Is Iceland wealthy
The youngest island in Europe
When geologists talk about Iceland, they rave about it: Iceland is the youngest island in Europe and it is evolving before our eyes. This island has not even reached puberty, so to speak. Less than 20 million years ago, volcanoes in the deep Atlantic began to spit lava, laying the foundation for Iceland.
The geological formation is divided into four periods: The first period is a good 20 million years ago. In the so-called Young Tertiary, lava broke through the earth's crust, and Iceland was formed. In the Ice Age (around 3.1 million years ago), which includes the Tertiary and Quaternary periods, ice masses covered the island. In the post-ice age, the Holocene, the glacier caps partially melted again and exposed the coastal areas.
Iceland has a total area of 103,100 square kilometers, which roughly corresponds to the combined size of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg. The special location of the island is responsible for the explosive hot-cold mixture: it lies exactly on the seam of two tectonic plates.
Here on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the Eurasian and North American plates meet. They constantly strive apart (about one to three centimeters per year). Magma flows upwards again and again, constantly changing the face of the island.
Iceland is the largest volcanic island in the world. In the past centuries, an eruption was experienced here on average every five years. A quarter of the country is covered by a massive volcanic belt, accordingly the island consists mainly of volcanic rock (basalt).
62 percent of the island has no plants. Only one percent is covered with forest, one and a half percent can be identified as pasture land and twelve percent of Iceland is covered with glaciers.
The battle of the elements
Nowhere else in Europe do the elements compete for their place as much as in Iceland. Fire, water, earth: here sulfur rises, there water bubbles and there the earth trembles. But where do the glaciers come from when it is so hot inside the island?
The surface was shaped by the cold: During the Ice Age, when it was up to 15 degrees colder than today, Iceland was covered with glaciers. Even today the glaciers cover twelve percent of the country's area. Including a true ice giant: Vatnajökull is the largest glacier in Europe with an area of 8,100 square kilometers.
Its dimensions correspond roughly to the area of 1200 soccer fields. Its ice cover is said to be more than 900 meters thick. The many glaciers and crevasses formed in the cold period (around 500 BC), and some of them still cover active volcanoes.
Even under the Vatnajökull there is sometimes a lot of boiling. The last major eruption was below the glacier's ice sheets in 1996. The subsequent tidal wave from the meltwater destroyed a large part of the south coast road. This ring road connects numerous places with each other and is considered the main artery of the island.
In the interior of the earth, high temperatures cause Iceland's volcanism. The reason for the unusual heat in the ground is not only the drifting apart of the earth plates, but the so-called "hot spot" on which Iceland is located.
This is a hot, cylindrical earth mantle current at the bottom of the ocean, which constantly transports hot magma upwards, so that all the processes are now taking place on the island above sea level that would otherwise take place at a depth of 3000 meters in the ocean. The activity of the "hot point" becomes visible, for example, at the numerous hot springs on the island.
A hot bath at the edge of the glacier
Iceland is a constant water heater: the geothermal energy provides warm water in the middle of winter. There are natural springs along the volcanic belt that are great for bathing.
These hot water springs have enjoyed great popularity since Iceland was settled. For a long time the housewives used them as laundry facilities and dragged their laundry for kilometers to the springs.
Some of these hot places offer a popular natural spectacle: geysers, i.e. water-spouting springs, shoot fountains from themselves at intervals. The "Great Geyser" in the southwest of the island is the namesake for all international "colleagues". Unfortunately, the Great Geyser has largely stopped its impressive activities.
But right next door, the little brother "Strokkur" is still doing a lot of tourist work. Every few minutes, water fountains about 30 meters high shoot up here.
There are many theories about why this spectacle comes about in the first place. It is now known that the pressure discharge has something to do with gases that collect in the particularly tangled geyser vents. At some point the space for the gases becomes too narrow and with the eruption they look for a way out.
In addition to the geysers, the water on this island shows its spectacular side in particularly large waterfalls: The Dettifoss is the most water-rich in Europe; the highest on the island is the Glymur, which plunges 190 meters into the depth at Botnsá.
The abundance of water and geothermal energy put Iceland in pole position from an energy point of view. About 90 percent of households are supplied with geothermal heat.
The first hydropower plant was built on the island as early as 1904. This overall very environmentally friendly energy supply ensures Iceland's famous air quality. The average life expectancy of Icelanders is very high at around 83 years - this is partly due to the clean environment.
Who discovered Iceland?
For a long time it was said that the Vikings were the first people to come to Iceland. That they sailed the northern seas as pirates in the 9th century and inevitably came to Iceland (also called Ultima Thule in the Middle Ages).
Recent research contradicts this view, as there are earlier traces on the island - traces of Irish monks. They had constructed leather-covered boats made of wicker for their travels and used isolated islands to be in peace with God.
It seems certain that they spent at least the summer months in Iceland before the Vikings. Writings of an Irish monk "Dicilius" have come down to us, who reported on trips to Iceland: "At midsummer time it was so bright at night that you could still pick lice from your robes at midnight."
But the monks quickly left the country when the first Vikings appeared. The year 864 is considered to be the beginning of the settlement and conquest of land by the predatory Scandinavians. The Norwegian Flóki Vilgerdarson was one of the first to be stranded in Iceland with the intention of settling.
He did not manage to get his cattle over the winter, drove off and called the country disappointed: "Eisland". The name didn't stop other visitors from settling down.
Norwegian emigrants in particular settled in Iceland. Already in 930 the residents had a parliament, the Althing. This democratic people's representation came together to decide together on important things. Only ancient Greece had a comparable parliament.
Life was tough on the island, with little building material and few opportunities for agriculture. As was customary at the time, the Nordic peoples believed in numerous gods who were responsible for their fate. That was to change under the Norwegian King Olaf Tryggvason around the year 1000: He wanted to bring Christianity to Iceland and sent a missionary there.
Not very enthusiastic about this, the Icelanders initially resisted. The pagan gods had their permanent place in the social system of the population. King Olaf remained firm, Christianity was enforced with a lot of pressure - but also with compromises: For example, it was decided in the democratic Althing that the Icelanders could continue to secretly sacrifice their pagan gods despite baptism and conversion to Christianity.
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