Published January 24, 2013
Icelanders in the Westman Islands commemorated the 40th anniversary of the 1973 volcanic eruption on Heimaey.
RÚV reports that a procession marched from the town church to the foot of the volcano itself yesterday evening, where flares were ignited. Grade school children presented their school projects, which included interviewing older relatives about the eruption. Prayers of thanks, led by the Bishop of Iceland, were also conducted in the town church.
The 1973 eruption is remembered every year in Heimaey, although every five years a special commemoration is performed. The event is known around the world mostly for the ingenuity that Icelanders used to prevent the encroaching lava from destroying the town harbour: by spraying it with salt water. While the harbour was saved, about half the town was crushed by magma, and the eruption lasted until the summer. Amazingly, only one death was reported – a sailor who suffocated while trying to loot a pharmacy.
The public and civic response to the eruption is a point of pride for many Icelanders, in its demonstration of fast-thinking, calm, cooperative rescue efforts in the face of a serious natural disaster.
Film clips taken at the time of the eruption can be seen below: