Detailed mapping of the interior of Iceland was first undertaken
in the nineteenth century by an Icelander, Björn
Gunnlaugsson, who made a survey of the country between
1831 and 1843, financed by the Icelandic Literary Society.
The modern topographic survey of the country was initiated
in 1902 by the Danish General Staff (later Geodæstisk
Institut), beginning with a triangulation survey and the
production of a plane table map series. Initially, mapping
was at the scale of 1:50,000, but in 1907 this was changed
to 1:100,000. Consequently, although the entire country was
eventually mapped at 1:100,000 scale (Atlasblöð),
the early 1:50,000 scale quarter sheets (Fjórðungsblöð)
covered only the western and southern coastal areas. By
1936, the settled areas had all been mapped, and in the
following year it was decided to map the remaining areas
of the interior by photogrammetric methods. To this end an
extensive cover of oblique air photographs of the central areas
of Iceland was obtained in 1937 and 1938. The 1:100,000
scale series in 87 sheets, was completed in 1943.
In 1955 a new triangulation and geodetic survey was carried
out with help from Denmark and the United States, and the
following year the Iceland Geodetic Survey (Landmælingar
Íslands, LMÍ)) was founded, taking over responsibility for
map making from the Danish survey. In 1965, LMÍ bought
up all stocks of Icelandic maps and reprographic material
from the Danish Geodæstisk Institut.
Until recently, the 1:100,000 scale series remained the
largest-scale map to cover the entire country (excluding a
1:50,000 scale map published by the Americans in 1950 as AMS (C762)). The 1:100,000 scale map is on a Lambert Conformal
Conic projection, and the sheets are printed in four to seven
colors with a 20 m contour interval. Since 1983, this series
has been kept in print, but without further revision.
In the 1970s, a new 1:50,000 scale series (Series C761) was
started in the Reykjanes Peninsula in cooperation with the
American Defense Mapping Agency (now National Imagery
and Mapping Agency (NIMA)). This five-color series is on a Transverse Mercator projection,
International spheroid, and has a legend in English and
Icelandic. Contours are at 20 m intervals, with supplementary
contours at 10 m. Sheets of the AMS (C762 series),
mentioned above, are also still available.
In 1988 and 1989, LMÍ also published the first 17 sheets
of a new 766 sheet basic topographic series (Staðfræðikort)
at 1:25,000 scale. These sheets cover the south-western part
of Iceland. The contour interval is 5 m and the maps show
considerable terrain and land cover detail. Currently, LMÍ is
preparing to publish maps in the 1:25,000 basic map series
using digital methods.
The 1:250,000 scale general map (Aðalkort) in nine sheets
is frequently updated, and is also issued in a travel version
with sheets paired and printed back to back. However, the
standard version has the useful feature of an index of place
names printed on the reverse of the sheets, with the names
referenced to an alpha-numeric grid on the maps. The legend
is in Icelandic, Danish and English. New editions also have
small thematic maps printed in the margin, showing
climate, geology, past volcanic eruptions and administrative
LMÍ has also issued a number of special maps
of National Parks and other areas of tourist interest (þingvellir,
Hekla, Vestmannaeyjar, Skaftafjell, Mývatn, Hornstrandir,
Hύsavík/Mývatn, þórsmörk/Landmannalaugar, Suðvesturland
and Sύrtsey). Several angling maps of Icelandic rivers have
also been published since 1993, mainly at 1:25,000 scale.
Most of the LMÍ maps are now available in various digital
formats and, in addition, two CD-ROMs were published in
1997, each containing 112 raster-scanned maps at scales of
1:500,000, 1:250,000 and 1:50,000. One has been produced
by Radiómiðun and the other by R. Sigmundsson, both
in association with LMÍ, and both designed for use with
In 1990, the Iceland Geodetic Survey became part of the
Ministry of the Environment, established that same year.
Subsequently, it has invested in remote sensing and digital
mapping equipment. A new mapping framework, Icenet 93,
has also been established using GPS position fixing, and will
replace the triangulation network of 1955. In 1999 LMÍ was
relocated from Reykjavík to the town of Akranes.
Soviet military topographic mapping of Iceland exists at the following scales: 1:1,000,000 (4 sheets, complete coverage, published in 1955);
1:500,000 (8 sheets, complete coverage, published 1962-1965) and 1:200,000 (24 sheets, complete coverage, published 1955-1967). These products are available in print,
digital raster and digital vector GIS formats from East View Geospatial.