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Vatnajökull [ˈvaʰtnaˌjœːkʏtl̥] (English: Glacier of lakes) is the largest glacier in Iceland. It is located in the south-east of the island, covering more than 8% of the country. With an area of 8,100 km², it is the largest ice cap in Europe by volume (3,100 km³) and the second largest (after Austfonna on Nordaustlandet, Svalbard) in area (not counting the still larger Severny Island ice cap of Novaya Zemlya, Russia, which may be regarded as located in the extreme northeast of Europe). On 7 June 2008, it became a part of the Vatnajökull National Park.[1]

The average thickness of the ice is thus 400 m, with a maximum thickness of 1,000 m. Iceland's highest peak, Hvannadalshnúkur (2,109.6 m), is located in the southern periphery of Vatnajökull, near Skaftafell National Park.

Under the ice cap, as under many of the glaciers of Iceland, there are several volcanoes. The volcanic lakes, Grímsvötn for example, were the sources of a large jökulhlaup (glacial lake outburst flood) in 1996. There was also a considerable but short-time eruption of the volcano under these lakes at the beginning of November 2004. During the last ice age, numerous volcanic eruptions occurred under Vatnajökull, creating many subglacial eruptions. These eruptions formed tuyas, such as Herðubreið which was beneath Vatnajökull during the last ice age.

According to Guinness World Records, Vatnajökull is the object of the world's longest sight line, 550 km from Slættaratindur, the highest mountain in the Faroe Islands. GWR state that "owing to the light bending effects of atmospheric refraction, Vatnajökull (2,109.6m), Iceland, can sometimes be seen from the Faroe Islands, 340 miles (550km) away". This may be based on a claimed sighting by a British sailor in 1939. The validity of this record is analysed/undermined in mathematical and atmospheric detail by J.C. Ferranti.[2]

In 1950, a Douglas DC-4 operated by the private airline Loftleiðir crash-landed on the Vatnajökull glacier and never flew again. Its abandoned fuselage is visible in the 2007 film Heima, a documentary about a tour performed by the band Sigur Rós.[3]

The glacier was used as the setting for the opening sequence (actually set in Siberia) of the 1985 James Bond film A View to a Kill, in which Bond (played for the last time by Roger Moore) eliminated a host of armed villains before escaping in a submarine to Alaska.[4]

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