Sunday, November 11, 2012

Surtsey Island

Surtsey is a new island formed by volcanic eruptions in 1963-67. It has been legally protected from its birth and provides the world with a pristine natural laboratory. Free from human interference, Surtsey has produced long-term information on the colonisation process of new land by plant and animal life.

Surtsey was born as a new volcanic island in 1963-67 and since that time has played a major role in studies of succession and colonisation. It has been the site of one of the few long term studies worldwide on primary succession, providing a unique scientific record of the process of colonisation of land by plants, animals and marine organisms. Not only is it geographically isolated, but it has been legally protected from its birth, providing the world with a pristine natural laboratory, free from human interference. Above all, because of its continuing protection, Surtsey will continue to provide invaluable data on biological colonisation long into the future.

The new island was named after Surtra fire jötunn or giant from Norse mythology. It was intensively studied by volcanologists during its eruption, and afterwards bybotanists and biologists as life forms gradually colonised the originally barren island. The undersea vents that produced Surtsey are part of the Vestmannaeyjar (Westmann Isles) submarine volcanic system, part of the fissure of the sea floor called the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Vestmannaeyjar also produced the famous eruption of Eldfell on the island of Heimaey in 1973. 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.
The three stamps on the FDC were issued on 23.6.1965 showing the Surtsey Island in the process of evolving. Thank you Maria for this nice FDC.
Estimates of how long Surtsey will survive are based on the rate of erosion seen up to the present day. Assuming that the current rate does not change, the island will be mostly at or below sea level by 2100. However, the rate of erosion is likely to slow as the tougher core of the island is exposed: an assessment assuming that the rate of erosion will slow exponentially suggests that the island will survive for many centuries. An idea of what it will look like in the future is given by the other small islands in the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago, which formed in the same way as Surtsey several thousand years ago, and have eroded away substantially since they were formed.

No comments:

Post a Comment