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Vestmannaeyjar (Westman Islands), Heimaey & Surtsey

July 20

Sunrise 3:53

Sunset 23:56

Lush and dramatic cliffs welcome us this morning as we sailed to the island of Heimaey.

Heimaey is about 5 nautical miles of the south coast, and is the largest, and only populated island in the Westman Islands. Heimaey is the product of nice major eruptions, the most recent occuring on January 23, 1973 at what is now known as Eldfell or "fire mountain" . With little warning, a one-mile-long fissure plot done the northeast side of the island and began spewing gas, ash, rock, and molten lava. Staff member Saevor's father, who lived on Heimaey, was a young boy at the the of the eruption, and she told us the story of her father's family escape from the eruption.

Luckily, on that night, there were rough seas and all the fishing vessels were in the harbor. Because of this fortunate coincidence, the island's residents were able to be evacuated to the Icelandic main island safely. Residents of Heimaey could leave with only the clothes there were wearing and a few personal items. Four meters of lava buried most buildings; nearly 400 homes were destroyed. As the lava flow threatened to engulf the harbor, the Westman Islands fire brigade began installing water pipes and hoses to cool the northeren edge of the lava. By February 9th, the land area of Heimaey had increased by two square kilometers. By April 1st, the lava edge reached it's current position. This event lasted for five months and ten days.

We were able to hike up Eldfell, luckily the wind was not too bad, and the day was clear. The views from the top were gorgeous, (isn't almost every view in Iceland gorgeous though?) and it was fascinating to see the how far the lava flow got from this perspective.

Later that evening, we sailed past the island of Surtsey, Earth's youngest island. Surtsey was formed in a volcanic eruption that began 130 meters/450 feet below sea level, reaching the surface on November 14, 1963. The undersea vents that produced Surtsey are part of the Vestmannaeyjar submarine volcanic system, part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

We were treated to a group of very relaxed Orcas and a Minke whale as well. So grateful for this day. 🖤

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