The Question of Icebergs: A Cryo-history of Arctic Submarine Cables

Mette Simonsen Abildgaard*

*Corresponding author for this work

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1 Citation (Scopus)
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The Question of Icebergs is a cryo-history (Sörlin, 2015) of Arctic infrastructures: How has ice and snow shaped communication infrastructures in the Arctic by both drawing in and deterring interest in travelling through, connecting with and building in the region? This study follows the case of the 160-year-old plans for The Northern Route, a transatlantic telegraph which would have placed Greenland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands at the centre of transatlantic communication in the early 1860s. I draw on Actor-Network Theory and postcolonial studies to trace how notions of the Arctic Sublime, a dependency on credible ice witnesses, local ice knowledges and the politics of comparison influenced the eventual abandonment of the route, where Arctic territories were (dis)regarded and considered as mere substrate for infrastructure. I argue that this cryo-history of Arctic telecommunication infrastructures is an essential contribution to a new socio-technical agenda in cable studies, which shows how established logics about who to connect, and where, still influence infrastructural development in the region today.

Translated title of the contributionEt Spørgsmål om Isbjerge: En kryo-historie om arktiske undersøiske kabler
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere41
JournalPolar Record
Issue number4
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 16 Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press


  • Cryo-history
  • Greenland
  • Infrastructure
  • History of technology
  • Science and technology studies


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