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Surtsey

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Adam Hawthorne
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« on: April 14, 2007, 05:12:01 pm »



Surtsey in southwest Iceland

At 07:15 UTC+0 on 14 November 1963, the cook of Ísleifur II, a trawler sailing off the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago south of Iceland, spotted something south-west of the boat, which turned out to be a rising column of dark smoke. The vessel went to investigate the smoke, the captain thinking it might be a boat on fire, but instead they encountered explosive eruptions giving off black columns of ash, indicating that a volcanic eruption had begun beneath the sea.

Although the eruption was unexpected, there had been some indications before it began that volcanic activity was imminent. A week beforehand, a seismograph in Reykjavík recorded weak tremors, but their location was not determined. Two days before the eruption began, a marine research vessel noted that the sea in the area was somewhat warmer than normal, and at the same time, people in the coastal town of Vík on the mainland 80 km away had noticed a smell of hydrogen sulphide.

It is likely that the eruption had begun some days before 14 November. The sea floor is 130 metres below sea level, and at this depth explosive eruptions would be quenched by the water pressure. As the eruption built up a volcano approaching sea level, the explosions could no longer be quenched, and the eruption broke the surface.

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