As Werner Herzog said in Into the Inferno: ‘It is a fire that wants to burst forth and it could not care less about what we are doing up here.’
Actually, unless there is an eruption, it is the people who could not care less about the forces of nature while settling nearby active volcanoes that can literally melt their existence out the surface.
Iceland, the land of ice and fire is one of the best places to have a reflection on this disastrous force to which Herzog dedicated his new film.
Especially, when you realize you are only couple of kilometers from the rift where tectonic plates are constantly spreading out and actually at this very moment you are standing on a giant magma vein that is ready to erupt and does not care about spoiling your Golden Circle plans.
The tube under Iceland is filled with magma – melted rock. When it comes out to surface during eruption it becomes lava and once cooled off it’s a crystallized mixture of minerals.
The Lava Center is a suitable place if you want to acquire knowledge about volcanic processes by the example of Iceland. The museum is located close to one of the most active Iceland’s volcano – Hekla. In the Middle Ages this stratovolcano erupted so frequently that it started to be called a ‘Gateway to Hell’.
Approx. 80km from Lava Center lies another deadly Icelandic volcano – Katla. The last eruption of Katla in 1918 ejected such a truckload of volcanic ash – that it created black sandy beaches on the south coast, like Reynisfjara or the one in Vík í Mýrdal. According to the local guide with who we have a chat, it took only in 6 days to cover approx. half of the coast in volcanic ash. If you would drive on the Road Nr 1 while eruption of Katla, you would probably suffocate in your car in pyroclastic flow – a fast-moving current of hot gas and volcanic matter. Let’s hope Katla will remain asleep under Mýrdalsjökull glacier still for a very long time.
Although it would be one in the lifetime experience to see an eruption with lava flowing down the mountain like a red and orange tongue of fire. It might as well be your last life experience. Thus we are happy that we can see it so close, but on the walls of this museum.
The interior of the museum is designed in the way to impose direction of sightseeing. You are invited to go through a time corridor of Iceland’s countless eruptions. The journey is accompanied by adequate sounds of lava movements and released sulfuric gases.
Another infamous volcano of Iceland is Eyjafjallajökull. This one stopped air traffic over Europe and inadvertently became more effective touristic advertisement of the country then any state or private PR campaign. The eruption of Eyjafjallajökull had also many negative repercussions. Destroying bridge near Vik, changing the color of water in Skógafoss into ashy grey, flooding hundreds of farm animals that were left behind after the inhabitants of the area were evacuated and changing visibility of air for approx. 2 years are only some of them.
Eyja means an island, Fjalla means mountain and Jökull means glacier.
After passing through the main aorta of the exhibition and watching some cool interactive displays, the real fun starts. Now, you have to walk through the corridor that imitates earthquakes by using your senses. Yes, the floor in this room really moves as you were experiencing earthquakes with various magnitude on the Richter scale.
Afterwards, you can visit the room where various types of pyroclasts are displayed. Pyroclasts are types of material that a volcano can eject during eruption and are composed of: fragments rock and fine materials, like volcanic ash and dust. They are classified by size into volcanic bombs, volcanic blocks, volcanic ash and volcanic dust.
It happens often that one, main volcano crater can be surrounded by other smaller craters and create a volcanic system where everything is connected. There are roughly 30 volcanic systems under Iceland responsible for earthquakes and lava movements.
Some of Icelandic volcanoes have a word glacier – jökull in their name, like Eyjafjallajökull, Hofsjökull, Snæfellsjökull or the latest star of Icelandic news, as it gave lately some signs of growing activity – Öræfajökull.
It’s because they are covered with ice capes, which makes them actually more dangerous as weight of the ice cape creates pressure on a surface of a volcano and causes more violent eruption.
The eruptions of the volcanoes covered by glaciers are also followed by extreme floods.
You can see an interactive exhibition about volcanoes and glaciers in the last room of the Lava Center.