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  • Writer's pictureIsabelle Alegria

Dispatch from abroad: Icelandic tour guide speaks with the News Watch about volcanoes in her country


Viktoria Tomasdottir named her favorite natural phenomenon: “The waterfalls during wintertime.”

Viktoria Tomasdottir is an 18-year-old Icelandic tour guide. She was born in Hafnarfjörður just outside of Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital city of about 140,000 people. Even younger than she is now, Viktoria began her relationship with the tourism industry on her father’s boat, taking tourists out to look for whales. It was on her father’s boat that she discovered her love for people, for sharing Icelandic culture, and for demonstrating the natural beauty of Iceland.


She also has grown up with volcanic eruptions.


The Fagradalsfjall volcano in Iceland erupted for the third time in February. Lava flow threatens the town of Grindavik, roughly 50 miles from where Viktoria lives now. Five recent volcanic eruptions, one in 2021, one in 2022, two in 2023, and the others now this year, have left lasting effects on Iceland.


“All the new land, the lava dries and creates new land,” she said by Zoom interview with the Florida Student News Watch at the end of January.


Just as the volcano creates land, it threatens to destroy cities. Recent eruptions have led to road closure, airports being shut down, and buildings breaking apart. Viktoria described the aftermath of an eruption, where massive cracks in the ground pour out steam and smoke hangs in the air.


Airports and local businesses were forced to close as these fissures proved to be unstable, even swallowing one worker who was working to seal them, according to Viktoria. The eruptions have affected the tourism industry, making lava fields unsafe and canceled some tours as a result, she added.


Living in the land of fire and ice

Born in Hafnarfördur, outside of the capital city Reykjavik, Viktoria remembers waking up in the middle of the night to the tremors caused by earthquakes due to the volcanic eruption. Families scrambled to take things off the walls and took shelter in their homes. After the eruption, hot lava poured over the ground and Viktoria laughed as she described how people sat outside roasting hot dogs over the glowing lava.


Despite having grown up near the volcano and becoming used to the eruptions, Icelanders do not take the eruptions lightly, Viktoria said.


“It’s not normal, we’re kind of just used to them by now at least,” she said. “We evacuate everything as soon as we find activity in that area. We make sure everyone is out and evacuated.”


“‘Whoosh,’” she said, pantomiming people disappearing.


Culture in Iceland

An important aspect of Icelandic culture is the joy of sharing stories, legends, and lore.

 

When asked about the animals in Iceland, Viktoria’s face lit up. She talked about ravens, and how the Norse god of thunder Odin, has two ravens sitting on his shoulders.


“I think I was a raven in my past life due to my silver addiction.” She wiggled her fingers, showing her stacked silver rings, laughing. Then said, “When I see two ravens I like to think Odin is looking at me.”

Viktoria regularly visits the Golden Circle, northern lights, and the Blue Lagoon with tours.

As she regularly visits the Golden Circle, northern lights, and the Blue Lagoon with tours, Viktoria is surrounded by Iceland’s most beautiful landscapes.


She named her favorite natural phenomenon: “The waterfalls during wintertime.”


She described the slick ice at the mouth of waterfalls, white icicles hanging from black rock, and the wind that blows so cold that when you take you gloves off, you lose mobility in your fingers. She stretched her hand out, frozen in the air, as she described it.


The creeping lava from Fagradalsfjall volcano may threaten the blue Lagoon, an internationally popular tourism site in Grindavik, Iceland. Visitors are told about the elves who live near the Blue Lagoon who stymied initial construction of the blue Lagoon’s hotel.


With the volcanic eruptions continuing to occur, perhaps the elves will have their final say.

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