Analysis and Impact of the Geologic Features In Iceland
By: Tan Kai De
Iceland is an island located in the middle of the North Atlantic and Arctic Ocean, and with a population of just over 300,000, it is the most sparsely populated country in Europe, with its people inhabiting a total land area of 103,000 square kilometers. To put that into perspective, the Netherlands is about two and a half times the area (nationsonline.org, 2015), but has nearly 60 times the population at nearly 17 million inhabitants (Countrymeters.info, 2015). This is despite the fact that the cultural history of the country can be dated back to about 800AD, and settlement occurred from 870-930AD.
Over time, more and more material is carried to the surface and accumulates gradually, eventually breaking the surface of the water. Iceland gained its mass that it has today from these continuous magma plumes over an estimated 24 million years (Waterfire.fas.is, 2015).
Diagram 2 from Academic.emporia.edu., 2015
Essentially, the sheer volume of magma that has been rising to the surface from the hotspot has steadily fuelled the growth of Iceland. According to Diagram 2, the focus of the mantle plume is around Vatnajokull, the largest ice cap in Iceland, from which there are relatively frequent eruptions, the last one being in 1996 (Icelandmag, 2015). There are also other active rift zones that are located around the island, where magma can also rise from the surface. The abandoned rift zones to the west of Iceland gives proof to the plate tectonics theory, that the plates are slowly moving away from one another. It is also suggested that when the hotspot eventually cools down, Iceland could eventually split into two islands altogether.
Iceland can draw many parallels in its formation to its Pacific cousins of Japan and Hawaii, both of which were also born out of magma hotspots. However, the unique thing about Iceland is that while both Japan and Hawaii have multiple islands, Iceland remains very much an entire island, which gives an indication of the volume and frequency of volcanic lava that has risen out over the many millions of years. In fact, one can gain a modern insight as to how Iceland could have formed, by looking at the formation of Surtsey in the 1960s, where an island virtually formed overnight in the middle of the ocean (Center, 2008).
Tourists from all over the world flock to Iceland to see the amazing geological features that Iceland has to offer. We will be looking at a few of the most interesting geological phenomenon that Iceland has, and explain how they were formed to become the amazing sights that know today. We will be looking at the black sand beaches, the pure natural water, basalt columns, Thingvellir and the volcanoes.
Black Sand Beaches
Many tourists are fascinated by the black sand beaches of Iceland, while Icelanders are all but unfazed at the phenomenon. While certainly not unique to Iceland, it is certainly extremely striking to look at, especially when compared to the golden beaches that are more common around the world.
To put it simply, the beaches are black because they consist of volcanic rock and minerals. Iceland’s rock mineral composition are made up of mostly basalt, which gives it its signature black colour. As Iceland is an island that was born out of volcanic activity, basalt is in high abundance. As the hot lava meets the cold sea water, it is rapidly cooled down, and this contraction causes the lava to shatter into particles of varying sizes (Soest.hawaii.edu, 2015). Much of the particles are actually small enough to be considered sand. The grains are usually...