Friday 11 September 2020
THIS NORWEGIAN ISLAND CLAIMS TO BE THE FABLED LAND OF THULE
Greek explorer Pytheas traveled to what is now the British Isles and farther north in a trireme, exploring and mapping much of the coastline. He wrote of Thule, an island that people have searched for ever since. This illustration is by John F. Campbell from the 1909 book The Romance of Early British Life. (Chronicle/Alamy)
Residents of Smøla believe they live in the northernmost location mentioned in ancient Greek and Roman literature. Other contenders say not so fast.
On a Monday late in April 2020, the tiny, rocky, sparsely populated Norwegian island of Smøla, which had been sealed off from the outside world for three months, reopened its one point of access, a ferry terminal that connects it to the coastal cities of Trondheim and Kristiansund. The move brought joy to the residents of Smøla, who often travel to the mainland for supplies and recreation. It also gladdened tourists and adventurers, particularly those with an interest in the fabled land of Thule, also known as ultima Thule, whose exact location in the world has been debated for over two millennia. According to one recent school of thought, Smøla is the island with the strongest claim to that location: reopening Smøla thus meant that it was once again possible to set foot on Thule.
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