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Photographer's Note

Askja Caldera - Central Iceland

Askja is a stratovolcano situated in a remote part of the central highlands of Iceland. The name Askja refers to a complex of nested calderas within the surrounding Dyngjufjöll mountains, which rise to 1,510 m.

The region is only accessible for a few months of the year. Being situated in the rain-shadow to the NE of the Vatnajökull icecap, the area receives only about 450 mm of rainfall annually. The area was used during training for the Apollo program to prepare astronauts for potential lunar conditions.

Askja was virtually unknown until the tremendous eruption which started on March 29, 1875. Especially in the eastern fjords of Iceland, the ashfall was heavy enough to poison the land and kill livestock. The eruption triggered a substantial wave of emigration from Iceland. The last eruption of the Askja was in 1961.

The outer caldera of Askja, representing a prehistoric eruption, is about 45 km², and there is evidence of other later caldera-forming events within it. The main crater floor lies at about 1,100 m.

Öskjuvatn (the big lake on the picture) is a large lake that fills much of the smaller caldera resulting from the 1875 eruption. Its surface lies about 50 m below the level of the main crater floor and covers about 12km². When the lake originally formed it was warm, but today it is frozen over for most of the year. Öskjuvatn is the deepest lake in Iceland at 220 m deep.

Viti (the small green lake on the picture) is a smaller explosion crater on the north east shore of Öskjuvatn, approximately 100 metres diameter. It contains a geothermal lake of mineral-rich, sulphurous, opaque blue water, which is maintained at a comfortable temperature for swimming. Víti was formed in the eruption of 1875.

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Additional Photos by Michel Detay (mdetay) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 493 W: 1 N: 1025] (4865)
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