November 20, 2011

0046 ICELAND - Young and restless islands

If here I shared with you a postcard illustrating a little more quiet area of Iceland, behold now I come with a volcano that erupted in 1973. Vestmannaeyjar (Westman Islands) is an archipelago off the south coast of Iceland, consisting of 15-18 islands and about 30 skerries sandrock pillars, located off the mainland’s south coast. The largest island, Heimaey, has 13.4 km2 and 4,135 inhabitants, living from fishing, hunting and some agriculture. The rest of the islands have steep sea cliffs, and are well vegetated, but are uninhabited.

The area is so active in terms of volcanic, that in 1963 gave scientists the opportunity to witness live the birth of an island. On 14th November, an eruption had begun on the seabed (south-west of Heimaey), and in the next day already appeared from the ocean a patch of land with a height of 10m, which was named Surtsey. When the eruption ended, on 5th June, 1967, the island covered 2,8 square km and reached a height of 170m. Surtsey is protected by law and Icelandic scientists continue to document the colonization of the island by plant and bird life.

Vestmannaeyjar came again to international attention on 23rd January 1973 with the eruption of Eldfell volcano, which began by opening a crack on the eastern side of the Heimaey island, only 300-400 metres from Kirkjubæir, the most easterly houses in the town, forced the evacuation of the entire population to mainland Iceland. The eruption ended 6 month later, on 3rd July, 1973, during which time a new volcano, 225m high, had appeared and a new lava field lay to the east. One third of the town was destroyed (around 360 houses) and another 20% of it badly damaged. Before the eruption 5,300 people lived on Heimaey, 2,000 of these moved back immediately after the eruption ended. Today the harbour is considered to be even better than before.

Since then, every year în the weekend following 3 July, people celebrate the end of eruption. On Saturday night the island pubs open their doors and floors to musicians of all orientations who are encouraged to play to their hearts delight. A great number of former islanders choose this weekend for a visit. "You know, we Icelanders have to deal with the elements on a daily basis. We lose people every year in winter storms both on land and at sea, so in a sense we are better equipped to deal with a disaster of this kind", says photographer Sigurgeir Jónasson in an interview.

Heimaey is inhabited for 1100 years and only two, but very exceptional historical events troubled it peace: in 1627 the island were captured by a fleet of 15 ships of Barbary Pirates from Algiers, headed by Murat Reis, who stayed there for 26 days and enslaved 242 people. What sought the pirates so far from the Mediterranean, God knows. Or maybe the devil. Subsequently, a Turkish corsair named Ali Biçin Reis also came to the archipelago and Iceland itself, from where he took 800 slaves. "After that people lived life in peace," said islander Björn Ólafsson, "until the eruption."

What would have to say about the island? That has one of the most beautiful and extraordinary 18 hole golf course in the world?

The stamp belongs to a set of two, issued on May 5, 2010 and named Children's books:
The Fate of the Gods (165 ISK) – it’s on the postcard
Good Evening (220 ISK)

Rhe book The Fate of the Gods was published in 2008 and deals with Nordic Mythology. The main legends of Nordic gods and godesses are retold and adapted to children. The author is Ingunn Ásdísardóttir while Kristín Ragna Gunnarsdóttir illustrated the book and designed the cover.

Good Evening was written by Áslaug Jónsdóttir in 2005. Áslaug also illustrated the book with drawings. The story is about a small boy who is left alone with his teddybear when his father goes to fetch mother.

sender: Sigríður Torvaldsdottir (direct swap)

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