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Thursday, 25 August 2011

Searching for Eyjafjallajökull - Page 3

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Following the windblown ride through the hardened lava, we strolled through the manageable streets of Reykjavik on our way home, glimpsing impressive architecture, including Hallgrimskirkja, a Lutheran Parish Church standing at 244 feet high. Several feet before it rests a monument in the form of a statute of Leif Erikson, the Norwegian/Icelandic explorer who was the first European thought to have landed in North America. A gift from the United States to Iceland for the 1000th anniversary of Iceland’s first parliament, this magnanimous little statue is, sadly, anything but the Statue of Liberty. For a statue in gratitude of self-discovery of our own land, perhaps the United States could have at least come as close as France did when they thanked us for instigating revolutions of independence around the Western World.

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A day later came the Vatnajökull Voyager: a fourteen-hour day, bookended by long bus drives through central Iceland to reach the Virisjolkull glacier. Our tour group divided upon arrival at Vatnajökull National Park, where half of the visitors spent the day traipsing through the greenery, and the other half of us donned ice pics and crampons. Our Scandinavian guide, who could double for Bear Grylls, led us through the virgin terrain with humor, sophistication, and candor both at the country’s struggling economy as well as its significant impact to global climate change.

As we followed this tall glacier hunter up into mountains of ice – where certain death awaited at every turn in the form of bottomless pits called Moulins – this man charmed the land with his skilled hands and playful history. We felt safe and knowledgeable while he opined on the economic crisis impounding his country, proselytized in that he may or may not have believed in global warming, and teased unwitting tourists who traveled all the way to Vatnajökull National Park from Reykjavik only to remain in the park and never step foot on a glacier. “It’s like going to America and not seeing Disneyland!”He said.  Most telling, though, was his signatory subscription of responsibility to an overactive media for slowing down tourists during the most remarkable moment in his life: witnessing the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull. Just as all Icelandic tourist companies pled during that foggy time, there was truly no problem within Iceland itself. Ash did not waft to Reykjavik and the eruption was contained in a very small, finite portion of the country. Most people were unaffected. Still, although our concern three months earlier was not about our safety in Iceland, but rather our ability to return home to America after the trip concluded, secretly, my reasonable sensibilities tore in half as the guilt poured in. We should not have waited. We should have visited during the eruption. We made a mistake and would never reach our own lava-powered windmill.

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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