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Surtsey shrinking

Icelandic State Radio, RÚV, reports that Surtsey, the volcanic island south of Iceland, has decreased by half since its eruptions ended in 1967. The yearly summer field-trip of the Icelandic Institute of Natural History took place last Thursday. According to Sturla Fridriksson, a geneticist who has researched Surtsey since it was created in 1963, the island continues to decrease and is half the size of what it used to be. He says it is remarkable to observe the island since traffic of people to it is limited and the island relatively free of human impact. This year’s trip marked Sturla’s 41 st visit. Vegetation on the island has started to resemble that on other nearby islands. According to Borgthór Magnússon, a plant ecologist, most of the plants that have settled on the islands are thriving. Currently, there are over 50 types of plants on the island. Sea campion and northern rock-cress are the most common specimens. All birds that have nested in the island since inception have returned to breed this year, except one. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />

According to Volcano World, “Surtsey is a classic example of the growth of a new volcanic island, episodic eruptions began in November 8, 1963 and ended on June 5, 1967. The volcano grew from the sea floor, at a depth of 130 m, to sea level by November 15. During the first few days, eruptions were not explosive and probably consisted of gentle effusion of pillow lava. As the volcano grew towards sea level the water pressure decreased and activity became explosive. Surtsey is about 1.5 km in diameter and has an area of 2.8 square km. Surtsey is 33 km south of the main island of Iceland and 20 km southwest of Heimaey. The island is named for Surtur, a giant of fire in Icelandic mythology.”

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