I have witnessed a lot of cool things during my travels, but one of the most spectacular experiences happened the Solheimajokull glacier in Iceland. I literally witnessed solid volcanic ash turn to liquid as my guide, Baldur Rafn Robertsson, demonstrates. I might have never believed it if I didn’t see it with my own eyes.
Like a magic trick playing out on stage, I am fascinated at the secret behind this black dust as I see it sprinkled for miles across the glacier. This unassuming “dirt” that is nothing more than a remanent of a previous volcanic explosion remains dormant until the moment it is disturbed. This powdery substance that holds the properties of both a solid and a liquid begins it’s transformation the moment it is touched and then returns to its resting state when movement stops. What a magical surprise lurking on this vast landscape and such an incredible creation of Mother Nature.
The glacier is full of wonder: deep crevices that can swallow entire cars; small holes on the surface of the ice that drop to the end of the universe; puddles of pure drinkable ice water; ice caves that invite with an occasional trickle echoing into a hidden canyon; wind that signifies my presence in the middle of nowhere and a moment that is bigger than me. Here, Mother Nature is in continuous evolution and reminds me of my comparatively small, insignificance on this earth. The landscape is always changing and I am here as only a visitor to witness her secrets.
Wanting to learn more about lava and this incredible ash that changes in its consistency, I had to start from high above the actively erupting Bardarbunga volcano in the central, uninhabited part of Iceland. As I witness the eruption from the window of my small prop airplane, I feel as though I can literally reach out and grab the exploding lava. It appears to be moving in slow motion – like the moment time stops when something dramatic is about to happen. I can see deep into the crater where magma is brewing, preparing for the next explosion as if headlining after the opening act. In an instant, the next blow occurs and just beyond the bulk of the lava, smaller droplets dance above it exactly the way my childhood lava lamp taught me it would happen. I am so close, I feel that I can almost grab a pocketful to take home. Again, Mother Nature is fascinating and alluring with entertaining spectacles that she keeps hidden except for these rare moments.
The volcanic ash produced by an eruption is made of tiny particles of jagged rock, volcanic glass and minerals. Upon explosion, liquid rock expresses a magnificent and colorful show. Once it is dispersed, it adds a new layer to the natural landscape – sometimes changing the landscape entirely. The ash produced during the eruptions find a final resting place on the Icelandic glaciers, mountains, waters and farms. In rare moments, like picking up a handful on the glacier, it wakes up long enough to perform and inspire wonder as a way of teaching me that there’s more to learn here than meets the eye.
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