“It rains rather a lot right here”, says Ingimar (Ingi, for brief), our driver and tour information, while commenting on how fortunate we’re with the climate. “In the event you ask the locals, although, it solely rains twice every week – first for 3 days, after which for 4 days.” This units the tone for our tour of Katla ice cave with Southcoast Journey – a enjoyable, small tour from Vik.
We spend about 35-40 minutes in his luxurious Tremendous Jeep, first on highway, earlier than taking a detour off-road over miles of black sand. “Within the morning it’s good to take heed to some hardcore Icelandic steel”, he shouts, as he makes an adjustment to the tyre stress in preparation for the brand new terrain and a loud, vibrating noise emanates from beneath us.
The surroundings is nothing in need of dramatic – fairly lush at first, with some Alaskan lupins that assist forestall sandstorms, however more and more black as we go away the highway. The world we’re traversing is Mýrdalssandur, a floodplain made up of black glacial volcanic outwash from previous eruptions. It’s separated from Vik by a artifical wall to hopefully cease potential floods from reaching Vik.
Ingy factors out a mountain on our proper – Hjörleifshöfði, named after Hjörleifr Hróðmarsson, one of many first settlers in Iceland, alongside along with his half-brother, Ingólfr Arnarson, who based Reykjavik. It’s on this space that the 2 of them first got here to land in round 874 AD. We study extra concerning the historical past of Iceland’s founders earlier than the Mýrdalsjökull glacier comes into view. It covers round 800 sq. kilometres and is the fourth largest glacier in Iceland.
Beneath the glacier is a volcano known as Katla, one of many scariest volcanoes in Europe. It’s lively (although not erupting proper now). It has erupted roughly twice each century because the seventeenth Century. The most important eruption ever in Iceland that we all know of got here from the magma system in Katla. This was the Eldgjá basaltic eruption in 934 AD and is believed to have lasted for as much as 8 years, with a 67-kilometre fissure spewing out lava. One other huge eruption occurred in 1311, in 1755 (120 days lengthy)
Katla normally rests for about 40 to 80 years, and the final eruption was in 1918, now greater than 100 years in the past, so an eruption could be very a lot overdue. It’s a subglacial volcano which suggests it’s situated beneath the ice. There are a variety of those in Iceland – you might recall Eyjafjallajökull which erupted in 2010 and brought on air site visitors chaos to a lot of Europe. Ingy helps us with the pronounciation by telling us you may simply say “I-forgot-my-yoghurt” and that’s shut sufficient or you are able to do what the US information channels did and name it “E-15” as a result of it begins with a ‘E’ and is adopted by 15 extra letters.
Though the eruption in 2010 stopped air site visitors for 3 weeks, it was ongoing for 4 weeks… however that was only a small eruption – only a “publicity stunt” to let the world know the place Iceland is. It labored – customer numbers to Iceland elevated by 30% in 2010, making tourism essentially the most important trade on the island and the only largest employer. In comparison with what can occur at Katla, let’s simply hope you aren’t at an airport when Katla begins to erupt.
Being a subglacial volcano, the lava comes out of the crater, it’s round 1100 levels Celsius, and is pushed into the ice and water, making an explosion. So the lava explodes and turns into ash. Katla is understood to shoot ash as much as 15 kilometres up into the air. Ash from Katla has been discovered all over the place on the planet.
However the ash shouldn’t be the principle concern for folks dwelling within the space. What Icelanders are extra involved about is the floods that include the eruption. At first of the eruption, plenty of the glacier is melted in a short time, and all that water must go to the ocean rapidly too. They are saying that the most important flood within the space was in all probability the 1918 eruption which they are saying about 300,000 cubic metres of water was produced per second. Examine that with the Amazon River which discharges water on the fee of 219,000 cubic metres per second. So this can be a enormous, devastating flood.
It has occurred a number of occasions within the space. And though it’s been over 100 years because the final eruption of Katla, in 2011 Icelanders had been a bit frightened as a result of it’s quite common for Katla to erupt quickly after Eyjafjallajökull (which erupted in 2010). However Katla didn’t erupt – at the very least, no eruption was seen however there have been huge floods and it’s thought there might have been small eruptions beneath the glacier that brought on the floods. It didn’t break by the glacier, however the floods that got here down destroyed the highway and a few bridges.
As we proceed to journey over the sands, Ingi tells us a number of Katla tales. For the reason that settlement of Iceland, regardless that Katla was creating eruptions and floods, there have been fairly a farms within the space. Individuals at all times re-built them after the floods. Individuals knew that, within the occasion of the eruption, they wanted to climb the mountain and discover refuge in a cave known as skjól (which suggests ‘shelter’). It has come in useful for fairly a number of folks through the years. Within the huge eruption in 1311, there was a farmer who was out working and the climate was unhealthy. He couldn’t see the glacier – he began to scent sulphur however didn’t fear an excessive amount of till he felt earthquakes and the scent obtained worse. After which Katla was erupting and the flood was on its manner – he was a bit too late to reply, however he rushed to his farm to get his toddler child after which began to run up the hill. Because the flood rose, he quickly realised he was too late and wouldn’t make it to the secure space. He noticed an opportunity and jumped on to a chunk of the glacier, like an iceberg, that was coming down with the flood. The flood took him and his toddler son out to the ocean. This was 1311 so the tales range – some say he was away for five days, others for five weeks. Both manner, he didn’t have any meals for his toddler child or himself. All he had with him was his pocket knife. He got here up with a superb concept and took out his knife and lower off his left nipple as a way to feed the toddler his blood. In accordance with the tales, that is how he saved the child alive. And that is the story of why Icelanders solely have one nipple… Ingi tells us that he solely realised only in the near past that apparently you’re speculated to have two!
Then there’s additionally the story of what occurred in 1755, when there have been 4 males on the mountain strolling within the forest (there have been bushes again then), gathering firewood for the winter, and Katla began to erupt. They needed to run to the cave for shelter however had been frightened as a result of they didn’t have any meals. They had been in luck, although, as a result of there have been two fishermen travelling throughout the sand to Vik to promote their fish. So now there have been six males they usually needed to keep within the shelter for seven days whereas the flood was coming down from Katla; in some way, they managed to outlive. Think about staying within the cave… frequent earthquakes, floods throughout you with enormous icebergs, and every thing can be black exterior – you wouldn’t know whether or not it was day or evening. What’s extra, it was 1755, so no cellphone sign and no Netflix! It will need to have been horrible, Ingi tells us! After the flood, they went down the mountain and crossed the flood space over to a farm, which will need to have been a troublesome journey. As soon as they reached the farm, no person believed them because the flood had been so huge and it was unthinkable to think about that that they had survived. They satisfied the folks to come back with them to the cave – they confirmed them the cave partitions the place that they had carved their names, and an enormous cross that that they had carved on the entrance. The cave had since crammed with sand however, in 2006, some native folks went there with shovels and began to dig the sand out and recovered a number of the markings which can be nonetheless seen at this time.
Having heard concerning the 1918 eruption, we realized that Icelanders have been ready for an eruption from Katla because the Nineteen Sixties, earlier than getting our first view of Kötlujökull (Katla glacier). Kötlujökull is an outlet glacier from Mýrdalsjökull – a tongue of ice poking out from the canyon that goes into the crater. The crater, by the way in which, presently crammed with ice, is about twice the scale of Manhattan island, simply to offer you some sense of scale. While there may be nothing stopping folks making journeys independently, I’d strongly suggest that you just go to with one of many three recognised tour firms providing Katla ice cave excursions. On arrival, a joint signal from the three firms
The ice collapse Kötlujökull will be harmful. If you’re not cautious, there may be chance of damage. It is strongly recommended you solely go into the cave underneath supervision of an skilled information who is aware of this cave properly. Circumstances within the cave can and do change day by day. To assist entry to the cave, and make sure the security of travellers we stock out a considerable amount of work each week as a way to maintain the cave open. With out this work, just a few would be capable of attain the cave, and it could be virtually unattainable to indicate the cave to inexperienced travellers.
We get out of the truck, placed on helmets and crampons and stroll the quick distance in the direction of the glacier.
Be aware additionally the crimson minibus to offer you a way of the enormity of the panorama.
The stroll to the glacier might be solely half a mile.
We cross a make-shift bridge over a meltwater stream..
…and shortly attain the ice.
One factor that always surprises folks about glaciers is that they’re typically not gleaming white, however will be fairly soiled due to the particles they transport and, in volcanic areas reminiscent of this, the ash that falls upon them.
A brief archway beneath a number of the ice that’s secure sufficient for us to stroll proper by and emerge the opposite aspect.
Because the ice melts in the course of the Summer season months, the margin of the glacier adjustments frequently. On the time of our go to there was work occurring to make a brand new cave, which had opened up solely 4 days earlier, extra accessible.
For now, entry is by way of some picket steps after which up a steep stretch of grime with a roped bannister help.
If you’re studying this text wherever aside from on A Luxurious Journey Weblog, then the possibilities are that this content material has been stolen with out permission.
Please make an observation of the net deal with above and contact A Luxurious Journey Weblog to advise them of this challenge.
Thanks on your assist in combatting content material theft.
Climbing up this route is definitely a lot simpler thean it seems.
As soon as on the prime, we had been capable of enterprise into an unlimited cave throughout the ice.
Stunning layers of various colored ice create fantastic stripes on the wall of the ice cave.
The less the bubbles, the bluer the ice.
Air bubbles intrude with the passage of sunshine so the place the ice seems whiter, it typically accommodates plenty of air bubbles, cracks or suspended particles.
There are even some areas the place thick bands of volcanic ash will be seen.
Having explored the ice cave and admired its magnificence, we head again out the identical manner we got here in.
The descent is a bit trickier however nonetheless not problematic for anybody in a mean bodily situation.
We head again to the car, admiring a view we hadn’t actually totally appreciated once we had been strolling in the direction of the glacier.
This had been a memorable journey, not only for the expertise of getting into the ice cave, however made all of the extra particular for Ingi’s fascinating tales and knowledgeable commentary, while nonetheless giving us time to mirror on the spectacle earlier than us.
Planning a visit to Iceland your self? You may watch a video from our journey to Iceland right here. You may see our expertise visiting the Kalta ice cave between 3m 49s and 4m 23s:
Disclosure: This put up is sponsored by Southcoast Journey. Our journey to Iceland was additionally sponsored by Helly Hansen.