My first glimpse of Eyjafjallajökull came just as my airplane began its descent into Keflavík airport in Iceland. In the distance I could see the dark plume of ash rising into the blue sky. Even from afar, it was an awesome spectacle to behold. The hundred or so miles between us did little to diminish the majesty of witnessing a volcanic eruption for the very first time.
I decided that before anything else during our stay in Iceland, I would pay a visit to Eyjafjallajökull.
Our tour guide picked us up from our hostel at around 8:30 that night and we began our 2 hour drive from Reykjavík to the volcano. Though I hadn’t slept in nearly 30 hours, the excitement of seeing the eruption up close kept me wide awake.
When we finally reached the foot of the volcano, we were unable to see much of anything because clouds had begun to form around the summit. I was practically standing on the volcano and I couldn’t see anything. I could hear some soft rumbling coming from the direction of Eyjafjallajökull but aside from that and the thick layer of fresh volcanic ash I was standing in, there were no signs that a volcano was erupting only a short distance away.
Our guide wanted to try another spot.
We drove along a bumpy dirt road around the other side of the mountain and as we approached, the sky began to change from white clouds to a thick, dark mass in the sky. It was Eyjafjallajökull. We parked the truck and began to hike to the summit of a nearby hill where we could watch the eruption. When we reached the top, the ash plume had swallowed the valley below and swirls of light and dark mixed at the peak of the volcano.
It was nearly midnight and the sun had finally dipped below the horizon, only for a moment. The slowly dimming sky was darkened even more by the eruption and as we watched the ash being pumped into the atmosphere, a streak of orange lightning flashed through the dark plume, then again.
Our guide had one more surprise for us, a trip directly into the cloud of ash that was choking the valley below.
The ash fell like rain from the sky and the deeper into the cloud we drove, the darker it became. We reached a point where it was no longer possible to see the road in front of us and outside was pitch black. We were in the middle of Eyjafjallajökull’s rage. This was the same ash cloud that was driving local farmers from their land and the same ash that had stopped European air travel.
A destructive force of our planet yet, in this moment, strangely peaceful and quiet.
Click Here to see photos from my visit to Eyjafjallajökull.