‘Icelandia’: Is Iceland the tip of a vast, sunken continent?

Posted: July 2, 2021 by oldbrew in Geology, research


Evidence for plate divergence in Iceland [image credit: Rob Young @ Wikipedia]

There could be more to Iceland than meets the eye. A lot more, if these theorists are right.
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Academics believe they have identified a remarkable geological secret: A sunken continent hidden under Iceland and the surrounding ocean, which they have dubbed “Icelandia”, says Phys.org.

Academics believe they have identified a remarkable geological secret: A sunken continent hidden under Iceland and the surrounding ocean, which they have dubbed “Icelandia.”

An international team of geologists, led by Gillian Foulger, Emeritus Professor of Geophysics in the Department of Earth Sciences at Durham University (UK), believe the sunken continent could stretch from Greenland all the way to Europe.

It is believed to cover an area of ~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 revolutionary new theory was born from an innovative series of expert meetings held in Durham and is included in a dedicated chapter of In the Footsteps of Warren B. Hamilton: New Ideas in Earth Science (published 29 June 2021 by the Geological Society of America), which Professor Foulger has co-written with Dr. Laurent Gernigon of the Geological Survey of Norway and Professor Laurent Geoffroy of the Ocean Geosciences Laboratory, University of Brest (France).

Speaking about the new theory, Professor Foulger said, “Until now Iceland has puzzled geologists, as existing theories that it is built of and surrounded by oceanic crust are not supported by multiple geological data. For example, the crust under Iceland is over 40 km thick—seven times thicker than normal oceanic crust. This simply could not be explained.

“However, when we considered the possibility that this thick crust is continental, our data suddenly all made sense. This led us immediately to realize that the continental region was much bigger than Iceland itself—there is a hidden continent right there under the sea.

“There is fantastic work to be done to prove the existence of Icelandia but it also opens up a completely new view of our geological understanding of the world. Something similar could be happening at many more places.

“We could eventually see maps of our oceans and seas being redrawn as our understanding of what lies beneath changes.”

Full article here.
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ABSTRACT — ‘We propose a new, sunken continent beneath the North Atlantic Ocean that we name Icelandia. It may comprise blocks of full-thickness continental lithosphere or extended, magma-inflated continental layers that form hybrid continental-oceanic lithosphere. It underlies the Greenland-Iceland-Faroe Ridge and the Jan Mayen microplate complex, covering an area of ~600,000 km2. It is contiguous with the Faroe Plateau and known parts of the submarine continental rifted margin offshore Britain. If these are included in a “Greater Icelandia,” the entire area is ~1,000,000 km2 in size. The existence of Icelandia needs to be tested.’ [etc.]

  1. oldbrew says:


    Building the continental crust (2900 to 1750 million years ago)

    The crust of NW Scotland, together with parts of Greenland and North America that make up the ancient continent of Laurentia, was built up mainly from igneous rocks that crystallized around 2900 to 2700 million years ago.



  2. JB says:

    NOT news. Those regions were known as Appalachia and Fennoscandia

    “Like many others, Prof Scharff of Dublin argued that this landmass foundered during
    late Tertiary times, excepting the Azores and the Madeiras which were: …still connected in early Pleistocene (Ice Age) times with the continents of Europe and Africa, at a time when man had
    already made his appearance in western Europe, and was able to reach the islands by land 185

    In Geikie’s opinion, however, certain biological evidence – discussed more fully later – shows that continuous land united Greenland and north-west Europe as late as post-glacial times, a view shared by Prof Judd 186; and Forrest was among those who concluded that this landmass ‘…sank
    beneath the sea at the end of the Ice Age’187.

    It is also relevant that a truly colossal amount of sea-bed scour, or erosion, has been traced between Greenland and North America and ascribed to a time loosely termed as ‘glacial ‘188. Presumably these crustal disturbances – collapses, for they were nothing less – occurred more or less simultaneously with the subsidence of the entire North Atlantic floor between
    Greenland and Norway by some 9,000ft (2750m), a convulsion which Forrest believed took place “since the Ice Age” 189. In our submission these tremendous changes occurred synchronously with the break-up and drowning of the greater part of Fennoscandia, a now-submerged northern landmass formerly connecting Spitzbergen with northern Eurasia (map 1B).” p33 Cataclysm, Allan and Delair

  3. saighdear says:

    I thought COntinents were B I G …..this one is 600 x 600 miles ONLY : whilst Australia is the smallest continent on Earth 3 million square miles or 7.7 million square km), just saying.

  4. Gamecock says:

    It’s their fantasy; it can be anything they want.

    If global mean temperature can be ‘climate,’ Iceland can be a continent.

  5. Warrick says:

    Sounds something like Zealandia with just New Zealand being exposed above sea level.

  6. Graeme No.3 says:

    And there is Zealandia – the eighth continent (?)


  7. oldbrew says:

    Scotland 500 Million Years Ago part of North America

    600 million years ago, Scotland was part of the continent we now call North America. Scotland was once joined to Greenland, before The Atlantic ocean was formed. For the last 60 million years Scotland, and indeed Europe as a whole, has been drifting away geographically from North America

    – – –
    Geology of the Isle of Lewis and The Isle of Harris – Western Isles

    Lewisian Gneiss – As well as being spectacularly pretty, these rocks are 3 billion years old, yes they are actually two thirds the age of the Earth (what a thought).

    Gallery: https://www.virtualheb.co.uk/lewisian-gneiss-rocks-of-the-isle-of-lewis-and-harris-western-isles-geology/Gallery/page1.php

  8. tom0mason says:

    Free download of the full paper proposing this theory is available at —

    Click to access spe553-04.pdf

  9. Gamecock says:

    Iceland is on the boundary of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. The alleged continent cannot be under the tectonic plates. If it were on the plates, we could see it.

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