In 2006 I went on an impromptu trip to Iceland, having no idea what to expect. Along the south coast, I drove through some of the most overwhelmingly beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen. It was beyond anything I could have imagined beforehand. The moment I saw those mysterious island shapes of Vestmannaeyjar shimmering on the horizon, I felt immediately drawn to them. I decided there & then I just had to go back the next year.
The islands were coughed up from the sea in a series of eruptions from the hotspot that flows underneath, which continues to create more additions at irregular intervals. In 1963 another island, Surtsey, arrived in spectacular fashion, and in 1973 a grassy field on Heimaey erupted out of nowhere and created a whole new mountain. It was still steaming in places when I stood in its crater in 2007. (*)
Sailing into Heimaey harbour, through a narrow opening surrounded by a jumbled chain of steep cliffs on one side, and a huge field of intimidating lava flows on the other side is just mind-blowing. The history of the island, and the way the people dealt with their erupting backyard is also very fascinating. In 2014 the Eldheimar museum opened, where this compelling story is told with impressive images and interactive displays. It’s built around one of the houses that were excavated from underneath the lava flow, and it also features the Surtsey eruption.
There’s this beautiful craggy mountain massif with a glacier on top looming across on the other side. I had no idea what it was called. On Heimaey I bought a card of the view to it from the island, and it had its unpronouncable name written underneath. It actually became rather famous a couple of years later… 😉
NaturePic Challenge – Remote Islands # 7: Vestmannaeyjar
Midnight sunset on Heimaey.
Herjólfsdalur valley, with the distinctive Elephant Rock (Fíllinn) on the left side.
The ‘unpronouncable’ but utterly beautiful IslandMountainGlacier, three years before it literally erupted into world fame…
(*) A fascinating summary of the Surtsey and Eldfell eruptions is shown in this short documentary, featured in the ‘Savage Earth’ series from the early 2000’s. ‘No-one had ever fought a volcano and won’ – but on Heimaey in the end they did.
(c) Nancy Claus – Wilderness Coffee & Natural High
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