The Westman Islands are a group of islands off the south coast of Iceland. They consist of 15 islands in addition to 30 cliffs and skerries that make up the archipelago. Heimaey is the only island inhabited all year long
The first sources of the Westman Islands can be found in Landnáma, a medieval Icelandic written work which describes the settlement of Iceland. Landnáma tells the story of Ingólfur Arnarson, Iceland’s first settler. His foster brother, Hjörleifur Hróðmarsson, was killed by his slaves. The slaves fled to the islands but Ingólfur Arnarson hunted them down and killed them. These slaves, originated from Ireland, were known as the West Men, thus the name, the Westman Islands. Still today, many places in the Westman Islands bear names from the event.
The first settler of the island of Heimaey was Herjólfur Bárðarson, who lived in the valley Herjólfsdalur, approx. in the year 900.
Three times in the history of the Westman Islands, the population has taken considerable dives. First in the year 1627 during the events known as the The Algerian Pirate Raid when 234 people were captured by pirates from Algeria. The islanders also suffered greatly in the early 18th century, when more than half of all newborns died from neonatal tetanus. Lastly, the population of the Westman Islands went from 5100 to 200, temporarily, during the 1973 volcanic eruption, as all the inhabitants fled to the mainland. Today around 4.300 people live in the Westman Islands.