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IN HIGH LATITUDES.
The real colonists did not arrive till some A A
ice-lands and icebergs-Lord Dufferin, an old Haarfager (a contemporary of the English English nobleman, gives us a pleasant series of Alfred), having murdered, burned, and otherwise letters, full of incident, the results of an adven- exterminated all his brother-kings—who at that turous expedition during last summer, in his time grew as thick as blackberries in Norway, schooner-yacht Foam.
first consolidated their dominions into one realm, The Foam started from Stornoway in the He- as Edgar did the Heptarchy, and then proceedbrides. One morning as the “look-out” was ed to invade the udal rights of the landholders. watching for expected land, there suddenly shot Some of them, animated with that love of libup toward the zenith a pale gold aureole; then, erty innate in the race of the noble North men, gradually lifting its huge back above the water, rather than submit to oppression, determined to rose a silver pyramid of snow, the cone of an look for a new home amidst the desolate regions ice-mountain miles away in the interior of Ice-of the icy sea. Freighting a dragon-shaped land. This mountain was the southeast extrem- galley—the Mayflower of the period—with their ity of the island, the very landfall made by one wives and children, and all the household monof its first discoverers in the year of grace 864. uments that were dear to them, they saw the blue That adventurous pioneer, not having a compass peaks of their dear Norway hills sink down into nor knowing exactly where the land lay, took on the sea behind, and manfully set their faces toboard with him at starting three consecrated ward the west, where—some vague report had ravens. Having sailed a certain distance he whispered—a new land might be found. Arlet loose one, which flew back; and by this be rived in sight of Iceland, the leader of the exjudged he had not got half-way. Proceeding pedition threw the sacred pillars belonging to onward he loosed the second, which, after cir- his former dwelling into the water, in order that cling in the air in apparent uncertainty, also the gods might determine the site of his new made off home, as though it still remained a home. Carried by the tide, no one could say nice point which were the shorter course toward in what direction, they were at last discovered, terra firma. But the third, on obtaining his at the end of three years, in a sheltered bay on liberty a few days later, flew forward, and by fol- the west side of the island, and Ingolf came and lowing the direction in which he had disappear-abode here, and the place became in the course ed, Rabna Floki—or Floki of the Ravens, as he of years, and still is, Reykjavik, the capital of came to be called---triumphantly made the land. the country.
The panorama of the bay of Faxa Fiord, at the extremity of which Reykjavik is situated, is magniticent. The bay has a width of fifty miles from horn to horn, the one running down into a rocky ridge of pumice, the other towering to the height of five thousand feet in a pyramid of eternal snow; while round the intervening semicircle crowd the peaks of a hundred noble mountains. As you approach the shore you are very much reminded of the west coast of Scotland, except that every thing is more intense, the atmosphere clearer, the light more vivid, the air more bracing, the hills steeper, loftier, more tormented, as the French say, and more gaunt; while between their base and the sea stretches a dirty greenish slope, patched with houses which are of a mouldy green, as if some long-since-inhabited country had been fished up among their secluded valleys there is something out of the bottom of the sea. The town consists of of a patriarchal simplicity refreshing to behold. a collection of wooden sheds, one story high-ris- The great sight to be seen in Iceland is, of ing here and there into a gable-end of greater pre- course, the hot springs, or Geysers, as they are tensions—built along the lava-beach, and flank-called, in the interior of the country. The joured at either end by a suburb of turf huts. On ney is performed on horseback, for, there being every side of it extends a desolate plain of lava, no roads, all the traffic is conducted by means that once must have boiled up red-hot from of horses along the bridle-tracks which centuries some distant gateway of hell, and fallen hissing of travel have worn in the lava plains. About into the sea. The good citizens of Reykjavik, thirty miles from Reykjavik, and between that and the Icelanders generally, are hospitable to town and the Geysers, the traveler comes aba fault. They are stanch Protestants, of the ruptly upon a sight no less extraordinary than Lutheran persuasion. Crime, theft, debauch- the boiling springs themselves. While moving ery, cruelty, are unknown among them; they on you are suddenly arrested in your career by have neither prison, gallows, soldiers, nor po- a tremendous precipice, or rather chasm, which lice; and in the manner of the lives they lead gapes beneath your feet, and completely sepa
rates the barren plateau you have been traversing from a lovely, gay, sunlit flat, ten miles broad, that lies--sunk at a level lower by a hundred feet-between you and the opposite mountains. This is the famous Almanna Gja. Like a black rampart in the distance, the corresponding chasm of Hrafna Gja is cut across the lower slope of the distant hills, and between them sleeps in beauty and sunshine the broad, verdant plain of Thingvalla. Ages ago — who shall say how long ?-some vast commotion shook the foundations of the island, and, bubbling up from sources far away
amidst the inland hills, a ge
fiery deluge must have rushed down between their ridges, until, escaping from the narrower gorges, it found space to spread itself into one broad sheet of molten
stone over an entire district ICELANDIC TRAVELING COSTONE.
of country, reducing its va
ried surface to one vast blackened level. One spot, erected by nature almost a fortress, the of two things then occurred : either, the vitri-founders of the Icelandic Constitution chose fied mass contracting as it cooled, the centre for the meetings of their Thing or Congress. area of fifty square miles burst asunder at ei- Armed guards defended the entrance, while the ther side from the adjoining plateau, and, sink- grave bonders deliberated within. To this day, ing down to its present level, left the two par- at the upper end of the place of meeting, may allel ajas, or chasms, which form its natural be seen the three hummocks where sat in state boundaries, to mark the limits of the disruption; the chiefs and judges of the land. or else, while the pith or marrow of the lava But these grand old times have long since was still in a fluid state, its upper surface be- passed away. Along the banks of the Oxeraa came solid, and formed a roof beneath which no longer glisten the tents and booths of the the molten stream flowed on to lower levels, assembled lieges; no longer stalwart berserks leaving a vast cavern into which the upper crust guard the narrow entrance to the Athling; rasubsequently plumped down.
vens alone sit on the sacred Logberg; and the Independently of its natural curiosities, floor of the old Icelandic House of RepresentaThingvalla is most interesting on account of tives is ignominiously cropped by sheep. For its historical associations. Here, long ago, at three hundred years did the gallant little Reit period when feudal despotism was the only public maintain its independence-three hungovernment known throughout Europe, free dred years of unequaled literary and political parliaments used to sit in peace and regulate vigor. At last its day of doom drew near. Its the affairs of the young Republic; and to this chieftains intrigued against the liberties of the hour the precincts of its legislative halls are as people, and in 1261 the island became an apdistinct and unchanged as on the day when the panage of the Norwegian crown. Yet even then, high-hearted fathers of the emigration first con- the deed embodying the concession of their insecrated them to the service of a free nation. dependence was drawn up in such haughty terms By a freak of Nature, as the subsiding plain as to resemble rather the offer of an equal allicracked and shivered into twenty thousand fis- ance than the renunciation of sovereign rights. sures, an irregular oval area of about two hun- But relieved from the discipline and obligation dred feet by fifty was left almost entirely sur- of self-government, an apathy seized these once rounded by a crevice so deep and broad as to be stirring islanders. On the amalgamation of the utterly impassable; at one extremity alone a three Scandinavian monarchies, at the union scanty causeway connected it with an adjoining of Calmar, the allegiance of the people of Icelevel, and allowed of access to its interior. This land was passively transferred to the Danish
crown. Ever since that time, Danish procon- incredible distance. One boulder of pumice, six
But alarming as this eruption was, it is tame Onward to the Geysers. Those three snowy compared with that of another volcano, called peaks which shine in the far distance, cold and Skapta Jokul, in the year 1783. From this clear against the sky, belong to Mount Hecla. mountain a gigantic river of lava issued, pour'The frequent and destructive eruptions of this ing into a great lake, and completely filling up volcano between the years 1004 and 1766 are its basin. There, separating into two streams, too well known to need any recital here. Some the unexhausted torrent again commenced its reference, however, may be made to the one of march. One of these streams is considered to 1766, which was remarkabiy, violent. It com- be about fifty miles in length by twelve or fifteen menced by the appearance of a huge pillar of at its greatest breadth; the other is forty miles black sand, mounting slowly to the heavens, and in length by seven in depth, and where it was accompanied by subterranean thunders. Then imprisoned between high hills the lava is five a coronet of flame encircled the crater, masses or six hundred feet thick! For a whole year a of red rock, pumice, and magnetic stones were canopy of cinder-laden clouds hung over the Hung ont with tremendous violence, and to an island ; and according to the most accurate cal
culations, 9000 men and over 200,000 cattle died from the effects of this one eruption.
Arrived at the famous Geysers, the traveler first notices the appearance of the place. The ground looks as though it had been honeycombed by disease into num rous sores and orifices; not a blade of grass grows on its hot, inflamed surface, which consists of unwholesome-looking, red, livid clay, or crumpled shreds of slough-like incrustations. The Great Geyser has a smooth silicious basin seventy-two feet in diameter and four feet deep, with a hole at the bottom, as in a washing-basin on board a steamer. This is brimful of water just upon the simmer, while a great column of vapor rises high into the air. To see this formidable monstor in eruption the traveler may have to wait many days. The event is announced by subterranean thunders. A violent agitation disturbs the centre of the boiling pool. Suddenly, a dome of water lifts itself up, then bursts and falls. Immediately after, a shining liquid column, or rather a sheaf of columns wreathed in robes of vapor, spring into the air, and in a succession of jerking leaps, each higher than the last, fling their silver crests against the sky. The duration of this phenomenon is, of course, in proportion to the violence of the eruption. to extremities—with my shoes and stockings. As you watch, you notice that it gradually loses At this most critical part of the proceedings I its ascending energy; the unstable waters fal- naturally imagined her share of the performter, droop, fall, “like a broken purpose,” back ance would conclude, and that I should at last upon themselves, and are immediately sucked be restored to that privacy which at such seadown into the recesses of their pipe.
sons is generally considered appropriate. Not While encamped in this locality, waiting to a bit of it. Before I knew where I was, I found see an eruption of the Great Geyser, the Doctor myself sitting on a chair, in my shirt, trowserof Lord Dufferin's party met with an adven- less, while my fair tire-woman was engaged in ture which gives us an insight into some of the neatly folding up the ravished garments on a very peculiar customs of the Icelanders. The neighboring chair. She then, in the most simDoctor, in one of his rambles, stumbled upon a ple manner in the world, helped me into bed, human habitation, and counting justly on the tucked me up, and having said a quantity of hospitality of its inmates, at once sought admit- pretty things in Icelandic, gave me a hearty tance. “No sooner," says Esculapius, “had I kiss and departed. If,” added the Doctor, as presented myself at the door than I was im- he told his story to his companions on the folmediately welcomed by the whole family, and lowing morning—"if you see any thing remarktriumphantly inducted into the guest quarters; able in my appearance, it is probably becauseevery thing the house could produce was set be- * This very morn I've felt the sweet surprise fore me, and the whole society stood by to see Of unexpected lips on sealed eyes that I enjoyed myself. As I had but just dined, But we now leave the Geysers. Back again an additional repast was no longer necessary to to Reykjavik; out once more upon the sea, and my happiness; but all explanation was useless, sailing north in search of the mysterious Jan and I did my best to give them satisfaction. Im- Mayen—that wonderful island-mountain of igmediately on rising from the table, the young neous rock, shooting straight up out of the lady of the house proposed by signs to conduct ocean to the height of 6870 feet, not broadme to my apartment. Taking in one hand a based like a pyramid, nor round-topped like a large plate of skier, and in the other a bottle sugar loaf, but needle-shaped, pointed like the of brandy, she led the way through a passage, spire of a church. built of turf and stones, to the place where I Found at last, but with much difficulty. One was to sleep. Having watched her deposit--not morning the dense fog that hung over the water without misgivings, for I knew it was expected suddenly split asunder, and through the gap both should be disposed of before morning—the thousands of feet overhead, as if suspended in skier by my bedside, and the brandy bottle un- the crystal sky—the navigators beheld a cone of der my pillow, I was preparing to make her a illuminated snow. It was the summit of the polite bow, and to wish her a very good-night, Beerenberg of Jan Mayen. After a few mowhen she advanced toward me, and with a win- ments the roof of mist closed again and shut ning grace difficult to resist insisted upon help- out all trace of the transient vision. But pa. ing me off with my coat, and then-proceeding tience until the curtain is lifted