Summer 2022
John Andrews
Fri 20 Jun 2014 10:42

Vestmannaeyaar (or something)

I was glad that the wind for the mainland was adverse, as it gave us an extra day on the island in lovely sunny weather.

Jobs to be done first, though, including topping up with water and refuelling. John remarked as 300 litres of fuel went into the tank, that it was the first passage he’d done where he’d used more fuel than water. Clearly the owners of the fuel pump had concerns, as about half an hour after we’d finished filling up, a tanker lorry arrived to top up the onshore fuel tank. The pump operator told John had to go to the ‘office’ to pay, and Max and I were slightly concerned to see John getting into a car and being whisked away. We were even more concerned when almost an hour later, he still hadn’t reappeared. He arrived back eventually, all smiles, having been given a private tour of the whole island by the pump operator. Apart from Max and I being a tad envious, it did mean that he knew where to take us for our afternoon sight-seeing.

Just up the hill from the town, a brand new museum has been opened dedicated to what happened in 1973 when the volcano erupted and swallowed half the town in ash and lava. It is marketed as ‘The Pompeii of the North’. The centrepiece is the remains of a house that has been excavated from the ash and around it is an impressive multimedia display of the eruption and how the islanders coped and then rebuilt their town. It is a world class museum and a very intense experience.



 We then took to the hills behind the museum. On the lower slopes, there has been a lot of reseeding and planting of grasses in order to stabilize the lava, and at this time of year it is a mass of wild flowers.


 Higher up, it is still raw lava, a mixture of ash and rough tephra. There are signs of life, 40 years on, with lichen beginning to grow and the odd flower taking hold.




Although we didn’t go to the top of the crater, we did get magnificent views of the town and the harbour.


Our main aim was to walk down to the harbour entrance to get some pictures of the dramatic harbour entrance which had been too dark to photograph the previous evening. As we said, it is perhaps one of the most dramatic harbour entrances we have visited.




Our walk back to the boat along the shore led us to the remains of an old fort, and more interestingly to where the fresh drinking water arrives on the island via a pipeline from the mainland. There is also the remains of the old salt water tank used by the fish processing factories, half covered by the last of the lava flow.


There is also a very pretty wooden ‘stave’ church, given to the island by the Norwegian government in 2002 to commemorate the building of the first church in Iceland a thousand years ago.


Then back to the boat for an excellent fish supper of locally caught cod and early to bed for a 3.00 a.m. start for Reykjavik.