Bridge between Europe and North America on Reykjanes Peninsula.
Close to Iceland's Keflavík International Airport , at the “heel” of lava-scarred Reykjanes peninsula lies one of the world's major plate boundaries, the Mid Atlantic Ridge. According to the continental drift theory the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates are continuously drifting apart with great forces under the gaping rifts. As the plates diverge, linear fractures, known as fissures form due to stresses created by the tension that builds up as the plates move away from each other. There is a sign post on the road taking you to this attraction. It is free of cost, but please make sure you take all your waste along. It is a volatile place on earth, and every attempt should be made to preserve the nature.
I was in full awe standing on the “Bridge between the Continents”. I mean, was it actually ‘real’!! Am I really standing in between the two continents!! The earth under me is actually slipping apart slowly, leaving a thin layer that is sinking gradually into the sea and geographically belongs to no continent. ’A No Man’s Land’ for real. Imagine, one day I’ll tell someone that, ”Once upon a time, there was some land at this place”, and they will be astonished to find only water all around. Ooh!! I’ve got goosebumps!!
NATIONAL PARK STATUS
Þingvellir was declared a national park in 1930. A law was passed designating Þingvellir as “a protected national shrine for all Icelanders, the perpetual property of the Icelandic nation under the preservation of parliament, never to be sold or mortgaged.”
Þingvellir were nominated to the World Heritage List on July 2, 2004. The nomination states that the site is of outstanding universal value and should be preserved as a cultural site and for its natural environment.
During the last glacial period, a layer of ice, more than a 1000 meters thick, covered the land.When the temperature increased 18,000 years ago, the glacier began to melt and retreated gradually. The first indication of Lake Þingvallavatn appeared 12,000 years ago. The glacial tongue lay in the Þingvellir depression, and a glacial lagoon was formed to the south of it.
A few minutes southwards from the bridge is Gunnuhver, a hot spring area named after a ghost.
Although not visible everywhere, this plate boundary lies across Iceland from the southwest to the northeast and is an area of volcanic activity and geothermal heat. Other places where the plate boundary can be seen include Þingvellir National Park.
AND NOW SOME HISTORY
In the year 999 or 1000, Iceland's legislative assembly was debating which religion they should practise: Norse paganism, or Christianity. Lawspeaker Thorgeir Ljosvetningagodi, himself a pagan priest and chieftain (a Godi), decided in favour of Christianity. After his decision, Thorgeir himself became a Christian and threw the idols of his gods in a waterfall, for which that waterfall is now known in Icelandic as Godafoss, the "waterfall of the gods.”
An interesting stop to see the tectonic plates. Short walk from parking on a nice path. It was a short 30 foot or so bridge about 10 meters above two ridge lines of rock. It is a thin steel span in the middle of nowhere, supposedly crossing the rift separating the North American and Eurasian continental plates. The idea is fun and it’s perked up by “Welcome to America” and “Welcome to Europe” signs that greet you as you cross. The bridge is decked in steel mesh, so you can look down into the ravine below along the way, though this isn’t especially deep or at all dangerous – you can easily walk through it from either end and pass under the bridge. Deep black sand runs under the bridge and makes for some fun photo ops.
SOME SCIENCE BEHIND IT
In the summer of 2000, two severe earthquakes occurred in South Iceland. The earthquakes were a result of movement of the Eurasian and North-American plate boundaries that run through Iceland. In the south, the plates inch past each other, but at Þingvellir, they break apart and the land between subsides. Away from the plate boundaries the activity is fairly constant, about two centimetres a year, but, in the rift zones themselves, tensional stress accumulates during a long period and is then released in a burst of activity when fracture boundaries are reached. The most recent burst of activity swept over Þingvellir in spring 1789. Þingvellir is in a seven-kilometre wide graben that lies between the Almannagjá and Heiðargjá faults. It's covered with 10,000 year-old lava that originated in a crater south of mount Hrafnabjörg. The rift valley is part of an active volcanic and fissure region that extends north from just outside the Reykjanes area to the Langjökull glacier.
There has been a church at the site of Þingvellir since the introduction of Christianity but the church that stands there now was built in 1859.
Þingvellir was an important symbol of national unity in Iceland’s process towards independence in the 19th and 20th centuries. The last Althing was held at Þingvellir in the summer of 1798. After the assembly was suspended, Þingvellir was a quiet place for a period of time.In 1874, a national festival was held at Þingvellir to celebrate 1000 years of the settlement in Iceland. On this occasion, King Kristian IX presented Icelanders with their first constitution, according to which the Althing was granted limited legislative and financial powers.In 1999, a festival to celebrate the Millennium of Christianity was set in motion. This included a series of events all over the country. The celebrations culminated in a two-day festival at Þingvellir in early June 2000.
This is a UNESCO world heritage site - an amazing No Man's land, spread with beautifully colored moss, lies between North American & Eurasian continental shelf plates. The plates are breaking apart at SILFRA,creating a fissure flooded with crystal clear glacial water. This tectonic fissure is a unique phenomenon on this planet; the intensity of feeling at this place is just incredible and extraordinary.
Divers and snorkelers dive and float between the American and Eurasian continental plates(at certain places they can actually touch both continents at the same time). My visit to Þingvellir National Park is undeniably the most spectacular experience enhanced by dramatic view of Silfra fissure.Here at the historic site of the Alþingi (Parliament) and Lake Þingvallavatn, you can stand in the rift of the continental drift between the North American and Eurasian Plates This makes for a visual experience as to how the earth is always evolving.
The Bridge between two continents at Sandvík is a small footbridge over a major fissure which provides clear evidence of the presence of a diverging plate margin. The bridge was built as a symbol for the connection between Europe and North America. It connects two continents, America to the west and Europe to the east, as it lies across the point where two tectonic plates are diverging. You can walk down to area between the drifts. The area around the bridge is amazing- like another planet.
Landscape is breath-taking. Worth the chill, even in snowy November. Wear good shoes and plenty of layers.
DESTINATION MANAGEMENT & PROMOTER