Evidence for plate divergence in Iceland [image credit: Rob Young @ Wikipedia]

There could be more to Iceland than meets the eye. A lot more, if these theorists are right.
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Academics believe they have identified a remarkable geological secret: A sunken continent hidden under Iceland and the surrounding ocean, which they have dubbed “Icelandia”, says Phys.org.

Academics believe they have identified a remarkable geological secret: A sunken continent hidden under Iceland and the surrounding ocean, which they have dubbed “Icelandia.”

An international team of geologists, led by Gillian Foulger, Emeritus Professor of Geophysics in the Department of Earth Sciences at Durham University (UK), believe the sunken continent could stretch from Greenland all the way to Europe.

It is believed to cover an area of ~600,000 km2 but when adjoining areas west of Britain are included in a “Greater Icelandia,” the entire area could be ~1,000,000 km2 in size.

If proven, it means that the giant supercontinent of Pangaea, which is thought to have broken up over 50 million years ago, has in fact not fully broken up.

This new theory challenges long-held scientific ideas around the extent of oceanic and continental crust in the North Atlantic region, and how volcanic islands, like Iceland, formed.

The presence of continental—rather than oceanic—crust could also spark discussions about a new source of minerals and hydrocarbons, both of which are contained in continental crust.

The revolutionary new theory was born from an innovative series of expert meetings held in Durham and is included in a dedicated chapter of In the Footsteps of Warren B. Hamilton: New Ideas in Earth Science (published 29 June 2021 by the Geological Society of America), which Professor Foulger has co-written with Dr. Laurent Gernigon of the Geological Survey of Norway and Professor Laurent Geoffroy of the Ocean Geosciences Laboratory, University of Brest (France).

Speaking about the new theory, Professor Foulger said, “Until now Iceland has puzzled geologists, as existing theories that it is built of and surrounded by oceanic crust are not supported by multiple geological data. For example, the crust under Iceland is over 40 km thick—seven times thicker than normal oceanic crust. This simply could not be explained.

“However, when we considered the possibility that this thick crust is continental, our data suddenly all made sense. This led us immediately to realize that the continental region was much bigger than Iceland itself—there is a hidden continent right there under the sea.

“There is fantastic work to be done to prove the existence of Icelandia but it also opens up a completely new view of our geological understanding of the world. Something similar could be happening at many more places.

“We could eventually see maps of our oceans and seas being redrawn as our understanding of what lies beneath changes.”

Full article here.
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ABSTRACT — ‘We propose a new, sunken continent beneath the North Atlantic Ocean that we name Icelandia. It may comprise blocks of full-thickness continental lithosphere or extended, magma-inflated continental layers that form hybrid continental-oceanic lithosphere. It underlies the Greenland-Iceland-Faroe Ridge and the Jan Mayen microplate complex, covering an area of ~600,000 km2. It is contiguous with the Faroe Plateau and known parts of the submarine continental rifted margin offshore Britain. If these are included in a “Greater Icelandia,” the entire area is ~1,000,000 km2 in size. The existence of Icelandia needs to be tested.’ [etc.]

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July 2, 2021