Hekla – The Queen of Icelandic Volcanoes


She is feminine and often called the queen of Icelandic volcanoes. She has erupted 23 times since Iceland was settled and is the second most active volcano in Iceland. The eruptions destroyed farmlands again and again throughout the centuries and people had to evacuate the area countless times and seek their fortunes elsewhere in Iceland.

The name Hekla means a cloak, referring to the snow in the hills of the volcano that remains there most of the year. It could also be because the mountain is formed like a ridge with broad shoulders.

In the old ages Hekla was believed to be the gateway to hell. Demons would take sinners, faithless people and those that had died of unnatural causes and carry them to the volcano. These unfortunate souls had to go through terrible ordeal of being burned in the fire and frozen in the snow. The tales claimed that the cries of the souls could be heard a mile away from the mountain. This was not all, because evil witches had their meetings on top of the volcano and demons were flying around in the shape of ravens with iron beaks.

No wonder people were afraid of the volcano and no one dared to climb it. There were tales of a man climbing up there in the fifteenth century, but he suffered from a nervous breakdown before he reached the top and came running down. Apparently he never recovered. The first time anyone climbed the 1.491 m volcano was in 1750 when two Icelandic naturalists set off to prove the old stories wrong. They did succeed and thousands of Icelanders have followed their example and reached the top.

hekla mynd

However Hekla is still active so one must show caution. The last eruptions were in 1970, 1980, 1991 and 2000. For a while last year geologists thought Hekla was going to erupt, but it only trembled a bit before going back to sleep. Recently geologists issued a warning again due to land rising around Hekla, pointing to increased pressure underneath. But there is no way of being completely sure about the next eruption. A warning system was designed, so that all mobile phones in the area around Hekla will receive a text message if danger is increasing. Anyone wishing to hike up or around Hekla is encouraged to keep a mobile phone handy, use the 112 app to send the their location and if they receive a text message about a potential eruption, get out of there, fast.

And the question remains unanswered. When will Hekla erupt again?

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