Did you know that Vestmannaeyjar, or the Westmann Islands, are an archipelago of 15 islands, south of Iceland?
The story goes that Westmann Islanders are so proud of their islands that they consider “Main Iceland” as the northernmost island of their archipelago!
The islands have great history – geologically speaking, they lie on a volcanic zone in southern Iceland and were formed by eruptions over the past 10,000–12,000 years.
The volcanic system they belong to consists of around 70 volcanoes, both above and below the sea – the last (and very famous!) two eruptions occurred in the last quarter of the past century : first, a submarine eruption which lasted from 1963 to 1967 and gave birth to Surtsey, the last of the archipelago’s islands. The newly emerged piece of land was named after Surtr, a fire entity from Norse mythology.
A few years later, in 1973, a fissure opened in the ground in the middle of a calm January night and started spewing fire just a few hundred metres from the closest farm on the main island Heimaey!
This eruption lasted around 6 months, causing most of the 5,300 inhabitants to be evacuated off the islands and find shelter with anyone who could house them on the mainland, whilst a few stayed behind to try and save what was most valuable.
Ultimately, most inhabitants were to come back, but the damage done by the eruption was considerable, and 400 houses were lost under the ash and lava. The eruption added about 2.5 square kilometres of new land to the island and led to the formation of Eldfell, a volcanic cone which now stands 200m, an unmissable feature of Heimaey.
Stamp 678A was released on Feb 7th and celebrates a centenary of Vestmannaeyjar’s municipal rights, which the islands first acquired along with five other towns in 1786. The six towns thus officially became the first townships in Iceland.
On November 22, 1918, a law passed by Althingi (the Icelandic Parliament) concerning municipal rights for the Westman Islands was approved by the King of Denmark (since at the time, Iceland was still under Danish rule). The law came into effect on January 1, 1919, which is the date of establishment of the Westman Islands. The first meeting of the City Council of Vestmannaeyjar took place on 14 February 1919.
Of the 90 thousand Icelanders the country counted at the time, the population in the Westman Islands numbered around two thousand. Today, the Islands count a population of around 4300.
Designer Hlynur Ólafsson created the stamp and also photographed the featured landscape. Incidentally, Hlynur happens to hail from the Westmann Islands!
Issue: 678A – 07/02/2019
Design and photography: Hlynur Ólafsson
Printer: Cartor Security
Printing Process: Offset Litho
Stamp size: 50×28 mm
Sheet configuration: 10 stamps
Paper: 247 gsm self-adhesive
Price: 50g domestic (180 ISK)
Total issued: 60.000
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