Potential New Drill Hole on Surtsey Island

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Potential New Drill Hole on Surtsey Island

Surtsey

From Surtsey. Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

Geologists are looking to drill a new drill hole for further research on  Surtsey, the youngest of the 15 volcanic islands in the Vestmannaeyjar (‘Westman Islands’) archipelago off South Iceland, in addition to the one from 1979. The primary objective is to determine how far down in the earth’s crust life exists.

A group of geologists went on a recent research expedition to Surtsey—the UNESCO World Heritage Site was created in an underwater eruption 1963-1967—following the annual biologists’ trip to the island. Headed by the Icelandic Institute of Natural History, the annual trip is meant to assess the status of birdlife, flora and fauna on this exceptional natural phenomenon.

Magnús Tumi Guðmundsson, professor of geology at the University of Iceland, was one of the scientists on the most recent expedition. Two scientists from New Zealand were also a part of the team.

Magnús explained to visir.is that in recent years it has been discovered that life reaches much further down into the crust of the earth, than previously known. “There are life forms existing at a depth of several kilometers.”

“There is a drill hole on the island that was made in 1979 and people are interested in drilling there again to investigate further the composition of the island, as well as what sort of life forms are to be found,” Magnús added. A date has yet to be set for the drilling.

An international meeting will be held in Vestmannaeyjar in the beginning of October to discuss the idea and its potential financing of the extremely costly project. In order to execute it, funding must be sought from foreign research funds, Magnús reasoned.

Biologists discovered two new plant species on Surtsey this year. “This is considerable news as colonization by new species has significantly decreased in recent years. These plants are the creeping buttercup and a new type of willowherb,” the website of the Icelandic Institute for Natural History reads.

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