Sometimes the Mid-Ocean Ridge shows itself above the surface of the sea.
On November 14, 1963, something amazing occurred. Early that morning, several miles off the southern coast of Iceland, fishermen noticed black smoke bubbling from the sea. Some thought it was a boat on fire. Others believed it might be an undersea volcano erupting far below on the ocean floor. But by evening, a ridge of hardening lava was noticed just below the waves. And by the following morning, a tiny island had emerged above the surface.
Earth’s newest island was given the name Surtsey - after the Icelandic god of fire - Surtur. Surtsey continued to erupt off and on for three and a half years and eventually grew to an area of approximately one square mile. Like Iceland to its north, Surtsey provided scientists with one of the rare surface displays of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.
Surtsey and Iceland are actually a part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. They owe their very existence to the molten rock, or magma, that wells up through the rifts along the ridge. Just as Surtsey rose from the sea floor in 1963, scientists believe that about 20 million years ago Iceland, the “land of fire and ice,” rose from the sea floor in a similar fashion. Continuous spreading and eruptions along Iceland’s section of the ridge widens the island country by about one inch every year.
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