Ω The Luck of the Icelanders Ω


The following article is a post by Guest Writer, Kolla Njálsdóttir.

Many factors contributed to the massive emigration from Iceland. Severe weather and climate conditions during the 1860s and 1880s, the poverty of the 1870s, political grievances after the enforcement of the Status Act in 1871 issued by the Danish King , the devastation of the Easter plinian eruption of the volcano, Askja in March 1875, the epidemic of measles in 1882 and promises of a new land , new life , a "geographical cure " so to speak, by American Agents all were factors in the emigration to North America.


An Icelander, Sigtryggur Jonasson, played a large part in the emigration to New Iceland, Canada.... See this LINK.

Sigtryggur Jónasson The Father of New Iceland


This Easter plinian eruption of Askja in March 1875 was devastating. A plinian eruption is a major volcanic event, like the one that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum in A.D. 79, crustal rifting causing basaltic magma to mix with rhyolitic magma capable of producing plumes of ash 45 km's in to the stratosphere.

Western Icelanders in North America often refer to Askja as the "Vestur Íslendingar Volcano ." Askja in the Dyngjufjöll mountain range was part of a series of volcanic and tectonic events that took place in the northern rift zone in 1874 & 1875, including the Sveinagja area, approx 75 km's north of Askja, that spread 20 cm layers of ash over large areas in East Iceland. In northeast Iceland, there lies the evidence, an uninhabited area, basaltic lava fields, and the desert of Ódáðahraun. Askja is a strata-volcano, that blew out 2 billion cubic metres of ash & pumice from its vents at the bottom of Lake Askja/ Öskjuvatn . Its surface area is about 11 km²., with a depth of 217 m. It is the second deepest lake in Iceland after Jökulsárlón. Askja has erupted many times in recorded history, most recently as 1961 when hot lava flowed across Vikrahraun. Six distinguishable pyroclastic layers of ash can be recognized.

Ódáðahraun is so "moon-like" that 9 out of 12 astronauts that have set foot on the moon and the Apollo program, have trained and studied geology there prior to their lunar missions.


Mats Wibe Lund Photography of Askja-Viti-MWL0013888.tif.

Víti við Öskjuvatn. Loftmynd.Viti crater at the shore of lake Öskjuvatn. Aerial.

See more at mats.photoshelter.com

Askja's NE "Víti" meaning Hell, is 150 m diameter water filled crater which is a serene, beautiful, opaque, milky blue, with an average warm 30 C temperature. It is a popular swimming area for tourists who visit the remote area, however, the waters can be dangerous as invisible carbon dioxide can form above the water surface causing swimmers to pass out and drown.

This area is approx 100 km's from the Ring Road accessible on a 4 x 4 F road. It is only accessible 3 to 4 months of the year, due to weather extremes. There is a campsite at Dreki, by Drekngil, the canyon of Dragons, approx a 2.5 km walk from Víti and Öskjuvatn.


On July 10, 1907, two German scientists on a small canvas boat in Öskjuvatn mysteriously disappeared without a trace, future searches led by one of the widows were unsuccessful. There is a stone monument, a marble plate, and a guest book at this site that commemorates the two missing scientists, placed there by one of the widows who led the search and also by an Austrian research team.

Askja has 3 calderas, and is in the "rain shadow" , on the northeast of Vatnajökull glacier. A rain shadow is a dry area on a mountainous lee side , which results in Askja receiving only up to 450 mm's of rain, yearly. Today, Askja is still very much alive and you can read about a July 23, 2014 Landslide. Another ARTICLE HERE.

When the Icelanders emigrated to many parts in Canada and the USA, the largest amount of emigrants settled on the flat prairie lands of Manitoba, Canada and nearby North Dakota, USA. They left their volcanic fears behind them in their beloved homeland, Iceland BUT WHAT IF THEY WOULD OF EMIGRATED TO KODIAK ISLAND, ALASKA ??

''Jón Ólafsson (20 March 1850 – 11 July 1916) was an Icelandic editor, journalist, and poet. He was the half-brother of Páll Ólafsson, also a poet. He became a journalist in Iceland in 1868, but due to disobedience to the authorities, he had to emigrate to North America in 1872. There, a lawyer convinced him that it would be a good idea for people from Iceland to immigrate into Alaska, especially to the Island of Kodiak. Ólafsson made a petition to President Ulysses S. Grant and met with him, but neither that nor the bill to Congress lead to success; however, the government of Canada offered land in Manitoba to immigrants from Iceland." - WIKIPEDIA


Jón Ólafsson

In 1874, a 24-year-old Jón, an Icelandic journalist/poet/editor, appeared before then US President Ulysses Grant to request an Island off the coast of Alaska, for Icelanders only, to which many Icelanders from Iceland could move and immigrate to. This request was never granted and in 1875, Canadian authorities reserved land on the west shore of Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba for the immigrating Icelanders.

Had the Icelanders immigrated to beautiful, majestic Kodiak Island, similar to their magnificent Iceland, by the mountains, fjords and the ocean, life would have eventually been equally devastating as that eruption of Askja, due to the 60-hour eruption of Novarupta volcano, 160 km NW of Kodiak Island in June of 1912, resulting in widespread death of animals and vegetation. This was the largest eruption in the 20th century. They would also have had to survive through the 1964 Good Friday earthquake and tsunami.


AND WHAT ABOUT THE BEARS ? Kodiak Island is home to the 10 ft/ 3.5 metre 780 kg/ 1700 lb Alaskan Kodiak Bear, some of the largest bears in the world.

Here is a beautiful live webcam to watch Kodiak Bears.


Icelandic Roots is a non-profit, educational, heritage organization specializing in genealogy, history & traditions of our Icelandic ancestors.

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