Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Polar Bear sightings

Having recently read Stan and Michael‘s inaugural blog „out of Africa“ (and loved it) I have been giving the disparity between the world‘s continents some thought, in particular the varying fauna represented in the accompanying photos of the impala and elephant. Amazing creatures I have yet to see outside a zoo and not actually sure I should be aiming to step up the intimacy with. Moving a bit further south, I find it astonishing how different Australia’s animals are from those separated by a mere ocean and as a result one cannot imagine how vastly unlike life forms on other planets must be. These will certainly not have fingers and navels like the space aliens one often sees in the movies, the ones that are really just a stretched edition of light bluish humans, albeit with supersized heads and eyes.

The only mammal native to Iceland is the fox. The island was inhabited by a lot of birds, few insects and absolutely no reptiles. Following settlement in 874 farm animals were brought over, along with the odd stow away mouse or two, and today we have a pretty good non-exotic selection of animals, all with a purpose, at least originally. However, to keep things interesting we do get the odd polar bear drifting to shore on icebergs although these are few and far between. However in the spring of 2008 we had two such unwelcome visits almost back to back causing a national semi-panic with the police hotline being kept busy with callers announcing sightings of white things that turned out be anything from a couple of sheep huddled together, a leftover snow-bank or even laundry. My favourite polar bear thing from this brief period was when an Oddfellow charter from up north got in the news for the third “real” sighting that took place during the association’s annual spring bus excursion around the countryside. They had photos, see above, and the media began alerting people in the neighbouring town to lock their doors as this was apparently not another bundle of misplaced dirty sheets. The men said that the animal was really gentle and that they had almost been able to pet it which was not well perceived by the police, the sharpshooters rushing to site or other authorities getting in on the action. Anyway, so as not to keep you in suspense it turned out to be a hoax. The photos were actually real and the animal at one point, the men had brought a mounted polar bear belonging to one of them along on the bus and carried it between them out into the wild and snapped away. I guess they had not heard of photoshop. Anyway, it is the only time I have ever wanted to be an Oddfellow.

Yrsa - Wednesday


  1. Hi Yrsa,

    The last time I visited Iceland was back in 1964, in the days of my foolish youth. I was taking advantage of one of those cheap flights from New York to Luxembourg with a stopover in Reykjavik. Those flights, I think, have brought more people to Iceland down through the years than any bureaucrats charged with tourism.
    A while back, the fellow who accompanied me on that flight returned and took his wife. I'm loving your stories and thinking it's about time I went back and took MY wife. Eide, being Brazilian, saw snow for the first time (high on the top of an Andean peak and very far away) when she was twenty-two. And, like many Brazilians, considers it exotic and is very fond of it. On a booktour, last year, we got snowed-in while in upstate Vermont. For her, it was the highlight of her trip, and she still talks about it. Don't be surprised if the Gages show up on your doorstep sometime soon.

  2. Hey, here's a top-notch idea: Publish photos of fauna from each of your home countries (flora, too, if you like), and ask readers to guess the country. The African polar bear and the Arctic giraffe are too little known outside their native lands.
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

  3. Hi Leighton - the Gages are welcome ANYTIME! We are about to renovate our house but should be out of the woods late summer and then you could stay with us if you want. It is a beautiful place to visit and dirt cheap these days, sort of.

    Hi Peter - sounds like a plan, too bad the Arctic Giraffe is so ferocious that is hard to get close enough ;-)


  4. I'm working on a photo of an African polar bear! Somewhere I have a picture of an Alaskan hyena - I'll see if I can find it.


  5. Hi Yrsa-

    That was a fun story, I think animals being confused with laundry is pretty funny.


  6. Yrsa, fermented shark is definitely an acquired taste - you wouldn't want to live with that smell in the house, that's for sure. My husband was German and the smell reminded me of some stinky cheeses he used to love. A little bit of limburger goes a long way..
    When will the English translation of your new book be available?