(Photo : Creative Commons/Erik Derr)
The legendary volcano where the souls of Icelandic dead visit on their way to Hell may be getting ready make some new hellfire of its own.
The snow-capped but still-active volcano that rises 4,890 feet over the rugged terrain of southern Iceland may be stirring again, as indicated by a recent series of quakes that have prompted the National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police to declare an "uncertainty phase," the lowest warning level of warning for the restless Hekla.
Geologists at the Icelandic Meteorological Office say the Hekla region has experienced a frequency of tremors over the past two weeks never matched since the 2000 eruption. However, no magma movement has been measured, nor have there been any signs of ground deformation.
Nevertheless, according to local news reports people have been warned against travelling to the mountain and the alert status of area air traffic surveillance has been raised.
Despite its history of volcanic episodes with little warning, Hekla is a popular recreation area for locals and tourists alike.
Active for centuries, Hekla, a stratovolcano, lies near the southern end of the island's eastern volcanic rift zone and includes a 3.5-mile fissure that can produce molten rock along its entire length during the most violent eruptions.
Scientists suspect Hekla's erupted about 20 times since the Norse first settled Iceland in the 9th Century. The volcano's quiet, low-activity periods have ranged between 16 and 121 years.
More recently, Hekla has seen an eruption about every 10 years, the latest being an explosive event in 2000 that included lava and pyroclastic flows and lasted almost two weeks.
The biggest eruption occurred in 1104 without warning, during which Hekla ejected millions of tons of tephra, a combination of ash and other volcanic material.