Lonely Planet Writer

How this giant sphere in Iceland is keeping track of where the Arctic Circle is

An eight-tonne sphere marking the Arctic Circle has been rolled into place on Iceland’s northernmost island, reports Iceland Review. Grimsey is the only part of Iceland that falls within the Arctic Circle, which moves slightly every year. The great stone sphere will be rolled around 12m annually to keep pace with it.

The giant Arctic circle marker stone on Grimsey
Thorkell Ásgeir Jóhannsson blowing the trombone at the giant eight-tonne stone sphere. Image by Steve Christer

The sculpture is called Hringur og Kúla (“Ring and Sphere”), with the ring referring to the Arctic Circle and the sphere to the stone ball which sits atop it. Moving it into place was not an easy task: it got stuck halfway across Grimsey and required a concerted effort to be moved to its current working place.

Celebrating the arrival of the Arctic Circle marker stone
Locals mark the arrival of the giant sphere on Grimsey. Image by Steve Christer

The Arctic Circle moves as the earth shifts on its axis and is ultimately pulled by the moon’s orbit. The circle first entered Grimsey 300 years ago and will retreat north of the island again in 2050, before returning in an astonishing 20,000 years time.

The stone was commissioned as part of a competition organized by the north-coast city of Akureyri, the second largest urban area in Iceland. Artist Kristinn E Hrafnsson created the work alongside Studio Granada. “Grimsey is a very opportune place to enjoy this play of nature, or this force of nature really – the rock and roll of the earth,” he told RÚV.

Launch of the 'Orbis et Globus' artwork on Grimsey
Mayor of Akureyri, Eiríkur Björn Björgvinsson, Steve Christer from Studio Grandi and Kristinn E. Hrafnsson artist. Image courtesy of Ragnar Hólm

Grimsey is 40km north of the Icelandic mainland, and has a population of less than 100. It is visited by tourists, many of whom come simply to step inside the Arctic Circle. Its coastal cliffs and dramatic basalt formations are home to many bird species, including puffins and the Arctic tern.