Volcanic Excitement in Iceland

As a reminder that travel can and will always bring the unexpected, a volcano in a glacial region I am planning to visit in Iceland recently erupted. Maybe you saw the headlines about it, maybe not. It is the volcano beneath the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in South Iceland, near the coastal town of Skogar.

At first, authorities evacuated residents in the surrounding farmland because of fears the eruption and spewing lava would melt parts of the glacier and cause flooding. However, no flooding has occurred and most residents have returned to their homes. Tourists have even been allowed back into the area to witness the beautiful display of lava formations up to 30 feet in height.

When I first saw the news about the eruption, my gut reaction was worry – if the volcano remains active, how will that affect my travel plans to the area in 2011? Domestic flights between the capital city Reykjavik and cities in North and East Iceland were cancelled and people evacuated out of the area. According to National Geographic, geologists warned that the recent tectonic activity and aftershocks could trigger one of the most dangerous volcanoes on the island – nearby Katla – to reawaken. So I have legitimate concerns.

However, a larger part of me is excited. As of today, the volcano continues to spew lava, but Katla so far seems to slumber and tourists are allowed to witness the lava display from a safe distance. Of course, scientists continually monitor the situation, but maybe this will turn out to be a unique chance for me to see a volcano in action. News reports today quoted scientists as saying that this moderate level of volcanic activity may continue for weeks, months, even up to two years.

Iceland is located on two tectonic plates that are pulling apart. The island is a hotbed of geological activity – geysers, natural geothermal pools, volcanoes, and boiling mud pots. I plan to visit the dormant Krafla volcanic crater, hike around the geological wonders of the Myvatn region, and try a guided glacier hike in Skaftafell National Park. Maybe I will be able to add witnessing a volcanic eruption to my experiences.

I am endlessly fascinating by geology. I grew up in a hot spot of tectonic activity and heard the stories of Mt. Saint Helens erupting in Washington State in 1980, which my parents witnessed as they drove home from church. Dad has a glass jar of St. Helens ash he scooped from the backyard in his home office and I went on weekend hikes with my best friend through the dormant lava caves of the volcano. I have lived through minor earthquakes and stared down into the blasted-out side of St. Helens. Skied down the slumbering Mt. Hood and hiked through the lush rainforest of the Columbia River Gorge, carved out by glaciers during the last Ice Age. Maybe this is why I am so intrigued by Iceland.

So here’s hoping the current eruptions of Eyjafjallajokull continue to safely inspire our imaginations. I would love to see in person what National Geographic  has caught on film. The photos are truly poetic.

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About chronictraveler

Chronic Traveler starts as a dream, one that I thought I had lost, but that has slowly changed into a mission to realize and live that dream every day. In December 2007 I became seriously ill and the doctors did not know what was causing my illness. I had to stop teaching as my life tumbled into a never-ending nightmare of doctors, hospitals and tests. Finally, in May 2008 I was diagnosed with a chronic condition - fibromyalgia. I was only 26 years old at the time. I have had to give up teaching, and now work part-time at a performing arts center as I learn how to manage my condition and improve my quality of life. What helped me through the months of uncertainty and sickness, and continues to inspire me, was a new focus on what truly mattered to me: family, friends, gardening, the arts, and especially travel. I have always fed my soul by traveling, ever since I first stepped off the plane at age 16 in Kathmandu, Nepal to help with an orphanage's building project. Meeting new people and experiencing how they live and how they view the world infuses my life with a richness I was so afraid I would lose when the doctor first said, "You have fibromyalgia". This blog is my story, as I begin to forge a new path. I am embracing my life as it is, with the fibromyalgia pain and fatigue, and learning to do what I love regardless. It may mean I have to go slower and take more naps or breaks! But I am determined to learn how to travel and experience the world, and hopefully what I learn will help others like me who believe their medical condition stands in the way of their travel dreams.
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2 Responses to Volcanic Excitement in Iceland

  1. mspelto says:

    Sounds like an interesting plan when you visit Iceland.
    http://glacierchange.wordpress.com/2010/03/25/gigjokull-retreat-and-eruption-impact-on-this-glacier/
    The volcanic vent is not under the ice cap at present and will not lead to substantial melting of it. In general the volancoes of iceland lack the hazard of the big stratovolcanoes in subduction zone settings like the PAC NW

    • chronictraveler says:

      Thanks for the additional information! The news reports made it seem like the volcanic vent was actually under the glacier. Obviously I’m not a geologist, just a hiking enthusiast who grew up in the Pacific Northwest. 🙂

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