Wednesday 15 November 2023

What shall be saved?

Did I mention doom-scrolling about the seismic shenanigans near Grindavík on the Reykjanes peninsula in Iceland? I did. And not that Iceland, Dr Hilarious! It's been clear for a couple of years now, that tectonic plate grinding has stepped up a notch in Reykjanes. It was only when the best geological data and their interpretation indicated an evacuation in the middle of the night that international media started to notice. Metafilter was ahead of the curve and our hands have been held there by a native Viking by name Kattullus, altho he is currently resident in Finland.

One of the boots-on-the-ground journalists has been Jón from The Reykjavik Grapevine, who has been getting as close to The Grindavík epicentre as the authorities will allow. On Tuesday, 3 whole days since the emergency evacuation, residents were allowed back to their homes for salvage / triage. On the assumption that the whole town, or at least their own neat home and garden, could be  obliviated in a few minutes of hot-rock encounter. Young Jón was in the privileged, ringside, position of having his own parents retired to spend the twilight of their years in . . . Grindavík! Accordingly the took their pace in a long queue of traffic heading back into the ghost town to salve a) his uncle's car b) whatever his parents could fit in their car. They had been ahead of the posse at the end of the last week because they elected to leave before they had to leave and so had a bit more calm time to process the decision-making process. They also possessed a car-trailer! And a son with his own gaff a long way from the pulsing magma chamber that threatened to destroy everything they owned.

Having this second chance to retrieve tier-two chattels put me in mind of my favorite apocalypse book The Day of the Triffids. For 12 y.o. me, the best part is when they find a three-ton truck, drive up to the loading dock of a big department store and have to decide what to take. Jón's folks have already off-sited the photo-albums remember. It's interesting that the first thing to negotiate is broken glass in the hallway - evidence of earthquake. Then we see two of them carrying out a bed-sized TV screen and squeeze that in their hatchback. A neighbour drives by with a mountain bike on the roof-rack; another trots out of his home with a suitcase. The poignancy of the situation is captured by a zoom in on a couple of handwritten notices stuck in street-facing windows: Engi Her í Húsinu [Nobody at home] and Farin [Gone!].

I can't criticize anyone here. It's 2 months shy of 30 years when I had a few minutes to make a night-time decision about what stuff to save from an incipient conflagration. I saved two horses and one desktop computer. 

Update 0920: same day yesterday at 3pm, the newly installed SO2 gas detectors in Grindavík went off with a whoop and the police and civil defense evacuated the last 90 folks in town . . . in 95 seconds. You may fantasize about out-running lava but you can't event see SO2 [tho you sure as heck can smell it] so you might be running straight into a ground hugging pocket of the stuff. Remember Lake Nyos? Same principle. Sulphur dioxide boils out of magma solution as the pressure drops so its presence topside indicates magma nearer the surface.

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