Researchers say this underwater land could stretch from Greenland to Europe. Their results show that it can cover an area of around 230,000 square miles, but when the team includes areas adjacent to western Britain in a “Great Iceland”, the entire area could have an area of nearly 400,000 square miles. It’s a bigger area than Australia.
If scientists can prove that this landmass exists under the sea, it means that the giant supercontinent of Pangea, which included all of Earth’s landmass before shattering over 50 million years ago, did not is in fact not completely disintegrated.
This new theory challenges long-held scientific ideas about the extent of oceanic and continental crust in the North Atlantic region and the formation of volcanic islands, like Iceland. The presence of a continental rather than an oceanic crust could also trigger discussions about a new source of minerals and hydrocarbons, both located in the continental crust.
Could Iceland spark legal and political battles?
Under certain conditions, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea grants coastal states exclusive rights over the non-living resources of their adjacent seabed if scientists can prove that the seabed is a submerged extension of the landmass.
“So far Iceland has puzzled geologists because the existing theories that it is built from and surrounded by the oceanic crust are not supported by multiple geological data,” said Professor Gillian Foulger, professor emeritus of geophysics in the Department of Earth Sciences at Durham University, in a statement to SWNS.
“For example, the crust under Iceland is over 40 km thick, which is seven times the normal oceanic crust. It just couldn’t be explained. However, when we considered the possibility of this thick crust being continental, our data suddenly all made sense. This immediately led us to realize that the mainland region was much larger than Iceland itself – there is a continent hidden right there under the sea. ”
Professor Foulger, a world-renowned geologist whose research has helped map the geological composition of the seabed in relation to landmasses, led the study. The results appear in the new book, Warren B. Hamilton’s Footsteps: New Ideas in Earth Sciences, from the Geological Society of America.
“There is a fantastic job to be done to prove the existence of Iceland, but it also opens up a whole new vision of our geological understanding of the world. Something similar could happen in many other places, ”adds Foulger. “We could eventually see maps of our oceans and seas redrawn as our understanding of what lies beneath the changes. “
Discovering Iceland will be an expensive process
The research team is now working with collaborators around the world on work to test their theory, which will begin once COVID-19 restrictions ease. This work could involve studies of electrical conductivity and the collection of zircon crystals in Iceland and elsewhere.
Other tests such as seismic profiling and drilling would require millions of dollars in funding, but researchers believe countries would likely pay those bills for work of this magnitude.
“Countries around the world are spending enormous resources on conducting underwater geological research to identify their continental shelves and claim exclusive mineral rights there,” says Prof. Philip Steinberg, IBRU Director, Center for Borders Research at Durham University.
“Research like that of Professor Foulger, which forces us to rethink the relationship between the seabed and continental geology, can have a huge impact on countries trying to determine which area of the seabed is their exclusive domain and which areas should be governed by the International Seabed Authority. as “the common heritage of humanity”.
SWNS writer William Janes contributed to this report.