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Photos, video: A large Group of people wander onto ice floats on Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon: “a ticking time bomb”

By Staff

  • Parenting on thin ice A large group of people, including small children, had wandered onto the frozen Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon yesterday. The lagoon is constantly on the move, so the ice can break up, leaving people stranded. Photo/Ingólfur Bruun.

Tour guides and visitors at Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon in South East Iceland watched in shock and disbelief as a large group of people had managed to get themselves near the centre of the lagoon by jumping between ice floats and walking on the frozen lagoon.

Initially onlookers feared that the group, which counted 30-40 people, including young children, might be stuck on the ice, so search and rescue units were called in. Witnesses told the local news site visir.is that the group of people was at least 200-300 meters from the shore (700-1000 feet). The people returned to shore when they were informed of the danger they were facing. A tour guide who captured photographs and a video showing where the people were, tells the local news site visir.is that the lagoon is really a “ticking time bomb”.

Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon
Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon yesterday A large group of people, some with small children, decided it was worth the risk to wander onto the ice to get a better look at a group of seals. Photo/Ingólfur Bruun

The following video shot by Ingólfur Bruun, a tour guide, shows where the people were walking on the ice far from the shore. While the ice might seem safe from a distance, the water in the lagoon is constantly on the move as it flows to the sea, and it experiences tidal effects, which means the ice can easily break up. As a result, people can get stuck on ice floats and drift out to sea, or fall in and drown in the icy cold water.

“It’s just a ticking time bomb and we have to face the fact that we are experiencing a completely new reality in the tourism industry.” Ingólfur told visir.is. Growing tourism has meant people are visiting places like Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon in the winter, when conditions are far more difficult than in the summer months. He points out that only three or four years ago there might have been seven or eight visitors per day at this time of year. “Now we are getting hundreds of visitors each day.”

Read more: Photos: Visitors at Gullfoss waterfall stubbornly ignore warnings, venturing onto a closed path

Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon
Families with children The ice might look safe from the distance, but keep in mind the lagoon is not a lake: Water in the lagoon is on the move as it flows to the sea. Tidal effects are also felt in the lagoon. This means the ice can break up. Photo/Ingólfur Bruun

The people told search and rescue teams who ushered them off the ice that they had been attempting to get closer to a group of seals who were frolicking on the ice in the middle of the lagoon. The lagoon is a popular destination for seals, as it is for tourists. However, we at Iceland Magazine would like to point out that although humans and seals are both mammals, seals are uniquely adapted to living in icy water, while humans are not. Please be careful, and practice common sense. You do not want to come home from your vacation in Iceland in a body bag.

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