Ok-glacier in Memoriam // A letter to the future

This is a text I wrote to be placed on top of Ok mountain, in memory of Ok – glacier – the first glacier in Iceland to be formally lost to human related climate change. This is a project initiated by Dominic Boyer and Cymene Howe researchers from Rice University in Texas and Oddur Sigurðsson, the geologist that declared that Ok was formally not a glacier anymore, but a pack of dead ice. Click here for the full press release.

Anyone can join us on an – un-glacier tour. A walk up to what was formally Ok – Glacier – where the plaque will be placed.

“This will be the first monument to a glacier lost to climate change anywhere in the world,” Howe said. “By marking Ok’s passing, we hope to draw attention to what is being lost as Earth’s glaciers expire. These bodies of ice are the largest freshwater reserves on the planet and frozen within them are histories of the atmosphere. They are also often important cultural forms that are full of significance.”

Glaciers are an important part of my family history. My grandparents were founding partners of the Icelandic Glacial Research Society in the 1950’s. The words I wrote for the memorial plaque are very basic and to the point.

A letter to the future

Ok is the first Icelandic glacier to lose its status as glacier. In the next 200 years all our main glaciers are expected to follow the same path. This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it.

August 2019, 415 ppm CO2


The name of the glacier, Ok might cause some curiosity. What is Ok in Icelandic?

Ok means yoke in Icelandic and the dictionary meaning is something like this:

yoke [jəuk] noun

1 a frame placed across a person’s shoulders, for carrying water.

2 something that weighs people down, a burden.

So my first version of my text referred the two meanings of the word yoke:

Yoke carried the water. Yoke has melted. The yoke is growing.

I also wrote a poem in the Edda metric form, the same as the poem Völuspá. Tthe draft was something like this: 

Ok/Yoke in Memoriam:

Glacier melts

and glaciers

ocean rises with oceans

beach sinks

with beaches

Yoke becomes the yoke

The melting of the glaciers is an issue all future generations will have to deal with and adapt to. As the glaciers are not vanishing and becoming nothing, they are becoming a rising ocean that will come splashing at the city gates of the world.

These issues are the theme of my upcoming book, On Time and Water. To be published in Icelandic in 2019.




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