The story of Saltverk
“You might feel somewhat of a temperature shock.” Our young and cheerful guide said while walking ahead of us up the narrow stairs of the first building. After the Icelandic summer temperatures outside, the inside of the building felt like stepping into a tropical greenhouse. Next to me, Koen was fanatically opening his jacket. “We take the cold seawater from about 7 meters deep, here outside.” Our guide continued. “And we pump it into these basins you can see under us”. “At first the salinity is around 3% on average, but it quickly rises when we heat the basins naturally with hot geyser water from Reykjanes, that runs through these pipes.” She said. “And by creating movement in the water, we can simulate a large water surface.”
Interesting side note: Some would think that evaporation would go quicker in summer, but in reality, the opposite is true. It is so that air temperatures are higher in summer, but the lower air humidity in winter makes evaporation go faster. Also, because the seawater is diluted with meltwater in summer, the salinity is lower to begin with.
After a while, we found ourself standing in the second building, with more basins surrounding us. “After pre-heating, the salinity has reached a bit less than 20%.” Our guide resumed the tour. “That is when we pump it over in these basins here.” She continued. “This is where we further cook the brine until white salt crystals start to form, which sink to the bottom.” “It are these crystals we later collect.” She added while guiding us into another room. “After collection, we let the crystals on these racks, where we keep them at 30°C. We have found that this is the ideal temperature for optimal hardness and flakiness of the individual salt crystals.” She ended her explanation.I took a salt crystals between my fingers to admire the beautiful unique shapes, when our guide started laughing. “We do exactly the same here.” She said. “We can’t stop looking at how beautiful the crystals are.” With that, our very interesting tour, with the most lovely guide, through Saltverk ended.