Iceland //

Fact file

  • Though geographically as big as England, Iceland’s population is tiny – at barely 310,000, it’s no bigger than many towns in other countries. Two out of three Icelanders live in and around the capital, Reykjavík.
  • Iceland sits atop the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the fault line where two of the Earth’s tectonic plates are slowly drifting apart; as a result, Iceland is getting wider at a rate of roughly 1cm per year. Either side of this ridge, from the northeast to the southwest, earthquakes and volcanic activity are commonplace.
  • There are no motorways or railways in Iceland. The country’s only main road, the Ringroad which circumnavigates the island, was completed in the 1970s following several unsuccessful attempts to bridge treacherous glacial rivers on the south coast.
  • Iceland is home to the third-biggest glacier in the world, Vatnajökull, covering an area equal to that of the English county of Yorkshire. One of the country’s greatest sources of geothermal energy, the Grímsvötn caldera, sits directly beneath the icecap.
  • Thanks to the existence of countless medieval documents, many Icelanders can trace their ancestors back to the time of the Viking settlement, around 800 AD. Low immigration over the centuries means that today’s Icelanders have one of the purest gene pools in the world, providing an invaluable research opportunity for scientists.
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