Thanks for waiting patiently for this post – it’s been a long 19 hour day…
Even though it is against everything I’ve always been taught about writing, I’m going to start this post on a bad note. But don’t worry, it gets good. Really good!
Today was the day that I had scheduled a trip to go up Mt. Eyjafjallajökull which is Icelandic for “Island Mountain Glacier” and is the volcano that erupted last year causing mass flight mayhem throughout Europe. The issue is the weather turned out to be pretty poor, so we didn’t actually get to hike up the mountain at all, nor did we see the top of it because of thick clouds and fog. But, we did get to physically touch Eyjafjallajökull glacier.
Wait, what? That’s right, Mt. Eyjafjallajökull isn’t a mountain at all, (well it is based on the fact that it is taller than the surrounding area), instead, this volcano is one giant glacier. What does that mean when it erupted? Well, picture millions of tons of glacial ice melting instantly and wrecking havoc on the land around the mountain. This photo…
…depicts a glacial river fed from Eyjafjallajökull Glacier. During the time of the eruption, all of the land you see here, including where I’m standing to take the photograph, and all the way to the mountains in the distance, was transformed into a raging ice-cold river three feet deep. Roads were flooded and shut down, people were evacuated, but thankfully there aren’t many buildings nearby that could have gotten swept away by the water. Here is one more photograph of the land that would have been completely flooded just one year ago.
After navigating the rugged terrain caused by the glacial ice-melt during the time of the eruption, we learned that the terrain was only going to get worse. A warning sign cautioned us of proceeding further due to sink holes of deadly quicksand, sudden bottomless pits dropping into the earth from under our feet, and random pockets of poisonous gases that could erupt from the ground at any given moment. Yet, of course, this sign didn’t deter us from continuing on our journey and we moved on to the front of Eyjafjallajökull Glacier.
In the above photograph, way out in the distance and just below the fog, you can see the head to Eyjafjallajökull Glacier, while, at the same time, on the very left of the picture there is a hill of black rock that seems to lead up to the ridgeline if it wasn’t cut-off by the edge of the photograph. This black mound is where the front of the glacier was, before the lava poured into this valley and melted it all the way back to where you can see it in the distance now. Just imagine how much water would be rushing through where I had to stand in order to take the photo! It’s unbelievable.
Here is the first photo to this post again, the back-side to that black mound, the furthest point that Eyjafjallajökull Glacier used to touch before the lava melted it away. Here, ice still clings to the volcanic rocks and ash.
Normally, we would move forward just a little bit farther, but not much. However, thanks to myself and a man from Sweden that I met on this trip, and the way our adventurous mindsets worked so well together, we convinced the guide to allow us to at least attempt to go all the way to the edge of the glacier.
I know what you’re thinking: “Umm, didn’t you say ‘sink holes of quicksand?’ What did you say about ‘bottomless pits’ earlier? Wait, did you say the words ‘poisonous gasses’?”
Sure did! But it turns out that we had an Icelandic guide with the same adventurous personality as ours, so, despite telling us a story about a jeep that had tried to navigate this environment not too long ago, which ended up being engulfed in a pit when the ground gave way around them and was lost in an underground glacial river, we headed toward the ice front anyways. Just a note, the tourists in that jeep were rescued. This time, that pit was not bottomless.
We headed forward, passing eerily by depressions in the Earth that were covered over by snow in such a way that it was impossible to tell if stepping there would cause you to fall through or not, and around holes in the ground from where the sediment had actually collapsed. (This happens when underground ice melts because of a sudden rise in ground temperature due to the volcanic region. When the ice melts, there is nothing left to hold up the ground above, so the earth suddenly slumps and drops into a hole.)
We parked our truck next to this. Good idea? Probably not. But to give you an idea of the size of this, it could have swallowed a whole monster truck if it were parked there when it collapsed.
And then there were the larger holes just like the one above, which were only covered with a thin layer of snow, making it impossible to tell where to step. Look closely; see the lines in the snow leading down toward the bottom of the pit? A hole like this could have given away beneath our feet at any moment, or from beneath our truck, which we left parked next to that other one. As we hiked on, I never stopped joking about the possibility of us returning to find our truck swallowed whole, leaving us stuck at the foot of Eyjafjallajökull Glacier for a few days.
Yet, despite the dangers, the reward was spectacular (don’t they say good things never come without risk?). I had never been able to physically touch a glacier before. Please enjoy the following photos of Eyjafjallajökull Glacier (volcano) as most people never see it, up-close-and-personal.
Notice the black ash on what used to be a shining blue glacier.
And lastly, as my new friend from Sweden says – I have to prove I didn’t copy these off the internet somehow…
Hopefully you enjoyed my photos as much as I did capturing them and exploring this region! Thanks for viewing.
– Nate, from Iceland.