If you ever get the chance to visit Iceland, you’ll find that it’s not a sheer, white sheet of ice like the name implies. Iceland is a volcanic island with a dreamlike landscape of glaciers, fjords, geothermal water pools, and waterfalls that sparkle under the distant glow of the Northern Lights in the Winter, and shine under the Midnight Sun in Summer. Photographs of this landscape, like Dreamstreams, only begin to show the true nature of Iceland’s geography.
While Iceland does have some permanent ice, Icelandic glacial cover is only a little more than 10% of the country’s land. So why is the island called Iceland?
The History of Iceland’s Name
Plenty of people assume that Iceland was named by Viking settlers who wanted to keep people from settling on the island. The idea is that by naming it “Iceland,” it would seem like an inhospitable place to settle down. But when you actually look at the history of the island as recorded in Viking sagas, the story is much more poetic.
As the story goes, Iceland was given its name by a Viking called Flóki Vilgerðarson, whose trip to the island was marred by tragedy. His daughter drowned on the voyage and all of his animals starved to death. When he finally arrived, the sagas say that he climbed a mountain and saw nothing but an expanse of icebergs. This led to the island’s new name, and it also led to Flóki giving up and taking his crew back home to Norway.
Upon their return, one of his crew members claimed that the island was a rich land and that even the grass dripped butter. Viking settlement of Iceland began soon after, and the name has stuck ever since.
The Real Icelandic Landscape
In Flóki’s defense, Iceland’s fjords do fill with icebergs at certain times of the year. But in reality, Iceland really is a rich, green land due to the abundant geothermal water. The natural hot springs in Iceland provide hot water and renewable energy to the population.
Iceland’s water also makes it one of the most beautiful places in the world. There are over 10,000 Icelandic waterfalls, and many of the hot springs in Iceland have a water temperature of around 100º F, creating ethereal, ghostly images in their steam. Iceland’s natural beauty is enticing to nature photographers like Max Foster.
We invite you to explore Max’s Iceland gallery to experience the beauty of the natural Icelandic landscape for yourself.