Fimmvordurhals Volcano eruption

Eyjafjallajokull Volcano Eruption & Fimmvörðurháls

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Eyjafjalljökull’s little brother
It is 2 years since the rumblings began under Eyjafjallajokull so I thought I might share my memories of that exciting time. It was at the same time that I decided to start my photo tour business and the small eruption under Fimmvörðurháls coincided with my Mum’s one and only trip to Iceland.

When the Fimmvörðurháls eruption began it was a frustrating time for Icelandic photographers. The authorities created a 20km exclusion zone around the tiny eruption. Local people were evacuated from their farmsteads as the Volcanologists moved in stating ‘Stand back, we don’t know how big this thing gets’. The Fimmvörðurháls eruption created a new mound between the 2 glaciers of Mýrdalsjökull and Eyjafjallajokull. The eruption occurred on a walking path. The path markers actually disappeared into the new mound.


Crater eruption

I started a thread on the Icelandic photography forum asking if any photographers would like to use their jeeps to get close to the new eruption. I wasn’t the only one with the idea, by the time we had arranged our 3 modified jeeps full of some of the most esteemed photographers in Iceland, the queue up to the Mýrdalsjökull glacier was growing.

This was the view as we approached the erupting volcano on Fimmvörðurháls, the mound in front was already collecting super jeeps…

Waiting for darkness

I was in good company and lucky enough to be with fellow photographers as we all had the same goals, we wanted to wait until dark to see if there would be Northern Lights. In the meantime the volcano looked great against the dusk sky in late March.

The crowds were gathering on top of the mound overlooking the volcano as it got dark. It was difficult to find a space for my tripod. the atmosphere was electric like a rock concert and the sound of the volcano was very memorable but unfortunately so difficult to convey here! It was like a giant kettle drum being thrashed by Darth Vader.


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The little one’s dead, now it’s time for the big one to come out to play.

Eyjafjallajokull Reflection
Eyjafjalljökull Ash Plume

This was taken with my 24mm as we approached the area. The setting sun was catching the higher parts of the ash plume.

It was the day after the eruption at Fimmvörðuhals died that the big one erupted (14th April 2010). Obviously they are connected via underground volcanic chambers. The real concern was that Fimmvörðuhals was directly between Eyjafjalljökull and the dreaded Katla. The last time Eyjafjalljökull (1821) erupted, it was followed by a Katla eruption. The authorities were taking no chances and evacuated nearly 500 people from local farms. An exclusion zone was set up and police blocked the roads preventing any photographers from getting near.

The eruption created a huge ash plume several kilometres high and the heat from the volcano created a Jöklahlaup (glacial flood) from Gigjajökull into the Markjaflott river. Workmen struggled to break a hole in the ring road to save the bridges. The whole area was underwater and huge blocks of ice were strewn throughout the landscape. I was a nervous time for local farmers, but the floods soon receded.

My first trip out there was with my girlfriend and we took our dSLRs with an attempt to capture some of the lightning forks. Being a wide angle landscape photography fan, I only had 50mm prime as my longest lens. We took a back road and drove as far as the road block where we were directed into a school playground.

This was taken with a long exposure, I took several in the hope of capturing the lightning. This exposure was successful, but it is a huge crop from the original.

Telephoto Rental

Eyjafjalljökull Eruption
Eyjafjalljökull Ash Plume

Two days later we returned and I managed to hire a 70-200mm lens. Unfortunately the lighting had ceased by then, but we were able to get closer.

Using the 200mm I was able to get up close and personal.


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