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Bridge Between Continents, Iceland

The Bridge Between Continents is located on the Reykjanes Peninsula in the very southwest edge of Iceland, not far from the Keflavik Airport, and not far from the recent volcanic activity near Grindavik. Despite its innocuous location and appearance, the parking lot at the Bridge Between Continents is full, and the area is crawling with tourists waiting their turn to walk across the bridge. Why? Because this is a very special location, both scientifically in terms of the earth’s geologic processes at work and symbolically for friendship between peoples. This tiny canyon was not formed the way most other canyons on earth were formed. It was not eroded into the surrounding landscape by flowing water. Instead, the basalt lava flows on either side of the small canyon have been pulled apart, very slowly, by plate tectonics. Iceland is just a peak in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the boundary between the North American and Eurasian Plates. Thousands of miles long, the ridge is submerged beneath the Atlantic Ocean for almost its entire length, except for this one location where it peeps out above sea level, forming Iceland. The earth’s crust is being ripped asunder along this ridge while magma from the mantle is continually rising, forming volcanoes and making new crust. This rift cuts right across the nation of Iceland, from the Reykjanes Peninsula on the southwest to the northeast.

At 60 feet wide and 20 feet deep, the size of the rift in this part of the Reykjanes Peninsula does not require bridges to be crossed. A bulldozer could knock down the walls of the ravine and build a road through here, with just a slight dip in it, within minutes. In fact, this is what was done about a half-mile away, on Route 425, which is the highway along the coast. There is no bridge on Route 425 where it crosses the rift. Instead, the uneven surface was simply smoothed out and paved over. Also, there is nothing on either side of the bridge to walk to. There is a parking lot for tourist cars and buses on the eastern side, but there are no buildings on either side.

The bridge serves no functional purpose whatsoever. It was built entirely for tourists, with the symbolic purpose of linking the peoples of North America with those of Europe and Asia. The lava field on the eastern side, which includes the parking lot, is located on the Eurasian Plate. The lava field on the opposite side is on the North American Plate. This symbolic intent is reflected throughout the area with informational plaques on both ends of the bridge and in the large numbers of tourists who venture to this remote, relatively unattractive location, in order to leave their love padlocks on the wire railings.

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