oil on canvas, 51cm x 41cm, Iain White, 2007, £145
Heimaey, the principal island and town of the group has an economic importance far in excess of its population (only 2% of Iceland’s total population). Nonetheless, it is home to most of the nation’s fishing fleet and the centre of the fishing industry accounting for c. 12% of exports.
This supremacy was threatened in January 1973 when a huge wall of lava from the eruption was moving towards the large natural harbour threatening to seal it off from the open sea. Were this to have happened, the economic consequences for the island and its fishing industry would have been devastating. Fortunately by pumping millions of litres of water from the sea the lava was cooled and stopped before it closed the harbour.