|Primary inflows||Breiðamerkurjökull glacier|
|Primary outflows||Atlantic Ocean|
|Max. length||1.5 km (0.93 mi)|
|Surface area||18 km2 (6.9 sq mi)|
|Max. depth||200 metres (660 ft)|
|Water volume||3,000 hm3 (9.8×109 ft)/sec <range 2500- 3000>|
|Surface elevation||0m, Sea level|
Jökulsárlón ( Icelandic pronunciation (help·info); literally "glacial river lagoon") is a large glacial lake in southeast Iceland, on the borders of Vatnajökull National Park. Situated at the head of Breiðamerkurjökull, it developed into a lake after the glacier started receding from the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. The lake has grown since then at varying rates because of melting of the Icelandic glaciers. The lake now stands 1.5 kilometres (0.93 mi) away from the ocean's edge and covers an area of about 18 km2 (6.9 sq mi). It recently became the deepest lake in Iceland at over 248 metres (814 ft) depth as glacial retreat extended its boundaries. The size of the lake has increased fourfold since the 1970s. It is considered as one of the natural wonders of Iceland.
One can see the lake from along Route 1 between Höfn and Skaftafell. It presents a picturesque parade termed as “A ghostly procession of luminous blue ice-bergs through the 17 km2 (6.6 sq mi) (18 km2 (6.9 sq mi) as reported in other sources) Jokulsarlon Lagoon”.
Jökulsárlón has been a setting for four Hollywood movies -- A View to a Kill, Die Another Day, Tomb Raider and Batman Begins -- in addition to the reality-TV series Amazing Race. In 1991 Iceland issued a postage stamp, with a face value of 26 kronur, depicting Jökulsárlón.
The tongue of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier is a major attraction for tourists. Tour operators conduct snowmobile and jeep tours to visit the glacier along the winding iceberg-studded Jökulsárlón. The base station for visits to the area is at Joklasel, which is approached from Hofn.
The first settlers arrived in Iceland around 900 AD when the edge of the glacier tongue of Breiðamerkurjökull glacier was about 20 kilometres (12 mi) further north of the present location. During the Little Ice Age between 1600 and 1900 AD, with cooler temperatures prevailing in these latitudes, the glacier had grown up to about 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) from the coast at Jokulsa River, till about 1890. With temperatures rising between 1920 and 1965, changes started occurring in the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier tongue. It started retreating at a fast rate with the continuing process of calving and falling of icebergs of varying size, and thus creating a lagoon in its wake, around the years 1934–35. The lake is about 200 metres (660 ft) deep where the glacier snout originally existed. Glacial moraines got exposed on both sides of the lake. In 1975, the lake was about 8 km2 (3.1 sq mi) in area and now it is reportedly stands at 18 km2 (6.9 sq mi) at the edge of the glacier tongue.
The Jökulsárlón lake provides outstanding views of the Ice Cap, which is a vast dome of ice that rises to a height of 3,000 feet (910 m). It spills to the lagoon 12 miles (19 km) away from the jagged glacier hill to the edge of the water line. The lake developed only about 60 years ago (1948 is mentioned), when the entire area was less than 100 feet (30 m) of glacier, which was only 250 yards (230 m) from the Atlantic Ocean, and 2 miles (3.2 km) away from Vatnajökull. Vatnajökull was at the shore line of the ocean and dropped icebergs into the ocean. However, it started drifting in land rapidly every year leaving deep gorges en route, which got filled with melted water and large chunks of ice. These icebergs gather at the mouth of the lake’s shallow exit, melt down into smaller ice cubes and roll out into the sea. The lake is the lowest point in Iceland with land at 200 metres (660 ft) below sea level. In summer, they melt and roll down the channel into the sea. In winter the lake freezes and locks the icebergs in place. Ice water and soil make a unique ecological phenomenon. Jökulsárlón lake, the Icelandic “glacier lake”, is now reported to have doubled in size in the recent 15-year period. The huge blocks of ice that calve from the edge of Vatnajökull are about 30 metres (98 ft) high which fills the lagoon stocked with icebergs. Some icebergs appear naturally sculpted on account volcanic ashes from ancient eruptions that partly cover them.
With the rate at which Vatnajökull is retreating, in the near future, it is anticipated that there is likely to be a deep fjord where Vatnajökull is now. This retreat is also posing a threat to the National Highway Route 1 of Iceland. Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland is 250 kilometres (160 mi) from the lake and the road between the capital and the lake winds through a dozen other glaciers, which are also retreating. It is 75 kilometres (47 mi) to the west of Höfn town and 60 kilometres (37 mi) east of Skaftafell National Park. It is accessible by the ring road, Route 1, that goes across the lake, and where parking facilities have been provided for visitors. It is also known as the "Tourist Conveyor belt". While walking on the shore, isolated large blocks of icebergs can be seen on the black sand beach.
Protective measures for the bridge
A coffer dam was constructed near the Glacial River Bridge that spans Jökulsárlón in order to build a row of protective measures of stone boulders to prevent any erosion of the foundation of the pillars of the bridge. This coffer dam enabled the Icelandic road administration to create workable access for the power shovel digger to place the row of stone protective measures, which would also divert the icebergs from hitting the bridge pillars and thus avoid damage to the structure.
The icebergs that calve from the glacier edge move towards the river mouth and get entrenched at the bottom. While floating, only about one tenth mass of an iceberg is seen above the water surface. The movement of the icebergs fluctuates with the tide currents. However, they start floating as icebergs when their size is small enough to drift to the sea. These icebergs are seen in two shades, one type in milky white, while the other type is in bright blue colour, which is an interplay of light and ice crystals. Along the coastal road drive to Jökulsárlón, apart from the mountains adding to the scenic surroundings, the villages seen are Selfoss, Vik and Kirkjubæjarklaustur. Among other attractions are Skógarfoss waterfall and Skaftafell, the latter one belonging to Vatnajökull National Park.
The lake is filled with fish that drift in from the sea along with the tides. Seals gather in large numbers at the mouth of the lake to catch fish during the winter. Large numbers of sea birds, particularly arctic terns, which nest nearby, gather to catch herring, trout, salmon and other fish and krill. Breiðamerkursandur (the large sand deposits in the area) is the main habitat of the skua (Stercorariidae). During the summer season the skuas, which are big seagulls have their nests on the lake's shores. The skuas, fat and dark in colour with white wings, are said to be aggressive "pirates of the seas", which harass other birds as big as gannets. They also kill and eat smaller birds such as puffins. Gannets are not afraid of human beings and also do not tolerate human beings close to their nests. It is reported that these birds migrate from their wintering grounds off the coasts of Spain and Africa. Seals are seen either swimming in the lagoon or lying on icebergs. Many times, the tides carry shoals of herring or capelan into the lagoon by the tide and the birds feast on them.
The Jökulsárlón Landowners Association is an organization that represents the owners of the land property Fell, which covers the Jökuklsárlón, also known as the Glacier Lake. This property is leased out for filming or any other commercial activity as required.
Einar Björn Einarsson is the operator of the boat trips on the Glacier Lagoon. The Landowners Association leases out the site at the lagoon front to this operator to ply the boats on the lagoon.
Boat tours on the glacier lake
In 1985, the premiere of the James Bond movie A View to a Kill marked the start of commercial boat tours on the lake. Guðbrandur Jóhannesson started the tours on Jökulsárlón, or the Ice Lake as it is sometimes referred to. Jóhannesson, who today owns and operates the company Vatnajökull travel, did the tours for the first two years. In the summer of 1987 about 5,000 passengers sailed on the company's two small vessels. The next year an amphibious vehicle, the LARC-V, joined the fleet. By 1995 the number of passengers per year had multiplied and the company then operated three amphibious vehicles. In 1999 Einar Björn Einarsson, a local from the nearby town Höfn, bought the company. In 2006 the company added a fourth amphibian.
The company Jökulsárlón ehf. now employees about 30 seasonal employees. For the past few years the company has carried 60 to 70,000 passengers annually; since the first commercial boat tour, about 900,000 tourists have taken the excursion. The company now offers adventure boat cruises on Jökulsárlón.Must Visit Iceland ehf.
In popular culture
The picturesque scene of Jökulsárlón and the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier have been part of the James Bond films A View to a Kill (1985) and Die Another Day (2002), as well as Batman Begins (2005) and Beowulf and Grendel (2005). The popularity of the glaciers could be attributed to these blockbuster films, to Lara Croft's Tomb Raider and also to the popular commercials which have been centred on this location. Choreographing the car chase scene, which was once called one of the greatest movie car chases of all time, between a Jaguar and Aston Martin, a set that was created for the film at the location of the lagoon was a challenge to 'Action Unit' Director Vic Armstrong, of the Bond film Die Another Day.
The popularity of the lake has been further boosted by the TV coverage provided live from Jökulsárlón on the American TV program Good Morning America in southeast Iceland, on 13 November 2006. The amazing landscapes covered on the TV programme not only included Jökulsárlón, but also the polar ice caps. The live broadcast is reported to have been watched by four million people.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jökulsárlón.|
|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Jökulsárlón.|
- The official Jokulsarlon website
- Photos 1 from islandsmyndir.is
- Photos from Icelandphotoblog.com
- Jökulsárlón panoramic virtual tour