Alca. Island in the North Atlantic, close to the Arctic Circle, that is also known as the Island of the Penguins, Penguin Island, and Penguinia. Its shore was initially circular, surrounding a single, central mountain from whose peak the distant shores of Armorica could be seen. It was then flanked by steep cliffs, except for one place inset with a natural amphitheater formed of black and red rocks; in this amphitheater, while rendered snow-blind by the Arctic ice, the future Saint Maël preached the gospel to a population of penguins, thinking them humans, and then baptized them. (Note that penguins are native to the Southern Hemisphere, not the Arctic.)
Alca subsequently grew considerably in size, changing its shape to that of a mulberry leaf. Its previously desolate landscapes gave way to cultivated fields and woodlands. Much later in its history, the island was redesignated an “insula” following the expansion of its empire by the conqueror Trinco (although the conquered lands were soon lost again, along with the neighboring islands of Ampelphoria and the Dog’s Jaws, which had belonged to the Penguins before Trinco’s rise to power). These shifts in size and shape are a satirical projection of the alterations that changes in political geography impose on real maps.
The elementary geography of Alca is a conceptual sketch map of various kinds of territory recognized by mythographers and historians. The Coast of Shadows, to the east of the island, remains an ominous place long after the first phase of Penguin...
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