger Factory, where we refuelled and enjoyed beautiful views of the Reykjavík coastline.

Once darkness had set in, we left for our final trip of the day - hunting for the northern lights. We drove to an area outside of Reykjavík, far from light pollution. Unfortunately, our efforts were largely hindered by an enormous full moon and a very cloudy sky. After an hour or so in the fierce wind and snow, we had to admit defeat and set off back to our hotel.

Nearly 20 hours later, after ice baths, hamburgers, a hunt for the Northern Lights and two lost (and found - including one found under a rock in the pitch dark!) student mobile phones, we arrived back in our hotel. Despite our disappointment at not seeing the Northern Lights, we had a fantastic first day in Iceland and are looking forward to spending the day tomorrow in the Golden Circle.