Surtsey is a volcanic island located in the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago off the southern coast of Iceland. It was formed in a volcanic eruption which began 130 metres below sea level, and reached the surface on 14 November 1963. The eruption lasted until 5 June 1967, when the island reached its maximum size of 2.7 km2.

Since then, wave erosion has caused the island to steadily diminish in size: as of 2012, its surface area was 1.3 km2.The most recent survey (2007) shows the island’s maximum elevation at 155 m (509 ft) above sea level.

surtsey (1)

Scheme of a surtseyan eruption. 1. Water vapor cloud 2. Cupressoid ash 3. Crater 4. Water 5. Layers of lava and ash 6. Stratum 7. Magma conduit 8. Magma chamber 9. Dike/ Image: Wikipedia

The new island was named after Surtr, a fire jötunn or giant from Norse mythology. It was intensively studied by volcanologists during its eruption, and afterwards by botanists and other biologists as life forms gradually colonised the originally barren island. The undersea vents that produced Surtsey are part of the Vestmannaeyjar submarine volcanic system, part of the fissure of the sea floor called the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. 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.

Surtsey eruption 1963 / Image: Wikipedia

 

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