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Stunning Documentary Shows the Birth of a Volcano in Iceland


Photographer Mike Mezeul II has captured an incredible set of photos and a 3.5-minute video documentary that shows the size, scale, and majesty of Iceland’s Fagradalsfjall volcano, which has grown dramatically in size since its appearance in March.

After being dormant for nearly 6,000 years, the Fagradalsfjall volcano in Iceland began erupting on March 19. As of April 16th, the scale of the eruption has now grown to seven fissures and the valley has nearly been filled with lava, which Mezeul says has even poured into the next valley below.

“With the glow of the eruption being visible from the capital of Iceland, Reykjavik, thousands of visitors have been able to visit the site and take in the beauty of the event,” Mezeul tells PetaPixel.

“This was my fourth erupting volcano of 2021 to document and I spent eight days out in Iceland documenting the eruption,” he says. “Due to the isolated location of the volcano, I ended up hiking nearly 75 miles during my time there to cover the event.”

Just getting to the remote area is a physical challenge, but because of the lava flow, the risks were even more elevated.

“Besides the challenge of just getting to the site, there were various volcanic hazards that needed to be carefully watched. This eruption is extremely new, so it is constantly changing minute-to-minute and one of my biggest concerns was how quickly the new fissures were opening up without warning,” Mezeul explains.

“Seismic activity didn’t show any increases in activity before new fissures developed, so there was literally no warning,” he continues. “This actually came close to happening on one of the nights I was there. A new fissure opened up where I had been sitting about 10 hours prior.

Mezeul says that other hazards including high amounts of sulphur dioxide gasses due to the high effusion rates of lava, are also a concern.

“I had to have a gas mask with me at all times and monitor S02 levels. Also, with the ever-changing environment came drastic and quick changes to lava flow paths, so I had to be incredibly aware of escape routes and where the lava was coming and going at all times,” he adds. “There were multiple times where I would have lava come down the hill from behind me and if I was not paying attention, I could have easily been trapped.”

For his documentary video, Mezeul says he shot it both from the ground and from the air using a mix of the Nikon Z 7II and Z 6II systems and a DJI Mavic 2 Pro.

“On land, I really aimed to utilize surface flows as foreground, but with the extreme heat, I sometimes would only have seconds to get close, compose a shot, and press the shutter before suffering burns or possible damage to the camera gear,” he says. “I actually had part of my pants melt while out shooting. As for my drone, I pushed it to its limits and was able to get some stellar footage from up close, but at a cost… it partially melted.”

Mezeul isn’t the only photographer who suffered damage to equipment while photographing the volcano. Photographer Garðar Ólafs from Iceland showed what happened to his drone when he flew it too close to the volcano: it melted.

In addition to using a drone, Mezeul says he also documented the event from an airplane, where he found other unique challenges awaited him.

“The extreme amount of heat from the entire line of fissures made for quite an amount of thermal activity and a very bouncy flight at times as we flew over the eruption,” he says. “All in all, it was an absolutely incredible event to witness and document.”

For more from Mike Mezeul II, check out his website or follow him on Instagram and Vimeo.

Image credits: Photos by Mike Mezeul II and used with permission.