Fire and Ice

Graduate student Peter Gao took this photograph in Iceland while on an enrichment trip offered by the Division of Geological and Planetary Science and led by faculty members Mark Simons, Bethany Ehlmann, and Robert Clayton. The image features a sheer face of columnar basalts that is part of a series of dramatic rock formations found at Jökulsárgljúfur within Vatnajökull National Park. The terrain in the area is shaped by a volcanic eruption that took place about 8,000 years ago. The eruption led to flooding and subsequent erosion that swept away much of the volcanic edifices. When the magma cooled and contracted underground, it fractured, producing the hexagonal patterning seen here. The 15 students on the trip got to see the earth in action as Iceland’s Bardarbunga volcano began to stir the day they arrived and erupted at Holuhraun on the day they flew out.