Bardarbunga Volcano Lights Up the Sky at Jokulsarlon Lagoon, Iceland

Bárðarbunga Volcano Reflection_Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon_Iceland_Kellie Netherwood-2

When the Bárðarbunga volcano started erupting two weeks before I was due to fly to Iceland, I instantly feared the worst: a selfish panic that my flight and holiday might be cancelled. But not only did I arrive without delay, the erupting volcano provided one of the most unexpected and incredible sightings of my trip.

The day started with an early rise and a rewarding sunrise at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. It continued with a drive towards the eastern most point of the island, stopping to photograph various aspects of the landscape on what felt a dramatic movie set. It culminated with an epic performance of the Northern Lights, creating a kaleidoscope of colours over icebergs of all shapes and sizes.

And it featured a mysterious and persistent red glow in the sky.

Our decision to stop for dinner in Hofn was a strategic one. The Northern Lights forecast was strong, the skies were starting to clear and it would require a two hour drive back in the dark via the picturesque Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. We were setting the stage for a potential aurora performance and the signs were good. I hadn’t even digested my lamp chops before we enjoyed our first sighting within minutes of leaving the restaurant.

Bárðarbunga Volcano Reflection and Northern Lights_Iceland_Kellie Netherwood-2

As green shapes began lighting the sky, fighting their way through scattered clouds, they seemed to dance around a mysterious red light. We initially assumed it was part of the aurora, but full red auroras are very rare and this light was motionless. We thought it might be light pollution from a nearby town, but couldn’t think of a place within the area large enough to cause such strong light. And regardless, town lights more commonly pollute aurora skies with an orange hue and hover close to the horizon.

We returned to our vehicle accepting it was an isolated sighting that we’d never be able to explain.

Bárðarbunga Volcano Reflection and Northern Lights_Iceland_Kellie Netherwood

But as we continued our journey, stopping for another aurora shoot along the way, it stayed with us, seemingly leading us to our next destination. And then our local companion, photographer Páll Jökull Peturssen, formed a theory. Could it be a reflection of the erupting volcano, Bárðarbunga?

It felt both obvious and unbelievable.

Bárðarbunga Volcano Reflection_Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon_Iceland_Kellie Netherwood-2-2

Bárðarbunga is a volcano that lies beneath Vatnajokull glacier, the largest ice cap in Europe. It has seen increased activity since the end of August, 2014. It is located at the north of the glacier, more than 100km away from the southern point we were standing on at Jokulsarlon Lagoon. The realisation that we were looking at the reflection of its powerful eruption was both exhilarating and humbling.

It was a symbolic reminder of how insignificant we are as a human race, when nature unleashes its inner demon.

Bárðarbunga Volcano Reflection_Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon_Iceland_Kellie Netherwood

We returned to the same location the next evening, hoping for an encore Northern Lights performance. It was not to be, but the volcanic light was right where we had left it, stronger than before.  As I looked up at the star-filled sky punctuated with this vibrant red glow, the rising moon behind me lit up icebergs floating in the lagoon and the glacier they had come from. It was a breath-taking scene.

Bárðarbunga Volcano Light_Jokulsarlon Lagoon, Iceland_Kellie Netherwood

Iceland really was the land of fire and ice!

 

Volcanic Reality

When Iceland responded to indications of a potential volcanic eruption with a red alert to aviation last month, my thoughts immediately regressed to 2010 and the chaotic disruption caused by Eyjafjallajökull. Ash-filled skies grounded flights throughout the world, disrupting the plans of millions of travellers. Although it was a natural event completely out of our control, most us moaned about it, irritated by a temporary disruption to our plans.

But how many of us thought about the farmers who were evacuated from their homes in Iceland?

I confess that I didn’t. Not until I walked into the Þorvaldseyri Visitor Centre, a family-run exhibit, and learned more about what disruption from the eruption really meant for local farmers who had peacefully co-existed with the volcano in their backyard until it unleashed its fury in 2010.

Located at the foot of the volcano, it provides historical background, geological information and personalises the eruption with stunning footage and an engaging tale of one family’s journey.

But be warned: you may walk out feeling a little guilty at all the moaning you did whilst waiting for your flight to be rescheduled!

 

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Kellie is a traveller and photographer who is most at home when exploring the world beyond it. Through the intersection of her travel, writing and photography passions, she shares her experiences to inspire others to create there own. The desire to live life instead of existing through it has introduced Kellie to inspirational locations throughout seven continents and from this a passion for landscape and wildlife photography has evolved. She feels a particular connection to the polar regions and Africa. You can see more of her photography at www.kellienetherwoodphotography.com

Comments

  1. I am going to Iceland in less than two weeks (so excited I could pee) & am, of course, hoping my flights will be fine with the volcano erupting as it is. My parents are fairly frightened that I could be there during a larger eruption, but I’m sure it’ll be fine, my friend in Iceland doesn’t seem too bothered.

    Your photos are gorgeous, I hope to see the Northern Lights, too! I’m excited to finally visit Iceland 🙂

    • You are right to be excited – it’s an amazing place! As for the volcano, I think we panic more about it outside of Iceland because we aren’t armed with all the information about it. As a local told us “this is something we’ve lived with for centuries and we just deal with it as it happens”, he also sent me this link that you can refer to for daily information http://www.mbl.is/frettir/knippi/3305/ You will be fine I’m sure!

      Have a fantastic time and fingers crossed you see the Northern Lights.

  2. Hi Kellie,

    Awesome snaps! How cool, seeing the convergence of the 2 events. Wonderful.

    I haven’t been to Iceland but recall the world news in 2010, with that massive eruption. I find volcanic activity so fascinating.

    Here in Savusavu, Fiji the hot springs flow continually. During the day when things heat up you see a steady vapor but late at night, when things get really cool, you’ll note what looks like smoke from a large fire billowing from streams and the bay. It’s only steam from the hot springs but the temperature contrast is so great that you note a huge biillowing cloud of steam escaping the ground. So neat.

    Seeing the aurora show and the reflection of the eruption is a once in a life time event. I’m so happy you were happy and grateful to experience it.

    As for the flights, yep, we’ve all been there 😉 Being human means we sometimes worry about being inconvenienced but most folks like you and me return quickly to being grateful for other flights that will arrive in the same spot, soon. We live in a wonderful time of convenience, and we’re so blessed for it.

    Thanks Kellie.

    Tweeting soon…..and thanks so much for tweeting my recent post!

    Signing off from Savusavu.

    Ryan

    • Thanks for your comments Ryan and for stopping by. Those hot springs sound intriguing and must really add something to the landscape. I’m yet to visit Fiji but its on my ever growing list!

      We certainly do live in a wonderful time of convenience, that’s a great way to describe it. And especially as a female who is lucky enough to be able to live independently and with freedom, I’m constantly grateful for being born in this era.

      Happy travels 🙂

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Dancing Skies: Northern Lights at Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, Iceland
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