Iceland’s Colourful Lavascapes

When you think of lava, you might think of red-hot molten rock oozing, if not pouring, down the sides of an erupting volcano.  When you think of basalt – a cooled, solid-rock version of lava (admittedly, most non-geologists would probably NOT be thinking of basalt, ordinarily) – you would probably think it’s colouring to be on the brown and on the boring side of life.

No so, just down the drag from Hell, at Leirhnjúkur (Clay Peak).

Clay Peak Panorama

Clay Peak Panorama

Here, the rocks are still warm (the last lava flow, and the blackest of them all, was in 1984), the vents are still steaming and the mud-pots are still bubbling away.  It is the very epitome of a post-apocalyptic landscape.

Clay Peak MudPots

Clay Peak MudPots

We, along with all the other visitors, picked our way along the narrow, winding pathways through interesting formations to get a closer look at Iceland’s youngest lava flow.

Mudpot viewing deck

Mudpot viewing deck

End of the Flow

End of the Flow

Volcanic vent

Volcanic vent

Ropy Lava

Ropy Lava

Lava half-pipe

Lava half-pipe

Lava pipes

Lava pipes

Inside Lava Pipe

A look Inside a lava pipe

Colourful standing wave

Colourful standing wave

Red-Hot Lava

Red-Hot Lava (not molten, but not cold to touch either!)

Steaming Vent

Peering into a steaming vent

Larger Steaming Vent

Larger Steaming Vent

Steam Clouds

Steam mingles in with the clouds

River of Black Lava

River of Black Lava

New flow on old

New flow on old

Vegetated Lava Flow

Looking upstream of a vegetated lava flow

As much as I enjoyed this Geological field trip, I must admit that after this day (bearing in mind we visited Hell and Hverir earlier THE SAME DAY) I was starting to get a little overwhelmed and somewhat fatigued by all the sulphurous fumes.  I know my sister was itching to get somewhere more glacial, but we had a ways to go yet before we reached snow and ice…

Lava Flows Panorama

Lava Flows Panorama

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21 thoughts on “Iceland’s Colourful Lavascapes

  1. Amazing photos! This is probably a stupid question – and I may have missed it in the text – but how do the lava pipes stay “open”?

    Am reading a book set in Iceland at the moment, so your series is giving me a wonderful visual of the landscapes there.

    1. Hi Lisa, nope – you didn’t miss any explanations (an unfortunate oversight on my part – and thank you for bringing it to my attention. I shall have to insert one!)
      Basically, when lava flows – the outer surface cools much more rapidly than the inner material, so that over time it forms a skin, or tube, which then solidifies. The hot lava pouring through the inside of the tube stays hot and runny – as it is now insulated from the cold air. When the volcano stops erupting, the last of the lava will still travel down through the inside of the tube to its final destination leaving behind a hollow pipe (mostly found closer to the source of the eruption). I hope that explains it!??

      1. Ah, yes thanks, that explains it well. Now I have another question . . . Would lava ever flow down a cooled down pipe again – like the one in your photo (the one you captioned “A look Inside a lava pipe”)? Or does the lava just find new places to flow?

      2. It might do. If another eruption occurs at the same site, then old channels that are not blocked will be useful as “paths of least resistance” as lava flows down hill.

  2. I absolutely enjoyed looking through all of your photos on this post. I am a fan of art and picture taking and nature in general. I’ve always wanted to visit Iceland, but never had the chance or opportunity like most people. I have however been to France and Italy which has many beautiful sights as well. Please keep posting awesome pictures!

  3. Cool photos Lu, very majestic! I visited Iceland once, but didn’t get to see a few things that I would have liked to. It is a truly beautiful place though. Thanks for the pictures!

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