Gerður G. Sigurðardóttir was devastated when her new house in the Westman Island was buried in a 15-meter thick layer of pumice in the volcanic eruption that unexpectedly occurred there in the night before January 23, 1973.The Westman Islands. Photo copyright Icelandic Photo Agency.
Now her house will be excavated and a dome built on top. It will become the center of the museum Eldheimar (‘Fire World’) set to open in the Westman Islands next year, on the eruption’s 40th anniversary, Fréttablaðið reports.
Gerður says her late husband, Guðni Ólafsson, stressed that their house on Gerðisbraut 10 would be well constructed and that nothing be saved in the process. One and a half years before the eruption, it was in perfect condition.
The night of the eruption the couple’s three sons, aged seven, five and the third still an infant, were asleep when Gerður suddenly saw a great light in the eastern window.
“When I pulled the curtain aside, I saw this large column of fire. I called my husband and it was a priority to us to watch the earth open up like a zipper only 400 meters away and rocks and turf being hurled into the air,” Gerður describes the eruption.
“Wow, is it New Year’s Eve again?” commented their five-year-old son, whom they had woken up along with the other children to make a quick escape.
“We had just lived in the house, which was brand new, for one and a half years. Even though I was mighty scared, I was angrier still,” Gerður says of her mixed emotions.
“When I opened the front door and saw the columns extend into the air I thought: ‘we will die right there on the steps.’ It’s a miracle that no one perished,” she comments.
The excavation of her house has been ongoing with intermission for several years. In the summer of 2010, Gerður crawled through the window of the washing room along with one of her sons and a daughter.
“It was a shock to see one’s home abandoned after all this time. I missed not having my husband with me. He should have been there,” says Gerður, adding that she is content with having allowed the excavation. “Now I’m very happy because I was right: my house still stands.”
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