Located midway between North America and mainland Europe (map), Iceland is the same distance from New York as New York is to Los Angeles. The island is the same size as the state of Ohio, with 11% of its surface covered in glaciers. Much of the country is an other-worldly moonscape of ancient lava flows covered in moss, and tall, treeless mountains. More than half of Iceland's 300,000 residents live in the capital city, Reykjavik (pronounced RAKE-ya-vick); but with more than 100,000 waterfalls, countless hot springs, numerous fjords, and green valleys, Iceland's uninhabitable parts are popular destinations for native and tourist explorers.
Only about 10% of Icelanders have surnames; the rest use patronyms, which is to say that a person's last name is formed from the first name of his or her father. Children are given their father's first name plus "son" when they are boys and the father's first name plus "dottir" for girls. Women do...