From Iceland — Eruption Site Open To The Public, Hikers Encouraged To Be Cautious

Eruption Site Open To The Public, Hikers Encouraged To Be Cautious

Published July 12, 2023

Photo by
Joel Barger on assignment for Chris Burkard

Kristín Jónsdóttir, the director of nature conservation at the Icelandic Met Office, states that the situation regarding the volcanic eruption is still similar to what it was yesterday, on July 11. No new fissures have formed and it is likely that the lava flows will eventually merge into one. Kristín emphasises the importance of travellers and hikers familiarising themselves with the conditions before considering venturing out.

The police emphasise how important it is to remember that the volcanic eruption site is a hazardous area where conditions can change rapidly. They warn people against staying close to the eruption site due to gas pollution, which becomes even more dangerous when the wind calms down. Life-threatening gases can accumulate in low-lying areas and become lethal.

Access to the area is open from Suðurstrandarvegur, but not from other roads or pathways. The walk to and from the eruption site is approximately 20 km, making the hiking trail unsuitable for everyone. The round trip takes about 3 to 4 hours for an experienced hiker.

The police urge hikers to dress according to the weather, bring provisions and ensure sufficient battery charge on their mobile phones. Mobile phone coverage in the area is not reliable.

Cars should be parked at designated locations along Suðurstrandarvegur and not on the roadside. Off-road driving is strictly prohibited.

Magnús Freyr Sigurkarlsson, a conservation biologist at the Icelandic Met Office, states that the situation at the volcanic eruption is very similar to yesterday.

“The activity naturally decreased significantly there after the first day, and the lava is flowing mainly southward into the valley and towards Merardalir,” he says. “As we have seen from the last two eruptions, volcanic activity can change rapidly with short notice, and we may not see much in our data before a new fissure eruption opens up.”

The Earth Science Department of the University of Iceland has collected samples from the new lava that are currently undergoing chemical analysis.

An advertisement has been posted for temporary positions as park rangers at the volcanic eruption site due to the immense pressure caused by the increasing number of visitors.

Guðrún Hafsteinsdóttir, the Minister of Justice, states in an interview with RÚV that it is essential to reassess all aspects of tourism in the Reykjanes area thoroughly. The search and rescue teams have been under significant strain since the first eruption in March 2021, so a complete reorganisation is necessary.

Guðrún expresses hope that people who venture to the eruption site proceed cautiously and come well-prepared, following the recommendations of emergency services and others responsible for managing the area. This way, everyone can enjoy a better experience during their visit to the volcanic eruption site.

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