Tag Archives: Fagradalsfjall

Icelandic eruption attracts thousands of visitors, helicopter rides, over the weekend

What were probably the tastiest hot dogs made in all of Iceland this weekend were grilled over a volcanic eruption alongside marshmallows.

Aerial photo of the eruption. Image via Wikimedia.

In case it passed by below your radar, Iceland saw a new volcano start erupting late last Friday. Despite the island nation’s long history of volcanic activity and plane-grounding eruptions, this is the first time a member of this particular volcanic system has become active in around 9 centuries.

Still, the event attracted thousands of curious onlookers, and local media has even reported on some grilling marshmallows or hotdogs — which, scientifically speaking, is the best way to enjoy a volcano.

Mount Fagradalsfjall

The hard-to-pronounce volcano is situated around 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital. Despite the fact that the only way to reach it is to hike for around 90 minutes from the nearest road, locals came in droves to see the incandescent lava slowly pour down Fagradalsfjall’s slopes.

Luckily for everybody, the eruption has been very calm and small in scope so far, with experts estimating that around 300,000 cubic meters of lava have poured forth from the volcano’s lip now.

“It’s absolutely breathtaking,” said Ulvar Kari Johannsson, a 21-year-old engineer who spent his Sunday visiting the scene, for AFP. “It smells pretty bad. For me what was surprising was the colours of the orange: much, much deeper than what one would expect.”

Access to the area was blocked immediately after the eruption started, to keep everybody safe. After a few hours, however, the police allowed access to the public but were strongly discouraging visits (lava tends to be dangerous). By Saturday, however, visitors were allowed free access as long as they respected strict safety guidelines.

For the most part, however, the police are keeping an eye on visitors and occasionally asking those that get too close to “step back,” according to a local police officer. Emergency teams were also involved in helping people find their way back to the road on Sunday after weather conditions and visibility at the site deteriorated rapidly. These teams also carried devices to measure gas pollution levels in the atmosphere — especially sulfur dioxide, which can pose a danger to health and even be fatal.

High pollution levels on Monday morning prompted the authorities to close the site down for visitors yet again.

A volcanic eruption takes place in Iceland roughly once every five years on average and, due to the rugged nature of the island, they’re often far-removed from population centers. But this was the first such event in the Reykjanes peninsula, which is densely inhabited, in over 800 years, and the first member of the Krysuvik volcanic system to erupt in almost 900 years.

Given its relatively close proximity to people, many visitors went to admire the event, probably happy to break the dullness of staying at home all day after 2020. By Sunday, local media reported, hikers had already beaten a visible trail up to the volcano. Helicopter rides were also organized around it over the weekend.

For now, the site remains closed due to unsafe atmospheric conditions. Experts believe the eruption will die out possibly within a few days. But that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the fun — here’s a live stream of Mount Fagradalsfjall doing volcano things.