As reported in various news reports (such as here and here), the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in southern Iceland triggered the orderly evacuation of over 600 people from neighbouring towns, the closure of roads and the temporary shutdown of air services into Iceland. While the country is well prepared for such exceptional natural forces, with no-one being killed or injured, it highlights the extraordinary natural travel wonder that the island nation of Iceland is. A fissure nearly a kilometre wide spews ash and lava into the wintry Icelandic atmosphere as shown in photos of the various news services. Generously covered with glaciers, the small island is bisected by the edges of two continental plates causing regular volcanic activity across the country – literally, the country of fire and ice.
Travelling there some years ago, I can recall the landscape being explained in terms of various volcanic eruptions and lava flows. Around Hekla, various rough black stripes crisscross the splotchy panorama, each caused by one of the twenty or more eruptions over the last 1000 years. Small tinges of green colour the older flows as life fights the harsh weather to regenerate. A specialist describes “the green tinged area is from the eruption of 1845, while the darker flow to your right is from 1947”. He continues “Further over there is the lava flow from 1991…” – an ebony charred highway of lava with no sign of life. The entire history of the area is told in eruptions.
More scary is the description of the formation of Asbyrgi, an other-worldly forested area with sheer basaltic walls. While tales are told of Odin’s eight-legged horse leaving footprints in Norse mythology, scientists claim a volcano underneath a glacier caused a mass rapid melting of an ice sheet. The tidal wave of melt water gouged a path through the rocky terrain leaving the harder rocky walls, sweeping the softer rock away with an awesome natural display of primeval power.
The world’s finest vulcanologists continue to monitor the 2200-plus known volcanoes for undue activity – ready at a moment’s notice to report a threat and protect the population of this extraordinary natural wonderland. Maybe no other nation is being so clearly shaped by the incredible forces of nature as the unsettled Earth’s crust vents its fury every few years on this naturally beautiful and wild island nation.