Anonymous asked: Hi. I intend to come to Iceland for Iceland Airwaves. My question is: are there any buses that still travel at that period ? I don't wanna go just fot the festival...I'd like to go to Vestmann island for example, and I can't find any information on the internet. (I think plane is too expensive)
The private bus lines have different summer and winter schedules and many locations only are serviced during the summer. Often this is because the highland roads are closed during winter. You can try and make sense of the rather complicated network on bsi.is.
However there are plenty of bus day tours offered from Reykjavík all year long, especially during the Iceland Airwaves festival, so it should be no problem to find something other than the festival to do.
Also the Reykjavík public bus system recently began servicing much of southwest Iceland. This means that you can take a normal scheduled public bus from Reykjavík to the brand new Landeyjarhöfn harbour for only 1400 ISK. From there you have a 40min and 1150 ISK ferry ride to Vestmannaeyjar (used to be 3hrs from Þorlákshöfn harbour). You can also fly with Ernir for between 7 and 20000 ISK.
Oh and by the way Vestmannaeyjar is one of the most beautiful places in the world. You could also go crazy and skip the Iceland Airwaves and go to Iceland’s greatest party “Þjóðhátíð in Vestmannaeyjar”. It is a festival with over 10k guests every year. You won’t get the hipster music of IA, but you’ll get classic Icelandic pop bands and a real Icelandic crowd.
Here’s last year’s official video:
tharlk asked: hi, what can you tell us about Surtsey? and is it true that Iceland is splitting apart at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge?
Iceland is not so much splitting apart as it is emerging from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. As you may know, there’s a ridge that extends north south throughout the Atlantic. The ridge separates the North and South American tectonic plates from the Eurasion and African plates. As these plates are moving apart, eruptions are common along the whole ridge. Most go unnoticed far below the sea. However, under Iceland there happens to be a particularly hot spot, where magma easily rises to the surface and causes eruptions.
That is precisely how Iceland and Surtsey have formed. The plates are separating and magma flows to the surface. In the case of Iceland it all started a very very long time ago and in the case of Surtsey it started in 1963. In this way Iceland is actually growing. It is spreading east-west by about 1cm in each direction per year. You can best see this at Þingvellir National Park. There, the fissure, Almannagjá on the west side and corresponding cracks on the other side of the lake can be considered the borders of the continental plates. The lake in between, Þingvallavatn, is a geographical no-mans-land, neither a part of Europe nor North America.
In November 1963 smoke was seen out in the ocean close to the Vestmannaeyjar islands. People thought it was a ship on fire and sent boats to its rescue. It turned out that there was no ship, just a boiling ocean and a mix of steam and ash bubbling up to the surface. Eventually a small island began appearing and then another and another. The eruptions went on and off until 1967.
At the end of the eruption, the island was 2,7 square kilometers. Since then about half of it has been eroded away by the ocean and its two smaller siblings, Jólnir and Syrtlingur have completely disappeared. This does not mean that it will disappear in the next few decades though, as the island is more solid at its core and the erosion will slow down. Eventually its sandy beaches will probably disappear and it will resemble one of many small cliff islands in the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago.
Surtsey is just about the only place in Iceland you can not visit. Due to the unique opportunity to research the settlement of new biological life on the island, it is only open to scientists and is classed as a UN World Heritage site. You can however see the island from the sea in boat trips from Vestmannaeyjar or on sightseeing flights.
You might want to read my recent post on the Vestmannaeyjar islands and the eruption inside the town a few years after the formation of Surtsey.
Just off the southern coast of Iceland lies a small archipelago called Vestmannaeyjar. Since I’ve been out skiing for the past week and neglecting the site, i’ll give you a good post today. Vestmannaeyjar is one of the most interesting places in Iceland and often overlooked, since you either need to fly or take the ferry.
The archipelago consists of 15 islands and around 30 islets. Several of the islands were inhabited permanently or seasonally in the past, but today only the main island Heimaey (E. Home Island) is inhabited. Just over 4000 people live in the town on Heimaey.
Vestmannaeyjar is loaded with history. The name which means “Islands of west men” is thought to be derived from Ingólfur Árnason. Ingólfur who came to Iceland in the year 874 is generally considered the first settler of Iceland. The tales of him will have to wait for a later post. However, his first winter he put up camp on the cape of Ingólfshöfði (close to Skaftafell), while his brother Hjörleifur Árnason camped on Hjörleifshöfði (close to Vík). The following spring Ingólfur sailed west and discovered that his brother had been murdered by his slaves. From Hjörleifshöfði you can see Vestmannaeyjar, and he correctly assumed that the slaves were hiding there. Naturally, being a viking he chased them around the islands and killed them all. Several places in the islands bear the name of the slave killed there. Since these slaves were Irish, they were called Vestmenn (E. West Men) by the Scandinavians and hence the name Vestmannaeyjar.
The islands have been inhabited at least since the 10th century, but the population has thrice been cut down considerably. First by pirates, second by sickness and finally by an eruption.
In 1627 about half the population (242 people) were abducted by pirates in an event called Tyrkjaránið (E. The Turkish Abductions). Many more were taken in other parts of the country. This event caused great fear in Iceland and lives strongly in the collective memory of Icelanders. An Icelandic urban legend says that after the abductions, it was legal to kill all Turks in Iceland, until somebody noticed that the law was still in place when Turkey played in the Handball World Cup in Reykjavík in 1995. That’s probably not entirely true and would be quite unfortunate, especially since the pirates weren’t really Turks. They were mostly Moroccans and Algerians under the command of a Dutchman acting on orders of the Ottoman Empire. Some of the people eventually managed to return to Iceland. The most famous of them was Guðríður Símonardóttir who later married one of Iceland’s most renowned poets, Hallgrímur Pétursson.
The second cut in the population occurred in the 18th century when lots of people got sick and died. That’s not as interesting as violence and volcanoes, so let’s turn to the next one.
On the 23rd of January 1973 the people in Heimaey were awaken by an eruption. At first people thought it was a grassfire lit by some kids, but it actually turned out to be a large eruption. More than half of the towns houses were destroyed or severely damaged. Many houses caught fire as molten lava rocks were scattered across the town, others collapsed under the weight of ash on the roofs and about 300 houses were completely engulfed by lava. My mother in law’s house for example is buried deep under the new mountain. Fortunately nobody died during the eruption. Bad weather had preceded the eruption and all the ships were in harbor. This made evacuation very easy for the small fishing community. What is actually most amazing is that people fought the volcano. Many houses were saved and most importantly, the opening of the harbor was saved, by pumping seawater onto the glowing red lava. By doing this they were able to cool down sections of lava and direct the lava rivers out into the ocean. The battle went on until the volcano quieted down five months later. Many people, having lost their homes, never returned to Vestmannaeyjar and the population shrank from 5.273 to just over 4.000.
If you want to go to Vestmannaeyjar, there are basically two choices. You can fly from Reykjavík (ca. 25min) with Ernir or go with the ferry. Once you are there you can go on all sorts of boat tours, the volcano museum, “The Pompeii of the north" or just explore the island on your own. If you don’t bring a car with you, you can rent a scooter and see the whole island.
Oh and if you are still not convinced, check out these great panoramas that Ivan Dasko posted to Iceland in Pictures facebook wall recently. The photographer in this panorama is standing on top of the new lava field with several houses beneath him. The other panorama looks across the town and the Herjólfsdalur valley. Herjólfsdalur is famous for attracting roughly 10.000 people for the annual Þjóðhátíð (E. National Holiday) every August. It’s not really a national holiday of any sorts, but it is Iceland’s largest outdoor party. Both of the panoramas feature the new volcano, Eldfell (E. Fire Mountain). It is the red sloping peak which has little vegetation on it.
You might also want to check out some previous posts about Vestmannaeyjar. Check out a video by National Geographic about children rescuing puffins, an awesome picture of the 1973 eruption, the Heimaklettur cliff or Iceland’s most popular youtube video, featuring a fishing ship battling a crazy storm on its way into the Vestmannaeyjar harbor.