Jul 10, 2008

Amazing Surtsey Island

Surtsey is a volcanic island, situated at 63.303° N 20.6047° W, off the southern coast of Iceland. This southernmost point of Iceland was formed by volcanic eruptions that took place between 1963 and 1967. Free from human interference, Surtsey has been providing unique information to scientists, on the colonisation process of new land by plant and animal life. In 2008, UNESCO declared the Surtsey island a World Heritage Site, in recognition of its great scientific value.

The first volcanic eruption began on 14 November 1963, at 130 meters below sea level. Over the next week, volcanic explosions were continuous, and after just a few days the new island, formed mainly of scoria, measured over 500 metres in length and had reached a height of 45 metres.

The new island was named after the fire god Surtr from Norse mythology. As the eruptions continued, by 5 June 1967, the island reached its maximum size of 2.7 km². Since then, wind and wave erosion has seen the island steadily diminish in size: As of 2002, its surface area was 1.4 km².

Surtsey was intensively studied by volcanologists during its creation. And it also has been of great interest to botanists and biologists as life has gradually colonised the originally barren island. Surtsey was declared a nature reserve in 1965 while the eruption was still in active progress. Today only some selected scientists are permitted to land on Surtsey. This faciliates the natural ecological succession for the island to proceed without outside interference by human.


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