Friday, June 22, 2012

Grímsey on summer solstice and the Willard Fiske connection

We had a unique opportunity to visit Grímsey, located right on the Arctic circle, on 21 June. The island's inhabitants reflect the Icelandic pioneering and entrepreneurial spirit. They rely on fisheries to make their living in an environment that can be at once stunningly beautiful and harsh. I learned of a special connection between Grímsey and Willard Fiske, one of Iceland's earliest American friends. Fiske bequeathed Grimsey several chess sets and the school house because he learned of the island's passion for chess. Fiske, who is known as a friend and benefactor of Iceland, was a linguist and scholar who met and befriended Jón Sigurðsson in Denmark while studying there. He was keenly interested in Iceland and learned its language. Those of us who have struggled with Icelandic know it has as many variations as even the most complex chess game.