As Icelandic authorities evacuate hundreds of people from an area north of a smoking volcano amid increased seismic activity, a UK travel agency is inviting tourists with nerves of steel to sign up to its ‘Volcano hotline’ and fly to Bardarbunga if and when it erupts.
Iceland's civil protection department said 300 to 500 people, mostly visitors, have been evacuated from the highlands north of the Vatnajokull glacier. The precaution came after the country’s meteorological office turned its warning status on Bardarbunga to orange - signalling escalating unrest.
Officials said the measure was taken as a safety precaution after 3,000 small earthquakes near the Bardarbunga sub-glacial stratovolcano caused it to puff out huge plumes of smoke from the heat of the Earth's core.
While the area is uninhabited, it is popular with hikers in the summer who enjoy exercising while soaking up the nation’s ethereal scenery.
But by charging around £600 to fly clients out to watch the volcano if it begins spewing out lava, Discover the World caters to a traveller braver than the average hiker.
If the eruption occurs, a trip will be based around the firm’s current 5-night Volcano Explorer self-drive tour, with one extra night. The prospect of zooming near the volcano in a sightseeing flight or in a snowmobile as it belches smoke and molten rock is also on the cards - if conditions allow, the agency adds.
The company’s package proved successful in 2010, when it transported around 300 clients to witness Fimmvorduhals erupt. Within 24 hours of the volcano awaking, tourists were flown in to safely watch magma spouting from its crater– as almost 95 per cent of the island was unaffected.
The agency went on to urge that owing to new technologies which allow airlines to safely fly even when ash is present in the air, the chaos caused by the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull would not be repeated if Bardarbunga became active. The infamous incident closed airspace and caused more than 10,000 flights cancellations.
It also blamed the chaos on unusually high volumes of very fine ash; a lengthy almost 40 day eruption; unusually dry weather; unfortunate wind directions, and an overestimation of the overall volume of ash in the sky.
Discover the World explained that their trips are made possible by islanders’ know-how, as they must deal with around every five years.