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Thursday, June 24, 2021

Photographer shares images of lava boiling at 1200C, and noxious gases of the Northern Lights over an erupting volcano

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Max Milligan, 56, braved boiling lava, noxious gases, and temperatures of up to 1200C (2192F) but the travel book photographer’s results are as spectacular as the story that goes with them.

Mr. Milligan had to attach himself to a search and rescue team and wait until everyone else had been cleared out of the area on the night in question and he was the only photographer left.

Having been allowed back up to the mountain by the team, he managed to catch the picture he really wanted at 2.58am, just a couple of minutes before it became too light and the chance was gone.

Mr Milligan said: “It was my holy grail and it was so dark, I didn’t know I’d got it until about 24 hours later when I uploaded it to a laptop.”

He waited, he said, “six years for an eruption and six weeks [after arriving in Iceland] for the Northern Lights”, which are not always as picture-perfect as travel guides make you think and are sometimes simply covered by cloud.

The terrain in the Geldingaladur Valley, close to the country’s capital, Reykjavik, was like “Mordor”, he said.

“I have photographed five volcanoes in my life and never seen anything like this before. It is Mordor.

“The poison gases hang in pockets so you carry a gas mask but generally stay upwind from the lava.

“Every single visit to the eruption, it has changed. New fissures appear, different lava flows, new land being created constantly.

“You can approach the lava flows, get up close and hear the lava cool off and scrunch like the sound of a thousand windows breaking, but at 1200 degrees, two minutes is all your cheeks can bear.

“You can get to within around two metres of the lava, but you must be careful if you start to see it bubbling up, it means a new stream is about to appear and it’s time to move.

“One could open up under your feet. You’re thinking ‘where am I going to run to?'”

So was he ever hurried?

“No, lava mostly moves slowly, so you have time.”

The gases are equally dangerous, he added.

“They can cause weariness in the joints, burning lungs and a condition known as ‘volcano throat’ can affect you later.”

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