At The Earthquake Centre in Kópasker you can find installations and photographs on seismic activity around the world, aswell as in depth information about the region’s unusual geography. In particular, there is an emphasis on the tectonic activity in the ’70s and ’80s which resulted in, not only an earthquake in Kópasker but also the volcanic eruptions at Lake Mývatn.
In 1976 there was an earthquake 12km off the coast of Kópasker in Northeastern Iceland. There were reports of a weird bubbling in the ocean, but thankfully, even though it was 6.3 on the Richter Scale, it did not cause a tsunami (for a tsunami, the tectonic plates have to drop or fall underwater, whereas in this case, they merely slid and struck against each other). The earthquake did, however, still cause large-scale damage to buildings in the village and part of the land nearby gave way to create two lakes.
This was one of many events in the following decade which were symptomatic of heightened seismicity in the region. Most famously, in nearby Lake Mývatn there were a series of volcanic eruptions along a fissure, now commonly known as the Krafla Fires.
Following these events, in recent years, The Earthquake Centre was formed, to educate people further about plate tectonics and to commemorate what had happened.
Iceland sits directly in between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. With the boundary passing from the South-west of Iceland, in Reykjanes, up to the Tjornes Fracture in the North-east. The Tjornes Fracture is comprised of a series of faultlines which link Iceland to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a massive underwater mountain range formed by movement at the plate perimeter.
As you can see on the national weather website, earthquakes are regular occurrences, but they are rarely strong enough to cause any damage.
In addition to The Earthquake Centre, another reason to go to Kópasker is to see the scarecrows. A local woman has created hundreds of crazy looking scarecrows that greet you as you approach the village. That might sound a little eerie, but they´re pretty welcoming, brightly coloured fellows, from all walks of life.
To get there, simply take the road 85 all the way round the coast from Húsavík. It´s about 100km but good roads all the way, so will take about 1 hour. The Earthquake Centre itself can be easily found inside the Kópasker schoolhouse, which is number 6 on the Akurgerði road.
View route map from Húsavík
1st june til 30th august from 13°° til 17°°.
At other times, simply call or email to arrange a viewing.
465-2105 during office hours.
864-2157 out of office hours.