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John Duke
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Books, logs, computers. Yep.
Books, logs, computers. Yep.

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What a wife can hide
I look at many cemetery records. The headstone is among the final statements our ancestors utter before departing this world. Thousands of volunteers contribute to this effort by transcribing records and engravings so others can find the information they se...

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Summer in Iceland has three times -- sunrise, day, sunset. Night never arrives. At best, there is a gray half-light that gradually morphs into sunrise. Time is slow and sleep is an interruption to the Icelandic summer.

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Most travelers landing at Keflavík International Airport never see the town of Keflavík it is named after. If they stay in Iceland, they most likely head to Reykjavik instead. The town dates back to the 16th century, but its modern history begins during World War II when the United States built the airport as an Atlantic refueling stop and monitoring post. The US gave up its base a decade ago. There is an air of prosperity or at least comfort to Keflavík (“Driftwood Bay”), but one can find rust by scraping the surface.

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Traversing the southern peninsula up to to the north coast takes one past Kleifarvatn, the largest lake in this part of Iceland. The lake is also deep -- over 300 feet in parts -- and is home to a serpent-like creature said to be as large as a whale. The lake has the peculiar property of having no visible source for its water, nor any outlet. It is fed by underground streams, which is also the route out. As is true of many areas of Iceland, the landscape is very volatile. Kleifarvatn lost twenty percent of its volume after an earthquake in 2000.

We stopped at Syðristapi, which means “southern bluff” or “southern rocky cliff” as best I can determine. The land mass is of a particular type of rock produced by underwater volcanic eruptions. After we returned home, I learned that the bluff Syðristapi is shaped like a turtle. That detail escaped me when I was there. I also failed to see the serpent.

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Grindavík is a fishing village on the southern coast of the Reykjanes peninsula. Its endurance since it was first settled by Vikings in the early tenth century has much to do with the natural bay (vik) in which it nestles, a rarity for this part of Iceland. But its fame in the present age has to do with its proximity to the Blue Lagoon. I’ve never been tempted to visit the lagoon, a man-made and man-hyped wonder formed from the detritus of the nearby geothermal plant. Nor did I visit the Icelandic Saltfish Museum while in Grindavík.

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Welcome to my home.

(Image by Shepard Fairey, freely available for non-commercial download at http://theamplifierfoundation.org/)
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As is so often true in Iceland, one is advised to pay careful attention to one's map, compass, and geolocation in searching for a destination. Signs may be non-existent, or a simple piece of weathered wood that blends into the endless lava backdrop. To find the Brimkettil, a website advises that one should drive along the 425 coastal highway and scour the endless black rocks on the seaward side until one spots a small swath of greenery. After parking one must still clamber (without a clear sense of direction) over a field of sharp volcanic stones, hoping to spot the large, naturally occurring pool carved in the rocks by the constant beating of the waves. In other words, a “Surf Kettle.”

One might as well look for the basin under its ancient name of Oddnýjarlaug, or Oddny’s Pool. Oddny, of course, was the over-sized troll who bathed in its waters. The pool is indeed large enough to encompass a giantess, though I was luckier finding some near-microscopic sea life in nearby tidal pools. Some non-troll humans dipped into the pool while we watched, ignoring the guidebooks’ warning not to venture in. A sudden large wave could easily drag one out to sea, where a rescue on the barren, desolate coast would be improbable. Only a massive troll can withstand the cold and violence of the ocean here.
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