The 1973 Vestmannaeyjar eruption

"Everything will be OK"

Video & photographyBjörn Steinbekk
Words byBjörn Steinbekk
Location63°44’12” N, -20°27’28” W

The 1973 Vestmanneyjar eruption was a pivotal event in Iceland, causing mass evacuation and extensive damage over a 6 month period. Despite the devastation, residents courageously rebuilt their community. This summer, they celebrate the eruption's 50th anniversary, honoring resilience and recovery.

50 years since the end of the eruption

Few things are more Icelandic than the phrase "Þetta reddast," which can be translated to "Everything will be OK." In few places, this phrase is more true than in Vestmannaeyjar, where the harsh nature, pirates, countless shipwrecks, and volcanic eruptions in the town's tundra have shaped the attitude and tested the fortitude of those who live and love the beautiful island.

These events create a specific image of Vestmannaeyjar and the people that live there. These are the people that the elements have tested repeatedly, and their well-known and sometimes controversial humor is used to lighten the mood during their dark hours and days.

There are never problems in Vestmannaeyjar, only solutions, with the cup always being half full.

It doesn't matter if the town hosts a couple of soccer tournaments with thousands of participants or stages Iceland's most popular music festival, where adventure-seeking youngsters from the mainland mix with the locals in harmony with Iceland‘s best artists. Everyone comes together to create memories that will live with them for decades, and the memory of the beauty of Vestmannaeyjar will live with them forever.

Few things have tested the serenity of the men and women on the island more than the eruption in Heimaey, which began on January 23rd, 1973, and ended on July 3rd. Never before in recent times had a volcanic eruption started in a settlement or a town in Iceland, yet with seamless reaction and organization, combined with the unique mentality of the people in Vestmannaeyjar, more than 5.000 people were evacuated from the island and brought to shelter up on the mainland. That night „Everything turned out OK.“

In Vestmannaeyjar, life is wonderful. The puffin fills the summer sky, and the island clusters create a landscape that leaves no one untouched.

Vestmannaeyjar is a unique place. There is an incredible selection of restaurants on the island. Each one of them has its own style and identity. At some, the chef's love for the beautiful islands and the sea that surrounds them can be experienced through unique and mesmerizing courses that can only be created by people that have mastered the art of "Þetta reddast."

It is in Vestmannaeyjar where the cliffs, the rocks, the volcanoes, and the sea create a unique scenery that few places match in beauty and contrast.

The fact that 50 years ago, more than 400 houses burned or disappeared under lava and ash in the Islands, and women and men worked day and night to save houses, belongings, memories, and the harbor during the winter, spring, and summer tells us that despite everything that might happen and nature and life throws at us, „Everything will be OK.“

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