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The Volcano Below

June 14, 2024

In Iceland, volcanoes are a fact of life. In November 2023, an eruption near the coastal town of Grindavik forced the entire population to evacuate.

DW Dokumentationen | Nahaufnahme - Vulkan unter dem Haus
Image: NZZ

 It’s still unclear whether they’ll ever be able to return.

Bryndís Gunnlaugsdóttir Holm was one of the 3,800 evacuated residents. Her house was nearly engulfed by the encroaching lava. There’s now a large crack running through her yard, a situation the police say could be life-threatening if she were to take a wrong step. Ongoing earthquakes and eruptions have caused huge cavities to form beneath the town.

DW Dokumentationen | Nahaufnahme - Vulkan unter dem Haus
Gregory De Pascale, Professor of Tectonics and Structural GeologyImage: NZZ

Gregory De Pascale is a professor of tectonics and structural geology at the University of Iceland. He doubts whether Grindavik will ever be able to return to normal life. There simply aren’t any structural solutions available to counteract such natural forces, he says. That means the fishing community, located some 55 kilometers southwest of Reykjavik, could remain a ghost town.

Grindavik’s former inhabitants are now scattered all over Iceland. But while some want to stay as far away as possible from the volcano, others are trying to get as near as they can. One of them is Bjorn Steinbekk, a volcano hunter whose passion is observing eruptions up close. 


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