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Iceland’s Volcano and Earthquake Museum is Devoted to the Country’s “Epic” Geology

The Lava Center is surrounded by three volcanoes

(Basalt Architects/Lava Center)
smithsonian.com

Iceland’s volcanoes are a big draw for thrill-seeking travelers—one company even offers tours inside the dormant Thrihnukagigur volcano. But those who prefer to experience volcanoes from a safer distance will soon be able to get their fix. As Will Coldwell reports for the Guardian, Iceland is getting ready to launch an interactive museum devoted to the country’s tumultuous geological phenomena.

Lava, Iceland Volcano and Earthquake Center, which will open to the public on June 1, is an interactive museum that seeks to showcase the “epic forces" that created Iceland, according to the Lava Center’s website. The museum is located in town of Hvolsvöllur, about an hour's drive away from Reykjavik, and is within viewing distance of three volcanoes: Katla, Hekla, and Eyjafjallajökull, which shut down European airspace when it erupted in 2010.

"It was the eruption in Eyjafjallajökull volcano 2010 that gave us the idea to set up the first Volcano & Earthquake Centre in Iceland," Ásbjörn Björgvinsson, marketing director of the Lava Center, tells Smithsonian.com in an e-mail.

The museum boasts a 360-degree viewing platform, allowing visitors to take in the rumbling volcanoes that surround the area. Inside, patrons can visit distinct rooms that demonstrate the processes and consequences of volcanic eruptions: there is a 3-D installation tracking the history of volcanic eruptions in Iceland, an ash corridor filled with an artificial smoke cloud, and a magma corridor that recreates the fiery effects of magma flow, like geysers and boiling mud pots. Yet another exhibit simulates the tremors of an earthquake, according to Katherine LaGrave and Jordi Lippe-McGraw of Conde Nast Traveler.

What makes Iceland’s geology so volatile? For one thing, as National Geographic explains, the country straddles the boundary between the North American plate and the Eurasian plate. Iceland is also situated on a mantle plume, or an upwelling of scalding rocks that is believed to cause volcanic hotspots. This in turn “boosts the flow of molten material beneath the island even more than elsewhere along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge,” National Geographic writes.

The Lava Center, appropriately, boasts a nearly 40-foot structure depicting a fiery mantle plume. And there is a chance that visitors might get to witness the real thing in action; Björgvinsson points out that two of the volcanoes near the Lava Center— Hekla and Katla—are “due to erupt any time.”

About Brigit Katz

Brigit Katz is a journalist based in New York City. Her work has appeared in New York magazine, Flavorwire, and Women in the World, a property of The New York Times.

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