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We document our family's working sabbaticals as well as adventures a tad closer to home.

The Volcano Show

The Volcano Show

Tonight, we went a few blocks west to see The Volcano Show. Apparently, it is important to host said show in a BRIGHT red building.

We weren’t totally sure what to expect. If the words eccentric or quirky appear, chances are Brett & I will be queueing up at the door, whether that door is in Chicago or surrounded by BRIGHT red rocks in Reykjavik. The words eccentric AND quirky were both used to describe Villi Knudsen, Iceland’s most famous volcano chaser.

Here, you chase volcanoes like we (well, not we as in me and you, but we as America culturally) chase tornadoes. And when we cover them we like to use superlatives! and exclamation! points!

Iceland covers its volcanoes with more of a smirk. I was worried it might be full of animatronics or cheesy flashing lights. However, Knudsen followed in his father Ósvaldur’s footsteps. Ósvaldur was no sideshow con man. He made a name for himself filming the 1948 Hekla eruption and covered fifty years of Iceland’s volcanic life. Villi went along for the 1963 eruption that led to the island Surtsey forming. He was 19 and it was his first eruption. Much of the footage we saw during the Heimaey (1973) video was shot by a younger, ginger-haired Knudsen. It was an earnest presentation, no animatronics in sight. He knows his stuff and shared that stuff. He’s lost a bit of his spryness (there was an extended, slightly confusing interaction as we bought tickets about criminals who died after watching his film) but was a total hoot. Much like Unnar and other folks we’ve interacted with in more than a passing way there’s a gentle, self-deprecating humor that I really, really respond to. It isn’t a ba-dump-ching-eyebrow-eyebrow-You-know-what-I-mean. It’s a hilariously off color remark that is deadpanned into a sentence and then moved past as if it were never offered. I don’t like the idea of describing a nation’s character or humor as universal, but these folks sure make me laugh.

Say hello to Villi:


See?  He’s a riot.

Seeing as the whole island is a potential lavapalooza, Icelanders frequently check the seismic reports, some daily, for hints at activity. For Icelanders, there always seems to be some monstrous volcano overdue for cataclysm.Right now, we’re waiting on Katla. When I lived in LA the earthquake was the story. Here it’s just the preface. On the national weather page, in fact, you can link directly to that seismic information.


No green stars yet today!  But a big gold star and feather in his cap to Villi.  While we only stayed for the one hour show, we got to see raw footage of his coverage of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption, which he plans to edit together soon. He may not be the same red-headed explorer covering the Heimaey eruption, but dude’s still a pretty intrepid badass.

And….not to be outdone by wry Icelandic humor, here’s two stabs by Americans at an Icelandic volcano joke.
One, by SNL.
One, by Ellen (you may have to wait a few minutes on this one…but it’s worth it)

Expect no insight in this one folks.

Expect no insight in this one folks.

We have here everything we need.

We have here everything we need.