Geysir is, as the name implies, a geyser in southwestern Iceland. It was the first geyser described in print in the 18th century and the first known to modern Europeans, as unusual natural phenomena were of high interest during the Age of Enlightenment. The English word geyser (meaning a periodically spouting hot spring) derives from this one, and the name Geysir itself is, in turn, derived from the Icelandic verb geysa (meaning “to gush” in Old Norse).

Eruptions here can hurl boiling water up to 70 metres in the air. However, the eruptions may be infrequent, and have been known to stop altogether for years at a time. Geysir has been active for approximately 10,000 years, although the oldest accounts date back to 1294, due to related earthquake activity. In 1845, the plume reached a height of 170 metres, becoming one of the highest known geysers in history. The following year, research by Robert Bunsen resulted in an explanation of the mechanism of geyser activity.

In 1935, a man-made channel was dug through the silica rim around the edge of the geyser vent, which caused a lowering of the water table and a revival in activity after a recent lull. Gradually this channel became clogged with silica and eruptions again became rare. But in 1981, the ditch was cleared again and eruptions could be stimulated, on special occasions (like Icelandic National Day), by the addition of soap!

However, due to environmental concerns the practice of adding soap was seldom employed during the 1990s and Geysir seldom erupted until an earthquake in 2000 revived it again. For two days, it reached a height of 122 meters. Initially eruptions were taking place on average eight times a day, but eventually decreased to around three times.

Oh, and for those of you thinking of adding food coloring to it (see below), just know that it is probably illegal!


  • Visited: Jul 2012

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