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. 

But, by the time I saw Surtsey from the deck of the Resolution, the story behind this diminutive island had already captured my attention. In 1963, the island erupted into existence and claimed the title of the youngest landmass on earth. I imagined the clouds of smoke and ash that bloomed from this exact stretch of ocean 50 years ago.  

The story of Surtsey is incredibly brief in geologic time, yet a full account of its evolution could fill volumes. In this article, I chose to focus on exactly that — the stories that researchers, journalists, fishermen and passersby tell about this place.

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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