The Earth is made up of multiple layers, many as hot as the surface of the sun. The layer beneath the Earth’s surface is called the mantle and is a rock by definition but it is so hot that the material becomes liquid. It flows very slowly like a river because of the extreme heat from the core of the earth. The mantle is often referred to as lava, though strictly speaking it can only be called that once it surfaces the earth. While still under the Earth’s crust it is referred to as magma. The top layer is a hard shell split up in nine major tectonic plates and it is the movement of these plates which cause earthquakes and volcano eruptions.
Iceland is situated on the Mid-Atlantic ridge where two of these tectonic plates meet; the American and the Eurasian. The land was formed during volcanic eruptions caused by the friction of these two plates over the course of thousands of years. Iceland is the biggest island on the ridge and is very active today. An eruption occurs every five to ten years on average. One of the reason it’s so active is the increase of extremely hot magma in the Earths mantle just under Iceland.
Thingvellir National Park is situated in a rift valley where the two plates meet. and because they move in the opposite direction of approximately 2 cm a year the land keeps subsiding. The beautiful landscapes attracts thousands of tourists each year and it’s popular to walk in this valley called Almannagja. On the south-west corner of Iceland is another visible evidence of the stress caused by the plates moving away from each other creating a rift or a fissure. A 15m long footbridge was built over it as symbolic connection between Europe and America.
Lava tunnels are a natural phenomenon occurring when magma finds its way up to the surface during a volcanic eruption. In such effusive eruption the lava flows like a glowing river over the land. When the top layer cools down a tunnel underneath allows the glowing hot lava to continue its path. As the eruption stops and the tunnel drains, spectacular lava tube is left. A few such lava tunnels are accessible to public; the largest one and best preserved being Vidgemlir and another one called Raufarholshellir is close to Reykjavik.
Thrihnjukagigur is a dormant volcano which due to it’s unique shape it is possible to enter. When a volcano stops erupting the crater will usually fill up with cooling lava. This volcano, which has yet another unpronounceable name, is a rare exception to this. It’s just like someone flushed out the lava and beneath lies a massive bottle shaped magma chamber. The beautiful colours and lava formations inside the crater gives us a little glimpse into the spectacular underworlds.
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