On 14 November 1963, a trawler passing the southernmost point of Iceland spotted a column of smoke rising from the sea. Expecting to find a burning boat they were surprised to find instead, explosive volcanic eruptions. They were witnessing the birth of a new island. Columns of ash reached heights of almost 30,000 feet in the sky and could be seen on clear days as far away as Reykjavík. The eruptions continued for three and a half years, ending in June 1967. Once formed, Surtsey was 492 feet above sea level and covered an area of almost 2 square miles. The island was named after the Norse fire god Surtur. It is a perfect scientific study area used to understand the colonization process of new land by plant and animal life.