Over the past few years, my journey with the Noise From Iceland project has led me to the heart of Iceland’s volcanic activity, specifically the eruptions of the Fagradalsfjall volcano. The most recent volcanic activity has been dramatically different from previous years, characterized by a dangerous and unapproachable nature that demands respect for the primal force of nature it represents.
When the eruption began, I felt an intense urge to visit the site immediately, a feeling that sometimes seemed unhealthy. Despite my exhaustion from a run up Hengifell mountain, my wife and I embarked on a late-night hike to the volcano around 22:00. The trek was arduous, and by 5 am, as we made our way back, I was dozing off on my feet. However, the decision to go proved to be invaluable. The sight of the burning moss below the crater was particularly striking, a phenomenon not observed in previous years. I decided to focus on the sound of the moss as the primary element in my recordings, with the deep, rumbling voice of the volcano serving as a backdrop.
However, the recent eruptions have been less accessible compared to previous ones. The wildfires of moss and grass around the crater have made it difficult to approach, even leading to the closure of the eruption area for several days after the explosion. Despite having visited the site three times, each visit felt barely tolerated, lacking the intimate connection I had experienced with the crater during the first eruption at Fagradalsfjall in 2021. This sense of disconnect led to a deep contemplation about the relationship between humans and the volcanic landscape.
Volcanic eruption in Iceland: Season 3 Episode 3
The volcano this year is exceptionally unique. It is characterized by its dramatic, dangerous, and unapproachable nature, engulfing vast amounts of moss as if to deter any human presence. This time, the eruption is no laughing matter, putting an end to barbecues over flowing lava and festivals and picnics. It has fostered a deep respect.
My wife’s advice, “Iceland is listening to you, so you should listen to Iceland,” resonated deeply with me. It reflects my belief that Iceland itself has created the “Noise From Iceland” project, and I am merely documenting its beauty. This project is not just about capturing sounds; it’s about conveying the need to protect the delicate yet dangerous nature of this land. While the area around Litli-Hrútur, the name I’ve given to the volcano, is accessible, the recent experiences have made me reconsider approaching the crater closely in the future.
In addition to volcanic sounds, the recent seismic activity in Reykjavik, linked to the Fagradalsfjall volcano, has also been a focus of my recordings. The earthquakes act as precursors to volcanic eruptions and offer a deeper understanding of the dynamic processes beneath the Earth’s crust. The seismic waves, while not traditionally audible, can produce sounds under certain conditions, adding another layer to the complex soundscape of Iceland’s seismic and volcanic activity.
This journey has been more than just recording sounds; it’s been a profound exploration of the relationship between humans and the powerful forces of nature. Each sound captured is a narrative of respect, awe, and the necessity to protect this incredible and dynamic landscape.
Sound of flowing lava
This is how the flowing and solidifying lava sounds. I recorded it under the volcano in Fagradalsfjall, Reykjanes peninsula, Iceland.
Incorporating the latest developments, the Reykjanes saga, once a tourist-friendly eruption, has transformed into a much more serious and worrying situation. Icelandic authorities are now bracing for an unprecedented volcanic eruption in the southwest of the island, following a series of intense earthquakes that began in late October and have escalated recently. This seismic activity has notably migrated toward the coastal town of Grindavík, home to about 3,500 people.
Experts warn that a volcanic eruption near Grindavík is likely imminent, as magma moves closer to the surface, forming a 15-km-long ‘magma tunnel’. The situation has reached a point where the residents of Grindavík were evacuated to quickly gather their belongings, reflecting the significant likelihood of an eruption occurring within days. This potential eruption could have devastating consequences for the town, home to over 3,600 people, raising concerns about the safety and future of the community.
In light of these developments, the situation feels deeply personal and conflicting. As a field recording artist and storyteller, I have always been drawn to the raw and mesmerizing power of Icelandic nature. The thought of capturing the sounds of a new eruption is undeniably exciting. However, this excitement is tempered by the reality of the situation in Grindavík, where residents, volunteers, and everyone involved are facing a stressful and potentially dangerous situation.
Out of respect for those affected, I find myself reluctant to even consider taking out my microphone. It doesn’t seem fair to focus on the artistic aspect of this natural event while people’s lives and homes are at stake. Nonetheless, the fascination with Icelandic nature remains a strong force. The island’s volatile landscape has always been a source of awe and inspiration, and its unpredictable nature is a reminder of the power and beauty inherent in our world.
This dichotomy of emotions – excitement for the natural spectacle and concern for the human impact – encapsulates the complex relationship we have with our environment. It highlights the importance of balancing our interests and curiosities with empathy and consideration for those affected by these powerful natural events.