Why is the sand black in Iceland?

why is the sand black in iceland

Black sand beaches have become one of the images most closely associated with Iceland, and for good reason.

You may already know that the answer has to do with volcanic activity. Iceland, after all, is not the only place in the world with such beaches. Hawaii has several notable black sand beaches, for instance, including Punalu’u and Kehena beaches.

The distinctive black sand shared by these volcanic islands comes from the basalt fragments that follow a volcanic eruption. Basalt is by far the most common volcanic rock, accounting for about 90% of all volcanic rocks on earth. Basalt tends to be dark grey or black in colour because of its mineral composition, which includes high levels of augite and pyroxene minerals, which tend to be darkly coloured.

When a lava flow reaches the ocean and comes into contact with water, it cools very quickly and shatters, just like how dishes sometimes shatter in the kitchen if run under cold water directly after heating.

This shattering creates a large amount of fine-grained debris, which is eroded into sand over time.

In many parts of the world, black sand beaches can be formed as a single event and then fade away after the lava flow. But because Iceland is still very volcanically active, the black sand is replenished often, and nearly all of Iceland’s beaches have this distinctive colour.

There are, however, a couple exceptions. Rauðisandur, for example, is a well-known beach in the Westfjords famous for its rusty-red colour.

Work Group to Submit Report on Reykjanesbraut Closure

Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson

A work group appointed by Minister Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson to review the closure of Reykjanesbraut in December is expected to submit a draft plan to the Ministry of Infrastructure next week, Mbl.is reports. The closure of Reykjanesbraut led to numerous flight cancellations and delays.

Reykjanesbraut closure leads to flight cancellations, delays

Following heavy snow in the capital area during the days leading up to Christmas, Reykjanesbraut – the road leading to Keflavík Airport – became impassable. The closure led to numerous flight delays and cancellations, with many travellers expressing their criticism of the Icelandic authorities.

Speaking to Mbl.is in December, Minister of Infrastructure Sigurður Ingi Jóhannson stated that the situation was unacceptable: “I have to say, right now, we have to get over this and ensure, as far as that’s possible, that Reykjanesbraut is not closed while the airport is open.”

Sigurður Ingi subsequently appointed a work group composed of representatives from the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration, the National Police Commissioner, and the Suðurnes police chief. The work group was tasked with reviewing the events in December and drafting a plan on how best to deal with similar situations.

“We are working hard on the report in collaboration with these groups,” Hjördís Guðmundsdóttir, Director of Communications for the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management, told Mbl.is this morning. The work group is expected to submit its report on Tuesday, January 10.

“We scrutinise everything we do, so it’s natural for us to scrutinise this,” she added.

Court Rulings Shed New Light on Domestic Terror Plot Defendants

Weapons and ammunition

Two recently released verdicts from the Court of Appeal (Landsréttur) shed new light on the two defendants in the ongoing domestic terror case, RÚV reports. One of the defendants described himself as a Nazi while the other maintained that he was a humanist who believed in God.

Benefit of the doubt

In December, formal charges were brought against two men suspected of plotting a domestic terror attack in Iceland. They have been free to travel since the Court of Appeal revoked their custody during the middle of last month.

When the district attorney filed to extend custody over the two men, the Court of Appeal concluded that it was impossible to establish that there was a strong suspicion that the men had intended to commit acts of terrorism. The District Court of Reykjavík had previously ruled that the suspects must be given the benefit of the doubt, as a detailed evaluation by a psychiatrist had shown that they did not pose a threat.

Known each other for some time

As reported by RÚV, the Court of Appeal recently published two rulings made in October concerning the case. The hearings shed new light on the two defendants, who, at the time, had been in custody and isolation for almost three weeks. The documents show that the men had known each other for a long time and, among other things, were colleagues at a construction company.

One of the men has been charged with attempted terrorism. A little over a week before he was arrested, the police had found three 3D printers and four firearms in his home. He was later taken into custody but released a week later as the police had not been able to access his phone. When they finally managed to access his phone, the police discovered messages between the man and the other defendant where they discussed, among other things, Nazism, mass murder, and the purchase and sale of weapons. The two men were subsequently arrested in a large-scale operation by the National Police Commissioner, the district prosecutor, and the Capital Area Police.

Claimed to be a humanist

During the first hearing, the defendant admitted that he had engaged in conversations with the other man: that they were friends and that they shared a special sense of humour. He stated that he was unemployed, having lost his job two months earlier, that he believed in God, and that he had been confirmed into the church. He maintained, however, that he didn’t follow politics and bore no ill will towards politicians.

He also stated that the messages he had sent were meaningless and were a product of their odd sense of humour: He was a humanist who cared about LGBT people and people of colour. He added that many people considered his friend to be a Nazi who hated both Jews and Muslims. He could not, however, explain why he had been searching the internet for the date of the annual celebration of the police; he was bitter and hurt but did not want to explain it further.

Intended to produce methamphetamine and not explosives

In a hearing one week later, the defendant repeated that his comments were meaningless, that he and his friend shared a dark sense of humour. He was not an angry man and that, generally speaking, he cared for other people.

In the third hearing, he reported that the list of chemicals found by the police was not intended for bomb-making but for the production of methamphetamine. In the fourth hearing, he stated that all of their talk about the police annual celebration and the Pride parade – as well as their talk about assassinating political leaders –  had been a joke. He concluded by saying that he was ashamed of his comments.

Discontent with LGBTQ people and foreigners

During the first hearing, the other defendant, charged with complicity, described himself as a recluse and admitted that others called him a Nazi. He said that he often offended people by speaking openly, something he was aware of and that had led to his sense of isolation.

He stated that he was part of the group the Right Wing and that he believed gays were given too much space in society and should be kept away from children. He also expressed discontent with the many foreigners streaming into the country, who did not work and lived off the system. He added that he was a big weapon and bomb enthusiast. His partner had aired the idea of running people down during the Pride parade but that he hadn’t actively participated in the conversation, that he had just gone along with it.

A week later, a statement was taken from him again. During that interview, he said that he realised that the data that the police had gathered would look very bad for him. “He claimed to be a Nazi,” the ruling states.

Repeated during the hearing that he was a Nazi

He described the other defendant as being vengeful and bitter as he had been refused a firearms licence; it had taken a toll on him. He denied, however, that he had planned to carry out terrorist acts. Asked why others described him as anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic, he said that it probably had to do with his being a Nazi. He repeated that observation later in the same hearing.

In the third hearing, the man’s reasoning had slightly altered, RÚV notes. He stated that all the talk about terrorism, assassinations, and bomb-making was meaningless. He had been drunk when he made those comments. He admitted, however, that he had saved a video of a certain terrorist attack with the words that the terrorist in the attack was “a god” but again claimed that he had been inebriated.

Tried to cool his partner down

During the third hearing, he outlined his concerns about his friend, whom he said had gone too far in his discussions about drone strikes. At that time, he had begun to believe that his friend could carry out such plans and that he had attempted to cool his friend down.

The indictment against the men will be registered in the Reykjavík District Court in the middle of this month. The National Police Commissioner raised the alert level after the men were released. No information was received as to whether the office would have a special presence in the district court when the men appear before the court, RÚV notes.

Deep North Episode 7: Mad World

mental health in iceland

It’s not easy being a teenager. Between social media, online bullying, school, lack of sleep, and other factors, it seems that there are more ways than ever for young people to be unhappy. We look at some factors peculiar to the mental health situation in Iceland, and ask what’s to be done.

Read the full article here.

Annual Limit on Capital-Area Pollution Already Exceeded

Pollution in the capital area has exceeded the health-protection limit 19 times so far this year, which is more than the permissible number for an entire year, RÚV reports. The law authorises restricting car traffic on days when the limit is exceeded, but such measures have yet to be implemented.

Legal authorisation yet to be translated into regulation

The Environment Agency of Iceland’s air quality metres continually measure the air quality in the city and publishes results every hour. At 6 PM yesterday, the pollution exceeded health protection limits for the nineteenth time in 2023, RÚV reports. According to the regulations of the Ministry of the Environment, the limit can only be exceeded eighteen times a year.

There are no precedents for such high levels of pollution in recent years, according to Svava S. Steinarsdóttir, a health representative at the Reykjavík City Public Health Authority.

“We haven’t seen such high numbers until the last few years,” Svava told RÚV.

The increase goes hand in hand with the increase in car traffic, powered by petrol and diesel. The weather also has its say: calm or little wind combined with the recent day’s frost means that nitrogen dioxide (NO2) hovers over the city for longer periods.

Svava stated that exceeding health-protection limits was serious, given that these limits were set to protect citizens. “We may need to consider encouraging people to use more ecological means of transport.”

Municipalities are authorised by law to restrict traffic on days when pollution is high. However, that authorisation has not yet been translated into regulation.

Svava added that the Environment Agency of Iceland has mentioned radical measures, such as traffic restrictions, in its contingency plans. So far, the agency´s only option is to encourage people to reduce emissions from private cars and studded tires.