In the last quarter of the nineteenth-century, many Icelanders who were poor and in great difficulty fled their native shores and headed westwards in the hope of a better life. The first group exodus west departed in the year 1873, although some Mormons had earlier made their way to Utah and a few individuals to Wisconsin in the United States. In addition, small groups travelled to Brazil. After this, people began to stream westwards by sea, and in the period to 1914 a total of 15,000 Icelanders migrated to the west. This was a great loss for such a lightly populated nation.
Far into the twentieth-century, there was a distinctive community of Icelanders in the west. Those who moved west across the sea are normally called West Icelanders.
Today, those Canadians who are either of part or complete Icelandic origin number close to two hundred thousand. They are no longer looked upon as West Icelanders, rather Canadians.
A special museum about the westward journeys has been established at Hofsós in Skagafjörður.