On the Svinafellsjokull Glacier, some teenagers stray from the main group, eager to explore the Icelandic glacier with their cameras from different angles. A distant waterfall trails lazily down the face of a cliff and fades into a wind-blown mist. The seemingly endless ice stretches past the mountains towards the horizon, interrupted only by a small lake on the right.
The students rest and huddle together in a penguin circle to try to keep warm. They wait their turn to explore a moulin, a small shaft in the glacier formed by meltwater. The guide holds the rope and tells the student to lean backward. "Trust me," he says. "Trust the rope."
On the National Geographic Student Expedition to Iceland, students bathe in volcanic craters and geothermal pools, explore waterfalls, ride ponies, watch geysers explode and swim at a beach cluttered with icebergs. They are allowed to stray from the path if they wish, although expedition leaders warn them if they head towards a dangerous-looking rock face.
The trip runs for 15 days and encourages exploring the landscape of fire and ice while studying one of three "On Assignment" topics: filmmaking, photography, or climate and geology. Tour leaders and a National Geographic expert accompany students on the trip. Traversing across this island of spectacular beauty with National Geographic and other students is a great way to test one's limits, meet passionate instructors and friends, and learn about Iceland and climate change while developing skills in photography or filmmaking.
Students mainly stay in various hostels, but spend a couple of nights outdoors in tents, as well. The weather is sometimes unpredictable, so wearing layers is essential.
By the end of the trip, every student creates a final project either on their own or in a group. For filmmaking last year, we decided to collaborate and create a documentary about our journey through Iceland.
The photography students selected final photos to present, and the climate and geology students prepared various presentations.
The next-to-last day of the journey was spent presenting these final projects to the other groups, reflecting on the past two weeks spent together, and watching the film we stayed up until 4am creating.
If you wish to embrace a unique adventure, exploring Iceland with other teenagers looking for excitement, dates for this year's trip have been set for June 29 to July 13 and July 14-28.
Some of this year's itinerary may differ from last year's.