Split Down the Middle: Peculiar Sheep Puzzles Experts

A peculiar lamb was born in Borgarfjörður eystri, East Iceland, last spring that has only grown more peculiar over the summer. Named Helmingur (e. Half), the ram’s coat is split neatly down the middle into two colours: while one side is white, the other is black. Several of its other features also differ from one side to the other. While one side of its head boasts a horn, the other does not. Experts have yet to confirm the reason for Helmingur’s peculiar characteristics, but one theory is that he was conceived from two fertilized eggs that combined to form one fetus.

“The most probably theory is that two fertilized eggs started developing and then merged in the womb to form a single fetus. This is called a chimera in the field of genetics and is very rare, though it is known in the animal kingdom,” Guðfinna Harpa Árnadóttir, a consultant at the Icelandic Agricultural Advisory Centre told RÚV. In short, chimeras have two sets of DNA, or the code required to make two distinct organisms.

A screenshot from RÚV. Helmingur has a horn on one side of his head but not the other.

Guðfinna says Helmingur will not be sent to slaughter this fall, but will become a subject of study instead. Experts are interested to find out whether he is fertile: his testicles, like the rest of his body, differ from one side to the other. “There is a possibility that sperm will come from two different testicles with different genetic characteristics,” Guðfinna Harpa stated.

A screenshot from RÚV.

Reykjanes Eruption Now Longest of the Century in Iceland

Eldgos - Geldingadalir - Reykjanes - hraun

It’s been 181 days since the Geldingadalir eruption began on Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula on March 19, 2021. That means it has now overtaken the Holuhraun eruption to become Iceland’s longest-lasting eruption of the 21st century. It still shows no signs of stopping, and experts have stated that the eruption could last years or even decades.

The South Iceland Volcano and Natural Hazard Group reported the milestone on its Facebook page. “Surface activity in Geldingadalir has lapsed a few times but there are no signs that the eruption is ending soon,” the post states. The latest of these lapses lasted 8.5 days and ended on September 11, when surface activity at the eruption resumed once more. The University of Iceland’s Volcanology and Natural Hazard Group confirmed that this lapse was caused by a clogged vent.

“It is evident that the opening that fed vent 5 clogged up, which prevented magma from entering the vent over this time period,” a Facebook post from the group reads. “This also halted formation of very large gas-bubbles, which explains the drop in tremor intensity. Yet, periodic but weak tremor episodes, steady outgassing from the vent, incandescent lava in skylights above lava tubes and newly scorched vegetation along the lava margins in Geldingadalir is a testimony that magma was streaming up through the conduit towards the surface during this 8.5 day-long pause in the surface activity.”

Route A at the eruption site was closed yesterday after lava that had been pooling in Geldingadalir began streaming across the route and an evacuation of the area was carried out. The eruption site is open once more today and conditions are good. Over 288,000 people have visited the eruption site since the eruption began last March.

The Geldingadalir eruption is only three days away from its six-month anniversary, but it’s still far from becoming Iceland’s longest-lasting eruption of all time. The Surtsey eruption is considered the longest eruption in Iceland’s history, lasting from November 1963 until June 1967 and forming the island of the same name.