Monday, 23 May 2011

Reporting from the ash cloud.

Travel map of yesterday. We never got further than Vik, but you'll be able to see all the locations we passed and/or visited on the way.

Yesterday was a gloriously beautiful day so we packed ourselves + two friends in Snu's little Mitsubishi and started to drive towards Vatnajökull. We knew the Skaftafell area was closed off due to heavy ash fall but we decided to drive as far as we could and see if we could find anything interesting.

It's a cloud machine! A hot spot in the ground, likely a hot spring. The area is called Hveragerði (hver = hot spring) after the numerous hot springs there.

I took this photo for some reason, can't remember why. I guess I thought the air looked odd in the direction we were headed to. Somewhat yellowish and hazy.

A cloud machine close-up!

On the way we stopped at a huge greenhouse-thingy called Eden. It's a bit difficult to find but Hveragerði is such a small place that driving around will suffice in locating it. It's very much worth a visit!

EDIT: Alas, it's no longer possible to visit Eden. The place has now burned down to the ground. However, I've heard of plans of re-building it and I'm hopeful it will eventually be back, and I shall keep you all updated on the goings-on.

Flowers, birds. The parrot can say "hello". The black birdie can only look a bit silly.

HORSES! Horses are everywhere, like cows back home in Finland. They're cute and fluffy and aw, they're on every meadow and hill and even sides of some mountains!

The haze I spotted earlier on started growing thicker. This was somewhere after Hveragerði but a while before Hvolsvöllur.

Hvolsvöllur. There definitely was something unusual in the air, no doubt about it.

South Iceland has plenty of large waterfalls. One of the largest, Skogafoss (= Forest Falls), is on the way as well. Remember Ring Road 1 if you plan to go see it! Hopefully you'll get your sightseeing with a little less ash than we did, though.

By now we indeed knew this was definitely ash. However, what we hadn't known was that this was not necessarily Grímsfjall ash at all. We stopped in Hvolsvöllur at a Saga museum and the guide there explained that it was a year old stuff from Eyjafjallajökull: it hadn't rained for a long while and then the winds picked up the loose ash, as Eyjafjallajökull ash was very fine in texture (unlike Grímsfjall, which is heavier and will likely rain down faster).

Remember the Saga museum, it's a wonderful place for those that like the Icelandic sagas and offers an amazing amount of information about the daily life of people of the time the sagas were written.

It was certain that from this on the visibility would not be much. We also found out that the roads were now closed all the way to Vik because of the Grímsfjall ash that was so thick south of Vatnajökull that a man had a hard time trying to locate his own feet with a torchlight. No driving then, but I guess I can live without experiencing driving blind.

The ash cloud got rapidly thicker. This photo is taken halfway between Hvolsvöllur and Vik. There's a car up ahead but you can hardly see its lights.

The sickly yellowish grayness made everything look slightly out of this world and frightening. All houses looked abandoned, cars seemed to only go away from Vik. Snu commented he wished we weren't the only ones heading towards Vik because it did seem kind of ominous that everyone else wanted to get away from there.

Another car, and in front of it, a motorhome. Click the image larger and you just might be able to see it. We were now nearing the end of the trip and the radio was interviewing a farmer who was busily moving his livestock indoors. You could hardly make out his words among all that bleating, but one sentence that we did soon hear was "Look, I don't have time for this [interview]!" after which the reporter thanked him and moved on.

Vik had turned into a ghost town. Not a soul in sight aside of us and the tourist-looking types in that motorhome we had seen earlier driving ahead of us. We stopped by a grocery store and I hopped out of the car for a couple of quick photos.

Later we found out that this was actually not a very smart thing to do. The ash was rather bad for the lungs, made breathing difficult, stung my eyes and got so well mixed in my hair that after washing it twice I still feel grainy.
However, back there we only knew this ash wasn't as acidic and poisonous as Eyjafjallajökull's ash. Somehow I managed to think this meant the same as "harmless" but alas, that was not the case.

I didn't stay outside for long, though. 

The church of Vik at the worst cloud we were in. You can kind of understand why they decided to close the road.

Houses in Vik.

Visibility ~15m? It's unnerving to drive on mountains when the road seems to just suddenly disappear in front of your car!

Mountains in ash.

Skogafoss, the one I mentioned before. I want to visit it again sometime with less volcano in the air!

A troll rabbit and some sheep below.

(Trolls of Iceland are considered vulnerable to daylight, and only move around in the dark. If they, for some reason, stay out for too long the sunlight will turn them into rocks.)

Our darling Mitsubishi back in Hvolsvöllur. During the two hours it took to drive to Vik and back the cloud had moved west and was now sitting on Hvolsvöllur double as thick as when we left there.

Crossing Rangá(?). At least I think this is somewhere near Hella, a small town that didn't have any ash on our way the other direction.

Hveragerði was now about to be swallowed up by the cloud as well.

More cloud to the right side. By now we were at least out of it.

Horses at Rauðavatn (= Red Lake)!

However, just a few hours after we returned home in Breiðholt we were back in the ash cloud.


Then for some photos I just snapped this morning after most of the ash had already rained down.


Annnd a close-up of the table.

We're getting loads of info about the eruption here, so if there's anything in particular you'd like to know about it I'll do my best to answer!


  1. yummy the ash at your home looks nice when you think about cleaning the house!

  2. Reminds me we really do need to wash everything soon. The ash is not good for metal. It's nowhere near as bad as Eyjafjallajökull's though, that stuff was nasty!

    Oh, oh, oh, on our way back in Hvolsvöllur where we stopped for food we saw a car that apparently came from deeper the cloud than we had: it looked like it had crashed through a sand dune! I would have taken a photo but the driver parked at the car wash spot and immediately destroyed the evidence.

  3. Whoaa, hope it all clears up soon - it's also kind of scary to know that Eyjafjallajökull's ash is still hanging around up there mixing with this lot. :'/

    The visibility in your pictures is really something. Kind of surreal!

  4. It all depends on how long the eruption lasts. It's one of those that might be over next week, might be over in an hour - or not. At the moment the things we know are that the ash is heavier than last time and therefore it comes down faster, and that this eruption is the strongest in a hundred years' time.

  5. Woah the amount of ash. OAOHopefully this one won't cause as much problems as last Eyjafjallajökull. You guys were brave going that far in to the ash!

  6. Haha, this is nothing - you should see some photos from Skaftafell area that took the largest ashfall! Here, they've got some news from Kirkjubæjarklaustri, it's suitably near:

  7. Forgot to say it earlier, but I showed my grandma and dad this post. Grandma said she thought your photo descriptions were good.

  8. I'm flattered, yet I think I should probably start being more serious about my English... at least in the entries that might interest more people than just my close group of friends.