a new member appeared from the sea preceded by a huge cloud of steam and smoke. It was named Surtsey after Surtr, a Norse fire-giant, and its birth was well exciting for 9 y.o. me even on a crappy black&white TV. Three weeks after it emerged from the waves, three journalists from Paris-Match landed to claim the island for France but they legged it 15 minutes later, when Surtr gave another dramatic belch. The volcanic action continued until June 1967 at which time the island was about 270 ha in extent. Since then, Winter storms have taken their toll and about half of the island has been washed away. It was obviously very interesting for geologists and vulcanologists to witness and record the development of a brand-new piece of ground. It was also a great project for several groups of ecologists as they recorded the invasion of land by a succession of plants and animals as soon as the place had cooled down. Because they can, botanists calculated that 75% of the invasive plants arrived in bird-shit, compared to 16% by wind dispersal and 9% washed up by the waves. The island is a UNESCO heritage site and care is taken to minimise the impact of humans on this natural ecosystem. "An improperly handled human defecation resulted in a tomato plant taking root . . ." makes you (well me, aNNyway) wonder what might be a properly handled human defecation might be. On a human scale, the midwifing of Surtsey seems violent in the extreme. We can't imagine the magnitude of the event(s) which brought 100,000x larger Iceland up from the deeps.
6 million tonnes of water was enough to cool and slow the advance sufficiently that the still flowing molten rock found an easier way to travel: away from the port. That's what's protestants do, they don't sit on a mat bewailing the will of god, they roll up their sleeves and act . . . sometimes it makes a difference. For those experiencing the trials of