Friday, July 22, 2011

The Westman Islands

Ambassador Arreaga and Óskar Jakob Sigurðsson

Two days in the beautiful Westman Islands provided a brief snapshot of this amazing place.  I had the honor of meeting Óskar Jakob Sigurðsson, a living legend in Iceland and beyond.  He takes care of Iceland's last manned lighthouse, collects scientific air and rain samples, and holds the world record for the largest number of birds tagged for conservation purposes.   Universities and institutions from all over the world benefit from his service, including NOAA and the University of Miami.  I also saw the vestiges of the 1973 eruption, when the island's inhabitants showed the world what ingenuity and perseverance can accomplish when they slowed down and eventually stopped the lava that threatened to engulf their city.  I was proud to learn that the U.S. Navy provided many of the pumps used to pull water from the sea to cool the lava.  It was also impressive to learn how the islands’ economy is thriving with very strong fisheries and tourism industries.   I can’t wait to return and hike some of the nearby cliffs.