As Ripley’s Believe It or Not! used to ask, Did you know there is only one place in the world where you can touch two continents at once? Although it sounds unbelievable, it’s actually true.
Getting there isn’t necessarily easy, though. First, you have to go to Iceland. Then, you need to put on a wetsuit and scuba dive in the Silfra fissure’s 35-degree water. Once you are around 200 feet underwater, you can touch the Eurasian and North American continents at the same time.
“To be there and physically touch two continents at once is something you can do nowhere else on earth,” Scott Wilson, Silfra diver and travel videographer, says in a Smithsonian Magazine article. “You kind of pause and look at it and think, ‘Where the hell is that?’”
How The Fissure Was Created
The Silfra, or “silver,” fissure is about an hour away from Reykjavík — the capital and largest city of Iceland — in Thingvellir National Park. Interestingly, that area is a UNESCO world heritage area because it is the site where Althingi — Iceland’s parliament — held its first meeting in 930.
Here’s a geology refresher. The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is part of the longest mountain range in the world, running from North-East Greenland all the way down to the South Atlantic, a DIVE.IS article explains. Although most of the range sits under the ocean, parts of the peak line reach the ocean’s surface — creating islands, such as Iceland, the article continues. This ridge is the divide between the North American and the Eurasian Tectonic Plates.
Continental drift forces tectonic plates to shift slightly, which can result in earthquakes. In 1789, these earthquakes created fissures, or cracks, in Iceland, Silfra.org explains. Although there are several fissures in the Thingvellir area, the Silfra fissure is so deep it divides the two continents and also cracked open an underground spring that stores glacier-melt water from Langjokull — the second largest glacier in Iceland. This water now fills the fissure and is so pure that you can drink it, DIVE.IS notes.
Diving In Silfra Fissure
It’s easy to see why Silfra fissure is a favorite spot for divers. Not only is the water so pure they can drink it, but it also offers visibility of more than 300 feet. Oh, and they can also touch two continents at once.
“It is a place where divers can see right into the earth in a geological sense,” Rudiger Hahl, operations manager and guide at DIVE.IS, tells Smithsonian.com. When visibility is perfect and the sun cooperates, divers can turn on their back and “enjoy a perfect mirror image of the bottom of Silfra,” Hahl says.
So, just how popular is Silfra fissure among divers? Approximately 20,000 divers plunge into the fissure each year, according to the Smithsonian Magazine article.
Know Before You Go
Iceland is open to tourists who can show a certificate of full vaccination against COVID-19 or a certificate documenting previous COVID-19 infection. More information can be found here.