The exhibition focuses on the 1973 volcanic eruption in the Westman Island’s, which is without a doubt one of Iceland’s biggest natural disasters. The eruption started in the early hours of January 23rd 1973 and it lasted for 5 months. Lava and ash destroyed almost 400 homes and businesses, which was a third of all buildings on Heimaey. Before the eruption, the population on Heimaey was around 5.300 people. The entire population, apart from about 200 rescue workers who stayed behind, fled to the mainland to live with relatives or in temporary housing. Lava and ash covered 2,5 square kilometres or about 20%, of the island. A new volcano, Eldfell, had risen 220 metres tall and Heimaey had grown 2 square kilometres.
40 years after the eruption, Eldheimar opened up as a museum of remembrance, giving visitors the chance to go back in time and learn about this dramatic event. The highlight of the exhibition is the house on Gerðisbraut 10. With the youngest child of the family living there only a few weeks old, the inhabitants were forced to leave their home in the middle of the night taking with them only a bottle for the baby. A few days later their home had drowned in ash and lava. Gerðisbraut 10, after being buried in ash and lava for over 40 years, has now been excavated and shows how cruelly nature treated the homes of so many islanders.
The exhibition also covers the Surtsey eruption, the island that emerged from the ocean south of Heimaey in 1963. The Surtsey eruption lasted for almost 4 years and ever since only scientists have been allowed on the island in order to monitor how new ecosystems come to life.