The Inukshuk is a rudimentary communication system used by the Inuit people in North America to mark routes and as a symbol of reassurance for travellers:

They are monuments made of unworked stones that are used by the Inuit people for communication and survival. The traditional meaning of the Inukshuk is “Someone was here” or “You are on the right path.”

An Inukshuk is a welcome sight to a traveller on a featureless and forbidding landscape.

But the towers made by Alex and me on the beach have a far more fundamental message. They tell the South Atlantic Ocean who’s boss.

Briefly, anyway.

Remember King Cnut (“The Great”)? Allegedly, he:

…set his throne by the sea shore and commanded the tide to halt and not wet his feet and robes. Yet “continuing to rise as usual [the tide] dashed over his feet and legs without respect to his royal person. Then the king leapt backwards, saying: “Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws.” He then hung his gold crown on a crucifix, and never wore it again “to the honour of God the almighty King”. This incident is usually misrepresented by popular commentators and politicians as an example of Cnut’s arrogance.

Cnut’s parents were called Sweyn Forkbeard and Sigrid the Haughty. No wonder he had issues.

Of course, nowadays, we know that the tides are influenced not by some mythical sky goblin, but by the magnetic pull of the sun and the moon and the rotation of the earth. They’re no less powerful than they were back in the 11th Century though and our stone towers’ arrogance is usually hastily dismissed, to Alex’s repeated disappointment.

Next time, I’m going to even up the odds a little by taking some cement along…

Leave a Reply