Iceland’s Breathtaking Volcanic Rivers

Published April 27, 2014
Updated February 27, 2018

What happens when glaciers and volcanoes convene? These stunning volcanic rivers.

When it comes to size, Iceland is roughly the size of Ohio, but within that relatively humble space are hundreds of volcanoes; so many that in the last 500 years, Iceland alone has been responsible for 30 percent of the world’s lava flow. Pair this with glaciers that also populate the landscape, and you have the perfect storm of natural occurrences that make stunning aerial photographs like these possible.

Russian photographer Andre Ermolaev captured these colorful wonders from a Cessna aircraft cruising above. Says Ermolaey, ”Iceland is a wonderful country; I would even say that it is a true paradise for all the photo shooting-lovers. But what has become a real discovery for me is the bird’s eye view of the rivers flowing along the black volcanic sand. It is an inexpressible combination of colors, lines, and patterns”.

At first glance, it may be difficult to process what you’re really looking at –-these photographs tend to come across as abstract works of art- but what we’re really seeing are rivers, glaciers, volcanoes and their outgrowths; save the occasional flock of seagulls flying overhead.

The outwash plains, formed where glacial sediments and melted ice are carried, are shaped over time and determine the runoff patterns that connect and unify all the colors and elements. These beautiful geological features are common to Iceland due to regular volcanic and geothermal activity below its glaciers, which hastens the deposition of sediment.

Erin Kelly
An All That's Interesting writer since 2013, Erin Kelly focuses on historic places, natural wonders, environmental issues, and the world of science. Her work has also been featured in Smithsonian and she's designed several book covers in her career as a graphic artist.
Savannah Cox
Savannah Cox holds a Master's in International Affairs from The New School as well as a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and now serves as an Assistant Professor at the University of Sheffield. Her work as a writer has also appeared on DNAinfo.
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Kelly, Erin. "Iceland’s Breathtaking Volcanic Rivers.", April 27, 2014, Accessed May 21, 2024.