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Gone West – Vesturfarinn

Updated: Jul 10, 2020

There is a wonderful place that is often overlooked by visitors to Iceland. The northeast coast and the town of Vopnafjörður are very important. Vopnafjörður was a main port of Icelandic emigration to America and many of us can trace our families to East Iceland.

They have the wonderful East Iceland Emigration Center. WEBSITE and FACEBOOK links. They are located in the Kaupvangur, which was built in 1882. Many emigrants made their departure arrangements in this building and boarded ships in the harbor just outside the windows.

My special friends in Vopnafjörður are Cathy Josephson with me in this picture and the man behind the camera, Jobbi Jósepsson. Kolla Baldwinson helps with this Facebook page and many others including the INL of NA page. All three (and many others) are helping to preserve our shared Icelandic story. Some of the following information is from their brochure and information from Cathy, who manages the Emigration Center.

The focus of the Center is the entire east side of Iceland and it is managed by a great group of volunteers. They are a registered non-profit organization in Iceland and take donations to help continue their work on reuniting families and keeping the history of the Icelanders in East Iceland alive.

From 1873 – 1911, over 4,000 Icelanders left northeast Iceland for North America. From the port of Vopnafjörður, over 2,500 individuals left for America.

Young men and women had no money, no way to rent a small farm, to marry. Only a life of working for food and shelter, as had their fathers and mothers. Children of poor parents raised in foster care.

Early in 1875, a fiery eruption began in Askja Volcano ….. followed by another in the Mývatn wastelands. Then, in March there was an incredible eruption in Askja. Pumice and ash rained over East Iceland. Farms in the highlands and other places were abandoned, some permanently.