Man against volcano: The eruption on Heimaey, Vestmann Islands, Iceland

General Information Product
Prepared in cooperation with the Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs, The Center for Short-Lived Phenomena, the University of Iceland Science Institute, and the Icelandic National Research Council
By:  and 



The U.S. Geological Survey carries out scientific studies in the geological, hydrological, and cartographic sciences generally within the 50 states, but also in cooperation with scientific organizations in many foreign countries for the investigation of unusual earth science phenomena throughout the world. The following material discusses the impact of the 1973 volcanic eruption of Eldfell on the fishing port of Vestmannaeyjar on the island of Heimaey, Iceland. Before the eruption was over, approximately one-third of the town of Vestmannaeyjar had been obliterated but, more importantly, the potential damage had been reduced markedly by the spraying of seawater onto the advancing lava flows, causing them to be slowed, stopped, or diverted from the undamaged portion of the town. The Survey's interest and involvement in the Heimaey eruption in Iceland was occasioned by the possibility that the procedures used to control the course of the flowing lava and to reduce the damage in a modern town may some day be needed in Hawaii and possibly even in the continental United States. This publication is based on the observations of two USGS geologists, Richard S. Williams, Jr. and James G. Moore, as well as on information from the Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Icelandic scientists' reports through the Center for Short-Lived Phenomena, and other published scientific reports. A number of Icelandic scientists studied the scientific aspects of the eruption and the engineering aspects of the control of lava flows, in particular, Professors Thorbjb'rn Sigurgeirsson and Sigurdur Thorarinsson of the University of Iceland Science Institute. Also, Icelandic governmental officials provided logistical and other support, in particular, Mr. Steingnmur Hermannsson, Director, Icelandic National Research Council and Professor Magnus Magnusson, Director, University of Iceland Science Institute.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Unnumbered Series
Title Man against volcano: The eruption on Heimaey, Vestmann Islands, Iceland
Series title General Information Product
DOI 10.3133/70039211
Year Published 1976
Language English
Publisher U.S. Government Printing Office
Publisher location Washington, D.C.
Description 19 p.
Country Iceland
City Vestmannaeyjar
Other Geospatial Heimaey Island;Vestmann Islands;Eldfell