Vestmannaeyjar (vĕstˈmänäāˌyär) [key], group of 15 small islands, c.10 mi (16 km) S of Iceland. In English they are known as the Westman Islands. The largest and most populous is Heimaey [home island]. The people live by fishing, fowling, and farming; great colonies of gannets and other waterfowl breed in these islands. The chief town is Vestmannaeyjar (1993 pop. 4,886) on Heimaey. In 1627, Algerian pirates ravaged the islands and carried nearly 300 people into slavery. In 1963 a volcanic eruption created the island of Surtsey. The eruption of a volcano on Heimaey in 1973 damaged Vestmannaeyjar and curtailed the fishing industry.