31 August 2012

Glacierless

If you've ever cracked Jules Vernes' Journey to the Center of the Earth, then you might be familiar with this sight, if not in real life then at least in your imagination. This is Snæfellsjökull, the volcano explored by the crew of three attempting to reach the planet's core. While the story might be fiction, the mountain actually exists, and it has made history this week because for the first time since people have observed it, the glacier on its highest peak has melted. An Icelandic geologist posted a picture of the bare peak on his blog (bottom photo), and considers this an excellent opportunity to study the top of the mountain that has until now been buried in ice. When I took this photo in July two years ago, tour companies were offering jeep rides to the top to see the glacially-capped peak. Now, they might have to do some rewording on those tour descriptions.  Some Icelandic geologists predict that in 30 years, the entire glacier will melt, and in a couple centuries, the whole country will probably loose all its ice.

But for the geologists wanting to examine volcanic rocks, glacial melting literally uncovers new opportunities. Who knows, maybe Vernes' legendary explorer Arne Saknussemm had some foresight when he wrote these words:

Descend, bold traveler, into the crater of  Snæfellsjökull, which the shadow of Scartaris touches before the Kalends of July, and you will attain the centre of the earth; which I have done.
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