Reykjavík Excursions has suspended all transport services to the Blue Lagoon due to the risk of an eruption near the site. The Blue Lagoon itself remains open to visitors, a decision Suðurnes Police Commissioner Úlfar Lúðvíksson called “irresponsible” in a RÚV interview yesterday evening. Magma is collecting some 4-5 km below the surface of the Reykjanes peninsula just west of the Blue Lagoon and Þorbjörn mountain, but so far there have been no signs of volcanic unrest.
Infrastructure and town threatened
The Reykjanes peninsula has seen three eruptions in the past three years, indicating the start of a period of volcanic activity that could last centuries. All three eruptions were preceded by earthquakes and land rise similar to the ongoing activity near the Blue Lagoon. However, land rise and earthquakes have also occurred on Reykjanes during this period without leading to an eruption.
While the previous three eruptions did not impact infrastructure or inhabited areas, the midpoint of the current activity is not only near the Blue Lagoon, it also threatens the Svartsengi Power Station and the town of Grindavík. Not only is the location closer to infrastructure, but experts have also indicated that a potential eruption from the magma intrusion could produce faster-flowing lava than the three recent eruptions on Reykjanes. This would mean inhabitants and visitors to the area would have limited time to evacuate.
Prioritising staff and customer safety
“Like everyone, we are trying to figure out what the scientists are saying and what the pace [of the seismic activity] is,” Reykjavík Excursions CEO Björn Ragnarsson told Vísir yesterday when asked about the decision to suspend transport to the Blue Lagoon. “We put a lot into the safety of our staff and customers and decided based on our interests as a company to make this decision today.”
On Reykjavík Excursions’ website, it is not possible to book a Blue Lagoon transfer for the coming days, though it is possible to book from November 19. The company has a notice about the seismic unrest on their Facebook page as well where they note they have suspended trips to the Blue Lagoon from noon today. The website also features a banner warning of potential volcanic unrest on Reykjanes asking customers to subscribe to SafeTravel to receive alerts.
Five volcanic systems on Reykjanes
Iceland is located on a rift between two tectonic plates, the North American and the Eurasian. Broadly speaking, the rift cuts through Iceland diagonally from the southwest to the northeast and the movement of the plates is what causes Iceland’s volcanic and seismic activity. The rift cuts across the Reykjanes peninsula, which contains five separate volcanic systems. The magma now collecting below the surface is within the Eldvörp-Svartsengi system.
The Reykjanes peninsula alternates between periods of seismic activity lasting 600-800 years and periods of volcanic activity lasting 400-500 years. The recent eruptions indicate the start of a period of volcanic activity on Reykjanes.
Read more about the geology of the Reykjanes peninsula.