Fieldwork around volcano Askja
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Fieldwork around volcano Askja

Two weeks in August were spent in Iceland and started with a fieldwork campaign around the volcano Askja in the central highlands. My tall nephew Adrian Heldrup had volunteered to be our field assistant, which he was the perfect candidate for as it is an advantage to be tall for the levelling measurements. We went more or less straight from Reykjavík to the north, but not before Adrian was interviewed by Swedish newspaper, Sydsvenskan. When we left the central station in Lund the evening before, Adrian’s mother Helena took a photo of us and posted it on Facebook. This post got viral and ended up with a journalist at Sydsvenskan, who was writing articles about people doing odd kinds of summer holidays. Hence, Adrian going to Iceland to measure volcanoes was the perfect candidate for such a story and he ended up with a whole page article ‘Adrian, 24, ska mäta vulkaner på semestern‘. However, this was only the beginning of the media attention. Upon arrival in Mývatn and meeting up with Melissa Pfeiffer and Michelle Parks from the Icelandic Meteorological Institute (Veðurstofa Íslands), they informed us that journalists and camera men from both Iceland National Broadcast Association, RÚV ( and the newspaper Morgunblaðið ( were joining us the first day to Askja. First of all, we had to wait for an exchange of rental car for one set of journalists because on the way to Askja you have to pass the river Lindá, which requires a proper size 4×4 car and they were given a Suzuki Jimmy. Finally, we were on our way with three Toyota Landcruisers and a Hilux. Adrian learned how take air out of the tires when going on the highland roads and to drive a big car like ours. Erik, Adrian, and I were staying in the university house (our work was carried out on behalf of University of Iceland), whereas Melissa and Michelle were staying in Dreki (dragon in Icelandic), the mountain huts. It turned out that several groups of researchers were staying at Dreki. There were probably more researchers and students compared to tourists, which is unusual. The reason being the recent years of uplift around Askja, i.e. magma flowing in under the volcano making an eruption a probability. Our work was exactly to measure how much new uplift has happened to the area, and that is done by measuring the same levelling line each year and deploying GPS stations. The only downside of this fieldwork is all the heavy gear you have to carry over uneven lava fields, so it was good to have extra help. Former colleague and geophysicist, Ásta Rut Hjartardóttir were luckily there to help once more, and so did Michelle and Melissa when they had finished their own work of water and gas sampling. We were lucky with the weather and the field campaign was a success. And we were able to show that uplift is still taking place at the same rate around Askja as the previous year. Melissa and Erik got interviewed, partly in Icelandic, and this led to several news posts on RÚV and a nice article on Mikinn kraft þarf til að taka tappann úr Heklu. The title refers to another volcano Hekla, which Erik and others managed to measure just days before going to Askja, and that volcano is showing uplift, too. Adrian did a good job as field assistant. He got to meet a lot of crazy but dedicated researchers, and take part in the Rangers’ annual Christmas party in Dreki. After the fieldwork, Adrian and I took two days of vacation in the north and visited Dettifoss, Ásbyrgi, Húsavík, the Eurovision museum, whale safari, the GeoSea Spa, and Goðafoss. Erik was picked up by a group from Stockholm University to lead their excursion around northern and eastern Iceland. Lastly, I should not forget to mention that we managed to celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary during the fieldwork with a nice dinner at restaurant Mylla in Reykjahlíð.

Photo: Gabrielle. Adrian and Erik next to our fully packed Landcruiser and ready to go on fieldwork.
Photo: Gabrielle. Adrian reducing the air pressure in tires before going on the highland roads.
Photo: Gabrielle. Adrian putting up the measuring rods next to Lake Öskjuvatn to measure the lake level.
Photo: Gabrielle. Adrian and Erik measuring the lake level.
Photo: Gabrielle. American astronauts came to this area to practise work on the Moon. Looking at these lava fields, you understand why.
Photo: Gabrielle. Luckily, Adrian is an experienced climber and has good balance, which is an advantage when crossing the lava fields with 3 m long measuring rods.
Photo: Gabrielle. Our research hut ‘Dyngja’ at Askja, where we stayed during our field work.
Photo: Erik and Ásta Rut surrounded by all the gear we needed for deploying two GPS stations.
Photo: Gabrielle. Deploying the first GPS station at MASK (Mid Askja). Also known as the three trolls’ site.
Photo: Gabrielle. Erik standing next to a widening crack striking parallel to Lake Öskjuvatn.
Photo: Gabrielle. American Geologists from Lamont going in the field to run a drone, and just like us carrying a lot of gear. The things you do for science!
Photo: Warning signs has been put up to warn visitors of the potential danger by visiting Askja. However, we all agreed they needed to be bigger, so people would actually notice and read them.
Photo: Gabrielle. Welcome to 30th edition of the Rangers’ annual Christmas party!
Photo: Gabrielle. Erik, Michelle, and Adrian at the Christmas dinner. The food was excellent!
Photo: Gabrielle. Nautagil, the Astronaut Canyon.
Photo: Gabrielle. Erik standing next to what could have been a sand worm from the movie Dune, but also called a lava rose.
Photo: Gabrielle. Beautiful weather over Lake Öskjuvatn and Lake Viti.
Photo: Gabrielle. Still some snow left in the area, and on our last day in the field it started snowing.
Photo: Gabrielle. Adrian, Erik, Melissa, and Michelle at the GPS station at BÁTS (Bátshraun).
Photo: Gabrielle. At the end of the levelling line, there are extra points in the scary ‘a a’ lava.
Photo: Gabrielle. Michelle Parks and Erik mounting the disk so it points north.
Photo: Gabrielle. Adrian at one of the rivers you have to cross with car on the road to Askja.
Photo: Gabrielle. Erik and Adrian removing the tracks from the car after measuring the ring station at Nautahnukar.
Photo: Adrian Heldrup. Celebrating our wedding anniversary at the NordVulk house by Mývatn.
Photo: Gabrielle. Adrian at the Dettifoss waterfall.
Photo: Gabrielle. Beautiful and tranquil Ásbyrgi where Odin’s horse Sleipnir stepped one hoof on the ground.
Photo: Gabrielle. An unusual diversity of vegetation at Ásbyrgi.
Photo: Adrian Heldrup. The wall at Ásbyrgi.
Photo: Adrian Heldrup. On the road to Húsavík with a view to the North Atlantic.
Photo: Adrian Heldrup. The Eurovision museum in Húsavík.
Photo: Adrian Heldrup. The Eurovision museum in Húsavík from the movie Fire Saga by Will Ferrell.
Photo: Gabrielle. Adrian watching the sunset at the GeoSea spa in Húsavík.
Photo: Adrian Heldrup. A selfie from the GeoSea.
Photo: Adrian Heldrup. The characteristic and charming church of Húsavík.
Photo: Gabrielle. Adrian going on the whale safari early in the morning.
Photo: Gabrielle. The harbour of Húsavík with all the many whale safari company boats.
Photo: Gabrielle. The river flowing down from Goðafoss.
Photo: Gabrielle. The Nordic Gods’ waterfall, Goðafoss. An appropriate name with the Bifrost rainbow.
Photo: Gabrielle. Adrian bought himself a nice Icelandic sweater from Icewear.
Photo: Gabrielle. On the road from Akureyri. Goodbye North Iceland for this time.