Why don’t we just dump ocean water on all the wildfires?
Answered by: Elsa Kristian,Born and grew up in Iceland.
As lots of other people have pointed out, many of the wildfires just happen to be quite far from the ocean.
Salt water isn’t exactly good for the local flora and fauna.
There was a famous incident on Heimaey Island, which is a small island off the southern coast of Iceland, and part of Vestmannaeyjar, often called the Westman Islands in English.
Heimaey is a small island, with a bit over 5,000 people living on it. Its economy is mostly fishing, but It does get some tourists that come and see the puffins and visit with the twins, Eldfell and Helgafell.
You can take a ferry that leaves from Landeyjahfn, and get to Heimaey in about 35 minutes, but the last time my sister and I went, the ride was over two hours, because the seas were wild and angry, and tossed us around a bit.
But it was fun. :)
But during the early part of 1973, being on Heimaey wasn’t so much fun, because without warning, the island of Heimaey suddenly shook, and the volcano Eldfell, decided to wake up.
The name Eldfell, means Hill of Fire in Icelandic, and is well named indeed.
It was immediately obvious that this was a very bad eruption, and the entire island of over five thousand people were evacuated as quickly as possible. Because of this prompt action, only one life was lost because of Eldfell, and that was because someone decided to go back and break into a pharmacy to steal drugs. :(
Monstrous pillars of fire were flickering high into the air, and volcanic ash and huge red hot boulders, some the size of school buses, were tossed around the entire island. Streams of lava came pouring out, and by the end of the eruption the landmass of the island increased by over 20 percent.
A huge problem was developing. The massive wall of lava was heading toward the harbor, which the entire economy of the island was based. If the harbor was permanently closed because of the lava, the effects on the island would be catastrophic.
The ingenious Icelandic people thought of a daring and creative way of stopping the lava flow. They would use the ocean.
At first the attempts were careful and tenuous, but then when a gigantic chunk of the top of Eldfell broke away, and started being carried on top of the lava toward the harbor, it was time to get serious.
So many meters of pipes were quickly laid down, and powerful pumps brought in from the United States, capable of moving thousands of gallons of seawater per second, were activated.
Actually the pumps were made to carry oil and not seawater, but modifications were made by brilliant engineers in Reykjavik, and the pumps were made to work.
The work was extremely dangerous, but fortunately a few minor burns were the only casualties.
The idea of stopping the lava with seawater did indeed work. It took millions of gallons of seawater pumping constantly for months, but the lava flow was finally stopped only about 100 meters from the entrance of the harbor.
Hundreds of homes were destroyed, and Eldfell still lurks menacingly over the island. But the people of Heimaey did return and rebuild, and things are peaceful once again.
At least until Eldfell, or its volcanic friend, Helgafell, decide to have some fun, and test the fortitude, ingenuity and perseverance of the people of Heimaey once again.
We usually only post photos that we take ourselves, but considering we weren’t born yet when Eldfell erupted, we stole some photos off the internet to post. <3 <3
Eldfell and Helgafell. Bad company indeed.
The island of Heimaey. Eldfell and Helgafell are a bit to the upper right of the runway. You can see all the new land in the extreme upper right of the island that was made in the eruption.
Definitely time to get out. <3 <3