February 9, 2023

Filipino Guardian

Sentinels of Filipino Free Press

Let the lava flow! Iceland’s volcano show is a hit

by Jeremy Richard
Agence France Press

In a dark auditorium in Reykjavik, bubbling orange lava flows down a slide, within inches of awed visitors.

Bounded on both sides by black sand, the river lights up the space like a sunrise.

This is the Lava Show, Iceland’s newest tourist attraction, using reheated lava from a real eruption of the island’s Katla volcano more than 100 years ago.

The heat emanating from the molten rock is palpable, so much so that some spectators shuffle in their seats to remove their coats.

“This is the show where you can experience real molten lava intentionally flowing into a building,” joked The Lava Show’s Scottish host Iain MacKinnon.

The molten liquid hissed as it hit blocks of ice, crackling as it cooled like the sound of glass breaking.

“It was really beautiful,” Jasmine Luong, a 28-year-old Australian tourist from Melbourne, told AFP.

“I can understand why a lot of people would be drawn to (an eruption) but obviously it wouldn’t be possible to approach it in a normal natural setting,” she added.

“It’s much safer.”

– “Wow effect” –
There’s the same “wow effect” people get at an eruption site, MacKinnon said.

Hundreds of thousands of onlookers have flocked to watch the mesmerizing jets of lava from Iceland’s mountain Fagradalsfjall, just 40 kilometers from Reykjavik after two eruptions last year.

But not all Icelandic eruptions are safe.

While the lava used in the show retains a whiff of sulfur, the dangerous toxic gases that usually emanate from an eruption have dissipated because the rock has been reheated and remelted so many times.

More than 600 kilos (1,320 pounds) of tephra – the rocks ejected from Katla, one of Iceland’s most dangerous volcanoes, when it last erupted in 1918 – are used in the lava show.

“We heat it up to its melting point, which is around 1,100 degrees Celsius (2,000 Fahrenheit) and then pour it into the room,” said show founder Julius Jonsson.

In an adjoining room, a large furnace was converted for the needs of the show.

Jonsson’s company has been running a version of the production in the coastal village of Vik in south Iceland since 2018, but the Reykjavik show only opened last month.

The idea for a lava show came to him while standing on a glacier watching the Fimmvorduhals lava flow, a small eruption that preceded massive Eyjafjallajökull in 2010, whose ash plume disrupted air travel and stranded more than 10 million travelers.

Known as the land of fire and ice, Iceland has 33 volcanic systems that are currently considered active, the highest number in Europe. An eruption occurs on average every five years.

“We thought it would be wonderful for Iceland if lava flowed all the time,” Jonsson said.