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Hekla Volcano Observation Deck Live Video from LAVA Centre.

Hekla profile

Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI): 3
Elevation: 1.491m
Last Eruption: 2000

Mount Hekla facts

Mount Hekla is an active volcano in southern Iceland, falling within the island country’s East Volcanic Zone. The closest city to Hekla is Reykjavik, which is about a 100-mile drive from the mountain. It has been Iceland’s best-known volcano, and also one of the world’s most popular tourist attraction. Let’s check out four interesting Hekla facts here:

  1. The Hekla volcano is aptly named ‘The Gateway to Hell,’ owing to its shocking history of widespread destruction. In the middle ages, most people started to believe that this mountain was the entrance to Hell. The word “Hekla” is used to describe a short-hooded cloak in Icelandic—something that signifies the thick blanket of cloud covering the summit.
  2. Hekla is the most active volcano in Iceland. It has erupted about twenty times in the past 1,140 years (since settlement started taking place Iceland in 874 AD), forming layers upon layers of volcanic ash and lava. Hekla lava is believed to cover the Southern part of the island country.
  3. Eggert Ólafsson and Bjarni Pálsson were the first people to climb Mount Hekla in 1750.
  4. The Hekla volcano once erupted in 1947, during which the peak of the chute reached 50 meters (164 feet). Also, Hekla Iceland has created one of the hugest volumes of lava compared to any other volcano in the world.

Hekla live video

Mount Hekla is a stratovolcano (formed from mixed lava and tephra eruptions) situated in the south of Iceland. It is one of the most active and also the most prominent amongst the 30 volcanoes in the country. More than twenty eruptions have taken place in and around the Hekla volcano since 874 AD.

The peak of Hekla is at the height of 4,892 feet (1,491 meters) and has been dubbed as the “Gateway to Hell” by early Icelandic settlers.

Hekla has created one of the world’s biggest volumes of volcanic lava, with around eight cubic-km being released over the last millennium. Here is a live webcam feed of the Hekla Volcano from LAVA Centre.

A Hekla eruption can take place anytime. So, a live video of the region on the internet can help travelers get all information in real-time and plan their trip better.

Monitoring of Hekla

 

Iceland has about thirty active volcanic systems, but Mount Hekla is considered the most active and potentially destructive one. The volcano lies within the country’s East Volcanic Zone. The Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) is continuously monitoring the region to ascertain the types and magnitude of hazards that might occur when the next Hekla volcano eruption takes place.

The hazards from each volcanic eruption are related to its type, region, and intensity. Public vulnerability to hazards of Hekla Iceland rises as the number of people subjected to the hazard increases. A fundamental issue in lessening the volcanic risk is the ability to detect, interpret, and communicate signals of volcanic catastrophes.

The effective monitoring of Hekla, which started in the seventies, included the extended seismic (SIL) network and instruments that can identify ground deformation (GPS and borehole strainmeters) and volcanic gases (DOAS and MultiGAS).

During this time, pre-eruptive signals were detected only tens of minutes prior to the eruption. Untiring efforts continue in this direction to run and grow a robust monitoring network on and around Mount Hekla for detecting percussive eruption signals.

The objective here is to optimize the monitoring and interpretation of the available signals to provide a timely warning about any activity in the Hekla volcano. Such warning signs would be communicated to major stakeholders involved, such as Iceland’s Civil Protection Department, Isavia, London VAAC, as well as to the general public.

Iceland landscape with Hekla volcano in the background. Hekla most active volcano in Iceland

Hekla volcano discovery

Mount Hekla measures 1491 meters in height and is one of the thirty most-known and most-active volcanoes in Iceland. Hekla eruptions are frequent, burst with an explosion, and release eruption plumes.

The formation of high Hekla lava fountains and humongous lava flows is pretty common here. A major part of Mount Hekla is under extensive lava flows from past volcanic eruptions, which took place in 1104 AD.

The Hekla volcano is situated near the southern tip of the eastern rift zone, sitting on a junction transformed by the rift. It has created basaltic andesites, as opposed to the tholeiitic basalts that are typical of volcanoes in Iceland. Hekla lava is usually rich in fluorine—something that can harm grazing animals.

The Hekla volcano has an elongated shape, has a 5.5-km long crevice called Heklugjá, which cuts across the volcano. Also, this fissure is often very active along its entire length during major Hekla eruptions.

It’s interesting to note that repeated eruptions, diagonal to most rifts in the eastern volcanic zone, have created the elongated ENE-WSW profile of Hekla. Frequent Hekla eruptions many centuries ago have created a layer of tephra deposits throughout the country. Such deposits provide valuable insights into essential time markers that can be used to determine the date of the eruption, in comparison to other Icelandic volcanoes.

Most active volcano in Iceland

The formation of high lava fountains and their culmination into large lava flows is pretty common in Hekla Iceland. A major part of Mount Hekla is covered by extensive lava flows from past eruptions, which date back to 1104 AD.

Folklores have dubbed Mount Hekla as “The Gateway to Hell,” owing to its long history of destruction. People in the middle age started to believe that Hekla led them to Hell. However, that never stopped enthusiastic travelers from exploring it.

Since the time people started settling in Iceland in 874 AD, the Hekla lava has wreaked havoc. It has let out poisonous gases that fogged the region and triggered tsunamis that washed away Iceland’s shore. Fortunately, Hekla has mellowed down after it erupted recently in 2000, welcoming dauntless travelers to witness the aftermath of its wrath.

As much as ten percent of all volcanic debris in Iceland is believed to have come from the Hekla volcano. In fact, it has created some of the largest volumes of volcanic lava in the world! However, the volcanic activity in the region has led to the creation of a stunning landscape that inspires people to know more about it.

What is happening at the Hekla volcano?

Eruptions of the Hekla volcano have been frequent and regular in the last decades: 1970, 1980-81, 1991, and 2000. Initially, Hekla used to erupt once to twice per century; so, it’s rather unusual to see such a regular pattern in recent times.

Sometimes the most dangerous volcanic eruptions occur after a long period of rest. Scientists have derived tilt measurements at Hekla for several decades to observe its state of inflation. The station that has revealed the most consistent results is situated at Næfurholt, which is about 11 km west of the Hekla volcano.

After the eruption in 2000, the magma pressure in Mount Hekla increased and had reached the previous peak in 2006. It must be assumed that the magma pressure was sufficient by then to trigger a new eruption. For the next years, the magma pressure inside Hekla has surpassed this value. Even the latest measurement revealed in June 2015 confirms that the pressure has increased.

There are, however, no particular indications that an eruption is imminent. The Hekla volcano may inflate this way for many more decades without erupting. There is no method that can predict the timing of the next eruption.

However, based on previous activities, it is highly likely that the Hekla volcano may not erupt until ½ to 1 ½ hour before the magma reaches the surface. Everything depends on the circumstances, whether or not to issue a warning before the next eruption.

Hekla eruption history

Before the beginning of the 1100th century, Icelandic volcanoes remained mostly dormant. But Mount Hekla unleashed its wrath in 1104, eliciting widespread panic from citizens. Early Icelandic settlers started to believe that Hekla was “The Gateway to Hell,” and the projectile fragments it let out were doomed spirits.

Not to forget, they thought the whistles of the blazing fragments were the screams of all those helpless souls. Mount Hekla was also identified as the home of witches, trolls, and black magicians.

Recent research into the debris from the Hekla volcano revealed old pyroclastic flows. Not only can the Hekla volcano release fire fountains and burning rocks, but also catastrophic pyroclastic flows. An example of this is the major Hekla eruption that took place in 1693, which produced both lahar flows and a devastating tsunami.

In 2000, Mount Hekla was going through a VEI 3 eruption, which is comparatively smaller than its bigger eruptions. It produced an ash plume that went up to 15 km, traveling north across the country. During this Hekla eruption, a NASA airplane happened to accidentally fly over the plume, marking the first-ever recorded measurement of a volcanic plume. The plane’s engine sustained significant damage because of the ash, but scientists got an idea of the temperature and sulfur dioxide levels in the plume of the Hekla volcano.

Since then, many technological developments have allowed scientists to safely measure the levels of gas and temperature in Hekla’s ash plumes.

Hekla landscape from Lava Centre

Hekla Iceland is part of a vast volcanic ridge, stretching about 25 miles (40 km) in length. Heklugjá, a rift measuring about 3.4 miles (5.5 km) in length, is believed to be in the core of Hekla.

Mount Hekla appears like an overturned boat, with its series of craters representing the keel, two of which are usually the most eruptive of all.

Hekla lava hails from a morphological type crossed between a crater row and stratovolcano, which is formed from mixed lava and tephra eruptions. It is located in the area where the Eastern Volcanic Zone and the South Iceland Seismic Zone conjoin. The unconventional form of Hekla is seen on very few famous volcanoes around the globe, like Callaqui in Chile.

When not erupting, Mount Hekla is often draped in snow and flushed by tiny glaciers. The Hekla Volcano hike (takes about 8 hours) is a popular tourist activity that welcomes intrepid travelers to soak in the region’s beauty. While there are plenty of hiking trails at the Fjallabak Nature Reserve, the way up is partially marked. So, a guided tour with the proper equipment and safety instructions becomes necessary for crossing the snowfields.

Sprawling meadows, age-old lava fields, gushing rivers, and the famous ash dessert form enticing components of the landscape of Hekla—something that draws people from all over the world.

Hekla volcano hike

Mount Hekla is one of the most enigmatic and active volcanoes in Iceland, with its lava and emissions shaping much of southern Iceland’s geography and morphology over the centuries. Despite it being called the “Gateway to Hell” by local folklores, many hikers and mountain lovers from all over the world drive to Hekla for a lifetime adventure.

One of the most lucrative adventures that await people visiting Mount Hekla is the Hekla Volcano Hike. The closest city to Hekla is Reykjavik, which is 106 km from the town of Hvolsvöllur. A trail was re-established up the mountain after the 2000 Hekla eruption. The road to the trailhead is possible with passenger cars and sizeable four-wheel-drive trucks, which can get hikers to the base of the mountain.

The climb to the summit of Hekla takes about 3 to 4 hours. Hikers can also find marked signposts during the first half of the hike. The remaining part of the trail is a large ridge walk across snowfields.

Travelers should be aware that the Hekla volcano can erupt without warning. Plus, weather conditions can be harsh up there. So, each traveler should decide whether or not they are prepared for the Hekla Volcano hike.

Hikers can also find the Hekla Center, which provides all the information and advice they need about the Hekla volcano and the region, as well as various housing and camping options.

Volcano safety tip

Mount Hekla is an extremely active volcano that erupts with very little warning. Also, it is covered in white snowfields and tiny glaciers. Therefore, you should never venture out alone into these conditions. It’s always good to have a professional guide to ensure your safety.

Here are a few safety tips to follow while visiting an active volcano like Hekla Iceland:

  1. Volcanoes erupt with some signs. You must notice warnings like shaking of the ground, bulging of their flanks, or gases releasing from their craters. If you plan to visit the Hekla volcano or any other active volcano in the world, you should always follow what the local monitoring agencies have to say.
  2. You should put together an emergency kit before going to the volcano site. Get along supplies like food, water, eye protection, respiratory protection, and a battery-powered radio system.
  3. You may be visiting Hekla or any other volcano just for a day. But always make sure that you have proper footwear, first aid supplies, and sufficient water with you.
  4. Always make sure you follow the instructions from authorities properly during an eruption. Also, evacuate as soon as possible if you are within areas where hazards are probable.
  5. If you are instructed to remain in your home, make sure you close all doors, windows, and any other points from where ash can enter. Also, get your pets inside and shelter your livestock as and when possible.