Askja is an active stratovolcano that is located in the isolated central highlands in Iceland. It reaches an elevation of 4,974 feet and its name literally means caldera, or box, in the Icelandic language. The area can only be reached during a period of a few months and because it located in the rain shadow of the Vatnajökull glacier to the northeast, it only receives 17.7 inches of rain per year. One of Askja’s smaller craters holds a lake known as Öskjuvatn, which is often frozen over and is noted as Iceland’s second deepest lake. Another lake occurs in small crater that is located just to the northeast of Öskjuvatn. This lake is a geothermal lake that holds a large amount of minerals and is blue in color.

Askja was quiet and not well known until 1875, when it began to erupt. The ash from this eruption was so toxic that it killed livestock and the land and traveled as far as Sweden and Norway. This caused many citizens of Iceland to leave the area. Another eruption occurred about eleven thousand years ago and sent ash as far as North Ireland, Norway, and Sweden, but this eruption was not as strong as the 1875 eruption. Its last eruption occurred in 1961.

The area has been a point of study for many years, and in 1907, two German scientists, Walter von Knebel and Max Rudloff, disappeared while exploring Öskjuvatn. No evidence was ever found about the disappearance. The volcano and the area around it are also popular among mountain climbers and features two huts where climbers can rest and a campground. It can be accessed by road and foot between the months of June and October. In 2010 and 2012, seismic and geothermal activity caused scientists to conclude that the volcano could be displaying signs of a future eruption and in 2012, the closed the road was closed in order for them to conduct further research.

Image Caption: Photo of caldera of Askja Volcano. Credit: Michael Ryan/Wikipedia