The first day of spring… did not feel like it all the way up here. We awoke to a proper arctic blizzard. This was the day we were to film at a nearby beach, but no such luck if the weather persisted. Luckily, there was a break in the storm just after breakfast, so we headed off on the thirty minute drive in earnest.
Regardless of bad blood last night, there had also been tensions between the girls in the cottage this morning as well. Everyone was becoming tired and stressed with the company of the other members of the group – we’d hit ‘the wall’ (and typical of me, I retreated into my hermit cottage and blogged / played chess in the peace and quiet!) Nobody was feeling too enthusiastic this morning, despite being on a frozen volcanic black beach surrounded by more ice-covered mountains!
‘M-Pro!’ – One does not simply carve ‘CCM!’ into the beach sand without a Media Production student carving his own course’s acronym further down the bay!
We were lucky enough to see a wild arctic sea lion or two in the bay, but the air was even colder than it had been on the seafront at Reykjavik – the tripod joints started to freeze, and although the camera was relatively unaffected, my fingers and hands started to become stiff, restricting my ability to operate the camera. I have felt these effects once before – on the summit of Teide. Luckily, we managed to get everything just before the problems became serious. I am careful to always use my gloves when transporting my tripod in such conditions – not because the metal can shatter, but because the metal conducts what little heat you have in your fingers and hands away, freezing them even more!
We made some markings in the sand, and some picked up a few shells. Then we headed to a nearby city beginning with the letter ‘S’ (darn these weird names!). It was a small city, with a residential area made up bungalows. The population here is so low that they have no need to build upwards – perhaps they are also trying to make out that their population is denser than it actually is.
At the town, we took a wander around and found an internet cafe / restaurant, where we stopped to have lunch. Inside, I had panfried arctic char with shrimps, and a ‘Gull’ beer to wash it down. The beer was a little lighter and watery than expected, and the char was a weaker (yet slightly smokier) version of salmon. The meal was lovely all the same though – not too strong, which was good for this hour of the day. The skin of the char was also really crispy and delicious – not unlike the skin on chicken when roasted in the oven correctly.
Arctic Char – As delicious as it looks. Gull is the local Icelandic beer – very subtle in taste.
After the meal, we were quick to conclude there was little else around, and so headed back. En route we stopped by a church and a set of old abandoned cottages to do a further shoot. I got some photos of the surrounding mountains in the afternoon sun, the powder snow being blown gingerly into the air by the arctic winds to create ‘snow clouds’ cascading down the rocks.
The snow underfoot was particularly bad today. About seven or eight inches deep in parts, the top layer is solid, which prevents you from making snowballs (that’s right, snow you can’t make snowballs from!) The second layer underneath though is power snow, which is not dissimilar from the consistency of baking powder. Underneath this is black ice, sheeted unevenly across the gravel. Underneath that is some sort of old frozen layer that’s probably been that way for years. So put simply – you take a step, your foot breaks through the crusty top layer, sinks eight inches down into the powder snow and engulfs your foot. You put more pressure on the foot, and then you slip. If you fall completely and hit anything not covered in snow, it’s going to hurt. A lot. Nobody has had such an incident yet – we can only hope it stays that way!
Photo Evidence – Because snow this deep simply doesn’t exist in the UK!
We did a little shop at the local supermarket before we got back to the cottages, where I stocked up on bread. Back at the camp, the footage got uploaded, and everyone went to sleep. I was awoken by Cristina an hour later who raced into our cottage in a panic because everyone had forgotten to buy milk – a crucial ingredient for tonight’s meal or something, I wasn’t sure.
Dinner tonight turned out to be roasted pork steaks with potatoes and vegetables – the one dish I had not been keen on since it was brought up in the supermarket. Apparently, a few other members were not keen on steak either, and decided to cook their own dinner, which annoyed Cristina a lot! Thankfully though, the meal was cooked to perfection – Cristina has come through in her ability to cook, as steaks are notoriously difficult to get right!
The night concluded with another session in the hot pool, but conversation had relatively dried out at this point. Cristina decided she wanted to film something for her Experimental Narrative module using everyone in the hot pool, which I was more than happy to do. This turned out to be a mistake, as I could hear as I went away that now all the students on that module were planning to get me to film their artefacts whilst we were out here as well!
Again, no sign of any lights in the sky. Tomorrow is out last night. Despite it being one of my lifetime ambitions, I am relatively blase about it – I have come to film Martyn’s film, and if we see the lights it’s a (exceptional) bonus. I would only be greatly disappointed if seeing the auroras was my soul purpose of coming all the way up here – in this instance, it is not.