Iceland Celebrates Surtsey’s Acknowledgement Skip to content

Iceland Celebrates Surtsey’s Acknowledgement

Icelandic ministers and scientists who have observed the development of the young volcanic island Surtsey, off Iceland’s southwestern coast, celebrate the news that the island has been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

“There is certainly a reason to celebrate when two of our nominations have been registered to the World Heritage List,” Minister of Education and Culture Thorgerdur Katrín Gunnarsdóttir told Morgunbladid.

In 2004, Thingvellir National Park—where Iceland’s Althingi parliament was founded in 930 AD—was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List for its cultural significance.

Gunnarsdóttir said Surtsey’s addition to the World Heritage List could prove a boost for the tourist industry. Although tourists are not allowed to visit the island, it could be made more visible, like with a special volcanic eruption exhibition which was presented in the Westman Islands last weekend.

UNESCO said the most interesting thing about Surtsey is that it had been protected since it was created in a series of volcanic eruptions between 1963 and 1967.

“We need to celebrate the acknowledgement involved in [Surtsey’s addition to UNESCO] for those who have guarded over Surtsey to this day and thus enabled the island’s listing,” said Minister of Justice Björn Bjarnason, who also heads Iceland’s world heritage committee.

Surtsey has been persevered as a living laboratory since 1965 with scientists visiting it regularly to observe the development of plant and animal life on the island.

Geneticist Sturla Fridriksson has been involved in scientific expeditions to Surtsey since its birth. “This is fantastic news,” he said in regards to the island being inscribed on the World Heritage List.

UNESCO encouraged Iceland to re-nominate Surtsey as part of a multi-national series of nominations of places on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge or as part of a series of nominations of Icelandic volcanoes.

The Icelandic world heritage committee also plans a series of registrations of Viking relics in different countries and the registration and preservation of the Icelandic turf farm.

Click here to read more about Surtsey.

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