Spotlight on Iceland at Symposium
Learn about the “Land of Fire, Ice, and Vikings” at CLU’s Nordic Spirit Symposium
Judith Gabriel Vinje
“Iceland: Land of Fire, Ice, and Vikings” will be the topic of the 16th annual Nordic Spirit Symposium at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, Feb. 6 to 7, 2015.
Among the unique features of this rugged Nordic island are volcano eruptions, Viking settlements dating back 1,000 years, the world’s oldest continuous parliamentary government, and the pioneering use of clean geothermal energy—all topics to be covered at the weekend event.
Presented by the Scandinavian American Cultural and Historical Foundation (SACHF), the annual symposium is a forum of leading scholars and experts aimed at the general public, “blending music, dining, and the free exchange of ideas to enhance the pleasure of learning,” according to Howard K. Rockstad, founder and director of the event.
A Norwegian Viking chieftain named Ingólfur Arnarson was the first to settle Iceland. In the late ninth century, he brought his family to live in a place he named Reykjavík (Cove of Smoke) due to the geothermal steam rising from the earth. That first settlement eventually became the capital of modern Iceland. Iceland remained under Norwegian kingship until 1380. And the steam is still rising!
Following a gala Friday evening reception at the Scandinavian Center at CLU, the program begins at 7:00 p.m. Friday, Feb. 6, in the Samuelson Chapel on campus, and resumes at 9:00 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 7, concluding with a formal dinner with entertainment by Icelandic jazz vocalist Anna Mjöll.
Elisabeth I. Ward, director of the Scandinavian Center at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington, opens the event with “The Ins and Outs of Icelandic History: From Viking Settlement to Recent Times.” Her talk ends on a personal note, with the role of the United States and NATO in Iceland post-World War II; she is the daughter of an American soldier and an Icelandic woman.
Shaped by fierce natural forces, Iceland has 30 active volcanic systems. Last August, the island experienced its largest volcano eruption in more than two centuries. Oceanography expert Haraldur Sigurdsson of the University of Rhode Island will shed light on this volatile geologic feature.
Along that line, with the state of California also prone to tectonic activity, Egill Hauksson of the California Institute of Technology Seismological Laboratory in Pasadena will delve beneath the surface on the two locations.
Iceland’s recorded history began in the late ninth century with the settlement by Viking explorers. Jesse Byock of UCLA will link the Norse sagas to recent archaeological finds unearthed by the Mosfell Archaeological Project in southwestern Iceland, where he directs the dig that has already unearthed major historical evidence.
The same geological activity that creates the volcanoes provides an endless supply of clean geothermal energy. Ásgeir Margeirsson, CEO of the energy company HS Orka, will bring the Thousand Oaks audience up to date on how Iceland became the world’s cleanest power producer.
With a population of only 320,000, Iceland has become a leader in human genomics research, which will be the focus of a presentation by Eirikur Steingrimsson of the University of Iceland Biomedical Center.
Traveling from Athens, Greece, where he now resides, Apostolos Athanassakis, professor emeritus of the University of California Santa Barbara, will focus on similarities between the Icelandic Sagas and the ancient Greek world. Saturday’s line-up also features a Los Angeles-based indie folk band with Icelandic singer-songwriter Jokull Jonsson.
Staffed by SACHF volunteers, the Nordic Spirit Symposium is made possible by a grant from the Barbro Osher Pro-Suecia Foundation with additional support from the Norway House Foundation.
For details on registration for Friday’s reception, as well as evening session and Saturday’s program, as well as lunch and dinner, call (805) 497-3737. Reservation deadline for meals is Jan. 24.
This article originally appeared in the Jan. 23, 2014, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.