Icelandic Volcanoes - Don’t Panic!

When Eyjafjallajokull Volcano erupted in 2010 it became Iceland’s Space Odyssey in some ways.
April 2, 2019
Kári Gunnlaugsson

Eyjafjallajokull, The Great Icelandic Volcano

When Eyjafjallajokull Volcano erupted in 2010 it became Iceland’s Space Odyssey in some ways. In the beginning it seemed like just another insult being hurled at us by nature, stopping all air traffic in Europe for a few days and making Iceland, for a little while, slightly unpopular, but that changed. By putting us on the map like that, this terrifying natural phenomenon of earth itself spewing her guts through that behemoth of a volcano, rising up to 4500 feet covering the world in black ash, melting glaciers and giving Iceland 24/7 news coverage, somehow became a blessing in disguise.

The fun started when newsreaders from around the world started trying to pronounce the name Eyjafjallajokull. The way to pronounce it right is just switch the j’s for y’s and the ll is a dl sound. The name itself is a combination of three words Eyja = Islands - fjalla = mountains - jokull = glacier. So the translation might be something like The-glacier-on-the-mountains-next-to-the-islands. And it seemed like, as the ashcloud spread out across the Atlantic, so did general interest in Iceland.

But isn’t it risky travelling among volcanoes?

Of course it is, but given the amount of monitoring equipment in every known volcanic area of the country and the strict protocols for evacuation, as well as the dozens of search and rescue teams literally standing by 24/7, 365 days a year, ready to join a network formed by a national operations center, police and coastguard, all working on safety and security, the risk is significantly reduced. There are also the decades of success in keeping people safe in times of natural disasters.

And Iceland had eruptions before Eyjafjallajokull and after. In the 60’s and 70’s, Vestmannaeyjar, the islands off the south coast had two eruptions, one that created a new island, Surtsey, and another which started on the outskirts of the fishing village in Heimaey, but no casualities. Mount Hekla to the north from Eyjafjallajokull erupts pretty regularly and mount Katla to the east is another massive volcano embedded in Myrdalsjokull glacier erupting usually every 100 years or so. Actually, Eyjafjallajokull only erupts every 200 years. Basically, on a day to day basis there is not much to worry about, and often seismic activity has been detected weeks even years in advance of any actual volcanic activity.

Beautiful and fascinating.

The volcanic landscapes of Iceland are some of the wildest imaginable. Lava fields, craters, canyons, cones and lava tubes. Some places it feels like just recently some intergalactic battle took place involving some gargantuan alien species with colossal flamethrowers. Other places you might consider taking up abstract painting using motifs from eroded lava rock covered in gentle moss. The fact is that where the earth keeps constantly resculpting its surface people become inspired and it’s an evocative feeling that even the ground beneath our feet today may turn into something completely different tomorrow.

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