Permanent Closure of East End of Reynisfjara Beach

Reynisfjara black sand beach

Authorities are now working to permanently block off the eastern section of Reynisfjara black sand beach, where a large rockfall from Reynisfjall mountain recently showered the area below, Vísir reports. Experts at the Icelandic Met Office expect another section of the mountain will break off in the near future. The beach is a popular tourist site in South Iceland, known for its basalt rock formations and stunning views.

Mýrdalshreppur Local Council Director Þorbjörg Gísladóttir says the decision has been made to close of the eastern side of the beach permanently, although the council is still examining whether or not that is in fact possible. It may prove difficult to design barriers that can withstand the beach’s strong currents, sneaker waves, and winds. Authorities have discussed installing signs and chains that make it clear visitors who enter the closed area do so at their own risk.

Two tourists were injured on the beach on August 19 by a smaller rockfall from the mountain. The large rock slide occurred one day later, on August 20. Police taped off the area impacted by the rockfall, though some tourists were recorded on video climbing up the impacted area despite the closure.

Main area unaffected 

Þorbjörg points out that the area authorities plan to close off is not the part of Reynisfjara most visited by tourists. Most of the beach’s visitors stick to the cave and rock formations on its west end. The closure would therefore have little to no impact on the experience of tourists at the site.

Sneaker waves cause fatal accidents

Apart from the danger posed by crumbling cliffs, Reynisfjara’s “sneaker waves,” have caused fatal accidents at the beach over the years. An American woman died in May 2007 when caught by a wave, and a Chinese man lost his life when he was swept out to sea in February 2016. There have been many close calls besides, as tourists often disbelieve or choose to ignore the posted signage which states, among other things, “Very Dangerous Sea Currents,” “Deadly Sneaker Waves,” and “Never Turn Your Back On the Ocean.”

Large Rockslide in Reynisfjara Beach

A large rockslide fell from Reynisfjall mountain onto Reynisfjara beach this morning. The easternmost part of the beach, which is a popular tourist destination, has been closed off by the police. The rest of the beach remains open. Travellers are asked to respect the closure, as a number of travellers were spotted crossing the yellow police border which zoned off the area. The area which the rockslide fell on is often filled with travellers. Luckily, it is not known that there were any travellers in the area at the time.

A policeman from the South Iceland police arrived at the scene this morning and witnessed the remains of the rockslide, which appears to have been significant in size. The Icelandic Met Office has dispatched an avalanche watch employee to inspect the area. Sveinn Brynjólfsson, from the avalanche watch, stated that the rock is clearly unstable. “We will try to assess it today and figure out whether there are more fractures which rock could fall from,” Sveinn stated that rock slides fall from the mountain quite regularly and that the weather is not directly connected to the event. “Large rock slides have fallen from the area which faces the populated areas,” he stated.

Yesterday, a number of rocks fell down from the mountain onto the beach and at least three visitors were injured. Among them was a child which injured its foot and a young male who sustained a head injury. The injuries are not considered severe at this point in time. Today’s rock slide is believed to have been at the very least several tons. The sea closest to the area where the rock slide fell has turned a brown colour.
The video shows the area yesterday after a number of rocks fell down the steep slope onto the beach. Today’s rock slide was significantly larger

A popular yet dangerous destination
The black sand Reynisfjara beach is one of the most popular traveller destinations in Iceland. Situated in South Iceland, close to Vík í Mýrdal, it is home to the Reynisdrangar sea stacks not far from the shore as well as basalt columns inside a cave on the beach. The ripper waves in the area are especially dangerous, so travellers are advised to stay out of the water. In 2016, a fatal accident took place as a Chinese traveller lost his life after having been ripped out to sea.