The Mountain of Fire is an enquiry into the complex interrelations between mankind and nature
set against the unpredictable terrain of the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago in southern Iceland. By
investigating themes of absence and remembrance, I reflect on the volcanic eruption of Eldfell
on the island of Heimaey in 1973. I examine how this sudden trauma to the symbolic order of
existence transformed both the island’s geography and the collective psyche of the people who
dwell there; inhabitants who exist between a landscape gone and a landscape to come.
In the early hours of 23rd January 1973, after lying still for millenia, the island of Heimaey
suddenly split open sending columns of lava into the night sky. The birth of Eldfell (Icelandic
for ‘The Mountain of Fire’) led to an immediate five-month evacuation and destroyed many
homes, violently altering the island's geography in the process.
By the end of the eruption in July 1973 Eldfell had grown to a height of 200 metres and the
island's land area had increased by 20%. Many of the islanders began to return to Heimaey, a
colourless landscape of ash they now hardly recognised, irreversibly transformed by the
geomorphic forces of nature. I consider the legacy of such an event by capturing Heimaey’s
stark terrain, revered again by its inhabitants as a home; an island refuge in an unforgiving