I was driving up the Eyrarbakkavegur to my regular chess therapy appointment at the Bobby Fischer Center in Olfuss, Iceland, when I came across one of these little guys in a hard hat and high-visibility safety vest holding an orange safety flag.
Being from the New York metro area, I was initially annoyed at the delay, but upon closer look I noticed that this “flag-skink” was supporting the annual skink migration from their traditional winter home in Reykjavík, to their summer feeding grounds near Flúðir.
The 100+ km distance is a short 1-2 hour drive by car, but for the Common Icelandic Skink this can be a grueling 1-2 week long trek across many busy (for Iceland) roads and several broad and frigid rivers. Fraught with danger from a variety of sources, both native to the Island nation and of the foreign variety.
Native dangers include hungry puffins, Atlantic salmon, and Supply Chain Management consultants. The latter have become increasingly agitated in their opposition to the Common Icelandic Skink due to the tax breaks the government has given them in the important national transport and logistics market. (There have even been some formal protests and angry language bandied about against what is being viewed by some as cronyism.)
Non-Icelandic dangers, while normally limited to drunken frivolities at the local hot springs followed by a visit to McDonald’s, have been fraying the edges of the social fabric of the skink population. This is because petroleum companies have been paying high wages to have young skinks work for them on the oil rigs in the North Sea, upsetting the delicate ecological balance and traditional family values of the Common Skink.
So this is why, upon reflection, I was so impressed by the skink on the road to Olfuss. He was one of the teenage skinks the foreign oil companies were so avidly recruiting. With the typical aqua blue tail and yellow and black stripes of a young male skink in his prime, here he was volunteering to warn drivers of the migrating herds of skinks! This wasn’t just admirable, it was becoming more and more uncommon. And so, I salute you, and others like you!
The uncommon Common Icelandic Skink.
* not “Spink”