A team of experts led by Professor Gillian Foulger from our Department of Earth Sciences, believes they have identified a remarkable geological secret; a sunken continent hidden under Iceland and the surrounding ocean, which they have dubbed ‘Icelandia’.
The sunken continent could stretch from Greenland all the way to Europe, covering an area of around 600,000 km2. But, when adjoining areas west of Britain are included in a “Greater Icelandia” the entire area could be ~ 1,000,000 km2 in size.
If proven, it means that the giant supercontinent of Pangaea, which is thought to have broken up over 50 million years ago, has in fact not fully broken up.
This new theory challenges long-held scientific ideas around the extent of oceanic and continental crust in the North Atlantic region, and how volcanic islands, like Iceland, formed.
The presence of continental, rather than oceanic, crust could also spark discussions about a new source of minerals and hydrocarbons, both of which are contained in continental crust.
The research team is now working with collaborators from across the globe on work to test their theory, which will begin once Covid-19 restrictions allow.
This work could involve electrical conductivity surveys and the collection of zircon crystals in Iceland and elsewhere.
Other tests such as seismic profiling and drilling would need millions of pounds to fund, but such is the importance of this work that funding may well be forthcoming.
Read about Professor Gillian Foulger’s work
Discover more about studying in our Department of Earth Sciences
The revolutionary new theory is included in a dedicated chapter of the new book, In the Footsteps of Warren B. Hamilton: New Ideas in Earth Science
Find out more about Professor Foulger’s co-authors Dr Laurent Gernigon of the Geological Survey of Norway and Professor Laurent Geoffroy of the Ocean Geosciences Laboratory, University of Brest (France).