In the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, along the southwest coast of the small island nation of Iceland, the rocky cliffs of the Westman Islands, or Vestmannaeyjar, pierce the the otherwise pristine horizon. Of the many islands that make up the craggy archipelago, only one is inhabited - Heimaey, or home island. Most Icelanders simply refer to this place as Eyjar, the island.
With just over 4000 people, the little volcanic island has one of the larger populations outside of the capital, Reykjavik. However, perhaps because of its remote location and its simple fishing dependent economy, Vestmannaeyjar has remained a small traditional community. Kids walk to school, and play outside. Everyone knows everyone. Nestled amongst active volcanos, and battered by North Atlantic winds, Heimaey seems sleepy and austere, yet thrives and bustles under its quiet exterior. Just like the seemingly dormant volcano, Eldfell, (that erupted 40 years ago, burying homes in lava and ash) this community prospers in quiet persistence.
Icelanders live in the shadow of nature. Nowhere in this small nordic nation is this more true then in Vestmanneyjar- where people live at the whim of their environment - cataclysmic volcanic eruptions, and humbling weather. Perhaps because of their environment, Icelanders seem to have an innate humility. With dramatic views of beautiful landscapes in almost every direction, the restrained architecture seems to give reverence to the environment. An island amongst islands, Heimaey and it’s residents seem to exemplify the Icelandic spirit, perseverance, humility, and community.