Heimaey, Westmann Islands

Jul 12, 2017 - National Geographic Orion

We sailed through the night and morning to Heimaey, the only inhabited island in Vestmannaejar Archipelago, on the Westmann Islands. With the help of a local pilot we navigated through the narrow winding harbor entrance and pulled the ship alongside for our tours of the town. Heimaey is a beautiful island that almost lost its harbor when one of its mountains, Eldfell, erupted in 1973. The fast moving lava poured into the sea expanding the mass of the island. Much of the town was covered as well—it’s estimated 360 houses were covered in lava and tefra during the explosion and aftermath. Heimaey is rich in Viking and volcanic history, including a fascinating project called “The Pompeii of the North”, which entails the excavation of a few houses that were covered, resulting in the very fascinating Eldheimar Museum build around one of the excavated homes.  The island had a wonderfully gloomy feel because of the low cloud cover and light rain throughout the day, making the hike especially interesting as they ascended Eldfell into the clouds. Our afternoon concluded with a sail past Surtsey, Iceland’s newest island, which appeared out of the ocean during a 1963 underwater eruption. The eruption lasted for four years and is a wonderful research location for volcanists, botanists, and biologists studying the formation of land and succession of life on a brand new island unaltered by humans.   

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About the Author

Amy Malkoski

Naturalist/Expedition Diver

Amy was raised near Cape Cod in coastal Marion, Massachusetts, and her relationship with the ocean and nature has always been an active one. Her parents, avid divers and marine biologists, introduced her to the underwater world when she was very young and she grew up participating in as many water-related activities as possible. Amy spent her summers sailing and exploring intertidal areas of Buzzards Bay. At age 12 she became a certified diver and is now a divemaster with the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI). In high school her passion for nature and art developed into a love of photography, using the medium to share her explorations with others. 

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