"Great is the power of the Prince of Darkness. Now he has flung open that horrible inferno Eclafeld out of Hyslandia, where the souls of the damned in flames of eternal fire, never thence to return, except when from time to time Satan drags them from the glowing embers to cool them in the piercing chill of the polar ice enclosing that dreary island, lest they become too inured to the fires of Hell."
- Hekla on Fire: Sigurdur Thorarinsson, 1956
Iceland's many active volcanos, including Hekla (first historically noted in 1104 and subsequently known as the "Gateway to Hell") and more recently Eyjafjallajökull in 2010, inspired legends and folklore throughout history and provide unique areas of study for volcanologists.
Along with Hawaii, Iceland is known for its high concentration of active volcanoes due to its location on the mid-Atlantic Ridge. The island has 30 active volcanic systems, of which 13 have erupted since the settlement of Iceland in AD 874.
Eyjafjallajökull, English Island Mountain Glacier, is one of the smaller ice caps of Iceland, north of Skógar and west of Mýrdalsjökull. The ice cap covers the caldera of a volcano with a summit elevation of 1,651 metres (5,417 ft). The volcano has erupted relatively frequently since the last glacial period, most recently in 2010, on this day, March 20th.
Another major Icelandic volcano, Hekla, first historically noted in 1104, was known as the "Gateway to Hell." Observed by those living near it as well as travelers in ships passing by, Hekla's sudden eruption which included lava flows and lava fountaining, looked like the Earth had opened up, exposing the underworld. Birds that were seen flying in the area and around the crater were believed to be souls swarming around hell's entrance. And hissing lava bombs emitted from the crater during eruptions were seen as lost souls screaming in agony.
By designer Carol A.L. Martin, the colors and design in this tartan evokes the colors and flow of the extreme heat of lava. From the designer's notes:
"This design was inspired by the volcanoes of Iceland. The island owes its very existence to its location on a mid-oceanic hot spot where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. Volcanism is woven into the mythology, history and everyday life of the Icelandic people."
For an amazing compilation of photos of the Eyjafjallajökulll volcano, click the photo of the running lava.