Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Why are there no volcanoes named Anna?

In the past 12months Iceland has experienced 3 volcanic eruptions (Fimmvörðuháls, Eyjafjallajökull and Grímsvötn). This frequency surpasses the average value of approximately one eruption every 5th year. Needless to say this development is to no one‘s liking.
The latest eruption is that of the volcano in Grímsvötn and is believed to have been 10 times as powerful as the one in Eyjafjallajökull last spring. Thankfully it did not last long and air traffic was not as negatively influenced as when Eyjafjallajökull erupted, although flights were delayed in the northernmost countries of Europe and in Siberia (if I am not mistaken). Of all the stranded passengers I would assume the most pissed off were those trying to leave Siberia.

Personally I was stranded in London and got to spend 2 days in a hotel at Heathrow watching Sky news. However, although these days were not exactly thrilling I cannot complain when faced with reports of those living on the south coast of Iceland where the ash cloud basically engulfed existence for extended periods. Interviews with farmers from the area were heart wrenching, the description of their complete helplessness when forced to sit inside and listen to their animals screaming from the yard - with no possibility of going out to help them. Visibility was so bad that if you stuck your hand out you could not see your fingers and beams from flashlights were simply swallowed up. Some of the animals in the most affected areas died, others were blinded and many ewes bore their lambs into a day utterly lacking mercy. You may think that my use of the word screaming when describing the sounds from the farm animals can be chalked up to my foreigner’s English but this is not the case. Apparently the noises the animals made while hopelessly trying to evade the thick suffocating atmosphere were screams, not brays, mews, bellows or bleats but screams. Horrible.

Iceland is also going through a cold period with snowstorms still occurring although spring has been scheduled for some time now. One farmer said that it was as if they had been cast into hell. Except it was cold.

And the good news? Ah, sadly there is no good news. According to scientists Iceland may be entering a volcanically active period that might last for 60 years. During this time I guess “less is more” will not apply to Europeans packing for trips or holidays involving airplanes. It is not as if I personally go by this phrase when travelling, be there an eruption or not. On my recent trip to London/Bristol I unluckily had 12 chairs as part of my luggage, furniture that I bought in the UK to take home, not knowing that my flight would end up stranded. I do not recommend standing in a line trying to get on a plane during periods of flight havoc with 12 chairs.

So I leave you now to go sit in a chair. I have 12 to choose from as I managed to get them on the plane, no small feat all things considered. And oh yes, there is actually some good news. Grímsvötn is not hard to pronounce (although a bit more so than Anna) and does not end with jökull (glacier) – a word that when pronounced by non-native Icelanders sounds like yogurt. Who ever heard of a volcano called something/something yogurt?

Yrsa - Wednesday


  1. Yrsa, I am so sorry for the situation Iceland finds itself in.

    This year nature has decided to be brutal. In my small corner of the US, we had temperatures in the 70F range for the first time since October. We generally see those temperatures a few times in April. After 6 feet of snow and constant rain and sunless days, the few crops that are grown in our rocky soil may be another disaster for the local economy.

    The central United States has been dry and over the last few days Joplin, Missouri was virtually destroyed by a tornado. There are 125 known dead, over 900 injured, and 1500 still unaccounted for. Search teams haven't found anyone alive since Monday. The wind speeds inside the tornado were 198 mph or 322 km/h. Hearing the animals screaming must have been torture; children will never get over that because the animals sound so human. My grandmother grew up on a farm and hated the spring when the lambs were butchered. She cried all her life when she thought of the sound.

    You must have been traveling with some very nice people to have been allowed to bring 12 chairs on board. In the US you would have been arrested for carrying weapons of mass destruction. Anything, even phantom missiles, can be weapons of mass destruction under the Patriot Act.

    There aren't any volcanoes named Anna because it is a lovely, straightforward name, elegant in its simplicity. Volcanoes are none of those things.


  2. Hi Beth,

    you probably hit the nail on the head with regards to the name Anna. It is a pretty common Icelandic name as well as an English one which is why I picked it as an example. We do have words that are easily pronouced despite it seeming otherwise, for some reason none of the volcano names are easily pronouced.

    While watching Sky news I saw footage and reports from the tornadoes in MO and it was awful. I hope the 1500 missing will turn out Ok although this is a childish wish.

    I also saw Obama on Sky news as he was visiting Ireland and England at the time. I am not clear on how he is doing at home but he and his wife were very gracious and charming on foreign ground and for that USA should be proud. there are so many horrible presidents and politicians representing so many countries that it is just saddening. Not to mention that idiot Strauss Kahn who almost joined the pack.


  3. Yrsa, I am an Obama fan and I think he is doing the best job he can while facing the Republicans and their far right contingent. Rush Limbaugh, a radio talk show host, is without doubt the one of the most obnoxious humans breathing. The day Obama was sworn into office Limbaugh announced that he was going to do everything in his power to make his presidency a failure. He hasn't succeeded but...he has an army of listeners who believe every lie he spreads.

    The Obamas are always gracious and charming but there is no doubt that a great deal of the difficulty he faces across middle America, in particular, is racist. How is is possible that a black man is the most powerful man in the world?

    Strauss Kahn makes Sarkozy look good but the woman who seems destined to replace Sarkozy has made some startling comments. I read that she compared the closing of a street in front of a mosque to the German occupation.


  4. I saw you in Bristol but didn´t notice the 12 chairs. And sadly you were too preoccupied to notice me. I know I could have bought a book for you to sign, but I reviewed "Ashes to Dust" recently and was far too stingy to buy an extra copy just to chat you up ;)

  5. Hi Dorte H - believe me you do not need to buy a book to chat me up. Next time just tap me on the shoulder as I would be delighted to meet in person. We could have sat down for a coffee - if all seats were taken I could have got us some chairs from the garage (they were in the car we rented).

    Anyway I am going to Bouchercon if you will be there. Maybe I will buy a table to go with the chairs.

    all the best Yrsa

  6. Hi Beth,
    I for one really like Obama but I have not followed up on what he is doing politically. He just seems very down to earth and genuinely a good person. The colour of someone's skin is not something that I tend to worry about - it is the grey matter that counts, i.e. for what and how it is used. and funnily enough, aren't we all trying to be brown or tanned all the time - Icelanders are anyway.

    Give the human race enough time and we will all end up uni-toned and non-religious and probably more content as a species as a result.

    And finally with regards to that Strauss Kahn goofball - raping attempt aside what the hell is a socialist doing in a 3 000 USD a night suite wearing a 10 000 dollar suit? What a hypocrite. As you can tell I don't like men that treat women like disposable cups - not many women do I guess. It is also the establishment that I sickens me - nobody suddenly springs forth as a rapist at 60+ so officials in many countries have been keeping a lid on his behaviour for a long time. Praise to the NYPD, the woman at the center of it and America for ousting him.

    bye for now

  7. That was quite a thought provoking piece, Yrsa, made even more so by the comments. Never thought that the "screaming" of the lambs at the beginning would end up with the rendering of a Hannibal Lecter-like predator lacking any of the original's redeeming qualities.


  8. Yrsa, I would have if I had got a chance. I just didn´t run into you again.

  9. So tragic, Yrsa. Thanks for this informative post.