Submarine Volcanoes Often Erupt Unnoticed, Says Icelandic Volcanologist

The Icelandic Coast Guard sailed out last Saturday to investigate reports of a dark column of smoke emerging from the ocean, possibly indicating an underwater eruption. While the smoke had disappeared by the time coast guard ship Þór arrived at the site, Icelandic experts told RÚV underwater eruptions are not uncommon though they often go unnoticed. The smoke was spotted off the coast of the Reykjanes peninsula, not far from Iceland’s ongoing eruption on land.

Coast guard ship Þór sailed west from Krýsuvíkurberg cliffs on Saturday evening after a traveller at Selvogsviti lighthouse reported seeing a column of smoke out at sea, RÚV reports. When the ship arrived at the site, sometime after 10:00 PM, there was no smoke to be seen, according to Ásgeir Erlendsson, the Icelandic Coast Guard’s communications officer. Bryndís Ýr Gísladóttir, Natural Hazard Specialist at the Icelandic Met Office, stated IMO equipment had not detected any activity that would indicate a submarine eruption near Krýsuvíkurberg. That does not mean, however, that an eruption did not occur.

“We can’t rule out anything of the sort,” stated Þorvaldur Þórðarson, Professor of Volcanology. “We know that there are often eruptions on the oceanic ridge that we don’t notice until they are over. Or even until we start mapping the area and see a new formation on the seabed. Whether what was seen yesterday is testimony of an eruption or not is difficult to say.” Þorvaldur says data is now being reviewed in the hope of finding an answer.

Reykjanes Eruption: New Vent by Main Crater

Geldingadalir Reykjanes eruption

Lava will begin flowing out of Meradalir valley in two to three weeks if the ongoing eruption on Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula continues at the same pace, RÚV reports. A new vent opened at the edge of the eruption’s active crater today, and both are now spouting lava from the same source. Volcanic tremors at the site began increasing around 3:00 AM this morning, continuing the eruption’s fluctuating pattern of activity.

Preceded by weeks of strong earthquakes, the Fagradalsfjall eruption began on March 19 of this year. It has been ongoing for nearly five months now, during which lava flow has been relatively small but steady. Volcanologists Þorvaldur Þórðarson and Ármann Höskuldsson were at the eruption site yesterday taking measurements. Ármann stated that he has never seen an eruption like this in Iceland.

“It’s a completely unique eruption that just calmly rises to the surface and nothing seems to affect it. It just takes over the land as it pleases.” Various types of lava can be seen at the site, including smooth pāhoehoe lava as well as rough, jagged ʻaʻā lava (both terms originate in the Hawaiian language).

The Icelandic Institute of Natural History just released a 3D model of the eruption site using pictures taken yesterday. Interested readers can also watch a live feed of the eruption – the crater could be seen bubbling actively at the time of writing.

Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist: Curbing Infections Remains the Goal

Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason

Iceland’s authorities will continue to protect at-risk groups from COVID-19 and work to curb infection rates in the current wave, says the country’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason. Þórólfur made headlines for his statements in a radio interview yesterday morning that herd immunity would be reached by letting the virus spread through society while preventing the hospital from collapse. Later that day, he told reporters that his words were misinterpreted and authorities’ policy toward the ongoing pandemic remains unchanged.

Over 69% of Iceland’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. While the vaccination is preventing serious illness and hospitalisation, it is not preventing infection with or transmission of COVID-19 as much as experts had hoped. Iceland’s COVID-19 incidence rate is at a record high, though proportionally fewer are becoming seriously ill than in previous waves. The change has led Icelandic authorities to review their approach to tackling the pandemic.

Herd immunity through vaccination

“The policy of the epidemiological authorities is that we are reviewing the chapter that we are entering now and I have written a memorandum to the Health Minister on how to proceed, how we should behave in the coming months,” Þórólfur told RÚV. “Now of course the main task is to curb this wave that is ongoing now and we can do that in many ways. Especially by tightening our grip at the border and minimising the flow of the virus into [the country] and trying to curb the domestic wave here although it may not be with the harshest measures we have implemented thus far. Hopefully we will be able to curb it without having to resort to that.”

Þórólfur confirmed that along with border restrictions, Iceland would need to continue to have domestic restrictions in place to prevent the spread of the virus. Achieving herd immunity is, however, still a goal and the Chief Epidemiologist stated that Iceland has come a long way toward it. “The aim is to achieve herd immunity in one way or another through vaccination, and we have tried that. Half of those who are vaccinated are immune so we have achieved herd immunity among them. In order to develop herd immunity here in the community, more people need to be immune to the virus and it’s not possible to do that in any way other than vaccinating with this third dose, revaccinating those who are the most vulnerable.”

Þórólfur asserted that authorities would not be implementing a policy of aiming for herd immunity through mass infection. “Just letting the virus spread freely through society, no one said that. We need to have some restrictions both at the border and domestically.”

Fatal Accident in East Iceland

fatal accident Iceland

An 18-year-old French woman had died after falling down a steep slope in East Iceland, where she was hiking with a group. Conditions at the scene were difficult, and Police in East Iceland wrote it was “clear that rescue operators accomplished a great feat” in their work. Police in the region are investigating the incident.

The police were notified of the accident, which occurred in southern Stöðvarfjörður, around 5:00 PM yesterday. Police, rescue crews, and paramedics were called to the scene, as well as a Coast Guard helicopter.