One of the main reasons people travel to Iceland is to swim in its gently warm, milky-blue waters.
The well-known Blue Lagoon geothermal pool, however, has been closed for a week due to nearby seismic activity.
The location is on the Reykjanes Peninsula, which juts out into the North Atlantic Ocean from the capital city of Reykjavik in southwest Iceland. The Blue Lagoon and Keflavik International Airport, Iceland’s primary airport, are located on the peninsula.
One of the planet’s most active volcanic regions is Iceland. The Reykjanes Peninsula is dominated by a rift valley with lava fields and cones rather than a dominant volcano.
The Icelandic Met Office reports that in the 24 hours before Thursday, November 9 at noon, almost 1,400 earthquakes were recorded, and in the first 14 hours of Friday, another 800. Of the Thursday’s, seven had a magnitude of four or higher; these were all on the peninsula, between the mountain Sýlingarfell, which is to the east of the Blue Lagoon, and Eldvörp, which is close to the airport.
At just before one in the morning, the strongest earthquake was detected 4.8 west of Þorbjörn, a mountain located about a mile south of the Blue Lagoon. this Thursday.
According to a bulletin sent by the Met Office on Thursday, “it is the largest earthquake since the activity began on October 25th.”
“While the accumulation of magma continues, seismic activity can be expected on the Reykjavík Peninsula because the magma intrusion causes increased tension in the area.”
As far away as Reykjavik, tremors can be felt, a local tourist board official said report.
Magma three miles down
1,200 earthquakes were recorded in the previous 24 hours, with the majority occurring in the same location and at a depth of approximately five kilometres (three miles) below the surface. The reported on November 8 that “uplift continues in the area” and that “seismic activity is likely to continue, and be episodic in intensity while magma accumulation is ongoing.”
At 2 p.m. local time on Friday, the Icelandic Met Office released a report stating that approximately 800 earthquakes had been recorded since midnight, suggesting that the area remained active. A “dense swarm” of earthquakes began at 7 a.m. and peaked just before 2 p.m. in an earthquake near Súlingarfell with a magnitude of 4.1.
It also made a point of pointing out that an eruption isn’t always going to happen soon. According to the Met Office dispatch from Thursday, “The fact that there are now larger earthquakes than before in the area does not necessarily mean an increased rate of magma accumulation.”
As magma building continues below ground, earthquakes of a magnitude of up to 5.5 “can be expected,” according to Friday’s advisory. “At this stage, there are no indications that magma is forcing its way to the surface,” they did observe.
An explosive recent past
As of right now, the Reykjanes Peninsula has an eruption danger code of yellow, which is higher than the green for the rest of the nation.
The local tourist authority, Visit Reykjanes, released a statement saying that the current activity is comparable to what happened before Fagradalsfjall erupted last year, approximately 8.5 miles southwest of the Blue Lagoon. Since 2021, Fagradalsfjall has erupted annually. The most recent eruption occurred in 2023 between July 10 and August 8. August saw the reopening of hiking trails, but cautionary signs advised against walking on the still-“steaming hot” lava.
“There is no way of accurately predicting whether, where, or when this could result in a volcanic eruption or the possible size of such an eruption,” Visit Reykjanes manager Þuríður Aradóttir Braun stated to report.
“This continuing course of events is very similar to the lead-up to the three previous eruptions in Reykjanes Peninsula in 2021, 2022, and 2023 but it could also fade away similar to the events we had in 2020.
Although she stressed that the earthquakes are occurring in a “relatively isolated part of Iceland,” she advised tourists visiting the peninsula to “adjust their day itinerary.”
Warnings will be issued to all nearby cellphones, including international ones, in the event of an eruption.
The Blue Lagoon’s hotels, restaurants, spa, and pool closed on November 9 and will reopen at 7 a.m. on November 16, the website said. “The primary reason for taking these precautionary measures is our unwavering commitment to safety and wellbeing,” the statement reads.
Any guests who made bookings will be fully reimbursed. They confirmed that guests who had reservations through November 15th had already been informed.
The local tourist board reports that other tour providers near Mount Þorbjörn have similarly halted operations until at least November 16. Access to the Elvörp geosite has been blocked and one road has been barred.
In a notice published on November 16, the tourist board stated that the closures would be reevaluated.
The reports that in the event that “magma appearing to rise to the surface,” a representative of the Icelandic Civil Protection Agency has been dispatched to Grindavik, a town located 2.5 miles south of the Blue Lagoon, in order to “prepare for a potential evacuation of the town.”
The region, including the Blue Lagoon, is being streamed live by RÚV, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service.
Lea Gestsdóttir Gayet, head of public relations and communications at Business Iceland, told CNN: “We must emphasize that seismic activity is part of Icelandic life, and even though Icelanders have adapted to the unique natural terrain, our priority is always the safety of our guests and local communities. The temporary closure of the Blue Lagoon is a precautionary measure due to the recent seismic activity. We are monitoring the situation closely and will continue to provide updates from the local authorities.”
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