Iceland Dispatch #15 – Askja

Yesterday we headed into  Askja – which is a huge volcano in a remote part of the the North-east of Iceland. Askja is an utterly desolate region of Iceland. Black lava fields extend more than 100 kms from the caldera creating a very desolate surreal landscape [Think ‘Mordor’ from JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings – but on steroids]. The drive in through the lava fields is anything but comfortable; taking around two and a half hours of bone jarring rough road. The majority of Iceland’s unpaved roads are anything but friendly to cars. According to the guide book the caldera of the Askja volcano encompasses an area of more than 50 square kilometres. The explosion that caused the immense crater occured relatively recently in 1875 when two cubic kilometres of tephra was ejected from the volcano – bits of it landing as far away as Continental Europe. The size and scale of the landscape is overwhelming; it must have been one hell of a bang when Askja exploded.

After the initial eruption a magma chamber collapsed and formed an 11km square km hole, 300m below the rim of the original explosion crater. This new depression has now filled with water and is a sapphire blue in colour and is known as Oskjuvatn – the second deepest in Iceland. The water is geothermally heated and the same temperature as a warm bath. Askja has erupted as recently as 1961 and there are active sulphur vents dotted around the crater.

Tephra Field

We spent several hours photographing in overcast sunset light around the caldera before a midnight supper in the black lava fields [Daniel, that berry yoghurt was delicious!]. We then pulled an all night shoot making straight for Dettifoss to photograph the waterfall from the other side this time at sunrise. This morning we had a wonderful sunrise with some gorgeous soft pastel light with mauve tinged skies – the best light of the trip so far [But I am not going to post these shots just yet!]. After more than twenty four hours of travel and photography it was time to catch up on a few hours sleep. Now its time for some lunch before heading off for the evening sunset shoot.

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