YouTuber Tom Scott uploaded a video yesterday in which he brought up the question of whether Kolbeinsey, Iceland’s most northerly island, is still there. He points out the Wikipedia article about the island, which states that the island is exposed to a great deal of wave erosion due to the sea battering against the island’s rocks. It was originally predicted that the island would disappear completely by 2020.
In the video Scott rents a plane and travels to Kolbeinsey to investigate the matter. He explains that during the 18th century Kolbeinsey was 700 metres long, 100 metres wide, and 100 metres tall. It was formed due to an underwater eruption.
By 1989 the island was only 40 metres long and 40 metres wide, and only 5 metres above sea level. The Icelandic Coast Guard built a small landing area for helicopters on the islet in the hopes of slowing down its destruction, but by 2006 it had collapsed.
He says that although this tiny islet might not seem like it matters, in fact it does. Countries’ territorial waters and fishing limits are often set up around small cliffs and islets such as Kolbeinsey, and their destruction can greatly affect areas where states are allowed to fish. Kolbeinsey’s disappearance could thus significantly reduce Iceland’s territorial waters and areas where Icelandic fisherman are allowed to fish.
Scott additionally mentions the Cod Wars of the mid-1970s. Kolbeinsey is mentioned in documents concerning Iceland’s territorial waters, and it is likely that the boundaries of these territorial waters would need to be negotiated in the event of the islet’s disappearance.
“..it does feel a bit provocative for me as a British person to be checking up on whether Iceland’s rock is still there,” says Scott. “We are approaching the coordinates…I think I see it! I’m pretty sure that’s it up ahead.”
“There’s barely anything!” Scott exclaims as he approaches the islet. “Yes, it’s eroded away, but it seems the predictions were a little bit pessimistic.”
Two tiny islets, or cliffs, stick out of the water at low tide, and the footage shows a great number of seabirds seem to live on them.
“At low tide, it’s still above the waves. Iceland, your island is still there!”
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