Central Snark

A Night to Remember! by Snuppy
Wednesday, 13 June 2007, 7:53am
Filed under: FYI (ish), Teh Penguin

While sorting through my pictures in some of my many albums, I came across this one:

I love when you discover good photos you forgot you ever took. This picture is responsible for today´s post!

For thousands of years a quiet group of islands in the North Atlantic peacefully existed. They are called the Vestmann islands and are located south of Iceland. Then, on the 14th of November 1963, a new volcano erupted out of the sea in a violent column of ash and fire, creating the youngest island in the world, Heimaey.
In true Viking fashion, Icelanders can settle almost anywhere, and why should an island of cooled magma be any exception? Heimaey was settled, its inhabitants fully aware of the intricate dance they are about to engage in. Iceland, beyond doubt, is the land of ice and FIRE.

ice and fire

Only 10 years later on January 23rd, 1973, a Tuesday I seem to remember, history would repeat itself, only this time, 5000 souls inhabited this island. All the boats were in the harbor that night, a gale and heavy rainfall through the day kept them in the bay. At around 1.55 am the eruption began and a thick slope of lava descending from the mountain now known as “Eldfjall” (Fire mountain), making its way slowly but steadily towards the town and harbor area.

1973 eldfjall

Police cars and fire trucks sounded their alarms driving through the streets to wake up a town fast asleep and within two hours everybody was afoot, streaming down to the harbor where 60-70 boats were ready to get the optimistic Vikings to safer shores, the first boat is said to have left at 2.30, merely 40 minutes after everything started. The town council had decided to evacuate the whole population.

Within an hour Icelandair and other minor airway companies, including the NATO Defense Force in Keflavik helped and transported around 300 people by air, putting an emphasis on the sick and elderly. In one night, all 5000 were evacuated, only one man died and not the Volcano´s fault either. The population was warned that due to the shaking earth, gas leaks will occur and a volcanic eruption is simply not the time you should lock yourself into a cellar!

A mad professor, the world is filled with them, one was bound to be located on Heimaey, suggested to pump cold sea water onto the running lava and with it breaking its flow towards the city into another direction. Needless to say, he was mostly laughed at…but there is also bound to be one good idea in say…um…1000 mad professors and when his idea was put into action, the result was as desired. By cooling the lava from one side (dip your toes into the Atlantic around here and you´ll understand) it budged out to the other side and left its original trail.

The harbor was saved. 400 houses destroyed, 250 damaged and 250 escaped without a scratch. And slowly, yet steadily … almost half of its inhabitants returned. It took a year to clean away the ashes left behind form that fateful day. The population is about 4.800 now…that´s 200 short of 5000! I bet almost all of them are ready should nature decide to go out on a whim again.

Westmann islands today

And images like these serve as a daily reminder of the fiery power Mother Nature holds deep within her icy exterior.

hus undir hrauni

~Penguin out!

Any questions? Fire away or satisfy your burning curiosity about the rest of life at


20 Comments so far
Leave a comment

i know we had a discussion or two about the fact that Iceland is the result of volcanic activity, but i had no idea! wow, dear Penguin, that’s one hell of a story!

and, while there’s plenty of drama here, can’t help but laugh at the concept of the world being “filled” with “mad” professors. thank goodness that particular one managed to convince a few folks to try his foolhardy solution. (i used to think the ending in that movie, Volcano, was stupid. now i see it was not!)

well done, i lovelovelove it when you teach us about your wonderful corner of the planet. or is it ocean? whatever — i adore these posts! 🙂 xox

Comment by snuppy

Nice post, P. “When Real Estate Attacks!”

Question is, why doesn’t it ever attack Mister Donald (F.) Trump?

Comment by Al

snuppy, I am mighty glad. Sometimes I ma not sure it is boring to others, but it makes for interesting every-day life here. Maybe one time I´ll tell you how I almost dies on Iceland´s Independence Day, due to an earth quake 😉

Al, I don´t know…but that man´s hair might even frighten a volcano!

Comment by Penguin

boring? NO WAY, José! i loooooooove learning about Iceland, i really do. there’s a place called “BUMPASS HELL” in Northern California you’d probably enjoy visiting sometime — especially since it’s part of the very spectacular Mount Lassen Volcanic National Park. it’s quite a sight… and features a “memorable” smell, as well! (lots of sulphur in those pits, which smells a lot like rotten eggs. ewww.) my sister and her husband have a cabin near there, so we’ve climbed Lassen a few times, but only visited the “mud pits”, once.

this post also reminds me of a hilarious episode of South Park… remember that video i shared a few months ago? Duck and Cover? well in this episode, that’s what the Safety Experts told the citizens of South Park to do when their volcano erupted — duck and cover! hahaha. i’m guessing that wouldn’t save you, should you get in the way of molten lava. that said — did i read something about a stamp collection? 😉 xox

Comment by snuppy

Well look at that, you all really did leave the welcome mat out – yay! – it’s good to be back here with you all!

And oh how I’ve missed and still enjoy these Icelandic history & pix posts! Madame Penguin, I especially enjoyed how you wrote in 1973 that it was a Tuesday as recall. That was so subtle it was hysterical.

Comment by Sar

snuppy, I did remember your video about duck and cover and wanted to implement it into teh post on my site, but somehow couldn´t…I kept picturing KFC 🙂

Sar, Tuesday was a good guess, I checked, it is right….but how would I know, I was still milk in a cartoon at the supermarket, wiating fo rmy daddy to pick it up and drink it 🙂

Comment by Penguin

Nice! I was stationed in Keflavik in ’88 & ’89 doing radio and TV for AFRTS while in the Navy. It was great experience. That was the first time I’d heard those stories so it was good to read.

Comment by Howard

Great post, and you’re right: there is always a Nutty Professor around when you need one.

Comment by Doug

That was a great story! Fess up Penguin (if that’s your real name), were you the “mad professor” who saved the day?

Comment by BoBo

That was so very interesting.

Comment by Nessa

Here’s to that Nutty Professor! All this is brand new to me as I’ll admit my lack of knowledge in your geographic location so thanks for the primer.

Lovely post and pics. XOX

Comment by Lampsha

Howard, I have met many an American at that very base. Well, not there…I wasn´t allowed in really, but on their free days they hang out in downtown Reykjavik and I got to serve them drinks 🙂

Doug, I bet you could make an insane contribution any day 🙂

Bobo, what gave me away…my extensive knowledge of physics, geology and all things atomic, or the wisdom in my eyes?

Nessa, I am glad. I hop eit was fun too and you´ll always take a pump and ocean water when you get close to a volcano 🙂

Lampy, I am broadcasting to the masses, see Waking Ambrose. maybe I should get another mirror? xox

Comment by Penguin

I’m no professor but if you want nutty, just call me almond joy.

Comment by Doug

Doug: somehow using the word “joy” in relationship to you would just seem… weird. 🙄

Comment by snuppy

Cool (though not cold) post, Penguin. Homor-blogs though? You’re just trying to irritate me now, aren’t you? 😉

Did someone mention almonds?

Comment by Diesel

Doug, you fruit cake!

snuppy, yeah, I stumbled on joy too:) Somethingn are just not right!

Diesel, but of course, if everybody dances after your lead you can only expect me to dance out of line. yeah, Doug is trying to have more of a bite to him 🙂

Comment by Penguin

I propose a toast…To nutty professors around the world! The professor’s idea was only slightly less brilliant than your post today. I have learned so much more about Iceland in the past few months than I ever dreamed possible; let’s see, we’ve had volcanoes, shopping malls, art, hobbit houses, currency…Keep up the good work, I’m always game to learn something new.

Comment by Theresa

When we went to the Westman islands, and Heimaey, that was the highlight of my trip to Iceland (also the most seasick, as I threw up my entire innards on the ferry over). I’ll post some of my favorite pictures, but truly, what a fabulous place to behold. Super post my dear Minka.

Comment by Terry

Lovely little fire and icey place ya got there!

Comment by Claire

Theresa, thnak you so much. I have doen a few posts in between about soemthign else but Iceland …I am sure…but it is hard to remember them rigth this minute 🙂

terry, thank you, coming from you that mean quite a bit, my fellow Iceland-nut!

Claire, size doesn´t matter 😉

Comment by Penguin

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