In the land of the pale blue snow
Where it's ninety-nine below,
And the polar bears go roamin' o'er the plain,
In the shadow of the Pole
I will clasp her to my soul:
We'll be married when the ice worms nest again.
The puck Robin Goodfellow, well into his cups one night in the 1590's while drinking with Will Shakespeare and a miscellaneous gaggle of other actors, bet that he could “put a girdle round the earth in forty minutes”. That was in London, latitude 51°30'N. The girdle length of the globe at that latitude is about 25,000 kilometers, for a bet-speed of about 37,500 kms/hour, which is a pretty good clip. If he moved further north, however, to 55°, say, he could girdle at a more leisurely pace, around 34,500 kms/hour, and the further north he went the slower he could go, until he arrived at the North Pole where he could girdle the earth in no time at all, literally, no matter how fast or slowly he went. This matter is of more than academic interest, since in Canada the velocity of pucks consumes a significant share of the national attention span.
I have in front of me a map that looks at the northern quadrasphere (or semihemisphere) from the top, that is, the North Pole. It focuses on the portion north of 55°, which the map-makers (Natural Resources Canada) call the "Northern Circumpolar Region". Of course it's not a region at all, but a disc, the flat picture of a cap, taking in a cluster of whole countries in the North Atlantic Ocean and around the Baltic Sea, and the northern regions of Russia (huge), Canada (less huge), and the United States (specifically, the State of Alaska). The name of this map is MCR0001_circumpolar_2017; Aunt Google will find it for you if you ask her.
The following map, apparently courtesy of the US-CIA and in the public domain, shows roughly the same area but with much less detail. Consider yourself oriented, at least preliminarily.
|If the makers of my map had extended its reach to 45°N, where I live, to take in the whole quadrasphere, it would of course take in many more countries and much more diversity, but I deem this map a good place to start for the project I have in mind, which is to girdle the Earth one parallel of latitude at a time, starting at the North Pole, treating each one-degree girdle as a province in its own right without regard to the political divisions imposed by human history and ambition. These may indeed prove transitory, as such arrangements have always tended to do, much as we would like to think they are etched into the face of the earth.
I would like to understand what it means to be part of the Earth’s North Circumpolar Quadraspheric Cap, without regard to jurisdictions, and to pass that understanding on to you. I wish to be true to the axioms of Pluralism, one of which says that elements should not be ignored simply because they do not conform to some predetermined set of assumptions. I have defined the geographic area of our interest, and then we will find out what the patterns are, and if they emerge as diverse, then so be it. The Cap is the Cap, the “nordicity” of its elements merely one of their features, although for some it will have vital even defining importance.
People sometimes accuse others, or themselves, of “not being able to see the forest for the trees”. We hold this blindness to be impossible. The forest is the trees, and all creatures great and small living under and in them, or feeding on or using them, either directly or indirectly. You can’t see the forest without looking at the trees, and all these other denizens. As we engage with the North Circumpolar Quadraspheric Cap, and everything else we engage with, we are going to start by looking at the trees, because they are most conspicuous, and through them to comprehend the forest. Who are the people of Northern Earth, and how do they live? What lands and waters surround them, and just how frozen are they? What conditions do they face? What do they hold in common besides latitude, these hardy people, and how do they differ? What stories would they tell each other if they ever got together? “Where are you from? What’s it like there? How did you or your ancestors get there? How do you live? What have you learned? What do you still not know?”
My map shows many details, and I supplement it with the best maps I can find on-line for each part of it. I also have a database of human settlements, sorted by latitude, to which I am adding as the data flow in.The human settlement furthest north is Alert, at the north end of Ellesmere Island, snugly located in Girdle 82. Radiating out from the North Pole, we first strike land in Girdle 83 at or near Kaffeklubben Island, in the extreme north of Greenland. After that things get progressively more lively, until by Girdle 70 we are in the thick of it. Girdle 70 is also vital to Jules Verne's arctic epic Le Pays des Fourrures (Land of Furs, or The Fur Country), although it is worth noting that those hardy, reality-defying would-be settlers at that latitude did drift as far north as Girdle 73. We will catch up with them there, and several times thereafter. Epic voyages are common in the arctic region, but Verne's is unique.
Knowledge, Imagination, Compassion, Humour, mined from the North Circumpolar Quadraspheric Cap. This is our Quest.