stinctively made by our Author's horse, bad nearly thrown him off, and the strongest sense of extreme danger attended every step till attaining the opposite bank. Several other branches but little less formidable, were also to be crossed : of one of these, he had not, he says, • gained the bank two minutes when a huge piece of ice, at least thirty feet square, was carried past me with resistless force. The foaming of the flood, the crashing of the stones hurled against one another at the bottom, and the masses of ice which, arrested in their course by some large stones, caused the water to dash over them with fury, produced all together an effect on the mind never to be obliterated.'

This transit was made in view of the grand Oraefa Yokul, which extends itself in lower eminences to the sea, while its summit rises, in pure eternal snow, to the height of more than six thousand feet. An interesting extract, descriptive of an ascent to one of its peaks, is given from the manuscript journal of Mr. Paulson, a surgeon, pronounced by Dr. H. the best informed naturalist in the island, and who has traversed inquisitively the greatest part of it, with a special attention to its volcanos, keeping, throughout, an accurate journal, which would form, if published, our Author asserts, a far better description of Iceland than any that has yet appeared. The route along the west, at the base of this noble object, lay, in one part, through a scene of indescribable wildness and desolation, the ruins, literally so, of a lower range of the vast mountain mass, which, in 1382, burst with a dreadful explosion, and comSpletely devastated the coast in the vicinity.'

* It was not very far forward to a tract bearing the mighty traces of another tremendous catastrophe, Sanexudation from o the western division of the Oraefa Yokul in the year 1727.' Amidst the quaking of the whole mountain and contiguous country, the opening of innumerable chasms, and the eruption of fire, and ashes, and rocks, there were poured down immense torrents of hot water and mud; a glacier, dissolved and loosened at its basis, slid down to the coast; and the tract, as an inhabitable ground, was in great part destroyed. Some of the people, and many of the cattle perished, notwithstanding the warning given by the frightful preceding signs. A letter, in which all this is related by a sensible eye-witness, is given from a work published at Copenhagen. The traveller, afterwards passed a low mountain consisting chiefly of ice, and like that of Breidamark, movable on its basis, but unlike in the remarkable circumstance that it alternately advances toward the sea, and recedes. The recession takes place after it has thrown out prodigious temporary torrents from under its foundation ; which suggests to Dr. H. & very simple and probable theory of its

100% on a Wy sog burst coa

mavements, namely, that it slides back on an inclined plane, after the escape of the enormous accumulation of water behind, which had propelled it by the pressure, and the forcing of a passage through caverns and under its basis..

A few stages forward brought the adventurer upon the region of intermingled lavas and sections of beautiful pasture ground, in front of the Skaftar Yokul, which is at the distance of, perhaps, fifty miles back from the sea. This Skaftar is the most tremendous name, excepting those within tbe economy of religion, ever pronounced in Iceland. In the year 1783, this mountain shook, and darkened, and devastated the island with such a dreadful power of volcanic fire as bas no recorded parallel. The agency was on so vast a scale, and of so prolonged a duration, that the subterraneous fires of balf the globe might have seemed hardly sufficient for the awful phenomena. Yet the mighty element, in drawing together its forces in preparation, could afford, as a slight precursor and omen, a month before, and at the distance of two bundred miles, a submarine explosion, which ejected so immense a quantity of pumice that the surface of the ocean was covered with it to the distance of a hundred and fisty miles, and the spring ships were considerably impeded in their course. It was in the beginning of July that the operations began, on the predestined ground; they saged with inconceivable power, in all manner of horrible and destructive phenomena, for several months ; and the final eruption is said to have been as late as the following February. The awful sounds and.concussions, the intense darkness, relieved only, at times, by flames and lightnings, the great rivers transformed into torrents of fire, which were confined but for a short time to these chan. 1 pels, their inundation, on all sides, of tract after tract of the · cultivated country, and the dismal rain of ashes and other rolcanic substances over the whole territory,-must have appeared to the inhabitants as a premature fulfilment of the Divine predictions of the destruction of the world. : ..

The mountain, as now beheld in its quiescent state, bears the aspect of being dreadfully competent to the recorded operations. Our Author,who saw it at a distance, describes it as consisting of about twenty red conical hills, forming so many emitting furnaces of that awful fire.' And he says, the direction of some of the fiery streams of that eruption, proves the existence of other eraters, not within the same landscape. The conflict, of no long duration however, between the torrents of fire and several great rivers, which soon vanished at the presence of the mightier ele. ment, must bave been transcendently portentous and terrible. The channel of one of these rivers, is described as passing between high roeks, and as being in many places from 400 to 600 % feet in depth, and near 200 in breadth.' The lava not only

been as hulle veral months ner of horrible they cage


n the

nce as is thes

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

lined a filled up this channel to the brink, but overflowed to a conrater le siderable extent.

The ashes from the eruption covered the whole Island, and spread far beyond it ; ' empoisoning,' says our Author, 'what' ever could satisfy the hunger or quench the thirst of man and • beast.' Famine and petileuce were the consequence : a considerable proportion of the people, and a vast number of the

cattle and horses, perished ; and the condition of the inhabitants my bears, at the present time, melancholy traces of the effects of 1988 the awful visitation. A recent traveller, we recollect, mentions islands as one of these effects, a greater degree of gravity in the chalast mon racter of the people, and a prevailing aversion to all gay amuse

ments. . We will acknowledge that though we cannot wish such
a sublime preaching as this in Iceland, might be addressed to
the people of one of these more southern countries, to impress
on them a sense of the mjesty of the Almighty, and a loathing
of many of their frivolous pursuits,- we should be delighted to
see such a mournful result from the gentler modes of Divine ad-
- We might almost regret that it could not comport with either
the leading object of our Author's expedition, or the necessity
of haste jipposed by the decline of the brief season allowed to
travellers in Iceland, to divert so far inland as to be able to
make a slight survey and description of some portion of this
unparalleled assemblage of the “ vials of wrath.” But there is
to a considerable degree a general sameness in the visible cha-
racter of volcanos; and the lavas and devastation of the region
over which he had to pursue his journey, inost impressively
illustrated, by the distant effects, the tremendous capacity of
the destroyer--Fire. '
- Amidst so much evil invested with sublimity, he had, at one
place, a spectacle of evil in its most wretched and revolting
character, in the appearance of the inhabitants, very few indeed,
of one of the four hospitals established in the Island for incurable
lepers. The description of the disease, in its complete state,
is most frightful. The leprosy in Iceland is judged to be iden-
tical with that of the East, which has such a prominence among
the plagues described in the Bible, and which has in former ages
been one of the most dreaded scourges of Europe, now happily,
in a great measure, exempted from it. Its having a conside-
rable number of victims in the south and west quarters of this
northern island, is ascribed to the inhabitants of these parts
• being mostly employed in fishing, the rancidity of their food,

their wet woollen clothes, an insalubrious air, and their not
• paying due attention to habits of cleanliness.'
. It was but for a short time, however, that our Author's at.'
tentigo was suffered to be withdrawn from visions of magnificent

Vol. X. N.S.

[ocr errors]

solemnity. He soon came on the ground lying between the sea and the Kotlugiâ Yokul, another of the most memorable agents in the history of Iceland, which records eight eruptions of this mountain ; the last, which was contemporary with the great earth. quake at Liebon, was by far the most dreadful. A column of flame, so high as to be seen at the distance of a bundred and eighty miles, might seem, to a poetic or superstitious imagination, to express up to the sky the terrible exultation of the subterraneous power which was venting its rage through three apertures alipost close together. The immense floods of hot water, wbich the volcano alternately emitted, bore down vast masses of ice, with rocks, earth, and sand, destroying a large tract of the country, and driving into the sea such an enormous accumulation of these materials, that it was filled to the distance of more

than fifteen miles ; and in some places wbere formerly it was ' forty fathoms deep, the tops of the newly-deposited rocks were now seen towering above the water.'

Scarcely less peril than that of the passage of the Breidamark torrent, awaited the Traveller in the fording of two powerful rivers: one of them, a quarter of a mile wide, and of impetuous current, bore away a few days afterwards, two travellers and their horses, the one to the sea, the other to a sand bank, wbence, in consequence of his horse attracting the attention of persons on the land, he was by their assistance, with difficulty recovered. At the other river, Dr. H.'s first venturous attempt was foiled; and he was reduced to pass a rainy and gloomy night, alone, unsheltered, under the open sky. It is gratifying to bear bim tell, that the gloom around him, aggravated, as it might naturally be supposed to be, by the anticipation of the next hazardous experiment, did not in any degree penetrate to his mind, which was animated to a state of high delight and confidence, by thoughts of the Almighty Preserver and Redeemer;-a fact serving to shew that religion saves a great expense of philosophy and laboriously sustained heroism. It should occur to the English reader, who always finds a commodious bridge or boat to carry him over any considerable stream he wants to pass, or an inn, probably, at no great distance if an extraordinary flood should compel him to wait that he cannot well form a competent idea of such a situation as that in which our Author was placed, in this and several other instances; or of the pleasure which he must have felt in the morning, on finding the torrent somewhat fallen, and a friendly peasant, who had over night in vain attempted to ride through it in order to become his guide, again advancing to meet him for this kind and valuable service.

But there was no deliverance, had he wished it, from the presence of the monuments of the triumphant operations of fire. His road lay near the basis of the Solheima and Eyasialla Yokuls, the latter of which is estimated at the height of 5,500 feet. Both are volcanoes, though not recently in action. Of the former it is related, that it was thrown, at the time of the last eruption of Kotlugiâ, 'into such violent convulsions, that it rose and fell by 'turns, and was at last raised so bigh that it appeared double its • former size. The statement is given on the authority of Povelsen, and most probably partakes somewhat of the exaggeration incident to the terrified minds of the reporting contemporaries,

On the road towards Oddè,-a place of literary celebrity, from the residence and seminary of Sæmund, the editor of the Edda, and several worthy successors,--he was appropriately accompanied by a peasant who had a question in theology for our Author to discuss, and was able to give him a long detail of English history of the time of Cromwell. The view of Mount Hekla from Oddè, greatly disappointed an imagination early accustomed to shape it in a form of magnitude and magnificence worthy to stand representative and chief of all the volcanic tribe in Iceland.

In prosecuting his journey over a wide and desolate region of fractured lavas, with craters here and there, he was very naturally surprised to meet on so dead and ghastly a field a fine herd of rein-deer, which were only one portion of the flourishing posterity of three that were introduced from Lapland in 1770. He safely reached his winter station, Reykiavik, on the 20th of September, after an absence of fifty-eight days, and performing a journey of more than 1200 British miles,

At Reykiavik, he passed the winter of eight months, without ever, excepting once, going further than a quarter of a mile from his lodgings. A good supply of books which he had brought from Copenhagen, the frequent society of a sensible Englishman, with whom he had accidentally become acquainted, and the composition of his journal from his travelling notes, helped his patience under the tedious confinement. It was unfortunate with respect to social resources, that the arrangements connected with the object of his sojourn, should have assigned him such a place for so long an abode. He says,

"Reykiavik is unquestionably the worst place in which to spend the winter in Iceland. The tone of society is the lowest that can well be imagined. Being the resort of a number of foreigners, few of whom have had any education, and who frequent the island solely for pure poses of gain, it not only presents a lamentable blank to the view of the religious observer, but is totally devoid of every source of intellectual gratification. The foreign residents generally idle away the short-lived day with the tobacco pipe in their mouths, and spend the evening in playing at cards and drinking punch. They have two or three balls in the course of the winter, and a play is sometimes acted by the principal inhabitants. To these purposes they appropriate the Court-house, and without ceremony take the benches out of the

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« ElőzőTovább »