19 August 2017
Today my friends and I went somewhere not many people can say they have been… inside a volcano.
No, it is not an active volcano and I did not worry about bursting into flames because of molten hot lava. My friends reassured me that Thrihnukagigur volcano (which, in Icelandic, is written like this – Þríhnúkagígur) hasn’t erupted for over 4,000 years.
“Flat Kathy, in order to get to the volcano, we will need to walk several miles over a lava field. This was created when lava from the volcano hardened on the ground,” explained Cheerio.
“It will be a bit uneven, but we will carry you so that you don’t have to walk so far,” said Chamomile.
We took a bus to the site and began our hike with the guide. The outfit that organises these underground tours is called ‘Inside the Volcano’. And indeed, up ahead, we could see the volcano looming in the distance.
“When we get there,” Cheerio said pointing at the volcano, “we’ll be lowered 120 meters on a scaffold and then we can explore the inside of a magma chamber.”
“Lowered into the volcano,” I gulped aloud. I was starting to feel a bit nervous. We continued our hike and when we reached the edge of the volcano, I peered into the gaping hole and saw the scaffold.
“I’m not so sure about this,” I whispered to Chamomile.
“Don’t worry, Flat Kathy,” Chamomile comforted me. “If you are too frightened, you can relax up here and enjoy the view of the lava field. We will take lots of pictures to share with you when we come back up. To be honest, I’m a bit unsure myself.”
Phew! That made me feel much better! I let my friends go into the deep recesses of the earth while I relaxed above ground.
In the meantime, I studied one of the information boards. I learned that Þríhnúkar means ‘Three Peaks’ in Icelandic, and that Þríhnúkagígur is the most northeasterly and the youngest of these three peaks. They formed in three separate volcanic eruptions – fortunately, many thousands of years ago, and are all about 550 metres high. The cone that we had just ascended has a funnel-shaped opening at the top, leading down into the almost 200 metre deep open vertical volcanic conduit – into which my friends had just disappeared.
After waiting for quite a long while, I saw them emerge from the hole in the ground with huge smiles on their faces.
“How was it?” I asked, relieved to see them again.
“It was amazing!” they answered in unison. “The colors of the rocks in there were incredible.”
“Colors? There were colored rocks down there?” I was intrigued.
“Yes,” answered Cheerio. He explained that mineral deposits in the lava left behind on the rocks created colors. Red is caused by iron, blue is caused by sodalite, yellow is caused by sulphur and green is caused by copper.
“I thought it would be dark down there. I had no idea there would be so many colors.” I was fascinated.
“It is dark down there, but they have lighting so we could see the colors on the rocks. It was a tight fit in there, Flat Kathy. We are glad you decided to stay safe on top,” said Chamomile.
After a delicious lunch of hot soup, we hiked back along the lava field. On the ride back to Reykjavik, I was exhausted and fell asleep on the bus, dreaming about molten lava and colorful rocks and volcanic eruptions.