An Island is Born
“And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.”
In November 1963, an undersea volcano close to Iceland began to erupt. Emerging lava caused the sea to boil and steam. Gradually, the volcano began to appear above the waves. The eruption continued for three and a half years, causing a new island to emerge, one square mile in area and elevations of 560 feet above the surf. Of course, in the half century since the birth of this new island, erosion has reduced it somewhat – to a mere 506 feet above the sea and an area of only 0.54 square miles.
When the volcano had cooled, scientists flocked to the area to study what was likely to happen to this new piece of real estate. Biologists were particularly interested in how long it would take for life to colonize this bleak new rocky island. Only a few scientists are allowed to land on Surtsey. Most visitors only see the island from the windows of a plane.
Mosses were seen by 1967 and lichens by 1970. These two types of plants now cover much of the island. In 1998, a small willow bush had been observed to have grown. Limited animal life – such as gulls, puffins and seals – have set up home there. The bird guano is of particular use in fertilizing the soil for further plant growth. Insects, spiders and beetles can also now be found.
Surtsey has provided a living laboratory of how colonization of barren real estate can take place. Such recolonization could readily have happened worldwide after the Genesis Flood.
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