The Westman Islands

Things to do in the Westman Islands

A tale of plundering in the 17th century

The Westman Islands

The Westman islands are about 15-18 small islands just south off Iceland, which were all formed by volcanic eruptions. The biggest one and the only one that people live on is called Heimaey.

The oldest thing known about the islands is that in about 875 the man who found Iceland, Ingólfur Arnarson, went there looking for his dead brother´s slaves, because they had killed his brother. He found them there and killed them. Then shortly after 1400 the Westman Islands became the property of the king of Norway, and then later on the king of Denmark and he kept them until 1874.

In 1627 pirates from Alsir came to the Westman Islands. As they were proper pirates they stole the goods, killed lots of people, raped the women and took lots of people with them back home to Alsir where, later on the men became slaves and the women the wifes of turkish sultans.

In 1973 the people in Vestman islands woke up one night, looked out their window and saw that their island had caught fire. It was the 23. of January 1973 and a volcano on the island had started an eruption, which kept on going for 155 days. That night it started almost everybody who lived there, about 5300 persons, were taken to Iceland to save them from the fire but these people couldnt go back to their homes until June, and some never went back. Since then the town has more or less regained its size, about 4500 people live there, they love their islands and probably wouldn´t want to live anywhere else.

Þorbjörg Jónsdóttir

 

Things to do in the Westman Islands

For non Icelandic but adventurous travellers, a trip to the Westman islands is an excellent idea to say the least. The possibilities go on for ever.

The first weekend in august is a good weekend to go. Especially since it happens to be the weekend of the year that everybody that lives there and also lots and lots of people from mainland Iceland get their tents and sleeping bags from the attick, stuff their old schoolbags with all the neccesities for a authentic Icelandic camping trip, such as lots of alcohol of any kind and condoms. After that they get themselves on a bus+boat/plane and they are off to the Westman islands for a long weekend. There everybody gets their tent up in the valley where there is a stage where Icelandic bands play their music all day and night and in between a set of different pleasant surprises fill the days with fun.

While you´re getting properly sober after the weekend there are various things to do for one´s healthy entertainment. Nature is beautiful there and from the Westman Islands comes the puffin, the most fanciable bird in the world, wich the residents like to hunt, cook and eat. You can get someone to take you on a boat trip around the islands, which is a very good idea in nice weather, but a very stupid one if the weather isn´t good.

So... as everyone should know now there are plenty of interesting things to see and do in the Westman Islands, if you´re lucky you might even see a volcanic eruption!

Þorbjörg Jónsdóttir

A tale of plundering in the 17th century

In the summer 1627 there was plundering in Vestmannaeyjar. Then the population was 500.

Pirates from Alsir came there on three ships. The robbers enslaved people, ravished women and killed 34 and took 240 men and women capture. They took all valuables and things in the church and burnt houses and the church. Many people tried to hide in caves and under stones or climb rocks andscale down the cliffs out of sight

Those captured were put on the slave market in Alsir and many of them put to death or sold on auction. Many of them dead of illness after they came to Alsir, some of them got lost, others managed to escape. Only a few adopted the Islamic religion and most wanted to get back to Vestmannaeyjar.

In 1636 freedom was bought for about 35 of the captured from Alsir but some of them could not survive the travel to Copenhagen and died on the way. But 10 years after the robbery 27 people managed to come back to Iceland.

Anna Kristín