Thursday, June 7, 2012

Kárahnjúkar - an engineering marvel

During a brief visit to Iceland's largest hydroelectric plant, I had a firsthand look at the inner workings of this impressive project. Nestled in the area from which the project adopted its name, the dam constitutes a feat of Icelandic engineering and a boon to the Icelandic economy as it provides the energy for Alcoa's state-of-the-art aluminum smelter.   The electricity generating units are powered by the force of water that drop vertically 420 meters, which is the height of the Empire State Building in New York.  The project can generate up to 690 megawatts.

Skriðuklaustur - where culture and history intersect

Just below Kárahnjúkar sits Skriðuklaustur, a site that hosts the Gunnar Gunnarsson Institute and the remains of one of Iceland's oldest catholic monasteries.  Gunnarsson is one of Iceland's best known writers. Some of his best known works include "The Good Shepherd," "The Black Cliffs," and "Ships in the Sky." Gunnarsson bequeathed  to the Icelandic nation a magnificent stone house he built in Skriðuklaustur.  The building houses a museum where one can learn about Gunnarsson's life and works and where writers from all over the world can spend weeks of contemplation and inspiration.  Nearby is the site where the monastery remains are located and where archeologists have found artifacts dating back to the 15th century.  I would highly recommend a visit there for anyone interested in Icelandic culture and history.

 Þórshöfn - Gateway to the Arctic?

During a visit to Þórshöfn, I had a chance to hear the vision of local authorities and regional organizations for the future development of the region.  They see the region’s future as linked to the establishment of a port for Arctic shipping traffic as well as a logistics base for search and rescue operations and for oil rigs in the event that ongoing oil exploration results in oil extraction from the Dreki area.  There appears to be a lot of investor interest in this area

Radar Station at Gunnólsvíkurfjall

I completed the full round of visits to Iceland's four radar stations. The last stop was Gunnólsvíkurfjall - a stunning site that offers magnificent vistas of the ocean, neighboring fjords and nearby villages.  The Icelandic Coast Guard is doing a superb job of staffing and maintaining these NATO facilities, which constitute a major Icelandic contribution to the collective security of NATO