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Sunday, 01 May 2016

Glimpses of a Landscape: Southern Iceland

Written by  Rama Shivakumar
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14th August

Near Keflavík International Airport

 

The dynamic geology of Iceland is intriguing. We drive along the perimeter of this volcanic island in a semi-circle: from Keflavík to Höfn along Route 1. We hope our geological time travel will reveal some events in Earth’s history.

We are confounded. We are awed. We are humbled.

Nature has her way with us.

 

15th August

Off Route 1 near the village of Kirkjubæjarklauster

 

 

Laki Lava Field

The mist hangs low, thick, gray casting an eerie glow over the Laki Lava fields that stretch before us. The damp moss is avocado green, soft, pillowy; we leap and bounce nimbly like the winged creatures in a fantasy movie.

 

Otherworldly.

 

On 8th June 1783, the sun had shone brightly on this very pastureland, lush with livestock and wildflowers. When the Reverend Jón Steingrímsson stepped out to deliver his Sunday sermon, he heard a loud crack and noticed a black cloud rolling towards him. The skies darkened, black ash and hydrofluoric and sulphuric acid rain fell in torrents; a thick slurry of basaltic lava crept down the plains like a black river.

 

Laki had erupted.

 

Not with the apocalyptic aplomb that the world had seen with Mt. Vesuvius, but a more insidious unzipping of the fissures in the series of the Lakigígar cones with far reaching consequences. In the following eight months, nearly half of Iceland’s livestock and a fifth of its population perished; a bluish fog descended on Europe, crops failed, poverty ensued fueling the French Revolution in 1789.

 

The drizzle is cold, refreshing.

 

We don’t stray from the well-marked trail; as far as we can see moss clings to the porous lava mounds like years of succession have tailored it to fit the rocks perfectly.

 

This strange barren land is inviting, haunting.

 

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Last modified on Sunday, 01 May 2016

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