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 Icelandic Geysers

    Words of exclamation, words of amazement, and words of interest, but what else would you expect when standing next to an astounding natural wonder, like a geyser.  Strokkur is an Icelandic geyser found in a geologic haven, where the most famous geyser, Geysir, also calls home, Haukadalur.  There are many more geysers in Haukadalur, however the most active of all is Strokkur, which erupts, more or less, every five minutes.  I had the opportunity to personally witness approximately six eruptions.  Each eruption produced a column of water and steam, sixty to one hundred feet(30 meters) into the air, with temperatures reaching up to or more than one hundred degrees Celsius.

    There are only approximately fifty geyser fields known on earth, and only two-thirds of those fifty contain five or less active geysers.  This rarity of geysers has caused many investigations into just how geysers actually work.  From these investigations they have found that there are three basic requirements that need to be met in order for a geyser to be active. The first is to have a water supply, the second, to have a heat source and the last is to have a reservoir and “plumbing” system.

      Geyser fields are found on the banks of rivers, which plays a large roll in how geysers get their water.  Rainfall and circulating groundwater also play a major role. It can take up to five hundred years for some ground water to circulate, in order to become heated and move back up to shallower levels.  

      When water and gas erupt from a geyser it is due to the hot and cool fluid sources interacting with each other. This causes a steady supply of heat. Additionally every geyser field in the world is located near some sort of volcanic, shallow lying, heat source.  

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        Each geyser is said to have its own unique “plumbing” system, however there seems to be four common reservoir types.  The first is a single standpipe that is connected to an underground reservoir with a raised cone at surface. The second have deep, rather narrow, shafts.  The third have standpipes much like those in the first type, however, cones do not form around their surface openings, yet their openings have slightly raised rims and are in pools of water.  The last have deep reservoirs and depending on the connection, thickness, etc., the eruption will vary. 

    It has been found that when there are changes in the Earth's atmospheric conditions geyser behavior seems to be effected.  Changes in rainfall amount and barometric pressure can effect on geyser activity.  Earth tides, like ocean tides, arise from relations between the gravitational fields on the earth, sun, and moon. These tidal forces can thoroughly affect geyser behavior. Low tides restrict the flow of water into reservoirs.  Equally, high tides open cracks and channels and allows a faster change of water into the “plumbing” system.

       On the day that we visited the geyser field there was a lot of geothermal activity.  When we first arrived, the whole bus was drawn to the "ohs" and "ahs" of the other tourists already seeing the show.  As we approached the geyser I saw, for the first time in my life, an eruption of large proportion, and it really did begin to interest me, right then and there.

      After watching three eruptions a few of my fellow group members and I decided that we were hungry and that it was time to eat.  So, since we were all missing our good old Canadian meals, out came the cans of ravioli.  Right there in a near by geyser field we place our lunch, left it for a few minutes and then when it was warm, out came the spoons.  Umm, umm a good hot meal (let me tell you they were very hot), with out the price!

    Now nearing the end of our time at the geysers we headed back to Strokkur, for one last look.  What luck, we happened to be just in time to see a string of four eruptions, which were in about ten second intervals, now that was cool! A great way to see us off.

    Now lets face it, don’t they seem to be one of the coolest natural wonders on the earth!

By S. Thompson

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Additional Sources:

Geysers and The Earth’s Pluming Systems. www.umic.edu/~265/geysers.html

Iceland: Geothermal Actives. www.randburg/is/general_17.html

Geysers and Hot Springs. www.library.thinkguest.org/17457/volcanoes/features.gyesers.php

Hot Springs. Canadian Encyclopedia plus. c 1996 by Mc Clelland &Stewart Inc.