Fagradalsfjall Eruption in Iceland

On March 19th 2021 an eruption started in Geldingadalir on the Reykjanes Peninsula in Iceland. Fagradalsfjall, a volcanic system that had been dormant for thousands of years, had finally awoken. It was the first volcanic eruption I got to experience after moving to Iceland and I was fortunate enough to start documenting this amazing eruption right from the start. This item in my portfolio has been chronologically sorted so you can see how the eruption evolved. I tried to focus on many different aspects. Every visit had a different photographic focus for me. For those who are interested, I have written several blogs about my experiences during the eruption and a book as well.

The Birth of the Eruption

The eruption started in the Geldingdalir valley on Reykjanes Peninsula on Friday March 19th. I have always wanted to see and photograph a volcanic eruption. I had been hoping for the massive earthquake activity, which had sporadically occurred in the area for over a year, to turn into an eruption. Once it became clear this was a small eruption and I figured out how I could approach it, I hiked to the area. After a 4-hour long and strenuous hike, I finally arrived on-site. It was a dream come true. In the beginning, I mostly focused on using my camera as it was possible to go very close to all the action.

A New Fissure Opens

About two weeks after the start of the eruption, on April 5th 2021, a new fissure opened north of the two active craters. For about two days, the whole area was under a complete lockdown as no one knew how this would play out. After those two days, it became possible to visit the area again. Two new craters had formed and were causing the surrounding valleys to fill up much faster. Now lava was also flowing into Meradalir, a valley east of Geldingadalir.

Even More Craters Appear!

In the days after the two new craters had formed, even more vents started opening up, turning into craters as the lava started pouring out. In about one week time, several different vents opened up. It was an exciting time. The landscape had completely transformed yet again. Every time I visited the eruption, something new would have happened in the hours before my arrival. Geldingadalir also started filling more quickly than ever and the lava started filling up a third valley, which kept being referred to as the Nafnalausi Dalurinn, or the Nameless Valley, which lies east of Geldingadalir.

Centralisation of Lava

After a vent opened up close to the original two craters, some of the other craters started shutting down. Slowly but surely, all activity centralised into the newest crater. It started growing to a size bigger than any of the other craters. Because all the volume of lava exiting the eruption grew, big lava rivers started forming from the crater. The only active crater also started to show a geyser-like behaviour with lava shooting up the sky up to 400 metres and more at times.

A New Phase

After a few weeks, the geyser-like behaviour stopped. The crater grew to an enormous size, towering above almost all nearby hills. It even “consumed” the nearby original two craters. It became more and more difficult to get near to the eruption as the lava started flowing over hiking paths. More and more my focus would turn to using my drone to photograph and film as there are only so many angles you get from the ground with a camera. Occasionally there would be liquid lava visible in the lower valley, Nátthagi. When that happened, I focused a lot on details with my zoom lens.