The volcanic eruption in Vestmannaeyjar in 1973 is, without doubt, considered the largest natural disaster in Iceland in recent history. The eruption begun on January 23rd on the island of Heimaey , the only populated island of the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago. After the evacuation of the inhabitants, and during the 5 months while the eruption lasted, there was much uncertainty as to whether or not the island could ever be repopulated.
The eruption, the destruction of a large part of the town, and the changed landscape of this tiny island made world news and when it was over, tourists and scientists alike from all over the world visited the island to witness the fury and the results of nature's forces.
Now more than 30 years have passed and the memories and signs of that spectacular natural fury are somewhat fading, but the lava and ash of the eruption silently covers almost 400 homes and buildings, a third of the town in 1973.
"Pompei of the North" is the name given to the project to excavate some of these homes. Its objective is to give visitors the opportunity to see with their own eyes what actually happened in 1973. Here is a unique, modern archeology dig that cannot be compared to anything else. The plan is to excavate 7-10 houses that were covered by ash. The project was started during the last part of June 2005. It is a carefully planned and ambitious task that is expected to take several years. The house that stood at Suðurvegur 25 can already be seen and the next step is to continue excavating down the street of Suðurvegur. The object is, that in time, a small village will rise out of the ash and those that see it will be able to more easily comprehend the extent of devastation that a volcanic eruption can cause. This excavation should largely influence the interest of visitors to come to Vestmannaeyjar. The excavation of "Pompei of the North" will be a special experience every step of the way up Suðurvegur.
More information on http://www.pompeiofthenorth.com/
Pictures: Nr 1: © Eckhart Mattäus
Nr 2-3: © Jón Karl Helgason