Öræfi by Kristjan Torr

There have been eruptions and there will be eruptions.
— Bergur Einarsson
 Öræfajökull

Öræfajökull

In 1362 this volcano erupted explosively, devouring every settlement within reach. Post-event the zone became known as Öræfi ([ˈœːraivi ]; Hyperstasis ∧ Wilderness)†. During our visit to the site last October, we sensed a sudden subterranean shift take form below us. Strong tremors were arising from the depth beneath the summit crater.

A seismic jolt to the head, I felt we needed to know more about this archaic colossus and its ability to unleash total destruction upon the human epoch. #anthropocene So we drove south to meet and interview Bergur Einarsson, an expert in the field of megafloods and wilderness emergency response.

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The interview turned out to be an intense encounter. Convinced that the volcano is showing signs of reawakening; he detailed a sequence of terrible events awaiting us all.

 Bergur Einarsson certified  Wilderness First Responder WFR

Bergur Einarsson certified Wilderness First Responder WFR

 

† The word öræfi is used to denote wilderness, desolation and a place without a harbor. The word is probably composed of the prefix ör- which is mainly used in a negative or implied harsh meaning, and hóf (moderation, fit, something appropriate, suitable). Adding the negative prefix -ör the true meaning assumes the form of "something obscene, irrational, insane place".

Vatnajökull I by Kristjan Torr

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Before I turn east I am going to follow the ring road into the barren south, trekking along the largest and most voluminous ice cap in Europe.

Below the ice dorms the Icelandic Plume. An enigmatic hotspot responsible for the high volcanic activity which has formed the island. Eruptions from these volcanoes melt the glacial mass forming large pockets of water beneath the glacier, which frequently burst the weakened ice resulting in major floods.

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Our first stop is Skeiðarársandur. It's a barren plain where the flow of melted glacier water grinds the south-surface of the island into the sea. The ring road is rinsed away on a regular basis and bridges in this area are ephemeral phenomena. 

 On-site discoverey - Temporary object

On-site discoverey - Temporary object

Lodging here provokes a sense of affinity with Apollo astronauts who underwent geology field training on this tumoltous turf fifty years ago.

Tectonic troubles by Kristjan Torr

I'm spending my last days in the south, pointing my camera down in an attempt to observe how Iceland is slowly splitting apart from south to north in a local volcanic event that has been going on for at least seventeen million years.

Reykjanes is one of few places in the solar system where plate tectonics are visible to the human eye where the outer shell of Earth is divided into several plates that glide over the mantle over a long time. Sixty million years ago the gigantic North Atlantic plate broke off into several ridges causing them to drift apart opening up rifts where magma rises to the surface forming the crust beneath my tired feet.

Explosive eruptions occurred on the coastline resulting in a formation of two tephra craters which spread ash across the peninsula. These eruptions are dated to the early 13. century and caused havoc among the children of the settlement who ever since have had to weigh a permanent battle with the elements on this drifty island in the North Atlantic.

Let us affix our vehicle and steam east for winter. These zones are due for an eruption. 

Reykjanes Ridge by Kristjan Torr

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Compiling my belongings preparing to move east I came upon "The Origin of Continents and Oceans" by Alfred Wegener. A book that my great-grandfather used to read for me in order to endow me with a deeper sense of my environment. Reading from it makes me feel like he's still here warning me about cosmic forces are at play, "in your own backyard!". I think I should go out there once more and film my backyard before I settle in for the long winter back east.

 Kristjan Torr Reykjanes

Inspired by coastlines the treatise notes the similarities of geological structures and fossils on all continents. Wegener was, of course, the first to propose a theory of continental drift, hypothesizing the existence of a single super-continent that split up two hundred million years ago forming other continents.

Reykjanes Ridge; a zone in which the floor of the Atlantic, as it keeps spreading, is continuously tearing open and making space for fresh, relatively fluid and hot sima rising from depth.
— Alfred Lothar Wegener

Situated on an active volcanic system the Reykjanes peninsula is a primal place where the Mid-Atlantic Ridge becomes visible as it rises from the depth. I'm hiking into the volcanic fissure zone. It's a desolate place where the smell of sulfur saturates the senses as I try to imagine how it looked like by the end of the Pleistocene.

An age when the entire peninsula was covered by a giant ice-sheet. Thirteen thousand years ago, the glacier started to melt and a series of shield volcanoes erupted rendering out a barren landscape of black lava. The latest one dating to the time of settlement of this forsaken place.