A Unique World Heritage Site: Surtsey, Iceland

The Surtsey site in Iceland was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2008. Surtsey is a new island, formed by volcanic eruptions that took place from 1963 to 1967. The site is unique, because it's been protected since its formation, providing the world with a pristine natural laboratory. Free from human interference, Surtsey has been producing unique long-term information on the colonization process of new land by plant and animal life, both terrestrial and marine. Soon after the island's formation, seals were seen resting on shore and by 1982 gray seals, Halichoerus grypus, (pictured here) were breeding. The presence of seals has attracted killer whales (Orcinus orca), one of their predators.

Today, over 40 World Heritage sites are listed for their marine values. Together, they can be considered the "Crown Jewels of our Ocean" and are recognized for their outstanding beauty, exceptional biodiversity, or unique ecological, biological, or geological processes. Learn more about this and other marine World Heritage sites.

A gray seal on the shores of Surtsey, Iceland.

Andreas Trepte