The sleeping giant stirs. Icelanders prepare for volcano’s eruption

In my tiny nation of about 37,000 people, the mood is of both wanting the eruption to happen, and not. If the volcano blows, it will end the uncertainty; if it does not, we will still have the looming threat that it might go off.



November 21, 2023 - 3:58 PM

This image taken with a drone shows the town of Grindavik, Iceland on Nov. 16. Residents of a fishing town in southwestern Iceland have left their homes after increasing concern about a potential volcanic eruption caused civil defense authorities to declare a state of emergency in the region. (AP Photo/Bjorn Steinbekk)

It is a surreal state, padding to the kitchen to blend a smoothie, while less than 25 miles away the ground is poised to split open and swallow a village.

The wild prospect — too huge to grasp, really — is that we residents of Reykjavík, Iceland’s capital, now live next to a reawakened volcanic system that might erupt any day, and every few months for the next few years, or even decades. It had lain dormant for 800 years until it rumbled back to life 2½ years ago.

More than 3,000 people have fled their homes as earthquakes portend an eruption. Magma is throbbing in the veins of the volcanic system underground, and the earthquakes keep coming, hundreds or thousands each day, of varying magnitudes. In Reykjavík, the ones that are above magnitude 3 shake my house; occasionally, objects tumble from shelves.

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