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Tourists Barely Escape Massive Wave Triggered by Collapsing Glacier

Iceland is a wonderland of natural beauty, and it's a big reason millions of people flock there (or at least attempt to) every year...

Iceland is a wonderland of natural beauty, and it's a big reason millions of people flock there (or at least attempt to) every year. But you may think twice about getting too close to it all once you see what happened to this group of tourists, who were photographing a massive glacier in one of the Nordic country's lagoons this past weekend. 

While touring the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier from the shoreline of southeast Iceland on Sunday, a group of tourists were forced to quickly flee to higher ground, when a huge chunk of the dense ice collapsed into the water and triggered a massive wave. The whole scene played out seemingly in slow motion at first, as the ice majestically fell into the water. Then, it became abundantly clear just how much water it had displaced -- and quickly -- as giant waves roiled up and toward the onlookers. You can see the group of people in the bottom of the frame screaming and climbing back up from where they came before the wave slammed into the area where they were standing. 

Fortunately, everyone made it to safety before the wave hit and no one was injured while rapidly scattering. Apparently, they were warned ahead of time about how to react in such a situation. 

"They were not scared, but rather very excited," said Stephan Mantler, who works for the travel company Háfjall that was showing the group around, according to Iceland Monitor

Glacier calving -- the technical term for when ice breaks or falls off of one -- is a big draw for tourists in Iceland, and Háfjall frequently takes groups to areas where it often occurs. However, this particular incident prompted an Icelandic politician named Ari Trausti Guðmundsson to reiterate the importance of observing safely.

“This is a most serious event,” Guðmundsson wrote in post on his party's Facebook page. “One must never sail near a calving glacier, and one must not walk or stay on the shore near the edge of such a glacier.”

Wise words to live by, it would seem.

h/tIceland Monitor


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Joe McGauley is a senior writer for Thrillist. Follow him @jwmcgauley.