Mid-Atlantic Ridge, Iceland: July 5 2016
The parking lot of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge is set back from the road, filled with pastel teal tourist buses whose side mirrors stick out the front of the vehicle like bug antennae. Iceland’s biggest tour destinations are geologic in nature. The blue lagoon. The glacier that Batman filmed on. The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is only visible on land in Iceland. The rest of it is buried under the sea, zipping up the planet.
Walking from the parking lot to the escarpment, I stand on the edge of the ridge that’s black with basalt and spotted purple with infrequent flowers. The base of the graben is covered with sand, just as black as the rock I stand on and collect in my backpack. I imagine the Mid-Atlantic Ridge acting as the divergent boundaries I learned in geology class.
I picture lava erupted out, fissure-like, and filling the valley with liquid rock. I imagine the ridge that I’m standing on and the ridge where I see the tourists standing pushed away from each other as new rock fills the area in between. Of course we don’t see lava, nor do we feel earthquakes. The only sound besides the wind is people running across the bridge that connects the two sides of the ridge. Sneakers hit the wooden planks as kids exclaim, on one side, “I’m in America!” and, on the other side, “I’m in Europe!”
That’s not quite right, but it’s close enough. They’re recognizing the difference of the divide. How one side is the Eurasia plate and the other is the North American plate. How the world is split apart and moving together all at once.
The other geologists are less concerned about this. They’re in the sand looking at the Aeolian erosion on a rock. Nick, professor of geology and Mars expert, tells them that he sees this kind of formation on the red planet. The student geologists and I are amazed, since everything we see in our portion of the world is very, very Earth-like—wet and covered in soil.