Braves in Iceland
Follow along with Brebeuf Jesuit students Sai Chalasani ‘19, Reed Rouch ‘19, and Maggie Molander ‘19 as they attend the Global Leadership Conference on the Science of Sustainability in Northern Iceland, Friday, March 18 – Sunday, March 27.
March 20, 2016
We woke up bright and early to take off for the large Lutheran church that anyone can spot at any place in Reykjavík. Up in the tower of the church, we had a fantastic view of the city. Also, there was a statue of Leif Ericsson outside the church which was oddly fascinating for some incomprehensible reason. Maybe because we could say we “took a selfie” with Leif Ericsson. After goofing off at the church and becoming honorable members of the Lutheran choir, we headed to Harpa opera house to start the Global Student Leadership Summit. It was quite crowded, and we met a lot of Icelanders that were eccentric and outgoing and ready to make new friends. Danni Ward and Daniel Paccione started off the Summit with a few fun games that helped us get to know ourselves and others. We were then split up and put into at least 40 different groups and sent out into the city for a scavenger hunt with our new friends. Personally, I loved my group. Others were not as lucky. It was a great bonding experience, and I even became friends with an Icelandic girl named Herdís. Sadly, we did not win the scavenger hunt. At the end of the day, we had a party at an Art Museum and tried some of the famous Icelandic hot dogs, which were pretty great if I do say so myself, and a performance by an Icelandic choir. After all of the fun on Sunday, we definitely had our work cut out for us the next day.
March 21, 2016
Now, I apologize I’m the only one blogging. The boys can’t sit still for five minutes. I had to wake up quite early for an Intern meeting at the Hilton across the street.That day’s schedule consisted of five amazing speakers. Three of them were interns: Nisha Chandra, introducing William Kamkwamba, author of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, Mohamed Fareeduddin, introducing Ann Makosinski, eighteen year-old Google Science Fair winner and inventor of the “Hollow Light”, and Anthony Murphy-Neilson, who reflected on all of the speakers. They all did wonderfully and I am extremely proud of them and all the work they did in preparation for their moment. We were then split into rooms with our group along with other groups for our innovation session. This basically introduced us to the Design Thinking Process: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. The goal was to have a prototype of an invention that could change the future of energy. With breaks like lunch and workshops in between the two sessions, each group finished the day with a rough prototype. The interns had another meeting about the following day’s events before heading back to our respective hotels, and, supposedly, we all went straight back to our rooms and into bed.
March 22, 2016
I started my day early, it was the last day of the conference and yet we still had so much to accomplish. Sai and I met in the lobby at 7:30 to walk from our hotel to the conference center to participate in a debate we had been selected to participate in. The debate was over which form of energy was going to be dominant by 2050. I was on the side of renewable energy, and we were there to debate with fossil fuels. After a lively debate we triumphed over fossil fuels, we quickly celebrated our victory and watched two very important keynote speakers who will influence the production of energy for years to come. We learned of a group of college students who are suing the federal government for not protecting the environment and creating an unsafe and polluted system of energy. I was inspired by the young adults taking a stand for what they believe in. The next keynote speaker was Steven Chu, the former Secretary of Energy and current researcher at Berkeley. He spoke about his time as the Secretary of Energy and how he used his skills as a scientist to work towards a more efficient and renewable energy friendly government. After his speech we divided into our groups and continued to work on our projects. We worked for hours following the design thinking process and developed our prototypes for a more energy efficient and innovative product designed to save energy and change lives. After we finished our prototypes we went to the innovation village, a showcase for all of the groups projects. The projects were all very creative and diverse, as all of the groups had members with diverse backgrounds and different manners of approaching the problems given to them. At the village judges were working their way around the booths determining which projects would win a prestigious prize. Two groups would win, one group would win for popularity with the other students and the second group would win for the innovation and the innovation and effect it could have on people’s lives. After the judges had finished we went into the conference room and received a speech from Jessica O. Matthews, a Harvard Grad and the creator and CEO of Uncharted Play. She designed the SOCKETT ball, a soccer ball that uses kinetic energy generated by kicking the SOCKETT to power lights and other electronic devices. This device has given light to thousands of 3rd world children who cannot study after dark because of the lack of light. She and her team has revolutionized thousands of families lives and the impact of her inventions will be felt in the most impoverished parts of the world.
After the speech we learned of the winners of the competition and went to an ice skating party. Afterwards we went back to the hotel and reflected on the amazing day we had experienced before and questioned how we could impact the future of our earth. I went to sleep with dozens of questions in my mind of my capabilities and what I can do to save our earth.
March 23, 2016
It was the day after the summit had finished and it was a pretty nice day. We headed out of Reykjavík early that morning to transfer to a strawberry farm in . We learned about the hot and cold water on either side of the farm, and we learned that all of the lights that help the strawberries grow are lit by geothermal energy. Some people bought jam and syrup, and the family who owns the farm was kind enough to give us some skyr.ir yogurt with their jam and crackers. After visiting Borgafjorou, we headed to the volcanic crater, Grábrók. Sadly, we saw no lava, but the view was worth climbing hundreds of steps for. After a short lunch, we went to a seal museum where we learned about the aquatic life of Iceland. We then rode the bus for a couple of hours until we arrived at our next destination, the beautiful city of Akureyri. It was a day full of fun, and it was personally one of my favorites.
March 24, 2016
We woke up early in Akureyri and set out to go whale watching. We didn’t see many whales, but we saw a few dolphins and got some really cool pictures of the water and such. A few kids got sick, which wasn’t cool, but my group still had fun. After what seemed like forever, which was about 5 hours, we stopped on Hrisey Island to grill some fish people had caught on the boat, and to have a generic sandwich lunch. We ate the fish, boarded the boat, and went back to the mainland where we visited the Goðafoss, or Waterfall of the Gods. It’s in the Bárðardalur district of North-Central Iceland. It falls from a height of 12 meters and has a width of over 30 meters. It is called the Waterfall of the Gods because after the Lawspeaker, Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði, made Christianity the official religion of Iceland, he threw all of his statues of the Norse gods into the waterfall. It was a pretty slow day with a lot of bus time, but the scenery and information made up for it nonetheless.
March 25, 2016
After the summit, we have been in a general area called Norðurland eystra. This translates to North East. We went to boiling pits of sulfur first thing because who doesn’t love the smell of rotten eggs in the morning? It is called Námafjall Hverir. It is a high-temperature geothermal area with fumaroles and mud pots. At a depth of 1000 m, the temperature is above 200°C. Along with the steam comes fumarole gas, such as hydrogen sulfide which is responsible for the hot spring smell in those areas. The hot springs produce a considerable amount of sulphur deposits. We then went to a lab that is run by pretty much one lady. She collects blue and green algae. She tests and grows it. The algae could have many uses, but one she talked about was fuel. Her research is very, very early on, but she believes she can do something big, but most people think she just plays around in her lab. It is always open to visitors so people can go see what she is doing. This lady doesn’t mess around with algae. We went to a geothermal power plant to, obviously, learn more about the energy, but especially where the water comes from and why it smells like rotten eggs. It smells like this because of the sulfur in the boreholes in the ground where a majority of the water comes from. After saying goodbye, we made our way to sort of a lava field, but better. Hard to explain, but we were told it is the home of the Icelandic Yule Lads in Dimmuborgir. They are the 13 sons of Gryla and Leppaludi, vicious trolls that live in a big cave in Ludentarborgir. The brothers have funny names and often refer to their preferences for food of interest: Spoon Licker, Sausage Sniper, Skyr Gobbler, and the noisy fellow Door Slammer. The Yule Lads are rarely seen in the summer because this is when they rest in their caves, but when winter comes they wake up and prepare for Christmas. The best time to meet thme is in Dimmuborgir during the month of December when they are busy preparing. The best way to find them is to walk the path to Hallarflot and shout “Jolasveinn (yo-las-ven)!” This translates to Santa Claus. Actually, while standing on a cliff with others for a picture, my mother told my wonderful senior friend Matt from Maryland, who is very strong, to pick me up a dangle me over the edge. I didn’t think this was funny, but it happened and I didn’t die. It was another day of traveling a lot, but I think we all had fun.
March 26, 2016
We woke in the morning and stumbled outside our room to eat a quick breakfast and board the bus. We were told that we were going to a farm which had icelandic horses and icelandic sheep dogs. We reached the stables at about noon, and we discovered that icelandic horses were significantly different than american horses. Icelandic horses were small, powerful and muscular. They were roughly 5-6 feet tall and were very small when compared to american horses. Icelandic horses were never bred with american horses and once icelandic horses leave the country they can never return to Iceland. We learned about the training of the horses and how they have competitions and races with the horses. After we left the farm we took a lengthy bus ride to the world’s only man made ice cave. The cave, which was carved out of a glacier, was completely man made and was 500 meters long. We trekked through the cave and observed beutiful crevices and we were amazed bythe incredible amount of ice that the glacier was made of.
Once we left the ice cave we drove to our hotel and enjoyed reflecting on the day and realized the true beauty of iceland. Iceland is a clear land of extremes, which creates opportunities for innovation and incredible attractions like the ice cave. Many of these opportunities are only available in Iceland, making our experience incredible and memorable.
March 27, 2016
We woke up early. Really early, and went to a hot spring, because who doesn’t love the smell of rotten eggs in the morning? It is the Deildartunguhver Thermal Spring. It produces 180 liters of water per second and is the largest output of any thermal spring in the world. The water temperature is 212°F. The total production capacity of Deildartunguhver and two neighboring boreholes is 62 megawatts. The water has been used for central heating since 1925. There is a heating works company that actually runs Deildartunguhver and owns all assets relating to the distribution system. Deildartunguhver is 19 meters above sea level, so the hot water needs to be pumped through distribution pipes that connect the springs to Akranes, Borgarnes, and Hvanneyri. The pipe was built in the years 1979-1981 and is a total of 74 kilometers, or about 45 miles, long and is considered the longest of its kind in the world. The water reaches Akranes from the springs in about 24 hours, and the water in Borgarnes is about 170°F at Borgarnes, 163°F at Akranes, and 149°F in rural areas. It was quite cool, but then we moved on to another waterfall called Barnafoss which translates to “Children’s Waterfall.” There is a story behind this name though. One Christmas day the household at Hraunsás went to mass, with the exception of two children who were supposed to stay home. When the people returned, the children had vanished, but their tracks led to the river. The children had fallen off the stone arch and drowned. Their mother then had the arch destroyed to prevent the recurrence of such a tragedy. It was smaller than Goðafoss, but a much more interesting story in my book. Afterwards, we headed back to Reykjavík for our last hour in the city before heading to Keflavík International Airport to say goodbye to Iceland. It was an emotional goodbye, at least for me. I left behind friends that I may never see again, but I most definitely plan on seeing Iceland again. They have some big ideas we could use here at home. I’m ready to make a change.