ePub 版

part of the brim, behind which I was standing. The great body of the column (at least ten feet in diameter,) rose perpendicularly, but was divided into a number of the most superb curvated ramifications; and several smaller sproutings were severed from it, and projected in oblique directions, to the no small danger of the spectator, who is apt to get scalded, cre he is aware, by the falling jet.

On the cessation of the eruption, the water instantly sunk into the pipe, but rose again immediately, to about half a foot above the orifice, where it remained stationary. All being again in a state of tranquillity, and the clouds of steam having left the bason, I entered it, and proceeded within reach of the water, which I found to be 183 of Fahrenheit, a temperature of more than twenty degrees less than at any period while the bason was filling, and occasioned, I suppose, by the Cooling of the water during its projection into the air.

The whole scene was indescribably astonishing; but what interested us most, was the circumstance, that the strongest jet came last, as if the Geyser had summoned all her powers in order to show us the greatness of her energy, and make a grand finish before retiring into the subterraneous chambers in which she is concealed from mortal view. Our curiosity had been gratified, but it was far from being satisfied. We now wished to have it in our power to inspect the mechanism of this mighty engine, and obtain a view of the springs by which it is put in motion: but the wish was vain; for they lie in "a tract which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture's eye hath not seen;"-which man with all his boasted powers, cannot and dare not approach. While the jets were rushing up towards heaven, with the velocity of an arrow, my mind was forcibly borne along with them, to the contemplation of the Great and Omnipotent JEHOVAH, in comparison with whom, these, and all the wonders scattered over the whole immensity of existence, dwindle into absolute insignificance; whose almighty command spake the universe into being; and at whose sovereign fiat the whole fabric might be reduced, in an instant, to its original nothing. Such scenes exhibit only "the hiding of His power." It is merely the surface of his works that is visible. Their internal structure He hath involved in obscurity; and the sagest of the sons of man is incapable of tracing them from their origin to their consummation. After the closest aad most unwearied application, the utmost we can boast of is, that we have heard a whisper of His proceedings, and investigated the extremities of His operations. pp. 42-44.

A farther notice of the Geysers is given in a note.

On my return this way from the north, about the middle of August, 1815, I again pitched my tent for two days beside these celebrated fountains, and found their operations still more magnificent and interesting than they were the preceding year. The Great Geyser continued to erupt every six hours in a most imposing manner. In some of the eruptions, the jets seemed to be thrown much higher than any I observed last year, several of them reaching an elevation of not less than a hundred and fifty feet.

What rendered my second visit to the Geysers peculiarly interesting, was my discovery of the key to Strockr, by the application of which I could make that beautiful spring play when I had a mind, and throw its water to nearly double the height observable in its natural eruptions. The morning after my arrival, I was awakened by its explosion about twenty minutes past four o'clock; and hastening to the crater, stood nearly half an hour contemplating its jet, and the steady and uninterrupted emission of the column of spray which followed, and which was projected at least an hundred feet into the air. After this, it gradually sunk into the pipe, as it had done the year before, and I did not expect to see another eruption till the following morning. However, about five o'clock in the afternoon, after a great quantity of the largest stones that could be found about the place had been thrown into the spring, I observed it begin to roar with more violence than usual; and, approaching the brink of the crater, I had scarcely time to look down to the surface of the water, which was greatly agitated, when the eruption commenced, and the boiling water rushed up in a moment, within an inch or two of my face, and continued its course with inconceivable velocity into the atmosphere. Having made a speedy retreat, I now took my station on the windVOL. IV.


[ocr errors]

ward side, and was astonished to observe the elevation of the jets, some of them rising higher than two hundred feet; many of the fragments of stones were thrown much higher, and some of considerable size were raised to an invisible height. For some time, every succeeding jet seemed to surpass the preceding, till the quantity of water in the subterraneous caverns being spent, they gave place to the column of steam, which continued to rush up with a deafening roar for nearly an hour. pp. 47, 48.

Another most singular phenomenon is presented in the Yökuls or mountains of ice, rendered doubly so by knowing that they rest almost on beds of living fire. These mountains, and ice plains connected with them, cover more than 3000 square miles on the island. They are well deserving study in connection with the glaciers of the Alps, in Europe. Their formation has never been satisfactorily accounted for. In crossing some of the rivers, that issue from the Yökuls, Dr. H. well nigh lost his life, in several instances. Their shifting channels, quicksand beds, rushing ice, and rapid currents, render the formation of bridges impractible, and the fording dangerous, and at times impossible.

In the following passage Dr. H. gives an interesting account of surturbrand or mineralized wood,

Compared with others in the vicinity, the mountain is but of inconsiderable height, not appearing to rise to an elevation of more than 600 feet. A torrent from the rising hills behind, has cut its way through the different horizontal strata of which it is composed, so that a cleft presents itself between forty and fifty yards in depth. The east side of this cleft is entirely covered with debris, except at some particular spots, where rugged masses of a yellowish tufa tower above the surface; but the west side is more perpendicular, and consists of ten or twelve strata of surturbrand, lava, basalt, tuffa, and indurated clay, successively piled above each other. The surturbrand is undermost, and occupies four layers, which are separated from each other by intermediate beds of soft sand-stone or clay. These layers are of unequal thickness, from a foot and a half to three feet, and run to the length of about thirty yards, when they disappear in the debris. They differ also in quality: the two lowest exhibiting the most perfect specimens of mineralized wood, free from all foreign admixture, of a jet black; and such pieces as have been exposed to the sun, shine with great lustre, and are very splintery in their fracture. The numerous knots, roots, etc. and the annual circles observable in the ends of the trunks or branches, removed every doubt of the vegetable origin of this curious substance. The only changes it has undergone are induration and compression; having been impregnated with the bituminous sap, and flattened by the enormous weight of the superincumbent rocks. Some few branches stretch at times across the bed, but in general they all lie parallel with one another, and are frequently pressed together, so as to form a solid mass. The third stratum is not so pure, being mixed with a considerable portion of ferruginous matter; gray externally, but black in the fracture, has no lustre, and is much heavier than the former, yet possesses evident traits of its vegetable character. The fourth or uppermost stratum consists of what the Icelanders call steinbrand, or coal, from which it differs only in the absence of the gloss, and its containing a quantity of earthy matter. It still retains some faint marks of wood.

Remarkable as the appearance of this rock-wood undoubtedly is, a still more surprising phenomenon makes its appearance between the second and third strata, viz. a bed of dark gray schistus, about four inches in thickness, that admits of being divided into numerous thin plates, many of which possess the tenuity of the finest writing paper, and discover on both sides the most beautiful and accurate

impressions of leaves, with all their ramifications of nerves, ribs, and fibres, in the best state of preservation. The whole of the schistose body is, in fact, nothing but an accumulation of leaves closely pressed together, and partially interlaid with a fine alluvial clay. It is also worthy ofhotice, that when you separate any of the leaves from the mass, they are uniformly of grayish or brown color on the surface, and black on the opposite side. Most of those on the specimens now before me are of the common poplar. A few birch and willow leaves are also observable, but very small in size: whereas many of the poplar leaves are upwards of three inches in breadth.

It would appear from the accounts of Olafsen and Povelsen, as also those of Olavius, that a bed of surturbrand extends through the whole of the north-western peninsula. pp. 198, 199.

We have no room to notice the various basaltic formations that Dr. H. mentions, like those in the island of Staffa, and the Giants causeway in Ireland; nor their similarity to certain seams that traverse various parts of New England, indicating a common origin. There is a spot in Cornish N. H. where the basalt pushes out, on the side of a hill, in so decided a columnar shape, triangular and pentagonal, being the common form, as to leave no doubt on the mind of a superficial observer, of its identity with the basalt of the eastern continent, and its islands.

The climate of Iceland is by no means so cold, as its name would seem to indicate, or as most persons would imagine, from its high northern latitude. Dr. Henderson tells us that he found the winter, which he spent there, though eight months in length, less se vere than the preceding one which he passed in Denmark.

In the month of November, the mercury in Fahrenheit's thermometer did not sink lower than 20°, and it was nearly as often above the freezing point as below it. On the 6th of December, with clear weather and a light breeze from the east-north-east, it sunk to 89 30, after which, especially towards the end of the year, the weather became remarkably mild, and continued in this state till near the middle of January; the thermometer for the most part between 34° and 40°. On the 10th and 11th of January it fell as low as 15° 30', but rose again in a short time, and continued much more frequently above than below the point of conge lation till the 7th of March, when we had a strong wind from the N. N. W., and the mercury, which had stood the preceding day between 30° and 34° sunk in the morning to 9° 30", at noon to 8o, and at 9 o'clock in the evening it fell as low as 4o 30, which was the strongest degree of frost we had the whole winter.

[blocks in formation]

It must, at the same time, be allowed, that the winter of 1814, as well as that which immediately preceded it, was considered by the Icelanders as uncommonly mild. The keenest frost ever experienced in Iceland was in the year 1348, when the ocean was congealed all round the island, so as to admit of the inhabitants riding on horseback from the one promontory to the other on the ice. p. 146.

Turning from these views of the natural phenomena of Iceland, we proceed to notice its early history, and the present state of its population.

From the introduction to the Edinburgh edition, we learn that the first permanent settlement made in Iceland, was in the year of our Lord 874. The scattered colonies were united in a republican government in 928, and maintained it for nearly four centuries.

This was the golden age of Iceland. Literature, the arts, commerce, etc. were in the most flourishing condition. For their excellent code of laws, they were indebted to Ulfliot, one of their own countrymen, who at 60 years of age, visited Norway to acquire a knowledge of jurisprudence. In 1261 most of the inhabitants became tribuary to Norway, and in 1387 to Denmark. They stipulated in their union to Norway, to retain their laws, and be exempted from taxes; and the king agreed to secure to them the necessary articles of foreign produce, and to preserve peace on the island. No military force has ever placed its foot there! If the conditions were not fulfilled, they were at liberty to withdraw their allegiance. Some alterations in their civil institutions, have of late taken place, from their union to Denmark. During the time of the republic they discovered Greenland, and the American continent, which was several times visited, though no permanent settlement was made.

The habits of the Icelanders are generally devotional, of which Dr. H. relates several interesting instances. They are given to hospitaliy and are very courteous in their demeanor.

With respect to personal appearance, they are rather tall, of a frank open countenance, a florid complexion, and yellow flaxen hair. The women are shorter in proportion, and more inclined to corpulency than the men; but many of them would look handsome in a modern European dress. In youth both sexes are generally of a weakly habit of body, which is the necessary consequence of their want of proper exercise, and the poorness of their living; yet it is surprising what great hardships they are capable of enduring in after life. It is seldom any of them attain to a very advanced age: however the females commonly live longer than the men. Owing to the nature of their food, their want of personal cleanliness and their being often obliged to sit long in wet woolen clothes, they are greatly exposed to cutaneous diseases. They are also frequently attacked with obstinate coughs and pulmonary complaints, by which perhaps more are carried off annually, than by any other disease.

It has been said, that in general, the Icelanders are of a sullen and melancholy disposition, but often paying the strictest attention to their appearance and habits, I must pronounce the statement inaccurate, and one which only could have been made by those, who have had little or no intercourse with the people. On the contrary I have been surprised at the degree of cheerfulness and vivacity which I found to prevail among them, and that not unfrequently under circumstances of considerable external depression and want. Their predominant character is that of unsuspecting frankness, pious contentment, and a steady liveliness of temperament, combined with a strength of intellect and acuteness of mind seldom to be met with in other parts of the world. They have also been noted for the almost unconquerable attachment which they feel to their native island.





They adhere most rigidly to whatever has once been adopted as a national custom, and the few innovations that have been introduced by foreigners, are scarcely visible beyond the immediate vicinity of their factories. Their language, dress, and mode of life, have been invariably the same during a period of nine centuries; whilst those of other nations have been subjected to numerous vicissitudes, according to the diversity of external circumstances, and the caprices of certain leading individuals, whose influence has been sufficiently powerful to impart a new tone to the society in which they moved. Habituated from their earliest years to hear of the character of their ancestors, and the asylum, which their native island afforded to the sciences, when the rest of Europe was immersed in ignorance and barbarism, the Icelanders naturally possess a high degree of

national feeling, and there is a certain dignity and boldness of carriage observable in numbers of the peasants, which at once indicate a strong sense of propriety and independence. Introduction, Ed. Edition. pp. 33-36.

The population of this island is supposed to have been greater in former times, than it is at present. It suffered greatly from the plague in 1402, and from the small pox in 1707, and 1708, when 16,000 persons were cut off. In 1891, the population was estimated at 47,207, and is probably at present about 50,000.

The religion of Iceland is protestant, and the forms and ceremonies are those of the Lutheran church. The whole number of parishes in the island is 184. The clergy are supported in part by the cultivation of small glebes, which are attached to the churches, and in part by certain tithes, which are paid by the peasants. Their incomes, however, are extremely small; the richest living in the island being worth less than 200 rix dollars a year, while many produce only twenty-five or thirty, and some only five. Most of the clergy appear to be men of ardent piety, dead to the world, and devoted to the salvation of souls. Even in this remote region, however, the neology of Germany has its disciples among the clergy, though the number is small; and here, as every where else, it has made its votaries skeptical in their opinions, loose in their morals, and totally regardless of the spiritual interests of their people. The great body of the clergy, however, exhibit that primitive simplicity and affection for their people, which distinguish the Moravian teachers. Our readers will dwell with pleasure on the following beautiful sketch of a sabbath scene in Iceland, from the pen of Dr. Holland.

The sabbath scene at an Icelandic church is one of a most singular and interesting kind. The little edifice constructed of wood and turf, is situated, perhaps amid the ruggid ruins of a stream of lava, or beneath mountains covered with unmelting snow. Here the Icelanders assemble to perform the duties of their religiou. A group of male and female peasants may be seen gathered about the church, waiting the arrival of their pastor; all habited in their best attire after the manner of the country; their children with them; and the horses which brought them from their respective homes grazing quietly around the little assembly. The arrival of a new comer is welcomed by every one with a kiss of salutation. The pastor makes his appearance among them as a friend; he salutes individually each member of his flock, and stoops down to give his almost parental kiss to the little ones, who are to grow up under his care. These kind offices performed, they all go together into the house of prayer. p. 23.

Much attention is paid by the clergy to the instruction of the young in the principles of religion, and the results may be gathered from the following passage..

When the ordinary service was over, he (the pastor) went into the middle of the church, and collecting the young people of both sexes around him, he catechised them, for about half an hour, from the subject of his sermon. This he did, with the view of gratifying a wish I had expressed the preceding evening, of being present at an Icelandic catechising. The exercise proved interesting in the highest de

« 上一頁繼續 »