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Island of Surtsey Iceland
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Island of Surtsey, Iceland

May 21, 2004
On November 14, 1963, an Icelandic fisherman noticed a plume of smoke rising from the open water. Within a day, Surtsey, a new volcanic island, had formed off the southern coast of Iceland. By 1965, plant life had colonized the relatively flat southern portion of the island, which is also visited by migratory birds and seals. The eruption lasted until 1967, forming an island with an area of 2.7 square kilometers (1.04 square miles). Since then waves, rain, and wind have partially eroded Surtsey, but the island is expected to last another 100 years. NASA scientists monitor the erosion of Surtsey with instruments aboard aircraft and satellites. Since the eruption stopped in 1965, waves have eroded short cliffs along the southern coast.


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