Normally, when you hear about an erupting volcano, your first instinct is likely to run the other way. However, Iceland has been experiencing the reverse of this phenomenon. Instead of people fleeing from a still-erupting volcano in the European country, tourists are pouring in to check out the natural wonder.
It’s easy to see why: The molten rock bubbling up from under the planet’s surface is truly awesome to behold. Destructive and beautiful at once, it’s not every day that you get to see the planet’s own molten blood coughing up from under the ground.
The eruption, which is officially named “Fagradalshraun,” is uniquely tourist-friendly. The molten rock is visible from the country’s capital city, Reykjavik. Large geysers of molten rock spewing up from under the surface can be seen as many as 40 kilometers away, enticing visitors to the area.
If that sounds dangerous, that’s because it is. Many tourists interviewed by reporters in the area have spoken about the heat they can feel coming off of the eruptions, even from several meters away. The power of the volcano is difficult to see in pictures or videos, many have noted, as the warmth and the shaking of the earth are major components of the experience.
Icelandic authorities don’t believe that the capital is in any serious danger, currently, from the eruption. Amazingly, the volcano has been erupting since March 19, and it has yet to pose any serious risk to the nearby city.
However, authorities are keeping a close eye on things. Should the lava flow begin to turn toward the city, evacuation measures would be swiftly enacted. Due to the extreme heat and unpredictability of lava, it’s very difficult for crews to divert the flow of the molten rock once it’s above ground.
Also drawing visitors to Iceland is the historic nature of this volcanic eruption. Geologists say that this is the first time a volcano has erupted in the country in 6,000 years. While lava bubbled up in the 13th Century, contemporary reports from the time don’t indicate that this was a true eruption.
The relative dearth of eruptions in recent human history is bizarre for Iceland. The island of Iceland itself formed in the distant past as a direct result of volcanic eruptions, and the island is still sitting on top of a geological hot spot. It speaks to the slow timescale on which the planet itself operates that a break of 800 years is nothing compared to the activity under the surface.