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Playing Scrabble on the Arctic Circle

Writing and shooting photographs around the world always leads to great adventure, but what Annie Griffiths and I do is still a job with its ups and downs and long hours. When we get a chance to take a break and chill out (quite literally, up here in the Arctic), we take it.

After a few days traveling around Iceland together, I discovered that Annie and I both share an affinity for Scrabble (who doesn’t?) And so, it was with some rather nerdy excitement that we landed on the tiny island of Grímsey, board game in hand, and marched our way up to the Arctic Circle where we engaged in a battle of extreme Scrabble.

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A puffin greets the evening atop a basalt cliff on the isle of Grímsey, in Iceland (Photo by Andrew Evans, National Geographic Traveler)

Playing games of intellect and skill on this far northern punctuation mark of an island is a long tradition in Iceland. Though chess is the preferred game (Chess is, in fact, a required class for children at the Grímsey school), we opted for the more wordy, but no less strategic game of Scrabble.

The “extreme” part of the game is playing it in extreme places, and in this case, at the extreme top of the world. We laid out our blanket right on the Arctic Circle (66° 33′ 44″ N) and played in the broad daylight of the Arctic night.

In the end, it was my friend Kathy Altaras who won the game (luck), but we all enjoyed the pink and glorious midnight sun and the hundreds of puffins and terns that flew around the edges of our rocky Scrabble place at the top of the world.

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Playing Scrabble on the Arctic Circle with (left to right) Skyler Rainier, Annie Griffiths, Andrew Evans, Kathy Alataras & Brian Gratwicke. (Photo by Chris Rainier)

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