On the dark sand of Breiðarmerkursandur in the southeast of Iceland, the water and ice that the sun melts and chisels off Iceland’s largest glacier Vatnajökull form a small lake, Jökulsárlón. Its frigid blue waters are full of floating glacial rubble, chunks of ice the size of a London double-decker or a New York townhouse.
The picturesque site graces innumerable postcards; several movies have been shot in the area, most famously and most recently the James Bond movie “Die another day.”
The ring road that circles Iceland squeezes between the icy Jökulsárlón and the large mass of Vatnajökull to the North and the rumbling Atlantic Ocean to the South on an isthmus not more than a few hundred meters wide. At the narrowest point, it runs over a bridge that spans the short river that flows from Jökulsárlón into the sea.
Since the ring road was first built in 1974, the hungry ocean has gained advantage on the kingdom of the shore at Jökulsárlón, threatening to open the isthmus and cut Iceland’s road number 1.
Engineers at Iceland’s Road Authority have long pondered how to defend this vial transportation link against the attack of the elements. Until now, radical measures have seemed inevitable.
But recent studies predict that land will rise up to 4 meters in the area over the next century as the glacier Vatnajökull retreats further inland. With Nature giving back on one front what it is taking on another, Helgi Gunnlaugsson at the Road Authority says in Morgunblaðið today that in the light of these predictions, it may well suffice to add modest defenses on the shore to slow the erosion down, preserving the existing road and bridge and minimizing cost.
Fans of the spectacular views at Jökulsárlón will be delighted, since this means that in all probability the picture-postcard views will remain unsullied by further construction that would otherwise have been needed to preserve the road. For once, Time may relent and leave their Love in place. Jökulsárlón lives to die another day.