WESTMAN ISLANDS

Wednesday, July 5.

Another early start today. Two hour trip to catch the ferry to the Westman Islands, a small volcanic archipelago off the south coast of Iceland.

More of that glacier on the way to the ferry.

Leaving Iceland in our wake.

Islands coming into view. The archipelago, is a group of 18 islands around 10kms off the coast. The newest, and youngest island in the world is Surtsey, which was formed from volcanic eruptions, 1963-1967. It is around 1.4sq kms and stands 155 metres above sea level. The island is off limits to all but a small group of scientists who are studying the island to see how flora and fauna develop.

Having just arrived on one boat, we climbed aboard another for a trip around the islands. Unfortunately Surtsey was not included, as it has a 10km exclusion zone. All the islands have been formed through volcanic activity, and a couple are just the core of the volcano, with the remainder of the island eroded by wind and water.

Some amazing formations.

These are actually taken inside a cave.

The boat was 33 metres long and turned around inside the caves.

This area is also one of the few regions in which Puffins breed, so with some luck we may be able to get close enough to photograph one. They are quick little buggers, and can dive to 60 metres. They are actually in the photos.

Did you see him Gaz?


More cave stuff. Colours and patterns are amazing.

Can you see the elephants head?

Inside this cave, they turned the engine off, and one of the crew played the saxophone. The acoustics were phenomenal.

​Headed back to shore for lunch, and dry out. Started to rain and it was a bit bumpy, although the captain said it was flat. Bumpy is 33 metre swells.😳😳

Lunch over, we boarded a bus for a guided tour of the island, which would prove to be fantastic. More on that later.

First stop was Herjolfurs house, the first stone house to be built on the island in the 9th century. The photo below shows the remains of the double stone walls which were filled with earth for insulation.

A modern reproduction of what the house probably looked like. Humans on the right, animals on the left.

Next off to the top of the extinct volcano, Helgafell, which affords great views of the surrounding area, and also allows access to the puffin breeding colony under strict supervision.

Them be puffins.
Cute little critters.

Now back to that fantastic I mentioned before. There are actually two volcanoes on Heimay, Helgafell, and more recently, Eldfell. 

You may remember the volcano that erupted in 1973, and caused havoc with air traffic for weeks, it was Eldfell. It caused more than chaos for the island, as it sat next door to the town, and threatened to wipe it out. Being a fishing community, the day before the eruption was too rough to take their boats out, so they were all in the harbour. 

Once the volcano erupted, the entire island was evacuated in two hours. The eruptions continued for six months, and it took a stroke of genius to stop the lava filling the harbour and covering the town. They pumped seawater onto the advancing lava flows, basically stopping it in its tracks. They still lost 200 houses and only one person was killed. He was actually poisoned by the gases when he went into his basement to retrieve belongings.

There were two positives, the runway was automatically extended, and the whole eastern side of the volcano broke off and floated 400 metres on the molten rock, to form a safe harbour. The island also increased in size by around 20%. See photo.

This is the section of the volcano that floated away.

The two volcanoes. The one on the left is Eldfell, and is still smoking.

One of the houses which was buried. Under 20 metres of ash and rock.

Actual photos of the eruption.

Another house that was buried and forms part of the museum that was built over it.

Even the Cemetry was covered, and excavated by hand and the soil placed on the runway.

To top it off, the bus driver was 14 when the eruption occurred, so was able to relate his first hand account of what it was like. In his words, bloody terrifying and the size of the church congregation grew overnight. 

On a lighter note, met a young lass from Bankstown, who is here on a three month arts fellowship. Was great to hear another Australian voice.

Ferry back to mainland and bus back to Reykavik, after another 14 hour day.

Quaint church on way back.

It’s 11.15 pm, I have finally finished, and this is what it looks like outside now.

Goodnight, I think!

One thought on “WESTMAN ISLANDS

  1. Gary, that was very interesting…we’re glad you went to Iceland! Max Horsey worked in the fishing industry there many years ago! He tried to learn Icelandic…

    Keep well and XXOO

    Like

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