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23 1 SURVIVAL ON THE EDGE A HIDDEN HISTORY I scrambled down the steep bank of a lava ravine, wonderinghowsoonthefinemistwouldturntorain .Ihadbeenreadingaccounts of seawomen who fished in the seventeen and eighteen hundreds along this south coast of the Snaefellsnes peninsula in West Iceland, including another Thurídur, this one Thurídur Jónsdóttir who lived only a few decades after the famed Foreman Thurídur of Stokkseyri. Thurídur J. often told people how much she loved this area I now walked, particularly the nearby cove of Dritvík. I wanted to see for myself this place she loved. I walked along the ravine floor, its walls twisted sculpted arches that, in this mist, rose as stone giants clothed in lichen and moss. At its mouth, the ravine opened to Djúpalónssandur, a locally well-known black lava sand beach where I had heard I would find the two-mile track that now led to Thurídur J.’s beloved Dritvík cove. I picked my way around the rusted hulk of a modern-day shipwreck. It says something of the roughness of the sea there that when I returned a mere two years later, all that remained of this ship was scattered flotsam along the upper sands. Just offshore stood tall lava-black sea stacks surrounded by leaping white foam. The sea color, an opaque silted glacial teal, seemed out of place, as though hand colored in this etching of black lava against white foam and sky. The waves reared enormous, only to have strong undertows suck them noisily back as they slammed against the steep black sand. I shuddered at both their beauty and their power. 24 CHAPTER ONE I tried to imagine what fishing would have been like for the seawomen and seamen rowing through these seas in open wooden rowboats, generally four to eight oars per boat, one person at each oar. Remote fishing camps such as Dritvík, called outstations (útver), were not located near the farms where people lived but along coastlines where migrating cod and other fish seasonally came close to shore. Foreman Thurídur’s winter fishing hut, which I had seen with Dísa, was one of these outstations. Dritvík was an important outstation because the fish migrated there earlier than to the more habitable farming areas to the north, allowing people to start fishing there in the spring. The sea was also better at Dritvík. Despite today’s chilly mist, Dritvík was known to have a distinct microclimate, warm and more protected from the wind.1 The outstations provided one of the best chances of making money, so people of working age tried to get a place on those boats fishing from an outstation.2 People moved to outstations such as Dritvík for the fishing season and lived in rudimentary housing for weeks and months at a time, catching and drying the rich fish harvest, and then returning home. Poor families who had nowhere to leave their children sometimes brought them along.3 Altogether it was a mixed group of men, women, teenagers, and a few children, all focused on catching and then drying the fish. Thurídur Jónsdóttir generally lived along the inner end, or as Icelanders say “the bottom,” of the huge island-filled bay of Breidafjördur on the north coast of this same Snaefellsnes peninsula,4 but for many seasons she came for the fishing at Dritvík. In 1809, she crewed at Dritvík with Foreman Páll Einarsson, three of Páll’s brothers, Páll’s daughter Gudný Pálsdóttir, and a man in his sixties named Saemundur. People considered the brothers good seamen—although they were said to be overly fond of the bottle. One day at Dritvík that year, a number of people on shore saw what appeared to be two men rising from the waters of the Pit—as they nicknamed the small interior cove—fighting furiously with each other and pulling each other’s hair. The people on shore walked closer for a better look, realizing that since these two men were rising from the water, something impossible for a mere mortal, they had to be Hidden People, a race of supernatural beings said to inhabit the otherwise deserted mountains and valleys of Iceland. No one saw fighting Hidden People as a good sign. Survival on the Edge 25 The next morning Thurídur J., with Páll and his...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780295806471
Related ISBN
9780295995502
MARC Record
OCLC
949276285
Pages
312
Launched on MUSE
2016-07-09
Language
English
Open Access
No
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