The Surtsey Research Society


When it became clear that Surtsey would endure as a permanent island, a group of enthusiastic researchers got together and founded a committee that…….


The Preservation of Surtsey

Owing to the scientific research projects that are carried out on Surtsey, the island was declared a nature reserve in 1965 by the Environment and Food Agency. This declaration of preservation was renewed in 1974 with reference to new nature conservation legislation. 


Surtsey Eruption

The Surtsey eruption is among the longest eruptions to have occurred in Iceland in historical times. The first sign of an eruption came early in the morning of November 14, 1963, at a site approximately 18 km southwest of Heimaey, the largest of the Vestmannaeyjar (Westman Islands). 



Hydrothermal Activity

Temperature measurements have been carried out on a regular basis in Surtsey in order to observe the effects that heat has on the consolidation of tephra and to determine ….

Petrology of Volcanic Products

The magma and lava in Surtsey are of alkali olivine basalt, which is the type of basalt found in Vestmannaeyjar (Westman Islands) and on the Snæfellsnes peninsula….

Erosion of the Island

Very strong winds are common in Vestmannaeyjar (Westman Islands) area, and shore erosion by oceanic waves is therefore substantial. For example, in an extreme….

Formation of Palagonite Tuffs

The basalt glass of the Surtsey tephra is easily altered, and the rock formed is called palagonite tuff (móberg). The conversion causes the tephra particles to stick together…..

Mineral Encrustations

On Surtsey a large amount of richly colored encrustations formed around the craters, both during the eruption and for a few years after it had ended. These surface encrustations….



The Pioneers

Among the first colonists of Surtsey’s coastal environment were diatoms discovered on the sandy beach in August 1964. The dispersal ….

The Littoral Zone

Various annual algae species have colonized the littoral cliffs on the eastern, southern and western shores of Surtsey. In the beginning, there were….

The Sublittoral Zone

In the first years after Surtsey’s formation, only a few species of benthic algae and animals could be found. The species were distributed sparsely, so….


Seals began visiting the island shortly after its formation, using it as a resting place. Constant erosion of the shoreline inhibited them from….



Arrival of Organisms

In the first spring after the formation of Surtsey, seeds and other plant parts were found washed up on the newly formed shore. Some of the seeds were collected….

Higher Plants

At the beginning of research in Surtsey, each new individual among higher plants was observed and its place of discovery and growth registered on a map of the island. Each new plant was labelled ….

Lower Plants

In the beginning, favourable conditions for lower plants on land were only to be found around steamholes where emission of cold or hot steam kept pumice and lava rock continually damp….

Invertebrate Fauna

The first insect was discovered on Surtsey in May 1964. The discovery of other invertebrates of various species followed. As was expected, these were mostly flying insects to begin with, a….

Bird Life

Surtsey had just risen above the ocean surface when the first birds made their landfall. Since then, around 90 bird species have been recorded on or around….