This is the third chapter of a serialised story. The first chapter is here:


Chapter 3 – Vatnajökull ice cap. Iceland

The bright red of their survival suits reflected off the windscreen with the fluorescent strips looking particularly bright.

Grunnhildur exchanged glances across the helicopter cabin with her assistant Sigurmunndur as the machine dipped and swung in the cold, adiabatic winds blowing off the Vatnajökull ice cap. They were on a trip to monitor the correlation between what the many seismometers on the ice were telling them back in the volcanic institute in Reykjavik, with the evidence in the field. The pilot spotted the marker on the ground and dropped the machine with a stomach-churning lurch towards it. He landed quickly in spite of the difficulty in seeing the horizon through the whipped up snow and kept the rotors turning while his two passengers leapt out onto the snow and leaned back in for their heavy cases of equipment. As soon as they were clear of the helicopter they signalled to the pilot who heaved the machine into the sky, relieved to be away from such a dangerous place and on his way back to the warmth of the Institute.

The wind on the ice cap was searching; searching for any chinks of human flesh exposed; but none were. The wind lifted the snow and blew it along to somewhere else, just like the saltation of sand grains above the bed of a fast-flowing stream. This resulted in a ground effect blur of snow mist about 40 cm from the ground surface up. It buzzed with an urgency, an urgency to get shelter from the searching wind.

Grunnhildur grabbed one end of each of their cases and signalled to Sigi to do the same and they staggered over to the marker on the small cabin that collected the data from the seismographs. The walk up the hill of ice until they could see into the old crater that had been made by the eruption of Grimsvötn in 2011 was difficult, even with the crampons. It was now partly filled with ash, ice and snow and appeared to be stable but it was like a swan; serene on the surface but paddling furiously underneath. They then had the long trek to the North to the edge of Bardarbunga which they had predicted would be on the verge of an eruption but the lava chamber under the volcano was now feeding a dyke that led North East towards the Asja volcanic system. If it reached this system then there could be a major sub-glacial eruption.

‘I really hope we don’t get a Jökuhlaup from this eruption,’ said Grunhildur. ‘I was still at Uni when Grimsvötn caused the last one in 2011 so I haven’t seen one and I don’t really want to. The thought of a river appearing, even for a few hours, with a greater flow than the Amazon, scares me.’

Because of the migration of a huge quantity of lava, over two cubic kilometres by their calculations since their last visit, they called their headquarters on the satellite phone and suggested that the earthquake, jökuhlaup and ash cloud warnings should be moved from Orange to Red to reflect the predicted severity of the eruption.

Grunni then sent a radio message to the helicopter to pick them up. They both laughed and agreed that they would both be glad to leave that area of fire and melting ice. They looked at each other and grinned when they heard the beating of the returning helicopter’s rotors


© Richard Kefford                                                                                                        Eorðdraca


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