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The beginning of the end?

So Kastljós this evening had a fascinating eyewitness report of their cameraman driving through the ash cloud and back again. It was an unusual sort of segment for Kastljós, more like a visual blog post – very personal. You can watch it here [at least for the next two weeks] — even if you don’t speak Icelandic it’s kind of crazy to see the images and driving through the thick cloud of ash. Near the end of it the narrator says he can’t wait to get out of it, that it is oppressive and stifling, and I totally get what he means.

Afterward there was an interview with volcanologist Þorvaldur Þórðarsson, who lives in Edinburgh and who is a professor there if I’m not mistaken. He made some interesting and positive comments. Apparently there is a very good chance that vegetation can survive if the ash on the ground is less than ten centimeters thick, and so far in the vicinity of Eyjafjallajökull there are about 4.5-5 cm of ash on the ground. That amount of ash can actually wash into the soil very quickly and is even a very good fertilizer, meaning the ground is richer in minerals than before. There had been some concern because some of the ash that had got wet had coagulated and become very hard, almost like a layer of cement over the ground. Well, according to Þorvaldur this can be broken up using special equipment, to help it be absorbed by the ground more easily.

This is very good news. It’s been very difficult to see news and interviews with the farmers in the Eyjafjallajökull area, many of whom see their fields severely damaged and who are very distraught and worried about their livestock. One farmer announced this morning that he would be abandoning his farm entirely, and Ólafur Eggertsson, who took this picture and who has become a bit of a celebrity as a result, said he hopes the revenues from the sales of the photo [it’s been published far and wide, as many of you know] will help pay for repairs to the flood barriers on his farm.

Today the eruption appears to be diminishing – scientists who flew over the glacier reported that the ground had deflated slightly, which may indicate that there is less magma in the chamber beneath the volcano. The cloud emitting from the eruption is also much smaller now, with less ash in it. So we’re crossing our fingers that it will soon be over, although we know there are no guarantees.

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  • sigga April 20, 2010, 11:36 pm

    My mother, 83 years of age, feels that it would be the right thing for our útrásavíkingar to show their remorse by going to the farms under the glacier to help clear the fields and assist the farmers in their recovery. When she first said it I scoffed, now I am thinking that maybe she has the right idea – let them do a bit of work for the country as a whole and show that they mean what they say. If they won’t do it voluntarily we send them once they get convicted – no nice cells with tv and dvd, rather a tent in a paddock that they need to help revive.

  • Rik Hardy April 21, 2010, 2:43 am

    I love this blog.
    Just the right mixture of serious information and Icelandic lightheartedness (with a teeny bit of bolshiness thrown in from time to time).
    The updates on the effects of all the stuff coming out of that naughty volcano are really great.
    Thanks!

  • Gudrun April 21, 2010, 4:01 am

    Just as your latest blog was been received the Fox News here at the bottom on the globe was reporting increased activity on the “volcano” [sometimes called the Icelandic volcano]
    We really appreciate your updates Alda

  • Julia April 21, 2010, 6:02 am

    Keep this information coming – your perspective is very interesting!

  • Joerg April 21, 2010, 7:28 am

    I don’t know, if a link to this second series of fotos at The Big Picture had already been given:

    http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2010/04/more_from_eyjafjallajokull.html

    Included are several pictures of farms in the area surrounded by black ash – really scary.

  • kevin oconnor,waterford ireland April 21, 2010, 10:13 am

    Lucky the wind was blowing in the right direction as you can see what happened to those farmers if it had been easterly it would have dumped all that gunk over downtown Reykjavik,after all the oooh’s and aah’s of the tourists both icelandic and foreign die down and the amazing photos get taken, it is one big messy nuisance.

  • Mike Richards April 21, 2010, 11:56 am

    Ólafur deserves to make a fortune from that photo – it is utterly awe-inspiring stuff.

    And let’s hope the volcano does remain quiet, they’ll need the ring road open again so that the hordes of tourists can get down to see Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss.

    Whether of course anyone will be able to get into Þórsmörk is another question. It’s a lousy road anyway but I imagine it must be under metres of gunk (technical term) right now.

    It’s another beautiful day in Iceland:

    http://eldgos.mila.is/eyjafjallajokull-fra-thorolfsfelli/

    The latest from the Icelandic Met Office is that the volcano’s behaviour has not changed noticeably since yesterday. There’s very little seismic activity right now. In fact the ground is making much more noise towards Selfoss and in the far north near Grimsey, but that’s pretty normal for those places. Selfoss in particular is close to the epicentre of both of Iceland’s recent large earthquakes. Nice place too – great skyr!

  • "Deezed" April 21, 2010, 11:59 am

    Just received an email from a “well-placed” friend in Iceland – same link, i think, as Joerg’s but interesting comment re PR for the country !

    Friends
    You might already have seen this but these pictures show state of play in South-East Iceland.
    Farmers have lost their livelyhood, and it is likely that the best farmland in the country will be ruined forever due to ashes and mud which now covers everything. Ashes will be blowing from the highlands for many years to come. People that live in the area are devastated and almost broken. No-one can say who long this will last. We all hope not long. There is no immediate danger of other mountains exploding, scientists monitor situation. Does not help of course when our President goes off on international TV to state that the world should be alert for Katla to explode…has caused serious harm to the country.
    Anyway we are optimistic, and we will help each other.
    Until next
    Elsa

    http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2010/04/more_from_eyjafjallajokull.html

  • alda April 21, 2010, 12:08 pm

    Thanks, everyone!

    Joerg, Deezed — that link went up on the Facebook page, where a lot of links go … just a reminder that a lot of “extras” go up there! 😉

  • Guðlaug P April 21, 2010, 1:18 pm
  • Paul H April 21, 2010, 6:38 pm

    Glad things are calming down now.
    The ash cloud is what has really been the problem, obviously.
    It’s been a bit surreal to see Iceland make top news globally.
    I have avidly watched all of the coverage here, to see what the domestic angle is on things (not always terribly accurate).
    And also watched Fréttir on RÚV most evenings to get a good local perspective (I get the gist of things, even though I understand little).
    It was fun to see Al Roker at the scene on NBC’s Today Show this week.
    And even more fun to see Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert chime in about the whole thing.
    Stephen did about the best job I have heard so far as regards pronunciation. Kudos to him.

    As ever, thanks for the updates etc.

  • Mike April 21, 2010, 7:39 pm

    There’s a lovely time-lapse animation made from webcam footage of yesterday’s activity at Eyjafjallajökull here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLOynMwwMWA

    Kerrrazy music though.

    Mike.

  • baa April 22, 2010, 11:36 am

    Your language is beautiful:))
    And your land, with everything on it.
    We hope that those ashes will be good for agriculture, after all…

    Basia and Krysia from Poland

  • Mike Richards April 23, 2010, 2:30 pm

    If anyone wants some new photos of Eyjafjallajökull – The Times has some today where the eruption is being lit by the aurora. Photo 3 is sublime:

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article7105937.ece

    The latest is that the mountain has settled down into a quiet continuous eruption of small explosions and showers of glowing rock. It’s a bit cloudy today, but you can see the mountain using three webcams here:

    http://eldgos.mila.is/eyjafjallajokull-fra-thorolfsfelli/

    It’s a lovely day in Hvolsvelli with a patchy view of the summit. The wind seems to be easterly, but if you remember the colour of the eruption last week, most of what’s coming out is clean steam with only a small amount of ash, most of which is falling locally. The view is cloudier at Þórólfsfelli – partly because it appears to be under the plume, but it looks like a lot of water is still coming off the glacier. The Valahnúk camera is down right now.

    The ash has now cleared almost all of European airspace, but some is now heading West. Keflavik is closed to arrivals and departures and there may now be closures on the Canadian seaboard.
    http://eldgos.mila.is/eyjafjallajokull-fra-thorolfsfelli/

  • Mike April 24, 2010, 1:03 pm

    For those of us who can’t get enough of the screwed up pronunciation of Eyjafjallajökull; al Jazeera has this helpful guide – with a ukelele-playing Icelander:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tEEXY6HrQ6Y&feature=player_embedded

    Mike.

  • Steingrímur Dúi Másson April 24, 2010, 1:51 pm

    Hi, thank you for this blog.
    I did the “videoblog” through the ashcloud you mentioned. You can view my journey in better quality here (I added a non-narrative version as well):
    You can watch it here:
    http://vimeo.com/11162773
    and here
    http://vimeo.com/11161109

    best regards and thanks again!
    Steingrímur Dúi Másson
    tv producer/director

  • Mike April 24, 2010, 2:03 pm

    Wow Steingrimur – that’s awesome – real end of the world stuff.

    But it looks like you had the Skogafoss pretty much to yourself without any tourists getting in the way of your camera.

    How did you truck do? Did you have any mechanical problems with all that ash?

    Thanks for sharing.

    Mike.

  • Steingrímur Dúi Másson April 24, 2010, 4:38 pm

    Thanks Mike,
    yeah , it really felt like that being there, menacing and beautiful in a weird kind of a way. It was kind of cool to be able park the car anywhere on the highway and yes, we had the place pretty much to ourselves. We were worried that the car would choke on the plumes, Nissan Terrano with a diesel engine, but it went through the ashes without any engine problem at all. We had been told we might have to stop and clean the air filter if the engine choked but it never came to that.

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