We Always Come Back to Home Island (Museums in Strange Places S01 E18)

No matter what happens on the Westman Islands off Iceland’s south coast–invading pirates, mass Mormon exoduses, months-long volcanic eruptions, mysterious diseases, perilous fishing waters–the island people, Eyjamenn, always come back to rebuild and repopulate. That’s what makes their home island, Heimaey, so unique. In this episode, I visit the local history museum to hear the stories that define them.

Music in this episode is by Sume.

This episode is sponsored by Locatify. Locatify is an Icelandic software company specializing in mobile apps that use location technologies for Immersive audio guides, treasure hunt games, Augmented Reality and indoor GPS.

Sound credits: Ferry Sounds, Festival Sounds

How to Listen to Museums in Strange Places

Welcome to Museums in Strange Places. I’m your host, Hannah Hethmon, and this is a podcast for people who love museums, stories, culture, and exploring the world.

In this season of the podcast, I’m visiting the museums of Iceland to discover what stories they hold and how they reflect and shape Iceland’s unique cultural identity.

The podcast is hosted by me, Hannah Hethmon, an American Fulbright Fellow living in Reykjavík. You can find and follow me on Twitter and Instagram @hannah_rfh.

The Museums in Strange Places podcast is available on your favorite podcast listening platforms (Did I miss one you like? Let me know!):

Learn More

DirectorBaltasar Kormákur made a great film about the fisherman who swam to shore despite all the odds. It’s called “The Deep,” and stars the fantastic Icelandic actor Olafur Dári.

A scientific article on the neonatal tetanus that plagued the island for many years.

The Westman Islands of Iceland – the Settler, the Beautiful Stave Church & more interesting Things” by Regína Hrönn Ragnarsdóttir

Herjólfsbærinn – Herjólfur’s Old Farmstead in the Westman Islands” by Regína Hrönn Ragnarsdóttir

Official festival song from 2017:

Official festival song from 2011:

Photos of the Vestmannaeyjar/ Westman Islands

The town on Heimaey, the only inhabited island in the Westman Islands, as seen from the top of the Eldfell volcano.
The town on Heimaey, the only inhabited island in the Westman Islands, as seen from the top of the Eldfell volcano.
The lava fields created by the 1973 eruption, as seen from the top of the Eldfell volcano.
Town of Vestmannaeyjar
Town of Vestmannaeyjar
Town of Vestmannaeyjar’s graveyard
Historic harbor area with remains of 17th century fort (left), reproduction of c.a. 1000ad stave church (center), and the hospital built by the Danish doctor and Solveig to solve the mysterious disease killing babies. All surrounded by lava fields from the 1973 eruption.
The hospital building built by the Danish doctor and Solveig to help solve the mysterious disease killing babies.

Photos of the Sagnheimar Museum

Museum director Helga Halbergsdóttir
Exhibit on the dangerous life of fishermen.

A typical bird-catching hut. Historically, these would have been set up on some of the uninhabited islands to catch birds and collect eggs, but today the bird species are too threatened by climate change, so the locals can no longer use them as a source of food.
The first Mormon missionaries to Iceland.
Map of Mormon emigration from the Westman Islands to Salt Lake City.

Festival tents
Panel about the crazy matching costumes groups wear to the Þjóðhátið festival every year.
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