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Posted by on Jan 15, 2019 in Tell Me Why Numerous Questions and Answers |

Where Is Surtsey?

Where Is Surtsey?

Surtsey is a volcanic island, a few miles south-west of the Westman Islands which are situated off the south coast of Iceland. The island appeared as a result of a volcanic activity on November 14, 1963. The eruption lasted until 5 June 1967, when the island reached its maximum size of 2.7 km2 (1.0 sq mi). Since then, wave erosion has caused the island to steadily diminish in size: as of 2012, its surface area was 1.3 km2 (0.50 sq mi).

The most recent survey (2007) shows the island’s maximum elevation at 155 m (509 ft) above sea level. The eruption that created Surtsey also created a few other small islands along this volcanic chain, such as Jólnir and other unnamed peaks. Most of these eroded away fairly quickly. It is estimated that Surtsey will remain above sea level for another 100 years.

The Icelanders took the infant island into their care because it appeared in their territorial waters. They called the volcanic vent Surtur, and the island Surtsey (island of Surtur): In Old Icelandic mythology Surtur was a giant who brought destructive fire from the south as a weapon in his fight with Frey, the god of Fertility.

infant island

During its early life there was doubt about the island’s chance of survival, and many thought it might disappear. A similar one did vanish in 1783 after erupting from the sea 65 miles south-west of Reykjavik, the Icelandic capital. Survival and long life were assured when repeated outpourings of thin flowing lava followed the first violent eruptions. The lava capped the volcano with a gently sloping regular dome which acted as a protective shield.

The arrival of Surtsey was no real surprise. For the 10,000 – mile Mid-Atlantic Ridge, of which Iceland forms the largest above-sea land mass, had been active along its length for some years up to 1963, although since then things seem to have settled down, although further activity is always possible. The neighboring Westman Islands were produced by volcanic activity 8,000 years ago.

Content for this question contributed by Richard Bush, resident of Wexford, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, USA