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  • Writer's pictureyatri gulaak

Iceland day 2 Part 2: Reydinsfjara and Laki flows

Updated: Nov 25, 2020

Arnardrangur (Eagle rock) stands imposingly in centre of the famous black beach, Reydinsfjara. It is a huge expanse of basalt and Eagle rock rises out of it like a phoenix from ashes. Such peculiarities of landscape defy imagination but in Iceland they are a norm. According to lore some landforms of Reydinsfjara such as the Reynisdrangar stacks, were two trolls who were trying to haul a ship to land and froze into stone at the break of dawn. This story is strangely reminiscent of Lot’s wife turning into a pillar of salt when she looks back at the burning cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Arnardrangur Rock
Reynisdrangar stacks believed to be trolls turned to rock
*Lot' wife turning into a salt pillar while fleeing from Sodom and Gomorrah

Reydinsfjara is notorious for more material dangers too. There is no large landmass between Antarctica to Iceland but only endless expanse of the Atlantic. Waves and winds can strike unannounced with a fatal ferocity. There are accounts of unsuspecting frolickers being swept away by strong waves. Hence one should venture only when the tide is low and the weather cordial. That time, however, the beach was closed to tourists for an altogether different reason. Nesting season of seabirds was on and beach was cordoned off to prevent disruptions to their routine. So, we missed seeing the famed rock formations. But we spotted our first Puffin there. The gentle Atlantic puffins provided a stark contrast to the bleak vistas of the black beach. These beautiful birds are one of the symbols of Iceland and breed on rocky cliffs during summers. Around 60% of Atlantic puffin population can be found breeding on the jagged cliffs of Iceland during April-September.

Colony of puffins chilling on the cliffs

On our right was Dyrhólaey arch. On top of it is a beautiful lighthouse which we unfortunately did not visit. This is supposed to be the southernmost part of mainland Iceland. People go right of out to the edge to get end of the world like views.

Dyrhólaey arch
" * He felt somewhat as a hunted beast feels when at last it has found refuge from pursuit on some inaccessible rock "

Laki Lava Flows

On our way to Jokulsarlon glacial lake, we came across otherworldly Lava flows of Laki volcano which erupted in 1783. An eruption so severe that it caused a drastic change in weather patterns across the globe. During the eruption about 120 million tonnes of sulphur compounds were released which mixed with moisture to become sulphuric acid. The mist which formed, reached mainland Europe including Russia. In Western Europe, weather became hot and dry and it is believed many died of air pollution and resulting diseases. On the other hand, summer in Central Europe was good and Hungary enjoyed a bumper grape harvest. Whereas in North Africa, there were many droughts. In japan, rice harvest was a failure due to cold summer and moisture, which led to the worst famine in country’s history, in which about a million Japanese starved to death. It is now also considered to be one of the indirect causes of French revolution. Ash from the volcano led to successive crop failures in France. This sowed seeds of rebellion against the unpopular Louis XVI. The resentment climaxed in 1789 and triggered the onset of democratic movement.

Storming of Bastille during French revolution
Outlandish Laki Lava flows

Read other our stories on Iceland



References *

1) *Burning of Sodom and Gomorrah images from Robert Crumb's Genesis

2) *Quote of Reydinsfjara from "Lighthouse keeper of Aspinwall" by Henry Sienkiewicz.

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