KOLUGJÚFUR

As you drive along Víðidalur, you will come to Kolugil Farm which stands beside the Víðidalsá river. Just below the farm, the waters flow peacefully downwards to plunge into the deep, rugged gorge called Kolugljúfur. Their journey then sends them cascading over many waterfalls which bear the name Kolufossar Falls in honour of the giantess, Kola.
It is a breathtaking sight to drive across the bridge and watch the calm waters of the river suddenly leap and tumble onwards over so many impressive falls – a sight which will leave no one unmoved.

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ARCTIC HENGE

Set in Raufarhöfn, one of the most remote and northernmost villages in Iceland where the Arctic Circle lies just off the coast, the Arctic Henge (Heimskautsgerðið) is under construction. Similar to its ancient predecessor, Stonehenge, the Arctic Henge is like a huge sundial, aiming to capture the sunrays, cast shadows in precise locations and capture the light between aligned gateways.

History

Heimskautsgerðið (The Arctic-Henge) has it s roots in the innovators Erlingur Thoroddsen’s speculations about the possibility to use endless vistas, where nothing obstructs the horizon, and the midnight sun. The idea to use the dwarf names from the eddic poem Völuspá (Prophecy of the Seeress) and modernize some aspects of the old world of the Sagas, soon became a part of these speculations. The first version of the idea is from 1998 but in 2004 it was finalized, with allusions to mythology and folklore, designed to interact with the unique natural light.

No one has been able to explain the dwarfs in the Völuspá, apart from Austri (East), Vestri (West), Norðri (North) and Suðri (South), who carry the sky. By connecting the names of the dwarfs to the season, as for example Bjartur (Bright) Blíður (Sweet) and Svásuður (Gengle) to the summer, it is possible to fit the names of the dwarfs to a yearly circle of 72 weeks. The year-circle of the dwarfs becomes a kind of almanac, where each dwarf controls a five day period. All the dwarfs have been given a role and they have all have their own personalities. This means that the dwarfs can be connected to birthdays and people can connect to their personal dwarf.

Around this made up world rises the Heimskautsgerði (Arctic-Henge) on the Melrakkaás (Foxhill) in Raufarhöfn. The Heimskautsgerði is around 50 meters in diameter, with 6 meter high gates that face the main directions. Between the gates is a high wall with a small opening at the top. Inside the circle stands 10 meter high column on four pillars. The column will be topped with cut prism-glass that splits up the sunlight unto the primary colors. The opening between the pillar look towards the main directions, so example the midnight sun can be seen from the south gate through the middle column and the north gate. The play of light and shadow will follow the time of the day. The openings on the wall will let in the sunrays so when the building is completed a sundial can be set up.

Inside the circle are 68 dwarfs who stand around a circular dwarf trail. Inside the trail is the polar star pointer, and does exactly what its name says. There you can also find the throne of the sun that is meant to be a place where the traveler can sit down to have his picture taken. Also a hall of rays, which is a sort of sanctuary between high columns, with one seat, where the guest can empty his mind an renew his energy. An altar of fire and water, that reminds us of the power of the elements, where events can be performed, for examples weddings, oath taking and so forth

Getting There

It´s about 130 km from Húsavík, but good roads all the way, so allow 1.5 hrs.
Follow the road 85 northeast out of Húsavík, past Ásbyrgi, taking the 874 road junction east just before Kópasker. Once in Raufarhöfn, you can´t miss the stones, looming impressively on the hill above the town. There is a short track to drive up, or you can walk if you prefer. Here is the route.

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HVÍTSERKUR

Hvítserkur is a 15 m-high sea stack just off shore on the eastern side of Vatnsnes. Good seal spotting place at the estuary of the Sigridarstadir lake, south from the stack.

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MÝVATN

Lake Myvatn is one of the highlights of the north. All major services are provided in the village of Reykjahlid, such as a mini supermarket, bank, post office, health care centre, school and swimming pool. At Lake Myvatn, different types of accommodation are available as well as good restaurants and cafés.

Birdlife by the lake is abundant and a visit to the new Bird Museum is worthwhile. Myvatn Nature Bath is located just east of Reykjahlid village, where travellers can enjoy a relaxing dip in the warm natural water. In the Myvatn region there are many marked hiking routes. The Yule Lads live at Dimmuborgir in the Myvatn area, you don’t want to miss them.

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Mývatn

Get directionsMÝVATNGPS POINTS N65° 38′ 30.298″ W16° 54′ 43.624″POSTAL CODES

660POPULATION

200www.visitmyvatn.is

MAK – AKUREYRI CULTURE SOCIETY

In the spring of 2014 the representatives of the Akureyri Theatre Company (Leikfélag Akureyrar), the North Iceland Symphonic Orchestra (Sinfóníuhljómsveit Norðurlands) and the Hof Culture Society signed an agreement stating their participation in the establishment of a new institution, Akureyri Culture Society (ACS). The aim is to create a strong scene for the three largest cultural institutions in North Iceland to cooperate, to further advance Akureyri´s cultural society and further strengthening the operations carried out by these parties. All their work builds up to promoting and strengthening the operation, establish artistic independence, smaller superstructure and a more economical operation.

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AKUREYRI

Whatever the time of year, Akureyri is a lively and energetic town, and home to around 20.000 inhabitants. It is by far the most densely populated community outside the Reykjavík area, and is the centre of trade, culture and services for the north of Iceland.

It is a town closely associated with educational institutions and cultural events, all of those having strong traditional roots. Two of the largest fisheries in Iceland are based in Akureyri, and the growth of the tourist industry means that this is playing an ever more important role in the life of the town.

Akureyri is close to many of Iceland’s most renowned natural beauty spots and the town itself is a popular stopping place for both long and short stays.

Below is a list of places we would recommend as being well worth a visit while in Akureyri:

  • The Akureyri Botanical Garden (with 400 plants indigenous to Iceland and more than 7,500 foreign species)
  • the Akureyri Art Museum Listagil Art Centre
  • Akureyri swimming pool
  • Húni II – a boat built from oak in 1963, which is to be found at Torfunefsbryggja pier
  • restaurants which offer dishes prepared from produce originating in the surrounding countryside
  • Kjarnaskógur wood the
  • old town -museums, a church and historical buildings
  • Jaðar golf course – the most northerly 18-hole golf course in the world
  • Hrísey island – the pearl of Eyjafjörður
  • the Akureyrarvaka festival which is held in August each year and is the culmination of the Summer Festival (Listasumar) which runs from mid -June until the end of August
  • beer from the local breweries, Víking and Kaldi
  • Brynja ice cream – a favourite with the local people
  • Akureyri Church
  • Hlíðarfjall ski slopes.
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‘Old-Fashioned Fieldwork’ Puts New Frog Species on the Map

Months of old-fashioned scientific fieldwork – more than 2,000 surveys of chirping frog calls, hundreds of photos of individual frogs and tiny tissue samples taken from them – has helped define the range and unique characteristics of the recently discovered Atlantic Coast leopard frog.

A study published this month in the journal PLOS ONE pinpointed the frog’s range along the Eastern Seaboard, its unusual call and a list of traits distinguishing it from the more common northern and southern leopard frogs. “We are essentially writing the field guide page for this frog. It’s much of the information you’d want,” said Matthew Schlesinger, a zoologist with the ESF- based New York Natural Heritage Program.

Given the challenges associated with hearing one frog and then finding and processing it in an expansive wetland, the researchers essentially triangulated their way to the information they were seeking. “Hearing a particular frog call, then going out, finding and catching it is pretty much an impossible task,” Schlesinger said. “It doesn’t happen that way.” So, based on call surveys, they documented which frog species lived in which wetlands, then caught individual frogs from those wetlands for genetic and photographic analysis.

The call surveys were conducted from Massachusetts to North Carolina. A team of 19 scientists and a cadre of field assistants ventured into wetlands up and down the East Coast in 2014 and ’15 to listen for and record the “chuck” sound that sets the Atlantic Coast leopard frog apart from other species of leopard frogs. When possible, the scientists captured a frog, photographed it from multiple angles and clipped a tissue sample from its toes. The tissue underwent genetic analysis at UCLA.

“It’s very old-fashioned field work,” Schlesinger said. “You go out and do survey work and catch some animals. You look at their characteristics. And then you bring in some modern technology.”

The work resulted in the first field-verified range map for the species, which lives primarily in coastal plains from Connecticut to northern North Carolina.

Schlesinger and colleagues first described the Atlantic Coast leopard frog as a distinct species in a study in PLOS ONE in 2014. Other authors on the most recent paper represent Rutgers University and conservation agencies in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Virginia.

Cave Beetle: Imprints of darkness

About the Beetle

Xuedytes bellus
Location: China

Beetles that become adapted to life in the permanent darkness of caves often resemble one another in a whole suite of characteristics including a compact body, greatly elongated, spider-like appendages, and loss of flight wings, eyes and pigmentation. Such troglobitic beetles are a prime example of convergent evolution, that is, unrelated species evolving similar attributes as adaptions to similar selection forces.  A new species of troglobitic ground beetle from China, less than half an inch in length (about 9 mm), is striking in the dramatic elongation of its head and prothorax, the body segment immediately behind the head to which the first pair of legs attach. Xuedytes bellus was discovered in a cave in Du’an, Guangxi Province, China.Like much of southern China, this is in a vast karst landscape riddled with caves and home to the greatest diversity of cavernicolous trechine ground beetles (family Carabidae) in the world. To date, more than 130 species, representing nearly 50 genera, have been described from China. This new one is a spectacular addition to the fauna.

Etymology The name bellus translates as beautiful which, as always, is in the eye of the beholder.

Type locality China: Cave II, southeastern Du’an Yao, Hechi Shi, northern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, southern China.

Type South China Agricultural University, Guangzhou, insect collection.

Description Tian, M., Huang, S. and D. Wang (2017) Discovery of a most remarkable cave-specialized trechine beetle from southern China (Coleoptera, Carabidae, Trechinae).  ZooKeys 725: 37-47.

Marsupial Lion: Ferocious fossil

About the Lion

Wakaleo schouteni
Location: Australia

In the late Oligocene, which ended about 23 million years ago as the Miocene arrived, a marsupial lion, Wakaleo schouteni, roamed Australia’s open forest habitat in northwestern Queensland, stalking its prey. Scientists from the University of New South Wales recovered fossils in the Riversleigh World Heritage Area in Queensland that proved to be a previously unknown fossil marsupial lion. Weighing in at about 50 pounds, more or less the size of a Siberian husky dog, this predator spent part of its time in trees. Its teeth suggest that it was not completely reliant on meat but was, rather, an omnivore. It is part of a lineage (the genus Wakaleo) that followed Cope’s rule during the Miocene, increasing in size through time, possibly in response to larger prey that, in turn, evolved as the flora changed as the continent became drier and cooler. Based on their discovery, researchers believe two species of marsupial lion were present in the late Oligocene 25 million years ago. The other, Wakaleo pitikantensis, was slightly smaller and was identified from teeth and limb bones discovered near Lake Pitikanta in South Australia in 1961.

Etymology The new species was named in honor of paleoartist Peter Schouten.

Type locality Australia: Hiatus Site, Riversleigh WHA, Boodjamulla National Park, north-western Queensland

Type Queensland Museum

Description Gillespie, A.K., Archer, M., and S.J. Hand (2017) A new Oligo-Miocene marsupial lion from Australia and revision of the family Thylacoleonidae.  Journal of Systematic Palaeontology.  DOI: 10.1080/14772019.2017.1391885

Volcanic Bacterium: New species erupting onto the scene

About the Bacterium

Thiolava veneris
Location: Canary Islands

When the submarine volcano Tagoro erupted off the coast of El Hierro in the Canary Islands in 2011, it abruptly increased water temperature, decreased oxygen and released massive quantities of carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide, wiping out much of the existing marine ecosystem. Three years later, scientists found the first colonizers of this newly deposited area — a new species of proteobacteria producing long, hair-like structures composed of bacterial cells within a sheath. The bacteria formed a massive white mat, extending for nearly half an acre (about 2,000 square meters) around the summit of the newly formed Tagoro volcanic cone at depths of about 430 feet (129-132 m). Scientists reporting the new species concluded that the unique metabolic characteristics of the bacteria allow them to colonize this newly formed seabed, paving the way for development of early-stage ecosystems. They dubbed the filamentous mat of bacteria “Venus’ hair.”

Etymology The species name is in reference to Venus, ancient Roman goddess of beauty and love.

Type locality Spain: Hierro Island: Canary Archipelago

Type Sequence read archive project PRJNA381123

Description Danovaro, R., Canals, M., Tangherlini, M., Dell’Anno, A., Gambi, C., Lastras, G., Amblas, D., Sanchez-Vidal, A., Frigola, J., Calafat, A.M., Pedrosa, R., Rivera, J., Rayo, X., and C. Corindaldesi (2017) A submarine volcanic eruption leads to a novel microbial habitat. Nature Ecology and Evolution 1.  DOI: 10.1038/s41559-017-0144