Surtsey is a volcanic island a few miles south-west of the Westman Islands which are situated off the south coast of Iceland. The island appeared as a result of a volcanic activity on November 15, 1963. The Icelanders took the infant island into their care because it appeared in their territorial waters.
They called the volcanic vent Surtur, and the island Surtsey (island of Surtur). In old Icelandic mythology, Surtur was a giant who brought desctructive fire from the south as a weapon in his fight with Frey, the god of fertility.
During its early life there was doubt about the island's chance of survival, and many thought it might disappear. A similar one did vanish in 1783 after erupting from the sea 65 miles south-west of Reykjavik, the Icelandic capital. Survival and long life were assured when repeated outpourings of thin flowing lava followed the first violent eruptions. The lave capped the volcano with a gently sloping regular dome which acted as a protective shield.
The arrival of Surtsey was no real surprise. For the 10,000-mile Mid-atlantic Ridge, of which Iceland forms the largest above-sea land mass, had been active along its length for some years up to 1963, although since then things seem to have settled down, although further activity is always possible.
The neighboring Westman Islands were produced by volcanic activity 8000 years ago.