Iceland is a European island Nordic country which is situated in the North Atlantic Ocean. In short, its islands are located between continental Europe and Greenland. Furthermore, a small area is home to around 350 thousand inhabitants. Iceland’s largest city is its capital, Reykjavik, which is home to around 2 thirds of the national population.
The country’s landscapes are capable of taking anyone’s breath away. However, one other thing about Iceland might make people think. According to a new theory that an international team of geophysicists and geologists has proposed, Iceland may actually be the remnant of a continent nearly the size of Texas. This continent would have sunk in the North Atlantic Ocean approximately 10 million years ago.
This theory goes against the long-held idea of the formation of Iceland and the North Atlantic. However, researchers say this theory could explain both the geological features of the ocean floor and the crust beneath Iceland, which is much thicker than it should be.
Some experts not associated with the survey said they were skeptical of the evidence presented so far that Iceland would be a piece of a continent.
Even if geological studies support this theory, the entirely new idea of a submerged continent could have implications for the ownership of any fuel found on the seabed. This is because, according to international law, they belong to the country that manages to show that its continental crust extends to a certain place.
“The region that has continental material underneath extends from Greenland to Scandinavia. Part of it in the west and east has now sunk below the water’s surface, but it’s still higher than it should be. If sea level dropped 600 meters to 2000 feet, we would see a lot more land above the ocean’s surface,” said Gillian Foulger, lead author of “Iceland,” a chapter in the new book In the Footsteps of Warren B. Hamilton: New Ideas in the Science of Science Earth.
Approximately 335 million to 175 million years ago, this region of the North Atlantic was a totally dry land part of the supercontinent of Pangea. And geologists think the Atlantic Ocean basin was formed a long time ago when Pangea began to break up. This happened 200 million years ago. And Iceland formed approximately 60 million years ago on top of a volcanic plume in the center of that ocean.
However, for Foulger and his team the theory is different. They believe that oceans began to form south and north, rather than west and east, of Iceland. Instead, the western and eastern regions were connected to what is now known as Greenland and Scandinavia.
“People have this highly simplistic idea that a tectonic plate is like a dinner plate: it just splits in two and separates. But it’s more like a pizza or a piece of art made of different materials – a bit of fabric here and some ceramic there, so that different parts have different strengths”, pointed out Foulger.
According to this new theory, Pangea did not divide neatly. So the lost continent of Iceland remained an unbroken strip of dry land at least 300 kilometers across. And it stayed above the sea until approximately 10 million years ago.
Then eventually Iceland’s eastern and western ends also sank. Only Iceland is above sea level.
This theory would explain why the rocks in the Earth’s crust beneath present-day Iceland are about 40 kilometers thick instead of eight.
“When we considered the possibility that this thick crust is continental, our data suddenly made sense. This immediately led us to realize that the mainland was much larger than Iceland itself. There is a continent hidden right under the sea”, concluded Foulger.