Vanished Vikings of the West: the fall of Greenland

Hvalsey Church, Eastern Settlement, Greenland

Colonization is recreation. It features on board and computer games, from Simcity to Civilization, and from Settlers of Catan to Musk at Mars (ok, that one is apparently not a game). The games invite us to imagine a fresh start in a place where the past does not matter and where everything is a new adventure. It is to boldly go where no one has gone before. But it is harder than it seems. Our real lives are complex. We are dependent on interactions with others, and on products and services created by other people in different locations. We are not an island, and complete self-sufficiency comes at a high price. It brings fragility. And when things go wrong, help is hard to get.

Complete disappearance of a colony is rare. But it has happened. This post is about one such disappearance, one that shocked the world. It took 300 years for the remains of the colony to be found: some ruined farms and a roofless church. All traces of the cause of the failure had gone. Why did the Viking settlements of Greenland collapse? Was a volcano involved?

Viking settlers

Iceland was not an easy place for colonization. Still the Vikings went for it in their search for pasture. Getting there from Norway took about 10 days, a long journey in an open boat but doable for experienced sailors during the summer season. The migrants kept coming; over the next 60 years the population of Iceland grew to some 30,000 people. The migration declined when all good farmland had been taken. Eldgja (939 AD) finally put an end to this era of settlement.

But for some, Iceland had already become too crowded; it was no longer the land of opportunity. And so Vikings moved on from Iceland to Greenland and turned it into the most isolated European colony in the world.

This was a surprising move. Greenland has the reputation of being a glaciated, uninhabitable wasteland. The glaciers are kilometers thick and cover almost all of the country. In the north and east the glaciers reach the coast. It is not an obvious place to start a dairy farm. But the west coast is different, and the climate is only a little colder than that of north Iceland. The southern tip of Greenland is further from the pole than Iceland and the sun and the wind from the high glaciers can bring some unexpected warmth. There are meadows here, along the deep fjords, and there are animals which call it home. Caribou roam the region. Greenland really can be green, in the right place at the right time. But the winters are long and the summers brief.

Eirik the Red (a colourful character) discovered the habitable regions on the southwest coast around 982 AD, only a few decades after Eldgja. He had been exiled from Iceland for bad behaviour (and that said something). Eirik decided to make it home, and starting his own settlement here. This required finding more would-be colonists. He called it ‘Greenland’ to make it sound more attractive, in order to entice people in Iceland to come with him to a new and empty world. The origin of the name was soon forgotten. Adam of Bremen, in 1072, wrote “The people there are green from the salt water, whence, too, that region gets its name. The people live in the same manner as the Icelanders except that they are fiercer and trouble seafarers by their piratical attacks.“ The people who made Greenland their home were as rough as the country they lived in.

Around 985 AD, 25 boats went on the migration, each carrying perhaps 30 to 40 people. Only 14 boats arrived: the remainder turned back before arrival, and some may have been lost at sea. Most of the around 500 people who came settled in a region just beyond the southern tip of Greenland. This was where Eirik had spend the three years of his banishment. It became known as the Eastern Settlement. (This unfortunate name caused serious problems later.) But 2 or 3 of the arriving boats moved on, and went further up the coast, 400 kilometers and another 6 days of travel away. This became the Western Settlement. These were the two main regions that were (somewhat) suitable for farming.

The first years must have been very hard. After the arduous and long journey, the settlers now had to set up home. Eirik and the people who had accompanied him in exile already had dwellings, but the others had to decide on a location, build houses, and hunt and farm enough food for the long winter, in just a few remaining weeks of summer. They managed, and over the next years more people came from Iceland to join them in their brave new world. The Eastern Settlement grew to 2000-3000 people; the Western Settlement may have homed 1000 people.

The Eastern Settlement in medieval Greenland. The known major farms and churches are identified, as well as some probable geographical names. Source: wikipedia

For centuries the settlements survived and even prospered. But it did not last. After four centuries, contact with Norway and Iceland was lost, and when people came to look for them the settlements could not be found. The rescuers were confused by the name, and searched for the lost tribes on the wrong side of Greenland, the ice-covered east coast. The search for the lost Greenland Vikings became legendary.

It took more than 300 years before the location of the two settlements was finally found. But there were only ruins, and they showed very little evidence of what had happened to the people. The discussions continue to this day. Some blame the worsening climate of the middle ages. Others give the cause as ecocide, with depletion of the local farming land and fishing grounds. English pirates have been blamed, or wars with the Inuit population. Speculation is rife and facts are few. The failure of the Greenland Vikings does not bode well for Musk on Mars, and it is important that we understand how isolation can lead to fragility, and finally to disappearance. It turns out that there were two extinction events. Were the triggers volcanic?

Greenland economics

Vikings were farmers. This is of course not what they are remembered for, but the looting, murdering, piracy and conquering much of the known world was a bit of a sideline to making ends meet. Farming in Norway was hit-and-miss, and when things went wrong or a new generation grew too numerous for the carrying capacity of the land, a bit of piracy seemed a good way to supplement one’s income, and perhaps reduce the overpopulation. When the Vikings moved to Iceland, they took their farm animals and culture with them. Norway has a cold climate and their way of life was suitable to the Icelandic climate. When moving to Greenland, they again did the same thing. The boats had carried not only the settlers but also their cows, sheep, goats and pigs. And all lived on a small open boat in difficult seas for weeks. Just imagine the smell!

The Greenland settlers never build towns. Instead they build farms of a variety of sizes, ranging from single family dwellings to large manors which supported tens of people. Some outlying buildings were occupied only in summer. The farms were typically 1 to 5 kilometers apart. You do get the impression that the Vikings needed their distance from each other! The Western settlement consisted of perhaps 90 farms; the Eastern settlement was a few times larger. The farms were located along extensive and multi-armed fjord systems. Each of the settlements extended over 100 km! The farms were mostly located quite far in-land where the climate was a bit better suited to farming. This is a second reason why the search parties took 300 years to locate the ruins. They were looking along the coast, while the farms were mostly in-land.

A typical area around the Eastern Settlement

There is a limit to what farming is possible in Greenland, and in the Western Settlement this was even more restricted than in the milder climate of the Eastern Settlement. Grain would not grow and bread did not exist. Some root vegetables were grown. Iceland is fertilized by frequent volcanic ash. Greenland is not, and it is ancient rock. Glaciers have scraped the ground down to the bedrock, and around the Eastern Settlement this bedrock is a staggering 3.6 billion years old! It has long lost any fertility it may have had. The farms were completely dependent on what patches of soil there were. They were dairy farms with a small herd of cows providing milk. All suitable soil was used to grow the hay that was needed to keep the cattle alive during the long winters. Poorer fields were used for sheep. The hay was supplemented with anything else they could get, including some seaweed. The cows stayed inside (in the houses!) for 5 months (Eastern Settlement) to 7 months (Western Settlement). The calves were born here. At the end of the winter, sometimes they had to be carried outside, being too weak to walk. In autumn, famers would need to decide how many cows they could keep through the winter.

Reconstruction of a Viking long house. Source: Erik Painter

Hunting supplemented the meat. Caribou meat was especially valued. Seal meat was eaten when caribou was not available, but was not the preferred meat: the manors mostly ate caribou, the poorer farms ate seals. Fish was taken from the rivers and lakes, but not from the open sea. The Greenland Vikings (unlike those at Iceland) used no nets or harpoons, only hooks. Seals were hunted in the spring on their breeding ground on the shore.

The big attraction of living in Greenland, though, was something entirely different. Walrus tusks were highly valued for their ivory, and this became Greenland’s dominant export product. Iceland’s supply of walruses had been quickly exterminated. Greenland had unlimited numbers. Their ivory made Greenland economically viable. The walruses were hunted at Disko Bay, 300 kilometers north of the Western Settlement. Hunting parties from both settlements would go there. Disko Bay was perhaps the reason why the Western Settlement had been build in such a marginal location. Not only could the people here travel to the walruses much quicker, they could also set off earlier in the season. Drift ice from East Greenland could block the fjords of the Eastern Settlements until June, whilst the Western Settlement had much less drift ice: they could go to Disko Bay as early as April. Within a century of Eirik the Red, all ivory in Europe came from Greenland.

A Viking long boat

The final aspect of the economy of Greenland involved what they lacked. They were an island, and any essentials which Greenland could not provide had to come from overseas. Wood especially was scarce. The Greenland colonies had summers that were too short for trees to grow, except in a few sheltered places in the south. The Western Settlement only had drift wood; the Eastern Settlement had some limited tree growth (dwarf birch). These sources sufficed for some purposes but not for timber. Timber was needed for houses, but crucially also for the boats. Viking longboats came in a variety of sizes, set by the number of pair of oars they used. These ranged from 12 to 32 pairs and were build from overlapping planks. The drift wood the Greenlanders had access to was sufficient for the smallest type. Anything larger needed timber.

Because of the shortage of wood, Greenland eventually lacked the boats needed to trade their ivory themselves. They depended on visiting traders. In later years, one Greenland boat which managed to reach Iceland caused a bit of a sensation, by being so small and because it lacked an anchor. That was a second lack: Greenland had no iron.

Newfoundland

The journey of the Vikings did not end in Greenland. A bigger prize was beckoning, and it became important in filling the gaps in Greenland’s economy: America.

There are two versions of the discovery of America. I will follow the Greenland saga which seems the more likely one. One of the original settlers of Greenland was called Herjolfr. He had left Iceland while his son Bjarni Herjofsson, was away in Norway. Bjarni went looking for his father, but wasn’t sure where this Greenland was. Driven too far west in a storm, he sighted a land with trees and mountains. This clearly wasn’t Greenland, and Bjarni backtracked to continue his search, without stopping. He managed to eventually find Greenland, and remained there with his father. After his father’s death Bjarni returned to Norway. The land he found sounded rather enticing, and when Bjarni left, Eirik’s son Leif bought Bjarni’s boat and went looking for this land. (This already indicates a lack of sufficiently large boats in Greenland.) Eirik himself stayed behind in Greenland. This happened around the year 1000.

The new land improved as Leif’s party sailed south along the coast. They gave it descriptive names: the northern area including Baffin Island was called ‘Helluland’ (slab land), south of about 60 degrees latitude it was ‘Mark land’ (forest land), and further south (Nova Scotia and perhaps around the St Lawrence river) they called ‘Vinland’ (wine land). Slab land had little to offer apart from foxes, and the winters here were much more severe (and snowy) than in their Greenland homes. Forest, though, was a very valuable find and grapes would have been out of this world for a people having neither wine nor beer. The party wintered in Newfoundland, and returned to Greenland the next year with their new-found treasures.

After this the story becomes vague. A settlement was started in the new land, from where they would travel south. This settlement was discovered at L’Anse-aux-Meadows, at the northern tip of Newfoundland. There may have been a second camp further south. Women joined the party, and a Viking child (‘Snorri’) is said to have been born in North America. Archaeology has shown that the people at L’Anse-aux-Meadown included Icelanders – it was not a purely Greenland exploration. The child was said to have ended up back in Iceland. There may still be people in Iceland with a North American link in their ancestry!

The big house at L’Anse aux Meadows. The entryway is in front, the sleeping quarters in the center. To the left a boat repair area, and to the right storage. Source: wikipedia

The travels to Newfoundland had a clear economic benefit. The Vikings needed wood for their boats and their houses, and there were trees at L’Anse-aux-Meadows. Iron too could be obtained from this region. There was also hunting, but the winters at L’Anse-aux-Meadows were quite severe (more so than at their homes in Greenland) and the game was scarce. This is one reason why there may have another camp further south. Around 100 people would have stayed at L’Anse-aux-Meadows.

How long the settlement lasted is not well known. The sagas talk about the conflicts with the local population, and also about murder in their own ranks. It appears that the site was abandoned within a century, perhaps even within a few decades. After that, Vinland was out of reach for the Vikings. But summer journeys to Newfoundland (or Markland) continued long after. Even at late times in the Greenland settlements, their boats and coffins contained larch wood which only grows there.

Why did the American settlement fail? In the end, they lacked the numbers to grow into a viable colony and to defend themselves against the local population. Greenland was settled by about 1 in 20 of the Icelandic population. L’Anse aux Meadows housed about 1 in 20 of Greenland’s population. Greenland was perhaps just too small to support another colony. If Eirik the Red had gone a bit further on his first attempt, straight for North America, a viable colony might have been possible and history could have been very different. But he didn’t.

Decline

The two Greenland settlements did well for centuries. These were not marginal societies. Farmers were never wealthy, but they made a living and ivory provided income. Churches were build and even stained-glass windows were imported. But over time, cracks were showing. The lucrative trade in ivory remained important until around 1300. But after that it declined. In part this was because other sources of ivory had become available, but a more important reason was Norwegian politics. In 1294, the Norwegian king decreed that all trade had to be done on the Norwegian royal vessel. The aim was to make sure that taxes were paid, but it severely limited trade and import. The vessel came irregularly. It also never went to the Western Settlement, because adding this trip to the journey would have required the vessel to overwinter in Greenland. The Western Settlement had to bring their taxes (paid in kind, with ivory and walrus skins) to the Eastern Settlement and received little or nothing in return. In comparison, the Eastern Settlement still did well enough to build a small cathedral.

By the middle of the 14th century, trade with Greenland had diminished so much that in Europe ivory became in short supply. This reflects the lack of shipping opportunities. It became even worse during the years of the Black Death when few ships sailed the North Atlantic. (One visiting bishop in Iceland was stuck for four years because no ship came for him.) The Norwegian royal vessel was itself lost in 1367 and after that there was little contact between Norway and Greenland. A consequence of the diminishing trade was that the Black Death never made it to Greenland. It did get to Iceland, though with 50 years delay.

In the absence of trade, we do not know whether the hunts at Disko Bay still continued. The contacts between the Eastern and the Western Settlements had been decreasing. Travel between the two took 6 days, and was only possible in summer when there was much else to do. After a while, the only recorded visits were to pay taxes. The last such record was in 1327.

The Eastern Settlement also became isolated. The last documented visit by people from Iceland was in 1406-1410, with circumstantial (and unconvincing) evidence that the same people returned in 1418-1420. After that the Greenland Vikings were never seen again, at least by people which documented the visit. This was the time that European fishermen began to frequent the Newfoundland region for cod. New designs for boats had improved speed of travel, and now it was possible for the fishermen to make the journey within one summer. Before that, they would have had to winter. There may have been contact between the fishermen (mainly from the Basque region and from Bristol) but this is speculation.

In 1410 all had been well with the Eastern Settlement. But within decades it would be gone. Archaelogical evidence shows that the best farms reverted to wild meadows around 1450. At the very least this means there were no longer any cows, and at the worst it means there were no longer any farmers and the last true Vikings were gone.

It took many years for the disappearance of Greenlanders to be noticed. After 1500 even the pope expressed concern, and expeditions were planned to find them. But by that time the location of the settlement had been forgotten. People searched the east coast, opposite Iceland, being confused by the name ‘Eastern Settlement’. But this coast is unreachable due to ice. John Davis visited the western coast several times around 1585 while searching for the northwestern passage but he did not find anyone. The settlement was rather far from the coast, of course, and would not have been visible from the sea. The Eastern Settlement was found only when a Norwegian missionary, Egede, spend a winter on the coast, barely survived, and decided to move further in-land. He traveled widely in the area, and his Inuit guides showed him the remains of the Eastern Settlement, including the roofless church of Hvalsey. This was in 1723, almost 300 years after the failure of the colony. Egede, and others after him, thought this was the Western Settlement and that the Eastern Settlement would be on the east coast. This expectation was only disproven in the late 1800’s. The North American settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows was found only in 1960. It really is possible for nations to be fully lost.

Archaeology has shown that the decline of the Eastern Settlement had happened over many years. The outlying farms were abandoned first and people moved closer to the better ones, perhaps in servitude. The abandoned farms were carefully demolished to save the timber – remember that wood was a precious commodity in a place without trees. That already shows it was a managed decline. It is even possible that people slowly migrated back to Europe when the British and Basque fishing vessels began to frequent the area. In any case, by 1500 and perhaps already by 1450, none were left.

The fate of the Western Settlement was different. It had ceased to exist much earlier, and so suddenly that not even the Eastern Settlement ever found out what had happened. A settlement that had existed and flourished for 350 years had been wiped out by a disaster. Was a volcano to blame?

Part II: demise of the the Eastern Settlement

Albert, June 2021

388 thoughts on “Vanished Vikings of the West: the fall of Greenland

  1. The new zoom or camera placement gives a much better understanding of how much lava comes out each surge.

    Mac

    • Strange behaviour of that surge…it wasn’t influenced by volcano burst….is that a sign that actualy is a drainig outlet of still hot lava from the lower level due to weight of the upper lava deposits?

  2. I gotta wonder why the cone to the right of the volcano is smoking at the top? Should have been plenty of time for de-gassing by now?

  3. Oh my heart… 16.49 and there’s a spectacular overflow event towards Geldingadalir, fountaining spatter like sea foam on a breaking wave. On the new camera.
    Also 5he clos up Visir camera is showing lava emerging in a stream from a vent at middle foreground.

  4. Does anyone know the current visible height of the cone? Trying to get a feeling for the scale of what we see on the webcam.

  5. I just got back from my trek to the volcano today. I risked my drone, but got some good footage, this was the crater just before it erupted

    It gets cold in the wind on the hills, If going, make sure you have enough layers. I went up in a t-shirt, came down in layers.I managed about 3 hours before feeling too cold. Luckily the rain held off for most of today.

    I took my Nikon D810 and Sigma 120-400mm, this was taken @ 240mm

    • Very washed out colors…. for soure… do you agree?
      Or is it my eyes thats its wrong with? perhaps camera settings

    • ‘MacArthur’s Park is melting in the dark
      All the sweet, cream icing flowing down
      Someone left the cake out in the rain
      I don’t think that I can take it
      Cos it took so long to bake it
      And I’ll never have that recipe again’…

    • That first photo, in particular, is incredible. Study In Whites and Grays. Not an angle we get from a webcam, ever.

      And while the cone is white in that first shot, it’s black in the next. Volcano chameleon.

      Thank you 67doug.

    • The volcanic glass coating is washing out the colour. Bright reflections of the natural sky light.
      I guess the elevatable salt water mixing at extreme depth pressure, NAR has given the lava “special quality’s”.
      I bet if this eruption stopped right now that glass surface would weather to dullness in a few hundred years.
      A bit like old glass bottles from 18/1900’s found in ploughed fields.

    • Thank you, this is valuable information! (and great shots, btw!)

      What Drone did you use? I guess the wind is an issue?

    • I see Cone Number 1 is still there just.
      Nice video Doug.
      I wish I could have been in your shoes today LOL

    • I envy you! It must have been quite the experience actually being there. Thank you for the video!

  6. 67Doug….. i’m wondering if the now longlasting fog is atributable to the newish emissions from the volcano? What’s Your guess as You can see farther is all directions? and a bit of fantasy thinking: Large rock trolls being birthed from the depts in the fantastic mound faces near the vent. 😉

    • Although there is gas venting all over the lava field, I would say the recent fog has just been low cloud or fog, mixing with the gasses making vog.

      It was fairly clear up there today.

    • Mots
      When we were on Hawaii when fissure 8 was going strong the emissions and heat from the fissure did cause a local and consistent rain downwind from the vent, no rain in any other areas near the vent!

  7. Watching the new close up camera, I just had a silly “Just wait a second…” thought, when lava enters a tube, isn’t it technically underground, and as such should be called magma?

    • It’s been erupted already, so is no longer magma, even if it goes back underground

      • That was my thought as well, just couldn’t shake the “But… but…” way of thinking

      • We had this debate recently on another post. 😀
        The conclusion was that it’s as 67doug says, due to the inherent implication of the term ‘lava tube.
        Of course this then leads to the question:

        What about magma that enters tubes without being erupted first? Is that still magma?

        • No because you can tell where the tube began, and in observed tubes we know where the lava first surfaced. Most of this was in Pu’u O’o. Tubes are typically very shallow and follow the shape of the terrain, while a vent is formed in the terrain at a fixed location, tubes happen after the eruption begins at a vent.

  8. And now it’s eating my own goddamn comments! I posted a lengthy comment, into which I put significant effort. The result? The comment counter notched up from 335 to 336 BUT NO NEW COMMENT.

    What the HELL is going on?

    I don’t suppose anyone is even going to see this, except me, but I can’t think what else to do but shoot this arrow in the air … if the site does not return to normal behavior forthwith, though, I will reluctantly have to abandon it. If I am now being both forcibly prevented from correctly catching up without missing anything and forcibly muzzled without provocation or even explanation, then I will have no choice but to declare VC a Hostile Site and cease to use, or recommend or in any other way drive traffic to, it. I am baffled, though, as to what I could possibly have done to prompt such a sharp downward revision in how well I get treated here …

    • If there’s more than one link in said comment, or even just one strange link, the auto-mod on this site will keep the comment til it has been approved by a human, pretty standard. The comment counter still ticks though.

      • Nope. There were no links in the missing comment, and it didn’t come up as “awaiting moderation…” and only visible to me; it didn’t come up, period. And apparently neither did one comment by someone else, immediately before mine.

        The question thus remains: What the hell is going on?

        • No idea, but having been a semi active commenter here since Eyjafjallajökull erupted in 2010 (woa, just realised how long I’ve been here), there has been all sorts of funny stuff going on, the site’s been hacked/overtacken so a new site had to be established, everyone’s comments gone into the dungeoun before approval, only a few peoples comments working directly, people absolutely flooding the comment section with ramblings, my own comments suddenly going into the dungeon for months when everyone else could comment(turned out to be a computer issue on my side being the cause), a bunch of conspiracy nuts have come through here as well. And if I remember correctly(might mix things up with another site) then for a while out of the blue it wasn’t possible to comment at all. And more.

          The staff here has been absolutly professional through it all imho. People who have been shown the door, have to my knowledge always got direct warnings about their actions, warnings that weren’t heeded.

          So, what’s going on? No idea, but I seriously doubt that there’s mallicious intent against you being the issue.

    • I have no idea what happened. Our ‘history’ shows no issue with your comment, and says that it appeared at the same time (10:16) as it was submitted. My suspicion would be a caching issue but that is a pure guess. The system does object if people send too many comments in a short time, as that is seen as bot-ting. But that is not the case here. Sorry! Do be assured that we value all commenters and comments. We may not have full control over the entire system (WP does some things behind the scenes) so things can happen against our will, such as commenters suddenly being forced to spend time in the dungeon. If that happens, cookies are provided for the long wait.

      • I’ve found my missing comment. Instead of appearing here, where I posted it (as a top-level comment using the bottom-of-page box), for some reason it was inserted into a random spot on page 1.

        Why?

        • That sometimes happens and we don’t know why. It can happen if we delete a comment: the system loses the correct sequence. But at times it happens without a clear cause. I have put up a new post: that should reset the comment stream and fix any issues there may be.

  9. Ok, so, I think this is my best video, from my drone. The lava lake has already risen and is still rising before it erupts.

    I’m sure Jasper will enjoy watching the lake sploshing around and bits falling back in from the crater walls..The lava is very fluid in that lake.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLxkVn2XyxA

    I had to get my drone back when it started raining :'(

    • Thank you 67Doug for that amazing video and for staying still and showing the end of the of the pulse as well as the beginning. I think these are the best pictures I’ve see so for giving a feel of what’s happening inside the crater and how a pulse cycle works.

      It shows just how much the lake level rises and falls with each pulse. And it is so fluid. And does it show the vent is towards the back of the crater as it seems to push from the back to the front?

      Can anyone else envisage another few hundred years of this and a Nyiragongo copy appearing with its steeps sides? A lava lake rising and falling repeatedly and overflowing and filling the gaps in the crater keeping it even all the way around seems to make sense for the steep even shape of Nyiragongo. Could that possibly be how it built up? Could Fagradalsfjall become the same?

      • The thought has crossed my mind too, a stratovolcano is just layers of lava and tephra making a steep cone it doesnt explicitly say that lava cant be very fluid, it is just not typical. One only has to look at Pu’u O’o though, if there was no trade winds to blow the tephra in a single direction it could well have become very much like this, the environment a volcano erupts in can have a big effect on its characteristics at this early stage.

      • Nyiragongo though is more a massive pyroclastic cone, it must have had frequent fire fountain eruptions a lot like Etna up until maybe very recently. It is only after a caldera collapse that could have been as late as the 19th century that it was able to create lava lakes, which have driven its current behavior, lava flows of the style we have come to associate with eruptions here are actually only known in the recent period, 1977m 2002 and now 2021, with possibly one other eruption in the 19th century and that is it.

        I would like to be shown wrong though, to be watching the formation of an actual full scale mountain is incredible, even if it will likely take many lifetimes to reach this point.

    • Thank you for that….shows the crater and lava lake very well, the sequence of the lava levels increasing helps a lot with understanding what’s going on.

      Kudos!!!!

      🙂

    • Fantastic video, probably your best one so far. I hope you don’t scorch your drone taking fantastic videos like this.

    • Doug, do you think that the carapace which is hanging over the lava pool will collapse? It seems rather ominous to have tons of red hot lava suspended over that pool with gravity pulling down and you can see where the weak spots or cracks are, that whole roof is ready to collapse.

      • Yes, after seeing the video it really looks ready to crumble. I had no idea such a large overhang had been created.

    • Not only Jesper. It is really enjoyable to see that lave lake dance. Beautiful video. Thank you for doing this video.

  10. It is really interesting how this type of lava progresses on this type of ground. You would expect that the first layer propagating on the initially cold soil would cool quickly and become more viscous, leading to a rather thick first layer backing up the flow behind it. But the opposite seems to be the case – in Natthangi as well as in Meradalir, the first layer seems to flow with very little resistance, leading to a fast progression even on very flat ground, with an extremely shallow angle of the top surface in direction of flow.

    It is only after the first surge stops, and the progress halts, that the second wave (a few days later) flows on top of the initial layer — Which then seems to ba a lot more “sticky”, even though the lava is moving on a hot surface now, no longer a cold one. Starting with the second layer, the lava progresses much more slowly and builds up far thicker layers up to much larger slope angles, as we can spectacularly see in Natthangi now – the back of the valley fills up first, with lava pretty much sticking to the slopes rather than flowing to the front.

    Of course, once the valley fills to a lake-sustaining level and a lava lake forms, the slope angles of the lake surface will be almost zero again, and the lava will flow straight through and out of the end of the valley without accumulating in the valley any more.

    • Could it be that the initial flow is carried forward on a cushion of steam, generated from moisture in the ground? Similar to a pyroclastic density current moving across water.

      • I would tend to think probably not – the surface is too rough for that, a steam cushion can not be that thick and be stable. The ground and the lava is probably also too permeable for steam, on these size scales. Also, a lot of steam would be needed for that, as lava keeps moving on top of the same spot of ground for hours during the first push. But it is an interesting thought.

  11. Now there’s a “quick exit” route for the lava into Nátthagi I imagine more and more lava will head that way. Previously lava piled up and slowed up, but now the walls are bypassed/overrun it’s all heading south towards the road and lava is quickly getting from the eruption to the valley.

    This must be a headache for the authorities and road engineers.

    Such a pity we can’t see what’s happening to Meradalur – be interesting to know if it’s still filling or if Nátthagi is now the main exit.

    • Pretty sure some is flowing into Meradalir. The surface level on the right side in the MBL camera’s view toward the cone has slowly been increasing and there is a small surface flow. Also the flow into Nátthagi seems diminished compared to yesterday.

      • The Sketchfab models show some increase in the lava in Meredalir between May 18 and June 2nd as well as some red streaks headed into that valley. GutnTog video from his trip a few days back to Stórihrútur (June 2) showed the lava streams heading into Meredalir as well. The break of the western wall and increased flow over the eastern wall might have diminished the amount going into Meredalir. Unless we get more video from the mountain top may just have to wait on the next model.

  12. Doug’s amazing drone video (many thanks!) seems to show the resting lava pool is much higher than a few weeks ago. I recall it used to sit well down in the bottom of the vent. Now there is a significantly large pool at quite a height in the vent.

    PS Doug – perhaps you could find Gutn Tog and say hello? 🙂

  13. And as the erratic boulder is consumed, a large pulse falls over the precipice above. Quite a sight. 5.48ish on the Nátthagi valley view.

  14. I guess the brown smoke in Natthagi is due to the light brown area containing a lot of carbon residues (plant parts etc, as this is a dried up water puddle. Probably not so healthy to breath in…

    • There was one person out and about as the boulder was surrounded; hopefully there will be some photos or video.
      It was a dew pond or ephemeral lake. Someone on the live feed chats called it Burnt Toast Lake. Idk what the brown smoke is; could it also be the dried clay particles being carried aloft on the volcanic heat updraft? There’s not going to be much organic matter in the lake, unless there’s a buried bog.

    • Think the brown smoke is soil or clay particles getting disturbed then pulled up by the heat rising from the lava flow. There was similar when the lava went over the eastern wall (oddly not the western wall – the lava just ran straight over that).

      One of Gutn Tog’s clips shows where lava has bulldozed soil out of the way. Think it is this clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XbpSbeDiKlM

      • I think if it is a lake bed then it will be wet, or at least damp. So steam blowing the clay or dirt around as it escapes from under the lava?

        • Is it a lake bed? Looks more like a dried mud, except when it has been raining heavily. It has looked dry at the edges at least most times.

          • Usually such environments are still damp, it is a basin after all, and it isnt exactly dry there either even if there is no visible water.

  15. The Langihryggur cam at about 9.56-7 flipped down the valley. Quite a way down, on the left hand side, do I spy bulldozers building a dam?

  16. Is it only my optical that is screwed up from staring at my Monitor, or is it possible, that the last 3 Eruptions viewed on the new close-up Cam are getting bigger and bigger and much voluminous????

    And how much Lava is erupting in this roughly 90s Period?? Couple thousand m3??? 10’s thousand m3???
    Who cann give an estimate????

    Thanks

    • I’d say it is cyclic…I’ve seen some in a row that looked rather on the thin side for volume. Then “whoosh”, big lava.

      🙂

  17. From the 3D model, the lava flow is over the crest toward the old channel to Meradalir and should reach it in relatively soon. A few more weeks buildup in the current channel and the firehose might divert north. That will quickly reshape that area since the flow is triple the output of the northern cones back then.

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