Scientists Descend Into The Heart Of Iceland Volcano
There are very few new frontiers left for humans to explore, especially on Earth. We have scaled the tallest mountains, gone deep into our deepest oceans and far into our densest forests. However, the one place no one has dared to go, is inside the Magma Chamber or heart of a volcano - Until now.
In October 2010, 44-year old Fryesteinn Sigmundsson a volcano researcher at the University of Finland, led a team of 17 people right into the heart of the dormant Thrihnukagigur volcano, the only place on Earth where humans can descend into a volcano's Magma Chamber.
The scientist who had been researching the neighboring Eyjafjallajökul volcano that caused chaos in the country and the world about a year ago, wanted to find out more about the plumbing system of the volcano by going inside.
The pioneering team comprised of two scientists, a couple of expert mountaineers, as well as, a film crew and photographer to document this unprecedented event. Using regular mountain climbing gear they descended 450ft. into the dark eerie chamber. Then slowly, with the help of a metal lift, the team carefully lowered heavy scientific and recording equipment.
The inside chamber of the crater sported a tint of red thanks to the iron ore in the solidified lava that lined its walls. The scientists also found 'lava-icicles' - ancient magma that had solidified before it could fall on the floor. Where the magma had peeled off, they were able to examine the actual rocks of the chamber. Mr. Sigmundsson who says that experience was unbelievable, is planning to use his research to compare notes about their observations of other volcano's especially Eyjafjallajökul, and hopefully get some insight into future eruptions.
Formed by a series of volcanic eruptions about 20 million years ago, Iceland is home to 130 volcanic mountains. While only 18 of them have been active since it was first inhabited, they are responsible for spewing out a third of the world's total lava output. The largest eruption ever happened at the Skaftareldar (fires of Skafta) volcano, which began erupting in 1783 and did not stop until 1785. Not only was it the largest in terms of the amount of lava that got spewed in a single eruption, it was also, one of the most fatal - killing about a quarter of the island's population. It is no wonder the scientists in Iceland are going through such extreme measures to learn more about these unpredictable powerful forces of nature.
This historic expedition was morphed into a documentary dubbed 'Into Iceland's Volcano', which aired on the National Geographic Channel on April 8th, 2011.