The Eldfell Eruption of 1973

44 years ago, on January 23, 1973, a previously-unknown fissure in the Earth beneath the small Icelandic island of Heimaey opened up less than a mile from the town of Vestmannaeyjar, which had a population of about 5,000 at the time. Within a day’s time, almost the entire island was safely evacuated, and geologists began to monitor the eruption. The newly-formed Eldfell volcano erupted for about six months, covering much of Vestmannaeyjar in ash, destroying several hundred homes, and sending lava flows toward the harbor—at one point raising the water temperature to 111° F (44° C). An enormous and largely-successful effort was made to slow and control the lava flow by pumping seawater and spraying the leading edge of the flows. Within a year after the end of the eruption, most residents had returned, and today, the island remains inhabited, with a population of about 4,500.

Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.

Most Recent

  • Ezra Acayan / Getty

    Photos of the Week: Giant Boar, Ice Music, Patagonian Glacier

    A bull-taming festival in India, icy purification in Tokyo, locusts in Ethiopia, illuminated hats in Switzerland, a coming-of-age ceremony in Tokyo, bushfires in Australia, and much more.

  • Franck Fife / AFP / Getty

    Photos From the 2020 Dakar Rally

    Images of some of the 560 competitors taking part in a 12-day, 4,660-mile (7,500-kilometer) off-roading adventure held entirely in Saudi Arabia this year.

  • © Greg Lecoeur / Ocean Art

    Winners of the 2019 Ocean Art Underwater Photo Contest

    Some of the top images from the 16 categories of underwater photography in this year’s competition.

  • Ezra Acayan / Getty

    Photos of the Eruption of Taal Volcano

    Hundreds of thousands of residents within a 10-mile radius of the volcano are now being evacuated.