In the one year since its opening, the Eldheimar museum in Vestmannaeyjar, dedicated to the 1973 Eldfell volcanic eruption on Heimaey island, has welcomed 26,000 visitors. The exhibition includes a house which was recently dug out of the ash.
“It’s been a huge success from day one,” writes Eldheimar director Kristín Jóhannsdóttir in a press release marking the one-year anniversary of the museum, which opened on May 23, 2014.
“The museum has received a warm welcome from all visitors, foreign and domestic. In its first year Eldheimar welcomed 26 thousand visitors, most of whom came from overseas, a number that exceeded all our expectations,” Kristín added.
“Among the domestic guests are the people of Vestmannaeyjar and although the museum reflects on some painful memories most islanders agree [that it’s important] for coming generations to know and remember the night of January 23rd 1973,” Kristín, a Heimaey native who experienced the eruption herself, concluded.
The eruption started unexpectedly in the middle of the night. Almost all of the island’s around 5,500 inhabitants were evacuated by fishing ships. It’s considered a miracle that only one person died.
At first lava fountains extended from a 1,600-meter (5,250-feet) long fissure stretching from north to south on the eastern part of Heimaey, only a few meters from the town’s easternmost house.
The fissure gradually shrunk and the eruption became limited to an area where the now 200-meter high volcano Eldfell stands.
Before the eruption died down on July 3, 1973, around half of the town’s buildings had either been buried in lava or ash, or were destroyed in some other way.
Eldheimar also houses the Sursey Visitors Center. The island Surtsey, the southernmost island of the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago, was formed in a submarine volcanic eruption in 1963-1967. Today Surtsey is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.