Monday, December 11, 2006

Vestmannaeyjar




One of the most stunningly beautiful places I have ever seen, are the Westman Islands off the southern coast of Iceland. Called Vestmannaeyjar, the Westman Islands are a group of 15-18 islands, depending on how they are classed, and about 30 skerries sand rock pillars, located off the mainland’s south coast. The islands were formed by submarine volcanic eruptions along a 30-km long fissure lying southwest to northeast. The largest island is Heimaey, 13.4 km2. Most of the islands have steep sea cliffs, and are well vegetated. Bird hunting and egg collecting are traditional to the islanders’ culture - including those cute birds, puffins.



The ride over there on the ship was really violent due to a storm, and I knew I would not escape the inevitable sea sickness... yep, spent the better part of the journey hugging the small nautical equivalent of the toilet - bleah. But it was well worth the trouble, once we arrived, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat.




This is a cement water tank we saw, which was crushed by the approaching lava when there was a volcanic eruption on Heimaey island in 1973. Water is a precious commodity on the island, and we saw several holding tanks like this.




The Eruption on Heimaey, 1973
The eruption on Heimay began on 23rd January, 1973, just before two o´clock in the morning. A fissure opened on the eastern side of the island, only 300-400 metres from Kirkjubæir, the most easterly houses in the town. The inhabitants of Heimaey were woken by the police and firebrigade as they drove around, raising the alarm with their sirens. People streamed down to the docks. Fortunately the weather had been stormy the day before and most of the island´s fleet of 60-70 fishing boats had stayed in harbour. The boats ferried the town´s people to safety in Þórlákshöfn. In March, moltern lava threatened to close the harbour approaches. In a desperate attempt to stop the flow, seawater was pumped on to the lava. This method proved very effective. Today the harbour is considered to be even better than before. The eruption ended on 3rd July, 1973. In six months a new volcano, 225m high, had appeared on the island and a new lava field lay to the east and covered 3.3 square km. Around 360 houses had been buried and many others badly damaged. Before the eruption 5300 people lived on Heimaey, 2000 of these moved back immediately after the eruption ended. Slowly but surely more families returned and began to rebuild their community.



We hiked around the island, up to some steep green cliffs overlooking the water. The grassy slopes were pocked with hundreds of holes, some of which a little puffin could be seen peering out of, before it leaped out to glide away over the sea far below. The bird life was fabulous and we saw many varieties for the first time while there. I was saddened to see pictures of and read about the islanders' ancient tradition of hunting and eating the puffins & their eggs. But hey, different strokes for different folks, yes?






Iceland holds many surprises - and this one is yet another of it's many spectacular treasures.

23 comments:

jillie said...

You always seem to have such amazing pictures and the stories to go along with them. Iceland really looks beautiful and very quaint.

Glad to know you survived the trip and that it wasn't your ship that crashed into the water tank.

Autumn Storm said...

Terry, you are a walking encyclopedia when it comes to Iceland, I love it! :-) What a wonderfully informative/interesting post. All I can do is stare in awe at that scenary, how I would love, especially right now, to be sitting there at the edge of one of those cliffs, looking out to sea. Heavenly, is what that would be.

Anonymous said...

Love your photos.....and you know how much I love Iceland....The first of the Jolasveinar arrived today....and he is on my Leikur og List blog.

I created a new blog so that I could do the 6 strange things....Meme...just for you it is here on To Live A Creative Life

Meg said...

I always find your post so very interesting and informative and filled with wonderful visual aids. When a person reads what you write you can just hear the passion you have for the subject at hand. Thanks so much !

Anonymous said...

Puffins!! Ive never seen one in real life but I do think they are fab! A friend of mine went to Puffin Island the other week. I must ask him if he took any snaps actually...

Very nice photos anyway.

jillie said...

Ok Terry...I've got my bags packed...when do we leave? I just got my (one of many) booklets on cruises to Tahiti? Ever been there? OMG...it's soooooooo beautiful! The best thing about it is the cruise ship is so small!

Jodes said...

wow, stunning pics!!!

Anonymous said...

Absolutely gorgeous and stunning photos. Sometimes I just want to get lost in your blog. :-)

tsduff said...

Jillie - as you have probably seen by now, I am in love with that country. It provides a feast to the eyes and indeed to the soul. As for surviving - LOL a little throwing up is a small price to pay for the privilege of experiencing the beauty of the islands.

Autumn, that is exactly what we did - sat/stood together along the grassy cliff, watching the puffins fly in & out from their boroughs to the sea, the waves crashing against the great rocky cliffs bottoms, the wind blowing on our faces... it was pure bliss.

jillie said...

From looking at the pictures I can see why you have an obsession with this country. And I have to say...I don't blame you one bit! I would battle the seasickness for it too! I would love to see the puffins.

Autumn Storm said...

Lovely!

Hey Terry, happy Wednesday! Pan session tonight? :-) You must be getting really good by now (few months right?), practising at home and all. G still getting in there once in a while? :-) Hope you're having a wonderful afternoon, talk soon, x

Mile Stones said...

Just look at that, wow! Is there anywhere like Iceland? Actually, it reminds me of some of the Açores (Azores) archipelago, 11 Portuguese islands (and hands-off US airbase)in the mid-Atlantic. More almost unique beauty, richly diverse wildlife, volvanic, but usually much warmer. And again that clear, clean air.
Terry, remember your post just before Thanksgiving of the 'lost' boy? Apropos, have you visited me this week?
All the best

tsduff said...

Mo'a - Love you new blog - even though I can't leave a comment there :-( I've linked it on my site. Thanks for publishing my comment onto it :-D

I'm very excited about the Jolasveiner - your version of them is awesome, and I can't wait to see them all!

Meg - you must get to Iceland - someday, someway. You won't regret it. Put it on your list of places to see in your lifetime. I hope you do get to see it with your own eyes. Never say never :-D

James - I really wanted to see the Puffins - as the prior trip to Iceland didn't yield a single sighting. And out there on the islands, I finally got to see them. Those little cuties are everything I thought they would be, and more.

Jillie - Nope - never been to, nor seen the scoop on Tahiti - sounds like a paradise. I think there is a lot of jungle there, no? Maybe it is like Hawaii.

Jodes - hop inside my suitcase - lookes like there is already a crew inside aiming for Iceland :-D

Trée - grab your missus, and head out to the island of Iceland. You couldn't surprise her with a better surprise than that! The trip to beat all trips... the scenery to beat all scenes... oh - and feel free to get lost here any time at all :-D

jillie said...

There is so much untouched land. I'll have to email you some pictures that I have. If you have ever been to Hawaii and thought that was beautiful...this makes Hawaii pale in comparison! The people are what make it so charming as well. They are so proud of their territory and it shows.

Miz BoheMia said...

I LOVE the pics and I so LOVE learning more about Iceland as it is a part of my heritage (I am part Icelandic from my maternal grandmother you know) and I have yet to visit and yes I have family there and hope to make it to Iceland some day to meet them and see this land of beauty and intrigue I tell you!

Some day...

But for now, I will see it through your eyes and lap up the pics and the accounts! Keep 'em coming!

And gracias!

Minka said...

So beautiful.
Youf orgot to mention that only one person dies during that eruption...due to non-related volcanic reasons :)
I went to Vestmannaeyjar and it is just a must-see place and nothing is as cute as teh puffin. Well, a penguin maybe :)

tsduff said...

Jillie - seeing those puffins filled a lifelong wish of mine to do so. They are adorable, clownlike faces, cute orange webbed feet, and short, stubby bodies which defy flying... like little bombs zipping about.

autumn - no more pan until I sign up for the winter session... (had the last class a week ago :-( ) G plays it whenever he walks by - the thing begs to be played by anyone and everyone, and he does have his own unique style :-D

Stewart - I did visit your place - very provacative picture you have there. It haunts one, even after removing it from sight. Excellent picture, and even better commentary. Peace.

Jillie - I await your pics - as you know I'm shameless about accepting foreign pictures LOL... They sound wonderful and I can't wait to see them.

Miz B - thank you for your wonderful words about the Iceland pictures. You are fortunate to have such heritage within your veins - lucky you. I have no Icelandic heritage, but maybe some by association - ha ha :-)

Yes Minka, nothing is as cute as a penguin, but tell me... other than yours truly, where are other penguins in Iceland? :-D You remain the only one.

Jeanne said...

Eye candy, curtesy of Terry. Aaah... I guess it's the dark and dreary weather, but I've been starving to the point where I spent about 20 minutes the other day checking out the covers of jigsaw puzzles.

tsduff said...

Jeanne - that sounds like something I would do :-) Sorry about the dreary dark - light some candles and bundle up in a warm downy quilt. The winter is almost half done, yes? (I know, not really, but it helps to say that)
:-)

Autumn Storm said...

Morning, sweetie, and a happy Friday to you! Any nice plans for the weekend? Christmas shopping perhaps. :-) I know, not something you consider 'nice'. Have a great Friday and weekend, if I don't get the chance to speak to you. xo

:P fuzzbox said...

No wonder you love it soo much. Your pics always amaze me with the beauty of the place.

ariel said...

Thank you for the trip!

Anonymous said...

滿..................................................