The eruption in Hekla 1980 seen with eyes of a four year old.
A trip to the mouth of hell
Hekla - gateway to hell!
It was in August. My mother ,me and my sister had been visiting friends at Hella when the first news about the eruption came. We with our curiosity drove to Rangárvellir and from there we could hear the noise from the mountain. There was not much we could see from that place but it was in the middle of day. We drove to my home and after dinner my father decided to take the whole family to Hekla. I was so excited because that was the first time I was about to see an eruption. The closer we got. the more afraid I was of the mountain. It was late in the evening and the mountain looked like someone had put a fire on it. Yellow-red lava was all over the placeand I felt as if it would come into the car. I asked my father not to drive so near to it but in fact he was far away, it just seemed as if he was near in the dark. It is unbelievable how much it affected me. I mean I was only four years old and yet I remember it like it happend yesterday. I even remeber who we talked to and everything. I think that might be the reason why I am today so interested in volcanoes and eruptions.
Some centuries ago the great volcano Hekla was believed by people all around the world to be the mouth of Hell and if we think of their religion at that time, this was only natural. Hekla has erupted very often in historic time,and is one of the most active volcanoes in Iceland. Most of the eruptions started very violently, by the mountain opening in the middle and the lava bursting up from the gap, then after a while the gap shortened and became isolated in a crater (one or more). This sight and the destruction which the lava and ashes brought upon the land near Hekla, the people saw as the wrath of god, punishing them for their misdoings by throwing fire up from hell. Fortunately we know better then our ancestors did, so we are unafraid to go near Hekla and view its splendour. And that is what we did this fall. We drove in a bus from Reykjavík and it took us a couple of hours to get there. On the way our teacher told us a lot about Hekla's geology. When we at last came to the mountain miss Hekla had a fog scarf around her head so we could only see the half of it. We stopped at the foot of the mountain and there we were driven out of the bus by our teachers. The weather was bad, a bit of rain and an icy cold storm. But we are Icelanders so we began walking up a ridge north of Hekla. When we got up there we saw as far up the mountain as the fog would let us which wasn´t much. It wasnt too hard to imagine what it would be like to see the lava streams actually flowing and watch glowing rocks, in some cases the size of a house flying through the air. There and then we realized that perhaps we are wrong and our ancestors right! With this knowledge we all climbed into the bus again and drove off towards Reykjavík, saying goodby to this powerful mountain.
Hekla is a 1491 m high volcano in the south of Iceland. Even though Hekla is just a little mountain on a little island in the North Atlantic sea, it is one of the world’s most active volcanoes and has terrified the inhabitants of this country since Iceland was settled by Ingolfur Arnarson.
Last september we in MH followed the steps of two Icelanders who were first to climb and examine the volcano in 1750. In those days people thought that the mountain was full og sulphurous vapor and big black birds which attacked everything that approached the mountain and even that it was a gateway to hell!
We found out in our tour that it wasn’t. No steam or hot lava was in sight and the bird seemed to have left a long time ago. Nothing but black rocks, ash and rough aa lava awaited us in the dark hills and even though it was just september a blizzard hit us on our way up. When we stoped on top of one of the giants we saw the total devastation of the land surrounding the mountain that the lava had caused.
The last time Hekla erupted was six years ago, 1991. That was only a small eruption and caused not so much damage but nobody knows when the devil will arise again.
The time was 9:00 AM on the 27th of September when a big bus drove from the parking lot of MH. Inside the bus there was a group of tired but exciting students, starting a long but educational and interesting trip towards the powerful volcano Hekla.
The journey lasted all day long, about 9 hours, but the time went by very fast because our teachers, Gunnlaugur and Georg had all the students attentions by telling us the historical and geological features of Hekla and its surroundings and also by taking us on a field study.
We saw and touched the lava and the pumice that had erupted from Hekla through the years. We also went up on one of Hekla´s crater and got into a sideways hailstorm (it was snowing sideways, very common in Iceland) and we saw the beauty of the highlands.
This expedition was very educational and entertaining, especialy for us city slickers who don´t travel much through Iceland. To see and feel the wonders of Icelandic nature is a magnificent experience that no human being should miss.
Vilhelm Sveinn Sigurðsson