The newest tourist attraction in Iceland

On March 19th…at 8:45 P.M., a six-hundred-and-fifty-foot-long fissure opened near Fagradalsfjall—which means the Mountain of the Beautiful Valley. Svanur Snorrason and his daughter were two of the first people to witness a volcanic eruption on the Reykjanes Peninsula since the thirteenth or fourteenth century…

Scientists kept changing their estimates of the anticipated life span of the eruption—from a few days to hundreds of years. The last time the Reykjanes Peninsula became active, it remained so for about three centuries. In the nine weeks since the fissure first opened, the site had rapidly and abruptly changed in appearance and behavior. In the first month, eight vents had opened; they were given such nicknames as Norðri (Northie) and Suðri (Southie). In early May, a fissure known merely as Vent 5 transformed into a spectacular fire geyser, shooting lava as high as a thousand feet into the air. Since then, everything but Vent 5 had become inactive…

The eruption is certainly better-mannered than many others that have marked Iceland’s geothermic history. Unlike the 2010 eruption at the Eyjafjallajökull ice cap, the Fagradalsfjall eruption isn’t hosing the atmosphere with lethal gas and ash, upending international air travel and forcing Icelanders to flee their homes. Unlike the 1973 eruption on the offshore island of Heimaey, it threatens to eradicate no town or fill a fishing harbor with land. Unlike the 1783 eruption of the Laki fissure, it’s not powerful enough to cause a worldwide extreme winter, leading to crop failures and famines. And it doesn’t pose the ongoing hazard of Mt. Hekla, a still active volcano that, after it erupted in 1104, became known as the Gateway to Hell. Fagradalsfjall had thus far caused no deaths and, temporary traffic jams aside, it had barely even proved an inconvenience. But I knew that, given the unpredictable nature of volcanic eruptions, it was foolish to bank on good manners.

Been reading my stuff long enough, you know I love Iceland. This tale is just one of the reasons. Read it all. Go visit. Enjoy the snow and ice, volcanoes, fish and fishing. Meet hardy folks.

2 thoughts on “The newest tourist attraction in Iceland

    • Kjötsúpa says:

      “…The eruption is certainly better-mannered than many others that have marked Iceland’s geothermic history. Unlike the 2010 eruption at the Eyjafjallajökull ice cap, the Fagradalsfjall eruption isn’t hosing the atmosphere with lethal gas and ash, upending international air travel and forcing Icelanders to flee their homes. Unlike the 1973 eruption on the offshore island of Heimaey, it threatens to eradicate no town or fill a fishing harbor with land. Unlike the 1783 eruption of the Laki fissure, it’s not powerful enough to cause a worldwide extreme winter, leading to crop failures and famines. And it doesn’t pose the ongoing hazard of Mt. Hekla, a still active volcano that, after it erupted in 1104, became known as the Gateway to Hell. Fagradalsfjall had thus far caused no deaths and, temporary traffic jams aside, it had barely even proved an inconvenience. But I knew that, given the unpredictable nature of volcanic eruptions, it was foolish to bank on good manners.” Heidi Julavits, Letter from Iceland,
      The New Yorker, August 23, 2021 Issue.

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