In the Middle Ages it was believed that Hekla was the entrance to Hell. Those who dared go near to the volcano claimed to have heard crying and moaning sounds while fire and sulphur spewed regularly from within. The best informed claimed that in Hell they spoke Danish.
Hekla has erupted from once to twice every century, the eruptions often being very large. The first major eruption to occur in Iceland since the Settlement (874 AD), was in the year 1104. This led to the devastation of thriving settlements around the mountain, including those in the Þjórsá valley where excavations have revealed noteworthy ruins from this period at Stöng. From these we have unique evidence of building techniques in Iceland at the close of the viking period. Since then Hekla has continually destroyed settlements through lava eruptions or ash fall, which has at the same time accelerated soil erosion over large areas. Poisonous gases from the eruptions have also been damaging to livestock and wild life.
Not until after the middle of the 18th century did men dare to walk on Hekla, since when it has been a favourite place for all those who want to carry out research into Icelands natural history.
Gunnlaugur Ástgeirsson, History teacher MH.
(transl. Georg Douglas)