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The Great Volcanoes: Hekla

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The Great Volcanoes: Hekla

Northern Lights and Hekla Eruption

Heaven and Earth erupt simultaneously. Photo: Sigurður Hrafn Stefnisson.

Even though the Holuhraun eruption is already one of the biggest eruptions in Iceland in recent history, and has caused many inconveniences, it is still not among the most dangerous ones. But as we have often explained, it might turn into one. In this and further articles, we will talk about some of the most famous and dangerous Icelandic volcanoes.

The paradox of an eruption is that it can be beautiful and destructive at the same time. The most famous volcano in Iceland, historically speaking, is probably Hekla. It was known in medieval texts as the 'Entrance to Hell.' The 1104 eruption caused great damage and wiped out whole districts, including upper Þjórsárdalur. Since then there haven't been any farms in that area.

The earliest recorded eruption in Hekla took place in 1104. Since then there have been between 20 and 30 considerably large eruptions, with the volcano sometimes remaining active for periods of six years with little pause.

Eruptions in Hekla are extremely varied and difficult to predict. Some are very short (a week to ten days), whereas others can stretch into months and years (the 1947 eruption started March 29 and ended in April, 1948). But there is a general correlation: the longer Hekla stays dormant, the larger and more catastrophic its opening eruption will be. The most recent eruption was on February 26, 2000.

This amazing photo by Sigurður Hrafn Stefnisson shows two interesting phenomena: The northern lights and the eruption in Hekla in 1991. You can find many more of his photos at www.stefnisson.com.

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