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GPS spelling mistake sends American the wrong way, and onto TV

Technically Incorrect: Noel Santillan rented a car on arrival in Iceland and spelled the name of his destination incorrectly. A long and fascinating journey ensued, and took him all the way to celebrity.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


Noel Santillan. Intrepid explorer.

RUV screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

I've never had my own name spelled wrong, so I wonder how anyone, anyone could misspell "Laugavegur Street."

It happened, however. And from there flows a beautiful tale.

As the Iceland Monitor reports, New Jerseyan Noel Santillan landed at Keflavik International Airport in Iceland, from New York. He was tired and just wanted to go to his hotel in Laugavegur Street, Reykjavik.

He rented a car and typed "Laugarvegur Street" into the car's GPS.

The 20-20-eyed might have already noticed the slight difference in spelling. Sadly, the two places also have a slight difference in location -- more than 250 miles of a difference.

Santillan dutifully followed his gadget's instructions, drove for more than six hours in icy conditions and ended up on Laugarvegur Street in the northern fishing village of Siglufjörður.

As he told Icelandic TV station RÚV, "I've got no other connections besides that GPS in this country. In the States, I use it a lot. I use Google Maps, but it never gets me lost."

But it's only a machine. Did he really not know, after driving for two or three hours, that he might be lost? His actual destination had been a mere 45 minutes from the airport.

Santillan didn't respond to a request for comment. However, he explained to Iceland Magazine: "I was very tired after the flight and wanted to get to the hotel as soon as possible. That's why I kept driving. I did enjoy the scenery on the way. I've never seen anything quite like it. And the horses!"

Ah, yes. The horses must have been lovely. As was the reception he received when he arrived at his nondestination.

Of course, some might wonder whether this is all a very fine piece of PR concocted by the Siglufjörður tourism office.

The true explanation might be more prosaic. Local news media explained that these names are misspelled quite often, even on travel Web sites (and even by Icelanders). It seems such a misspelling may even have crept into Santillan's booking confirmation.

Of course, he isn't the first to have slavishly followed his GPS. Some such episodes have tragic consequences. Others are merely entertaining, like when the Belgian woman claimed her GPS had taken her to Croatia, 810 miles from her actual destination.

Still, The New York Times reports that Santillan is now something of a celebrity in Iceland, "with the zeal usually accorded to visiting dignitaries."

In Siglufjörður, he is surely now a high dignitary.