Looking down on the Queen.
Herðubreið – Queen of the Icelandic Mountains – is set in the expanse of the Ódáðahraun (“Lava of Evil Deeds”) lava field in the northern Highlands. The table mountain took shape in a subglacial eruption around 20,000 years ago. The desolate Ódáðahraun terrain truly feels like an alien world. It is to this area that NASA dispatched Neil Armstrong and his colleagues in 1967 to train for their lunar missions (video clip).
A full appreciation of this volcanic
wasteland wonderland can only be had from the air. Earlier this month, during a private Cessna flight over Ódáðahraun, I was lucky to frame the geologically salient composition of the first image below. In the foreground we see the bulge of the shield volcano Kollóttadyngja, 1177 metres high and 7 kilometres in diameter, Herðubreið (1682 metres) in the backdrop, and Herðubreiðartögl (“tail of Herðubreið”) to the right. We can only imagine what it must be to fly over Olympus Mons.
Herðubreið is commonly translated as “broad shouldered” but the name may also derive from the shape of an axe head.
Herðubreiðartögl is a móberg ridge (this term is used in Icelandic geology to describe fissures that erupted beneath Ice Age glaciers) covered in rhyolite pumice (vide Iceland by Thor Thordarson and Armann Hoskuldsson, Classic Geology in Europe Series, Terra Publishing, 2009).
More posts in this series to follow. Earlier posts on Herðubreið are here.