One way to get a really good overview of Icelandic landscape is by chartering a small plane to show us more of Iceland from the sky. Most photos by me, and two photos by my good friend Svein Nordahl – as stated on the pictures.
I have in several previous posts covered a lot of the special geological conditions that Iceland offers, but I don’t see how I can write a series from Iceland and not mention volcanic eruptions. We were lucky to get a really good view of some volcanos from the plane.
Let’s (once again) turn to my beloved Wikipedia:
“A volcano is a rupture in the crust of a planetary-mass object, such as Earth, that allows hot lava, volcanic ash, and gases to escape from a magma chamber below the surface.
Earth’s volcanoes occur because its crust is broken into 17 major, rigid tectonic plates that float on a hotter, softer layer in its mantle. Therefore, on Earth, volcanoes are generally found where tectonic plates are diverging or converging. For example, a mid-oceanic ridge, such as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, has volcanoes caused by divergent tectonic plates pulling apart; the Pacific Ring of Fire has volcanoes caused by convergent tectonic plates coming together. Volcanoes can also form where there is stretching and thinning of the crust’s interior plates, e.g., in the East African Rift and the Wells Gray-Clearwater volcanic field and Rio Grande Rift in North America. This type of volcanism falls under the umbrella of “plate hypothesis” volcanism. Volcanism away from plate boundaries has also been explained as mantle plumes. These so-called “hotspots”, for example Hawaii, are postulated to arise from upwelling diapirs with magma from the core–mantle boundary, 3,000 km deep in the Earth. Volcanoes are usually not created where two tectonic plates slide past one another.
Erupting volcanoes can pose many hazards, not only in the immediate vicinity of the eruption. One such hazard is that volcanic ash can be a threat to aircraft, in particular those with jet engines where ash particles can be melted by the high operating temperature; the melted particles then adhere to the turbine blades and alter their shape, disrupting the operation of the turbine. Large eruptions can affect temperature as ash and droplets of sulfuric acid obscure the sun and cool the Earth’s lower atmosphere (or troposphere); however, they also absorb heat radiated up from the Earth, thereby warming the upper atmosphere (or stratosphere). Historically, so-called volcanic winters have caused catastrophic famines.”
OK, that was a (not so short) explanation of volcanoes from the scientific angle. But say you were a Viking fleeing the terror and killings of Harald Hårfagre (Fair hair) in Norway some thousand years ago, and when arriving in Iceland you see volcanoes for the first time. You have never seen them before. Never heard of them. How will you explain this to yourself and others? You can’t just pitch an idea about tectonic plates, because that is nonexistent in your knowledge base. There are lots of mythological and legend based explanations around the world for the phenomena of volcanoes, and if you were a Viking, chances are you’d connect it with Norse Mythology.
The Norse god Loki was tied up underneath the earth and a poisonous snake would drip venom in his face. When Loki shuddered from the pain, he would create earthquakes (earthquakes are common before eruptions)
The eruption itself is the fire giant Surtr emerging from the ground. Now, you do not want to cross paths with this badboy! Surtr will be a major figure in the events of Ragnarök where his flames will engulf the Earth (basically the end of the world, from which the world will resurface anew and fertile, to be repopulated and rebuildt.)
There are also local legends connected with some of the volcanoes in Iceland, often involving witchcraft – and magic underwear!
Christians has a tendency to view volcanoes as portals to hell, and that the souls of the condemned travels through volcanoes to reach their final destination.
There are scientific technologies in place today to foresee volcanic eruptions, and measures are being taken to protect lives when they erupt. So don’t let fear stop you from visiting this fantastic island.
One more post in this series coming up – from Blue Lagoon. You do not want to miss that post, so check back tomorrow 🙂