Vestmannaeyjar or the Westman Islands are a group of small islands just off the south coast of Iceland. Only the largest island, Heimaey is inhabited with a population of about 5000 people. The economy of the islands was primarily based on fishing and related processing industries.
The Volcanic Eruptions
In January 1973 a massive and devastating volcanic eruption began in Heimaey, when a fissure opened in the ground in the outskirts of the town and began erupting and created a 220 meters high cone shaped volcano, where before the eruption was a flat land. The new volcano is called Eldfell. The eruption lasted for about 5 months and more than 400 houses were destroyed and still today one can see the ruins of houses that were buried under thick layers of lava and ash. There is now a museum on Heimaey called Eldheimar and dedicated to the memory of the catastrophic events during the eruption. At the time, Vestmannaeyjar was the largest and most important fishing port by the south coast of Iceland. The day before the eruption started, the weather was bad and therefore most of the fishing boats were at the port. As a result, almost all of the inhabitants were evacuated safely to the mainland, using the fishing vessels for the big task. In November 1963, an underwater volcanic eruption began on the ocean floor, close to Heimaey. This eruption lasted about 3 and a half years and a new island was born. This is the longest lasting volcanic eruption in the Icelandic history.
The new island is called Surtsey and is the youngest land on the planet. At the the beginning of the Surtsey eruption, two other islands were formed on south west and northeast side of Surtsey but the two islands soon disappeared into the ocean as these eruption did not last long enough to form a solod rock. These islands were given the names Syrtlingur and Jólnir. Ever since Surtsey has created, it has been protacted and a special permission is required in order to visit the island. Biologists are recording in what order life colonizes a new land where at the beginning there was no life at all. The Westman Islands offer spectacular landscape and wildlife and a visit to Westman Islands will never be forgotten.