Ultima Thule ...
... at the end of the known world
Quote of the week (Thule)
By a route obscure and lonely,
Haunted by ill angels only,
Where an Eidolon, named Night,
On a black throne reigns upright,
I have reached these lands but newly
From an ultimate dim Thule –
From a wild weird clime, that lieth, sublime,
Out of Space – out of Time.
From Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “Dream-Land” (1844)
Hope you have had a nice week, ending the month of April. On 30 April we light bonfires in Sweden and choirs lend their voices to greet spring. This day does not always have the best weather, but this year it was all right, at least in the south of Sweden. And, if it is not at least a little bit chilly, it is not a real Valborgsmässoafton, or Walpurgis Night (english) or Sankt-Walpurgisnacht (German).
The feast is named after Saint Walpurga who lived at the end of the 8th century. Born in Devon, England, she studied medicine, which must have been quite unusual at the time. From there she became a Christian missionary and went to Germany where she founded a monastery in Heidenheim. She was canonised on 1 May 870 and still we are celebrating her feast up to this day.
Hopefully, spring has now arrived. Or, as one of the guests at Set Meyer brings Jon Snow to a Dinner Party: “Spring has officially sprung”. If you are a fan of Game of Thrones, and have not seen this, it is a must.
When you are driving around Europe you often see the word Thule. It is connected with the Swedish company producing car boxes, bike racks and other travelling accessories. I am not going to talk about the company, but about the origins of the name Thule.
As with the mythical Atlantic, Thule, is a mysterious, presumably cold and icy place, in the far north, fascinating people even today. The ancient Greeks and Romans used the words Ultima Thule to describe the place beyond “the known borders of the world”. In Latin “Ultima“ means “farthest” or “most extreme”.
It is fascinating to study old maps. As the centre of knowledge, and written language, was much further south from our northern sphere, it is noticeable that maps are less detailed as you come further north. Maybe that is why there has been such difficulties in finding the mythical Thule.
As can be expected, even modern researchers are in doubt, and argues over where Thule was situated. So what is the information about Thule based on? In the fourth century BCE, Pytheas of Massilia (present day Marseille) set out on a journey north (between 330 and 320 BCE). He was a navigator, astronomer and mariner, heading north to investigate the sources of tin, amber and gold which were important for the trading city of Massilia. As he returned home he wrote On the Ocean, to document his finds. He might not have been aware of the mystery he initiated by talking about a far northern outpost called Thule. Unfortunately, the copy of the document disappeared when the library at Alexandria burnt down in 48 BCE. Quotes from the book is only known through other geographers and historians. Even in those days Pytheas’ finds were argued, doubted and discussed.
As he travelled up the British isles some of his surviving comments indicate that he might have travelled further north and discovered a remote, strange island; Ultima Thule. Nobody, in the coming centuries, followed in his footsteps, which made the location open for guesses. As the centuries passed by and no new information came forward, Thule became a mythical place at the end of the known world.
In his Natural History (AD 77) Pliny the Elder cites Pytheas’ claim that “Thule is a six-day sail north of Britain.” That gives researchers many possibilities, and over the years suggested locations have been Iceland, Greenland, the Shetland Islands, The Faroe Islands, Saaremaa (Estonian island) and islands along the north coast of Norway. During the 20th century, two schools of thought have been dominating: Thule is Iceland, and it is Norway.
In 2010, the Technical University of Berlin published a study revealing the location of Thule. The team who performed the study, two geodesists, an expert in Greek and Latin, and a historian, approached the problem in a new way. They started by looking at the ancient map of Ptolemy, the geographer. The map is from the 2nd century CE, and considered to be of the known world at the time. The coordinates of the map contain errors in measuring distances. Not surprisingly in those days, I would imagine. With modern technologies like geodesy, the scientists could reconstruct and correct those errors, which gave them a coordinate for Thule. According to their findings Thule must be the island of Smøla, situated north of Kristiansund at the west coast of Norway.
Well, I guess this is not the end of the search for this mythical place. If I would guess, without any scientific proofs whatsoever, just imagining a cold place, north of Britain, at the outskirts of the known world, I would go for Iceland. But what do I know? Do you have any ideas on where it might have been? What is your guess?
Once a month we receive a free magazine where I live. They have some pages with notices. One is called ‘We remember’ and then a year. This time they went back to 1971 to see what happened.
Films in the cinemas: (I have seen about half of them)
A Clockwork Orange
Diamonds Are Forever
Escape from the Planet of the APes
The French Connection
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Utvandrarna (The Emigrants)
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
On the 8 of March there was the ‘Fight of the Century’ between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in Madison Square Garden in New York. Frank Sinatra could not get a ticket, but managed to get a press accreditation.
In 1971 the first Starbucks was open at Pike Place Market in Seattle. In 1985 they are testing the Italian coffee shop idea with Latte at this address. It becomes a success very quickly. In 2016 Starbucks had 24 395 coffee shops around the world.
In 1971, Carolyn Davidson drew Nikes Swoosh symbol for the newly started shoe brand. She got 35 USD for the design.
East Pakistan reaches independence from Pakistan and change their name to Bangladesh on March 26.
This year Ray Tomlinson invented a way to send messaged to private persons via computers. He also choose the @ sign.
On my blog this week
DDM reading week 8 - 15 May 2023 (that is books by Daphne du Maurier)
April Wrap-Up (about the 17 books I read this month)
Visiting a second hand shop and coming back with 17 books
I am going to Stralsund, Germany and will be there when you are reading this newsletter. Hope to have some exciting things to tell you next week.