Iceland may not be a volcanic island at all, but it is one summit sunken continent. Geophysicist Gillian R. Folger and colleagues from Durham University in England make this conclusion in a new book.
The theory may explain why the crust beneath Iceland would be thicker than it would have been if the island was formed by a volcanic eruption.
Iceland is located where two tectonic plates are moving and a hot magma well is moving volcanoes from Earth. From time to time, small volcanic islands appear in the waters around the main island, which makes the interpretation that the entire land mass is caused by natural volcanic activity.
But there is significant evidence pointing to the fact that Iceland is in fact the remains of a continent.
Tectonic plates – or geological crust – under Earth’s oceans are usually between six and seven kilometers thick, while those under continents are slightly thicker, ranging from 35 to 70 kilometres. Under Iceland, the crust is about 40 kilometers thick, and therefore it is more similar to the continental crust than to the marine crust.
Geologists have previously explained the thick crust by saying that Iceland lies on the so-called geological hotspot, where intense volcanic activity forms new crust very quickly.
But Folger thinks the theory doesn’t hold. The crust is simply thicker than can be explained by the theory.
Instead, you think of Iceland as the pinnacle of a 600,000 square kilometer continent in the North Atlantic – Iceland’s lost continent.
According to Folger, Iceland was once part of the supercontinent Pangea, where all the land masses on Earth coalesced until about 175 million years ago. When America and Europe divided, Iceland’s continental crust sank and was covered by water. Today, only Iceland stands out from the sea.
British researchers will now examine the ground beneath Iceland and look for minerals that can reveal whether Iceland really exists.
If the continent theory proves correct, it is not only of interest to geologists. It can also be important for those who own underwater deposits of oil and natural gas.
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