Vestmannæyjar, Iceland


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Vestmannæyjar, Iceland

  1. 1. Vestmannæyjar, Iceland (Westman Islands) September 2011
  2. 2. Ferry to VestmannæyjarThe brand-new ferry dock in south Iceland cuts the ferry trip from 3 hours to 30 minutes.
  3. 3. Landeyjahöfn ferry dockOpened in 2011, the brand-new terminal is a source ofcontroversy. Engineers arguethe wrong location was chosen.The harbor silts up andrequires dredging, and theterminal is now too shallow forusing the larger ferry.
  4. 4. Vestmannæyjar in the distance – strong winds blew ash from the 2010 Eyjafjallajökulleruption off the glacier and into the atmosphere, creating a smoky haze.
  5. 5. The mountains of Eyjafjallajökull recede as the ferry heads to Vestmannæyjar. Rough seastoss us about, eliciting shrieks from a girls’ soccer team.
  6. 6. Heimæy Island
  7. 7. Elliðæy Island – home to my dream house
  8. 8. Heimæy harbor
  9. 9. Helgafell and the town of Heimæy
  10. 10. 1973 EruptionAt 1:45 am on January 17, withoutwarning, a brand-new fissure openedjust east of town. The five-month longeruption led to the evacuation of theisland as ash and lava buried the town.By the end of the eruption, one-third ofthe town was under lava and the brand-new volcanic cone of Eldfell stood onthe horizon. The island also increased insize on the eastern shore, a reminder ofhow volatile the Earth really is.
  11. 11. Locals battled an estimated 30 milliontons of lava as they watched theirhomes burn. After the eruption, most ofthe evacuated population returned, butabout 1700 people decided to remainon mainland Iceland. The growing lava field threatened to completely cut off the harbor – critical to the town’s economy – so they frantically pumped seawater to cool the lava. Now Heimæy has a better protected harbor than before the eruption. Photos from Folk Museum in town library
  12. 12. New and old – Eldfell and Helgafell
  13. 13. A spooky house graveyard – reminders of homes buried beneath the lava flow
  14. 14. Paths crisscross the Eldfellshraun – the 1973 lava flow
  15. 15. Moss has alreadycolonized the lava flow,beginning the processof digesting the rockinto soil, which maytake up to 3,000 years.
  16. 16. HelgafellNow dormant, Helgafell last erupted 5,000 years ago.
  17. 17. Street signs in the Eldfellshraun – another reminder of the town buried beneath.
  18. 18. The edge of the lava flow, where it stopped in June 1973.
  19. 19. Hike to the crater rim of Eldfell
  20. 20. View of Helgafell from Eldfell
  21. 21. From the summit of Eldfell
  22. 22. View across the Eldfellshraun to Heimaklettur and Ystiklettur
  23. 23. The soil here is still hot – 500°C just a meter down
  24. 24. Vestmannæyjar formed 11,000 years ago through a series of submarine eruptions on theMid-Atlantic Ridge. Eldfell is the latest volcanic incarnation.
  25. 25. Entrance to Heimæy’s harbor
  26. 26. Edge of lava flow, which threatened the historic Landlyst – maternityhospital where midwife Sólveig reversed the island’s 80% infant mortalityin the 19th century.
  27. 27. Stafkirkjan – reconstructed medieval wooden stave church, present from Norway in 2000.
  28. 28. Water tanks crushed by the lava
  29. 29. Rebuilt section of Skansin Fort, once used to defend the harbor from pirates.
  30. 30. Landskirkja – iconic church from photos of the 1973 eruption
  31. 31. Even Heimæy has a team in Iceland’s club soccer league.Iceland is as soccer crazy as any other European country.
  32. 32. Golf course at Herjólfsdalur
  33. 33. Hæna and Hani
  34. 34. Colonies of birds flock to Vestmannæyjar, including puffins, which had mostly migrated forthe winter by the time I visited.
  35. 35. A series of islands trail off Heimæy to the south. Somewhere out there is Surtsey, the islandthat formed almost overnight with a explosive eruption in 1963. Surtsey is now a UNESCOsite used by scientists for research.
  36. 36. Stórhöfði and Suðurey
  37. 37. Hike up Stórhöfði
  38. 38. Brimurð beach – where Algerian pirates attacked the island in 1627, killing, pillaging, andkidnapping 242 islanders as slaves. A disaster in a community of only 500. They eventuallyraised money to buy the freedom of 27 of their kidnapped neighbors.
  39. 39. Ferry back to mainland Iceland
  40. 40. Heimæy Town
  41. 41. Last glimpse of Eldfell and Helgafell