The Volcano Sagas


Thank the Gods for copy and paste.

The Eyjafjallajökull glacier (“island mountain glacier”) at 63°38 2N 19°36 2W isn’t a place I’ve walked to although in the early eighties, I did explore the more northerly Lake Myvatn where lava fields were buried in frosty snow and where I almost met an untimely end. Twenty years old and stupid enough to get lost on the slopes of a dormant volcano.

I went there to hear the rasps of an ancient language, so close to old Norse is modern Icelandic that I could imagine my hosts’ forebears speaking these words in AD973 while noisily gorging on Lindisfarne poultry:

Hann ekr vagninum um himininn. Þar er Þórr ekr, er stormr.  (Thor drives the carriage through the sky. Where Thor drives there is storm).

I also met a young man from the US, whose almost disturbed mission it was to escape the Reagan-era nukes he believed were launching, seeing it as a matter of urgency to seek atomic shelter in the icy mid-Atlantic. I hadn’t the heart to tell him about the NATO base down the road, a Soviet ICBM target far closer than New York City.

The airport family that was also hunkered down last night looked defeated. Holiday baggage was piled on trolleys, blankets were strewn across the terminal seats, children looking lost and exhausted as any refugees we have seen in times of human conflict or natural disaster. Other passengers were disorientated too, disbelieving that the blue skies above were full of volcanic jeopardy, risky to fragile turbofans that ought to be accelerating them off to Mediterranean beaches and pools. It took me back to Southend airport and my stint as an airline man:

“It’s a sunny day here .. when will your planes fly .. why are you lying to us? .. You’re all crap!”

A planet’s population that’s so unused to spectacular catastrophe, so helpless once the cotton wool insulation of civilisation fails them that they stay hypnotised on municipal benches .. waiting for the siren to tell us that time is ticking again, heralding the big off.

But when indeed will this volcano cease its effervescence? How to tell the airport families of western Europe that eruption plumes can last weeks, months, years? And maybe more if the nearby sub-glacial volcano like Katla is awakened too. As Prof. Brian Cox says of mother earth, ‘Active volcanoes are the proof of a living planet .. without them, we’d be another Mars.’

In Brockwell Park at eight, we heard the soundtrack of rural Anglo-Saxon life – the tweeting of native species and woodpeckers hammering. No Boeings were winding down their flaps for final descent and no high-altitude vapour trails criss-crossed this capital city. All seemed .. ancient, or 28 Days Later.

Us humans were left with our nature again, around us the wholesome beauty of the wild while one thousand miles to the north were the seismic sagas of old Norse.


One Response to “The Volcano Sagas”

  1. I’m happy to be corrected by a certain J Beardsworth with the difference between the 40th president of the United States Ronald Reagan and Jack Regan, of The Sweeney. Apart from the surname, I reckon the connection is the Ford Granada and leather driving gloves. But I might be wrong.

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