To the North! — A. Gavin Zeitz MLA ’18
Hello friends, I have settled into the small coastal city of Reykjavik (ray-k-ya-vik) in the southwest of Iceland. I have ventured to this small Northern country to work with JONAA (https://jonaa.org/) furthering cross-disciplinary collaboration surrounding the Arctic and North Atlantic environments and cultures. I’m interested in the various ways that our northern landscapes are currently being altered by new climate regimes and how culture will adapt or respond to new normals. This includes exploring the various ways tourism has affected Iceland or how new industrial activities may begin in Greenland, or mapping the various stakeholders who contribute to JONAA’s news platform, as well as many other areas of Arctic research.
The first things you notice in the “summer” here is the extra long days which do a number on your perception of time. My flight from Boston to Iceland was a redeye, but since I was flying East the sun was in a state of perpetual sunrise as I approached morning in the Iceland. My first night in town I explored this phenomenon walking along the harbor. According to the weather app the last light of the night was set to disappear at 00:00 (midnight, military time is standard over here) and the first light would arise at 00:04. You might think this means 4 minutes of darkness, but in actuality it is still quite bright and kind of feels more like early evening until it suddenly becomes early morning. This definitely took some adjusting to, fortunately each night the length of darkness increases though I have yet to see a fully dark night.
My first meeting with the folks at JONAA was very nice Audur, Hlin, and Vilborg are the three women who operate the company in Reykjavik. The rest of the JONAA’S authors, contributors, and members are spread out throughout Northern Europe, Canada, Greenland, and the USA (Maine and Alaska). This nomadic organization of contributors defines their scope and attitude towards the Arctic as region deeply connected to the rest of the world. It was a pleasant meeting as we had a lot of interests in common and had similar thoughts about how to improve the website’s offerings. My primary interest in JONAA from the start was the way they defined what was the “Arctic”. JONAA (Journal of the North Atlantic and Arctic) broadens their scope of the region to include nations and cultures that may lie outside of Arctic Circle but still influence and are influenced by the Arctic. I thought the most interesting way to show this would be to create an interactive map locating where all of the 65 or so articles take place (some are regional and some are site specific). They were fully on board for this. My task was then to compile a database that listed all of the articles that have been published so far and link those to longitudes and latitudes. The idea for the map will allow for on the ground visuals to be paired with a location on the globe and the article which describes more in depths the issues. The next steps after the completion of the database will be to figure out how to translate this into a web friendly map that can easily be embedded into JONAA’s website and updated as new articles are published.
Aside from work with JONAA I have been able to explore some really beautiful nature areas such as Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates meet (this is the only place in the world where this rift happens above sea level. I also was able to go on a long drive up the east coast on the Ring Road to see the Jökulsárlón Glacier which is the largest in Europe. Here the receding glacier deposits house sized icebergs into a large lagoon where they float around in their ghostly and luminous blue tones until they eventually melt or are carried out to sea. It has surely been a wildly new place to explore and there is something about Iceland that makes you so aware of time at both geologic scales as well as the everyday human scale. Look forward to sharing more soon 🙂 GZ
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