EPI and I headed out to take a look at the eruption last night. We left town around six, because a] AAH wanted to throw a belated birthday party and we needed to get the hell out of dodge, and b] because we hoped we might be able to see the eruption better if we hung around long enough for it to get dark. Or dark-ish, because we didn’t know if it would actually get DARK. It’s a bit touch-and-go on that front right now, since we’re entering the season of the midnight sun.
As many of you will know, Eyjafjallajökull was demonstrating some serious badassery yesterday, belching ash like there was no tomorrow. For the first time since it started erupting you could actually see the plume from the capital region, which is around 150 km away. It looked spectacular. Seriously seriously spectacular. I mean, it’s one thing to see all those amazing photographs, but quite another to witness it with your own two eyes. It is, literally, AWESOME.
I really wanted to experience what it would be like to be right inside the ash cloud, so that’s where we went. For those of you familiar with south Iceland, it started to get a bit ashy around the Markarfljót bridge, and just got worse from there. Every time I thought it couldn’t get much worse, it did. We went as far as Skógar before we headed back.
It’s really hard to describe the experience of standing in the middle of all that ash … so instead of trying to explain it, I made a video. Please indulge me with the commentary and the editing — speaking and walking like that is really not my forte, but this should give you some idea of what it was like.
Like I said, being in there was totally awesome, and also pretty awful. One thing I didn’t allude to in the video was how terrible it must be for the farmers in the area. I mean, it was a buzz going in there and experiencing the ash, but to actually LIVE in there … that must be a nightmare.
Today they made the first major transport of livestock out of the area, which is all good and fine, but the problem is that livestock can’t be transported back. Iceland is divided up into sections to contain livestock, in order to guard against diseases [those noisy grids in the road that you drive across periodically when you’re out in the country — those are livestock barriers]. So if farmers send their animals away, they’re basically saying goodbye to them.
If you watch the video, you may notice the point where I get out of the car that the sound is sort of muffled. That’s what it was like — everything kind of muffled, like when there’s a heavy snowfall and everything is completely still. Except a snowfall seems natural — whereas this does not. It seems eerie. And all that ash falling around you and getting in your nose and throat and eyes … ugh.
When we left the ash cloud we headed back the way we came, but then turned north up into Fljótshlíð. It was around 1 am by the time we got there, and there were quite a few people there. It was also pretty dark [as you can see from the last frame on the video, ahem. I decided to keep it in there, though, just for the commentary] and oh. my. God. it was incredible to watch the magma spurting into the air at the base of the plume, and then lightning flashes in its wake. And of course the humongous ash plume rising into the air, like a mushroom cloud, RIGHT IN FRONT OF US. The tour EPI and I went on back in March to watch the previous [benign] eruption also took us to that same location, but in contrast to that eruption which seemed so far away, this one seemed almost close enough to touch. Probably because of the size and density of the plume, which seems so … immediate.
Anyway. Definitely one of the more spectacular experiences of my life. We also took a bunch of photos that I will post separately. And I have to say I really CANNOT understand why tourists are cancelling their reservations to come to Iceland this summer. If I was them I’d be STAMPEDING to come here, to experience this once-in-a-lifetime event.