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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrEyjafjallajökull literally erupted onto the world's headlines in 2010 when its explosive activities wreaked havoc with European air travel, bringing planes to a standstill as ash clouds severely inhibited visibility. In Icelandic, the name means "Island mountain glacier" and it is actually the name of the small ice cap that completely covers the caldera of a volcano that towers 1,651 meters high. It is around 80 square kilometers and feeds a number of glaciers that flow from it, cutting away at the volcano’s sides.
GeographyThe volcano is a stratovolcano with a crater spanning 3-4 kilometers and is part of a chain of volcanoes that stretch across Iceland. Divergence of the mid-Atlantic ridge and the resultant tectonic activity causes magma to rise through the chamber before being released at the crater rim. The crater rim has three main peaks – Guðnasteinn at 1,500 meters (1,494 meter), Hámundur at 1,651 meters (1,651 meter), and Goðasteinn at 1,497 meters (1,497 meter). The mountain itself is composed of basalt to Andesite lava, and eruptions have varied from effusive fissure eruptions producing alkaline magma, to highly explosive eruptions producing alkalic magma, trachyte or trachyandesite. There are also fissure vents on both sides of the mountain.
EruptionsThree relatively recent eruptions at Eyjafjallajökull have been followed by eruptions at the Katla volcanic complex, 25 km to the east, suggesting a mechanical ‘coupling’ of magmatic systems and volcanic activity, although the two volcanoes exhibit contrasting intensities of eruptions.
The southern face of the mountain was once part of Iceland’s Atlantic Coast, prior to sea retreat, resulting in the current flat plains that stretch 2-5 km to the ocean. Waterfalls cascade down the sheer cliffs to emerald green pastures. The most famous of these is Skógafoss .
Recent eruptions were recorded in 920, 1612, from 1821-1823 (resulting in a glacial lake outburst flood), and three times in 2010. While the first eruption in 2010 was minor with around 500 evacuated out of caution, the second eruption was 20 times more powerful resulting in serious disruptions to aircraft travel across Europe and the cancellation of thousands of flights. Due to such dramatic disturbance to the movement of people and economies, its name made headline news, stumping journalists across the world because of its difficult pronunciation.
ActivitiesThe spectacular scenery on and around Eyjafjallajökull make it an area worth spending a few days to explore. Its glaciers, valleys and rich trekking opportunities make it an outdoor enthusiast's wonderland!
The base of the volcano can also be explored during jeep tours that take in the outlet glacier of Gígjökull at its base, and nearby Þórsmörk canyon, as well as stunning waterfalls such as Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss, and the ashfall areas from the 2010 eruption. It is possible to hike the volcano, passing through valleys, canyons and a crevassed glacier to the peak that allows views across Iceland to Mýrdalsjökull glacier, Mt. Hekla, Tindfjallajökull glacier and the Vestmannaeyjar Islands, 11 km off the coast. It is possible to ski down the volcano on descent also. The hike takes around 10-12 hours and can be attempted between April and September. It is essential to be well prepared with warm clothing and good hiking boots. A guide is highly recommend because of the volatility of this landscape.
Getting there:Eyjafjallajökull is about 130 km from Rekyjavik along a well sealed road. There are flights available from many major cities to Rekyjavik and car hire available at the airport to facilitate independent exploration of the island.
The spectacular Landmannalaugar highland region is also nearby, site of one of the world's great multi-day hikes along the Laugavegur Trail, and the island has a number of smoking geysers to explore, including Strokkur, 100 km east of Reykjavik.
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Author: Pip23. Last updated: Aug 09, 2014