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Photographer's Note

I was somewhere on Iceland's Route 1, the Hringvegur (Ring Road). Two hours earlier I had passed, going east, through Vik í Myrdal and only a half hour earlier had stopped at a small restaurant in Kirkjubæjarklaustur. It was 9 p.m. and I was still some distance from my goal of reaching Höfn in the east. It was here, in 1783, that the priest Jón Steingrímsson gave his Eldmessa (Fire Sermon) after which a massive lava flow stopped sparing the town.

That lava came from somewhere north of the town, in the Laki Craters. Today only remnants remain of that gigantic 8 month long eruption that sent lava fountains a kilometer into the sky and spewed forth over 15 cubic kilometers of basalt from the earth in addition to 120 million tons of sulfur dioxide and 8 million tons of fluorine.

In Iceland a quarter of the population died. Across Europe thousands died as the poisonous cloud drifted as far south as Italy suffocating people and livestock. And the haze cooled the entire Northern Hemisphere causing one of the worst winters on record that even saw ice in the Gulf of Mexico. And perhaps the end of the American Revolution owes something to the eruption.

I think the Icelanders are quite proud of this piece of their history. Their little island caused the largest climatic upset of the last thousand years. The National Museum speaks of the event in glorifying terms of the colossal importance of this in world history. The Icelanders like to speak big about themselves and I suppose in that sense this is just something else to boast about.

Today this landscape is what remains of the flows, eruptions, glacial bursts that have scoured out this region of Iceland. It's a desolate wasteland of a volcanic desert. Here there is no sense of scale. No trees or homes line the road to give a sense of speed. Mountains are so large they appear nearby but in fact are kilometers beyond what the mind thinks. All kinds of tricks plague the mind in this landscape. One can only imagine having to cross this desolation, torrential rivers and risk getting caught in a glacial burst before this modern 2 lane highway was finished.

And so, after this break to take a look at the vast nothingness, the huge stretch of empty road before and behind me and a break from the mind games the landscape was playing I continued on east into the nightless night of Iceland.

janneman, German74, stego, mdetay, bertolucci, rajhema has marked this note useful

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Additional Photos by Paul Mastrogiacomo (pamastro) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2684 W: 166 N: 2676] (7218)
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