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Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon
Jökulsárlón lagoon in southeastern Iceland.jpg
Coordinates 64°04′13″N 16°12′42″W / 64.07028°N 16.21167°W / 64.07028; -16.21167Coordinates: 64°04′13″N 16°12′42″W / 64.07028°N 16.21167°W / 64.07028; -16.21167
Type Glacial
Primary inflows Breiðamerkurjökull glacier
Primary outflows Atlantic Ocean
Basin countries Iceland
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 (0.72 cu mi)/sec <range 2500- 3000>
Surface elevation 0 m, sea level
Map of iceland
Jökulsárlón in Iceland

Jökulsárlón (Icelandic pronunciation: [ˈjœːkʏlsˌaurˌloun̥]; literally "glacial river lagoon") is a large glacial lake in southeast Iceland, on the edge of Vatnajökull National Park. Situated at the head of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, 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 glaciers. It is now 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), as glacial retreat extended its boundaries.[1] The size of the lake has increased fourfold since the 1970s.[2][3][4][5] It is considered as one of the natural wonders of Iceland.[6]

The lake can be seen from Route 1 between Höfn and Skaftafell. It appears as "a ghostly procession of luminous blue icebergs".[3]

Jökulsárlón has been a setting for four Hollywood movies: A View to a Kill, Die Another Day, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Batman Begins, as well as the "reality TV" series Amazing Race.[3][7] In 1991 Iceland issued a postage stamp, with a face value of 26 kronur, depicting Jökulsárlón.[2]

The tongue of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier is a major attraction for tourists.


The first settlers arrived in Iceland around AD 870, when the edge of the tongue of Breiðamerkurjökull glacier was about 20 kilometres (12 mi) further north of its present location. During the Little Ice Age between 1600 and 1900, with cooler temperatures prevailing in these latitudes, the glacier had grown by up to about 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) from the coast at Jokulsá River, by about 1890. When the temperatures rose between 1920 and 1965, the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier tongue rapidly retreated, continually creating icebergs of varying size, thus creating a lagoon in its wake around 1934–35. The lake is about 200 metres (660 ft) deep where the glacier snout originally existed. Glacial moraines became exposed on both sides of the lake. In 1975, the lake was about 8 km2 (3.1 sq mi) in area and now it reportedly stands at 18 km2 (6.9 sq mi) at the edge of the glacier tongue.[4]


Bridge across the lagoon

The Jökulsárlón lake provides outstanding views of the ice cap, 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 blocks and roll out into the sea. The lake is the lowest point in Iceland, with land at 200 metres (660 ft) below sea level[citation needed]. In summer, icebergs 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[citation needed]. Jökulsárlón lake, the "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.[5][8][9][10] Some icebergs appear naturally sculpted on account volcanic ashes from ancient eruptions that partly cover them.[11]

An iceberg with Vatnajökull in the background. The icebergs in Jökulsárlón, as well as this iceberg, are icebergs that fell off Vatnajökull.
An isolated iceberg on the sand beach
Glacial lake with icebergs

Given the current retreat rate of Vatnajökull, it is anticipated that there will likely be a deep fjord where Jökulsárlón is now in the near future. This retreat is also posing a threat to the National Highway Route 1 of Iceland. The lagoon is 75 kilometres (47 mi) to the west of Höfn town and 60 kilometres (37 mi) east of Skaftafell.[9][11] 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.[5]

Protective measures for the bridge[edit]

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.[12]

Panorama of Jökulsárlón.


The icebergs that calve from the glacier edge move towards the river mouth and get entrenched at the bottom. The movement of the icebergs fluctuates with the tide currents, as well as being affected by wind. However, they start floating as icebergs when their size is small enough to drift to the sea. These icebergs are seen in two shades: milky white and bright blue, which depends on the air trapped within the ice and is an interplay of light and ice crystals.[13]


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 seabirds, 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).[5][11] During the summer season the gull-like skuas 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.[citation needed] 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.[13]


The Jökulsárlón Landowners Association represents the owners of the land property Fell, which covers the Jökulsárlón, also known as the Glacier Lake. This property is leased out for filming or any other commercial activity as required.[14]

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.[14]

Boat tours on the glacier lake[edit]

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. Jóhannesson, who today owns and operates the company Vatnajökull travel, operated the tours for the first two years. In summer 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 of Höfn, bought the company. In 2006 the company added a fourth amphibian.

The company Jökulsárlón ehf. now employs about 30 seasonal employees. For the past few years the company has carried 60,000 to 70,000 passengers annually; since the first commercial boat tour, about 900,000 tourists have taken the excursion.

In popular culture[edit]

Scene of Jökulsárlón picturised in the movie

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),[3] Beowulf and Grendel (2005), and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider [4][11]

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 live broadcast is reported to have been watched by four million people.[15]

In 2014, Swedish electronic multimedia project, iamamiwhoami filmed their music video "vista" in Jökulsárlón.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Jökulsárlón become the country's deepest lake". Visir. Retrieved 2012-01-04. 
  2. ^ a b "Jökulsárlón". Virtually Virtual Iceland. Retrieved 2010-10-13. 
  3. ^ a b c d Stone, Andrew (2009). Scandinavian Europe. Lonely Planet. p. 268. ISBN 1-74104-928-8. Retrieved 2010-10-13. 
  4. ^ a b c "Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon". Iceland on the web. Retrieved 2010-10-13. 
  5. ^ a b c d Evans, Andrew (2008). Iceland. Bradt Travel Guides. p. 389. ISBN 1-84162-215-X. 
  6. ^ Gunnarsdottir, Nanna. "Jokulsarlon - The crown jewel of Iceland's nature". Guide to Iceland. 
  7. ^ "Jökulsárlón". Nordic Visitor Iceland. Retrieved 2010-10-13. 
  8. ^ a b Woodard, Colin (2009). Issues for Debate in Environmental Management: Selections from CQ Researcher by CQ Researcher. Curbing Climate Change. SAGE. pp. 25–26. ISBN 1-4129-7877-7. Retrieved 2010-10-13. 
  9. ^ "Formation of the Glacier Lagoon". The Icebergs and jökulsá river formed the Jökulsárlón, Glacial Lagoon. Landowners Association. Retrieved 2010-10-13. 
  10. ^ a b c d "South Coast and Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon". Nordic Visitor day Tour in Iceland. Retrieved 2010-10-13.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "south" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  11. ^ "Building of a dam on Jökulsarlon in June 2010". Jökulsarlon Landowners Association. Retrieved 2010-10-14. 
  12. ^ a b "A unique pearl of nature". Landowners Association. Retrieved 2010-10-13. 
  13. ^ a b "The Jokulsarlon Landowners Association". Landowners Association. Retrieved 2010-10-13. 
  14. ^ "Good Morning America live in Iceland". Iceland Review Online. 2006-11-14. Retrieved 2010-10-13. 

External links[edit]