Þingvellir, Iceland

Geography Cat sends Ike between a rock and a hard place

Geography Cat’s official stunt double Ike contemplates the immensity of geological time at Þingvellir

Þingvellir , or Thingvellir, is where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates can be seen pulling apart. They are separating at a rate of around 2.5cm a year because of the convection currents in the mantle below pulling them apart. The whole country of Iceland straddles the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and exists as a result of this activity coupled with being above a mantle plume (an area of extraordinary heat within the upper mantle). Both give rise to earthquakes and volcanic activity, but the combination at this hot spot has built enough land to rise above the ocean.

Thingvellir is the rift valley between the two plates. Another rift valley you may know is the East African Rift Valley. The difference between these two is that the African Rift is happening on continental crust, whereas the Icelandic Rift is happening on basaltic lava which would have been at the bottom of the ocean, had it not been for the mantle plume action pushing it up and adding great volumes of lava over time.

Over 700 000 visitors came here last year, Ike presumes most of them must have been in the summer months as there were few to be seen on the day he visited.

Another aspect of Thingvellir is its role in human history. This was the meeting site for early Icelandic clan chiefs to discuss law and order across the land. The Althingi continued to meet here annually until Danish colonisation in 1799, and was replaced by parliament in Reykjavik after this period of colonisation ended in 1844. Therefore Thingvellir is the original site of the world’s longest running, ongoing parliament.

Visit https://www.thingvellir.is/en/ for more information
Ike hopes to return in the summer