Tectonic plates don’t have a good rep. Our immediate association is huge earthquakes and lava-spurting volcanoes, shaking shit up and creating whopping great mountain ranges. But did you know that there’s a plate boundary in Iceland where you can actually swim – and that it’s not only safe, but incredibly beautiful?
The Silfra Fissure in Iceland’s Thingvellir National Park straddles the Eurasian and North American continental plates. In between them is a popular freshwater diving and snorkelling spot, and it’s so narrow that, if you dive all the way down to the bottom, you can actually have a hand on each continent.
The two sides of Silfra are moving apart from each other at a rate of two centimetres every year. But the diving spot isn’t just famed for its inter-continental novelty. The water at Silfra –glacier melt that has been filtered through porous lava – is incredibly pristine. Divers can make out jagged rocks from as far as 100 metres away.
So, what about the diving experience at Silfra? Well, for starters, this is glacier water, so it’s very cold (between two and four degrees celsius, fyi) and all divers and snorkellers have to wear dry suits. Unless you’re a qualified diver, you’re also limited to snorkelling – the fissure is 60 metres deep, so only the properly trained are allowed anywhere near the bottom.
Silfra is the only place in the world where you can swim between two tectonic plates. While it’s true that there are plenty of other underwater trench plate boundaries around the world, most of them are not just out in the middle of enormous oceans, but very, very far below the surface.
If you fancy experiencing Silfra for yourself, it’s just over an hour’s coach ride from the capital Reykjavik. Plenty of travel packages offer day trips, including tours, dry suits and diving gear. Want to find out more? Head over to Silfra’s official website.
While we’re here: did you know that Death Valley is full of mysterious moving stones?
And have you heard the one about the fire that has been raging in the Asian desert for 50 years?