Iceland: Land of ice and fire
A volcano near the Fagradalsfjall mountain in Iceland erupted in early August and has since been attracting onlookers from all over the world. The lava could flow for at least six months, say experts.
An explosive event
The valley of Meradalir is glowing: Lava is spewing from a fissure several hundred meters long. The area is uninhabited, but only about 30 kilometers (ca. 18 miles) from Iceland's capital, Reykjavik. Authorities have warned that other nearby cracks could open up.
Observing the spectacle
Even though there is no direct danger from the ash clouds and the lava, the nearby village of Vogar could be affected by harmful gases that could even spread to Reykjavik, according to the Icelandic Meteorological Office. This has not stopped visitors from coming to see the eruption in record numbers.
A monthslong eruption?
Last year, the nearby volcano of Fagradalsfjall spewed lava for six months. It was the longest eruption in Iceland in over half a century. Icelandic volcanologists believe it is entirely possible that the current eruption could last just as long.
Time to contemplate
Maybe tourists will have a while to take in the spectacle, from as safe a distance as possible. So far, the lava fountains have been reaching heights of about 70 meters (ca. 230 feet). Within the first week, the lava field around the volcano had reached a size equivalent to about 20 soccer fields.
No walk in the park
The hike to see this volcano is almost 15 kilometers (ca. 9 miles) through difficult terrain and involves a climb of 300 meters. But this is no deterrent for volcano fans — nor are the strong winds and rain. One French tourist told the AFP news agency that it was worth it: "You really see nature's power," she said. "It's something you'll probably only see once in your life."
Right up close for the camera
These two daring tourists ventured dangerously close to the lava to get a perfect picture. They are among the 23,000 people who have visited the site, according to the Icelandic tourism agency. Some 4,600 enjoyed the spectacle on Wednesday alone after a three-day closure.
Rivers of gold
This eruption did not come as a surprise, as it was preceded by strong seismic activity in the region. The volcano belongs to the Krysuvik volcanic system along the Reykjanes peninsula in southwestern Iceland. In the days prior to the eruption, the IMO recorded over 10,000 earthquakes in the area, with two measuring more than magnitude 5 on the Richter scale.
Land of fire and ice
Iceland, which is known as the "land of fire and ice," has the most active volcanic systems in Europe. In March 2010, tourists gathered to watch lava spew from the Fimmvorduhals volcano. The following month, air traffic was paralyzed for a month after the nearby Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted. Millions of travelers were stranded. So far, air traffic has not been affected by the current eruption.