This vast highland plateau lies 500-600 m above sea level and it is about 60 km long. The landscape is rather flat, alternating barren gravel hills, lakes, and vegetated marshlands. Around the middle of the 19th century poor people, who wanted to lead independent lives inhabited the plateau. Properties in the lowlands were too expensive. The ash from the 1875 eruption of the central volcano Askja and the difficult living conditions forced most of the families to abandon their livelihood. There was no employment to be had elsewhere in the country and most of the people had to emigrate to North America. Three of the most prominent authors of the country, Halldor Laxness, Jon Trausti and Gunnar Gunnarsson, based some of their works on the experiences of those people. The last farm was abandoned just before the middle of the 20th century and one of them has been rebuilt as a museum.