The Ice Museum: In Search of the Lost Land of Thule.

Joanna Kavenna went north in search of the Atlantis of the Arctic, the mythical land of Thule. Seen once by an Ancient Greek explorer and never found again, mysterious Thule came to represent the vast and empty spaces of the north. Fascinated for many years by Arctic places, Kavenna decided to travel through the lands that have been called Thule, from Shetland to Iceland, Norway, Estonia, and Greenland. On her journey, she found traces of earlier writers and travellers, all compelled by the idea of a land called Thule: Richard Francis Burton, William Morris, Anthony Trollope, as well as the Norwegian Polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen . . . The Ice Museum is a mesmerising story of idealism and ambition, wars and destruction, survival and memories, set against the haunting backdrop of the northern landscape. Bookseller Inventory #0670913952

One woman’s search for Pytheus’s Thule, from the Shetlands to Iceland, Norway, Estonia, Greenland, and Svalbard, with no obvious conclusion but plenty of fascinating speculations.

p. 91, in Iceland a poet named Johannes speaks of his work: ‘I write in the tradition of the Sagas,’ he said, immediately, as I sat down. ‘We all in Iceland write in the tradition of the Sagas. It wasn’t so long ago, everyone knew all the Sagas; they sat around in the evenings reciting them. On the farms in the valleys, there wasn’t much to do. They called it the Icelandic Library, the old men and woman [sic] reciting the Sagas to each other, to their children and grandchildren, and of course eventually they all knew them off by heart. I write in this tradition, as an Icelander it is inherent in me,’ he said.

p. 199, In the Polar Museum in Tromsø: Away from the skies and sledges and navigation equipment, I stopped at a glass cabinet, containing a pocket-sized, brown leather copy of Frithjof’s Saga—a tale of chivalric courage and frostbitten love, adapted from an Icelandic Saga by Tegnér. The book was opened at the frontispiece, which had an inscription in it, written by Amundsen, dated 1926: ‘This book came with me on all my expeditions, Roald Amundsen.’ Nansen, a Frithjof by name, could recite long passages by heart.