Geology student Nils Gies flew over the Geldingadalir volcanic eruption
No one could have missed the Geldingadalir volcanic eruption on Iceland. Nils Gies, a master’s student at the Department of Earth Sciences, happened to be in the right place at the right time (especially if you are a geologist). He had the opportunity to fly over the whole eruption area and also to get near the volcano, experience the atmosphere, and collect samples.
“It was really amazing to be there and see everything that we have learned about during the education. It is also great to have been involved in collecting data that will be used for calculations, that will help to secure the area in the future,” says Nils Gies.
Since the summer, Nils Gies has been on Iceland working at the Icelandic institute of Natural History, at the geology department while writing his master thesis.
“When the eruption started on the evening of March 19th my boss set up a plane for the next day to fly over the whole area. We already took a lot of high resolution images of that area a few weeks earlier and made digital evaluation models, in that way we got a base model before the eruption eventually would happen”
When the volcano erupted, Nils was part of a team, which once again flew over the area, and the fact that they had a small plane made it possible for them to open the door and take vertical pictures. The pictures were sent to the National Land Survey of Iceland and to the University of Iceland, which calculated the amount of eruption material (new rock formed from the lava, in this case basalt).
On the 20th of March, gas measurements suggested it was safe to get near the volcano and Nils Gies decided to hike the 2.5 hours to the eruption site.
“I arrived to the volcano just before it got dark and I spent time there until it was dark, took a lot of pictures and collected some samples.”
Nils Gies says that this eruption is quite safe, if you know what you are doing and use a little bit of common sense. There was a lot of wind when Nils Gies visited the volcano, but luckily it was moving in the right direction, so the wind blew all the toxic gases out of the valley.
“There are also lots of lava tongues in the area (hardened and cooling lava). These look very cool, like a black solid rock, but underneath there is still hot lava that can break out again. When it does break out, the red and orange glowing lava looks really amazing. If it happened right next to you it would be near impossible to run away.”
There is still a lot of debate going on about for how long the eruption will be active. Scientists have investigated the minerals to learn more about the source and evolution of the magma, from what depth beneath the earth it originates, and how the eruption might change in the future. Nils Gies says that there is a lot of uncertainty and that more research will need to be made before any definite conclusions can be drawn.