Skip to main content

Haraldur, The Volcanologist

The world-renowned volcanologist, Haraldur Sigurðsson, was born in Stykkishólmur (Iceland) in 1939. He completed a Degree at Queens University in Belfast, in 1965 and received his PhD from Durham University in England, in 1970. Since that same year, Sigurðsson began to work at the University of the West Indies, conducting research on Caribbean volcanoes. He later served as professor of volcanology at the University of Rhode Island for forty years, where he also became emeritus professor of Oceanography.

His research led him to travel all over the world, specifically studying cases in Indonesia, Italy, the West Indies, the United States, western Africa, Greece, South and Central America and, of course, Iceland.

Sigurdsson worked on monitoring and research of the volcanoes of the Caribbean until 1974, when he was appointed professor at the Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island.

Haraldur is known for his work on the reconstruction of major volcanic eruptions and meteorite impacts of the past.

Haraldur discovered proof of a meteorite impact that happened at the time of the extinction of the dinosaurs. He also found the lost town of Tambora in Indonesia. He was a key scientist in uncovering the deadly mystery of  Lake Monoun and Lake Nyos in Cameroon (That story was told in a popular YouTube show by MrBallen ).

Haraldur has also made interesting discoveries on the eruption of Vesuvius in Italy and the destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Hundred and sixty articles have been published by Sigurðsson in scientific journals, plus two books on volcanology for the general reader: Encyclopedia of Volcanoes (Academic Press) and Melting the Earth (Oxford University Press). He has been awarded by the Geological Society of America, Iceland Science Society, University of Utrecht, London Geological Society and the Order of the Falcon from the President of Iceland.

Passionate traveller and art lover, Haraldur started a personal collection over the years, what would later become the Eldfjallasafn ‘Volcano Museum’ in Stykkishólmur, West Iceland. The exhibition space opened its doors in September 2009 hosting international artworks of all times, as well as artefacts, volcanic rocks, maps and books related to the field of volcanology. The show brought Haraldur Sigurðsson’s universe closer to a multitude of visitors for years.

The museum was sadly closed in 2020 for the lack of adequate housing. LAVA Centre has managed to store the artefacts and has now the honour of exhibiting an extract of the collection, thus bringing the relevant figure of Haraldur closer to our audience. The small exhibit can be viewed in the cafe area at LAVA Centre.

Haraldur Sigurðsson is an inspiration to volcanologists and nature enthusiasts all over the world and is LAVA Centre’s honorary member.

Haraldur at the Eldfjallasafn ‘Volcano Museum’ in Stykkishólmur, now being hosted at LAVA Centre.
Andy Warhol 1985, Vesuvius; Silkscreen on cardboard. 

Join the Lava Club

Get updated information regarding the exhibition and special offers. We also send regularly updated information on Icelandic volcanoes and email alerts on eruption and earthquakes.