Pompei of the North

” Travel is about the gorgeous feeling of teetering in the unknown. “ – Gaby Basora

Just off the southern coast of Iceland is a group of fifteen islands formed by submarine volcanoes, known as Vestmannaeyjar or the Westman Islands. I took a ferry to the town of Heimaey and hiked up to the top of the volcano Eldfell.  It was here, on January 23, 1973 at 1:45 a.m., without warning, a 1.5 km volcanic fissure split the eastern side of the island. Over the next five months 30 million tonnes of lava poured over the town of Heimaey and buried 360 houses. As the lava continued to flow it threatened to close off the harbour which would have destroyed the fishing industry. Firefighters hosed the lava with cold seawater and eventually the lava halted 175 m short of the harbour mouth. The lava created more shelter and actually improved the harbour. The picture below was taken from the top of Eldfell and shows the town of Heimaey in the background and the lava field. The Westman Islands are also home to about 10 million puffins who come there to breed.


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