The mid-Atlantic ridge is the meeting place of two tectonic plates in a geological fault that, for the most part, lies along the Atlantic Ocean bottom. However, in Iceland it can be seen above sea level, and there’s ample evidence that the plates are constantly moving away from each other (2.5 cm each year). This process allows hot lava to move upwards to the centre of Iceland’s surface, pushing the older lava (i.e. the whole surrounding land mass) out to the sides as the new stuff pushes through. Here’s one spot where this can be seen – one of the only places in the world that a tourist can stand with dry feet and take a snap of this incredible feature: the “mid-Atlantic Rift”.
Iceland is extremely volcanic and volatile as a result of this continuous action. This means that most of the country's residents live in the knowledge that a volcano could – and probably will – erupt somewhere near them any day, any week, any year, and most people have known "small" eruptions in their lifetime.
On a positive note, however, there's an awful lot of natural water heating going on beneath Iceland's surface! Iceland has a massive amount of geothermal energy coursing below the ground, and for many years it has been harnessed, to the country's enormous benefit! Iceland can easily generate all the energy it needs from geothermal sources. We visited the largest geothermal plant, not far from Reykjavik – here are a couple of photos of this amazing energy enterprise.
So it’s good to know nature has provided Icelanders with the means of relaxing in hot aromatherapy baths, as a coping mechanism and some kind of compensation for living on a geological knife-edge... though I know I wouldn’t want to be in the bath when the ground starts to rumble!
Right: looking through a section of pipeline