The Blue Lagoon

Souvenir box from The Blue Lagoon, 85 x 148 mm
Souvenir box from The Blue Lagoon, 85 x 148 mm

Exhibitor : Gísli Jóhann Sigurðsson

The famous Blue Lagoon is actually the waste reservoir of the geothermal power plant in Svartsengi, Iceland, and therefore is not a naturally-occurring lake as many people think. Instead, it should be placed in the category of man-made geological phenomena, like, for example, the reservoirs of hydroelectric power plants. But unlike reservoirs the Blue Lagoon is constantly flowing.

The Souvenir matchbox (skillet) of The Blue Lagoon on the right was produced by the firm Sólarfilma who made postcards. They started to sell these wrapped around a box of matches like U-shaped cards. The box utilises the striking surface of the matchbox that they were attached onto. They were produced as a series showing Icelandic views, some others are also shown in the gallery below.

Since the commissioning of the Svartsengi power plant in 1976, the lagoon has grown steadily, moving further and further out into the black lava with each passing year. Due to its young age, volcanic lava is fresh and porous and surface water easily seeps down through it, so people naturally thought that the wastewater from Svartsengi would sink into the lava and disappear – but something very unexpected happened

At first, the wastewater from the power plant seeped down through the lava into the bedrock. However, the liquid is extremely rich in silicon and a large part of the silicon precipitates in the water on cooling. Thus, mud forms in the water that condenses the lava, and soon a lake began to form where the wastewater flowed into the lava. Initially, the lagoon was small and nobody thought about bathing in the hot and salty water.

It was not until late 1981 that a young Keflviker, Valur Margeirsson, began to bathe in the effluent with the permission of the CEO of Hitaveita Suðurnesja. Valur struggled with the skin disease psoriasis and decided to test whether the water would reduce the symptoms of the disease, which it did. In a conversation with a journalist, Valur called the place the Blue Lagoon and the name stuck.  Soon after these experiments, the construction of facilities at the lagoon began, which was initially intended for people with severe skin diseases.

Towards the end of the eighties the area was fenced off and changing facilities opened. Since then, the development has been stable and there is now a huge spa with hotel and restaurant operations by the lagoon. In 1999, a new swimming pool was equipped with facilities further away from the power plant itself. Today The Blue Lagoon is one of Iceland’s most popular tourist attractions, but I am not so sure they know that it is human made and not natural. 

Here are some more souvenir boxes from Iceland, click on an image to enlarge it.

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