Friday, March 21, 2008


Well, we've finally created biographies for everyone on the trip (the day before we leave of course)! Everyone helped out with these, so don't give me any of the credit (or blame for that matter)... see you soon!

James “Christopher Columbus” Shaffer
James led a failed expedition to the Celtic Cross on St. Patrick’s Day. Having left the Hotel Cabin with five other adventuresome souls James managed to lead the party deep into the heart of Reykjavik in search of thee elusive St. Patrick’s Day hats. Regrettably James’ sense of direction has been adversely affected by a shift in the earth’s magnetic field caused by the separation of the North American and Eurasian plates and the Hotel Cabin’s salad bar which resulted in the expedition missing the intended destination in addition to the loss of one member of the his expedition.

Will “Red Bull” Besser
Will is an engineering student and the entrepreneur of the trip. After visiting the geothermal power plant Will is now convinced that he can completely eliminate the U.S.’s dependence on foreign oil for space heating by combining the steam coming from the St. Thomas physical plant and a couple of cases of Red Bull. Driven on by Professor George’s desire to violate the second law of Thermodynamics, Will hopes to enlist the aid of Aaron in patenting his idea as the first perpetual motion machine. Will himself is far from being perpetually in motion however as his hopes of obtaining his Icelandic drivers license were dashed as he was the only member of the team to get an ATV stuck. Will was also one of the most adventuresome members of the team having successfully completed both Celtic Cross expeditions in addition to the infamous coning incident. There is great concern that the coning may lead to an international incident as the countries of Hungary, Iceland, Serbia, Bulgaria and Ireland have all sent teams of diplomats to the Hotel Cabin in response.

Professor Kevin “Glacier” Theissen
Kevin is a geology professor and the fearless leader of all geological field expeditions including locations where no sane people (non-Icelanders) have gone before. Although he has provided leadership as solid as basalt on most of our excursions, Kevin’s impenetrable crust buckled on the second expedition to the Celtic Cross when he was faced with the decision. Judging by the expression on his face it not an easy decision but as always Kevin took the appropriate action then promptly acknowledged the surrounding expedition members by giving them an appropriate salute. Kevin’s only regret for having come on the trip is his realization that global warming is a farce as confirmed on Friday by our Icelandic ATV guide.

Madeline “The Madtown Misfit” George
Madeline infiltrated the group as a student from the University of Wisconsin (and Professor George’s daughter). Crazy doesn’t even begin to describe her. Following in the footsteps of her mother, Madeline paid tribute to the Celtic Cross by raising the Irish Flag in celebration of the start of the extended Easter holiday weekend. When confronted by the same decision as Kevin, Madeline never even blinked an eye and commented that it reminded her of the sea.

Jake “The Flatlander” Friederichs
In celebration of his 21st birthday Jake shot a deadly Flatlander on the second Celtic Cross expedition. Jake was so enthralled with the intensity of the shot that he was left absolutely speechless for a brief period of time. Once able to speak Jake thanked those members of the team in attendance for the opportunity to partake in the traditional Icelandic ritual. Jake was also a member of the original coning project development team. When asked why he decided to get involved Jake said it really wasn’t much of a decision for him. He always wanted to donate his body to scientific research.

Mike “Leif Erikson” Rasmussen
Mike, aided by Jake, led the disappointing Pizza 67 expedition in the Westmann Islands. Undeterred by the goat cheese pizza debacle, and apparently unaffected by the geothermal activity and Hotel Cabin salad bar, led the first successful expeditions to the Celtic Cross to obtain the coveted St. Patrick’s Day hat. Unlike the failed Christopher Columbus expedition, no members of the team were lost; a real tribute to his ability to lead men on excursions of extended duration. Mike also led the second expedition to the Celtic Cross and the first successful expedition to the Pylsur (hot dog) stand enabling the other members of the team to obtain much needed sustenance. Mike also took on the role of comedian whose humor (or lack there of) has been likened to the eruption of an Icelandic geyser, occurring on a constantly reoccurring basis, with widely varying degrees of response.

Professor Camille “Wild Woman” George
Professor George is the master mind who conceived of the joint venture between the Engineering and Geology departments. With the aid of her side kick Kevin, she managed to put together 10 days of fun and excitement ranging from smoking Puffin’s on the Vestmann Islands to riding ATVs on the mainland it was usually her idea. Regrettably her wild side got the best of her on Wednesday as she sprained her knee leaping from the elevated urban assault vehicle the engineers were riding in. To her credit Camille saw an opportunity in adversity and leveraged her injury to “persuade” the driver to make an additional (unscheduled) tour stop. The previously reluctant driver was more than willing to oblige her request after discovering that if Camille ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!

Kathy “Basalty” McNulty
With a keen eye for the obvious Kathy is always up for fellowship and a good conversation. As one of the most knowledgeable individuals on the trip Kathy was a wealth of superfluous information. With her zeal for geology, there was always a hand in the air and a follow-up question to every new idea presented to her. On the ATV tour, Kathy was awarded the “Safe Driver Discount” from Icy Roads Insurance Agency. Though we were proud, those following her would have preferred a faster pace down the mountain. We were all thankful for her inquisitive and keen mind which prevented the occurrences of any potential awkward silences.

Paul “Pretzel” Rosczniak
Although he attempted to keep a low profile on the trip Paul showed his love of adventure as he lead a small exploratory team to the seventh floor of the Hotel Cabin. Unseen by most guests of the hotel, not to mention most of the hotel staff, the team discovered a glove, asbestos and themselves. Fortunately for the rest of us they chose to recover only the glove leaving the asbestos (and themselves) for future expeditions. Paul’s nickname seems a bit strange for our trip since pretzels have been conspicuously absent since leaving the United States.

Jeff “The Polar Bear” Johnson
Though he did not say much, Jeff’s bright smile said enough as he recovered himself from the Arctic Plunge that he participated in at the glacier. He is proud to say that he is the ONLY explorer of the Icelandic mountains to claim that he did, in fact, go swimming in a glacial stream. When asked what he was thinking while he was attempting this feat, he simply stated, “Wow, that was kind of chilly.” Though he was not present on the first Celtic Cross expedition, he was very excited to be a part of the second, and had lots to say, always with a smile.

Beth “Sleeping Beauty” Domier
When faced with new foods on her plate, Beth was reluctant to try the Icelandic cuisine, such as lamb, Icelandic shrimp (crayfish), white asparagus soup, and the Hotel Cabin salad bar. After braving a bite, she admitted that it’s really good, as long as she didn’t think about what she was eating! Actually, her exact words were, “It’s not ba-a-a-a-a-d.”
She was the only woman to reach the leading edge of the glacier with the geologists on Wednesday. She also was the only one who remained decently dry, and did not step in any streams (or swim in any). While attending lectures at Reykjavik University, Beth prepared for her glacial excursion the next day.

Kylie “Celtic Cross” Bennett
What Kylie lacks in stature, she more than makes up for in spirit and motivation. As our spiritual advisor Kylie has made sure that enough prayers were said to keep the seas calm and the weather nice. Thanks also to her ROTC training we were able to persevere through any adversity. Unfortunately for her, Kylie holds the honor of being the only person on the trip to have experienced the taste of “true” Icelandic water with its distinctive “rotten egg” smell and taste that can be attributed to its high sulfur content.

Bre “Puffin” Gaetze
Bre is the swinger on the trip. Literally. On the Vestmann Islands she took part in the Icelandic tradition of repelling off the side of a shear cliff. (An activity required to be learned by Icelandic school children to aide them in the recovery of Puffin eggs.) When asked why she chose to try such a death defying feat she responded that she was the only one crazy enough to attempt it. As one of the three female members of the original Celtic Cross expedition Bre was the doubting Thomas of the group constantly questioning if Leif had a clue where he was going. Bre was also to be one of the members of the coning project team but regrettably jet lag had taken its toll and when she was asked for assistance her response was unintelligible. After being told about the project later she proudly proclaimed that she would have gladly provided the flag for the cone if she had only understood what was required of her.

Katie “Money Bags” McCaffrey
When she wasn’t busy being a geology geek, Katie was calculating how much the rest of us were spending in U.S. dollars. Converting Kroner to U.S. dollars became a passion for her as the rest of us relied on her math skills to keep from going bankrupt. Unfortunately for the rest of us the sticker shock quickly wore off and we all ended up spending way too much money. Although Leif was able to get them to the Cross, it was Katie’s navigational skills that led the team back to the Hotel Cabin after being dropped off at an undisclosed location on the first day in Reykjavik. What has become extremely disconcerting to the rest of the group is the fact that Will has started dreaming about Katie picking up Icelandic men. Katie shared that Will wasn’t far off claiming that a short Icelandic man was hitting on her but he just didn’t measure up to her tall standards.

Aaron “Der Snow Way” Brooks
Aaron is the tallest member on the trip and the Icelandic beds have posed a bit of a challenge for him. As his roommate, I was reminded of the following passage from the Dr. Seuss book One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish:
“This is not good! This is not right! My feet stick out of bed all night! And when I pull them in, oh Dear! My head sticks out of bed up here!” Aaron is currently working with Will and Professor George to obtain a patent for the first perpetual motion machine. Unfortunately the project seems doomed to failure as Aaron refuses to accept Camille’s argument that the Second Law of Thermodynamics is a farce. Known for his propensity to over think things it was decided that he should learn to adopt the K.I.S.S. principal more often.

Tony “Cone-head” Lee- (the criminal mastermind of this collection, with some help, of course)
As the self proclaimed “old fat guy,” he was the mischief mastermind, and made us all seriously believe that he was a 12 year old trapped in a 46 year old body. He did, however, live up to his age by making it back to the Hotel Cabin alive after being deserted by the first Celtic Cross expedition. Tony also led the Café Maria expedition on the night following the disappointing Pizza 67 incident. It was at the Café Maria that the greatest geology joke ever was told. Tony headed the “coning” project leading to a number of coning incidents; each one more impressive than the last. Although there were many victims, retaliation against him from the Flatlander left Tony quite impressed. Tony likes to enter the scene of any battle riding his fearless floating foal that he met at the geothermal pool. And when out and about exploring, he was often seen with his sidekick, the world traveler BP. BP became well known by the expedition, and everyone else on the trip helped to further his adventures.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

What a Day!

Yesterday, the geologists and engineers split up, so we will have a guest speaker, Mike Rasmussen, describe the geology adventures...

The engineers headed out to visit a number of interesting 'hotspots', including an energy museum, a geothermal plant, a hydro power station, a hydrogren filling station, and the headquarters of one of Iceland's largest power plants. The energy museum provided a great deal of insight on the history of Iceland's power situation, describing the troubles Iceland has faced, as well as the resources from which it has been able to harness energy. We were then able to see first hand the processes by which that energy is acquired. Over 90% of space heating in Iceland comes from geothermal sources, though this is not its only use. After drawing hot water from the rift zone (over 200 degrees C), it must be processed. The water is sent (via insulated pipes) to one of Iceland's five processing plants. At the plant, the steam is separated from the water (water is then used for heating, and is eventually sent into Icelander's homes. The steam continues on to an aerator, which eliminates unwanted chemicals, and gets rid of all 'wet' steam (which may be in a two-phase state, containing liquid). This is a critical process because water in a liquid state could potentially destroy the turbine blades which are used for harvesting energy from the quickly moving steam. The steam is directed to either a high pressure generator (8 bar) or a low pressure generator (2 bar), which subsequently creates the power which is utilized by the Icelanders (so long as they are hooked up to the power grid).

The hydro power station borrows energy from nature in a somewhat different fashion. Located near a source of flowing water, a hydro station redirects some of the flow through a number of turbines, before allowing the water to meet back up with the river. This process requires a number of workers to be on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

These experiences provided a fantastic opportunity for all of us to meet with a number of field experts, and take a closer look at exactly what opportunities for meeting our power demands exist in natural and closed loop cycles.

The geologist chronicles:

With a monster truck looking van outside, we felt confident that we were going to be able to traverse the difficult conditions that lay ahead of us. There were rumors of some roads being washed out and other rumors of roads blocked by quicksand, so we felt fortunate that we had such a ridiculously tough looking "van." As it turned out the engineers took the van, something I took to be some kind of sick joke, and we took a classic style touring bus, with and Austrian driver who smelled very....."European." He made up for this by sporting one of the finest mullets I had ever seen, and proceeded to chauffer us across the Southern end of Iceland. Our first stop was a waterfall which we were able to actually go behind the falling water itself. Finally Kevin's suggestion of bringing water proof gear was made useful, as the weather had finally returned to normal; rainy and windy. We made a stop at yet another waterfall after this, which we could not go behind but was much bigger and was therefor not a disappointment. We stopped for a traditional Icelandic meal consisting of a cheeseburger and fries at a pseudo truck stop which was suprisingly full of people. We then went to one of the famous black sand beaches of Iceland, with soft black sand and sea stacks sticking out of the water like jagged teeth. The view of these spires, coupled with the thin mist crowning the cliffs above the beach was truly one of the most spectacular things I have ever seen; suddenly the rain didn't seem so bad, ane could do little else than feel fortunate for laying eyes on such a landscape. On to another beach, which sported basalt column formations and more sea spires. This beach also boasted a view of one of the more well known features; a sea arch. These basalt columns look like a series of steps, and are so perfect in shape it seemed insane that they could have come from simple erosion.(pictures will be posted later of the various formations) With every corner on this beach, the views got more and more spectacular, and the poor weather mattered less and less. Our driver then braved the nearly impassible road leading up to Myrdas Jokull glacier(possibly misspelled). This road had been completely washed away at one point, and the "new" replacement road was only slightly better than not having a road at all. Still the little bus made it to the glacier where we were treated to a close up look at one of the increasingly rare features of the world. One of us even decided to take a quick dip into the glacial stream (slipped in and went up to their knees). Being that the person was unhurt, save their pride, this was quite hilarious at the time. We also encountered some quick sand on the way out, something that came as a bit of a supris as the rocks beneath my feet began to sink down into the mud. This was more interesting than an inconvenience. We made it back to the bus and headed West, back to civilization (and dry socks). Completely sure that our day had trumped any perpindicular piping and turbines that the engineers had seen...ooooo it burns, doesn't it?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Longy but a Goody

Sorry for no posts lately, we were too busy eating puffins and playing in the rocks and watching dolphins and whales and learning about geothermal energy! On the second day in Vestmannaeyjar, we took a tour of the island (holding our breath for as long possible as we passing the fish market...YUCK!!), and climbed to the crater of Helgafell, the deadly volcano that buried half of the city in 1973. We also stood on the windiest point in Europe... on one of the four days of the year when the wind is completely still. It did, however provide a great backdrop for a group picture!

On the ferry returning from the Vestmann Islands, we did, in fact, see whales and dolphins! Upon return to the "mainland" we drove straight through the rift zone to the Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Plant, holding our breath again, this time becaus of the intense sulfur smell. It was pretty neat seeing the spot on the wall where the building is actually splitting apart because it is right smack on the middle of the separating tectonic plates (Eurasain and American).

Today we had our first 'taste' of school in Iceland... in the University of Iceland's cafeteria. Though we couldn't identify exactly what it was, we all gave it a try. What first appeared to be a burrito was actually not a burrito at all, but a mix of Icelandic delicacies.

Anyway... we spent the morning in a lecture about Glacial Processes and Global Climate. Then after our fabulous lunch, we heard about the hydropower, specifically the Karahnjukar Dam. It's not every year that we attend class over spring break!

Once refreshed with a quick walk into downtown Reykjavik, where we watched a volcano movie (which turned into naptime for Tony... and several others), we enjoyed the world famous hotdogs at a hotdog stand that Mike insisted we find... and they definitely lived up to the hype! Spending some time walking around downtown meant getting rained on a bit, but considering the PERFECT weather we experienced on the Vestmann Islands, there was no complaining! Speaking of rain... yesterday we went swimming in a geothermal pool! Kevin, though he claims to not be a team sports kind of guy (a record setting runner), he got pretty rowdy with the Icelandic boys playing basketball in the pool.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Vestmann Islands

Today we woke up and boarded a bus that took us through the countryside to our ferry. The ferry ride was relatively calm, and fortunately no one got sick. As the boat approached the island we were treated to a preiew of the grandeur that was to come. Sheer cliffs dotted with small alcoves were in use by huge flocks of seabirds, giving way to a sheltered harbor on the far side of the island.
In the afternoon we visited the maritime museum, discussed local fishing with a number of marine biologists, and played a game of pickup soccer at the local elementary school.
We've also decided to add a 'word of the day' to the blog, so you folks at home can learn a little Icelandic.

Friday, March 14, 2008

We're Alive!

We made it! We arrived this morning just a few minutes past 6:00 local time (1:00AM your time)... and had an exciting first day. Despite feeling just a bit tired, we received a full tour of the city, visited a museum, and spent some time down town. The weather has been beautiful, clear skies and a chilly northern wind... we'll be back to post more soon!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Proposed Itinerary

The proposed itinerary may be viewed at URL:

Iceland Trip March 13-23, 2008

During spring break, the course will travel to Iceland for 10 days. The trip is an interdisciplinary effort between the geology and engineering departments. Students of thermodynamics and oceanography will explore Iceland’s use of its unique geological setting to provide much of its energy needs in a clean and sustainable way. The group will visit Reykjavik University and the University of Iceland for lectures on the impact of climate change on glaciers, carbon sequestration and binding with basalt, hydropower from glacial rivers, geothermal energy and the issues Iceland faces with the management of power in their fishing fleet.
Iceland produces more electricity per capita than any other country in the world and produces all of its electricity using sustainable and environmentally-friendly methods. Students will have several guided tours by Iceland’s internationally acclaimed power company Orkuveita Reykjavikur. Visits will include the Hveragerdi Geothermal power plant which generates 520MW of geothermal power and the Nesjavellir district heating facility outside Reykjavik, considered Iceland’s greatest engineering achievement. The facility transports hot water over 35 km in an above ground system that heats over 85% of all available interior space.