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Erupting volcano becomes tourist attraction in Iceland

AFP, March 24, 2021 6:30PM AFP

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People having been hiking to watch the volcano erupt in Iceland. Picture: Jeremie Richard/AFP media_cameraPeople having been hiking to watch the volcano erupt in Iceland. Picture: Jeremie Richard/AFP


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Thousands of curious onlookers are flocking to an erupting volcano in Iceland to marvel* at the display of glowing red lava.

Before the surprise explosion, which began on Friday, March 19, the volcano had been dormant* for 6000 years.

The volcano is only about 40km from Iceland’s capital of Reykjavik and can be reached after a 90-minute hike from the nearest road.

“It’s absolutely breathtaking,” said Ulvar Kari Johannsson, a 21-year-old engineer who visited the eruption on Sunday.

“It smells pretty bad. For me what was surprising was the colours of the orange: much, much deeper than what one would expect.”

media_cameraAbout 300,000 cubic metres of lava is estimated to have flowed from the volcano since it started erupting on March 19. Picture: Jeremie Richard/AFP

The lava bubbles and spurts from the volcano and slowly turns black as it cools.

About 300,000 cubic metres of lava has poured out of the ground so far, according to experts, although the eruption is considered relatively small and controlled.

“For me it’s the heat that really surprised me. When we approached the lava flowing on the ground, the temperature rose by 10-15 degrees and our faces flushed,” said Emilie Saint-Mleux, a French exchange student in Iceland who came with two friends.

“It reminds you a little of a barbecue in summer,” her friend Lucille Fernemont joked.

media_cameraThe view from above the erupting volcano. Picture: Halldor Kolbeins/AFP

Access to the site was blocked in the first hours after the eruption. Authorities then lifted the roadblocks but discouraged visits.

But by Saturday afternoon visitors were allowed under strict guidelines.

“We are just here to look after the people and see that everything is okay. And just watch that the people are not going too close to the lava and asking them to step back,” said police officer Atli Gunnarsson.

Emergency crews at the site are carrying devices that measure gas pollution escaping from the volcano, especially sulphur dioxide, which can pose a danger to health and even be fatal*.

Early Monday, authorities again blocked the site due to high levels of gas pollution.

It is the first volcanic eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula in more than 800 years.

media_cameraCrowds of weekend hikers watch the eruption. Picture: Jeremie Richard/AFP
media_cameraThe erupting volcano is small and well controlled compared to other eruptions. Picture: Jeremie Richard/AFP)

While eruptions are common in Iceland, with one taking place about every five years on average, they usually occur far from populated zones, in inaccessible* areas. Others are too dangerous to allow public access.

This time, the curious can inspect the lava up close after a 6km hike from a road near the fishing port of Grindavik, a town with 3500 inhabitants.

Some have even grilled hot dogs and marshmallows over the smouldering* embers*.

But the spectacle* could be short-lived*, with experts saying the eruption could die out quickly, possibly within a few days. 

Visitors gather as Icelandic volcano subsides following eruption


  • marvel: look in wonder or excitement
  • dormant: not active
  • fatal: deadly
  • inaccessible: unable to be reached
  • inhabitants: the people who live in a place
  • smouldering: burning slowly with smoke but no flames
  • embers: coals that burn or glow without flames
  • spectacle: an impressive display or sight
  • short-lived: not lasting long


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  1. Which country is the volcano in?
  2. How long has the volcano been dormant?
  3. How much lava is estimated to have flowed from the volcano?
  4. What gas from the volcano can be dangerous to health?
  5. What have some visitors been cooking on the embers?


1. Volcano visit visualisations
Tourists have flocked to the volcano – I bet they’ve taken heaps of photos to post on their social media accounts! Visualise what it would be like there and then sketch up three “photos” that a visitor to the volcano might take and give each one a caption. Include as many small details as you can that you have learnt from the news story.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Visual Arts

2. Extension
In the first sentence of the story, the lava is described as “glowing red”. This is a more interesting way to tell us that the lava is hot, without using the actual word “hot”. Set a timer for 10 minutes and see how many other words and phrases you can write down that also mean hot.

Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity 
Curriculum Links: English

Up-Level It
Scan through the article and see if you can locate three words that you consider to be basic, or low level. These are words we use all the time and that can be replaced by more sophisticated words. Words like “good” and “said” are examples of overused words.

Once you have found them, see if you can up-level them. Think of synonyms you could use instead of these basic words, but make sure they still fit into the context of the article.

Re-read the article with your new words. Did it make it better? Why/Why not?

Extra Reading in geography