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 my stay in Iceland, I’d pay a visit to Eyjafjallajökull.
The tour guide picked me up from my hostel around 8:30 that night and we began our two 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 literally standing on the volcano and I couldn’t see anything. I could hear some soft rumbling coming from above but other than the thick layer of fresh volcanic ash I was standing in, there were no signs of a volcano was erupting only a short distance away.
The guide decided 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. 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.
The guide had one more surprise for me; 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. Eventually we reached the point where it was no longer possible to see the road in front of us and the world around us became 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 all 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.