Iceland's striking, geologically young landscape is evidence of the enormous energy beneath its fragile crust. A release of a tiny part of that energy severely disrupted airline services in Europe this year.
Volcanologists who gathered with air transport industry experts for a mid-September conference on Eyjafjallajökull and Aviation at the Keilir Aviation Academy, Keflavik spelled out the inescapable fact that Iceland is ready to blast plenty more ash into the North Atlantic's skies.
The day before the conference I joined other delegates on a chartered trip from Reykjavik aerodrome in a Flugfelag Islands Dash 8-100 to see Eyjafjallajökull and its more powerful neighbour Katla, and the surrounding seismically sculpted southern Icelandic terrain.
Looking across Reykjavik aerodrome toward the passenger terminal from the Loftleidir Hotel
Our transport to Eyjafjallajökull
It gradually became evident, as the conference progressed, that European air transport need not have been immobilised by the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruptions in April, because the knowledge of how to deal safely with the conditions existed at the time. The trouble was that the knowledge was in the wrong place.
But even with the benefit of hindsight, the week-long disruption looks to have been inevitable under the circumstances, because Europe had not anticipated an ash event in any of its planning. For that reason none of the EU countries had, individually or collectively, availed themselves of the ash experience that the USA has built up through operating close to volcanic activity in Alaska. Meanwhile the world, at ICAO, had concluded that ash clouds could always be circumnavigated, so there was no guidance for what to do if circumnavigation was impossible, only some individual airline standard operating procedures.
Volcanologist Dr Haraldur Sigurdsson revealed that the Eyjafjallajökull eruption was minuscule on a historic scale, even in the past 100 years, and that much more powerful events were just a matter of time. So what will happen?
But as we flew by it in the Dash 8 on 14 September, Eyjafjallajökull was quiescent, its crater partly hidden beneath the shallow cloud.
Next to Eyjafjallajökull, however, stands Katla, also quiescent right now, but its covering glacier blackened by ash from its neighbour.
And a short distance to the south of these two, just offshore, lie the Vestmannaeyjar Islands, products of geologically "recent" activity and some of the youngest islands in the world. Heimaey, the largest, an inhabited island with its own aerodrome, suffered a major eruption in 1973 that forced a total evacuation of its people.
Was the trip useful? Yes. When Eyjafjallajökull erupts again, or Katla, or maybe when the forces beneath Iceland produce a completely new volcanic fissure, I will be reporting on it with a sense of location, scale and geological context I could not have obtained any other way.
After the trip to Eyjafjallajökull
Was the conference useful? Emphatically yes. It positioned European, US and many other decisionmakers together in a relevant geographical context to share the vital knowledge that had not been shared before. So when it happens again they may make mistakes, but certainly not the same ones. Europe may be inconvenienced next time, but unless this is a Krakatoa-sized event, the continent is unlikely to be disrupted as it was in April.