3. Environment and Geography
Rivers and Lakes
Iceland does have a great many rivers. On the one hand, there are glacial rivers (they have their origin in the glaciers) that are characterized by turbid waters. On the other hand, there are fresh water rivers with clean water. Because of the high level of precipitation in Iceland, the rivers tend to be quite heavy. Icelandic rivers are a popular location for salmon fishing.
One very distinctive feature of the Icelandic landscape is the large number of waterfalls. The most famous of these is Dettifoss (44m), one of the most voluminous waterfall in Europe. Gullfoss (32m) and Skógafoss (60m) are other well-known Icelandic waterfalls.
There are a large number of lakes in Iceland, most of them small. The largest is Þingvallavatn in the Árnessýsla district (84km2). It was formed as a result of a fault in the earth’s strata and lies in what may be described as a large graben. There are two islands on the lake, Sandey Island and Nesjaey Island, and many summerhouses are built on and around the lake’s shores.
Mývatn, in the Suður-Þingeyjarsýsla district in the north of Iceland, is known throughout the world for its magnificent landscape and rich bird life: this includes one of the largest nesting areas for ducks in the world. All the Icelandic species of duck lay eggs in the area, among them the “húsönd” (the golden eye duck, lit. the house duck), which nests in no other part of Europe. The lake is surrounded by lava on all sides, and the shoreline is very jagged. A large amount of fishing is done on the lake, that has an abundant and diverse wildlife.
“Bra bra” is the Icelandic equivalent of “quack quack” or the duck-like sound children (and some adults) might make. Once, a grandmother in Reykjavík was baby-sitting her little granddaughter, who was from Mývatn. “Tomorrow we’re going to look at bra bra,” said the grandmother to the child, who became excited about seeing the “bra bra”. So the day came, and the grandmother went down to the Pond in Reykjavík with the little one from Mývatn. “See the bra bra!” said grandmother, and pointed to a bird which paddled about the pond. “Bra bra?” said the child, surprised. “As far as I can tell, it’s the Green Head Duck.”