November 11, 2011

0034 ICELAND - A geothermal Hell

Volcanoes, glaciers and geysers, Vikings, Njáls saga, Irish monks, Althing, Björk and Sigur Rós, but also its rapid transformation from a nation of fishermen, the poorest in Europe, to a highly developed country with an enviable productivity, are just as many reasons to appreciate Iceland and its just 318,000 inhabitants. Permanently living between fire and ice, never sure neither of unstable land, nor of capricious sea, Icelanders (those who have survived the epidemics, disasters and hunger and haven't wanted to go to the other horizons) made from the one of the most inhospitable parts of Europe a prosperous country with a living standard above the European average, which places it not only in the top half but even on the first third (17th most developed country in the world).

Under the European etalons, in Iceland everything is newly, from the island itself (which still actually forming it) to the first human settlements (9th century), language, independence (1944) or banks. Thus is also the crater of the image, described in sufficient detail on the back of the postcard: “Víti is an explosive crater, 300 meters in diameter, located in the northwest portion of Krafla [caldera] in the lava fields of the Mývatn [the Lake of Midges] area. Víti was created in a thunderousvolcanic explosion on 17 may 1724 which market the beginning of a series of prolonged volcanic eruptions in the area, generally referred to as the Mývatn eruptions.” More accurate, Víti (Hell in icelandic) is located on the north east shore of Öskjuvatn lake, and contains a geothermal lake of mineral-rich, sulphurous, opaque blue water.

The complex of nested calderas called Askja, where are located all these lakes, was used as refuge in Middle Ages by the Icelandic outlaws, and nowadays was used during training for the Apollo program to prepare astronauts for the lunar missions. Sounds good for tourist brochures, but the astronauts didn't come at Askja to get used to the bleak hell of the barren moon, as might interpret, but for geology lessons. Disappointing, isn't it? At least they were not bothered by the bands of trolls, ghosts and other creatures that have haunted travellers for centuries. However, the landscape seems from another world, and I like very much this postcard. Thank you a lot, Sigga.

The stamp, issued on March 17th, 2011 and designed by Elsa Nielsen, is 50g - to Europe (165 ISK) value of a set of two stamps dedicated to the International Year of Forests. It shows tree-rings in a log (Siberian larch from Hallormsstaður forest) and symbolises the forest as a resource, as a producer of wood. The second of the set, 50g outside Europe (220 ISK), shows a close-up of a leaf, symbolising ecosystem services of forests, specifically the sequestration of carbon from the atmosphere. The set demonstrates the interest of modern Icelanders for the tebuilding of its forest resource.

sender: Sigríður Torvaldsdottir (direct swap)

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