1 Went underground in Nátthagi Valley and into the air on Vatnajökull Glacier

2 Saw a place that had disappeared
Heard cracking that sounded like a glacier in the hardened lava
Smelled burnt grass before the magma swallowed it
Found hot magma forming a sphere that exploded in a blaze and became glowing embers
Stared at blue flames of gas dancing in the lava, pretending to be a fireplace
Walked up a slope that the lava had swallowed on the way back

Sat on a hill, ate nuts, watched lava flows embracing and creating land
Was going to go home, but was trapped by the magic

Lay on a south-facing hill, listened to the silence, felt the darkness; tried to string together Orion, which was elsewhere when the star with a long tail fell

3 Who or what can claim the fire that wells up from the earth’s mantle through the crust and emerges on top of privately owned land?

4 Before the eruption began, we expected the imminent opening of a fissure in Nátthagi Valley. All the warnings issued by the eruption had already been sent. On the 14th of March, I went with MTG and TD to explore the area. We walked up Slaga along Langihryggur and watched for signs of movement during the earthquakes. Cracks had appeared and the slopes were crumbling. As we walked along Langihryggur, we saw a car parked in Nátthagi; MTG said, “If the eruption starts now, the fissure is most likely going to open exactly where that car is.” Three-quarters of an hour later, we were standing just where the car had been parked. I practically ran across the bottom of the valley, but still I bent down to collect a handful of soil for preservation should the lava later flow over it. Five days later, the eruption started in Geldingadalir.

5 What happens when land is removed and relocated?

6 5.5.2021. Watched the fire in the lava field engulf the twigs of a small tree in Meradalir Valley. The gas meter whined as I pulled the burning tree up by the roots. At home in the studio, I stuck it in water. Just a few days later, the twigs, which had been bare in Meradalir, were covered with thin light-green leaves. Following instructions for the care of saplings, I planted the little tree in dry soil I had collected and mixed with imported topsoil. A few days later, I looked sadly at the few limp and wilted leaves that remained, and I thought that was the end of my little Meradalir tree. But then suddenly, the first signs of new life appeared. The sapling was fostered by Aunt Dóra while I was on holiday, and when I came home, I met a healthy tree with beautiful green leaves, ready to face a new reality.

7 When the northern craters were active, I could almost see into the northernmost crater, and I was amazed at what I saw flying out of it. At home, I flipped through the book Natural Hazards in Iceland: Volcanoes and Earthquakes, and found on p. 83: “When water melts, its viscosity increases, as does its resistance to expansion. The magma is pulled apart into projectiles if there is a significant quantity of steam. However, this depends on the gas content of the magma and how quickly the gas evaporates from it. What erupts from the crater is therefore a mixture of gas, magma projectiles, and fragments of rocks that have broken off of the volcanic vent, all at high speed.”

8 Eruption haze Land in constant flux will never be final

9 How does a place come to be? at what moment does a place disappear?

10 The Earth’s surface is made of plates that move relative to one another. Their movements are the consequence of heat release from the Earth’s interior, caused by radioactivity and long-term cooling. The plate boundaries are of three types: divergent, where two plates drift apart; convergent, where one plate sinks under another; and transforms, where the movement is parallel to the boundary but the plates move in opposite directions. Iceland sits on a mid-oceanic ridge where the Eurasian and North American plates move away from one another. Molten lava (magma) fills the gap, leading to volcanic eruptions. Moreover, a mantle plume lies under Iceland, reaching almost down to the core–mantle boundary. The plume is the reason why eruptions are much more common in Iceland than elsewhere on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, and indeed the reason why Iceland exists: if there were no plume, there would be an ocean two to three kilometres deep where Iceland is today.

The current eruption in Fagradalsfjall is a manifestation of the forces that shape the geology of Iceland. The eruption site is on the plate boundary that runs along the Reykjanes Peninsula, where volcanism is episodic. This eruption marks the end of nearly 800 years of quiet. The last period with eruptions lasted from around 800 to 1240 CE; now a new one has started.

The magma at Fagradalsfjall is low-viscosity basalt with a temperature of 1200 degrees. It comes directly from the Earth’s mantle—not from a magma chamber in the crust, as is more common for eruptions in Iceland, such as at Hekla, Katla and Grímsvötn. The lava flow rate was unusually low to start with but increased somewhat after two months. There have been periods with very stable flow and episodes with intense fire fountains every few minutes. The fountaining occurred as volcanic gas was released in regular bursts. Over the last several weeks, the activity has been episodic in a different way, with active eruption for 12–18 hours followed by periods of a similar length with no eruption. After five months of activity, well over 100 million cubic meters of lava has erupted from the crater in Geldingadalir, a small valley in the southern part of Fagradalsfjall. The lava has at times flowed southwards, ending in Nátthagi Valley; at other times, it flows eastwards, into Meradalir Valley. It is now very thick in places as the eruption continues to fill these valleys. Sometimes it forms what is known as pahoehoe lava when the lava flows in a tunnel underneath the surface before emerging very hot and liquid. At other times, especially when the activity is episodic, the lava flows on the surface, cools faster and forms rough surfaces called aa lava.

Most eruptions do not last very long, but occasionally they may continue for years. The eruption that created the island of Surtsey, for example, lasted for three-and-a-half years in 1963–67. There is no way to tell how long the Fagradalsfjall eruption will go on. The longer it lasts, the greater the effect it will have on the landscape around Fagradalsfjall.

– Magnús Tumi Guðmundsson

Artist Bio

In Anna Líndal´s work there are two main themes; on one hand the conflict between private life and the expectations of society, and on the other the human desire to understand nature and analyse it through measurement. The conflict between private life and social standing is most visible in Líndal´s early works when she limited her resources to materials she could find in the home, thereby making the home a habitat of creation. In later years Líndal has dealt with man´s desire to understand nature in works which she largely bases on her own experience of dwelling outside in the wilderness and participating in scientific expeditions.