So where is Iceland?

I’m reading Simon Winchester’s biography of the Atlantic at the moment ("Atlantic: A Vast Ocean of a Million Stories"), and thoroughly enjoying it.   His enthusiasm for some of the undersea place-names has made me think back to a blog post I wrote a couple of years ago in praise of the inflight information system on Air Canada.

One of Winchester’s throw away lines at the start of the book alludes to the fact that he ‘must have transversed this particular body of water five hundred times’.  Aside from the fact that this is just bragging, and I’m going to forgive him that he has also crossed ‘this particular body of water’ by boat, a journey that is still on my must-do-sometime list, this did start me thinking about how many times I’ve crossed the Atlantic.

I started by digging back through old passports.  We Brits don’t get stamps when we come into the UK, but I’ve got a fairly substantial collection of US entry stamps – 21 that I can see, plus three for Canada and one for Chile – that 25 trips – 50 crossings.   Easy so far.

Then we come the more difficult trips – how far across the Atlantic do you need to go to have really crossed it?  The Falkland Islands are pretty close to South America (at least so certain Argentine lobby groups would have you believe).  For the sake of this argument we’ll include flying from the Falkland Islands via Ascension as a valid transatlantic crossing (and coming back again).  That gets me to 52 crossings.  

Greenland might technically be part of Denmark (and therefore of Europe) but it’s awfully close to Ellesmere Island (definitely Canada), and only separated from Baffin Island (also Canada) by Baffin Bay and the Davis Strait.  So I think I need to class my trip to Greenland in 2007 as having included another couple of transatlantic crossings. We’ve got to 54 now.
However, if we’re classing Greenland as having included a transatlantic crossing, what about Iceland?  When I went to Greenland I went via Reykjavik, so when did I cross the Atlantic?  My map of the Atlantic clearly shows the water between Iceland and Greenland as the Denmark Strait, and the water between Scotland and Iceland as ‘Atlantic Ocean’, so do I get to count my trip to Iceland in 2006 as an transatlantic crossing?  Seems too easy. That’s 56. 

But it doesn’t seem quite right.  The Faroe Islands are on my wish list too – are they far enough away to count as a transatlantic crossing?  Confusing business this travel lark. 

The Photo-a-Day Habit

I got a little bit of local fame (or infamy) last week. 

Junior Photographer, c.1971
Completing a year of sharing my daily photo habit on Blipfoto got me a little item in the Oxford Journal.  I did a short telephone interview with someone from the paper and an article based on the interview appeared plus a photo from my occasional 'Caf├ęs of Headington' series and a self-portrait I took in Greenland trip a few years ago.  The article was mostly right - although I think I might have over-estimated how early I got my first camera.  The earliest picture I've been able to find where I have a camera round my neck was taken in the Alps in summer 1971, when I was 10.  There's no point lying about my age any more, having been outed in the Oxford Journal as a '50-year old Open University IT manager'.  I decided not to complicate things by getting into explaining what an educational technologist was during the interview.

Cafes of Headington. April 2011: Picture # 2298

The newspaper hook was the fact that I'd taken a picture every day for a year, although for me this was just a continuation of a much longer standing habit.  I've been taking pictures regularly since the late 1990's, and I've documented holidays and trips with a camera for a lot longer than this.  The move to digital in 2004 made me start to think a bit more about my photography, and the ability to experiment more and see the results immediately encouraged me to resolve to take a picture each day during 2005.  Having made that resolution just before Christmas in 2004 there didn't seem to be any good reason to wait until the first of January to get started, so my photo-a-day sequence actually started on 24th December 2004, with a picture of an art installation taken from my office window at the Open University.  I also set up this blog to share the images - in reality I don't think anyone else was watching, but the purpose was to provide an incentive for me not to break the sequence.  

Modern Art - Open University: Picture #1
Once I got to the end of 2005, a year which had turned out to include a number of interesting trips both in the UK and further afield, the process of looking for a picture to say something about the day had become a habit, and I just kept going.

Persepolis, Iran, November 2005: Picture # 338
Although I was still taking pictures every day I stopped posting a daily image and this blog changed into my place for reporting on the many trips I was making and a place where I provided links to my Flickr and Picasa accounts.  This was my routine until late July last year when I was encouraged to post my daily picture onto Blipfoto.  28th July 2010 was my first day on blip, and also my 2043rd photo-of-the-day.

Riverside, Milton Keynes, July 2010 : Picture # 2043

Reaping & Sowing, Oxford, August 2011: Picture # 2424
Two of the questions that the Oxford Journal asked were essentially “What do you look for in the daily photograph?” and “Will you stop?” 

I don’t think I’ve got an answer to the second question – I certainly can’t see a reason for stopping, although I’m sure something will happen one day to break my continuous run.  The first question is more challenging.  If I’m travelling or doing something unusual, I’ll always have a camera with me – on these occasions my problem is usually deciding which of the many images to post. On a more routine day, I might well need to go hunting for a blip.  Sometimes I’ll have an idea that I want to seek out, on other days serendity will offer me something to blip.  The urge to photograph boats one work-day lunchtime, resulted in my discovering that there was actually a marina (on the canal) just a few minutes from office.  If I’m in Oxford (which was the angle that the Oxford Journal wanted) I’ll try to find a blip that says something about Oxford, perhaps people punting on the river or the gate to an Oxford college. Inevitably, the images say something about me and what I’m thinking as well as where I am.  I’ve taken ‘pictures-of-the-day’ on every continent except Africa (an oversight that I must rectify).  I’ve taken pictures when I’ve been happy and miserable – and even when I was laid up with pneumonia.

Oxford, August 2005: Picture # 248
Falkland Islands, February 2009: Picture # 1515
Greenland, August 2007: Picture # 956
My photo-a-day habit is a well entrenched one – over the next few weeks I’ll keep the Oxford, Milton Keynes and Shetland images coming, and after that there should be a few months of rather further afield images to add to the blip collection.
Shetland, October 2010: Picture # 2112
Update: The article in the Oxford Journal managed to find its way to the attention of the OU Communications team - and they (with a little input from me) produced this item on the Open University Platform.

Another Update: 28th October 2011. Picture # 2500

Quendale Beach, Shetland, October 2011: Picture # 2500