An ongoing eruption at one of Iceland’s 130 volcanoes has become the longest the Nordic nation has seen in over 50 years.
Mount Fagradalsfjall in Iceland’s Geldingadalir Valley, 40 km from the capital Reykjavik, first spewed molten lava down its slopes on the afternoon of 19th March.
It was reported that for the first time in 900 years, hot lava flew into the air and landed near the fishing town of Grindavik.
After three weeks of intensified seismic activity that included an estimated 50,000 quakes, the eruption first occurred at Fagradalsfjall on the Reykjanes Peninsula nearly 200 days ago.
The lava flew up to 200 metres into the air and the length of the molten lava river was said to be 500 metres long.
Local media said it is now officially the longest volcanic eruption of the 21st century.
An eruption at Holuhraun lasted from 31st August 2014 to 27th February 2015, but has now been overtaken by Fagradalsfjall.
Meanwhile, the Surtsey fires (Surtseyjareldar), which lasted from 14th November 1963 until June 1967, is still considered the longest volcanic eruption in the country’s history, occurring in the Westman Islands.
The lava field at Fagradalsfjall currently measures 4.6 square kilometres with an estimated volume of 142 million cubic metres.
Geophysicist Pall Einarsson said: “This eruption is in the most unlikely place on the entire Reykjanes Peninsula to erupt. A year ago, we would probably never have guessed that this would be the next eruption site.”
Einarsson added: “This teaches us that unlikely events happen from time to time.”
In June this year, an American tourist hit the headlines after getting too close to the Fagradalsfjall lava flow and having to run for his life.
The American tourist, who later came clean about his visit to the spewing volcano, was spotted by a webcam belonging to the media company Iceland Monitor.
Kristin Jonsdottir, monitor at the Icelandic Meteorological Office, said on Twitter: “This is careless behaviour! On behalf of all those who have worked to keep the area open and safe, by giving advice and laying footpaths, I hope that no one will die in the eruption in Geldingadalir.”
However, the tourist, identified as Vincent Van Reynolds, came clean on social media after sharing several clips of his visit to Geldingadalir on both Facebook and Instagram.
In one post on the ‘Volcanoes’ Facebook group, Van Reynolds said: “Hello everyone. I am that crazy man from the Iceland news who went up the cone, only to run down when a torrent of lava was unleashed. Pile on the hate!”
According to local media, the American tourist, who lives in Denver in Colorado, tried to approach the crater but failed after it was completely surrounded by lava flows.
Van Reynolds, who has a bachelor’s degree in geology, told the news site Visir that his visit was not as perilous as it may have seemed, adding that he is sorry if his behaviour upset anyone and that he plans to visit Iceland again in the future.
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