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MY ICELAND: The Eyjafjallajökull eruption

So I finally managed to find time to upload some of the photographs we took from our excursion into the ash cloud last weekend.

We set off around 6 pm and drove to Selfoss, where we grabbed some dinner. We set off again around 8 pm and drove east, towards Skógar. It was a gorgeous evening and the eruption looked magnificent in the evening sun.

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The ash cloud was pretty thick, though, and went as far as the Westman Islands — the mountains you see there in the distance.

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Things started to look more and more ashy, the further east we travelled.

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We stopped by the farm Þorvaldseyri, the one made famous by this photo. It was all very gray, and felt quite oppressive.

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The hay bales were covered in ash.

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And some of the colours were amazing.

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Skógar was like a ghost town, the air thick with ash. It rained down on my jacket, as you can hear in the video I made. All sounds were muffled in there, much like after a fresh snowfall at night.

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It was quite a relief to get out of there. We decided we wanted to drive up into to Fljótshlíð valley where you can normally get a good view of the eruption. EPI suggested we turn north from the Ring Road and take the old Markarfljót bridge. I was dubious; I seemed to remember it had been damaged during the first surge of flooding, after the eruption started. However, there was no sign, so we drove across VERY carefully …

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Only to get to the OTHER SIDE and find a DO NOT ENTER sign strung up across it, preventing people from entering. YIKES!! You can believe we beat a hasty retreat [although not TOO hasty…].

By the time we got to Fljótshlíð it was 1 am and too dark to get a decent picture. The last good picture of the eruption was this one, taken just before we arrived at the aforementioned bridge.

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All in all, a fantastic adventure. The full set of pictures is available here [remember you can choose the Slideshow option].

[This post is filed under MY ICELAND.]

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  • Kris May 21, 2010, 2:08 pm

    Super pictures.
    PS – There is your answer to global warming (if it existed) 😉

  • gloria May 21, 2010, 2:19 pm

    Thanks for this, Alda. I enjoyed the video, the photos, and the narrative. What a spectacular place Iceland is. You make everything so vivid and real–whether it’s the kreppa, the criminals, or this amazing volcanic action. You are the best tourism bureau–really, they should pay you.

  • PeterRRRRRR May 21, 2010, 3:01 pm

    Lovely, dramatic pictures, as always, thanks for sharing. And I am equally amazed that these were all taken after 8 PM in the evening, some near midnight!

  • Kirsten May 21, 2010, 3:38 pm

    Thank you so much for both the pictures and the video. The icelandic nature is truely amazing.

  • Joerg May 21, 2010, 3:53 pm

    Those are very impressive pictures. I am particularly amazed by this huge ash cloud and the darkness at Skógar. The volcano is showing a different face every other day.

    It must be awful to have to live at Þorvaldseyri those days.

    As far as I am aware, the old Markarfljót bridge had been closed for some time before the eruption. They had only opened it for authorized vehicles, while the ringroad was being disrupted last month. I had walked over it three weeks ago. There were some smaller blocks of ice flowing underneath and I was wondering, how much longer this frail construction would sustain the power of the river.

  • Bill C. May 21, 2010, 4:11 pm

    Great shots, Alda!

  • Mike Richards May 21, 2010, 5:09 pm

    Great photos Alda – and by the looks of it you got there just before the weather closed in.

    The mountain has been pretty much invisible for the last few days (some of us have to resort to webcams in lieu of the real thing), and the amount of material being erupted has sharply declined since the weekend.

    Whether it’s over or just pausing for breath is a good question, I just took a look at the seismic map and there have been a good few (small) quakes under Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull in the last few hours. So either molten rock is still sloshing around, or the dwarves are moving the furniture downstairs again.

    Your first photo is nice, there are some white lenticular (saucer shaped) clouds just downwind of the mountain’s peak. You also caught them in the Flickr stream in the long distance shot of Seljalandsfoss. I love the second photo, you’ve caught the strangeness of the Westmann Islands really well. When I was zipping up and down that road last year they looked different every day. Sometimes they would look like the sails to a fleet of ships floating just offshore, other times they were hardly visible at all.

    Mike.

  • Joerg May 21, 2010, 5:50 pm

    As you mention it – can you recommend a place in Selfoss to grab dinner? I have passed the town occasionally at dinner time but couldn’t find any restaurant. Maybe, I just wasn’t looking thoroughly enough.

  • Mike Richards May 21, 2010, 9:29 pm

    Hi Joerg,

    Kaffi-krus (I’m sure there should be an accent in there somewhere) opposite the town library seemed like a nice restaurant when I was there. I only stopped for coffee and one of their lovely cakes.

    Mike.

  • alda May 21, 2010, 10:30 pm

    Thank you, everyone!!

    Gloria — now THAT’S a comment for the Facebook page, where everyone can see it. 😉

    Joerg – this place was called Menam or something like that and it’s the only Thai restaurant in town. It’s right near the bridge — when you cross it, you turn immediately to your right in the traffic circle, and it’s on the next corner. It was pretty good — nothing spectacular, but the food was more than adequate and the decor … well, let’s just say it had that small-town feel to it. 🙂

    I don’t know of any other places to eat there — I’m just not that familiar with Selfoss in this way. However, I’m sure you know about Fjöruborðið in Stokkseyri, no? About a 20 minute drive south of Selfoss. AMAZING lobster restaurant, highly recommended.

  • Bryan May 21, 2010, 11:10 pm

    I’ll be in Iceland in July. Even if it involves some hiking and camping, can you get any closer to the eruption than your pictures show? Can you actually see the lava? Does anyone know of any good volcanic guides?

  • Joerg May 21, 2010, 11:28 pm

    Thanks for the information. I should give one of those places a try, next time I pass Selfoss and feel hungry, which coincidentally happens quite often.

    Fjöruborðið is still on my to-do list but certainly requires some advance planning and table booking. 🙂

  • sylvia hikins May 21, 2010, 11:33 pm

    Dazzling! The colours and quality of the pictures are brilliant. Thanks for sharing the photos with us- that bridge was truly scary.
    sylvia from viking wirral

  • Joerg May 22, 2010, 7:57 am

    @Bryan: I don’t think, there is any easy way to hike up close to the crater. As far as I know, the area is officially closed, anyway. Lava might be visible from Fljótsdalur when it gets dark, which means waiting into the wee hours.

    I suppose, the best way to get a close-up look of the eruption site is by plane, at least as long as the volcano behaves properly. We had done so with a Cessna airplane three weeks ago and it was brilliant. We just asked people working an Múlakot airfield on our way to Fljótshlið, if we could get a flight to the volcano and after agreeing on a price, we got this most wonderful experience.

  • Mike May 22, 2010, 12:58 pm

    Hi Bryan,

    (Lucky devil)

    The mountain itself is off-limits except for geologists working with the Icelandic government. From what I’ve seen some of the hiking trails opposite the Gígjökull are still open so you can see the summit (weather permitting) and see where lava is making its way down the flank of the mountain. The lava itself is not visible and most of what is being produced is still in the summit crater. I’m not sure if you can get near the site of the earlier Fimmvörðuháls eruption.

    You shouldn’t even think about going off trail, there are likely to be mudslides and avalanches for the foreseeable future even if the volcano goes quiet. And there is one risk that I can’t stress enough – cooling lava produces invisible clouds of carbon dioxide which pools in low lying areas. Don’t get close to the lava without a trained guide. There have also been reports of a bluish haze around Eyjafjallajökull which is possible sulfur dioxide and fluorine and will kill you stone dead.

    Obviously, if you are near the volcano, check the news before leaving, let people know where you are going AND take a mobile phone.

    The latest information is available in English is at:

    http://en.vedur.is/earthquakes-and-volcanism/articles/nr/1884

    (and the eruption has really slowed down – the latest estimate is no more than 5 tonnes a second. This time last week it was about 40 times that).

    By guides – do you mean guided tours? I was looking at:

    http://www.icelandtotal.com/

    who seem to have a lot of options – although they aren’t cheap.

    But if you mean ‘guide’ as someone who can come along and tell you more, then – hello! I’m VERY cheap. 😉

    There aren’t many books (at least in English) about Icelandic volcanoes that aren’t stupidly technical. A good one to pick up which has a long chapter on Iceland is ‘Volcanoes in Human History: The Far-Reaching Effects of Major Eruptions’ by Jelle Zeilinga de Boer and Donald Theodore Sanders. There *IS* a book called something like ‘The Volcanoes of Iceland’ which is available in Reykjavik – but I’ve never found a copy of the English translation.

    HTH.

    Mike.

  • kevin oconnor,waterford ireland May 22, 2010, 10:39 pm

    @Good pictures but my niece wants to go to new zealand and I require that it be closed down for an escape window of July 15th – Sept 15th once her jet is well on the way to Singapore , I will post here and you have my full permission Alda to switch it back on, still it is slowing down, a welcome break for your Icelandair and your tourist industry as the whole thing is starting to be viewed as a negative in one sense, I would love to see it and being trapped in Iceland is no big deal for me ,as I am single with zero job career commitments, but the uncertainty is affecting your tourist industry at a time when Iceland needs those foreign pesos to keep the imports of olive oil etc going.

  • kevin oconnor,waterford ireland May 22, 2010, 10:52 pm

    @Alda yes a bleak beauty indeed nice picies, your the next best thing to being there Alda.

  • angelica May 23, 2010, 2:47 am

    I have to agree with Gloria. love the pictures

  • Joerg May 23, 2010, 9:17 am

    @Mike
    “I’m not sure if you can get near the site of the earlier Fimmvörðuháls eruption.”

    When I was in the area, three weeks ago, there was nothing to stop you walking up to Fimmvörðuháls from the Skógar side – not even a sign – except the constant ash fall. I walked for about one kilometer to get some views but used a dust mask to keep off at least some of the ash from entering my lungs. But I think, if it’s not officially forbidden to walk in this area, it’s at least neither comfortable nor recommendable at least as long as the ash fall hasn’t stopped.

  • Mike May 23, 2010, 12:20 pm

    Joerg wrote:

    ‘When I was in the area, three weeks ago, there was nothing to stop you walking up to Fimmvörðuháls from the Skógar side’

    Thanks Joerg, but where are all your photos?

    And a quick bit of advice for Bryan (and anyone else lucky enough to go there). Don’t walk on fresh lava, even if it is several months old. A few centimetres under the surface it will still be hot enough to inflict severe, even fatal, burns. Lava is crumbly and regularly has voids underneath the surface; you might put your foot on something that looks solid only to find it is nothing more than a thin crust. And finally, it is sharp – I wore a brand new pair of boots out in a couple of weeks when walking on old lava in the US. So don’t wear new shoes and think about investing in a pair of tough gloves.

    Oh and stay upwind of any steam or fumes coming out of the ground near a recent eruption, there’s going to be nothing nice in there, and you’ll need your lungs later in life.

    Mike.

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