Iceland: The Golden Circle Part 2: Þingvellir and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge

Posted by on Mar 9, 2016 in Europe, Iceland, Travel Blog and Destinations | 0 comments

Iceland: The Golden Circle Part 2: Þingvellir and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge
Mid-Atlantic Ridge

I first wanted to go to Iceland when I saw video footage of a rift eruption as a teen. It was watching the world give violent birth to a new portion of land that would creep across the world and see civilizations and species rise and fall before either climbing into the sky or plunging back from where it came, and my eyes were starry with the sense of my own mortality. I wanted to be there to bear witness to the beginning of something so permanent. I went through much of my life thinking that across Iceland there was a constant rift eruption, a reliable one I could go look at any time. This is not the case. There was no rift eruption when I landed. But there is a place where I could stand directly in the place where tectonic plates begin. So of course, I did.

There is only one point in which the Mid Atlantic Ridge’s features are clearly visible above the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, and that is Iceland. It is the place where the North American and the Eurasian tectonic plates meet, or rather, where they begin. The two plates expand at a rate of approximately 2.5 cm (approx 1 inch) per year, meaning that Iceland gets that much bigger every year. In Þingvellir (pronounced “Thingvellir”) Park, the Mid-Atlantic ride is a wide valley and the day we were there it was lush and green with blue skies, low bushes full of edible crowberries (Krækiberjasaft,) and a gentle breeze.


Mid-Atlantic Ridge

This crack marks the “official” meeting point of two tectonic plates. The reality of geology is slightly less official; the entire valley is a meeting of the plates. (Clicky to enlarge.)

If you know where to look (or have someone with you who knows where to look) you can fill a bottle with fresh spring water that flows in icily from below and drink from the seam where the Atlantic Ocean begins. I would try to describe to you what it felt like to drink water from this place that enchanted me for so much of my life, but every time I write it down it comes across sounding either like some role playing game where I gain some crazy mana, or unintentionally weirdly sexual. So I’ll spare you. Here is a photo instead.

Alexis Gains Mana

Gaining some wicked mana and restoring full life.

The Vikings who first settled in Iceland knew Þingvellir was a place of significance. Their first parliament would meet in the ridge around 930 AD, and would continue meeting there until the late 1700’s. For many centuries Iceland’s laws were not written down, but kept by memory by the Lawspeaker, whose job it was to preserve by memory all laws of the land and sea. Fun fact: One of the first laws the headstrong Viking Icelanders were adamant about when they decided that Iceland should become a Christian country was a law that horsemeat was allowed to be eaten. Because why the hell not? Also demonstrating their admirable stubbornness, unlike most of the western world, when Iceland converted to Christianity in the year 1000, it still permitted its people to practice the old religions in strict privacy. Personally, it seems to me like one big eyeroll on the behalf of pagan Icelanders to calm down the Christians of the time. Love it.


The Þingvellir rift valley, site of early Icelandic parliament and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge

The Þingvellir rift valley, site of early Icelandic parliament and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (Clicky to enlarge.)



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