About Gustavo Woltmann's Iceland Volcanoes Research

Watching The Volcanoes of Iceland

“Eyjafjallajökull is nothing compared to the potential of Kalta.”Gustavo Woltmann

Geologists and volcanologist, Gustavo Woltmann has been studying the ever increasing activity around the glacier capped volcano located in Iceland for the past several weeks.

In a mystical land spotted with immense geo-thermal activity, volcanic eruptions have been on the mind of Iceland locals and the entire world more so than in the past.

The effects of the massive eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 were felt the world over. The airline industry was left crippled after giant ash clouds created a no-fly situation for much of the European Union.

“It’s the last thing we need right now.” Gustavo seems worried not only for the physical damage that an eruption of Kalta would inflict but is aware of the fragile economic state of Iceland.

After the global finical crisis in 2008, Iceland was one of the hardest hit countries. Much of the country’s wealth was quickly exposed as being built within a failing bank system. This made Iceland one of the first countries since the 1970’s to seek out the International Monetary Fund for assistance in keeping the economy afloat.

Volcanoes and Iceland are synonymous with one another and much of the island tourist activity revolves around them. In addition, much of the traditional folklore of Iceland revolves around the myths of the volcanoes and Gustavo was happy to explain one of the more, dramatic stories to me.

“Hekla is one of my favorites. Famed throughout the medieval period as one of the portals into hell, it was one of the most active volcanoes on the island. It has violently exploded several times in history. During the eruptions in 1104, half of the island was covered in volcanic fallout, and the eruption became famed throughout Europe. Of course, people did not know very much about geology back then, so they figured that hell had pushed its way to the surface.
When lava bombs would fly out of the crater, people thought they were the souls of the damned, hissing and spitting the whole way in pain. Satan would drag the souls of the damned up to the cold north to cool them off just enough so they didn’t get to accustomed to the heat of hell.”

These fantastic legends built around the many volcanoes of Iceland have long been an integral part of the Iceland folklore and current society. Though the legend describe of Hekla is far less than pleasant, the spot is one of the most visited sites in Iceland and it’s easy to understand how deeply the islands rely on the draw of these fickle volcanoes.

“I feel as though my job is important on many levels.”

Gustavo Woltmann was raised on the big island of Hawaii. Spending his childhood around active volcanoes, he from an early age was fascinated by being able to see into the earth’s core. Being raised around volcanoes which are vary similar to the ones in Iceland, it was easy to see why he moved to Iceland to study.

“When I was young, I would be able to go see the lava up close. I waould watch it slowly creep along the fields and the splash with hissing steam into the ocean. Being able to see into the depth of the earth, to smell the sulfuric smell and witness the massive changes that the lava and ash could have on the landscape was amazing. Being a volcanologist has always been my dream and I am glad that I can study here and perhaps have a broader affect on the world that I originally thought.”

Woltmann’s passion for the volcanoes is understandable, who hasn’t marveled at nature’s power and wondered, how and why?

Gustavo current research is studying the systemic activity of the Kalta volcano. Having a pattern of erupting every 60 years, a new eruption is long overdue.

Spending many days cramped in an office, watching a needle bounce up and down on a graph, it seems like a somewhat unadventurous job, though Gustavo begs to differ with me.

“I feel as though I am pressing my ear to the chest of a dragon. It may come off as tedious to some, but when you know that you…alone can warn the world of a coming disaster, it does not feel tedious at all.”

When explained by Gustavo his job does seem to have quite a noble sense to it. After the devistation felt after Eyjafjallajökull, it is no wonder that Gustavo wants Iceland, and the rest of Europe to be on it’s toes when it comes to Kalta.

Since 1918, Kalta has not stirred significantly. The caldera, a volcanic crater which is capped with a glacier, did however burst in July of 2012 sending a flood of water to surrounding areas.

The records show from the previous eruptions that the amount of ash and volcanic debris that would be ejected from Kalta would be more than five times the amount witnessed in the Eyjafjallajökull eruption.

“As a recovering country, the last thing we need is for over half of our country to be covered in ash. It was be utterly devastating for us and for the world. Instead of planes being grounded for weeks, we are talking about an effect on the entire world climate. We need to watch…and we need to plan.”

The seriousness in Gustavo’s voice is chilling and comforting at the same time. Perhaps the global awareness of the magnitude of volcanic eruptions has not been taken seriously enough in the past several years. But with Gustavo Woltmann’s watchful eye and the dedication of many scientist and volcanologists, being able to predict a forthcoming eruption seems more and more likely.
With this information, Iceland and the world will be able to set effective plans in coping with the ash clouds and potential disastrous effects of a large eruption.

“There is much we do not know about Kalta and about how the changing earth will affect eruptions in the future. But we can learn from the past and simply try to stay aware.”

Somebody as dedicated as Gustavo carefully watching Kalta, is reassuring.

Let Gustavo Woltmann guide you in discovering more about these Icelandic volcanoes.
Contact him at info@the-iceland-volcano-project.com.