The islands are named after Irish slaves. The Old Norse word "Vestmenn", literally "west-men", was applied to the Irish, and retained in Icelandic even though Ireland is east of Iceland. Not long after Ingólfur Arnarson arrived in Iceland, his brother Hjörleifur was murdered by Irish slaves he had brought with him. Ingolfur tracked them down to Vestmannaeyjar and killed them all in retribution.
In the year 1627 the islands were attacked by a fleet of Algerian pirates, who killed many and enslaved much of the population and took them to Algeria where most of them lived the rest of their lives in bondage.
The area is very volcanically active, like the rest of Iceland. There were two major eruptions in the 20th century: the Eldfell eruption of 1973 caused the island's 5000 inhabitants to be temporarily evacuated to the mainland, and the Surtsey eruption of 1963 created the new island of Surtsey.
The islands are famed in Iceland for their yearly festival, "Þjóðhátíð", which attracts a large portion of the nation's youth. The festival was originally held because of the islanders inability to participate in the festivities due to the 1000 year aniversary of inhabitation of Iceland, and decided to hold their own festival. The word "Þjóðhátíð" means "national festival". For the first seventy years or so it was a large family oriented festival, but has in the last century become a rite of passage for teenagers, and an exceptionally fun event for the alcohol-oriented.
- Official website
- Picture gallery from www.islandsmyndir.is
- General information
- Heimaey (the volcano)
|Selected Municipalities of Iceland|
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