Sunday, August 24, 2008

Touchdown Iceland

Greetings from a very new place: Iceland.

Yes, I made it. Ready to start a new adventure in this island country that hugs the Arctic Circle.

Flew in around 11:30 local time tonight (actually last night now). Been here for about 3 hours so far.

Impressions: Clean, quiet, cool. 
No rain (so far). I've bee told this counts as a victory. Let's hope my luck holds.

More impressions: The duty-free shop is quite popular. As soon as we got off the plane, Icelanders and others made a beeline for the duty-free store. The store is conveniently located right off the baggage claim, with signs in bright, glaring lights. It doesn't need to advertise, however. People know it's there. And they loaded their carts with booze, chocolate, cigarettes and play animals, stuffing them just like we do at the grocery store for the July 4th cookout. It was an impressive orgy of shopping glee. Seeing how much fun everyone was having, I decided to take part. Two bottles of red wine: $25. 

In front of me were two young guys with bottles of Absolut, beer and at least two cartons of cigarettes. One of them picked up a carton and started reading the label, which I assume was in Icelandic. 

He read slowly, as if he was translating the words, which perhaps he was: "Smoking can hurt the health of you and everyone around you," he said in English.

He jettisoned that carton into the cart and picked up the other, Marlboro Lights. The label, in English, read: "Smoking can kill."

"This is much easier to understand," he said.

I like their sense of humor here.

In case you all missed a past post, I'm accompanying a group of planetary scientists from Brown who are trying to unravel a mystery about the depth of water on ancient Mars. Iceland, it turns out, offers a pretty good way to study that problem, because its terrain is considered to be a close equivalent to the surface on some areas of Mars. 

My job is to write about the scientists' work in the field and take photographs. If you're interested, you can follow my dispatches and photo galleries here.

Time for bed, and a day in Reykjavik tomorrow (later today). I'll have more on that.

Keep your fingers crossed about the rain.

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