Katla was a name I saw repeatedly when I arrived in Iceland. It was the name of the Icelandair plane that I flew on, the brand of Icelandic vodka I happened to pick up at the duty free when I arrived in the country, and came up regularly in tourist centres, museums, and in pamphlets.
Why? Katla is a massive volcano. Remember that volcano that erupted in 2010? The one that held up air travel for several days? That one was so small it didn’t even have a name. It was referred to by the name of the ice cap that covered it, Eyjafjallajökull.
Katla erupts every 13-95 years. It’s overdue now, at 97 years since the last eruption. Because of this, Icelanders are waiting for it to happen any day. In the south, they are prepared to evacuate within 45 minutes at the signal.
Why the quick departure? Katla is covered by a massive glacier. When the eruption starts, that ice will melt, and the floods will be of biblical proportions. Southern Iceland will be cut off from the rest of the country in two places.
Why is it called Katla?
While touring the south, I heard a story about Katla that I thought I would share with you. I took quick notes, and don’t remember every detail, but I’ll tell it as I heard it.
A long time ago, there was a witch named Katla. She had a pair of magic pants (aside–I know. Keep reading) that allowed her to run forever without getting tired.
Katla lived in the south near a farm. One day, a farmer lost his sheep and stole Katla’s pants in order to aid in his search for the sheep. Katla discovered the thief and killed him. She stored his body in a barrel of sour milk.
Another farmer found the body. Of course, this was a long time ago, but murder was still murder and Katla was to be punished. So, the search was on to capture her. She put on her pants and ran to the glacier. She hid in a crevasse. Suddenly, the volcano beneath the glacier erupted, and everyone was killed. That’s why the volcano is known as Katla.
What stories from your travels have stuck with you and really stimulated your interests in a place?