21 March 2010

Ice and Fire: Eyjafjallajökull Erupts

It was my first trip to Iceland, many years ago, that opened my eyes to the wonders of geology. It was a tourist cliché, but when I stood at Þingvellir and was told that I was standing on the faultline between the continents, then plate tectonics suddenly made more sense than from any number of diagrams. On that same trip, we went to Vestmannaeyjar and stood on the still-warm sulphurous volcano that had erupted on Heimaey only a few years earlier, in 1973. There's something about Iceland that brings out the latent geologist in everyone - or at least in me. It certainly makes me like to think I should have had an alternative career as a geologist, though it was already too late then, on that first visit. Icelandic volcanoes, unlike those in some other parts of the world, tend to erupt slowly and rarely cause loss of life. So, despite the destruction of houses and roads, we can marvel at their majesty and wild, ferocious beauty, and understand how a poem like Völuspá came to be composed under their influence. And now it's happening again. Eyjafjallajökull, which last erupted in 1821, is acting up. According the BBC report, some 500-600 people have been evacuated, ash is falling everywhere, and aviation is not currently possible. The picture shows the area on a glorious late summer day last year, when molten lava and ash were the furthest things from anyone's mind.
Sól mun sortna,
søkkr fold í mar.
Hverfa af himni
heiðar stjörnur.
Geisar eimi
ok aldrnari,
leikr hár hiti
við himin sjálfan.

1 comment:

  1. The eruption rumbles on - here are some good links to webcams: http://www.icelandreview.com/icelandreview/daily_news/?cat_id=28304&ew_0_a_id=359930
    Meanwhile, the mountain that is emerging from the eruption needs a name - any suggestions? See http://www.icelandreview.com/icelandreview/daily_news/?cat_id=28304&ew_0_a_id=359962