On November 14, 1963, a new island was born.
Off the coast of Iceland, one of the most geologically active spots on the planet, a volcanic island grew from the ocean floor some 420 feet down, breaking the surface on 11/14/63 in a fantastically awesome and powerful eruption. They named the island Surtsey. Eruptions continued until well into 1967, leaving a brand new island roughly 1 mile in diameter. The island has since been eroded by wind and water, but is still quite sizable.
The island forms when the magma from the volcano cools as it hits the ocean water.
It’s not often people get to witness a new island. If you think about it most people just accept the world as it is – because from our perspective it’s always been that way. Since the separation of Pangaea, and the advent of exploration, our maps have basically remained unchanged. Mostly that’s a result of plate tectonics being an incredible slow process. Did you know the Atlantic Ocean is actually getting bigger by a few centimeters a year? The Mid-Altantic Ridge is a divergent fault boundary – it also passes right through Iceland which is why Iceland has the distinct honor of being the only country on the planet that is actually growing in physical landmass. Pretty badass, right?
Surtsey is home to an abundant amount of plants and animals (mostly birds). Further info can be found here.
This isn’t anything new though – Hawaii was formed this way. In fact within the next 10,000 years Hawaii will have a new island in its chain. Hawaii is moving along on its tectonic plate over a hotspot – a fixed column of magma from the Earth’s mantle through the crust to the surface. Each island in the Hawaiian chain was built the same way Surtsey was but as the tectonic plates continued to move the island was cut off. So another one was built up from the magma in the hotspot. And so on. That’s why the island chain looks like it does. See below:
So what can we take from this? The Earth is ever changing beneath your feet. Geology, plate tectonics, and volcanoes are awesome.
Happy Birthday Surtsey!