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Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull Volcano

Thursday, August 26, 2010
Ben Dark visited Iceland to see the aftermath of the eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano. Quite apart from the trouble we have saying the name of the angry mountain (even if it is one of Iceland's smaller ice caps) the disruptions it caused to air traffic were more pronounced. Europe went into shutdown because of the amount of volcanic ash in the air, and that disruption affected flight schedules worldwide. It was the largest air traffic shut down since World War II.

The volcano displayed its anger between March 20 and May 16, 2010 and spewed millions of tonnes of volcanic ash into the atmosphere. It all began under a 200m-thick block of ice, and heat quickly transformed the glacier into a fast-flowing torrent of water.

The resulting flood was nothing short of biblical. Scientists estimate 400,000 litres of melt water washed the glacier from the volcano's side every second, mixing it with millions of tonnes of ash.

Eyjafjallajökull, in the far south of Iceland, has an ice cap covering the caldera 1.7km high and is recorded as erupting since the last Ice Age. Eruptions occurred in 920, 1612 for three days and from 1821 to 1823. Airlines could be grateful that its latest explosion lasted just two months, rather than two years.

Only when its activity has ceased for three months will it be regarded as being dormant — for the time being!

History shows that previous eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull have been followed by eruptions of its larger neighbour, Katla Volcano. Its caldera measures 10km and the volcano erupts every 40 to 80 years. An eruption in sympathy with Eyjafjallajökull's latest appearance is still on the cards, and Iceland's president, Ólafur Grímsson, has put European governments and airline authorities on alert.

Meanwhile, Ben went to Skafta River, 45 minutes by helicopter from Reykjavik, Iceland's capital. It's on the doorstep of Eyjafjallajökull and what he saw amazed him. He said it was like looking at a giant crystal — lots of colours and an enormous strip of orange.

On the two-hour round trip, Ben's pilot told him he saw the flowing and glowing lava and it was quite unbelievable. The ash plume rose 9km, rating it a four on the Volcanic Explosivity Index.

There was a blue haze caused by the emission of sulphurous gases and enormous quantities of dry volcanic ash lying on the ground. Winds lifted the ash mist, reducing visibility and even made web camera observation impossible.

On June 6 a small, new crater had opened up on the western side of the main crater, emitting smaller quantities of ash.

An old saying is that every cloud has a silver lining. Eyjafjallajökull's cloud has created an increase in tourism as well as enormous interest from visiting geophysicists, geologists and volcanologists.

Related: raw video of the big bang in Iceland


Iceland, the scene of Eyjafjallajökul Volcano.


Bentours has a three-day package, including a half-day Jeep tour around the volcano. Tours start in Reykjavik and include accommodation, breakfast and start at $610 per person twin share.

Emirates has flights to London.

Fares from:

  • Perth $1905
  • Melbourne and Adelaide $1958
  • Sydney $1977
  • Brisbane $1980

These fares are available only online to the first 100 people to book. Sales and validity and other conditions apply.

Connections to Reykjavik are available.

Prices correct at August 26, 2010.

For further information

Ph: 1300 303 777

Ph: 1800 221 712

Nordurflug — North Flight
Ph: +354 562 2500

Visas: Not required by Australian passport holders for stays of up to three months.

Electricity: 220V at 50Hz using two-pin plugs with round prongs.

Time zone: GMT.

Currency: Icelandic kroner.

International dialling code: +354.

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