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Eldfell Volcano - Heimaey Island

Iceland, March 2008

In 1973, the Eldfell volcano erupted. The eruption caused a major crisis for the island and led to its immediate evacuation. Volcanic ash fell over most of the island, destroying many houses, and a lava flow threatened to close off the harbour, the island's main income source via its fishing fleet. An operation was mounted to cool the advancing lava flow by pumping sea water onto it, which was successful in preventing the loss of the harbour.

Getting to the island was not easy, involved a nauseating 3 hour ferry ride from the Icelandic mainland in stormy, north Atlantic winter conditions. It was totally worth it to visit this incredible place that has such an interesting history.

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The southern tip of Heimaey Island is the windiest place in all of Europe, and this day was no exception. Winds were sustained at about 70km/h.

During the 1973 eruption of Eldfell volcano, much of the town was buried under meters of ash and lava flows destroyed homes. This is the last remnant of a house at the edge of the lava.

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The lava stopped at this house but it was too late to save it from destruction.

Eldfell volcano as seen from town on Heimaey Island. The Jan 23rd 1973 eruption lasted until July.

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This lighthouse, built on the old lava from the eruption, is the third one that has been built here. The rough seas of the north Atlantic have been eroding the rock and the previous lighthouses have all fallen into the sea.

Climbing up to the summit crater of Eldfell. The ground inside the crater is still warm.

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Eldfell volcano as seen from the harbour. Workers doused the advancing lava flows with millions of liters of seawater to try and halt the advancing flow that was threatening to destroy the harbour in this important fishing town. It worked, and the new rock around the harbour actually made it better for the fishing fleet.