Vatnshellir Lava Cave

On July 6th we visited the Vatnshellir lava tube located in western Iceland on the Snæfellsnes peninsula. It is believed that this cave was created in an eruption between 6,000 and 8,000 years ago. The cave holds unique formations generated by the lava cooling. While 34m underground (with a rapid temperature drop to 6C) we collected five ground samples and one water sample from a pond in the cave’s floor. We discovered that in most of the cases the cave walls were covered with bacteria, unique to Iceland. For that reason, we spread out our sampling within the different depths from the entrance to analyze how the bacterial life progressed and changed from the deepest point of the cave to the entrance.

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The cave contained many mysteries: an unknown organism that we discovered in a crack in the ground (in Tristan’s opinion it is just human trash), the skeleton of an arctic fox trapped in the cave for hundreds of years, and the huge rectangular rock that is believed to be the meeting table for the trolls that gather there every 100 years.

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Our guide was impressed with the scientific interest our group showed by asking questions and our willingness to learn more about the formation of the cave which she said is so untypical for tourists. We wrapped up this adventurous trip by spending a minute inside of the cave in complete darkness, listening to the sounds of the cave and being absorbed in the darkness.

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3 thoughts on “Vatnshellir Lava Cave

  1. This is nice, another source of procrastination for me! I’m looking forward to hearing what you find out!

    • Everyone we’ve bumped into speaks English pretty darn well. Menu’s and signs can be a challenge for the others, however I’ve taken some effort to figure out bits of the language which has made things a little easier (i.e. what I’m ordering, what a landmark’s name means, whole milk vs breast milk, where the reception desk is).

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