Fifty-Five Year Anniversary of Surtsey Eruption Skip to content
Photo: Within hours of reaching the surface, Surtsey’s ash column was several kilometres high..

Fifty-Five Year Anniversary of Surtsey Eruption

Today marks the 55th anniversary of the Surtsey eruption which formed Iceland’s newest island in 1963. RÚV reported first. Starting 130 metres (430 feet) below sea level, the eruption reached the surface on November 14, 1963, eventually forming Surtsey island off Iceland’s South Coast.

The eruption was noticed at 7.15am from the trawler Ísleifur II when it broke the surface of the ocean close to the Westman Islands. The eruption lasted for about three and a half years, until June 5, 1967, creating an island measuring 2.7km2 (1mi2). Surtsey has since diminished in size due to wave erosion and in 2012 was measured at 1.3km2 (0.5mi2). It remains the second-largest island in the Westman Islands archipelago after Heimaey.

Surtsey was declared a nature reserve in 1965. In 2008, UNESCO declared the island a World Heritage Site in recognition of its scientific value. Now only select scientists are permitted to land on the island for research purposes. The island is now home to some 70 plant species as well as numerous insects, and is a breeding site for over a dozen bird species as well as seals.

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