Lava Has Breached Defensive Wall

reykjanes eruption, april 2024.

Some lava has breached one of the earthen walls built to protect Grindavík, on the Reykjanes peninsula, RÚV reports. There is not, however, any immediate danger to Grindavík or other human settlements from this lava.

“Cold lava”

The breach was noticed yesterday at a wall north of Grindavík. It is moving very slowly, and is not a great deal of lava, but is being monitored continuously, just like the rest of the eruption area.

Atli Gunnarsson, inspector general of the Suðurnes Police, told reporters, “This is a small amount of lava that just rolled over the wall, cold lava that was pushed over the brim. So this is really insignificant and we’re not worried about it right now.”

Not enough time for a warning

That said, there have been indications of yet another eruption on the way soon. People have been reminded to stay away from the eruption site, especially as ground surface rising indicates accumulating magma, which may lead to a second fissure at or near the location of the ongoing eruption.

Benedikt Ófeigsson of the Icelandic Met Office told reporters that if another eruption comes, it will likely be so sudden that there would not be enough time to warn people to avoid the area.

What a new eruption could mean for defensive walls which, in some parts, are already holding back a considerable amount of lava remains to be seen.

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The Lava Tunnel in South Iceland

The Lava Tunnel in winter

The Lava Tunnel offers a truly unforgettable underground adventure for travellers in Iceland. Read further to learn more about this exciting, family-friendly attraction in Iceland’s scenic southwest. 

For the last year, I worked as a tour guide at Raufarhólshellir, better known to most as the Lava Tunnel. 

Now having left, its fitting to have this final opportunity to share what a fascinating geological site it is. So, allow me to lay out the many reasons why you should make time to visit this intriguing cave system during your trip. 

Helmets at the ready!

Table of Contents

At 1360 m (4500 ft) long, Raufarhólshellir not only happens to be one of the most beautiful lava tunnels in Iceland. It’s also one the easiest to get to. 

Relatively closeby to the urban delights of Reykjavík, this unique attraction is an increasingly popular choice among travellers looking for a quick tour near to their accommodation. But it is not merely ease of access that draws the crowds. 

The Lava Tunnel itself is a breathtaking sight to behold, and stopping in to discover it is an experience you won’t forget in a hurry. 

Within its craggy walls, guests will  uncover a mesmerising realm sculpted by the volcanic forces. It is spectacular in scope. Alive with various colours and textures. Almost all who explore this twisting basaltic ruin are blown away by the sheer majesty on display.

The Lava Tunnel entrance
Photo: Michael Chapman. Outside of the Lava Tunnel on a misty morning.

The History of the Lava Tunnel 

 

In Iceland’s past, bandits and outlaws would utilise local cave systems as a form of shelter, both from the unforgiving elements and the vigilant hand of justice. 

While there is no proof that Raufarhólshellir was used as a shelter by this island’s more unsavoury characters, it is quite possible given how close the cave is to Reykjavík.

The first time the cave’s whereabouts were recorded in writing was in 1909.

Early cavers in Raufarhólshellir.

How did the Lava Tunnel form? 

 

While you’re sure to learn exactly how lava tunnels such as Raufarhólshellir form during your visit, it is always handy to have a little knowledge beforehand. 

Raufarhólshellir would have been formed in what’s called an effusive eruption. It originated from a volcano called Leitin, which is part of Bláfjöll, or Blue Mountains

Effusive simply means that lava poured directly from the ground into the open, rather than erupting beneath a glacier, such was the case with Eyjafjallajökull in 2010. 

As this lava travels across the landscape, it will sometimes find itself following predetermined routes, normally by flowing into canyons, crevasses, or any dip in the terrain it can find. With this in mind, it is easy to imagine the rivers these lava flows would have made.

A map of Raufarhólshellir.

Volcanism in action!

All of this is very well, but how does the tunnel hollow out? What is to stop the lava from simply hardening where it is? 

Well, each lava flow has a surface on the top, just like physical liquid. As it moves forward, this top layer cools down and hardens quicker than everything beneath it. 

This allows new lava to flow over the top of what came before, adding another layer of basalt. It also keeps everything beneath hot and insulated. 

Given that the lava is moving at speed, and sits at a depth that is warmer than what’s above, the lava continues to flow without issues. This process repeats itself as long as the lava continues to push from the ground. 

In Leitin’s case, carbon dating indicates the eruption for almost five years continuously, hence the size of the tunnel today. 

Photo: Michael Chapman. Visitors entering the cave

What happened once the eruption ended? 

 

When Leitin finished erupting, lava drained out of the cave, leaving a wide open space beneath the surface. Experts estimate the lava only took five months to drain. This length of time was determined by counting the various flow lines – or stratas – that slice across the original lava wall. 

While this lava oozed outside, the cave itself would have entered what’s known as a cooling period. This means that the original lava wall – the first rock that cooled down upon the lava leaving – went from extremely hot to extremely cold. It did so very quickly. 

As a result of this temperature change, the original lava wall began to crumble and break apart, leaving the majority of the cave in a state of breakdown

In other words, the tunnel would have once been far narrower than what is seen today. But while guests walk on boulders once part of the ceiling, there are many examples of the original lava wall inside. 

No doubt, your guide will point it out along the way, but keep your eye out for any rock that appears smooth, grey, and resembles melted candle-wax.

Photo: Michael Chapman. Outside the main building.

Where is the Lava Tunnel?

 

The Lava Tunnel is located in the municipality of Ölfus. It is approximately forty minutes drive from Reykjavik, or 41.9 km (26 mi.)

The closest towns to the Lava Tunnel are Þorlákshöfn, Selfoss, and Hveragerði. Other than these locations, there are few attractions nearby. That is unless you happen to be exploring further along the South Coast. 

With that said, some people choose to drive, and then hike, to a nearby geothermal river called Reykjadalur after visiting Raufarhólshellir. The soothing warm waters of this natural spot offer a welcome relief after using your muscles to walk along the Lava Tunnel’s uneven pathways.  

What can you do at the Lava Tunnel?

 

It is only possible to visit Raufarhólshellir as part of a guided tour. These tours run on the hour, every hour. Sometimes extra slots can be added during the peak season in summer, and evening tours are also available. 

But, typically, the first group of the day leaves at 9AM, and the last at 5PM. A trip inside will generally take around 60 minutes. 

There are two tours available. The Standard Tour and the longer, more demanding Lava Falls Adventure Tour. 

Follow the links provided to find out more information about each tour.

Prices are as follows: 

Standard Tour 

(Adult): 8400 ISK

(Ages 12 – 15): 2500 ISK

(Under 11): Free

Lava Falls Adventure Tour (Adult): 25.900 ISK 

Lava Falls Adventure Tour (Ages 12 – 15): 12.950 ISK

Photo: Michael Chapman. One the three 'sky lights' at Raufarhólshellir

Which tour best suits you?


Please note that all tours are guided in English. However, laminated information packets can be provided in French, German, and Spanish, upon request. 

This means that even guests without strong English skills can still understand all of the relevant information during their time inside.

For a bigger price, private tour groups can also book a place, allowing you to have a tour guide all to yourself. However, private tours only limit the size of the group. It does not make any difference as to how many people are in the cave at any one time.

Regardless of which tour one chooses to take part in, know that it is best to book a spot online beforehand. By checking out the Lava Tunnel’s website, it is possible to see which tours are fully booked and which still have space available. 

Online booking is also the go-to method for travellers requiring a bus transfer to the site. Do note, however, that transport is handled separately by Reykjavik Excursions.

Photo: Michael Chapman. Inside the Lava Tunnel.

Are combo-tours with the Lava Tunnel available? 

 

Fantastic question – if I do say so myself!

Of course, it is possible to include the Lava Tunnel as part of a bigger package. Indeed, it is encouraged for those looking to maximise their days in the land of ice and fire

Some of the combo-tours available with the Lava Tunnel included are:

The Golden Circle and The Lava Tunnel (You can read more about this incredible trip in our feature article: The Golden Circle: Iceland’s Favourite Sightseeing Route.)

Lava Tunnel Walk & Whale Watching 

The Lava Tunnel & Black Sand Beach ATV

The Lava Tunnel & Perlan Museum. 

þingvellir national park
Photo: Páll Stefánsson. þingvellir during the winter.

What is included as part of the standard tour? 

 

Visitors arrive at a small rectangular building, seemingly in the middle of the wilderness, with a gravel car park attached.

From the road, there is very little giveaway that a snaking lava tunnel exists only a few metres below. But, actually, the surrounding landscape is all a lava field, formed as part of the same eruption that created the lava tunnel itself. 

Before your tours begins 

 

Once inside, it is expected to check-in with the receptionist should you have booked online. If you are walking in for the first time, hoping to experience the Lava Tunnel on impulse, the reception also happens to be where tickets can be purchased. 

Before your tour starts, help to wile away the minutes by browsing the variety of products on display, from troll plush toys to volcanic candles, specially-made lava chocolate bars, and clothing items brandishing the Lava Tunnel logo. Of course, a variety of refreshments can also be purchased at the main desk, from soft drinks to coffees. 

Photo: Michael Chapman

What equipment do you need to visit the Lava Tunnel?


A
round five minutes before the beginning of your tour, your guide will explain the necessary equipment. 

This includes a headlamp-fitted helmet, optional hiking poles and, in winter, spiky crampons for better grip. 

Upon kitting you out, they will then provide an informative safety briefing. Listen closely as they explain what to expect on the tour, and also the rules. 

The majority of these regulations are common sense given the that Raufarhólshellir is a protected site. This means that: eating, drinking, smoking, vaping, chewing gum, or relieving oneself are all banned. Little surprise there. 

However, it is also important to respect the sanctity of the environment. Therefore, guests are asked to avoid drawing in the snow or breaking icicles.

The Lava Tunnel helmet
Photo: Michael Chapman. You will be provided a helmet before entering.

Entering the Lava Tunnel 

 

For the first half of the tour, a tour guide will lead you throughout the cave. Your route follows a makeshift path that switches between jutting rocks, metal walkways, and stairs. This variety of terrain means that older visitors – or those who find walking on uneven surfaces difficult – will want to bring along a hiking pole for extra support. 

The guide will stop the group three times to explain how the cave was formed, and point out the geological specimens on display. That includes various minerals, strange lava formations, and volcanic glass called Tachylite, formed as a result of molten lava cooling rapidly.

Photo: Michael Chapman. Volcanic glass inside Raufarhólshellir

While this might sound heavy on geology – and indeed, the tour is – there’s more than rocks you’ll find inside. 

The guide will likely point out the glittering, primitive forms of life that call the cave home. Plus, they might flick the lights off, demonstrating the tranquillity, and novelty, of total darkness

On top of that, winter visitors will have the chance to observe a standing army of intricate, naturally-forming ice stalagmites. These give the cave an otherworldly aesthetic. But it’s not all bad news for those exploring during the summer months. Without ice and snow covering the path, walking in and out is a much easier affair.

But, let’s not spoil too much of what’s in store. Raufarhólshellir is a cavern filled with secrets. It would be a shame to over divulge what lies in wait for those who opt to venture inside. 

Photo: Michael Chapman. The biggest sky light in the cave

Discover a unique venue space 

 

Guests also have the opportunity to check out what is colloquially called the party platform, which serves as the last stop inside at around 400 metres. 

This part of the tunnel is aptly named because it can be rented for performance events, including music concerts and cinema screenings.  

It should also come as little surprise that the party platform has seen a number of weddings, and even wedding proposals, occur there. However, not all have gone exactly to plan. 

(Make sure to ask your guide about these romantic failures. They’ll be happy to dish the dirt!) 


In the meantime, be sure to check out our gallery of black and white shots taken at Raufarhólshellir during the winter. The intention of these photographs was to showcase the variety of textures one can find in the cave. 

What is included as part of the Lava Falls Adventure tour? 

 

The Lava Falls Adventure tour offers far more of a challenge than the shorter standard tour, but arguably, the rewards for participating are greater. 

Inside the Lava Tunnel
Photo: The Lava Falls Adventure Tour

That is because guests will not only explore the entire length of Raufarhólshellir, but they will also witness some interesting ‘waterfall’ type formations. With one located at the end of each of the three breakaway tunnels, these formations serve as lasting reminders of the final lava that flowed inside. 

Unlike the standard tour, those participating in this longer excursion will need to read the fine print of their booking carefully. 

Not only will the attached paperwork lay out exactly what can be expected on the tour, but it also makes clear that you will need to arrive in a pair of hiking boots, complete with ankle-support. 

Allow me to reiterate; if you do not turn up to check-in wearing the correct footwear, you will be turned away. You have been warned.

Guests are also required to sign a medical waiver.  

The Lava Falls Adventure tours
Photo: Michael Chapman. Yours truly at the end of the Lava Tunnel.

Take part in an underground adventure 

 

The Lava Falls Adventure tour takes anywhere between 3 – 5 hours to complete, depending on the speed of the guests. Those who take part will traverse over hills of loose debris and rocks, taking extra care where they step, while also enjoying the thrilling sights inside.

Before heading in, however, understand that the guide is in charge throughout the duration of your excursion. If, for any reason, they decide that it is better to end the tour early, then their decision must be adhered to. 

Following your guide’s leadership is particularly important given the fact that there is no radio signal inside. Therefore, pushing people to their physical limit is considered dangerous. After all, the farther one ventures inside, the greater the distance they have to return. 

There is no use getting all the way to the end of the tunnel only to call it quits and start seeking other means of exiting. Instead, it is much better to remain honest with your guide and only take on what you feel comfortable doing. 

Photo: Michael Chapman

Eruption Crater Wall Collapses

Grindavík volcanic eruption January 2024

The last remaining lava crater from the eruption that began on March 16th has collapsed, following it overflowing with lava yesterday evening. The lava is flowing in a northerly direction.

Overflowed last night

As reported, the eruption in in Reykjanes has calmed considerably over the past few weeks, but has managed to stay active. For a while, it had plateaued to two craters, which then later reduced to one.

These craters are formed at fissure sites. As lava surrounding the fissure begins to cool, walls begin to form, which grow higher as the eruption continues. As recently as last Saturday, this particular crater was filled with bubbling lava that was occasionally spraying eastward. All that changed last night, Vísir reports, as the lava began to overflow the crater itself.

No immediate danger

As this lava continued flowing, soon the crater wall itself collapsed, issuing forth considerably more lava, albeit for a short span of time. Böðvar Sveinsson, a natural hazards expert at the Icelandic Met Office, told Vísir that it is very unlikely that the lava will affect any nearby infrastructure, but that they are monitoring the situation closely.

Lava Flow Not Likely to Reach Southern Highway or Sea

As the situation stands now, it is highly unlikely that the southern lava flow of last night’s eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula of southwestern Iceland will reach Suðurstrandarvegur, the road that runs along the south coast of Reykjanes.

As reported, the fissure which erupted between Hagafell and Stóri Skógfell sent lava flowing both westerly and southerly. The westerly lava flow ceased to advance this afternoon, but the southerly lava flow, while diverted away from the town of Grindavík by earthen walls, continued to advance.

This raised cause for concern, for several reasons. If it reached Suðurstrandarvegur that would naturally further impede traffic to and from central Reykjanes; the road Grindavíkurvegur, which connects Grindavík to the Reykjanesbraut highway, has already been overrun with lava.

Roads, however, can be detoured. Of greater concern was the lava reaching an area farm south of that road, and then the sea. Were that to happen, natural hazards specialist Pálmi Erlendsson said, it would release a steam plume containing toxic gases.

At that time, the lava was advancing south at a rate of about 20 metres per hour, and was 400 metres away from Suðurstrandarvegur. The Icelandic Met Office now states that this lava has reduced to some 12 metres an hour, and is still 200 to 300 metres away from Suðurstrandarvegur. Even if that did reach the road, it would need to travel another 350 metres to reach the see.

Given how much the lava has slowed over this period of time, and the distance it has yet to traverse, it is now considered unlikely that the lava will even reach Suðurstrandarvegur, let alone the sea. That said, seismic activity in Reykjanes is likely to continue for a while to come yet.

Lava Crosses Grindavík Road, Hot Water Supply at Risk

A screenshot from RÚV. Lava flowing over Grindavíkurvegur around 10:00 AM on February 8, 2024

Update 12:23 PM: Lava reached the hot water pipeline just after noon today, cutting off the hot water supply on Reykjanes. Authorities are responding to the situation and more information will be available shortly.

Lava from the eruption that began this morning on Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula has flowed across the road to the town of Grindavík. The peninsula’s hot water supply is at risk of being cut off by the advancing lava, and the Civil Protection Department has raised its alert phase for the area to “danger” as a result. The eruption is localised within a small area and flights to and from Iceland are not affected.

Residents and businesses asked to limit hot water use

Lava is now flowing toward the main pipeline that transports hot water from Svartsengi Power Plant to Reykjanesbær. If lava does flow over the pipes, it will cut off hot water supply to the towns of Reykjanesbær, Suðurnesjabær, Grindavík, and Vogar. According to the current rate of flow, this could happen within the next few hours.

As a precaution, civil protection authorities ask residents and business on the Reykjanes peninsula to lower their indoor heating, limit hot water use, and avoid using hot water for showers, baths, or hot tubs. In addition, locals are asked to delay turning on electrical heating systems and devices for as long as possible in order to not overwhelm the system. Locals are also asked to give responders leeway to do their necessary work.

A foreseeable scenario

Icelandic authorities had foreseen this potential scenario and had begun work on laying an underground pipeline in the area where the eruption is now taking place. A 500-metre long section has been laid that could replace the current pipeline if it is destroyed by lava, but it could take several days to put bring the new pipeline into use. Hot water reserves for the area can last around 12-14 hours if used sparingly.

Grindavík Residents Visit Their Homes

Reykjanes peninsula eruptions

Authorities gave permission yesterday for Grindavík residents to enter the town and pick up some of their belongings. Residents were allowed re-entry in groups and had three hours to collect their most important possessions, Morgunblaðið reports.

This was the first time residents were allowed back into town since a volcanic eruption began on January 14. The eruption near Grindavík destroyed three houses, caused crevasses to form across town, and displaced the 3,800 inhabitants for the unforeseeable future. The town had already been evacuated once before, on November 10 last year, due to seismic activity.

Strict rules for re-entry

Many Grindavík residents had not returned to town since before Christmas and were anxious to receive permission from police and authorities to return. The road conditions on Krýsuvíkurvegur were suboptimal during the visiting hours and many cars got stuck in snow. Even though the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration cleared the road yesterday morning, heavy snowfall caused condition to quickly deteriorate.

Residents had to follow strict rules during their visit. They were not allowed to adjust the heating in their homes, use bathrooms, or move around the town. Many open crevasses remain across the area and infrastructure is damaged.

Family displaced

“We picked up more clothes and toys for our children,” said resident Alexandra Hauksdóttir, who returned with her husband Gunnar. “Gunnar took his golf clubs and we also picked up our pizza oven. Just this and that, but no large items.”

The couple moved in to a new house two and a half years ago, but it is now near the largest crevasse and the lava which flowed into town. “I felt at home there,” Alexandra told Morgunblaðið and added that they would like to return with their two children when it’s safe. “We’re staying in Keflavík in a 60 square metre apartment, down from 190. It makes a difference.”

The Icelandic Red Cross has set up a page with donation options for those wishing to lend support. This includes both one-time donations and repeat subscriptions.

Grindavík Sees Workers Team Up to Clear 700°C Lava

An ambulance lingers just outside of Grindavík

Around 100 people are working on repairs and salvaging operations in Grindavik, tackling tasks like restoring heating, power, and water supply, in addition to clearing new lava at a temperature of about 700°C. Strict safety measures are being observed.

Clearing a considerable amount of lava

As noted in a Facebook post by the Grindavík-based rescue team Þorbjörn yesterday, around 100 people have been engaged in various repairs and salvaging operations in the town of Grindavik in recent days. According to the update, the utmost safety has been observed in these efforts and “tremendous energy” has been invested in various projects in the town.

“Plumbing and electrical teams, accompanied by response units, have been traversing the town, working hard to restore heating to houses. The extent and amount of work vary by location, but efforts have been made to cover as many houses as possible. This work is nearly complete as of the time of writing.”

The update noted that teams from Landsnet (a transmission system operator) and the utility company HS Veitur have worked to restore the power line between the Svartsengi Geothermal Power Plant and Grindavik, a task that was completed last night. Earthmoving contractors, along with Grindavik’s fire brigade and municipal employees, have also been working to get the town’s cold water supply back up and running.

This requires clearing a considerable amount of new lava, still about 700°C. “This work is progressing well, and hopefully, water will be restored soon,” the post from Þorbjörn reads.

700-metres of fencing

Several hundred metres of fencing have also been erected in Grindavik to enclose areas where fissures and potential land collapses pose a threat, particularly in open spaces where the ground has not been reinforced or where fissures are visibly open. 

“Everyone working in Grindavik these days must adhere to strict safety requirements and receive specific safety instructions. For instance, each person must wear a fall-arrest harness and helmet, accompanied by response units equipped with gas detectors and communication devices. In the industrial area in the eastern part of Grindavik … people must be secured with safety lines while working there.”

A portable five-metre steel bridge has also been constructed to cross fissures and enhance the safety of those working in Grindavik. Plans are underway to build another similar bridge to keep multiple roads open simultaneously.

“All these measures aim to increase the safety of those in Grindavik, with the goal of starting valuable salvaging operations as soon as the opportunity arises. There is now a strong emphasis on planning the salvaging of valuables in the town, but as previously mentioned, such actions cannot commence until the risk assessment map from the Icelandic Meteorological Office changes,” the post reads.

“Finally, we would like to express our profound gratitude to everyone who has participated in the projects in Grindavik recently. Unity and collaboration have characterised the work, with up to 100 people involved in operations each day.”

Largest Volcanic Eruption in Recent Years

Volcanic eruption on Reykjanes peninsula

The volcanic eruption in the Reykjanes peninsula, which began shortly before midnight Monday night, is the largest one since volcanic activity started up in the area in 2019. Its intensity is already decreasing, however, as evident from seismic and GPS measurements, the Icelandic Meteorological Office has announced. “The fact that the activity is decreasing already is not an indication of how long the eruption will last, but rather that the eruption is reaching a state of equilibrium,” read the 3 AM update. “This development has been observed at the beginning of all eruptions on the Reykjanes Peninsula in recent years.”

The southern end of the fissure is almost 3 km from the edge of the town of Grindavík, whose population of nearly 4,000 people has already been evacuated. The eruptive fissure is about 4 km long, with the northern end just east of Stóra-Skógfell and the southern end just east of Sundhnúk. However, the lava flow is more powerful than in the previous eruption, with more lava already flowing in the first seven hours of this eruption than the entirety of the Litli-Hrútur eruption in the summer of this year.

Lava could spare all man-made structures

The lava is not flowing in the direction of Grindavík, according to scientists who have observed the situation. Volcanologist Ármann Höskuldsson told RÚV that the location of the eruption is favourable, as it could spare all man-made structures. “Tonight everyone can be calm,” he told RÚV around 3 AM. “If everything is normal, the intensity will decrease tomorrow afternoon and the fissure will develop into craters. The eruption could last a week to 10 days.”

In an update with RÚV this morning, Ármann said that if the flow remains powerful, the lava could reach the road to Grindavík. He added that the pollution from the eruption is substantial and could affect vulnerable people in nearby towns, depending on wind direction. In that case, people should close all windows in their homes.

Roads to Grindavík closed

Police have closed all roads to and from Grindavík and asks that people do not attempt to get close to it, as gas fumes could prove dangerous. “Scientists will need a few days to assess the situation and its status is in fact updated every hour,” the Reykjanes Peninsula Police warned. “Passersby are asked to respect the closure and show understanding of the situation.”

Cabinet ministers will meet this morning to assess the situation.  The Icelandic Meteorological Office, civil protection and response units in the area continue to monitor the eruption and a meeting of scientists will be held in the morning to evaluate the overnight development of the eruption.

We will continue to update this story as it develops.

2-3 Times More Powerful than 2021 Eruption

iceland volcano 2023

The ongoing eruption on Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula is about 2-3 times more powerful than the 2021 eruption at the same site, according to the latest data from the University of Iceland’s Institute of Earth Sciences. In its first week, the eruption has covered an area of nearly one square kilometre with fresh lava and it shows no signs of stopping. This is the third eruption at the same site in three years, following some 800 years with no eruptions in the area.

Fresh lava over 20 metres thick

The eruption’s lava flow between July 13-17 averaged 13 cubic metres per second, slightly lower than the lava flow of 14.5 cubic metres per second between July 11-13, but due to the margin of error in measurements, researchers say the difference is not significant. The surface area of the new lava was 0.83 square kilometres [0.32 sq mi] as of yesterday, and its volume was 8.4 million cubic metres. The edge of the lava advances 300-400 metres [980-1,300 ft] daily with the distance being highly variable from day to day. The lava is around 10 metres thick on average but over 20 metres at its thickest.

All of these figures are quite similar to last year’s eruption in Meradalir but 2-3 times higher than the figures of the Geldingadalir eruption in 2021. The 2021 Geldingadalir Eruption was significantly smaller, but lasted around six months, while the 2022 Meradalir eruption lasted less than three weeks. So far, the current eruption is not threatening inhabited areas or infrastructure, though pollution from its gases as well as from wildfires set off by the lava are a significant risk for people at the site as well as further off.

Iceland Review has a handy guide on accessing the eruption site.

Saving Trapped Hikers at Eruption Site “a Near Impossibility”

Almannavarnadeild ríkislögreglustjóra. The eruption on Reykjanes, July 10, 2023

A public relations Officer with the Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue has told Mbl.is that rescue workers had to assist several hikers near the eruption site at Litli-Hrútur last night and into the early hours today. Rescuing hikers who become trapped in the lava is “a near impossibility.”

Approximately 3,000 hikers visited eruption site yesterday

In an interview with Mbl.is this morning, Jón Þór Víglundsson, Public Relations Officer with the Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue (Landsbjörg), stated that there were seven instances of minor injuries or fatigue at the Litli-Hrútur eruption site late last night and into the early hours today.

An estimated 3,000 hikers, with varying levels of preparedness, trekked to the site during this time. The procession of hikers began to disperse away from the volcanic area and towards the parking lot at around 3 AM.

Nearly impossible to save trapped hikers

According to Jón, rescue teams succeeded in assisting hikers, even those who strayed from the marked trail or failed to reach the viewpoint. “Ascending to the lookout lifts one out of the dense smoke from the wildfires, but hikers are often drawn closer,” he said.

Read More: Favourable weather conditions at eruption site today

Jón warned of the perils of venturing near the lava, explaining that rescue via the same route would be impossible. “The only possible method would be an aerial evacuation, which isn’t always feasible. The chances of rescuing individuals trapped by fresh lava flows are slim, and anyone falling into the lava would, simply put, perish,” he concluded.

Six groups of rescue teams

For the past two nights, six rescue groups have been operating in the area, managing closure points and providing on-site assistance.

Jón also shared an interesting observation from travellers in the area: “Several travellers approached our teams, reporting sensations of a ‘knocking’ from beneath the ground, akin to a heartbeat, according to one of the hikers.” While Jón speculated these could be volcanic tremors, earthquakes, or natural tremors in the area, he believed the source of the knocking to be within the lava fields.