A fascinating phenomenon known as Pele´s hair can be seen blowing away from the eruption site at Dyngjusandur. It was also seen in the Laki eruption in 1783.
“It was noticed blowing all around the fissure, but no one could explain or understand why. It looks like tufts of hair and feels like glass wool. At first people thought this was vegetation that had been affected by the eruption somehow, but there’s no plant life in sight. It can’t be sheep wool either because there are no sheep,” says journalist Kristján Már Unnarsson, who has been reporting from the scene since the eruption started.
“Then someone remembered the old texts about the Laki eruption from 230 years ago. The texts mentioned something similar, and it is believed to be the oldest known reference to the phenomenon. Turns out that it’s neither flora or fauna, but a mineral by-product of the eruption.”
In Icelandic it’s called Witch´s hair while the international name refers to Pele, the Hawaiian volcano god.
“It feels like a lock of hair when you hold it, but it’s actually rock. It’s glass that’s cooled down as the magma erupts from the fissure. The gas pressure is so great that it blows the magma into thin strands, almost like hair. Then it falls to the ground and starts blowing along and bundles up,” says volcanologist Þorvaldur Þórðarsson.