Surtsey: The Newest Island in the World

It’s easy to forget that our planet is a lot more active than it seems. One stark reminder of the fluidity of our planet was a remarkable underwater volcanic eruption that occurred back in June November 1963. This explosion created a brand new landmass just off the coast of Iceland which has been known as Surtsey after Surtur, the Norse god of fire. On November the 14th this volcano breached the surface Atlantic Ocean and a new island was officially formed.

This rare spectacular event shocked the crew of a local fishing boat, who sailed over to help believing the plumes of smoke to be another boat in need of assistance. Instead they witnessed an island being formed in the water before them. Three weeks later a team of French journalists foolishly set foot on the still active volcano. They didn’t stay there long, as a volcanic explosion forced them to flee almost as soon as they had arrived.

Surtsey continued to grow for another 3 and a half years. At the end of its eruption the volcano created an island 2.7sqkm with a peak 174 meters above sea level. Although today Surtsey has suffered badly from erosion. The soft volcanic rock means Surtsey is now only half the size it was when it was first formed.

Interestingly the island is teaming with wildlife and fauna already. Just 1 year after Surtsey was formed the first plant life was observed. Upon arrival of birds who set up next on the island the nutrition poor soil gained some much needed sustenance from the bird droppings. Seals and migratory birds have now also set up home on Surtsey. In order to not disrupt this real life science museum, very few humas are allowed on Surtsey.

Getting to Surtsey

Although you’re not permitted to set food on Surtsey it is still possible to get near the island. You can travel to the town of Heimaey on Vestmannaeyjar, either by ferry from the south of Iceland, or fly from Reykjavik. Run boat tours from Heimaey around the island of Sturtset, which is the best way to get up close to the world’s newest island!

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