Baer – Wayfinding

I love maps. I thought I’d just admit that publicly!

I think Icelanders love of maps too. At least you’d think so from the quality of the atlases and maps I’ve seen here. Maps are a means of not only knowing where you are and of delineating territory, they are a way of finding a place for yourself in the world.

Here is Iceland, a small island in the midst of the North Atlantic surrounded by deep, cold seas.

The view from the ‘edge of space’.

Though the island is relatively small in area and population, in many ways it’s also vast. The the landscape seems huge when you are in it – the horizon is far away, the mountains are ice capped, there are no trees to break up or soften the views. It’s very easy to imagine getting lost in the snow, turned around in the fog, lost in a storm at sea or simply confounded by the sheer scale of space here.

My first inclination on heading somewhere new is to find a topo map of the region. On my first day here, I was delighted to find a huge 3-D topo map as the central display in Reykjavik’s City Hall. The whole island reduced to the size of a small swimming pool.

Oðin’s eye view

Skagafjöður on the giant topo looking from the North. Baer is left of center. The red patch is the nearby town of Hofsós.

On a map it looks like this.

Detailed topo of the ‘hood’ – see Baer above Hofsós

Older maps give another view of the place and another view on ways to view the place!

Ortelius’ map of Islandia from 1590

Love the whales!

Fearsome Creatures!

Frontispiece from another early atlas.

When my residency finishes I’ll be heading off with Sandra to circumnavigate the island. Heading east to the coast and then down around the south where the glaciers spill out into the North Atlantic across giant lava sand flood plains that flow with water and rubble whenever the volcanoes beneath the glaciers vent their larva into the capping ice.

I’ve never seen such a strange topo map! The glaciers flowing between the escarpments, the huge flatlands stretching to the sea with a thousand small streams taking the runoff from the melting glaciers. I can’t wait to see the reality for which the map is a simulacrum.

Skaftafell

2 Comments

  1. David Trubridge July 23, 2012 at 1:07 am

    What is it about maps? I have too a bookshelf full of topo and road maps from all round the world! We are of the land – the topography is us, it defines us; and now we can observe it from above in real time, with equal fascination, as well as through the vision of a cartographer. Such perspective makes us godlike in our distant abstraction and separation. But the map drawer adds the touch of the human hand, and the decisions of the creative brain, to interpret. As a kid, I used to copy topo maps 1:1, my own mini version of the Carroll/Borges full size fantasy!
    When I drove along that southern road it was in a thick mist and I didn’t see a single glacier snout (gorgeous word!) – I hope you have better luck!

    Reply

  2. Wonderful maps—thank you Donald for presenting the elevated view. Now I know what the golden eagle sees!
    My stone skins are 3D topo maps!! I’d like to map the whole beach including the resident teal…….
    Diana

    Reply

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