Tuesday, June 27, 2006

PART 3: POLAR ROUTE

MAP OF ICELAND
(The large white patch near Hofn is the VatnaJokull glacier, 8,300 Sq. Kms)

Meeting our flying friends at Keflavik

Leaving Hofn behind, just when the weather was going to get bad for that area, we climbed to 8,000 feet and while doing so, we passed the same glacier lake of VatnaJorkull that we had been to the previous day. The aerial view was really good but the clouds were moving in like a thick blanket and the prognosis for them wasn’t good. Few hours later, we approached Keflavik, beckoning with its wide, long runways, used by the US Air Force and others. Touch down and Copi said “Saar, sexy landing!” Indeed it was and it makes any flying jockey good, to hear those words, even if the co-pilot only meant to butter up.

We taxied into an FBO, an acronym for Fixed base operator called South Air (Way up north, they call themselves South Air!) who was our designated Handling Agent. It was still grey, overcast, blustery day at Kef and we jogged into the terminal of the handling agent. South Air hospitality is well known and they had hot coffee, hot chocolate, cookies, candies and cakes waiting. This is for all flight crew coming in.

We caught up with our German friends who had flown the Scotland to Iceland route with us. They had longer range tanks and they had gone to kef, somewhere near the coast, they had taken a diversion. We had been in touch for a while until we sighted Hofn and went in for a landing.

A Swiss guy, Fritz, flying an old twin Cessna was flying his plane across from Europe to the US, where in South Florida he had a pad of sorts with a pool, a dog and an American wife, poor him. He was going to join our convoy across the Atlantic to Greenland. His airplane being the fastest, would naturally make him team leader and he’d report weather, icing altitudes and such other info. Plus, we all have a common frequency to chat across the Atlantic. This helps bail people out of emergencies, keep the boredom away and generally exchange notes about each other’s airplanes. We’d take off the next day, weather permitting. Fritz, over the period of the trip to Canada, became a good friend. All this talk and I found copi missing. Finally we located him, comfortable on a chair, munching on the cookies and cake and having stuffed enough candies in his pocket to make a bulge on the side.

It stinks

South Air made arrangement for a van for all of us to ride to the hotel at the center of the small township of Keflavik. We all stayed together, in the same place, I mean. We got two separate rooms for tonight and that was nice. In case copi could not manage to sleep again. The same evening, we had Pizza and Beer, with the company of our new found friends, at the only Pizzeria in town that was located just across the hotel. Copi was in a condition, poor fellow, between stuffing his face and falling asleep. It was becoming increasingly dark, heavy clouds blanking out the Sun and that was a good thing as far as Copi was concerned. It also helped that this hotel did not have windows to the outside and kept the darkness firmly in, once you closed the door. Before hitting the sack, I had told Copi not to be alarmed if his shower water stank like rotting cabbage. He nodded, perhaps not understanding what I meant. Next morning, I find Copi at my door saying, “Saar, something wrong with my shower, smells very bad!”

Iceland is sitting on geothermal activity that is tapped so well that most of the electricity requirements of the Country is met by this type of power harnessing. I also learnt that all homes are piped free hot water. Another thing is that the subterranean wells have sulfur and the hot sea water from the famous Blue Lagoon is used to heat the fresh water that is pumped into homes and this smells kind of, well, bad. But, it is very healthy to have a bath in this water. The number one tourist attraction to the Keflavik area is this large Blue Lagoon which is powdery blue in color and maintains a temperature of between 35 to 40 degrees Celsius even in winter. Travelers go to Keflavik Iceland, just to visit this lagoon.


(Photo of the Blue Lagoon)
The Blue Lagoon, no relation to the Brooke Shields movie that came out in 1980, is a geothermal seawater inlet that is actually not natural. In fact, the Blue Lagoon is man made. It is basically the run off from the power plant nearby that pumps hot water from about one mile underground, uses it for heat and generating electricity and the absolutely clean water is let into the lagoon. They have built a Spa, health center and a company that manufactures and sells skin health products such as mud face packs, shower gels, moisturizer and things like that. The products are also sold under the label named, what else, Blue Lagoon.
With Greenland and the weather on our mind, we got prepared for the next leg of our pond crossing effort. I’m afraid that I’d have to stop here for the fear of making this blog too long and to continue the journey in one more episode, a fourth part in the “trilogy”!!
The next part will be the crossing between Iceland and Greenland and then between Greenland and Canada. That was the hairiest part of the entire trip across the Atlantic.



4 comments:

Gauri Satya said...

Read Part 2 and 3. Runs like an adventure story!
Your description of Kef reminded me of my visit to Rotorua, the volcanic heart of New Zealand and the hot water springs and beautiful spas there. It is
interesting to know that in Kef they generate power from the volcanic hot water, which I did not see in Rotorua and other volcanic places in NZ.

Your Part 2 and 3 runs better than part 1 and makes it more gripping and interesting, because of the changes you have made on the suggestion of GVK. Continue to write in that style. The pix make them more interesting.

Happy to know that Vijendra Rao has offered to translate into Kannada.

Blog-Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Thanks for your comments Sir. I did a bit of research on this geothermal power generation, after you mentioned your New Zealand trip. It seems that 20 countries including Iceland, USA, Indonesia, New Zealand, Italy, France, Mexico, Philippines, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Russia and Japan. Canada is also on the verge of putting a 100 MW geothermal power plant in the near future in the Meager Mountain-Pebble creek area of British Columbia.

What is notable is, that while all these countries have tapped a minor part of their power requirement, Iceland is believed to harness 17%, the highest in the World. In addition to his, Iceland harnesses geothermal heating for homes and this source is 87% of the energy requirements! Thats a lot! Iceland government goes on to say that their geothermal source can generate 1700MW for the next one hundred years or so, from their current levels of 219MWe.

The Svartsengi power plant near Kef produces 39 MW power and provides 315 liters per second of almost boiling water that is let out into the famous Blue Lagoon.

L Venkata Ranga said...

Yes I agree with Gauri Satya, It was thrilled and exiting to read. Defenetly one of the best Blogs which I read in recent times.

Blog-Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Thank you Mr. Venkata Ranga. In my opinion, the next two parts were the most gripping for us and the most dangerous thing I have done so far in my life. I hope I have been able to capture a little bit of that in Part 4 and 5.