Published September 26, 2014
Anna’s 48th Editorial
The biggest news from Iceland these days is undoubtedly the eruption. Of course it’s not everyday that a volcano erupts. But it’s hardly a once-in-a-lifetime event either. Holuhraun is actually the fourth Icelandic volcano to erupt in the last four years, and it’s been hurling lava for nearly a month now.
Sprawled across three seats on a half-empty flight back to Iceland shortly after the latest eruption began, I found myself wondering if it was an unusually slow day for travel or if the eruption was scaring people off. The Eyjafjallajökull eruption certainly showed the world that our volcanoes are capable of stranding people (google “I Hate Iceland” in case you missed that one). Fearing great damage to Iceland’s tourism industry, the government poured money into a campaign (which you may know as Inspired By Iceland) specifically designed to turn around any negative press or rumours that the country had become one big ashtray.
So far this eruption hasn’t been as devastating as Eyjafjallajökull, as there has been no ash cloud to contend with, but it hasn’t exactly been a so-called tourist eruption either. Unlike the Fimmvörðuháls eruption, which people could go see, this one is closed off to everyone except scientists and media people who must have an Icelandic guide and a special permit. For most people the only way to see it is from above, and companies are charging many hundreds of euros for the opportunity (pro tip: you can spend a lot less on a flight between Reykjavík and Egilsstaðir and you’ll have a fairly good chance of seeing it).
Disappointing as it is, there is good reason for closing the area off to the public. The gases being released are no joking matter. If you plan to sneak in (note: painting “Icelandic Earth Studies” on your jeep probably won’t cut it at this point), you will face huge fines and, worse yet, you might die. The gas is now blowing across the country, but the unhealthy levels are fortunately concentrated around the remote eruption site. So for those of you who have Airwaves tickets but have been holding off on your plane tickets and hotels, you’ll probably be just fine. We certainly aren’t running around with gas masks here in Reykjavík.
Life continues on the island, and in other non-eruption news, Iceland has a hip hop scene (actually we’ve had one for a couple of decades now!). A handful of people from that small scene are featured on our cover this issue. Now turn to page 19 to read more about them and what makes them tick.
Also, in case you’re interested: the Story of how we didn’t see the eruption.