Ready to find the center of the earth, like Brendan Fraser does in the new Journey to the Center of the Earth? I was lucky enough to travel to Iceland with Warner Bros. on a tour of the movie's locations. Come along and see if we made it way down there. (Watch the stars talk about filming in Iceland here.) No, that's not Brendan Fraser in the background.
Next Stop, Reykjavik
Icelandair is the national carrier for Iceland and is featured in the movie. It'll take you about 5-1/2 hours to get to its base, Keflavik International Airport, from New York. And the food's not bad.
The Jules Verne Story
On the flight over, scientist Trevor Anderson (Brendan Fraser) and his nephew Sean (Josh Hutcherson) peruse Jules Verne's novel about the search for the center of the earth, which Verne wrote is accessible through a glacier in Iceland. In the novel, Prof. Lidenbrock discovers the directions to the earth's center in cryptic runes written by an Icelandic historian. Here, Trevor uncovers a secret hidden in Verne's book.
Lava, Lava, Everywhere
Getting to the center of the earth is no easy trek--first you have to get to this remote land, traverse hundreds of miles of moon-like terrain--lava fields--and climb a glacier-topped volcano to the entrance. That's just the easy part.
Says director Eric Brevig, "Iceland is volcanic, there's lava everywhere. It's almost tropical, but with glaciers. We wanted to film there for the authenticity."
No, it's not the sound of an Icelander sneezing. It's the glacier's name (pron. "Snye-fells-ness"), where, legend and Verne's novel has it, you can get to the center of the earth. Many myths surround this region of the country, considered highly supernatural. Locals call this a "spaceship cloud" and believe the uncommon formation signifies the power of the glacier as one of seven energy sources of Mother Earth. The closer you get, the more energy you feel.
Glacier Atop a Mountain
You'll see a shot similar to this one in Journey, through the clouds. Rare is a sunny, clear view like this. Our journey took us to the top, but in the movie, the characters doesn't quite make it there. Snaefells is located on the westernmost point of the country and chances are good you won't see another soul around.
Not Just Any Cave
Though Jules Verne was probably envisioning a cave a bit larger than this one, local lore has it that this very hole in the ground at the base of Snaefells is the true entrance to the earth's center.
On Their Way
Trevor and Sean meet up with a local guide, Hannah (Anita Briem, a native Icelander herself. Our tour guide was happy to mention he acted with her at the National Theater). Here they embark on the hike up Snaefells.
The Earth's Center?
Not exactly, but it seems like it could be. The Raufarhólshellir cave is a lava tube almost 1,400 feet long. It's famous for it's ice formations, so cold below that it doesn't melt.
OK, this probably isn't the way Verne imagined you'd get to the center of the earth, but it's easier than how they get there in the movie.
Trevor, Anita and Josh find themselves stuck in a cave when they take cover from a lightning storm that strikes the rocks and traps them. In reality, lightning and thunderstorms rarely happen in Iceland. It's just really, really cold.
Here's what it's really like some 30 feet below the surface...it truly does feel like you could wander on down forever.
After falling, and falling, and faaaalllling, the trio wind up in a strange wonderland of flora and fauna, with fiery craters and underground pools.
Hot pools like this one dot Iceland's landscape and well up from far, far below. Despite its name (and weather!), Iceland is one of the hottest places on the planet, formed by the separation of tectonic plates that continues to feed thermal springs like this one. Water from the center of the earth, indeed.
A geyser like this one plays a pivotal role in Journey to the Center of the Earth, albeit in a much more spectacular way. This is Strokkur, the country's second-largest geyser (the largest, the nearby Geysir, no longer erupts).
Land of Midnight Sun
A view of Snaefells glacier at 12 a.m. on one of the longest days of the year in June. This is as dark as it gets.
Well, that's it from Iceland--it was a great journey! Go on your own and catch the movie, out July 11.
Photo credit: Stacie Hougland
Movie stills: Warner Bros.
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