Surtsey is a volcanic island located in the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago off the southern coast of Iceland. At 63.303°N 20.605°W, Surtsey is the southernmost point of Iceland. It was formed in a volcanic eruption which began 130 metres below sea level, and reached the surface on 14 November 1963. The eruption lasted until 5 June 1967, when the island reached its maximum size of 2.7 km2. Since then, wave erosion has caused the island to steadily diminish in size: as of 2002, its surface area was 1.4 km2. The most recent survey (2007) shows the island's maximum elevation at 155 metres above sea level.
A classic site for the study of biocolonisation from founder populations that arrive from outside (allochthonous), Surtsey was declared a nature reserve in 1965 while the eruption was still in active progress. Today only a few scientists are permitted to land on Surtsey; the only way anyone else can see it closely is from a small plane. This allows the natural ecological succession for the island to proceed without outside interference. In 2008, UNESCO declared the island a World Heritage Site, in recognition of its great scientific value.
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