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The kids are all right

Well it’s been a beautiful day here in Reykjavík, clear and sunny and bright, if a little cold … and honestly, if I wasn’t following the news I would have NO idea that a volcano was erupting some 150 km east of here. Much less that all of Europe had been thrown into chaos because of it.

Last Thursday was perfectly surreal. That was the day that flights were first grounded, and when I got up in the morning and checked my cellphone [which had been on silent] I could see that a foreign news agency had called at 6 am, asking if I could do an interview in half an hour [which obviously I couldn’t because I was asleep]. And here I hadn’t even known there was anything particularly serious going on.

The day was just insane. As I mentioned before, I had an incredibly busy week this past week, two deadlines to meet and just a colossal amount of work. And all these interview requests started coming at me and the phones were ringing and people sending emails asking for information, and in the end I just turned everything OFF because I had to work.

So anyway, only very basic news got through to me that day, and late in the afternoon, after a marathon session when I’d finally got everything sent off, I headed off to the gym to let off some steam. It was only then that I realized the full extent of the chaos — when I turned on Sky News on the treadmill and saw that the eruption in Eyjafjallajökull and the resulting mayhem was about the only thing they talked about [except they gave a little time to the leadership debate in the UK].

And seriously, it was COMPLETELY surreal. Because there I was, on the treadmill at the gym which is about the most mundane thing in the world and something I do about every other day, and I was looking out at the same beautiful view [sea, mountains] that I look at every time I’m on there, and the day was sunny and people were just going about their business, and yet on the screen in front of me people all over freaking Europe were having CONNIPTIONS because of something that was happening a mere 150 km away from me. While my life was about as ho-hum as could be.


The Icelandic Tourist Council sent out a press release a little while ago that they asked some of us to publicize, because apparently there are a lot of misconceptions floating around about just what’s happening here. Lots of fearmongering and stuff, and people cancelling trips here as far away as this summer because they think we’re just shuffling around knee-deep in volcanic ash with dust masks on and that all of Iceland is a High Risk Danger Zone. The Tourist Council even went out and interviewed a bunch of tourists just so everyone could see that they’re having a great time and probably won’t even want to go back home by the time this is over.*



The Icelandic Tourist Council wants to emphasize that day-to-day life in Iceland is going on as usual, even though the volcanic eruption in Eyjafjallajökull glacier on the south coast of Iceland has made a profound impact and generated dangers in that specified area. In other parts of the country, Icelanders’ daily life is proceeding quite normally.

Even though the eruption in Eyjafjallajökull is relatively small, airborne volcanic ash has dispersed over a wide area and disrupted air travel in Europe. It is the joint task of the aviation and tourism authorities in Europe to find ways to transport travellers to their destinations with absolute safety.

It is the task of Iceland’s Civil Protection Department to ensure that the utmost safety measures are followed in Iceland, and to provide a constant flow of information to all parties that need it. This is being handled in a very efficient and experienced way by teams of experts in all relevant areas. Euro Control and the Volcanic Ash Centre take decisions on air travel authorisations in Europe.

Even if the eruption is prolonged – and its duration is impossible to predict – it is considered not unlikely that volcanic ash formation will taper off once the preconditions for the mixture of water and embers no longer exist.

The Icelandic Tourist Council hopes that exaggerated and misleading news reports on the eruption and the impact on daily life in Iceland, published in some of the international media over the last couple of days, will not cause undue alarm but encourages travellers to keep abreast of developments.

Travellers currently in Iceland are safe and sound, and the appropriate parties are making every effort to make their stay as pleasant and comfortable as possible. All travellers stranded in Reykjavík due to the flight restrictions to Europe have been offered a complimentary  Reykjavík Welcome Card which gives access to all the museums and exhibitions in Reykjavík, thermal pools, public transport and more.


As I mentioned in a previous post, I was due to fly out of here on Monday, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be grounded. Wondering if I can collect a complimentary Reykjavík Welcome Card. Hmm…..

* kidding



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Paul H April 18, 2010, 1:54 am

    As long as the Jet Stream does its job we will be over to stay in Iceland as often as possible.
    I also seem to have gained the Icelandic attribute of running towards volcanoes instead of away from them. 🙂

  • Jessica April 18, 2010, 2:57 am

    I’ve seen plenty of bewildered, unintentional tourists wandering around Reykjavik in the last few days due to connecting flights being grounded…I’d be curious to hear their responses when a local asks “How do you like Iceland?”

  • Elizabeth April 18, 2010, 4:53 am

    I would try if I were you. Tell them you’re visiting from Canada. HAHA!!

    My sister in law is like you Paul H. She ran towards to take pictures. My father in law wasn’t impressed though.

    I hope all these eruptions are done by August. DH wants to come home for a visit and we want to bring all our little Vikings with us. Can’t wait to hear my husband’s family give me the standard “So, how do you like Iceland so far! “. haha

    Have a wonderful Sunday Alda.

  • Dale olafson April 18, 2010, 7:14 am

    I’m casually observing the climate in Iceland, both economically and environmentally. Until a few weeks ago Iceland was a country that I fantasied visiting (from early childhood) but new little about. It was a combination of receiving an old family photo album and finally giving into family requests to join Facebook that this fantasy has become an obsession. I’m fascinated by the people that I’ve been introduced to through Facebook. It seems that you truly are an amazing highly evolved tribe of human beings. It seems there could not have been a more interesting time to clue into Iceland with all the Drama that seems to be happening. As an outsider I’m wondering what can I do to assist you and your people in any way. For example, as a Canadian neighbor, concerned about the health and well being of my fellow human being where best can we prepare to serve you in case of emergency? As a country do you have a plan?

  • kevin oconnor,waterford ireland April 18, 2010, 7:19 am

    Yes it does seem to be going on for a bit I would not hold out for that flight, I think there are dispensations for emergency flights and people that fly in private Lear Jets below 15000 feet,If you are going to the nothern artic tip of Norway you should be alright, but here in Ireland we have dust reports on the ground. However if that Katla gets going worse volcano but easier to say than that other one, then we will be in to a worse situation as surtsey=3 on the index that Katla is 10 times that and as for the big daddy Laki at 1000 times, well Alda I think your post of ” don’t worry tourists” would be illegal under the sale of goods act, at that point Icesave does not matter anymore.

  • Ethan April 18, 2010, 8:33 am

    I wonder whether Gordon Brown will freeze the IceAsh Bank which has been offering high interest rates lately…

  • Joerg April 18, 2010, 9:20 am

    This is pretty surreal in Germany, too. As I live close to Frankfurt Airport I am used to the noise of planes and condensation trails and everything but today – nothing of it. No cloud, no noise, no plane.

    Here is a bigger picture showing, which area in Iceland is affected by ash:


    This whole danger of volcanic ash seems to be a discovery of the last decade. In 1996 I took a flight to Iceland one day after the big Grimsvötn eruption. It was a clear day and there was a huge cloud visible above Vatnajökull from the plane, but I can’t remember any airtraffic disruption then.

    And currently the airlines seem to be raising doubts about those strict measures. Let’s see, when it will be over.

    I begin to doubt about being able to travel to Iceland at the end of this month, particular if there is still uncertainty about returning home. But I will definitely not cancel my summer vacation there – I’ll be travelling via ferry, anyway.

  • teeup5 April 18, 2010, 10:38 am

    This is all facinating but for us who live in Europe with this HUGE cloud of ash over our heads can we expect future health problems if something is not done quickly to stop the smoke and ash being emitted?

    I have head a suggestion that the “relevant authorities” should bomb the volcano to release the pressure and thus allow it to subside and disipate.

    Note, nothing is said about the economic loss to Europe but I presume that “health reasons” sounds better than that awful word “money”!

  • Daphne April 18, 2010, 11:32 am

    My husband is stranded in Helsinki on a business trip – he should have come home on Thursday. But hey, it’s inconvenient but no more. And I’ve never had a text before that said “Plane delayed because of volcano”: that was a first! Thank you for your interesting post about it. I have always wanted to visit Iceland and hope I will one day – I live in Leeds in the North of England.

  • Michael Lewis April 18, 2010, 3:36 pm

    I have head a suggestion that the “relevant authorities” should bomb the volcano …

    I’ve heard tell that Sir Gerald Nabardo has a pet prawn called Simon and you wouldn’t call him a looney; furthermore, Dawn Pailthorpe, the lady show-jumper, had a clam, called Stafford, after the late Chancellor, Allan Bullock has two pikes, both called Chris, and Marcel Proust had an haddock! So, if you’re calling the author of ‘A la recherche du temps perdu’ a looney, I shall have to ask you to step outside!

    Looney idea. Best laugh I’ve had all week.

  • jo6pac April 18, 2010, 5:19 pm

    May be this is Mother Iceland way of getting back at those who would inslave its citizens because of the greed of others:)

  • idunn April 18, 2010, 6:20 pm

    If Eyjafjallajökull awakes Katla that bridge they are trying to protect on Hringvegur may not last. Tis said the 1755 eruption of Katla released a peak flood discharge of 200,000–400,000 m³/s.

    The average flow of the Yangtze, Nile, Mississippi and Amazon combined is but 266,000 m³/s.

  • Rozanne April 18, 2010, 7:04 pm

    I knew you’d have the scoop on what’s REALLY going on. Glad it’s pretty much business as usual, despite the eruption. Congrats on getting all that work done, too. That’s a good feeling!

  • Mike April 18, 2010, 7:26 pm

    Channel 4 News in the UK has just broadcast some STUNNING video from close to the mountain. Sadly the online version is about the size of a postage stamp, but it’s here:


    I want to be there more than anything right now – grrrrr!


  • Mike April 18, 2010, 7:51 pm

    teeup5 wrote
    ‘This is all facinating but for us who live in Europe with this HUGE cloud of ash over our heads can we expect future health problems if something is not done quickly to stop the smoke and ash being emitted?’

    If you’re susceptible to asthma or other respiratory conditions you should carry your medication and avoid strenuous outdoor exercise. If you can smell sulfur or see visible ash fall then you should stay indoors.

    For everyone else, there is *no* risk if conditions remain as they are. In fact the cloud over Europe is much less of a risk than urban smog which we get on with every day of our lives.

    ‘I have head a suggestion that the “relevant authorities” should bomb the volcano to release the pressure and thus allow it to subside and disipate.’

    I shouldn’t take the bait – but – chomp!

    The people who make these suggestions don’t realise just how big and powerful volcanoes are. Even a small eruption like this is much larger than anything in our non-nuclear arsenals, and even a hydrogen bomb wouldn’t make a significant dent on the volcano.

    Besides, the worst thing that could happen were if the magma under the mountain suddenly depressurised. All of the water and gas currently dissolved in the molten rock would turn to vapour and the magma would turn into a thick, exploding cloud of droplets of molten rock. There would be an immense eruption far more dangerous than the current one.

    If you want to know what that would be like – here’s a video. Mount St. Helens had been quietly erupting in 1980, gradually swelling up with new magma rising under the volcano. Eventually, part of the side of the mountain slid away in what was then the largest landslide ever seen. As soon as the weight of that part of the mountain was removed, the magma ‘fizzed’…


    (the explosion is about 58 seconds in)

    If you watch, you can see the side of the mountain sliding away followed by the explosion itself coming out of the side of the mountain rather than the top. That was about one-thousand times larger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

    So be glad that Iceland doesn’t have any mountains like Mt. St. Helens. Eyjafjallajökull is a small eruption from a nice little mountain that’s doing very little harm in the scheme of things. (When I say ‘small’ I mean it’s only producing 450 tonnes of ash a second) Let’s try to enjoy the sensation that there are still some things over which we have no power.

    And it’s nice to know that Iceland is still there and people are getting on with their lives. You’re having some stunning weather – what a shame I can’t get on a plane to share it!



  • alda April 18, 2010, 8:01 pm

    Mike, it’s being reported that it was 750 tons per second. 750 Yaris’s per second!

  • Joerg April 18, 2010, 8:43 pm

    Mike, thanks for your links and illuminating matter-of-fact comments on issues surrounding the eruption.

    Just a note, how different things can be far away from the actual source of this eruption – there are currently 700 people trapped within the transit zone of Frankfurt Airport. They had landed in Frankfurt on their way to their final destination, when the airport closed down last Friday, but they don’t have an entry visa to be allowed to pass immigrations and leave the airport.

    Worse things happen in the world but somehow, this must be like in Steven Spielberg’s movie “The Terminal”. I suppose, it would make me feel pretty claustrophobic. There has even been set up a special entertainment program for those people.

  • Frank Lynch April 18, 2010, 9:12 pm

    Good on ya, Iceland. Brown enacts terrorist legislation against Iceland’s banks; Iceland blows up a mountain and bankrupts the UK’s airlines. Keep up the good work!

  • Mike Richards April 18, 2010, 10:05 pm

    alda ‘ 750 Yaris’s per second!’

    Sobering isn’t it? But look on the bright side; Eyjafjallajökull is a lot less dangerous than a Toyota 😉

  • Mike Richards April 18, 2010, 10:07 pm

    Joerg wrote about the delays at Frankfurt: ‘There has even been set up a special entertainment program for those people.’

    There’s something similar in the UK; a troupe of comedians is touring the country telling amusing tall stories – they call it an election.

  • alda April 18, 2010, 10:12 pm


  • Peter - London April 18, 2010, 10:58 pm

    The Icelandic Tourist Council is going to have its work cut out, the projections show that Iceland is going to be cut off from North America as well as Europe in the next few days.

  • Mike April 18, 2010, 11:10 pm

    Hi folks – the best video I’ve seen of the eruption so far – a helicopter managed to get this -> <- close to the volcano. The footage is utterly extraordinary.



  • Mike April 18, 2010, 11:19 pm

    I promise to shut up for the night now. The Institute of Earth Sciences at the University of Iceland has estimated that some 140 *MILLION* m3 of material has been erupted so far. Which would be something getting on for 200 million tonnes of new Iceland in three days.


  • Mike Richards April 19, 2010, 1:35 pm

    Latest volcano update.

    The mountain is deflating – the magma which has been pushing it up and causing it to expand (by a few centimetres, you couldn’t tell with the naked eye), has either been erupted or is retreating deeper in the Earth.

    The eruption today appears to be less energetic than before and might be becoming more traditionally Icelandic with fire fountains and cinder rather than lots of ash.

    This doesn’t mean the eruption is over, or even that there won’t be another ash eruption, it’s just changing. And it might mean the end to the ash haze over the Atlantic.

    In the meantime – here’s another awesome photo. This must be one of the most photographed eruptions in history:



  • nick April 20, 2010, 1:26 pm

    I drove a rental Yaris on my first trip around Iceland.

    Nice little car, just trying to imagine 750 of them being blasted into the sky each and every second…….


    yep, that’s impressive.

  • Hazel Smith April 20, 2010, 2:41 pm

    I was saying in my blog that Google news has 14,000 news items about the volcano and the problems it’s creating but not one word about how the population of Iceland was doing. Thanks for reassuring me that you are OK.