Transforming Iceland | How stories inspired 60 years of preservation on Iceland’s youngest island

The island of Surtsey seen from the deck of the National Geographic Resolution.
The island of Surtsey seen from the deck of the National Geographic Resolution.

Gabe Allen

Related Topics:
Biodiversity, Conservation, Science Communication

I caught my first glimpse of the island of Surtsey on my fourth day aboard the National Geographic Resolution with the rest of the 2023 Storyfest winners and Planet Forward editorial staff this July. We had spent the morning cruising by islands off the coast of Iceland, each one lined with jagged black cliffs and coated in puffin nests. By comparison, Surtsey was unremarkable looking — a hill of dirt, stone and grass deposited in the open ocean. 

As the result of an underwater volcanic eruption that began in 1963, Surtsey is one of the youngest islands in the world. It is uninhabited and the site of fascinating research by many scientists who see the island as a window to earth’s ancient past.

But, by the time I saw Surtsey from the deck of the Resolution, the story behind this diminutive island had already captured my attention. I ogled the island and imagined the clouds of smoke and ash that had erupted out of this exact stretch of ocean 50 years ago. 

On the grand scale of almost every other island in the world, the story of Surtsey is incredibly brief . But it is that brevity that makes its history so interesting and its hold over researchers in Iceland so palpable.

Click on the presentation below to see the full story.

Editor’s Note: Lindblad Expeditions, our Planet Forward Storyfest Competition partner, made this series possible by providing winners with an experiential learning opportunity aboard one of their ships. All editorial content is created independently. We thank Lindblad Expeditions for their continued support of our project.

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