Today began with an exploration of Djupivogur, a town on the east coast of Iceland. It is famous for an art installation of granite eggs representing all of the species of birds who nest in Iceland.

Before locating those, I spent time investigating the harbor, taking an inventory of the items that washed ashore and the small fish that could be found hiding among the seagrass that engulfed the shallow portions of the harbor. I found myself getting lost in ideas, questions, and the entirety of the area.

It was a quaint town and just before leaving, we stopped by a mineral museum, curated by an enthusiastic Icelandic man who relished our presence, sharing endless stories of how he found the specimen he proudly displayed. All I could think about was how it must feel to find these specimens in the local mountain ranges. Could that be another expedition? Should I attempt this here in Iceland or elsewhere? Begin near the Appalachian mountains back home, I have no doubt this type of expedition could be easily arranged in my own backyard, so to speak. What wonders await me back home? How can I harness this excitement for my own space with my family, my students, and fellow Virginians? Every place and space has wonderful things just waiting to be explored, found, and celebrated — maybe this should be my next expedition — an exploration at home! The colors and mineral deposits within the stones Audun found were incredible. How could such diversity of mineral colors, shapes, and sizes all be found in such a small location? It made me think even further, what would I find back home? This time with Audun made me really think about exploration holistically, for much of the day, I found myself lost in thoughts surrounding my own experiences as an explorer.

While we made our way toward Jokulsarlon, or Diamond Beach, we had an unexpected encounter with reindeer. Previously on the expedition, I was certain I saw a few together along Ring Road but chalked it up to, “I must have been wrong” — today I did not make that mistake again. I certainly had seen reindeer and we stopped to gather footage. It was magical. Having grown up in a family that regularly went hunting and fishing, I am familiar with deer and their typical behavior locally; but these deer were different. You might be rolling your eyes at this “revelation” of mine, I find it comical as well. I am not sure what I expected, really, but the reindeer were extremely wary of my presence although I was quite a distance away and would have needed to cross Ring Road in order to be closer. I moved slowly and maintained that distance, just taking in the environment, the mysterious moss covered ground, exposed rocky terrain, and of course, reindeer. In this very moment, it became very clear to me why the creators of Frozen chose to depict trolls as moss covered rocks — that is exactly what the terrain looks like and the imagination easily connects these ideas together in cinematic glory.

As we ventured further along our path for the day we encountered bipolar Icelandic weather it its full fashion; a dust storm that streamed down the side of steep mountainsides along Ring Road. It was magnificent, beautiful, and terrifying all at once. So many thoughts raced through my mind in those moments, how will camping be tonight with this type of condition? Will we be able to pass this safely? Can I get footage of this to share with others post-expedition? Is this how my expedition ends?

As we tentatively traveled through the dust, we found that it was short lived and was contained to a very small area. I was able to get footage, and we made it safely through. Prior to even attempting to cross the area, we observed several other vehicles able to easily travel by which allowed us to trust that we could as well.

On to Jokulsarlon we went — with great anticipation, I dreamed of what a “diamond beach” experience might entail. I knew there would be ice on the black sand beach but other than that — I had no idea what I would be in for.

The chilling and abrasive Icelandic winds threw sand grains around in its own sort of storm at Jokulsarlon. My heart pounded as I traveled from the camper towards the water. The wind not only sandblasted the area, but thrust tumultuous waves upon the shore. Terrifying yet beautiful in its own way, Diamond Beach did not disappoint. I set out on a mission to collect footage along the way to create a compilation of highlights and educational videos of the experience and that in itself became quite a task. My face was sufficiently exfoliated by the sand and little bits of ice from the gigantic glacial icebergs that floated within the lagoon. The “diamonds” at sea and along the beach ranged in size from a large engagement ring stone to house sized chunks; truly majestic in their presence. While attempting to take some live footage and narrate, I felt like reporters attempting to report live from the field during hurricane season. I have plenty of bloopers to share — get ready for some belly laughs!

Fearing the weather conditions were not going to be ideal for camping, we opted to stay in a roadside hotel for the night. As I prepared for sleep, I found evidence of the day in my hair, ears, pockets, socks, and boots. It was a sand in the boots kind of day, literally. A beautiful reminder of the wonder I was experiencing and would be able to relay to you all and soon enough, my own students.

Until tomorrow, friends — good night.

#ExpeditionSchnekser #OutdoorEdCollective #BoilingRiver #EducatorExplorer she/her #scitlap Founder @OutdoorEdColl National Geographic Grantee