I’ve experienced many different kinds of rifts, splits, breaks, breaches and failings. Rift takes on a new meaning when you viisit Pingvellir National Park (in English pronunced Thingvellir ) Iceland. The most dramatic or possibly the most unique aspect of the park is walking beside the tectonic plates between North America and Eurasia. Being dreadfully deficient when it comes to geology, a free tour by one of the park rangers, was the perfect opportunity to understand the landscape at Pingvellir.
“A rift valley is a lowland region formed by the interaction of Earth’s tectonic plates. This small rift valley has a typical formation – long, narrow, and deep. It was formed by the Thingvellir rift, where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are tearing, or rifting, apart over a hotpot on the island of Iceland.
Tectonic plates are huge, rocky slabs of Earth’s lithosphere—its crust and upper mantle. Tectonic plates are constantly in motion—shifting against each other in fault zones, falling beneath one another in a process called subduction, crashing against one another at convergent plate boundaries, and tearing apart from each other at divergent plate boundaries.
In the northern Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the North American plate and the Eurasian plate are splitting apart at a rate of about 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) per year. Over millions of years, the Mid-Atlantic Ridge has formed rift valleys as wide as 15 kilometers (9 miles).” National Geographic
Pingvellir National Park literally translates to “Parliament Plains” . The Park is so named because the Icelandic general assembly established in 930 was convened until 1798. A judicial as well as a parliamentary body, this authority doled out punishments.
At another end of the park are: there are three places where executions took place:
The Hanging Place:
hanging was for thieves, beheading by ax was for murderers
The Drowning Place:
death by drowning reserved for women found guilty of infanticide, adultery or other serious crimes
The Beheading Place:
beheading by ax was for murderers and male adulterers.
One of the exhausted hikers taking a nap at the visitors center. Luckily sleeping was not a punishable offence.