Visiting the exhibition at Eldheimar is a unique way to learn about the volcanic eruption in Vestmannaeyjar in 1973, which is without a doubt one of Iceland’s biggest natural disasters.
The eruption started in the early hours of January 23rd 1973 on the island of Heimaey, the only inhabited island of the Westman Islands, lasting for 5 months. The people of Heimaey had to leave their homes in the middle of the night and evacuate the island, many of them never saw their homes or any of their belongings ever again. Before the eruption the population of Heimaey was around 5.300 people. The entire population, apart from about 200 rescue workers who stayed behind, fled to the mainland to live with relatives or in temporary housing where they waited in anguish for what the future would bring.
At Eldheimar visitors get a glimpse into peoples lives on Heimaey before the eruption that would change their lives forever. The highlight of the exhibition is the house on Gerðisbraut 10, the home to Gerður Sigurðardóttir and Guðni Ólafsson and their 3 young children. Their house got buried under lava, later to be excavated. The show also covers the Surtsey eruption, the island that emerged from the ocean south of Heimaey in 1963. The Surtsey eruption lasted for almost 4 years and ever since only scientists have been allowed on the island in order to monitor how new ecosystems come to life. Surtsey was inscribed as a natural property on UNESCO’s World Heritage List during the 32nd session of the The World Heritage Committee in July 2008.