The Environment agency of Iceland and the municipality of Þingeyjarsveit have announced plans to declare the caves of Þeistareykjahraun a natural monument. If the proposal is accepted, the caves will be legally protected against disruptive actions.
There are at least fifteen caves in the Þeistareykjahraun lava field, which is situated around 25 kilometres [15.5 mi] from Húsavík in the northeastern region of Iceland. The area, which is classified as a high temperature geothermal area, is home to numerous caves, some of which have not been fully explored yet.
In January last year, a large stalagmite cave was discovered in the area. It is estimated that the cave is at least 2.500 years old. After the discovery, experts warned that the cave could be destroyed if left unprotected, particularly due to the fact that a new road in the area had enhanced public access to the caves. Because of this, access to the caves was closed in the fall of 2020 and trespassing became a criminal offence.
In yesterday’s announcement, the Environmental agency of Iceland stressed the uniqueness of the stalagmite caves in Þeistareykjahraun:
“Some of the most untouched stalagmite caves in the world have been found in Þeistareykjahraun. They possess an extraordinary number of stalactites and lava straws. The caves, which are among the most unique in the world, have a significant scientific and aesthetic value, and could serve an educational purpose as well.”
The plans have been publicly announced to allow organisations and members of the public to comment upon them.