Sparkling glaciers, such as Vatna Glacier (Vatnajökull), Europe’s largest, lie across its ruggedly beautiful mountain ranges; abundant hot geysers provide heat for many of the country’s homes and buildings and allow for hothouse agriculture year-round; and the offshore Gulf Stream provides a surprisingly mild climate for what is one of the northernmost inhabited places on the planet. In this post, we have gathered interesting Iceland facts to give you some insights about this amazing country. Hekla brought physical destruction, widespread epidemics, and death. In the post WWII era, Iceland has based its foreign policy on peaceful international cooperation and has participated in Western defense efforts. Iceland is largely a tableland broken up by structural faults. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article (requires login). Many of the early settlers of Iceland were small lords and kings from Norway who were fleeing the tyrrany of Harald the Fairhaired who wanted to unify Norway under one king, namely himself. In 1969 the town council of Grindavik decided to explore the area near Svartsengi for the possibility of geothermal heat, which could be harnessed for domestic heating in Grindavik. Reykjavík and the surrounding areas in the southwest of the country are home to over two-thirds of the population. During the late twelfth and the early thirteenth century, dramatic Icelandic tales of early settlement, the colonization of Greenland, romance, disputes, and the development of Iceland were translated into a rich literary tradition dominated by Sagas. Most of the more than 5,000 residents had to be evacuated, and—although the harbour remained intact—about one-third of the town was destroyed. The largest, Deildartunguhver, emits nearly 50 gallons (190 litres) of boiling water per second. These fact-based works, which provided the early settlers with a source of entertainment as well as cultural heritage, represent some of the classics of world medieval literature and continue to be widely read and treasured by Icelanders. At the end of the fourteenth century, Iceland was brought under Danish rule and conflicts between church and state culminated in the Reformation of 1550 with Lutheranism declared the country's official religion. The highest point is 6,952 feet (2,119 metres), at Hvannadals Peak, the top of Öræfajökull in Vatnajökull. A new volcano erupting on the bottom of the sea between November 1963 and June 1967 created the island of Surtsey, off the southwestern coast. 1. Time-lapse video of the southern coast of Iceland. Located 180 miles south of the Arctic Circle, Iceland's nearest neighbor is Greenland to the west (180 miles), followed by Scotland to the south east (495 miles), and Norway to the east (590 miles). The first settler was Ingólfur Arnarson, who settled in Reykjavík. Background: Settled by Norwegian and Celtic (Scottish and Irish) immigrants during the late 9th and 10th centuries A.D., Iceland boasts the world's oldest functioning legislative assembly, the Althing, established in 930.Independent for over 300 years, Iceland was subsequently ruled by Norway and Denmark. It is one of the most volcanic regions in the world. A governmental agency, the Icelandic Language Committee, was established in 1965 and officiates over all language issues. Since then, Iceland has flourished into a thriving community but its population has remained one of the smallest in Europe. Background: Settled by Norwegian and Celtic (Scottish and Irish) immigrants during the late 9th and 10th centuries A.D., Iceland boasts the world's oldest functioning legislative assembly, the Althing, established in 930. Iceland's present day parliament, Althing, is the oldest existing national assembly in the world. The Icelandic sagas, most of which recount heroic episodes that took place at the time the island was settled, are regarded as among the finest literary achievements of the Middle Ages, reflecting a European outlook while commemorating the history and customs of a people far removed from continental centres of commerce and culture. This country updated its background information for the 2016/2017 dataset. Scandinavian sailors discovered Iceland in the mid-ninth century, and the first settler recognized in the literary-historical tradition, Ingólfur Arnason, arrived in 874. With a population of approximately 272,000 people, Iceland is one of the smaller nations in the world, yet it is the least densely populated of all European nations. In 1918 Iceland became an independent state under the Danish king. Iceland is a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) but has no standing military of its own. The bishop is elected by pastors and members of the theological faculty at the University of Iceland; and the one diocese is divided into districts, which are further subdivided into parishes. A Short History of Iceland. Approximately 82 percent of Icelanders between the ages of 17 and 75 have access to the Internet at home, school, or work. Today, Icelanders stand at the precipice of a new, exciting and divisive chapter in their young countryâs history. crofts standing at the foot of the mountains or sheltering on the southern slope of a ridge, each with a little brook running through the home-field, marshy land beyond, and a river flowing smoothly through the marsh. Nearly every district has its own museum reflecting the local cultural history, while magnificent galleries and museums grace the capitol. The western fjords have numerous well-sheltered harbours and good fishing grounds but little lowland suitable for agriculture. An elected church congress serves as an advisory board to the church. Denmark's hold on Iceland was significantly reduced in 1874 when a constitution was drafted granting Iceland permission to handle domestic affairs. Ring in the new year with a Britannica Membership. Volcanic activity has been particularly frequent since the 1970s. Although increasingly integrated into the European mainstream, Icelanders take care to preserve their traditions, customs, and language. U.S.-ICELAND RELATIONS The United States was the first country to recognize Icelandâs independence in 1944 following Danish rule. Type. Use this timeline to learn more about the history of Iceland. Soil and climatic conditions are favourable, and it is close to the country’s largest market, Reykjavík and its environs. Except for a brief interruption from 1799-1844, Icelandâs independent commonwealth has been governed by the Althingi parliament since 930, the worldâs oldest extant parliamentary institution. 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