Iceland: A Brief and Mostly Correct Geological Autobiography

Posted in:Department of Geology & Places
Water at the bottom of a volcanic crater
Image: A really nice person with a camera

Like most landmasses, I was born of the friction between two plates. I am called Iceland, but to be honest I am a creature of fire, and my position on the Earth makes me special — a hot spot above a mantle plume. Let me explain.

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There are mountains that live under our waters — vast ranges that span the earth. Under the mountains are tectonic plates that cover the Earth’s molten core. They shift and grumble and spew lava as they move.

I ride the Mid–Atlantic Ridge, a global undersea mountain system that marks the boundary between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. Over millions of years, one plate pulled east, the other went stubbornly west. Eventually, the great floor of the North Atlantic Ocean spread and magma erupted at the rip.

As the flows cooled and hardened, the rifts began to fill and became valleys. Recurrent eruptions created volcanoes. As the plates continued to shift, the lava fields split repeatedly. Long, deep vales formed, lined by parallel faults.

"I attract many people who poke and prod me with fancy gadgets to try to decipher my fossilized secrets."

The divergence of the plates is ceaseless. Even today, at the edges of the plates, magma continues to ooze.

Then there is my hotspot, or a swelling of unusually hot rock in the Earth’s mantle, also called a mantle plume.

As the Eurasian and North American plates were pulled east and west, both were simultaneously drawn northwest across this molten layer, causing innumerable eruptions to ensue. Formed from the layers of this volcanic material, I grew by a process of rifting and crust accretion.

With a faster rate of production per time unit than any other region in the world, my layers stacked up quickly. Although I might seem small, I am actually bigger than my other island friends born out of volcanic activity on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, including The Canary Islands, St. Helena, Madeira, and Tristan da Cunha.

All this shifting and spewing makes me an island that is quite unique.

Bubbling in Iceland

Built almost completely out of volcanic rocks, I attract many people who poke and prod me with fancy gadgets to try to decipher my fossilized secrets.

Other people spend hours climbing one of my volcanoes just to feel the heat at the rim of its crater or hike for miles to walk on one of my glaciers. It all seems quite tiring, but I suppose that’s why they also like to soak in my geothermal hot springs.

I must admit, I enjoy it when the people are wowed by my nature. They all scramble for their cameras when I spit up through my blowholes that they call geysers, even though I find that a little embarrassing.

Still, I have grown accustomed to being in pictures.

This brief and mostly correct geological autobiography was ghostwritten for Iceland by Nicole Pollentier, a poet and curator who lived in Iceland from 2004-2005. She currently lives in Chicago.


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4 Comments Posted Feb 21st 2010 16:25

Thank’s Iceland for your autobiographuy…nice to meet you again soon !

Greg King Posted Mar 11th 2010 05:38

I have decided that I want to live in Iceland. How can I make this happen.

kristopher grunert Posted Mar 16th 2010 00:45

Dear Iceland,

I can’t wait until the day I come to photograph your beautiful landscape.
I’d really like to be there for summer Solstice. It must be magical.


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... and takk for reading this Blog About Iceland. We know you are a very busy and important person, but Iceland would really like to be your friend on Facebook, on Twitter, on Vimeo, and on Flickr. It would also like you to read its tumblelog, learn Every Single Word in Icelandic and get to know Icelandic Bands that Are Not Sigur Rós.