Last night on the Reykjaness peninsular in South West Iceland there was a lava eruption on Fagradalsfjall mountain. The mountain is between lake Kleifarvatn and the blue lagoon and is just a few miles from the town of Grindavik and Þórlakshöfn. The area has been closely monitored following a swarm of thousands of earthquakes along the peninsular over the last three weeks. Some of the earthquakes have been as much as magnitude 5 which have the potential to damage man made structures. The swarm of earthquakes are thought to be caused by the tension between the continental frontiers of the North American and the Eurasian tectonic plates which run right through Iceland. This morning’s eruption in Geldingadala (valley under Fagradalsfjall mountain) will probably reduce the earthquake activity which has been worrying the locals. Residents of Grindavik are not at risk from the erupting volcano, but residents of Þórlakshöfn have been advised to stay in a covid-like lock-down with their windows closed. This advice is because of the direction of the wind which may blow poisonous gases into residential areas. Volcanic gases include the highly poisonous Sulfur dioxide (sulphur dioxide) has been detected at the site – according to the Icelandic met office.
The volcanic eruption is the first on the peninsular for 800 years and the Fagradalsfjall volcano hasn’t erupted for over 6000 years. The biggest fear is that this volcano is part of a chain of several potential volcanic areas along the peninsular.
I went really close to a similar volcano at Fimmvörðurháls in 2010 before the well known Eyjafjallajokull Eruption. I knew some Icelandic photographers and we arranged a couple of huge jeeps to go up onto the glacier where we could nearly touch it. The sound was incredible (like a monster thrashing some huge timpani drums). The following evening a new lava flow which had been under the ice I was standing on revealed itself. Safe volcanic eruptions don’t exist, but if you are able to get close, then beware of the unpredictability. Have fun.
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As was pointed out to many of my tour guests, the spreading city of Reykjavik is developed right up to the very boundaries of the lava field of the last Reykjanes volcanic eruption 800 years ago. Reykjavik features as a farm and the birthplace of Iceland’s most notorious saga bitch, ‘Hallgerður‘ who married (and betrayed) the late Gunnar of Hlíðarendi. Reykjavik only became important as a fishing town some 200 years ago until it became the capital just over a hundred years ago when the parliament was moved from þingvellir to Reykjavik. Most modern residents of Reykjavik have buried their heads so deep in the financial sands that they have lost their true Icelandic roots which accept that Nature is the boss. Changes are a-foot, I hope.