The above video is in Icelandic but features interesting footage and contains the same spoken information as this article.
Harder to get close
Lava is now running into Nátthagi from four different points—the fourth of which started on Sunday and is still flowing now. It is still some time until Nátthagi will fill up with lava, but it has already cut off hiking trail A near the middle. Trail A is the main access route to the volcano and has been improved and widened on several occasions. The bigger the lava field becomes, the harder it will be to get close to the crater—but there is much more to see.
Hiking trail B is open, though it is a longer and more challenging hike, and people have also been allowed to view the advancing lava in Nátthagi, which is an easy walk, but does not have a view of the crater.
Police officer Hjálmar Hallgrímsson told RÚV they are worried the more challenging hike will see the number of emergency calls go up again, and plans are being prepared for a new trail C, along Langihryggur. “We are looking into. We need to assess the lava flow rate, and other things. Think several months down the line. That’s been the hard part up to this point.”
Nine football pitches a day
According to the latest data from the earth sciences institute at the University of Iceland, the lava flow has been a steady 12 cubic metres per second for roughly six weeks, for a running total of some 60 million cubic metres so far. The lava field covers more than three square kilometres and has increased by an average of 60,000 square metres per day since the last monitoring—or by around the size of nine football pitches per day.
One of the challenges in building the new barrier was simply getting the heavy earth moving equipment to the site, but with time and persistence, the large excavator made it to Geldingadalir and work is ongoing today to divert the lava flow to make sure it continues flowing into Nátthagi and does not run over into Nátthagakriki. From Nátthagakriki, the lava could flow in several different, and less predictable, directions.
“We are going to begin by putting a four-metre diversion barrier here, near the end of the lava,” says engineer Ari Guðmundsson.
The cost of the barrier is estimated at 10-20 million krónur. But is it likely it will work, given how quickly the barriers at the top of Nátthagi were overcome? “We don’t believe it’s a losing battle. By setting a makeshift barrier up, we are protecting the work area and buying ourselves time,” Ari says.
“It could make an enormous difference to us. We don’t want to let the lava down into Nátthagakriki, to the south or in the direction of the geothermal plant and more. We want to have control of it, if possible,” Hjálmar explains.