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Surtsey

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Adam Hawthorne
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« on: April 14, 2007, 08:10:55 pm »



Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland 
Sea cliffs

 
Vestmannaeyjar (English: The Westman Islands) is a small archipelago off the south coast of Iceland. Only the largest, Heimaey, is inhabited.

The islands are named after the Irish who were captured into slavery by the Norse Gaels. The Old Norse word Vestmenn, literally "Westmen", was applied to the Irish, and retained in Icelandic even though Ireland is more easterly than Iceland. Not long after Inglfur Arnarson arrived in Iceland, his brother Hjrleifur was murdered by the slaves he had brought with him. Ingolfur tracked them down to Vestmannaeyjar and killed them all in retribution.

In the year 1627 the islands were attacked by a fleet of pirates from the Barbary Coast (modern Algeria), who killed many, enslaved much of the population and took them to Algeria where most of them spent the rest of their lives in bondage.

The area is very volcanically active, like the rest of Iceland. There were two major eruptions in the 20th century: the Eldfell eruption of January 1973 which created a 700-foot-high mountain where a meadow had been, and caused the island's 5000 inhabitants to be temporarily evacuated to the mainland, and an eruption in 1963 created the new island of Surtsey.

From 1998 to 2003 the islands were home to Keiko the killer whale, star of Free Willy.

The islands are famed in Iceland for their yearly festival, "jht", which attracts a large portion of the nation's youth. The festival was originally held because of the islanders' inability to participate in the festivities for the 1000th anniversary of the inhabitation of Iceland, and decided to hold their own festival. The word "jht" means "national festival". For the first seventy years or so it was a large family-oriented festival, but has in the last century become a rite of passage for teenagers, and involves much consumption of alcohol.

Current Mayor of Vestmannaeyjar is Ellii Vignisson.




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