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Title: Across Iceland
Author: Bisiker, William
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Across Iceland" ***

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                         TRANSCRIBER'S NOTES:

--Obvious print and punctuation errors were corrected.

--Because of the large tables in this book, it is recommended the use
  of a monospaced font.

--There are two Sun symbols (a circle with a dot in the middle) in the
  caption of illustration at page 70 and page 73. They are noted as Sun
  symbol].

--Bold text is enclosed in equal signs: =bold text=.



                            ACROSS ICELAND

[Illustration: THE CAMP AT HVERAVELLIR.]



                            ACROSS ICELAND

                                  BY

                         W. BISIKER, F.R.G.S.

                      WITH ILLUSTRATIONS AND MAPS

                                  AND

       AN APPENDIX BY A. W. HILL, M.A., ON THE PLANTS COLLECTED

                                LONDON

                             EDWARD ARNOLD

                     Publisher to the India Office

                                 1902

                         _All rights reserved_



                               CONTENTS


  CHAPTER I

                                              PAGE

  THE PARTY                                      1

  CHAPTER II

  THE FAROES                                     6

  CHAPTER III

  THE FJORDS                                    16

  CHAPTER IV

  ACROSS THE NORTHERN INHABITED FRINGE          26

  CHAPTER V

  THE INTERIOR--TO HVERAVELLIR                  51

  CHAPTER VI

  THE INTERIOR--STRYTUR AND ITS LAVA            61

  CHAPTER VII

  THE INTERIOR--KERLINGARFJÖLL                  72

  CHAPTER VIII

  THE INTERIOR--HVITARVATN AND GULLFOSS         80

  CHAPTER IX

  GEYSIR AND THINGVELLIR                        95

  CHAPTER X
  THE CAPITAL--REYKJAVIK                       112

  CHAPTER XI

  IN THE WEST--TO REYKHOLT                     121

  CHAPTER XII

  BARNAFOSS AND THE SURTSHELLIR CAVES          137

  CHAPTER XIII

  GILSBAKKI TO STATHARHRAUN                    152

  CHAPTER XIV

  TO ELDBORG AND HELGAFELL                     163

  CHAPTER XV

  STYKKISHOLM AND BERSERKJAHRAUN               172

  CHAPTER XVI

  THE NORTH-WEST PENINSULA                     181

  CHAPTER XVII

  THE NORTHERN FJORDS                          192

  CHAPTER XVIII

  ACROSS COUNTRY FROM AKUREYRI TO HUSAVIK      196

  CHAPTER XIX

  THE EASTERN FJORDS                           207

  APPENDIX I.--ON THE PLANTS COLLECTED         217

  APPENDIX II.--LIST OF THE PLANTS             226

  INDEX OF PLACES       233



                         LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


  The Camp at Hveravellir                                 _Frontispiece_

                                                                    PAGE

  In Thorshavn (Faroes)                                                9

  The Waterfall, Seythisfjord                                         20

  Pack-saddle and Boxes                                               27

  Akureyri at Midnight                                                29

  The Spit at Oddeyri                                                 31

  The Oxnadalsá cutting through a Hard Dyke                           33

  Moraine Accumulations and Cloud-effects at Thverá                   37

  The Wrecked Plane-table                                             40

  The Northrá                                                         41

  Saddling up                                                         42

  Crossing the Herradsvötn                                            44

  Silfrastathr Church. Asleep at Midnight                             47

  Crossing a small Snow Slope                                         52

  Hveravellir--the Sinter Terraces                                    59

  A Volcanic Vent of the Fissure Type                                 69

  A Survey Photograph (No. 169) from Gránanes                         70

  A Survey Photograph (No. 183) looking towards Kerlingarfjöll        73

  Ascending a Snow Slope                                              74

  Kerlingarfjöll--Fire and Ice                                        75

  Immense "Erratics"                                                  81

  The Pack-train crossing the Hvitá                                   86

  A Fine Gorge in the Side of Bláfell                                 88

  Gullfoss--Front View with "Rainbow" Effect                          89

  Gullfoss--Side View                                                 89

  Gullfoss--the Upper Fall                                            90

  Gullfoss--the Fall into the Ravine                                  91

  Gullfoss--the Ravine below the Falls                                92

  Below Gullfoss--Castellated Dykes                                   93

  The Sinter Ring of Geysir                                          100

  The Funnel or Crater of Geysir                                     101

  Almanna-gjá--in the Rift near the Waterfall                        108

  Glaciated Lava Surface near Thingvellir                            110

  The Business End of Reykjavik by the Governor's House              115

  Reykjavik--Interior of the Cathedral                               117

  Thorlakur and his Wife and Children at his Farm-house              123

  The Thyrill Mountains                                              128

  Miss Hastie Trout-fishing                                          130

  Typical Icelandic Farmers                                          131

  A Forest near Barnafoss                                            133

  The Cascades at Barnafoss                                          139

  The Northingafljot cutting across the Lava                         143

  The Double Depression in the Lava at the Entrance to the
  Surtshellir Caves                                                  144

  In the Surtshellir Caves near the Entrance, showing the
  water-worn lines                                                   145

  Surtshellir--the Icicle Cave                                       150

  A Lava Arch                                                        153

  Ropy Lava at Barnafoss                                             154

  Hannes and the Farmer in Consultation                              160

  Small Vent Cones                                                   161

  Hannes and Jón loading up a Pony                                   169

  The Columnar Basalt Island, Sugandisey                             173

  The Berserkers' Road through the Lava-field                        177

  A Basalt Mountain Cone due to Erosion                              183

  A "Glorified" Shadow on the Fog over Veithileysa                   190

  Lava Pillars near Nes                                              201

  Uxahver Geyser in Eruption                                         203

  Bathstovukver Geyser in Eruption                                   204

  The Procession at Seythisfjord                                     212

  Seythisfjord--on the Outskirts of the Crowd round the Monument     213

  Farewell Faroese!                                                  215



                             LIST OF MAPS


  Central Iceland--Plane-table Survey by the Author  _to face page_   61

  Author's Route near Statharhraun                        _page_     159

  Author's Route--Akureyri to Husavik                        "       197

  Map of Iceland to illustrate the Author's Route               _at end_



CHAPTER I

THE PARTY


These notes, besides describing a journey made during the summer of
1900 across Central Iceland from the north-east to the south-west, give
an account of further travels by land in the west, and by sea along the
coast and into the fjords of the north-west, north and east coasts.

The voyage to Iceland was made in one of the vessels owned by the
United Steamship Company, a Danish company trading from Copenhagen to
Leith, and thence to the Faroes and Iceland.

We were six in all--a semi-scientific party. There was Miss J. A.
Hastie, a woman who has travelled much in Europe, Asia, Africa,
and America, and who is not unacquainted with our Colonies at the
Antipodes, or with the islands of the South Seas. She was specially
interested in the botany of the country, in its folklore, and in the
people. Then there was Captain W. H. Cope; he had been at sea for the
greater part of his life, and had in the course of his journeyings
seen much of the world; he was our nautical adviser, and we referred
to him in matters connected with the sea. W. Glen, Miss Hastie's
cousin, was known as the "handy man" of the party. If anybody was in
difficulties, Glen was always on the spot to lend a helping hand. He
produced all sorts of things at the right moment. Did any one require
a screw-driver, then Glen had it; want a corkscrew, Glen could supply
it; a pair of scissors, he produced them--some string, a strap, it was
all the same. If a camera struck work, Glen could render the strike
ineffective, for he carried two, and could lend one without interfering
with his own photographic work. A. W. Hill, of King's College,
Cambridge, was our botanist--who describes what he saw. H. H. Thomas,
of Balliol, paid special attention to the geological formation of the
country that we traversed, and he was frequently to be seen, camera
in hand, taking shots at interesting formations--a glaciated lava
surface, a volcanic vent, or an immense "erratic" boulder or "perched
block," for instance; he also sketched industriously, and sometimes
paced the ground compass in hand in order that he might record in his
note-book the direction of a line of fissure, or the position of hot
springs along that line; or something else of interest to geologists
in particular. I was the geographer, whose mission it was to make a
map of a small portion of the country traversed, to get a general idea
of its conformation, and to note valleys and mountains, ice-fields
and snow slopes, lava flows and hot springs, mighty rivers and tiny
rivulets. I undertook to chronicle the events of the journey and to
"take shots"--photographic shots--at men and things. We were all more
or less devoted to sport, and frequently the desire to kill took
possession of us, especially when we caught sight of duck, grouse,
or golden plover--or, when we came to stream or river where trout or
salmon were known to abound, we had a desire to cast a fly. But it was
maddening to know that our desires could not be gratified, for where
were gun and cartridges, rod and line? The man who had undertaken to
look after that branch of our preliminary arrangements had failed us at
the last moment, and it was not till too late, when we were embarking
at Leith, that we learned that he was not coming with us. It was not
his fault, poor fellow, but his misfortune. He had come a cropper from
his bicycle, falling on his head, had remained unconscious for more
than twelve hours, and had been forbidden by his medical advisers to
travel--all this we knew nothing of until we were embarking at Leith,
when it was altogether too late to procure another sporting outfit to
replace that which we had fondly believed to be already on board ship,
but which was really lying many miles away, far beyond our reach. But
I will hasten over a subject that awakens the most tantalising of
recollections, for many were the opportunities that were missed.

One Saturday in June 1900 we embarked upon the steam-ship _Ceres_, and
early in the afternoon set sail from Leith on our voyage North. All
the morning the weather had been fine, and it promised to continue so
before we started, but we had scarcely reached the open sea before
we entered a fog, which increased in denseness as we progressed. As
a consequence the steam-whistle was sounded every few minutes, much
to the discomfiture of many of the passengers on board; but Miss
Hastie seemed to rise above such petty annoyances, for she took her
seat on deck immediately beneath the whistle, and this spot was her
resort during the whole voyage, notwithstanding the fact that the
fog continued at intervals for the greater part of the journey, and
that the steam-whistle frequently made day hideous with its noise.
Conversation with her when the fog was densest was difficult, for it
was punctuated--very incorrectly as a rule--by the shrill blasts that
broke in suddenly and without warning, often causing the thread of a
discourse to be lost, or an interrupted remark to fall flat on being
completed, or perhaps repeated, when silence once more reigned.

As a result of the fog we proceeded at half speed only, and during
the night the whistle was most aggressive, causing one's slumbers to
be somewhat broken. In my own case the steam-whistle was not the only
disturbing influence at night, for my cabin companion had a noisy way
of enjoying the repose of the just, and often the intervals between
the blasts were filled in with sounds that resembled the rumbling of
thunder, and not very distant thunder either.

The second day out was a repetition of the first as regards fog,
progress made, shrill whistling, etc. The vessel glided on slowly and
smoothly, and we employed the time, when not eating and drinking, in
the way usual at sea--by reading, chatting with our fellow-passengers,
and comparing notes of former travels, varied now and then by a
"rubber," or a stroll on deck for exercise. Meals were served at the
following hours: 8 A.M., coffee and rusks; 10 A.M., breakfast; 3 P.M.,
dinner--the chief meal of the day; 8 P.M., supper. At breakfast and
supper there were many dishes of smoked, uncooked food--fish, meats,
sausages, etc.; but the members of our party did not take very kindly
to these uncooked delicacies, and they were left for those who relished
them--the Danes, Germans, and passengers of other nationalities, of
whom there were many on board.

The fog cleared in the evening and the South Ronaldshay light was
sighted. Several members of our party looked with no little interest
at the headland, especially our nautical adviser, Captain Cope, for he
had had a very unpleasant and dangerous experience thereabouts only
two months before: he had been wrecked not far from it in the Shetland
steamer, the _St. Rognvald_, which broke up and became a total loss.
The vessel struck in the middle of the night, and he escaped in a very
light and airy costume, consisting of a suit of pyjamas and an overcoat.

Next morning the weather was remarkably clear and bright until
breakfast time, when we entered other fog banks and remained more or
less in them until late in the afternoon; but on nearing our first port
of call we emerged into clear weather.



CHAPTER II

THE FAROES


The first sight of the Faroes was impressive. The bold outlines of the
islands were well-marked features. The dip (or tilt) of the ancient
lava flows could be traced from one island to another. A dome-shaped
block, Lille Dimon, was the most striking island, while the almost
perpendicular escarpments of Skuo stood as evidence of the power of the
stormy Atlantic, whose seas continually beat at the base of the cliffs.

Trangisvaag, in the island of Sudero, was the first port of call. In
the fjord leading to it the cloud-effects were many and very fine. As
the warm, moist air coming in from the sea was carried against the
cool faces of precipitous lava mountains, so the moisture condensed
and swept along their sides, at times completely hiding the highest
points from view; but the effects were ever-changing. Fine specimens of
jointed basalt are these mountains; flow upon flow can be traced for
miles in almost horizontal parallel lines. But little vegetation is to
be seen--the total absence of trees, a little grass, and much peat moss
are the features that first appeal to one who is not a botanist.

Ashore one is first struck with the Faroese themselves: they are a fine
race, and retain their native politeness and independence of character;
they are courteous in the extreme to strangers. Most of the men are
fishermen or sailors, and many, through their consequent contact with
English-speaking people, can converse in good understandable English.
A small trade is done in wool, and we met two of the islanders, fine
types of the race, returning from their day's work; they were quite
picturesque figures, for, besides being attired in the national
costume, they had wound round them a quantity of wool, which in these
islands is generally plucked, not shorn, from the sheep's back. The
national costume consists of a sort of brewer's cap, having red and
blue stripes as a rule, a cloth tunic, a waistcoat, and knee breeches
split at the knees, but very rarely buttoned, rough woollen stockings
and skin shoes. The fishermen often dispense with tunic and waistcoat,
and wear in their place a woollen jersey with long sleeves, that has
a strong sheepy smell, having a particular pattern worked in pale
blue and red on a white ground. The women I saw wore dresses of white
striped cotton stuff, no ordinary head covering, but shawls across the
shoulders, which were often pulled over the head, and wooden clogs on
the feet.

All the buildings at Trangisvaag are built of wood so far as the
superstructure is concerned, the substructure often being made of
blocks of basalt. The roofs of the oldest buildings are covered with
grass; the bark of the silver birch is put on the rafters, which is
then turfed over, the grass as a rule growing luxuriantly during
summer--thus are the roofs made water-tight. The most modern houses
are covered with galvanised iron, but as they are not numerous the town
is decidedly picturesque. There are several ancient-looking wooden
buildings, the church being one of the oldest, with a record of fifty
years.

I have stated that most of the male population are fishermen,
consequently the chief trade of the islands is in fish--cod-fish.
The fish, as soon as brought to land, are cut open by women (who all
work at this industry also); they are then washed in water, sometimes
sea-water and sometimes fresh, and stacked in heaps with plenty of salt
between the layers. They remain so for perhaps three months, covered
with tarpaulins held down by heavy lumps of basalt. When properly
salted the fish are washed and spread on a floor laid with slabs of
basalt. When dry, the fish are stored in sheds, where they are packed
in bales ready for export to Spain or Italy, which are the chief
markets for salted cod.

The town of Trangisvaag is on the northern side of the fjord at the
base of high weather-worn basaltic crags, which frown down upon it and
form a grand background. There is a quantity of peat moss on the slopes
at the foot of these mountains, often scored deeply by the numerous
watercourses.

At Trangisvaag it was quite evident that we were approaching the
Arctic circle, for at midnight there was light enough for the houses
and other objects on shore to be seen from the vessel's deck, half a
mile distant, and to enable me to write up notes without the aid of
artificial light.

We steamed out of Trangisvaag fjord in the early morning, but as
the weather was dull and cloudy we could not see much of the small
islands, Lille Dimon (Little Diamond) and Store Dimon (Great Diamond),
for they were cloud-capped and otherwise much obscured by drifting
clouds. A few hours later we anchored opposite to Thorshavn in the
island of Stromo, the capital and chief town of the Faroes.

[Illustration: IN THORSHAVN (FAROES).]

Thorshavn is a very quaint and picturesque place, and many are the
peculiar buildings and dwellings in the heart of the town, where the
streets are very narrow indeed. No general plan has been followed in
the laying out of the town, for the streets run in all directions, up
and down hill, and along valleys or depressions in the ground. The
styles of architecture are various--a single-storied picturesque shanty
of ancient style, with grass-covered roof, having opposite to it a
pretentious modern building roofed with galvanised iron, which rises
high above, its three stories quite overshadowing the humble neighbour.
These turf and grass-grown roofs are a feature in the appearance of
the town. The general absence of trees is striking, though one notices
with something of surprise the almost tropical luxuriance of foliage
in some of the gardens that are more or less sheltered from the strong
winds which so frequently sweep over the islands. The only tree I saw
there worthy of the name was a sycamore in the front garden of a very
picturesque cottage standing on a rather elevated site in the middle of
the town.

We had not all brought oilskins, so Thomas and I visited several stores
in the course of a search for some--at one of them they had coats only
for sale, at another there were nether garments and sou'-westers in
addition, but oh, how oily they were, and sticky! and how smelly! Had
we purchased, no doubt it would have added to our safety when crossing
ice-fields or lava flows, or when ascending snow slopes, for we should
undoubtedly have found ourselves stuck fast to saddles on the occasions
when the ponies were endeavouring to get rid of us by their frequent
stumbles. But we would have none of the oily, sticky, and smelly
garments.

I strolled about, camera in hand, and found that many of the women and
girls were quite anxious to be photographed; at one spot I came upon a
group of women squatting on the ground; as I approached, several others
hastened to join the group, at the same time inviting me to photograph
them, which I did. Shortly afterwards my films came to an end, so I
made a journey to the _Ceres_, which was lying at anchor half a mile
from the shore, in order to reload the camera.

I engaged two young Faroese to row me to the vessel, and on arrival
enjoined them to await me that they might put me ashore again; when,
however, I had changed the films and was ready to return, they were
nowhere to be found--the young beggars had gone off with another fare,
and had left me to my own devices and to the off chance of a "lift"
in another boat. I felt much inclined to make a murderous attack upon
the Queen's English, to say nothing of the young Faroese had they come
my way while pacing the deck in impotent wrath; but I was obliged to
restrain myself, for there was no one with whom I could with justice
quarrel, so I suppressed the rising ire, and went in search of somebody
who could speak my native language. In the end I found a Faroese with
some knowledge of English, and arranged for a passage in a cargo-boat
then about to return to the shore. Soon I was being conveyed from
the _Ceres_ at the rapid rate--for a very heavily laden cargo-boat,
that is--of about a knot an hour. However, I reached the shore in due
course, just in time to join our party at lunch at the hotel, where
they were being entertained by a fellow-passenger. A merry meal we
had, and in the course of it our host joined us in criticising the
appointments of the table, but, in spite of a few makeshifts, they were
not at all bad, and the meal itself was decidedly good.

The voyage to Klaksvig was of much interest, for our course lay in
channels between islands and in fjords. The formation of the basaltic
hills was most striking, the many pyramidal shapes impressing us
greatly. There were numerous dykes in the mountain side, deep ravines
scored perpendicularly in the basaltic formation, where softer
intrusive material had been eroded more rapidly than the rock on each
side. At the entrance to Kalsofjord (the channel between the islands of
Kalso on the west and Bordo and Kuno on the east side) there was a very
strong current flowing against us in a southerly direction; a course
was therefore steered close in-shore to avoid the full strength of the
current in mid-stream. Klaksvig lies in a bay in the island of Bordo,
and to reach it a turn has to be made eastward between the islands of
Kuno and Bordo. At the entrance to the bay anchor was dropped, and
there we remained all night. We were close to the southern end of the
island of Kuno, where a very fine specimen of a pyramidal mountain
frowned down upon us from the height of nearly 2300 feet--it is a
pyramid that might well cause the shade of Cheops, if ever passing that
way, to hide his diminished head and fade into oblivion. We witnessed
some very fine cloud-effects in the course of the journey to Klaksvig,
for the clouds drifting over the high hills often streamed away far to
leeward of them.

During the voyage I often wrote my notes somewhere about midnight, and
this night, while thus employed in my cabin, my "stable companion" took
it into his head that I was preventing him from the proper enjoyment
of his slumbers, and growled out something to that effect; so, to
avoid raising his wrath, I interrupted the course of the notes and
turned in; but it was not to sleep, for I had scarcely laid head upon
pillow before certain sounds from the bunk below made it evident that
unconsciously he was going to turn the tables upon me, and that, by
stertorously enjoying his slumbers, he would prevent me from peacefully
enjoying mine. After several ineffectual attempts to stop the snoring,
I at last fled to the saloon, far out of range of the noise, and there
reposed in peace for the rest of the night.

At Klaksvig Miss Hastie, Hill, Thomas, and myself went ashore. We
hunted the "lions" in couples: Miss Hastie going off with Hill to
seek specimens first of all, while Thomas and I were bent on making
a trial survey of the bay of Klaksvig, just to keep our hands in. We
did this before visiting the "lions," which here assume the shape of
whales, or rather whales' skulls, a number of which have been built up
so as to form a dividing wall between two properties. On one side of
this wall there is a cod-liver oil factory, which we inspected; it was
not quite so smelly as are some factories where shark or whale oil is
produced--but more of that anon! One of the vats was full of a rich
brown liquid, which we were informed was unrefined cod-liver oil. The
oil is exported in that state after being run into casks, many of which
were strewed on the hillside. A pretty picture was seen near the wharf,
where several young women were busily engaged washing cod-fish in a
bath under cover of an open shed. A portion of the town of Klaksvig
is built on a narrow strip of land that separates Klaksvig bay from
Borovig bay--a strip that has been formed partly of moraine debris,
and partly by the silting up of shingle by the sea. Facing Borovig bay
there is a row of boat-sheds that are peculiar in that they are built
of boulders in a small break in the sloping shore, and that the roofs
are formed of smaller boulders laid upon a wooden framework. The roofs
did not seem capable of keeping out much rain, and doubtless they were
not built for that purpose, but for keeping out the snow during winter
when the boats are laid up.

In the evening we left Klaksvig and proceeded into Kalsofjord, past
the great pyramid; but its lofty head was under a cloud, so we could
not admire its full proportions. Passing up the fjord the atmosphere
cleared, and one could not help being much struck with the grandeur of
the scenery. High precipitous mountains rose up on each side of the
fjord; at a first glance, one would say that there was very little land
at their foot suitable for cultivation, or for grazing purposes, so
near to the water's edge did the mountains seem; but we saw many farms
there, and several villages, picturesque places with quaint-looking
buildings, nestling in hollows at the base of the hills. What soil
there is must be very prolific, judging from the population settled on
it. On the west side, and near to the north end of the fjord, there
are some very fine specimens of common basaltic land forms--two grand
corries, a fine dyke, some sheer faces of rock, and as we passed by
the end of the land an almost sheer precipice which faced west came
into view, while standing out at its foot there was a solitary basaltic
column. When coming up the fjord the steam-whistle was frequently
sounded in order that we might hear the very fine echoes for which it
is noted; the interval is a long one, some three or four seconds. At
the corries the sound echoed and re-echoed until it finally died away
in the heights above.

On emerging from the fjord and putting out to sea, we encountered a
slight swell from the west, so the vessel rolled a bit; it was really
not much, but being the first time during the voyage, it was much
disliked by those who were not proof against _mal de mer_. The clear
atmosphere was soon left behind, for we entered another fog bank when
only a few miles distant from the land. At once the music (!) of the
steam-whistle was resumed, and our ears were again tortured by its
shrill blasts.



CHAPTER III

THE FJORDS


Next day rain, fog, and mist prevailed, so there was much whist-playing
and smoking below, and much blowing of whistle above. Towards evening
we were off the coast of Iceland; the land was not visible, for we
were enveloped in fog, but there was no doubt about it, for we could
_hear_ that land was not far distant. It may seem strange, but it was
a fact, we were really feeling our way along the coast by the aid of
the steam-whistle. The land thereabouts rises abruptly from the sea,
and the echoes from the sheer faces of rock enabled the officers of the
vessel to judge their distance. We went dangerously near to another
vessel in the fog, but soon afterwards it cleared off a bit, and there,
just abeam on the starboard side, was the other vessel, sufficiently
close to be a dangerous neighbour in thick weather. At midnight we
were going full speed ahead, but when I awoke at seven in the morning
it was to find that our experiences of fog were not at an end, that
we were again in a very dense one, and that we were lying-to. After
breakfast it lifted sufficiently to allow of a course being shaped for
Northfjord, our first port of call in Iceland. Much of the scenery
of this fjord was obscured by the thick atmosphere, but occasional
glimpses through rifts proved that we were missing many fine scenes
that are on view when the conditions are favourable. The first sight
of Iceland was obtained at Dalatangi Point, four or five miles to the
north of the entrance to Northfjord. In the fog we had gone too far
north. Other glimpses on the way were of a corrie near Dalatangi, and
the face of the mountains near Mjofifjord. Our stay at Northfjord was
of but short duration, and there was no time to go ashore, so the only
view we had of the town was obtained from the vessel's deck.

We had a number of Faroese passengers on board, bound for various ports
in Iceland; they were good types of the race, and I obtained permission
to photograph some of them.

Seythisfjord was not far distant, and in a few hours we were steaming
up the fjord towards the town at its head. The scenery and geological
structure of these fjords were similar to what we had passed through
two days before in the Faroes. Towards the head of the fjord there
are many waterfalls on the mountain-sides; in fact, it is a district
of waterfalls, for there are some fine ones up the valley, where a
fair-sized river and its various tributaries rush down from all sides
in a series of great leaps and bounds over ledges of rocks fifty,
sixty, a hundred feet high, finally joining and tumbling over the
lowest ledge in a grand cascade (which I photographed) to the river
below--the "valley of waterfalls" would be a descriptive name to bestow
upon it.

It was at Seythisfjord that we first set foot upon the soil of
Iceland. We were conveyed to the shore by the steam-launch and boats
from a man-of-war, the Danish guardship, that was lying in the harbour.
We were so honoured because the captain of our vessel was an officer
in the Danish Navy, and it was intended as an attention to him. It
seems that some of the vessels belonging to the Company are captained
by officers of the Navy, who are appointed to the command by the
Danish authorities as a sort of reward for services, for during their
term--three years, I think--they draw their pay as officers of the Navy
in addition to what is due to them from the Company.

On shore our party split up as usual, Miss Hastie and Hill going off in
search of plants, while the "Nautical Adviser," Thomas, and I wandered
along the sea-shore and into the town. We were pestered by an Icelander
having a very crude idea of the English language who had been imbibing
the "lemonade" of the country, and if he had not "three sheets in the
wind," at least there was one little sheet flapping about, the end of
which was flicking at us at inconvenient moments. We tried to shake
him off, but it was of no avail. He had a notion that we wanted a
guide to conduct us into the interior of Iceland, and he claimed to be
very competent and to know everything of the country. We did not doubt
his competency, or if so we did not inform him, but tried to make him
understand that we had made our arrangements for guidance, and that the
men we had engaged were teetotallers. For a long while he dogged our
footsteps, and it was not until we had got clear of the town and were
making tracks up the valley towards the waterfalls that we lost him.
On the way we joined Miss Hastie and Hill, who seemed quite satisfied
with the result of their grubbing amongst what--to those of us at least
who had not been educated botanically--looked like very common weeds.
Together we slowly, very slowly, made our way up the valley, for there
were many stoppages while plants were being dug out and transferred to
small tin boxes that looked like tobacco tins--indeed, I think they
were originally intended to hold the "weed" of the smoker and not
"Weeds--various." So much time was occupied by these stoppages, that at
last it became a question whether we should be able to reach the lowest
and, as we believed, the finest of the waterfalls, for we were expected
to be on board at a certain time, in readiness for departure; the
question was much debated, and there seemed to be a general desire to
discuss the matter rather than to make the attempt to reach the fall. I
determined to try, and was informed that I should miss the steamer.

I could see the misty spray rising from the fall not a mile distant,
so I set out across swamps and peat bogs, caring but little for such
trifles, for I had resolved to see that fall. Well, I _did_ reach the
fall, and after photographing it, crossed the river just below it, and
returned on the other side of the valley. It was a rather difficult
journey, for I had a severe cross-country course to cover, with a
number of fairly long jumps over the mountain streams on the way, but,
nevertheless, I reached the _Ceres_ half an hour before the other
members of the party. Then, strange to say, none of them seemed to
believe that I had reached the waterfall at all; but the photograph of
it is the best evidence that I can offer in support of my contention
that I did.

[Illustration: THE WATERFALL, SEYTHISFJORD.]

The soil at Seythisfjord looked very good, and would doubtless yield
good crops were the summer a bit longer and the ripening power of the
sun rather stronger. There is much peat and boggy land on the slopes
below the steep escarpments on each side of the fjord, and in the
river-flats up the valley; many ponies are grazed here, and as some of
the boggy land is being drained by deep dykes, the number is likely to
increase; the peat that is removed in cutting the dykes is built up at
their sides to form dividing fences.

The valley at the head of Seythisfjord is a fine specimen of the result
of sub-aerial erosion, for its form is due to the denuding action of
frost and snow, wind and rain, storm and sunshine. There is a vast
corrie at the head, which is shelved in a series of steps right down to
the flat through which the river meanders. It is at these shelves or
ledges of the harder strata that the waterfalls and cascades already
mentioned are to be found--there, where the river and its branches rush
over the edge of one terrace and plunge down to the next.

This being our first experience of the Icelanders, our attention was
attracted by the peculiar headdress worn by the women, which is common
to all classes--a small black knitted cap, about four or five inches in
diameter, from which a silver tube hangs suspended at the side of the
head; through the tube is strung a number of cords or silken threads
that hang down as a tassel.

We ought to have sailed late in the evening, but a thick fog settled
over the land and prevented a start. Wonderful echoes can be produced
at Seythisfjord; the steam-whistle was sounded several times, and
the sound echoed and re-echoed again and again, the reverberation
continuing for many seconds before it died away in the distance among
the mountain tops. Fog and misty rain continued through the night and
well into the small hours of the morning; but at about five o'clock it
lifted sufficiently to allow the _Ceres_ to put to sea. Progress was
slow, and the frequent blasts of the steam-whistle that disturbed our
morning slumbers indicated the state of the atmosphere; however, we
entered Vopnafjord soon after mid-day, and shortly afterwards came to
an anchorage opposite the town.

Vopnafjord is one of the homes of the eider duck, and it was on the
rocky islets opposite to the town that we first saw those birds in
their natural surroundings. We borrowed one of the ship's boats and
rowed over to the rocks. It was difficult to get near, for the ducks
were very shy--more so than usual just then, because many had young;
but as they were too young to fly, we did get fairly near by rowing
round their rocks. The nesting season was over, and many of the birds
had gone away. The production of eider down is an industry that is
increasing; the birds are rigorously protected, and a fine of ten
kronur (eleven shillings) is the penalty incurred by any one killing an
eider duck.

In the afternoon we went ashore in a hired boat that leaked very badly;
but we reached the shore without anything very exciting happening.
The return journey, however, was attended with considerable risk,
for in the meantime the wind had risen, and there was a nasty choppy
sea beating against us when we attempted to make the _Ceres_. Water
entered the boat through the leaky spots, and more was shipped; we were
near being swamped, but we made the gangway, and got on board without
anything worse than a wetting. At the various ports of call there was
often considerable difficulty in obtaining a boat, and the passenger
wishing to get ashore had to take whatever craft was available, for
they were very scarce. Often they were dirty and very leaky. Sometimes
a passage was refused, and on one occasion a cargo-boat starting for
the shore declined a fare of two kronur, although going direct to the
wharf not far distant--the Icelander is an independent personage, and
unless it suits his convenience he sometimes refuses a job.

While at Vopnafjord we met with a man, an Icelander, who could speak
a little English; we soon discovered that he was proud of having
acquired a few British swear words. Thomas and I were taking shots at
a number of fish-cleaners at work on the beach, when this man came
along; we had previously been in conversation with him, so he remarked
airily as he passed that the result of our snap would be "a hell of
a picture." We laughed, but he went on a few paces and then stopped
beside a fellow-passenger, a man of strict views and ideas, who was
photographing the same subject. The Icelander, encouraged, I suppose,
because we had laughed, went one better on what he had said to us, and
gave his opinion that _this_ result would be "a blank, blanketty blank
picture"!--he seemed surprised at the freezingly cold way in which his
remark was received.

We left Vopnafjord in the afternoon and in four hours made Langanes,
a narrow, flat-topped peninsula several miles long, a perfectly
horizontal lava flow, with faces that rise vertically from the sea;
the section is exactly the same, whether through the end or side of
the peninsula. The whiteness of the points of rock and of the face
generally, evidenced the fact that many sea-fowl resort there, and that
the rock-face is covered with a deposit of guano.

At midnight we were inside the Arctic circle, and had the weather
been favourable, we should have seen the sun just above the horizon.
But His Majesty was not on view, for though the fog had lifted in the
morning and had enabled us to make Vopnafjord, the weather had been
dull all day, with the sun quite obscured, and the same conditions
prevailed through the night. It was a pity, because it would probably
be our only chance of seeing the midnight sun, for next day we should
be in Akureyri, a town lying at the head of a long fjord, and nearly a
degree south of the Arctic circle, where the view would, we thought, be
obscured by intervening hills and mountains.

Husavik in Skjalfandi was our next port of call, and we arrived there
early enough in the morning for us to go ashore before breakfast.
Thomas and I were interested in a reported "raised beach"--land
originally formed on the margin of the sea, and subsequently raised
by tectonic (subterranean) disturbances to a height above sea-level.
Miss Hastie was also desirous of seeing the raised beach, and trudged
along with us over the hills to the bay where we expected to find
it; but on arrival we could see no raised beach: there was some
volcanic conglomerate, the rounded and smoothed stones of which had
perhaps caused it to be mistaken for a raised beach--unless, indeed,
we ourselves were on the wrong track and had mistaken the spot;
nevertheless, there was nothing else in view that looked like what we
were in search of, so we returned to Husavik over the hills again.
Not long ago these hills were completely covered with fine yellow
ferruginous loam--a comparatively recent deposit; but it is now being
rapidly eroded, and the older moraine beneath laid bare.

At Husavik there is a great accumulation of moraine matter that has
been brought down from the valley at the back. It is a terminal
moraine that comes right down to the sea, which washes at the foot of
its almost vertical face, fifty to sixty feet high. The town stands on
the edge of the moraine, and the only approach from the pier is by a
long flight of wooden steps; goods are conveyed in trucks that run up a
steep inclined tramway, and these are raised and lowered by cables and
the use of a windlass and friction brakes. Behind the town great fields
of peat are being excavated and stacked ready for use as fuel.

On the voyage from Husavik to Akureyri, one of our fellow-passengers
was the Icelandic minister of the church at Akureyri, a man who had
a very fine tenor voice, the best in Iceland according to repute; at
our request he sang to an accompaniment played on a small harp by a
travelling companion. One thing he sang was the Icelandic National
Hymn, entitled the "Hymn of Praise," composed by S. Sveinbjornsson to
celebrate Iceland's thousand years of freedom. The thousand years were
completed in 1874 (874 to 1874), and the fact was celebrated in that
year with festivities and general rejoicing, the King of Denmark taking
part in them.

On our arrival at Eyjafjord in the afternoon, the weather was clearing
up, and as we steamed up the fjord fine views opened out, and we saw
many excellent cloud-effects. After about three hours' steaming up the
fjord we reached Akureyri, the town next in importance to Reykjavik,
the capital, and came to an anchorage there at about eight o'clock in
the evening.



CHAPTER IV

ACROSS THE NORTHERN INHABITED FRINGE


[Illustration: PACK-SADDLE AND BOXES.]

The next day was a busy one with us, because Akureyri was to be our
starting-point for the journey across the interior, and there were
numerous preliminary arrangements to be made. The fogs and thick
weather had delayed our arrival at Akureyri by a day. We ought to have
set out from Akureyri on the day after our arrival, but the delay at
sea had rendered that quite impossible, as may be imagined when I
mention the facts that besides personal effects there were provisions,
tents, bedding, etc., to be packed; that we were eleven persons in
all (our own party of six, a conductor and manager of affairs, and
four guides), and that thirty-eight ponies were required for our
transport. Of course arrangements had been made for all this long
before our leaving England; ponies and everything else were there,
but all required a lot of "licking into shape." Our manager was up to
his eyes in it all day. The members of our party, however, had less
to do, for when we had bought oilskins and sundries, and had sorted
out and packed our personal effects into boxes specially made for the
purpose--boxes that were to be carried on the ponies, one on each side
of the pack-saddle--we were free to do as we liked for the rest of
the day. It happened to be the anniversary of the Celebration of the
Thousand Years of Freedom, and a festival was being held in Akureyri;
so, on attaining _our_ freedom, we made our way towards the fête
ground, a spot named Oddeyri, a sort of suburb about a mile away, on
a spit of land running into the fjord. There we found the Icelanders
assembled in force. People from all the surrounding country were
there--men, women, and children; all had come on ponies, which were
dotted about in groups, or straying separately over the spit--there
were hundreds of them. The Icelanders were amusing themselves much as
would the villagers at an English country fête. They were eating and
drinking, and engaging in contests of various kinds. Races were being
run, there were gymnastic competitions on "horse" and horizontal bar,
and there was some wrestling also. The last was decidedly good and
interesting. Each competitor grasped his opponent's right shoulder
with left hand, and with the right took a firm hold of the other's
waistband. Then the fun commenced. The opponents danced around each
other, watching for opportunities. Their movements were very amusing,
but some of the throws were very cleverly effected. In the evening, at
about 8 P.M. that is, dancing commenced. A platform had been prepared
for the purpose; this was railed round, and there were seats, on which
the girls sat awaiting partners. The custom in choosing a partner is
for the man to approach the lady of his choice and bow to her; she
acquiesces by rising from her seat, when the couple waltz off together.
Just before the dancing commenced, a good-humoured, rubicund man,
short of stature, whose well-rounded figure denoted that he was not
averse to the good things provided by the gods, ascended a rostrum
at one end of the platform, and from there addressed the assemblage.
To us who were not acquainted with the Icelandic tongue, his remarks
were unintelligible; but by those around who were listening to his
utterances, they seemed to be much appreciated, and their smiles and
laughter showed that the orator, a fluent speaker, was a popular man
and a humorist of no mean order; indeed, one had but to look at his
expressive face when he was speaking to learn that he was a "funny" man.

[Illustration: AKUREYRI AT MIDNIGHT.]

Between the town of Akureyri and the basaltic mountains to the
westward that rise to a considerable altitude, there is, filling
the interval, a series of morainic hills, the material of which has
come down the Eyjafjorthará valley, or from the mountains beside it.
These hills present the appearance of a terrace partly worn down and
scored by the action of water and melting snow. No doubt the basaltic
mountains once formed the side of the fjord. An hour or so before
midnight, Miss Hastie, Thomas, and I climbed the hills to the terrace,
in the hope of getting a glimpse of the midnight sun, for the night
was almost cloudless. The sun was shining brightly, but it was quickly
approaching some mountains near the entrance to Eyjafjord, behind which
it would soon be hidden. We failed in the object of our climb, for the
mountains referred to were of considerable elevation. Time would not
allow us to attack the mountains in the rear of Akureyri and ascend by
midnight to an altitude above that of the obscuring hills, so we had
to descend unsatisfied. Though we did not actually see the _sun_ at
midnight, we could see its _light_ shining on the mountain tops two
or three miles away, and we knew that it was above the horizon. So
good was the light that Thomas and I took photographs of the town, one
looking north and the other south, just at midnight--with stop _f32_,
exposures of one minute and one minute and a quarter were required for
medium plates.

We were to have made a start at eleven o'clock the next morning, but
fate was against us. At the appointed hour the members of the party
were ready and waiting, but guides, ponies, pack and riding saddles,
tents, provisions, etc., were _not_ ready, and we could not well
start unless they were. Saddles and gear required many repairs--most
of them had been hired, and they were not in the best condition. Our
manager of affairs was to be seen flitting about settling up accounts,
giving directions to the men, inspecting saddles, bridles, girths,
and gear, and generally trying to reduce confusion to order. For an
hour or more we were amused, but then we began to get impatient. Three
of us got hold of a saddle and bridle, and we tried the paces of a
few of the ponies. In that way we put in an hour or two that might
have proved irksome, for everything was in such a state of confusion
and unreadiness, and the space in which the men were working was
so confined, that _we_ could render no effective help. Instead of
starting at eleven, it was half-past three before we got away--four and
a half hours late!

[Illustration: THE SPIT AT ODDEYRI.]

We made a slight stir as we clattered along the main street of the
town, for it was the largest expedition of the kind that had ever set
out from Akureyri, and the progress of our thirty-eight ponies was
watched with some interest by those of the townspeople who were on the
street. Our way lay beside the fjord, and we proceeded for several
miles in a northerly direction. Our _general_ direction across the
island was, as a rule, southerly and westerly, but it was necessary
to turn the end of a mountain chain before we could shape a more
direct course. On we went, past Oddeyri, the scene of the previous
day's festivities, until we reached the Glerá, where we had our first
experience of fording an Icelandic river. It was not very deep, and it
was but a foretaste of a series of more difficult fordings, not a few
of which were serious undertakings, and not to be attempted without
proper consideration. To this river, the Glerá, the formation of the
spit at Oddeyri is due. The detritus brought down by its waters and
deposited in the fjord has been gradually banked up by the tides and
storms coming up Eyjafjord. Along the shores of the fjord we passed
over extensive ancient moraines; then by a detour we worked round the
edge of the moraines, which form the end of the mountain range, and
entered Horgadalr (the valley of the Horgá). From a spot where we had
lunch, or whatever meal it might be called--it was our first since
breakfast--we overlooked the valley of the Horgá. On the far side
there was a green, fertile-looking spot, and large buildings, which
we ascertained to be the Akureyri agricultural grounds and college,
presided over by Professor Jón Hjaltalin. To the right the river ran
into the fjord through the valley, once, no doubt, an indentation of
Eyjafjord. At the mouth of the river a small delta is in course of
formation, which should develop into a spit similar to that at Oddeyri.

[Illustration: THE OXNADALSÁ CUTTING THROUGH A HARD DYKE.]

Proceeding up the valley of the Horgá, many interesting-looking peaks
attracted our attention. The valley and its branches having been
eroded out of basalt, the mountains and valleys are characteristic
formations--pyramidal peaks, steep escarpments, deeply-cut gorges, with
roaring torrents rushing down in a series of waterfalls and broken
cascades; there are vast quantities of scree on the mountain-sides
covering the terraces of the lava flows, and accumulations of similar
material at the foot of the mountains, forming a talus. Moraine heaps
are also numerous. Higher up the valley, just above the confluence of
the Horgá and the Oxnadalsá, there is a very striking scene, where the
last-named river has carved its way through a very hard dyke, the sides
of which extend into the river, and stand there like an immense wall
with a gap through it. While proceeding up Oxnadalr (the valley of the
Oxná = oxen), which is very picturesque, we saw some fine cloud-effects
as the moist air condensed and drifted just below the mountain tops.
The river Oxnadalsá takes its name from the valley, Oxnadal. This is
one of the few exceptions from the general rule, which is for the
valley to take its name from the river--_dal_ = valley; so, instead
of Oxnadalsá, the rule would make it Oxná. Along this valley all the
depressions in the hillsides are filled with quantities of peat. Peat,
peat bogs, and swamps are very common throughout Iceland, and in most
of the depressions in the hillsides and along the river valleys a peaty
growth is to be found.

For several hours in the course of the day we were accompanied by a man
travelling the same way and driving a pony laden with pieces of rather
ancient shark. When travelling in company, the ponies have a way of
crowding together, and unless very careful, one becomes painfully aware
of the fact when box or bundle brushes in no gentle way against one's
legs. Now the strange pony with the ancient shark at its sides was of
a very friendly disposition, and evinced a desire to fraternise with
our ponies, choosing the riding ponies for his special attentions, the
result being that we had some difficulty in avoiding contact with the
evil-smelling stuff. With this exception not many incidents worthy of
special mention occurred on this our first day in the saddle; there
were several breakdowns, however. The saddlery was not in the best
possible condition; it was mostly old and weather-worn, and a great
deal of it was very rotten. This became more apparent the farther
we went: breakages were numerous, straps snapped, and pack-saddles,
bundles, and boxes broke away and were deposited by the wayside;
while the ponies, glad to have got rid of their loads, careered gaily
on. There was much bustle and confusion, rushing of guides (the men,
whether acting as guides or not, are all called guides) after the
ponies. "Helvit!" they would shout, as another strap broke and a bundle
trailed on the ground, bumping against lumps of lava, by the pony's
side; then they would urge their steeds into a fast run or a canter,
whistling a soft, long-drawn-out note to induce the pony in front to
stop. To urge on the pony they utter a shout that sounds like a cross
between "haw" and "hoch." "Hoch! hoch!" they shout, and sometimes bring
their whips down with a swish upon the haunches of the nearest pony.
When they wish a pony to stop or to slacken speed they whistle gently.
We soon found that it was useless to click or to shout "Get up!" or
"Wo!" to a pony. He did not understand it, so we had to make use of the
sounds that they could recognise.

The first day's journey was not a very long one, seven hours only in
the saddle, and we reached our first camping-ground at about half-past
ten. Thverá was the name of the farm-house beside which we camped.
The buildings were of very primitive construction; they were built in
the usual Icelandic style: turf walls and roof; wooden floors to the
best rooms, and earth or lava blocks to the others; glass windows.
The kitchen in most of the humbler class of farm-houses is a picture,
and this one was typical; it was lighted only from the roof, and the
openings served also to ventilate the room and to act as smoke shafts.
A peat fire was burning in the corner of the room, and the air was
filled with the smoke that rose from it and circulated round the room
before escaping through the openings in the roof. It had an earth
floor, and at the side of the room there was a well about twenty feet
deep, that supplied beautifully clear water for culinary purposes. A
large cauldron stood over the fire, containing some savoury mess in
course of preparation for the family's next meal.

We had four tents, two large ones and two smaller; but on this occasion
we only made use of one of them, for four of our number slept at the
farm-house. For the rest of the journey across Iceland, however, all
four were in use. The two large ones were square "Bell" tents: one was
used for meals, and in it the conductor and his four guides slept at
night; in the other, Hill, Thomas, and I camped. Miss Hastie used one
of the smaller tents; while the "nautical adviser" and the "handy man"
occupied the other.

We did not make a start the next day till half-past one; it was
several hours after that agreed upon, but we very soon learned that
unpunctuality, delays in starting, and consequent waste of time would
mark the journey; this was chiefly due to the rotten state of the gear,
for several hours were spent every morning in patching up and tinkering
at the packs, boxes, and saddles that had come to grief during the
previous day--each day had its record of breakages and damage, and
each morning its hours devoted to making repairs. All this was very
annoying, and it made another guide almost a necessity to relieve one
of the English-speaking guides, so that he might go on with us while
the others were occupied with the repairs. This would have caused
things to work better, but unfortunately no other guide was available.
We were already on the edge of the fringe of population inhabiting
the regions near the seacoast, and we were fast approaching the
uninhabited interior; there were no spare hands on the farms that we
passed, so we were obliged to go on short-handed--short-handed _only_
because of the continual breakages. The guides that we had could not
have been improved upon: they were all first-class men, each was up to
his work, and worked with a will; they were all Icelanders possessing
small farms of their own, and two of them, Sigurthur and Hannes, spoke
excellent English; Thorlakur was a beginner at it, but we generally
managed to understand one another; the fourth man, Josef, was the only
one who had no knowledge of our language. We were on excellent terms
with all the guides, so things worked smoothly between us.

[Illustration: MORAINE ACCUMULATIONS AND CLOUD-EFFECTS AT THVERÁ.]

On leaving Thverá our way, as we ascended some three or four hundred
feet to the head of the valley, lay at first over a vast accumulation
of moraine matter, piled high up on all sides. Our camping ground had
been at the foot of this accumulation, and opposite to it on the other
side of the valley there were also great heaps of similar stuff, while
on the highest part of the range there was a very fine pinnacle rock,
rising several hundred feet higher, and standing out sharp against the
clear sky.

I had a bad day of it, being quite out of luck. The conductor
accidentally backed his pony upon me, and my right foot was crushed
and bruised beneath one of its hoofs; but worse was to come. About an
hour after we had started, and when we were getting well up into the
moraine, I heard a shout. "Helvit! Helvit!" cried one of the guides.
On looking ahead I saw a pony running amuck through the rough broken
lava and great boulders; he had got rid of most of his load, but
something green was trailing at his heels. In horror I watched the
pony's wild career, for the "something green" I recognised as the cover
of my plane-table--one of the instruments that I had brought for the
purpose of mapping a portion of the interior. This plane-table had
been strapped on the top of some packs containing bedding, in order
that it might ride on something soft and in safety. I comprehended
what had happened. As usual something had given way, the packs and my
plane-table had got loose about the pony's heels, and all had been
kicked off _except_ the plane-table, which had been made fast by one
of its straps to a ring in the pack-saddle, and as the strap was sound
it had held on. Well, there was no mistaking its Willesden canvas
cover--there it was, trailing along at the pony's heels, being kicked
and banged against boulders great and small, just as they came in the
way. Bumpity-thump it went along the ground, and with a crash it struck
the boulders! The table was ruined, for it trailed a mere crumpled mass
without definite shape. There was an end to prospects of mapping. I
watched the pony's career for a moment, more in sorrow than in anger,
then I urged my own pony into a canter, and came up with the runaway
just as one of the guides caught him. The wreck of the plane-table was
soon detached from the pack-saddle; a hasty inspection proved that my
fears were confirmed: the table itself was represented by a couple of
strips, the rest of it was missing; the tripod stand and the alidade
ruler were also missing. The guides scoured the neighbourhood of the
pony's course, and after a while one of them turned up with one or two
strips of wood, pieces of the plane-table, and placed them beside the
others. I looked on listlessly until another guide brought in a long
green case. This did not seem to be much damaged, so I hastily examined
the contents (the tripod stand and the ruler), and found to my joy that
they were practically uninjured; a few bruises to the legs did not
matter much, for they did not affect the stability of the stand--both
alidade and stand could be used! I then turned to the wreck of the
table itself and examined the pieces; they were not complete, two or
three were missing, but I noticed that although all the screws had been
wrenched out, and the apparatus for fixing the board to the stand had
also been wrenched off, yet the breaks and splinters were all along the
grain of the wood. The guides went over the ground again, and brought
back one or two additional strips. I then roughly put the pieces
together, and found that except for a few splinters I had got them all,
and that _none_ was broken _across_ the grain; the two cross-bars for
the back, the last pieces found, were also unbroken. It looked as if it
might be roughly mended, _if_ only the necessary tools were available.

[Illustration: THE WRECKED PLANE-TABLE.]

The views in the valley of the Oxnadalsá were fine, and the river
scenery where the water had carved deep down through the lava and tuff
was very bold, the red and blue tints of a quantity of scoria on the
steep banks adding to the effect.

In the evening we crossed the water-parting, or divide, between the
Oxnadalsá and the Northrá rivers, and at night camped beside a farm
known as Fremrikot near the head of the valley of the Northrá river
(Northradal). It was a picturesque spot, and the Northrá is typical of
the smaller rivers of the country, the valley filled with alluvium and
the river meandering through it, though when in flood not much of the
alluvium can be seen.

[Illustration: THE NORTHRÁ.]

In the morning I amused myself by taking photographs. I caught the
women and children from the farm sitting with their backs against
an earth-built fence looking with interest at, and discussing, the
preparations then being made for a start; these preparations are shown
in the view looking down the valley of the Northrá where saddling up is
nearly completed.

We received a check this day, and made very little progress. We started
gaily enough and fairly early, as times went with us--that is, we
got away a quarter of an hour after mid-day--and pursued our way
along Northradal. There were several fine gorges with torrents coming
down from the mountains into the Northrá; one especially attracted
us, where a big snow-water torrent rushes between great buttresses
of rock standing on each side. There is a bridge across the gorge,
for the torrent is quite unfordable. After about two hours' riding
down the valley of the Northrá to its confluence with the Herradsvötn
we soon reached Silfrastathr, where, in a picturesque spot, there
are a farm-house and a small octagonal church. Here we lunched and
made a long halt while the guides went on to ascertain whether the
Herradsvötn, one of the big rivers of the journey, was fordable. It
was past five when they returned with a local guide and the news that
it could not then be forded, because the water from that day's melted
snow was coming down and the river too much swollen. On a warm day the
snow in the mountains melts rapidly, and a large increase in the volume
of the water results; so that there is much more coming down in the
afternoon than in the early morning before the sun's heat causes the
snow to melt.

[Illustration: SADDLING UP.]

Farther on, when describing one of the quicksand rivers that we
crossed, I refer to the dangerous nature of their passage; but I find
it necessary to make special mention of the subject here, for while
revising these notes, bad news reached me concerning the Herradsvötn.
In July last year an accident happened at this river which resulted in
the death of our "conductor" of the previous year. We did not regard
the Herradsvötn as a quicksand river, but it seems to be one, for the
account of the accident states that our conductor's horse got into
a quicksand and threw his rider, who was carried down the river so
quickly by the swift current that no assistance could be rendered, and
he was drowned, his body not being recovered until two days afterwards.
Poor fellow, his first crossing with us was accomplished safely, and I
little thought that I should have to record his death as the result of
the second attempt. I happened to take two photographs of this river,
one having Maelifellshnukr in the background, and showing the many
streams into which the river is split up, the other showing the members
of our party about to cross the first stream. Fourteen of the ponies
can be seen in the latter, but the great majority of the pack-ponies
were ahead, out of the picture--it was impossible to get a string of
thirty-eight ponies into one quarter-plate view; the conductor leads
our party, and is the first following the tail of the pack-train, he
with right hand behind back. The danger in these quicksand rivers is
due to the fact that the sands are continually shifting; in the summer
each day has its flood of snow water which scours the bed of the river,
removing the sand from one place and depositing it in another, so that
one definite course cannot always be followed when crossing; what is a
good ford one day is impassable the next. With a river split up into
about twenty streams the difficulties of fording can be imagined, but
not appreciated until experienced, and the dread with which all the
guides regard the rivers where quicksands are known to exist cannot be
wondered at.

[Illustration: CROSSING THE HERRADSVÖTN.]

As the river was not fordable, there was nothing for us to do but
await the falling of the water, and then attempt the passage. The delay
enabled me to try my hand at repairing the plane-table. The "handy
man" was useful on this occasion, as on many others, for he produced
from his capacious pockets a wonderful knife. Now this knife had a
screw-driver blade that enabled me to countersink a number of holes
in the cross pieces, thus permitting the short screws to "bite" in
sound places in the broken pieces of the table. In a couple of hours
we emerged triumphantly from a room in the farm-house that we had
"commandeered" as a workshop, with the patched-up wreck bearing some
semblance to a plane-table; it was certainly not in any way perfect,
but it looked as if it might with care be used.

In the afternoon I was about to take a photograph of the farm-house;
there were several girls standing in front of it, who, when they saw
me point my camera, at once took to their heels and ran away (much to
my surprise), laughing merrily as they disappeared through an open
doorway. Thereafter when they saw me camera in hand they always bolted
for the house; this made me determine to have a photograph of them; so
I lay in wait, and when next they were running away, I took a snap as
they were making straight for the doorway; the photograph, however, was
a failure.

Maelifellshnukr, a prominent feature in the landscape here, is a
mountain between three and four thousand feet high; it is prominent not
only from Silfrastathr, but it can be seen from many places within a
radius of sixty or seventy miles, and I afterwards saw it from several
widely separated spots.

The pronunciation of some of the Icelandic words is rather puzzling to
a new-comer; for instance, the first part of the name of this mountain
is pronounced as if spelt may-lee-fettle--_tl_ instead of double _l_.

The churches in Iceland are often put to strange uses (strange to
foreigners, that is); many are the property of the farmers on whose
land and beside whose houses they are built. A clergyman often has
three or four of these farmers' churches in his district, and he holds
occasional services in them. It is a custom, when the farm-house has
not proper guest-chambers, for travellers to sleep in the church, and
_we_ did so in that at Silfrastathr, Miss Hastie using her own tent as
usual. Our beds were arranged some on the floor and others suspended
between the seats. The following photograph of the interior of the
church taken at midnight shows some of our party peacefully slumbering
in their beds.

Next day we made an early start, for we got away soon after ten
o'clock, in order to ford the river before the melting snow caused
the waters to rise. There was a considerable difference in the level,
for I found on going down for my tub that a small branch in which I
had the previous afternoon tested the temperature of the water was
non-existent. This temperature-testing had caused some fun, for in
using my sling thermometer for the purpose, I tied it to the end of my
riding-whip, and thus held it suspended in the stream. Hill, catching
me in the act, made a sketch which he entitled: "Our lunatic fishing
with his thermometer as bait," and handed it round at our evening meal.

The report of the local guide as to the state of the river was a
favourable one, so we proceeded down to the Herradsvötn, and prepared
against probable wettings. Each had his own fancy for keeping out the
water. Miss Hastie wore india-rubber top-boots--I have omitted to
say that she rode astride, by far the best way for the rough work in
Iceland; the "nautical adviser" used waterproof leggings, the "handy
man" top-boots, Hill sheep-skin top-boots of native manufacture,
Thomas did not seem to care whether he got wet or not, while I put on
india-rubber shoes and chanced the rest. There were some interesting
and picturesque costumes in the group.

[Illustration: SILFRASTATHR CHURCH. ASLEEP AT MIDNIGHT.]

When all was ready, the local guide led off with some of the pack,
three of our own guides following with other sections of it; the
conductor went next, and the members of our party followed; I stayed
behind for a few minutes to photograph the crossing of the first branch
of the river, and then brought up the rear with the other guide.
The river runs over a very broad bed and is divided into something
like twenty streams, so a considerable time--about half an hour--was
occupied before the last stream had been forded. The water was rather
deep in some of the branches, and came up just to our knees. We made a
very satisfactory crossing, and reached the other side without incident
worth recording; a few hours later it would have been impassable again.
The river was no doubt "up" when our conductor lost his life.

While crossing the river there was a very distinct mirage effect when
looking down it towards the sea. Some of us took shots with cameras,
but nothing resulted; it was too distant.

Two days before, and again during this day, there were breakages
innumerable; the state of the pack-saddles, packs, straps, girths,
bridles, etc., was simply disgraceful--there is no other word for it!
Several falls had been due to the breaking of reins or girths, and
by the end of the day there was scarcely a member of the party who
had not come to grief in this way. Thomas, who was riding a spirited
beast, came two croppers through his reins breaking: the second time
his pony rolled upon him and he strained a muscle in his side; this was
unfortunate, for he felt the effects more or less to the end of the
journey. From the river valley, where Thomas had one fall, we ascended
to the top of Tungusveit, a long narrow ridge that extends for about
twenty miles, dividing the Herradsvötn and Svartá rivers. These long
ridges, with rivers flowing in parallel lines on each side, form one
of the geographical features of Iceland. Many of them are to be seen in
different parts of the country. From this ridge, on which there were
many "erratic" boulders, a fine view of Maelifellshnukr was obtained;
at the foot of the peak beyond the Svartá there is a series of morainic
hills.

At Maeælifell below the mountain there is a parsonage and farm-house,
where we halted for a light luncheon. At these farm-houses milk and
coffee can always be obtained, and sometimes excellent homemade
biscuits and cake also, and these delicacies were forthcoming here. The
Icelanders are noted for the good quality of their coffee, which may be
regarded as the national drink.

Up to this point we had followed the more or less beaten tracks pursued
by farmers and others in travelling from farm to farm; but we were
now on the extreme edge of the fringe of population, and were about
to plunge into the uninhabited interior. We decided to attack a route
that had been used years before by the settlers and farmers--when
the present good and frequent service of coasting steamers was not
running--to convey fish, other provisions, etc., from and to the coast
and across the island, and we found it a very interesting one.

We proceeded up the valley of the Svartá for a few miles over
accumulations of river deposits, till we reached Gilhagi farm-house,
where we halted for our mid-day meal. This was the last house met with
on the north side of the desert and ice-bound interior, and we did
not again see signs of habitation till arriving within two days of
Reykjavik.

Mention must be made of an amusing misunderstanding that had occurred
on the score of matches. It seems that the "nautical adviser" before
leaving Akureyri had inquired of the conductor whether he had plenty of
matches, and the latter had replied that he had plenty--and so he had
for the ordinary requirements of the camp, but not for the general use
of smokers; the conductor in his reply had thought only of the camp,
while the other had asked from a smoker's point of view, hence there
was an approach to a famine as regards the smokers, and it was pathetic
sometimes to see the "nautical adviser" and the "handy man" carefully
husbanding a match, in the hope that the supply would hold out to
Reykjavik.

At Gilhagi the women were washing wool; there was a fire in the open
beside a small stream of water, and on the fire a cauldron, in which
the wool was boiled; it was afterwards washed in the running water.



CHAPTER V

THE INTERIOR--TO HVERAVELLIR


We were delayed for about two hours while waiting for the farmer to
conduct us over the mountains; it was necessary to take a local guide,
for none of our own men had ever been over the ground. When we did
move on we tried to make up in pace for the delay; we made good time
in ascending steadily from the valley over great accumulations of
moraine matter and by ancient tracks through hummocky land. Riding
through this hummocky ground sometimes requires the exercise of
considerable caution. The continuous traffic of generations across the
hummocks wore innumerable tracks, which have since been kept open by
the weather, and deepened in some cases. Many of them are very deep,
occasionally reaching almost to the knees. One has to raise first one
foot and then the other to prevent their being badly crushed, or to
avoid being unhorsed by contact with the sides as the ponies go on at
a fast jog-trot. One member of the party caught both feet against the
sides of the ruts, with the result that he was thrown forward, when he
affectionately clasped his pony round the neck.

As we continued to ascend we met with a new experience, for we had to
ride up one fairly long snow slope and several smaller ones, following
in the tracks of the pack-train over the beaten-down snow. We were then
at a considerable altitude, perhaps 2500 feet, and we entered what is
known as Litlisandr, the little sand waste. Its name does not quite
describe it--waste it is, and desolate enough, but there is not a great
deal of sand in the part that we traversed, and we passed through its
middle. It is an elevated moraine, comparatively flat, with a number
of small lakes whose existence is due to a series of drift dams. It
was very cold while we were crossing Litlisandr, for the icy wind
was blowing strongly in our faces, so the latter part of the day's
journey--a long one, for we did not reach camp till just a quarter
of an hour before midnight--was made under considerable personal
discomfort.

[Illustration: CROSSING A SMALL SNOW SLOPE.]

The going was very rough, and some very steep slopes had to be
descended after crossing the _sandr_, and nothing but the sure-footed
ponies of Iceland could have got down them in safety. These ponies
are hardy little beasts, averaging about twelve hands; born and bred
in the hills, they are accustomed to forage for a living in the
roughest country, and their experiences there cause them to become
the sure-footed beasts that they are. They seem to run on three legs,
for they always have a spare one ready for emergencies. Some of them
stumble badly, but as a rule they do not, and it is a very rare
thing for a pony to come down. It is wonderful how hard they keep on
nothing but green feed; they never see a bit of "hard tack," yet, when
required, they can jog along for twelve hours or more and be fresh at
the end.

After descending from the _sandr_, we traversed more moraine matter
until we reached our camping-ground at Athalmansvötn. Here there are
two lakes, and it was on the banks of the more northerly Athalmansvatn
that we camped. At the end of our journeys, especially when arriving
late, as we did on this occasion, our hands and feet were icily
cold--so cold that, to induce a better circulation, we were wont to
seize mallets and drive in tent pegs, or to do something else requiring
vigorous muscular exertion.

On our way over the _sandr_ we saw the most magnificent sunset effects.
Indeed, it was often our luck to witness the glories of an Icelandic
sunset.

Towards morning a gale of wind struck us, and threatened to blow our
tents into the lake. Fortunately the tents and their cords were sound,
and the pegs driven well into the ground, so we escaped the discomfort
of a sudden exposure to wind and weather.

Next day we reverted to the usual habit of starting late; but on this
occasion it was excusable, for our dinner, or supper, or whatever name
may be applied to our third meal, was not finished till past 1 A.M., so
a start at 1 P.M. was not so late as it appeared. As it was difficult
to draw a line between day and night, an hour or two one way or the
other did not matter very much.

Some of our party had hurts which they nursed tenderly: the "nautical
adviser" had a knee, Thomas a side, and so on; and great was the
consumption of "Elliman's" and "Homocea," advantage being taken of the
halts to rub in one or other of these remedies for ills of all kinds;
but the "nautical adviser" and Thomas did not seem to take much heed
of their hurts when they were in the saddle, for they rode hard enough
over the rough moraines that we crossed. At first our course lay over
soft peaty ground, but afterwards we were obliged to pick our way over
expanses of great boulders. We had to ascend for a while, but suddenly,
from the ridge at the highest point in our ascent, there was opened to
us a fine panoramic view of two of Iceland's great ice-fields, Hoff
Jökull and Lang Jökull. A number of prominent peaks stood out boldly,
chief among them being Hrutafell, Skeljafiall, Kjalfell, and those of
Kerlingarfjöll.

Our next experience was in crossing a wind-blown sand desert, where
the wind blew the sand in clouds across our path and we had ocular
demonstration of the work performed in such regions by the wind, where
great clouds of sand sweep onward day after day, encroaching upon the
land and continually altering the surface features. Although this is
a genuine _sandr_ it is not so marked on the maps. We covered several
miles before we got clear of this sandblown desert and entered a region
of ordinary moraine matter.

After lunching beside a small brook we continued over the moraine to
the river Strangákvisl. The pack had gone on ahead while we were at
lunch, but one guide was left behind to pilot us across the river,
which is noted for the number of quicksands in its bed. There is a
considerable spice of danger in crossing these quicksand rivers, for
a pony sometimes gets into the soft treacherous bottom, and the rider
runs the risk of a ducking, even if nothing more serious happens. The
guides have a wholesome dread of the rivers where quicksands are known
to exist, and not without due cause. No definite and fixed course can
be taken--the quicksands are always changing their positions. The guide
went first, as usual, and we were preparing to follow, when suddenly we
saw his pony falter and then plunge wildly as he sank into soft sand.
The guide was about to jump into the water in order to relieve the
pony, and to distribute the weight over a greater area--this is always
done as soon as the nature of the bottom is ascertained--when the pony
struggled upon a hard bottom and righted himself. Another course was
then chosen, and we all got over without finding any quicksand.

A succession of moraines brought us to the banks of a broad river,
the Blandá, having several channels and a reputation for quicksands.
By this time we had caught up the pack-train, but we waited while it
crossed the river, one guide staying behind to pilot us after the pack
had safely accomplished the crossing. The guide marked with big stones
the point of entrance and then watched intently--as did we all--the
passage of the river by the pack. It was forded, however, without
misadventure, so we followed carefully in the track pursued by the
train. The conductor's pony slipped in the middle of the river and
nearly threw his rider into the water, but a quick recovery by the pony
prevented a disagreeable wetting and an uncomfortable ride. We had a
third river to cross before the day's fording was over. A quantity of
moraine and hummocky land intervened, but that was traversed without
incident worth recording. The third river is a second Blandá, a branch
of the other Blandá; it is really the main river whose proper name is
the Beljandi, but the people do not recognise that name, or so speak of
it. Although not a quicksand river, most members of the party narrowly
escaped coming to grief. It was very deep at the start, and there were
some deeper holes not far from the bank; it had to be entered at a
very sharp angle, and with a bit of a drop close to the steep bank.
Miss Hastie was the first nearly to come to grief: her pony suddenly
dived into one of the deep holes, and she herself was taking a header
when her pony made a wonderful recovery from its plunge into the hole,
and set her straight again; she, however, was unfortunate in straining
her side, but she afterwards pluckily kept on the way; all the others
following, with one exception, got into one or another of the deep
holes; but they all escaped complete submersion, though wetted about
legs and feet. I was the exception, for I was riding last--a position
that enabled me to profit by the misfortunes of the others and avoid
all the holes. I had a way frequently of bringing up the rear, because
of stoppages made to take passing shots with camera at things of
interest. This camera was always strapped to one of the rings of
my saddle, where, on a comfortable pad on the off-side, it rode in
safety--except when I happened to bring my whip down heavily upon it
instead of upon the pony. The result of these stoppages was, that there
was sometimes a delay in the crossing of a river, or a wait at an
awkward spot, or at a point of divergence. It often happened that in
coming up with the main party, I found my companions shivering from the
effects of inaction in a cold wind--the wind _is_ cold when it blows
from one of the ice-fields--and in a frame of mind that must have been
affected by the wind, judging from the freezingly cold manner in which
I was received.

After crossing the river, we continued along near to its banks for
several miles. In a pool just below some small rapids, the only rapids
we had seen, there were several swans. Our course lay, as usual, over
moraine matter and hummocky land, but there was a big patch of black
sand composed of fine lava particles that we had to cross. Thus we
proceeded until reaching Hveravellir, our next camping-ground, where we
found a complete change in the appearance of the country.

We seemed to have got clear of hummocks and boulders, and to have
reached the margin of fairyland, for we found ourselves, with grass
around, looking at a series of hot springs, fumaroles, and sinter
terraces, down which azure blue water trickled, lodging in a number of
basins in the terraces, and adding by its colour to the beauty of the
scene. Visions of the delights of a natural warm bath rose before me
as I looked upon the terraces, recalling the luxury of bathing at the
Pink Terraces in New Zealand, before their destruction by the eruption
of Mount Tarawera. There are many pleasures in anticipation, for we did
not enjoy warm bathing here; we had none; the water was too hot and
the basins too small--though there was one small pothole in which the
water was not very hot, where one could, with the aid of a big sponge,
imagine better things, for the water did not look clean and sparkling
and blue as in other basins.

Miss Hastie might have had an awkward experience at the spring where
she elected to perform her ablutions, of whose periodical activity
she was at the time unaware. During breakfast, one of the guides
informed us that the small geyser Miss Hastie had been using as her
hot-water tap had "gone off." Subsequent experience proved such pools
untrustworthy for washing of any kind. A number of handkerchiefs left
by themselves to soak were found an hour or two later making their
way down an escape hole in the basin, and one that had been entirely
absorbed by suction was _not_ returned during a subsequent eruption by
the dishonest geyser.

We erected our tents beside a blue warm-water stream facing the sinter
terraces, and as the next day was Sunday, we camped there for two
nights. We all took a number of photographs of the terraces and the
hot springs, and tried to catch the small geysers when they erupted, as
with a few exceptions they did at short intervals; it is true that the
eruption was not very violent, and the water was not thrown to a great
height, three feet, perhaps, being the maximum.

[Illustration: HVERAVELLIR--THE SINTER TERRACES.]

The next day was devoted to exploring the surrounding neighbourhood,
and the different members of the party were struck with different
features. Thomas and I set off together. We made for the higher ground,
and looked round; we at once saw that we were at the edge of a recent
(geologically) lava flow. About four miles distant there stuck up two
horns, which we afterwards discovered to be the only prominent remains
of the cone of the volcano, Strytur, whence the lava had been ejected.
Strytur stands in the middle of the long strip of country lying
between, and about equidistant from, the two great ice-fields, Lang
Jökull and Hoff Jökull, the area of each of which is roughly about five
hundred square miles. The strip is about _fourteen_ miles wide at its
narrowest part (not eight as shown on the existing maps), and extends
north and south about twenty-five miles. Strytur is on the divide, or
water-parting, between one system of rivers flowing north and another
flowing south, and it stands on the highest part of this strip of land.
The lava, as it issued from the volcano, flowed north and south down
gentle declivities, and spread out east and west almost to the outlying
ranges on the margins of the ice-fields. North it extends to just
beyond Dufufell, and south almost to Lake Hvitarvatn. I had come to
this part of the country intending to make a quick survey of it as we
traversed it from end to end; Thomas also wished to note its structure,
so we both looked with interest over the expanse of broken lava spread
out before us. It was the roughest possible country to survey (as was
subsequently proved), and we were not altogether taken with the task
before us. We made our way to a prominent peak of lava that rose forty
or fifty feet above the general level, and thence looked around. I
wanted a line on which to base my survey, and I decided that this peak
and a similar peak, lying in an easterly direction about a mile away,
would be suitable elevated ends for a base line.



CHAPTER VI

THE INTERIOR--STRYTUR AND ITS LAVA


I commenced my survey the next morning before breakfast, when I went
out to the first position on the lava-peaks and there set up the
plane-table, that table which had so badly come to grief at the heels
of the runaway pony a few days before. My drawing-paper had been kicked
to pieces and was quite useless, and it was only by a chance that I was
able to attempt a survey at all. At Edinburgh, just before starting,
Thomas bought two or three small sheets of drawing-paper for his own
work, in order to be independent of my supply; it was lucky that he had
done so, for I was thus able to borrow from him. The size of the sheets
was much smaller than mine, and they did not nearly fill the table;
it did not much matter though, for part of the table was quite unfit
to work upon, because of the long holes where splinters were missing;
of course, the area of country capable of being mapped on a sheet was
reduced according to the size, and it meant the use of a greater number
of sheets of paper, which was a disadvantage; but the board of the
plane-table _could_ with care be worked upon, and there _was_ paper
available. Having set up the plane-table in position, I erected a
flag-post and returned to camp to breakfast. I found that Thomas had,
in the meantime, made a small survey on his own account of a line of
fissure running through the hot springs of Hveravellir, and had located
the position of the springs on that line.

The morning was so beautifully fine, and the sun shining so brightly,
that we breakfasted in the open at tables erected in front of the
tents. We photographed the camp and the party, with the guides at ease
close by. The frontispiece is from a negative, the property of Miss
Hastie, which was taken by the conductor. Our meals were not always
taken under such favourable conditions--the weather, as a rule, was
not good enough. We generally had them under cover of a tent, where
we messed in much closer quarters, small accidents being not uncommon
in consequence. One morning they were more numerous than usual: the
soup took a long time to boil, and when at last it was hot enough, the
conductor stumbled and spilled some of the precious liquid over the
"handy man," who would have preferred an internal application; then
somebody upset the coffee; soon afterwards ominous creaks were heard to
proceed from where the "nautical adviser" was seated on his camp-stool,
which finally collapsed, and our heavy-weight measured his length on
the ground. But such incidents as these, trivial as they were, served
to enliven us; they were specially diverting when the weather was
adverse.

The weather gave promise of great things, so Thomas and I started away
for our first position full of good intentions. I soon got to work, and
made excellent progress with my plane-tabling; but gradually there was
a change, the sky clouded over, and before long rain began to fall;
now, to work at a plane-table in the rain is impossible, so I had to
stop. We decided instead to measure along our base line towards the
second position at the other end of it. We started in a drizzling rain,
which increased as we proceeded; it was very difficult work, for the
line was over the roughest possible lava-field. We made good progress,
however, but when we had measured thirteen-sixteenths of a mile, it was
raining so heavily that, wet through as we then were, and with boots
filled with water, we resolved to abandon work for the day. After we
had started in the morning, the rest of the party proceeded to the
next camping-ground, a few miles farther on, at Thjofadal--a valley at
the foot of the big mountain of the region, Hrutafell. For this camp
we made tracks over a perfect wilderness, where the fantastic shapes
assumed by the lava were most wonderful. There were vents innumerable,
including a number of the fissure type; arches, too, that had resulted
from side pressure; also many other peculiar forms: pillars, circular
vents, etc. On nearing Thjofadal we emerged from the lava and entered
upon the moraines at the foot of the range bordering the great
ice-field of Lang Jökull. Passing over one of the spurs running down
from this outlying range, we dropped by a steep descent into the valley
of the Thjofadalsá, a small stream on the south side of the ridge
known as Kjalhraun (lava ridge) that crosses the lava-field by way of
Strytur, the highest spot in it.

The next morning Thomas and I returned to our first position.
Originally most of us had intended to make an attack upon Hrutafell,
the giant peak of Lang Jökull; but the rain had delayed my work by
the greater part of a day, so Thomas and I had to give up all idea of
attempting the ascent. The idea was finally abandoned by the other
members of the party, but a preliminary survey of the difficulties was
made by the conductor, who thought that he could see a way that might
render a successful ascent possible. The "handy man," being released
from the Hrutafell expedition, offered to lend a hand in measuring
the remainder of the base line, so he accompanied us back to position
number one; we also took Thorlakur, one of the guides, with us. On the
way, which was along the foot of the range outlying Lang Jökull, we had
to pass over a small snow-field, close to which we came upon a good
specimen of ropy lava.

After taking several photographs from my first position, we proceeded
along the base line to where a staff had been left to mark the point
already reached, and thence continued our measurements to the second
position at the other end of the base. We found the two positions
to be nearly a mile and a quarter apart. A more difficult piece of
measurement could not be imagined, taken as the line was over the
extremely rough surface of a broken-up scoriaceous lava-field. We
remained at the peak forming the second end of the base line for
several hours, during which period I was very busy at the plane-table.
We then proceeded towards the volcano, Strytur, across the lava, and
found it a scene of the wildest and most fantastic desolation--a
constant succession of rough lava, ropy surfaces, vents, arches,
snow-fields, and small lakes of icy coldness formed by melting snow.
Occasionally we had an unpleasant variation, for there were many bogs
that appeared to be quite solid until the plunging of a pony, as it
sank into one of them, told us that the apparently hard-looking surface
was a mass of mud with a number of lava blocks and stones set in it.

Arrived at Strytur, another indescribable scene of desolation met our
view. The lava was twisted and contorted in the wildest manner, and
mixed in the utmost confusion. The volcano has two craters, inner and
outer; the former rather more than three-eighths of a mile, and the
latter nearly five-eighths in diameter. The two horns are of peculiar
shape: the western horn being but an isolated pinnacle rising less than
a hundred feet above its surroundings; the eastern horn is another
isolated peak, but though one side of it is perpendicular, and goes
deep down into the inner crater, the other side falls gradually away in
the typical slope of a volcano. These two horns stand up as distinct
landmarks, and can be seen from a great distance to the north; in the
south, however, they are hidden, by intervening hills and mountains,
from many places that are but a short distance away. The inner crater
contains much lava debris, some of the blocks being of enormous size,
while in several places there is snow of unknown depth.

My third position was on the highest point of the eastern horn. The
wind was very cold, blowing as it was direct from the ice-field, and
my companions who had but little work to do had a trying time of it
in such an exposed position. They stood shivering in the cold, but
descended after a while to the foot of the horn, whence they whistled
away at short intervals in an endeavour to hurry me over the work;
but as there was no rain, I had, in spite of cold winds, to stick to
it, and take advantage of the opportunity to work at the plane-table.
I was hailed with delight when I did descend--delight at the prospect
of getting away from such a bleak, inhospitable spot. The view from
Strytur looking towards Hrutafell and the ice and snow field of Lang
Jökull is very fine. Once more we crossed the lava-field and made the
best of the way to our camp at Thjofadal.

Next day I was obliged to go on with my work without a companion,
and had not a smooth time of it altogether; things did not go right.
Over-night I had determined to fix my fourth position on the mountain
Rauthkollur, the highest point at the southern end of the outlying
range of Lang Jökull. I set out alone, for Thomas was in trouble with
his side, and the "handy man" did not look upon the expedition with
much interest, for the weather was most unfavourable for any one
not having special work to do--rain, hail, snow, and blow were the
conditions that held during the whole of the time that I was away from
camp. The way lay up a steep gorge between the mountain and a spur
running down from near the end of the range; the slopes of the gorge
were covered with scree that gave way at every step, and often I slid
back several yards before I could stop myself. The climb was a stiff
and very uncomfortable one, laden as I was with instruments, glasses,
camera, and plane-table; but by sticking to it I gradually ascended
yard by yard. I got off the scree whenever possible, and climbed up
the course of a small mountain stream; but there were many waterfalls
that could not be climbed, which caused me to return to the scree again
and again, often sending the loose material flying down in a series of
landslips. Higher up I skirted several small snow-fields, where better
progress was possible, for the scree at the edges of the snow did not
slip away so freely. The ascent would have been easy enough had I not
been so heavily and awkwardly laden, or had my hands been free.

At the summit of Rauthkollur a glorious view rewarded me. In front
stretched the great ice-field of Lang Jökull; away to the left was
the giant Hrutafell: three of its glaciers faced me, while a fourth
could just be seen at right angles to the others. The back of this
mountain merges in a series of hills that are set in the ice of Lang
Jökull. Below Hrutafell, and at the foot of the ice-cap of Lang
Jökull, a perfect network of streams came from the snow and ice; it
was interesting to trace their meanderings as they ran into stream
after stream, until finally all joined in one swift-running torrent
and flowed at the foot of the moraines below Hrutafell. Away to the
right I looked along the outlying range, on the end peak of which I was
standing, and down into the valley between the range and the ice-field.

In spite of the adverse weather, my plane-tabling was very successful
from this station; its commanding position enabled me to obtain a good
view of the surrounding country, not only over the ice-field, but
also over the country from which the ascent had been made. I looked
down into Thjofadal, right over the mountain Thjofafell, across the
lava-field to Strytur and Kjalfell, and to the ice-field of Hoff Jökull
beyond. Showers had to be dodged and plane-tabling done when it did
not rain or snow; but I filled up the intervals by taking several
photographs, and by making a boiling-point observation for altitude,
also clinometer observations for calculating the heights of surrounding
peaks.

The return to camp was made at a quicker rate than the ascent; but I
met with a nasty accident, by slipping on a stone in the gorge and
diving head first down a small waterfall into a pool of water below.
The plane-table turned over, and coming upon me, pinned me down in the
water for a few seconds; the camera was underneath in the water, which
was flowing through it, for the outside case was not water-tight. I
extricated myself in course of time, not much the worse for the fall;
a badly bruised knee, the loss of a quantity of skin from hands, and a
few minor bruises, being all the damage that I had received--it might
have been much worse, laden as I was. On arrival in camp I was patched
up, and the "nautical adviser" busied himself in preparing soup and
other comforts for the inner man, for which attentions I was grateful.

The other members of the party had not done very much in the bad
weather, one or two small excursions to spots in the neighbourhood
excepted. Late in the afternoon we struck camp and moved on a few miles
farther, to a spot known as Gránanes, right on the other side of the
lava-fields. Our way lay round by Hrutafell by the side of the river
Falakvisl, which runs in a deep gorge at the foot of the mountain. From
this river we struck across rough lava, then moraine matter, and again
lava right up to the river Svatá. The rivers, as a rule, run along at
the edges of the lava flows; there are some exceptions, however, and
one instance, in the west of the island, I will refer to in its proper
place. One very fine vent we came upon when crossing the lava. Gránanes
was on the other side of the Svatá, just by a spot where the water
falls ten or fifteen feet over a hard ledge of rock extending across
the river. Beyond the river all was moraine matter, great moraine
hills, the material of which has come down from Hoff Jökull and has
been piled up for miles along its margins. Many very fine erratics are
dotted about on the surface near Gránanes.

[Illustration: A VOLCANIC VENT OF THE FISSURE TYPE.]

It was on the moraine side of the river that we made our camp. Round
about there was lying a number of twigs and dried roots, the remains
of dwarf willows that had grown there when the conditions were rather
more favourable. Miss Hastie suggested that we might be energetic and
collect some of these in order to make a fire. It was a cold night, and
the idea of a camp-fire commended itself to us. We gathered together a
number of the twigs and roots, and Hill tried to ignite them. He raised
a dense smoke, but though he worked hard and fanned industriously he
was unable to induce a satisfactory blaze. Anyhow, it was cheering
to see the smoke rising into the air, and we did not mind being half
stifled when occasionally it was blown into our faces.

[Illustration: A SURVEY PHOTOGRAPH (NO. 169) FROM GRÁNANES ([Sun symbol]
 E) LOOKING TOWARDS LANG JÖKULL.]

Next morning, after breakfast, I went up to a terrace of the moraine
where I made my fifth station, and fixed its position on the map; I
also did some plane-tabling while preparations were being made for an
expedition to Kerlingarfjöll.



CHAPTER VII

THE INTERIOR--KERLINGARFJÖLL


[Illustration: A SURVEY PHOTOGRAPH (NO. 183) TAKEN FROM [Sun symbol]
E LOOKING TOWARDS KERLINGARFJÖLL.]

When preparations had been completed, some of us started for the
mountains of Kerlingarfjöll, where high up, among the snow and ice,
there are hot springs, fumaroles, and solfataras. The party was a small
one. Thomas, Hill, and I started with the conductor and two guides.
Unfortunately Thomas's side was giving him "fits," and he had to return
after going but a very short distance.

We had a big quicksand river, the Jokulvisl, to cross--a river that
is often highly dangerous, and sometimes, when the water is "up,"
unfordable. We were accompanied so far by the "nautical adviser" and
the "handy man," who afterwards proceeded up the river to view a very
fine gorge in it, which we saw from the other side. The journey was
most interesting; we crossed vast moraines, where enormous erratics
were dotted about on the surface, before we reached the Jokulvisl.
The guides all had a great dread of this river; but we made a good
crossing, for the recent cold weather had retarded the melting of the
snow, and there was no flood in the river, though it was running very
swiftly. The sensation when crossing these swift-running rivers is
very uncanny--one seems to be rushing up-stream against the current,
and on looking at the ponies and their riders in front the impression
is deepened: they seem to be moving rapidly as the water rushes by and
foams round them, but really the pace is very slow, for the ponies
plod along steadily through the water. Even if those in front could
be ignored, the impression of going rapidly up-stream could not be
effaced, for the water would rush by and swirl round one's own pony
just the same. It might be thought that a glance at the opposite
bank of the river ought to dispel the illusion, but even that does
not correct the false impression. After crossing the Jokulvisl, we
proceeded along its banks for nearly a mile to where the river has
carved its way deep down through the lava, and left sides that rise
vertically for a hundred feet or more. There is a fine hard dyke in one
place extending into the river, on the end of which a pinnacle rises
that adds much to the grandeur of the scene. After photographing this
gorge, we proceeded across more moraine matter until reaching some of
the main blocks of the Kerlingarfjöll mountains. In these moraines we
had very steep slopes to ascend and descend; in one case the descent
was so sharp that for safety we all dismounted and led our ponies down
the side, at each step sending down a shower of stones and pebbles. At
Kerlingarfjöll we suddenly came upon a series of inclined snow-fields,
one of which we ascended, traversing it from end to end. It was more
than a mile long, but the zigzag course that we had to pursue made
it seem almost interminable; as it was, we were nearly an hour making
the crossing. The photograph shows the members of the party apparently
soaring up to heaven on their ponies, who in their wild flight seem to
be emulating Pegasus. Soon after we had started up this snow slope,
the clouds descended upon us and we were enveloped in a thick mist; we
could see nothing but just a very limited circle of snow around us, and
thus we proceeded, zigzagging the whole way. We crossed several other
snow-fields, but they were of less extent.

[Illustration: ASCENDING A SNOW SLOPE.]

[Illustration: KERLINGARFJÖLL--FIRE AND ICE.]

When approaching the hot springs, we became aware of their nearness by
the sulphurous smell that came wafting towards us. Suddenly, from a
ridge, we beheld a most wonderful and awe-inspiring sight. All around
there were snow and ice-fields, and from their midst, but on the far
side of a deep valley that intervened, there rose a cloud of steam,
the strong sulphurous smell of which suggested the nearness of the
lower regions. There was a mass of yellow, brown, green, and blue
clayey matter--liparite softened by steam it was--that had been cut and
shaped by ice, snow, and water into a series of cones and cone-like
surfaces, and from crevices in this clay the sulphurous steam escaped.
Below was the deep intervening valley, the valley of the Ásquidsá,
a river that flows from the upper heights of Kerlingarfjöll. To get
down to this stream was a work of no slight difficulty; it required
patience, much hard work, and much coaxing of ponies. We rode through
the snow, and slid down steep slopes of various-coloured clay. These
slopes became so precipitous at last that we all had to dismount
and plod along their sides, coaxing our unwilling steeds to follow.
Presently we reached what looked very much like an _impasse_ at the
end of a valley, the sides of which had gradually converged until
the channel was then scarcely wider than the ponies were broad. The
guides were not to be beaten, however, for they proceeded on foot, and
literally dragged the ponies one by one down this channel, to where
the snow came to an end and there was a drop of two or three feet
into a small stream of water. The guides splashed into this, and by
dint of much coaxing induced the ponies to follow, leading them along
the stream. Right at the end there was a small waterfall, with a deep
pool below. Down the fall they slid, splashing into the pool, where
they stood panting beside the main stream that we had seen from above,
which ran at right angles to the smaller stream. Meantime, Hill, the
conductor, and I had been walking at a slightly higher level on the
top of a gradually descending spur of clayey matter. Down the slope of
this we scrambled on all fours, carrying with us several pounds' weight
of the clay on each boot, to say nothing of what we had on clothes
and hands. From the side of the steep slope we mounted our ponies,
considerably heavier than when we had been on their backs a few minutes
before. We crossed the stream to the hot springs. Some of the ponies
objected to passing the hot, steaming holes, and absolutely refused
for a long time to do so; but eventually all were coaxed or dragged
by. To describe the place is impossible, and mere words are inadequate
to explain the nature of the scene. Photographs that I took do not
give much idea of the place, for they are all more or less failures.
It differs from anything that I saw in New Zealand, because in the hot
spring region in the North Island there is no ice and snow. I took a
boiling-point observation for altitude, and found the elevation of the
stream at the foot of the burning hill to be 3088 feet above sea-level.

I hurried over lunch, and set off with Hannes, one of the guides, to
try to do some plane-tabling; but the Fates, in the shape of dense
mist, were against me, and prevented me from seeing anything more
distant than a few hundred feet. On the upward journey I had noticed a
good position for a new station. On the way down to the spot chosen,
which was below the long snow slope, we mistook our way in the mist,
and went down the wrong slope, coming to an almost sheer descent
before finding out our mistake. We learnt this just in time, however,
to prevent a catastrophe. We retraced our steps by the tracks in the
snow, until we reached the right slope, and there struck the zigzag
track made on the ascent. The intended new station was reached without
further incident occurring.

From the glimpses of the country that I had obtained on the upward
journey, I was convinced that to make a map of these mountains
(Kerlingarfjöll) would require a week of fine weather and a series of
camps on the spot. As nothing of much value could be done in a few
hours, I did not lose very much by the mist having descended over the
country, except the exceedingly fine views. It was disappointing not to
be able to get to work with camera, but under the circumstances nothing
could be done except growl at adverse luck.

After waiting an hour or so for the rest of the party--Hill, the
conductor, and Sigurthur--who came on more at their leisure, we resumed
the descent towards the plains. Suddenly we got below the line of
drifting clouds, and there we beheld some wonderful sights--remarkable
scenes due to a series of rapid atmospheric changes. A small lake
in the lava-field suddenly came into view as we reached the line of
the reflected sunlight. The lake shone out, gradually increasing
in intensity, until it glowed brilliantly with a marvellous light.
The effect as the scene opened out beneath the clouds was weirdly
wonderful. Some of the clouds were of a deep blue, almost purple, tint,
producing, as they overhung a line of bright light and vivid colouring,
a most impressive picture. Away in the distance, on Lake Hvitarvatn,
we could see icebergs floating in their hundreds. These bergs were
great blocks of ice that had broken away from the glaciers flowing
from Lang Jökull into the lake. The return journey was accomplished,
without the occurrence of any untoward incident, at a rate that showed
of what stuff the ponies were made, for they cantered over the roughest
of moraines with scarcely a stumble, and we made excellent time to our
camp at Gránanes. There we found that a real fire had been conjured
up in our absence, and a successful attempt made to bake bread in a
wash-hand basin--an instance of the shifts that had to be made, which
were many and various.

When passing over the sloping moraine matter towards Kerlingarfjöll we
crossed a number of peculiar terrace formations, and we often found
similar terraces on the hillsides in other places also. These terraces
have edges or banks of vegetation, which seem to grow in irregular
lines and to arrest the natural descent of alluvial matter, forming a
series of terraces or steps that rise, as a rule, but a few inches one
above another. The vegetation also collects some of the wind-blown sand
of the deserts, which thus assists in the formation of the terraces.



CHAPTER VIII

THE INTERIOR--HVITARVATN AND GULLFOSS


I was early at work next morning, and did some plane-tabling at
Gránanes before breakfast. Afterwards, when I had finished what I
wanted to do at that station, Thomas and I, accompanied by Thorlakur,
the guide, proceeded to Efriskutur, a mountain four or five miles
distant, on the highest point of which I purposed making my sixth
station. We rode down the river and along the ridge of a long stretch
of moraine where there were some fine "erratics"; one very large
specimen being worthy of a photograph, I got Thorlakur on horseback to
stand beside it while I took a record with camera. Along these moraines
we went until reaching the slopes of Efriskutur, up which we rode to
the summit. I set up the table on the highest point, and got to work;
but the sorrows of a plane-tabler were very marked. A strong wind
was blowing, and my first trouble was when, in an unguarded moment,
I had my hand off the paper; the wind, a very cold and strong one,
caught up the map and tore it from the pins by which it was fastened
to the table; it was being whisked away, when Thomas caught it, and so
prevented it from disappearing on the wings of half a gale into the
valley several hundred feet below. I next found that my tracing-paper
had gone, and that it was impossible to use paper of any kind to work
out the position of the new station, for the wind was altogether too
strong for it to be held down on the map. I got out some drawing-paper,
however, in readiness for an attempt, and in a bit of a lull in the
wind I managed, by cutting holes along the lines of sight, to find the
position--it had not been fixed from other stations, for there was
only one ray to it. We were nearly frozen by the intense coldness of
the wind that was blowing straight from the ice of Lang Jökull, but
fortunately it abated slightly after a while and enabled me to get to
work. Lunch soon afterwards, and the reappearance of the sun, tended to
restore better circulation, and thenceforward all went well, except
that when I wanted to make a boiling-point observation for altitude,
the water-bottle was found to be empty. I had lent it to Hill the
previous day at the Kerlingarfjöll hot springs in order that he might
collect algæ; he had returned it empty, and I had forgotten to refill
it. As we had brought no water with us for lunch, it looked as if the
observation could not be made for want of it; but I remembered in time
that there was a small patch of snow on the mountain-side, not very
far down. Thomas kindly went to get some of the snow, which I melted,
and was thus enabled to complete the observation. Efriskutur is a tuff
mountain; at first we supposed that it was composed entirely of moraine
matter, for on the Kerlingarfjöll side, by which we ascended, the hill
is covered with it. On examining the other side there was no trace of
moraine; there was scree in places, but a great deal of the tuff was
uncovered. When the atmosphere was quite clear in the afternoon, we
saw standing out above the ice of Lang Jökull a prominent peak, a fine
specimen of a volcanic neck.

[Illustration: IMMENSE "ERRATICS."]

Our work done, we made tracks for Hvitarvatn, the lake beside which
we were to camp that night. To the river Svartá we traversed moraine
matter; beyond the river, however, which we crossed, there was no
moraine--nothing but the recent lava from Strytur, which quite covered
the intervening country to the Falakvisl, a river that has carved its
way along the other edge of the lava; on the far side there are great
moraine hills. The Falakvisl is a deep, swift river, flowing between
banks that are very high in places; it drains the valley between
the ice of Lang Jökull and the outlying range north of the mountain
Hrutafell, round which it flows, collecting the streams that run down
from it and from the other mountains and hills south of the divide of
Kjalhraun, the lava ridge by Strytur. This river discharges its waters
into Lake Hvitarvatn, and we followed its course to within a mile or so
of the point of discharge.

We found the camp beside the lake, about a mile from the water;
there was no convenient camping-ground any nearer to it, for the
intervening land was a mere swamp. We were in the midst of wonderful
and magnificent surroundings. The lake was covered with innumerable
icebergs--great lumps broken off from the edges of two great glaciers
that flow from Lang Jökull to the water's edge on the far side of the
lake. It was interesting to note the fact that the farther away the
icebergs were from the glaciers the smaller they were, until on the
margin of the lake where the water was not so cold they disappeared
altogether. Facing us was a great basaltic mountain, Skrutharfell,
set in between the two fine glaciers mentioned. To the left was the
great solid mass of Bláfell (pronounced Blou-fettle, the _á_ like _ou_
in blouse), a mountain that had much snow covering its sides; to the
right, Hrutafell reared its icy head high into the air; behind, there
was the mountain range of Kerlingarfjöll. All this was affected by
the gorgeousness of the sunset effects; the sun was descending behind
the ice-flow, and lighting up ice and snow with the most wonderful
colouring; it was a thing to be seen and remembered--to describe it in
adequate terms is impossible.

The lake was the resort of many swans, which disturbed the slumbers of
at least one member of the party, for they called and squawked in the
most persistent manner through the small hours--I will not say of the
night, for we were having twenty-four hours of daylight just then.

I was moving early next morning, for I intended to get to work at
the plane-table, but the Fates were against me once more, this time
in the shape of clouds which overhung the tops of Kerlingarfjöll and
Hrutafell, completely hiding two of the points of those mountains
that I required to sight in order to fix my position. I set up the
plane-table, however, in the hope that the clouds would clear later on,
and then took a boiling-point observation. After breakfast I waited
in vain for an hour or two for the clouds to rise and the peaks to
clear, for otherwise it was impossible to fix the position. The peaks
_were_ gradually clearing, but time was passing; we had a long day's
journey before us, and a deep and dangerous river to ford on the way,
so a guide could not well be spared to wait an hour or two until proper
observations were possible. I had to make the best of it, so took
sights on a separate sheet of paper to a number of points, hoping that
eventually I should be able to complete. The peaks _did_ clear at the
last moment, and I took sights to them; but as there was not time to
fix the position on the map itself and to take the other sights again,
I did all that was possible under the circumstances, hoping that what
had been done would fit in properly. On returning to England, I found
the observations agreed very well with my previous work.

My work, so far as the map was concerned, was at an end. I cannot say
that it was completed, for the time spent there was too short to permit
of the whole of the country lying between Lang Jökull and Hoff Jökull
being mapped. I had hoped to complete a map extending from Dufufell
and Hveravellir in the north to the mountains of Kerlingarfjöll and
the lake of Hvitarvatn to the south; but several things conspired to
prevent my doing it full justice, the chief of which were that we were
two days late in arriving at Hveravellir, and that the weather was not
quite so good as it might have been.

It was about mid-day, if I remember rightly, when we got under way and
proceeded along near the shore of the lake; we crossed the Svartá close
by where it enters the lake, and at a point just below where the river
falls over a ledge of hard rock ten to twelve feet high. We passed over
great accumulations of moraine matter towards Bláfell, gradually rising
until an excellent view of Hvitarvatn and the myriads of icebergs
floating on its surface was obtained. So we proceeded until we came to
the river Hvitá. This was one of our big rivers, and its crossing was
a dangerous undertaking. The pack, as usual, showed the way and made a
successful crossing. We stayed behind, for the purpose of photographing
the pack when in mid-stream. The photograph that I took shows the
pack-train right in the middle of the river. We followed, and crossed
without any untoward incident occurring; the water was rather deep,
and when in mid-stream it came up to our knees. At this river we saw a
number of sheep swimming across, which is quite a common thing for them
to do.

[Illustration: THE PACK-TRAIN CROSSING THE HVITÁ.]

I afforded some entertainment to my companions in the course of the
day. The pony I was then riding was a confirmed stumbler, and he
blundered along during the whole day, sometimes on four legs, but
more often on three; occasionally he shortened his two front legs and
tried to make good time on his knees. It was not altogether pleasant
riding, for there was great uncertainty as to which mode of progression
he would next adopt. After several bad stumbles he came to grief. He
stumbled, recovered, went on two paces, and then came right down.
He caught me off guard when having a loose seat immediately after
his recovery, with the result that I was deposited, very nicely and
quietly, however, in a soft sand-patch that was handy. I was much
disgusted, for I happened to be just in front of the other members of
the party. But this was nothing compared with the next entertainment
that I gave soon afterwards. We had not proceeded much farther before
some of the rotten saddlery gave way: my crupper broke and a ring at
the back of the saddle was dragged out--my oilskins, etc., came adrift
and fell; but one of the packages did not get free, it hung by a strong
cord at the pony's heels, where it dangled, knocking against them.
My pony did what any self-respecting pony would have done in similar
circumstances--he promptly bolted! Now the ground thereabouts was
not remarkable for its evenness; indeed, it was one of the roughest
pieces of ground that we passed over in the course of the day. He
made excellent time, and the harder he went, the more the package
hit against his heels, until he became quite frantic with fright and
ran amuck. I was at the rear of the party some distance behind when
he started off, but we soon caught up the others, bumping into one,
cannoning off a second to a third, and nearly unseating Miss Hastie,
who was not prepared for the charge. My only fear, as he was such a bad
stumbler and had already been down, was that he would come a cropper
in the course of his wild career and throw me upon a lump of lava; but
as he kept his feet, I stuck to him and at last managed to get him
under control and pull him up. He stood trembling in affright, for the
objectionable package was still at his heels. I dismounted and removed
the disturbing cause, afterwards returning in company with the "handy
man" to collect the goods and chattels that were lying distributed over
the country that had just been crossed in something like record time.
In spite of the bumps and knocks that they received, my companions
enjoyed the spectacle, and it afforded them an opportunity for some
good-natured chaff.

[Illustration: A FINE GORGE IN THE SIDE OF BLÁFELL.]

During the latter part of the day's journey, which was along the high
banks of the river Hvitá, we saw some fair specimens of columnar
basalt. There were times, when we were travelling along on the edge of
these high banks within a few inches of the edge of a drop of two or
three hundred feet, that I did not feel quite comfortable, for my pony
continued to stumble along to the end of the journey; but he did not
come right down again, though several times he had to be pulled up from
his knees.

[Illustration: GULLFOSS--FRONT VIEW WITH "RAINBOW" EFFECT.]

[Illustration: GULLFOSS--SIDE VIEW.]

We came round Bláfell in the course of the day, and there saw a number
of very fine gorges in the mountain sides, deep ravines carved out by
the streams and torrents on their way to the river, the Hvitá.

Our way lay over moraine accumulations nearly the whole of the day, and
during the latter part of it along the right bank of the Hvitá (White
River), a swift-rushing glacier stream that drains Lake Hvitarvatn of
the water there collected from Lang Jökull. There are many deep and
picturesque gorges in the basalt through which the river flows.

[Illustration: GULLFOSS--THE UPPER FALL.]

We camped beside the Hvitá at a spot known as Sandá, which lies just
below the confluence of the Hvitá and Sandá. We were then near the
southern end of Lang Jökull, looking upon the very striking mountains
that fringe its edge, the Jarlhettur (the Earl's Hats) as they are
called, because of the shapes of their upper portions; several of these
peaks are interesting inasmuch as they are, without doubt, the hard
cores of ancient volcanoes--volcanic plugs or necks.

[Illustration: GULLFOSS--THE FALL INTO THE RAVINE.]

At Sandá we remained over Sunday, but as it rained hard we were
confined to our tents nearly the whole day--our Sundays were, as a
rule, very wet, and of six or seven that we had in or about Iceland
only two were fine; it did not matter much, for Sunday with us was
always a day of rest, and the rain only kept us to our tents. On these
occasions much tobacco was consumed and as many matches were used as
economy allowed.

On leaving Sandá our way lay for several miles over a desolate sandy
and stony desert. Farther on there were many evidences of ice-action:
the rounded forms of boulders attracted our attention, as did numerous
ice-scratchings on them; some of the outcropping lumps were beautifully
rounded, and in one place (in the same valley as Gullfoss) after
passing the falls, but just before reaching Bratholt, there was
undoubted evidence that the ice had swept up a slight rise in the
valley before descending the steep slope towards the Bratholt farm.

[Illustration: GULLFOSS--THE RAVINE BELOW THE FALLS.]

[Illustration: BELOW GULLFOSS--CASTELLATED DYKES.]

Gullfoss is one of the sights of Iceland. It is a magnificent waterfall
on the Hvitá, where the white water of the river cascades over a
series of step-like barriers stretching from side to side, and then
plunges finally over a ledge of very hard rock into a yawning abyss
more than a hundred feet deep, whence it throws up clouds of spray
that are carried hither and thither as the wind sweeps first this way
and then that; so thick is the spray, that one's clothing soon becomes
saturated on incautiously getting into it. Gullfoss is one of the
finest waterfalls in Europe, and it is only surpassed in grandeur, if
at all, by one or two others in Iceland. We saw the falls at their
best, for when we arrived the sun was shining brightly and a rainbow
playing over the spray as it rose from the gorge. It is true that the
sky clouded over afterwards, and that rain began to fall before we left
Gullfoss, but we carried away the impression of the broken waters of
the cascade sparkling in the sun, and of the colours of the rainbow
playing on the spray over the ravine. The water has carved out a deep
gorge in the basalt, and below the falls there are many good specimens
of basaltic columns. In the lower part of the gorge there are the
picturesque remains of a very fine hard dyke that has a much softer one
beside it. These remains are to be seen on both sides of the river,
and they have assumed the outline and form of a number of castellated
buildings perched high upon prominent peaks.



CHAPTER IX

GEYSIR AND THINGVELLIR


We were very near the margin of the desert interior, for within two or
three miles we arrived at the farm-house of Bratholt, the first human
habitation that we had seen for ten or twelve days. We had traversed
the uninhabited country and were then entering upon the final stage of
the journey across the island, where we expected to see some of the
better class of farms and farmers. Bratholt farm-house seemed to be
one of the superior kind--it was certainly the best that we had seen
so far. We lunched there, and while the meal was being prepared were
shown over the premises by the farmer's wife and daughters. A fine
specimen of an old kitchen attracted my attention, and I determined to
try to photograph it. The housewife was most anxious to help with the
camera. I had a difficulty in setting it up in a suitable position, so
she volunteered to hold it wherever I wanted it to stand. I tried to
explain that she could not hold it still enough, and that it would have
to be kept in one position for nearly ten minutes; she stood in the way
looking on till I fetched a guide to explain matters, when she left me
to my own devices. It was quite a picture, this kitchen; one of the
curiosities it contained was an old quern with a bone (human?) for a
handle. The room was as smoky as most of the Icelandic kitchens usually
are; in the roof there was a number of skins that had been hung up to
dry or placed there for preservation. Some three-legged pots stood in a
corner on the floor; a fire was burning in a fireplace built of lumps
of basalt, and the smoke that arose from the smouldering peat bricks
hung in the air till it gradually escaped through a hole in the roof.

We invaded the work-room and bed-chamber, which is usually called the
_bathstofa_. As its name implies, this chamber was once the bath-room
of the house; but bathing has gone much out of fashion with the
Icelander, and he no longer considers a tub at short intervals to be
desirable. The _bathstofa_ is now used as a living-room; it is fitted
up with a series of open bunks ranged along the sides, in which the
various members of the family repose at night; but the bunks serve not
only for sleeping purposes--they are often the receptacle for all sorts
of things, and we could hardly help noticing in one a miscellaneous
collection consisting of sugar, stockings, skin shoes, tea, etc. There
were several spinning-wheels in the room, and at our request the lady
of the house set to work at one of them. The family made cloth, various
articles of clothing from it, sheep-skin shoes, and bone spoons with
"Gullfoss" carved on them, for the "trippers" who call when on the way
to Gullfoss. One of the daughters was an expert in the use of vegetable
dyes; she was not at home, but we saw some of her work. We bought a
few things: shoes, stockings, gloves, rugs, etc., and the "handy man"
cleared out the stock of cloth and called for more, but more was not to
be had there. Later in the day, however, we passed another farm where
cloth could sometimes be bought; the "handy man" heard of this, and
we lost sight of him for more than an hour while he was, ostensibly,
making further purchases, though he did not seem to be overburdened
with their weight when at last he turned up. In the evening he remarked
on the beauty of a girl that he had seen at the farm, which raised
grave doubts as to whether the charms of this beauty had not been the
_real_ cause of his long stay there. We thought it mean of him not to
have informed us when in the neighbourhood, and told him so; he smiled
serenely, for we were then a safe distance away--half a day's journey.
We expected to camp that night at Geysir; so when the "handy man"
appeared with his bundle of cloth, we pushed on for that interesting
spot. We had to cross the river Tungufljot on the way; it is a rather
deep and swift-flowing river, but we made an excellent crossing at a
recently discovered ford where the water did not reach much above the
level of our stirrups.

At Geysir there is a region of hot springs, geysers, and blue, boiling
cauldrons, where one can stand on the sinter margins, look deep down
into the blue waters, and imagine whence they come. There is also a
number of holes where liquid mud bubbles and splutters. There are
geysers active, and others quiescent and extinct. Among the latter is
the celebrated Strokur--a few years ago it was very active, but now
it is quite dead; it died during an earthquake that occurred in 1896.
Although the earthquake stopped Strokur, it seems to have caused Great
Geysir itself to play with increased energy. Strokur had to be coaxed
into activity, but it was easily done by feeding it with lumps of turf,
which were thrown into its yawning mouth, wide open always and ready
for a meal. It never failed to give a display when properly fed. It was
when it had had a surfeit, and was likely to be choked with the turf,
that it erupted, ejecting the turf violently, and at the same time
shooting upward a column of boiling water and steam. But all this is of
the past--no quantity of turf will provoke it into activity now; it is
dead, and there is no indication that it was once the scene of violent
disturbance; nothing remains as a record of former glories but a hole
in the ground a few feet in diameter.

It was late in the evening when we arrived. The weather was not what we
should have liked, for it was dull and rainy; there had been much rain
at Geysir during the previous few days, and we were informed of the
fact by a farmer living in the neighbourhood. It is said that Geysir
erupts more frequently during and after a period of much rain, and also
when the wind blows from a certain quarter--I forget which quarter,
but that is immaterial now, for the all-important thing is that it was
then blowing in the favourable direction. Whether there is any real
ground for the reports I do not know, but I record the fact that during
a stay of about fourteen hours Geysir erupted six times, and that the
average is said to be one in twenty-four hours. The first eruption
occurred while we were at supper at about 10.15 P.M. There was a dull,
deep-seated thud somewhere below, a sort of subterranean rumbling
that caused us to inquire of our conductor, who was rather deaf,
what it was. We had previously been informed that certain premonitory
rumblings always preceded an eruption; but we were doubtful whether
what we then heard was the warning. The conductor had not heard it,
and he was endeavouring to explain to us the nature of the sound when
a guide rushed to the door of the tent to inform us that Geysir was
about to play. We hastily left our meal, made an abrupt exit from the
tent, and rushed to the spot. Surely enough it was in eruption, for
great clouds of steam were rising from the crater and rolling towards
us. We got to windward of the steam, and looked towards the crater, and
what a sight it was! High into the air, sixty, seventy, eighty feet up,
there was shooting stream after stream of boiling water, which fell in
showers of spray all around, some descending towards the crater and
meeting on its way the outgoing streams. A ring of sinter surrounds the
crater; it is raised ten to fifteen feet above the general level of the
ground, so the hot water that fell upon it ran off in a ring of little
cascades. It was a wonderful sight, this enormous natural fountain;
it continued to play for two or three minutes before it gradually
subsided and stopped--all was then still, save that the last of the
water was streaming over the edges of the sinter ring, whence a little
steam was rising. As soon as the eruption came to an end, we climbed
upon the ring, which has a diameter of something like a hundred feet;
there is a large depression or basin in it that is filled with water
before eruption, but it was then empty. In the middle of the basin
there is a funnel, said to be about sixty feet deep; at the surface
it is about sixteen feet in diameter. We stood on the edge of this
funnel or crater, looking down into its depths, the water then standing
at a level of something like fifteen feet below that at which we had
previously seen it.

[Illustration: THE SINTER RING OF GEYSIR.]

We returned to our interrupted meal, congratulating ourselves that
we had arrived just in time to witness the fine display, without at
all expecting that we should have another opportunity of seeing such
a spectacle. But, as I have stated, we were lucky enough to see in
all six eruptions, three of which occurred at short intervals during
the night. The first occurred at 10.15 P.M.; the others at 1.30,
3.30, 6.30, 8.30, and the last of the series at 10.45 A.M. The finest
displays were the first, second, and last. The second, that at 1.30
A.M., occurred just after we had turned in, but the warning rumblings
sounded before we had gone to sleep. Each made a dash at some articles
of clothing, and hastening into them, made a blind rush through the
rain to the side of Geysir, where we presented a curious spectacle: we
were a very motley assemblage indeed, and the various costumes it would
perhaps be better not to describe accurately. I have not a photographic
record of the scene--there had been no time to get out cameras, and the
light was very bad.

[Illustration: THE FUNNEL OR CRATER OF GEYSIR.]

There is a smaller geyser, known as Little Geysir, distant about a
quarter of a mile from its more important neighbour. Now, this happened
to be in good working order, for it erupted while we were finishing our
evening meal, sending up spray to a height of from ten to twenty feet,
and continued more or less active during the rest of the night.

Many were the boiling and bubbling springs that we saw along a line
of fissure nearly half a mile in extent. The basins of some of them
were very beautiful, one especially, where the water was of a bright
blue colour and the edges of the sinter basin quite white. The basins
and terraces are composed of the silica that was at one time held in
solution in the water that flowed over them; it was gradually deposited
layer upon layer, slowly lining the vent through which the water was
ejected, and building up the terraces and basins.

We were loth to leave the neighbourhood of Geysir and continue on our
way; but we could not linger, because time was of importance to some of
the members of the party, who had to reach Reykjavik, the capital of
the country, in time to catch a certain steamer. Another day could not
be spared, so on we had to go. We proceeded at first over a quantity of
sinter debris, and then through some hummocky land. After a while we
came to a wood--an Icelandic forest, or one of the nearest approaches
to a forest that Iceland can boast. It consisted of a quantity of
scrubby birch and willow "trees," mere bushes, averaging three to five
feet in height, though some, it is true, attained the height of six or
even seven feet; interspersed amongst them were some geraniums (_G.
silvaticum_). The river Bruará flows through the middle of the wood,
and we had to cross it on our way. The crossing was a peculiar one. At
the spot there is a rapid in the river, with a waterfall just below.
Hard rock stretches from side to side, forming a barrier that is cleft
in the middle of the river; the water flows with very picturesque
effect over the ledge and into the cleft, which is bridged by a wooden
platform; the crossing is effected by the bridge, and by fording the
river on each side of it. While I was photographing the spot with some
members of the party on the bridge, my pony ran away, and crossed the
river, leaving me on the wrong side of it. However, the runaway did not
get very far before its career was checked; it was then brought back,
and I followed in the track of the others.

Farther on in the wood we halted at a wayside farm-house for lunch,
and to rest for a while before continuing on what was likely to be a
long journey. Away we went again, though, through the wood, until we
overlooked the Bruará at a spot where it had worn down the valley to
the level of a plain of denudation, of which it is a fine specimen.
There, below, was the river meandering in a winding course over the
plain; there also were two small lakes, one of which, Laugarvatn,
is of historical interest, for it was there that the Icelanders on
being converted to Christianity were baptized; they objected to cold
water, but a hot spring in this lake causes the water to be warm,
so the objection was overcome, and they were baptized in the warm
waters of Laugarvatn. We gradually descended to the vicinity of
Laugarvatnshellirar, a peculiar volcanic district, where a number of
castellated-looking rocks on the hillsides are very suggestive of
ancient ruins. To the left of them rises the Kalfstindar range, the
peaks of which are the hard plugs of ancient volcanoes that have become
exposed by the erosion of the softer material of the original cones.
Here we came upon recent lava again, and during the rest of the day's
journey we were obliged to travel very slowly, for we had to pick our
way over very rough ground.

The ponies stumbled along hour after hour, much to the discomfiture of
the "nautical adviser," who was in a helpless state, suffering great
pain. Earlier in the day he had been stung on the eye by an insect.
At first he did not feel much inconvenience, but as time passed, his
eye became inflamed and very troublesome; so intense was the pain at
last, that his eyes had to be bandaged. Thus blindfolded he had to ride
on, just balancing himself, and allowing his pony to pick its own way
through the lava as it followed one or another of us. It was a very
dangerous proceeding, because the lava over which he had to pass was
of the roughest possible kind; the ponies had to perform all sorts
of peculiar antics while dodging from side to side, or in climbing
over boulders or outcropping rocks, now going up a steep slope, then
descending one at a dangerous-looking angle. When three or four miles
from Thingvellir, our destination that night, we came to a great rift
in the earth known as Hrafna-gjá (Raven's Rift), a crack going deep
down into the earth, and extending three or four miles in a line
parallel to another even greater rift that will be again referred to.
On reaching Hrafna-gjá, we had to climb down its steep side, there
being a drop of something like a hundred feet to the lava at its foot.
The steepness and unevenness of the descent rendered it necessary for
us all to dismount and lead our ponies down. The day was dull and the
light then becoming bad; but we had to plod on. We were not many miles
from our destination, Thingvellir. We presently saw right ahead what
looked like a line of high precipitous cliffs with a white patch in it.
At first we were very doubtful what the patch could be; but on drawing
nearer we heard the splash of falling water, and from the sound, judged
that the volume was pretty large. We could see nothing distinctly,
though, for it was approaching midnight and the light was failing
fast, so we pushed on along a line parallel to the cliff, unable to
distinguish anything clearly.

It was at Vallholt, close to the margin of Lake Thingvallavatn, that
we halted. There we reached modern civilisation suddenly, for we came
to a large galvanised iron structure which we found to be a hotel,
so we pulled up and dismounted. On inquiring for our tents, we were
informed that they had not been erected, and that we were to take up
our quarters at the hotel. We had not expected this, and as we had
all become somewhat attached to our canvas quarters, we grumblingly
entered the hotel and went in search of our boxes. The arrangement
of the interior was peculiar: a large hall occupied the middle of
the building, extending the full width, and reaching from floor to
roof; at each end of the hall, a passage led through to the end of
the building. On each side of one of these passages there was ranged
a number of cabin-like rooms, each of which contained two bunks, one
above the other, and in a corner there was a wash-hand basin, the whole
being fitted up like the interior of a cabin on board ship--this was
accounted for by the fact that the arrangement had been designed by a
sailor.

Thomas and I had piloted the "nautical adviser" and given his pony a
lead during the last part of the journey, so we three were rather late
in our arrival; but we were met with the cheering intelligence that
supper (it was 11.30 P.M.) would be ready in a few minutes, and that
we were to "hurry up" and make whatever change of costume we deemed
necessary to celebrate the return to some of the conventionalities of
modern civilisation. We were hungry, very hungry, and did not waste
time over an elaborate toilet, but soon put in an appearance in the
large central hall. Here we were regaled with a most sumptuous and
excellent banquet. The soup was all that could be desired, and it was
hot--a very comforting thing when one is half frozen. This whetted our
appetite for the other good things that were to follow: salmon that was
cooked to perfection; then came another excellent dish, and last of all
delicious pastry and cream--the Icelanders, as I have already stated,
are noted for the quality of their pastry. We had growled on finding
that we were to take up quarters in a tourists' hotel, but the quality
of the dinner quite reconciled us to the return to civilisation. We
had been living for more than a fortnight on tinned foods, so we fully
appreciated the good things that "mine host" had provided for us. We
were disappointed in one way; but when a hungry man has fed well he is
not disposed to quarrel with things in general--especially when they
take the form of a fairly comfortable bunk and more room in his cabin
than he would have had in his tent.

Thingvellir and the neighbourhood is a most interesting and historic
place, for it was there, in the tenth century, that the Althing, or
Parliament, used to assemble. The spot whereon it once met, known as
the Logberg (Law Rock), is now a verdure-covered hill, lying between
two remarkable rifts in the lava. Thingvallavatn is the name of the
largest and most picturesque lake in Iceland; the view of it which
we had obtained the day before from above Hrafna-gjá was very fine,
but the atmosphere had not been quite clear; we had seen enough,
however, in spite of rain and haze, to enable us to form an idea of the
beauty of the scene. We were favoured on this occasion, for the air
was clearer and the light brighter, so we were better able, from the
elevated site of the Logberg, to enjoy the fine view. The meeting-place
of the Althing was removed from the Logberg to one of two islands
lying in the lake, but to which of them is questionable, though it is
supposed that it used to meet on the long flat island near Thingvellir,
close to the shore of the lake.

Not only is this neighbourhood interesting historically, but
geologically it claims attention. I have already mentioned the
remarkable rift, Hrafna-gjá; there is another at Thingvellir--I am
not referring to the two rifts at the Logberg, for though noticeable
in themselves, they are but minor rifts when compared with that of
Hrafna-gjá, and still more so when comparison is made with Almanna-gjá
(All-men's Rift) at Thingvellir. It is a most extraordinary break in
the earth, extending for three or four miles across the country in
a line parallel to Hrafna-gjá, showing a face of lava with a drop
of something like a hundred feet. Now what has happened to cause
these extraordinary rifts? The whole of the land between Hrafna-gjá
and Almanna-gjá has fallen in, dropped through about a hundred feet,
and forms a "rift valley." The lake derives its water chiefly by
underground rivers from the ice-field of Lang Jökull, though one small
stream, the Oxará, runs into it. This river tumbles over the edge of
the cliffs by a fine cascade into the rift of Almanna-gjá; but it does
not flow very far (less than a mile) before it escapes through a gap
in the outer wall of the rift by a second and smaller fall. Above the
smaller fall there is a pool known as the Murderesses' Pool, in which
it was once the custom to drown women found guilty of infanticide or
adultery.

[Illustration: ALMANNA-GJÁ--IN THE RIFT NEAR THE WATERFALL.]

There are several legends connected with Thingvellir. One of them
refers to a remarkable jump supposed to have been performed by one
Flossi, an outlaw, who, on being closely pursued, escaped by jumping
across one of the lava rifts of the Logberg hill--an impossible feat
with the rift at its present width, but it is supposed to have widened
considerably. In these rifts of the Logberg there is, deep down, some
beautifully clear water standing at about the same level as the lake.
Over one of the rifts there is a small wooden bridge with a hole in
the middle of it; beside the hole we saw a bucket with a long rope
attached. As the clear water of one of the pools was immediately
below, it was not difficult to infer that this was the source of the
water-supply of the hotel which was in the immediate neighbourhood.

After we had seen all that was of special interest at Thingvellir, we
started on the last stage of our journey across the island; but before
doing so we took leave of two of the guides, Josef and Sigurthur, who
were returning to our starting-point, Akureyri, with about a dozen of
the ponies; for we had no further use for the full pack, seeing that
we expected to reach Reykjavik, the capital, in the course of a few
hours. From this place to Reykjavik a road has been constructed--a
rough one at best, but still a road; the only one of any length in all
Iceland, for it is thirty-six miles long. It commences just below the
lower fall of the Oxará; after a short ascent, a bridge crosses the
river between the waterfall and the Murderesses' Pool, whence it rises
by a steep ascent to the level of the country above the rift. This part
of the road has been cut in the side of the fissure of Almanna-gjá.
From above we obtained a fine view overlooking Lake Thingvallavatn,
but after losing sight of the lake we saw no more of the picturesque
until nearing Reykjavik. An exceedingly fine specimen of a glaciated
lava surface attracted Thomas and myself. My photograph shows it
excellently: in it there can be seen the undulating surfaces of lava,
the _roches moutonnées_, just as they were smoothed by the passing ice,
and there on the surfaces are several "perched blocks" which helped in
the smoothing and scratching process. There was evidence all along the
road not only of the work of frost and ice, but also of that of fire
and heat, for we saw in all directions tuff and lava cones and volcanic
necks.

[Illustration: GLACIATED LAVA SURFACE NEAR THINGVELLIR.]

On nearing Reykjavik we met a number of pack-trains conveying goods
of all descriptions to the farms. It was just the end of the season
when the farmers make their annual journey to the capital. They take
in their wool, dispose of it, and then return with whatever goods
they have purchased. Some of the farmer's women-folk accompany him as
a rule. The women ride their ponies on a saddle peculiar to Iceland.
They balance themselves on their ponies seated sideways, with feet
resting on a little platform that hangs suspended from the saddle by
two straps; they ride by balance alone, for there is no horn by which
they can grip the saddle. All goods have to be transported on the backs
of ponies, for as there are no roads (with the exception of that from
Reykjavik to Thingvellir) so there are no carts or waggons in general
use--I did see _three_ carts in Iceland, one of them in Reykjavik, but
they were used only for hauling goods from the wharves into the towns.
Timber and galvanised iron are carried balanced on the backs of ponies,
the galvanised iron having to be doubled up. A pony sometimes looks
very peculiar as he plods along with an unwieldy load swinging from
side to side. He has an awkward time of it whenever there is a heavy or
gusty wind blowing, and that in Iceland is very frequently. Heavy goods
that cannot possibly be carried on the backs of ponies are transported
when the winter snows cover the ground; rough sleighs are then used for
the purpose.



CHAPTER X

THE CAPITAL--REYKJAVIK


Much to our surprise, when about two miles outside Reykjavik, we met
our fellow-passenger by the _Ceres_, him with whom we had lunched at
Thorshavn on the outward journey. We had left him behind at that port,
and he had intended to stay for several weeks at the Faroes and to
return thence to England; but having found things rather slow there, he
had followed us to Iceland by the next steamer; hence the meeting on
the road.

We created some sort of sensation as we entered the capital of Iceland.
The clocks were striking ten as we clattered down the long main street;
it was a time when the populace were at leisure and on the street,
and they evinced no little curiosity as we rode by them. They were
congregated in small groups, and it was evident to us that we were
being discussed--and no wonder, for we were a motley-looking cavalcade!
We must have presented a very grotesque appearance, clad as we were
in oilskins, and covered with mud from head to foot: it had been
raining at intervals on the way, and we had had a rather disagreeable
journey. We caught glimpses of faces at most of the windows peering
curiously at us and watching our progress through the town. Many
of the members of the groups, by the wayside saluted as we passed
by--the Icelanders are a polite people, as a rule, and they doff their
head-gear in salutation to strangers. So we progressed, being saluted,
and acknowledging the salutes. It was a sort of triumphal entry, for
the news had been carried forward by one of the guides, who was some
little distance ahead with some of the pack-ponies, that we had just
crossed the country by way of the uninhabited interior. All things
come to an end, and so did our journey when we reached the end of the
main street in Reykjavik, for there, at a great wooden building four
stories high, we took up our quarters, and the crossing of Iceland was
an accomplished fact.

If Reykjavik is not a town to be admired, it must be said that the
surrounding scenery is most beautiful; and one of the finest sights I
saw in Iceland was one evening when sunset effects were on hill and
dale and over the sea.

Glasgow House--why so named we were unable to discover--was where we
were quartered. The accommodation was fairly good, though there was a
lack of furniture in some of the rooms. We learned that the proprietor
had but lately entered into possession, and that the furniture had come
from a much smaller house; it certainly required some additions to make
the general accommodation equal to the table kept there. We came in
hungry after our thirty-six miles' ride, so we fully appreciated the
good things set before us by our hostess, a Danish woman, who was a
capable head of the kitchen. The dining-room was on the ground floor,
but a steep staircase led to a large hall-like room above, from which a
number of doors opened into bedrooms.

After we had eaten a most excellent meal--dinner or supper--we went
for a midnight prowl round the town. Our fellow-passenger by the
_Ceres_, an Oxford man, whom Thomas and I had known there, was staying
at Glasgow House, so he accompanied us, and we strolled about the more
retired parts away from the main street, discussing the incidents of
our travels in the interior.

[Illustration: THE BUSINESS END OF REYKJAVIK BY THE GOVERNOR'S HOUSE.]

Reykjavik is not a very large town, as its population of about four
thousand indicates. It is built on the coast and is a long, straggling
place; and although just in the business quarter there are several
streets running parallel or at right angles to one another, yet, with
this exception, the houses are built along the main thoroughfare.
The buildings for the most part are of wooden construction, with
galvanised iron roofs, though here and there a turf-roofed shanty
stands as a reminder that the habitation of the average Icelander has
no galvanised iron about it. Some of the principal business people
are Danes, and many of the houses have been built more in conformity
with Danish ideas than with those of the Icelander. The natives are
fishermen and farmers, and have no very strong predilections for
general business--they are inclined to leave that sort of thing to the
Danes, who are more adapted to it. The clergymen and doctors are, as a
rule, the sons of farmers who exhibit signs of greater brightness than
the average. They first go through a course at the Latin School, and
then proceed to the Theological College or the Medical School; some
afterwards go to Copenhagen to the University there. Both clergy and
medical men are paid by the State, though the latter receive a nominal
fee from their patients. The finest building in Iceland is said to
be the Bank in the main street of Reykjavik. It is a strongly built,
solid-looking square structure. The ground floor is used for banking
business, but the upper floor contains a good collection of Icelandic
curiosities and antiquities--it is known as the Antiquarian Museum,
I think. Old weapons, ladies' saddles, women's national dress, snuff
and various other kinds of carved boxes, gold and silver ornaments,
altar-cloths, altarpieces, and other church furniture, etc., are among
the exhibits. This collection is never open to the public in the way
that similar collections are open in other parts of the world. A
visitor cannot walk in at any stated definite hour--the doors are
always locked against admission unless an appointment is made with
the caretaker of the collection to open them, and if, as in our case,
one happens to be a little after the appointed time, a wait of half
an hour while the attendant guide goes in search of the caretaker may
be necessary. In the Ornithological Museum--a large room attached to
a small house just away from the business part of the town--there is
a fine collection of the birds of Iceland. We tried to gain admission
here without having made an appointment with the caretaker, but quite
failed: the door was locked, and we were unable to make known what
we wanted. The only person on the premises, a middle-aged Icelandic
woman, laughed and giggled and talked, and evinced no little curiosity
regarding certain articles of our clothing. We thought, in our
ignorance of her tongue, that she was making fun of us and of our
dress. When we went away from the Museum, this woman followed us down
town, and on meeting our guide we learnt that our curious friend was
not quite in her right mind--a fact that accounted for her peculiar
actions and manner. We saw the collection of birds on another occasion
by appointment.

Facing a grassy square there are two buildings of importance--one of
these, a wooden structure, is the Cathedral; the other, a massive stone
building, is the Senate House, where the members of the Althing, or
Parliament, meet.

[Illustration: REYKJAVIK--INTERIOR OF THE CATHEDRAL.]

Iceland has recently been granted Home Rule, but at the time of our
visit the Althing consisted of two Houses--the Upper and the Lower.
The Upper House was composed of twelve members, all of whom were
Icelanders--six of these were appointed by the King of Denmark, the
other six being elected by the people. The Lower House consisted of
twenty-four members, all Icelanders, and all elected by the people.
Each House had a President, who was elected by the members. The
President had no vote, so in the Upper House the Icelanders always
tried to elect a President from the members appointed by the King of
Denmark in order to give the people's representatives a majority of
six votes to five. The Governor, an Icelander appointed by the King,
to whom he was answerable, had the right to sit in each House; he
occupied a seat beside the presidential chair. The members of each
House were elected for three sessions; but as the Houses met in every
alternate year only, there was an election but once in six years. A
Prime Minister was appointed by the King of Denmark, but he did not sit
in either House; in fact, the Minister of two years ago had never been
in Iceland. He was a Dane, residing in Copenhagen and knowing nothing
of Iceland or its requirements except from report. The Prime Minister
resembled our Colonial Secretary in his relations with our Colonies,
though there was a difference in that he was _nominally_ answerable to
the Icelandic Althing as well as to the King of Denmark. Bills were
presented in either House by the whole House, by a section of the
House, or by an individual member. The Bills were read three times, and
the House might go into Committee on a Bill at any time. The Committee
might consist of three, five, or seven members in the Upper House--it
was more often three and five--and of three, five, seven, or nine in
the Lower House. Either House might reject a Bill passed by the other
House. The King of Denmark, acting on the advice of the Icelandic Prime
Minister, used to approve a Bill passed by both Houses, when it became
law.

In the Althing there are no parties as we know them, for all the
members are united on high politics, are republican in their feeling,
and most anxious to retain their independence of action. The members
often have differences of opinion about a particular Bill, of course.
The session used to last for eight weeks only, and during that period
the Houses sat daily (Sunday excepted), often having two sittings a
day. The members assembled at mid-day, and if the business was not got
through by four, they adjourned and met again at five. As the Althing
met but once in two years, and the session was so short, there was a
gap of a year and ten months when legislation was at a standstill.
During that period, however, the members were often in communication
one with another, and any Bills that it was desirable should be
presented to the Althing at the next session were discussed in that
way. The press was also the medium for the discussion of desirable
legislation. As some of the members contributed to and wrote for the
newspapers, the pros and cons of a particular Bill were often pretty
well thrashed out before being presented to the Althing. Local affairs
were managed by Sysselmen, or sheriffs, who had great powers vested in
them.

When our party broke up, as it did the next day, I went on board the
_Bothnia_ to see off those who were leaving Iceland. The whole party
had pulled so well together, and had been so successful, that we
separated with feelings of regret that all could not proceed on further
travels in the west of the island.

The day after the departure of those leaving Iceland, Miss Hastie and
I visited Engey Island, one of the homes of the eider duck. On landing
from a rowing-boat that had been hired to convey us from Reykjavik, a
distance of two to three miles, we were delayed for a while by a heavy
shower of rain. When it had abated we could find no one at the wharf
able to speak English, so we made our way to the house of the owner
of the island, for we had been informed at Reykjavik that we should
find some one at Engey to point out the resorts of the ducks. We found
there a young girl who could speak English very well. On learning our
desires she at once offered to conduct us to the ducks, and led the
way, accompanied by a sister, over a series of slippery stones and
rough hummocks, to the ducks' nesting-ground. The season was almost
over, so we did not see many birds in the nests. Most of the eggs had
been hatched, and the parents had departed with their young, or else
were swimming about in the waters around the island. Nevertheless a few
birds still remained in their nests, and we found them comparatively
tame; they were not quite undisturbed by our presence, though, for
they moved away a few yards in an agitated state, leaving their young
to blunder and stumble about all around. In vain we tried to keep the
ducklings from wandering, but they would struggle out of the nest time
after time, the mother walking round us the while with a watchful eye
upon her brood. It is said that the down which the old birds pluck
from their breasts to line the nests may be removed two or three times
before they abandon them. Some of the nests, which were in the hollows
between the hummocks, had bad eggs in them; so that, unless care was
taken in moving from one hummock to another, a bad odour might make
us aware that we had taken a false step. On returning to the house,
the girls who had accompanied us showed the process of cleaning the
eider-down. It is taken in handfuls and rubbed over a wire grating: the
down clings to the wires, while the dirt falls through; the grating
is reversed from time to time, and the down removed from the wires
and rubbed repeatedly until properly cleaned and freed from dirt and
foreign substances.



CHAPTER XI

IN THE WEST--TO REYKHOLT


We spent two days at Reykjavik before renewing our journeyings. We were
a much reduced party, for instead of eleven persons in all, we only
mustered five when, on the third day from our arrival at the capital,
we set out once more. Miss Hastie and myself were all that remained
of the old party, but we were joined by a young Icelandic medical
student, Jón Rosenkranz, while we were accompanied by our old conductor
as "guide, philosopher, and friend," and Hannes as guide. Jón we soon
found to be of a sportive nature, and he never seemed happier than when
something was not going right. When any of the pack strayed, he seemed
to be quite in his element, for he would settle into his saddle with a
bump and go helter-skelter over the country after the straying ones.
Hannes was his especial butt, and though Hannes himself was a mine of
dry humour, yet he at times took things very seriously, and it was then
that Jón was in good form; his eyes would sparkle, and he would slyly
endeavour to "take a rise" out of Hannes, though Hannes, as a rule, was
quite equal to the occasion.

We were bound once more for the interior, and expected to get well
up towards the lakes of Arnarvatnsheithi, to visit the Caves at
Surtshellir, and to see the western side of Lang Jökull, where we
should again enter the uninhabited desert. The greater portion of our
journey, though, would be among the western farms, in country rich in
folklore and made famous in the Sagas.

Our way lay for several miles along the Thingvellir road, then we
turned off to the left and skirted the fjord for a mile or two, soon,
however, striking inland away from the coast. We passed at the foot of
Lagafell, a rather striking mountain having an abrupt escarpment, and
proceeded thence through grassy country to Mosfell. Soon after getting
clear of Reykjavik we were met by one of our old guides, Thorlakur, who
accompanied us to Mosfell, where he possessed a farm, which lay on the
hillside overlooking a green plain well besprinkled with cotton grass.
After lunch we went up to Thorlakur's farm, and made the acquaintance
of his wife and two little girls, who entertained us to coffee. I took
two photographs of the family: one showing the dwelling--a typical
western farm-house of the better class--and the other with Thorlakur
on his pony, and showing a tuff-capped and protected hill in the
background. The grass on this farm was very thick, and in the plain
below the cotton grass was so abundant that it looked as if a number of
white sheets had been spread over the green.

[Illustration: THORLAKUR AND HIS WIFE AND CHILDREN AT HIS FARM-HOUSE.]

After taking leave of Thorlakur and his family, we proceeded on our
way, making a gradual ascent until reaching a spot overlooking a
stream, beyond which there were some peculiarly-shaped brownish hills
that presented a somewhat castellated appearance--from the distance it
was difficult to judge whether they were volcanic necks, or liparite
or tuff formations. On the way the weather, which had been quite fine
to the time of our arrival at Mosfell, gradually changed: we could see
the moisture condensing on the mountains away to our left and straight
ahead, and were much struck with the peculiar way in which the mists
hung over the hills and left a valley quite clear. From the spot
overlooking the stream just mentioned, we descended into the valley
and crossed the river, the Leiruvogsá; then we commenced the ascent of
a long, steep track up the hillsides, between Skalafell on the east
and the great mass of the mountain Esja on the west, towards the pass
known as Svinaskarth. Beyond the river, we entered the region where
the moisture was rapidly condensing, and made our way up the path in
a perfect deluge of rain. We passed hundreds of small streams and
rivulets that came down the mountain sides across our path. We did
not mind the rain, for we were clad in oilskins, and the weather was
not cold--there was a great difference in temperature from that of
the interior and between the ice-fields: it seemed milder, as indeed
it was, and the rain did not strike so cold. We were experiencing the
difference due to the warmer winds from the south and south-west, and
to the effect of the North Atlantic Drift, a continuation of the Gulf
Stream. One peak of Esja to the left was a sharp-pointed brown cone
of liparite, and it stood out as a prominent feature as we ascended.
The pass was very steep in places, and had a number of abrupt turns in
it, and there were many views that would have made fine pictures for
the camera in clearer weather. Descending the pass into the valley of
the Sviná (Svinadal) the gradient was rather severe, so we dismounted
and led our ponies down the steepest parts to relieve them from our
weight for a while. A very noticeable feature in Svinadal was the
number of streams that emerged from the mountain sides, from beneath
the lava flows, and then ran down in a series of cascades to join the
river Sviná in the valley. We followed this river to its confluence
with the Laxá, which flows for a short distance through a quantity of
outcropping lava, _roches moutonnées_ again, whose rounded and smoothed
surfaces stand as evidence that ice once filled the valley. Thence we
proceeded along the valley of the Laxá (Laxadal) beside the river
and through a quantity of moraine matter to Reynivellir, passing the
volcanic cone of Sandfell to the right. Along the sides of this valley
the straight lines of the lava flows can be traced for miles dipping
but very slightly inland from the fjord (Laxavogr), which we were then
in sight of.

We arrived at Reynivellir on Saturday evening and stayed there till
Monday. The weather was not good, and excepting on Sunday evening,
when there was a break that caused some very fine cloud-effects, it
rained almost incessantly. Our first camp was made here, but as through
a misunderstanding only one tent had been brought, which Miss Hastie
used, the rest of the party had to make shift in another way. I elected
to use the church as my place of residence, and had my bed rigged up
in the loft or gallery; this loft was a veritable storehouse, so out
of curiosity I made a rough inventory of the articles I found. Besides
several boxes and sea-chests, there was hanging from a number of hooks
a wardrobe that would have clothed about half-a-dozen persons of both
sexes; then there were some large lockers, ranged along the side of the
loft, that were filled with wool; a number of agricultural implements,
a rocking armchair, and two forms completed the list.

The Icelanders are very hospitable, and travellers are made welcome.
Every farmer who can afford it has one or two guest-chambers that are
placed at the disposal of any one passing through. On arrival at the
farm the traveller is invited to partake of coffee. When this is served
in the best room of the house, the farmer and his wife join the new
arrivals in a light meal, consisting of excellent coffee, and fancy
pastry of equally excellent quality. Some of the Icelandic women are
very good pastry-cooks, and the cakes and pastry they produce often
equal in quality any that could be procured at a first-class London
confectioner's.

At Reynivellir there are a farm-house and a church. The churches are
either Athalkirkja (principal church) or Annexia (farmers' church), and
that at Reynivellir is Athalkirkja. The clergy are appointed and paid
by the Government; but they have farms which add to their incomes. The
religion of the Icelanders is Lutheran. Service was held in the church
at Reynivellir on the Sunday morning while we were there, and all the
members of our party attended it. The minister was attired in black
robes, which he wore with a white ruff and flattened hat; he looked
exactly as if he had just stepped out of a Velasquez picture, for his
face and dress were quite typical. It is a peculiarity of the Icelandic
services that the members of the congregation come and go just as they
please; evidently they consider the service of too long duration, for
many leave the church and absent themselves for periods varying up to
fifteen minutes. I inquired why, and was informed that the Icelanders
being used to open-air life, could not remain still and cooped up for
any length of time, so they left while the service was in progress, in
order to stretch their legs and occasionally to have a smoke. They were
quite regardless of the time of commencement of the service, and came
in at any time during its progress. The sexes did not seem to mix, for
the men were seated, most of them, in the chancel around the pulpit,
while the body of the church was occupied by the women, though a few
men sat in the seats right at the back.

The rain continued to the time of our departure from Reynivellir, for
we set out on Monday in a depressing drizzle. We had a very stiff
climb by a zigzag path up the side of the Reynivallahals mountain, a
flat-topped range having the valley of the Laxá on one side and the
waters of Hvalfjord on the other. After crossing the highest part of
the ridge, we gradually descended to the water of Hvalfjord, passing
Fossá, where there is a small waterfall in a ravine, close by a wooden
bridge that spans it. There was a good view from Fossá over Hvalfjord
and to the head of one branch of it. To this branch we descended by
a long slope on the steep mountain side, and then passed round the
head of the arm, where the Brgnjudalsá runs into it over a ledge of
basalt. We could not help being struck with the two bold scarped ends
of the mountain ranges that come down to the fjord: Muláfjall between
the two branches, and Thyrill beyond. After crossing the Brgnjudalsá,
we rounded the first headland, and proceeded for some distance along
the second arm of the fjord till we came to a black sandy beach, which
was then covered with about six inches of water. This was fully a
mile from the head of the fjord, but we crossed at this point, the
ponies splashing through the water as if they enjoyed that part of the
journey--and doubtless they did. Our way then lay at the foot of the
great escarpment of the Thyrill mountains, a range that has been carved
by the weather into wondrous fantastic shapes, the end presenting a
magnificent castellated appearance--a fine solid block resting on a
sloping base.

[Illustration: THE THYRILL MOUNTAINS.]

One of the Sagas relates how the Thyrill family some nine hundred years
ago resided on the small island of Greirsholmi, which was probably much
bigger than it is at the present time. They had a feud with another
family, who invaded the island; but the Thyrills had received warning
of the approach of the enemy, and they escaped to the peninsula of
Thyrillsnes, where a sanguinary battle was fought. All the Thyrills
were slain except one woman who had been left on the island, and
she escaped by swimming to the mainland with her baby son; she then
ascended the castellated end of the Thyrill mountains and escaped
through the gap between the two blocks into which it is divided. It is
said that when the son grew up, he wreaked vengeance upon the family
that had almost exterminated his own.

From Thyrill we proceeded along the shore of Hvalfjord for two or three
miles, and on looking back, the end of the Thyrill mountains presented
a remarkably fine appearance. From a base of lava and tuff, with a
talus slope above, there rose the main castellated block composed of
upright columns of basalt. Looking the other way towards the sea, the
block of mountains known as Akrafjall, round which the fjord bends,
stands as a striking feature in the landscape.

On leaving the coast we climbed some liparite and tuff rises, and then
passed over a range of hills (Ferstikluhals) northward. From the divide
we had a very good view over the country ahead; in a valley below there
were three lakes having an outlet for their water through Svinadal, by
the river Laxá, into a small fjord named Leirárvogar--this must not be
confounded with the Laxá already mentioned. It should be noted that the
same name is often applied to more than one mountain, river, or town,
and confusion as to the geographical position may arise unless it is
clearly understood which of those bearing the same name is indicated;
for instance, Mosfell (mossy mountain) is applied to several mountains,
Hvitá (white river) to several rivers, and Stathr (a homestead) to
several villages or farm-houses of note. We skirted two of the lakes
in the valley and then passed between the last two, where Hannes made
a deal in trout with a man who was fishing in a stream connecting the
two lakes. We made our way through rain, which had just recommenced
after a fairly fine interval lasting during most of the day's journey,
to the head of the third lake, where we found quarters for the night
at the farm-house of Draghals. Miss Hastie occupied her tent as usual;
but I, not liking the guest-chamber because it was absolutely devoid
of ventilation,--the windows were fixed in their frames and could not
be opened,--took up my quarters in a drying-shed, a large and airy
enclosure running along two sides of the house, which was a fair-sized
galvanised iron structure. Beside this modern excrescence there stood
the old wooden-fronted, turf-walled, and grass-roofed buildings that
were formerly used as the dwelling-house, but were then converted into
kitchen and dairy buildings--ancient and modern were side by side.

[Illustration: MISS HASTIE TROUT-FISHING.]

There were some pretty scenes on the river Draghalsá, an interesting
stream having a number of hard and soft dykes cut through by the water
that descends in a series of waterfalls to a pool, the overflow from
which runs into the lake close by. Both pool and stream afford sport
for fishermen, and Miss Hastie and Jón got quite a good basket of trout
there. I was less fortunate; but as I did not commence until the others
had finished, I concluded that they had caught all the fish in the
stream and had left none for me to catch--but I am not a fisherman, so
lack of skill may have had something to do with the small success met
with.

[Illustration: TYPICAL ICELANDIC FARMERS.]

The people here were typical Icelandic farmers, and the photographs
I took give a very good idea of them. They are not altogether devoid
of humour, and enjoyed my photographing our "guide, philosopher, and
friend," whom I caught sharpening a knife at a grindstone. He was quite
unconscious that I was immortalising him, but the onlooking Icelanders
grasped the point of the situation, and their appreciation of it was
expressed in their faces, which were turned towards me as I took a
snapshot at the group.

On leaving Draghals late in the afternoon we climbed the hills to the
north and came in sight of a fine sheet of water about ten miles long.
This is Skorradalsvatn; it is not very broad, being less than two miles
at its widest part. Just after passing the divide we came upon a fine
waterfall at a spot where the waters of one of the mountain streams
fall a sheer hundred feet into a deep pool below. There are two very
fine gorges here, and they join at the confluence of two streams that
then flow by a meandering course to the lake. The delta of this river
has spread half-way across the lake, where the width is gradually
narrowing; in course of time it will extend right across, and cut the
water into two portions. We then skirted the lake to its head, rounding
it just where it narrows to a river, which flows on as the Audakilsá
towards Borgarfjord. Just beyond the river we came to the farm-house of
Grund, where we took up our quarters.

We remained at Grund a whole day in order that the fishermen might
again try their skill with the rod, and they were successful in
catching a number of trout. It rained heavily during the afternoon,
which was very annoying, for it prevented me from going to explore
the mountains of Skarthsheithi and the vicinity--a pity, for the
group looks a most interesting one. Facing Grund they form a sort of
semicircle, a vast corrie having a yellowish-brown hill in the middle,
a liparite mound; to the left of the semicircle there is another
brownish mountain that is evidently a series of alternations of tuff
and liparite. On the face of the mountains in the centre there are
two small glaciers, while to the right there is a remarkable stepped
pyramid that shows most distinctly the lava flows--flow above flow
being lined out and stepped in the profile, the parallel lines being
distinctly marked not only on the pyramid but also round the semicircle.

At Grund we lost our "guide, philosopher, and friend," whose
engagements required his presence in Reykjavik in the course of the
next few days. In the early morning he departed, and thenceforth we
had to look to Hannes for guidance. Two or three hours after his
departure we set out for Reykholt. Our way lay over some rough rising
lava flows at the back of the farm-house, and these we ascended to the
divide, whence we had a fine view of the valley of the Hvitá. It was
fertile-looking country, but the land is not cultivated; grass is the
only thing grown, for the sun has not sufficient strength to ripen
grain of any kind. Haymaking was in full swing just then, and we saw
the haymakers at work on all the farms as we passed by. Beyond the
Hvitá valley a long range of mountains stretches from near the sea far
inland, the most prominent in the chain being a conical peak (Baula)
some fifteen to twenty miles distant.

After crossing the river Grimsá we entered a stretch of country
composed of many alluvial river terraces. Terrace above terrace had
been formed in succession by the Hvitá and several of its branches
that we crossed in the course of the day, namely, the Grimsá, the
Flokadalsá, the Reykjadalsá, and others. Between the two last named
rivers we had lunch beside the farm-house of Kropprmuli. From the
Reykjadalsá we proceeded to some hot springs, Tunguhver, close beside
the river. These springs emerge from the side of a small hillock,
where they bubble and boil over, and spurt jets a few feet into the
air; the water comes down the hillside in a series of small waterfalls
or cascades. Great volumes of steam rose from the springs, and
unfortunately the wind was blowing it in such a way as to obscure the
whole of the springs, except for an occasional glimpse when the steam
was swirled aside by a strong gust. At one end of the hill, however,
where the springs were very active, the steam was partly blown away
from us, and we saw several of them in violent ebullition. On leaving
this spot we made our way up the valley of the Reykjadalsá, a river
that we crossed nine times in less than the same number of miles. At
a spot close by one of our crossings there was, in the middle of the
river, a small mound that is often the scene of eruptive violence; it
was the site of the geyser, Arhver, which plays at intervals of several
days--weeks sometimes, throwing a small stream of water high into the
air, sometimes twenty feet or more.

At Reykholt, where we put up for the night, there are a church,
parsonage, and farm. The minister was at home, and he came out to
receive us as we clattered into the space in front of the parsonage.
He was a big, broad-shouldered man, as broad in mind as in person, and
capable of regarding things in a large way. He welcomed us in courtly
fashion, and as he spoke good English we at once got on excellent
terms with him. An invitation to coffee was of course accepted, and
we were entertained by the minister and his wife, a woman in striking
contrast to our host in point of size, for she was quite small and slim.

The Reykholt parsonage is on the site of the house of Snorri Sturluson,
the historian, who lived nearly seven hundred years ago. Just below
the house, and less than a hundred yards distant from it, there is a
hot spring known as Skriflir, which seems to have been in existence in
Snorri's time, for rather nearer to the house there is a bath that is
said to have been constructed by him. It is connected to the spring by
an aqueduct, also ascribed to Snorri. The water on issuing from the
spring is boiling, and when it reaches the bath it has lost but little
of its original heat, consequently it is impossible to bathe at once.
When any one requires a tub, the water is run into it from the spring
over-night, then in the morning the temperature is just delightfully
warm. This bath was built in twelve hundred and something; and as
Snorri died in 1241, it is not much short of seven hundred years old.
A large iron cauldron that stood just close to the spring served as
the laundry, for the family washing was done there. Hot springs are
often utilised in this way. At Reykjavik, the capital, the whole of the
washing of the town is done at a hot spring, the Laug, just outside the
town, and daily numbers of women are to be seen going and returning
with their wooden wash-tubs on their backs.

The Reykholt church was the largest that we had seen away from the
towns. The minister informed me that sometimes he had as many as two
hundred persons in his congregation, the number varying between that
and one hundred. His parish was a large one, there being thirty-five
farms included in it. The parsonage was one of the prettiest
imaginable, for its grassy roofs and sides were covered with a
profusion of camomile flowers. I took photographs of front and back,
but they give only a faint idea of the original, devoid as they are of
colour.

In the valley of the Reykjadalsá just below Reykholt there is a
very thick growth of peat; down by the river it was laid bare for a
thickness of more than twelve feet, the thickest seam I saw in Iceland.



CHAPTER XII

BARNAFOSS AND THE SURTSHELLIR CAVES


The sun had crossed the meridian next day before we left Reykholt. We
had coffee with the minister and his wife, from whom we parted on the
best possible terms; they and their children waved their adieux to us
as we proceeded on our way up Reykholtsdal. We struck across towards
the Hvitá, and soon came in sight of that river, a swift-flowing
stream whose milky-white colour denoted that its source must be up in
the snow-and ice-fields of the Jökulls. Along the Hvitá (white river)
valley there were many evidences that the river had at one time been
far wider, for up the valley sides several terraces marked levels at
which alluvium had formerly been deposited. We lunched at Stori Ás,
in view of the conical peaked mountain, Strutr, and Eyriks Jökull. We
were then not far from the bridge that spans the Hvitá and affords
communication between opposite sides of the river, so Miss Hastie and
I walked on while Hannes and Jón were adjusting pack-saddles, etc. I
came upon an interesting specimen of wind erosion at the top of a rise,
where the sandy soil had been blown away from round a turf-covered
mound. We passed through a small birch wood, but the trees were very
diminutive, three to five feet being the average, with a few rather
more; a photograph I took gives the impression of much greater height.
On the opposite side of the river we could see recent lava, and on the
hillside beyond, the farm-house of Gilsbakki. This lava had come from
a considerable distance, for I traced its course from Gilsbakki, right
away past the liparite mountain, Tunga, and beyond Strutr, where it
divides and flows in two streams. This lava determines the courses of
the principal rivers thereabouts, which flow along its edges.

[Illustration: A FOREST NEAR BARNAFOSS.]

Just below the bridge a very remarkable sight is to be seen. For
more than half a mile along the right bank of the river a series of
cascades and waterfalls flow into it. The water issues from beneath
the lava of which the steep bank is composed, and then flows down its
side; it is a very striking proof of the great extent of some of the
subterranean rivers. Just above the bridge there is a very fine fall
in the Hvitá, known as Barnafoss; though fine, it cannot be compared
with Gullfoss in grandeur, and the glory of this part of the river is
the series of cascades on its right bank. The spot is supposed to have
been named from the drowning of two children near the fall--Barnafoss,
the children's waterfall; but the minister at Reykholt declared that
the tale is not true, and that the name is more likely to have been
corrupted from Bjarni, which is a man's name. It is worthy of note
that the birch woods seem to flourish best in the decaying lava in the
scoriaceous lava-fields; it also seems to do well in soil produced
from liparite, for it grows high up on the east side of the liparite
mountain, Tunga.

[Illustration: THE CASCADES AT BARNAFOSS.]

At the Hvitá bridge the party split into two--Miss Hastie going on with
Hannes to Gilsbakki, while Jón and I went along the left bank of the
Hvitá past Husafell, thence onward across the river Kaldá, where we
got among lava and birches. The birches were much of the same height
as those in the Barnafoss wood, though I saw several that stood about
seven to eight feet high. I took a photograph of one of them--one in
which the wood had attained a thickness of some three or four inches;
it was the finest specimen of a birch-tree that I saw in Iceland.
There are bigger birches in the land, for I have seen a photograph
of a clump of about a dozen that are over twenty feet in height, but
they are in a particularly favoured spot on the eastern side of the
island. I got Jón on his pony to stand while I photographed the wood
through which we were passing, for it was a typical Icelandic forest.
On crossing the next river, the Geitá, I found the lava much broken up
and denuded, and there was spread over it a quantity of the alluvial
pebbles that are brought down in times of heavy rains and melting ice
by the rivers flowing from Lang Jökull--it is a sort of flood plain, in
fact. This continued until we reached the Hvitá, but on the other side
of it we once more found ourselves upon the unbroken rough lava. Close
beside this river we came to a halt for the night at the farm-house of
Kalmanstunga, which is situated in a very picturesque spot facing Lang
Jökull, the glaciers and ice-fields of which are in full view; it has
the liparite mountain, Tunga, and a portion of Eyriks Jökull on the
right, and the extinct volcano, Strutr, on the left.

[Illustration: MAP]

In the morning I ascended the rising ground at the back of
Kalmanstunga, and thence obtained an interesting view over the country.
In the foreground beneath Lang Jökull a long valley filled with lava
from beyond Strutr stretches away from left to right; two rivers flow
down the valley, one on each side of the lava, which determines their
course along its edges. The Hvitá flowed on the edge of the lava just
at the foot of the hills whereon I stood; on the far side of the
valley, on the other edge of the lava, the Geitá flowed at the foot
of the outlying hills of Lang Jökull. Away to the right in the valley
between the two rivers, towards their confluence, I could see the
denuded alluvium-covered lava noticed on the way. This alluvial matter
is deposited during floods, when the waters of the swollen rivers unite
and flow over the lava as one.

It was nearly mid-day before we got a start, for there had been delay
over a very important matter. Jón had awakened me several hours earlier
to inform me that there were no candles in the house! Now, candles
would not seem to be a matter of much importance to us, considering
that it was then broad daylight and that we had but little use for
candles in the ordinary way, because daylight continued practically
during the whole twenty-four hours; nor would the lack of them seem to
be a thing to cause a delay in starting; but it was really the case,
for we were about to proceed to the Surtshellir Caves, and candles
were required to enable us to explore their passages. That being so, a
messenger had to be sent to the farm-house at Husafell, where a stock
was generally kept for anybody wanting to visit the caves. The caves
were distant about two hours' ride--one rarely mentions distance in the
ordinary way when travelling in Iceland, because ten miles, say, might
represent a journey of three or four hours, or the same distance might
be traversed in little more than an hour in very favourable ground.
After crossing the rise at the back of Kalmanstunga, we descended into
the valley of the Northingafljot, a clear-water river having its source
in a number of lakes of glacial origin known as Fiskivötn, lying beyond
Eyriks Jökull. The valley is filled with lava from the same source as
that on the Hvitá side of Strutr, whence I had just come. Here the lava
is noted for the number and extent of the caves that underlie it. There
is a sharp rise as the river is ascended, the stream in consequence
being a swift one--so swift, indeed, that it has been able to carve a
way through the lava, which it crosses from one side of the valley to
the other, a very unusual thing. The upper portion flows on the western
edge of the lava and at the foot of the hills on that side; while the
lower, after crossing the lava, flows along by the eastern edge at the
foot of the mountains Strutr and Tunga.

[Illustration: THE NORTHINGAFLJOT CUTTING ACROSS THE LAVA.]

The caves at Surtshellir are remarkable for several things. Their
origin is probably due to a big bubble formation, helped partly,
perhaps, by a crust of lava being forced upward in the form of an
arch by pressure acting from the sides; though there is no doubt that
they have been much enlarged and deepened by the eroding action of
flowing water. An underground river used to flow through the caves,
but as it does not do so now, some lower channel has doubtless been
found. There was evidence of lower caves beneath those visited, for
on stamping on the ground in several places, distinctly hollow sounds
were produced. The falls into the Hvitá at Barnafoss, which are only a
few miles away, lie in the Surtshellir line of drainage, and are proof
that very large quantities of water are still flowing underground in
this neighbourhood; in fact, it is highly probable that a great deal
of water from the numerous lakes, the Fiskivötn, on Arnarvatnsheithi,
escapes underground. There are two entrances to the caves--one near
what is known as the Bone Cave, the other close by the Icicle Cave.
The caves are in a picturesque spot, and beyond the entrance that we
used there lies the great ice-covered Eyriks Jökull, one of the highest
mountains in Iceland. There is a depression in the lava at this spot--a
double depression, in fact, for inner and outer rims indicate them very
distinctly, and it is obvious that the opening in the caves is due to
the falling in of part of the roof. Access to the caves is obtained by
scrambling down the loose broken lava to an opening at the bottom. The
photographs do not give much idea of the roughness of the "going"; from
end to end, except in the Icicle Cave, where difficulties of another
kind were met with, the floor of the caves was strewn with broken lava.
The fragments that have become detached from the roof and now lie upon
the floor are angular blocks of extreme raggedness and hardness, piled
up in confused heaps that test quality of boots, strength of ankles,
and toughness (or tenderness) of skin, to say nothing of the mysterious
capability of hanging on "by one's eyelids" that is almost absolutely
necessary in places.

[Illustration: THE DOUBLE DEPRESSION IN THE LAVA AT THE ENTRANCE TO THE
SURTSHELLIR CAVES.]

[Illustration: IN THE SURTSHELLIR CAVES NEAR THE ENTRANCE, SHOWING THE
WATER-WORN LINES.]

Jón and I were accompanied by the farmer from Kalmanstunga, a man
acquainted with the caves, who had come with us in the capacity of
guide. We scrambled down to the entrance and then lighted our candles.
When once inside, there could be no doubt as to one of the causes
of their existence or enlargement, for there along the sides of the
caves, indicating the different levels of the old river, were numerous
water-worn lines. The photograph shows this very clearly; it also
shows the lava fragment bestrewn floor, and the roof from which the
fragments have fallen. We followed our guide into the main channel,
but he soon turned to the left into a branch known as the Bone Cave,
because of the number of animal remains (bones) that bestrew the floor.
It is said that some twenty to thirty outlaws at one time occupied the
cave, and that the bones are the remains of the sheep and oxen which
the outlaws stole from the flocks and herds in the neighbourhood, and
which they consumed for food. That may have been so, or it may not, but
it would account for the presence of the bones; except for some such
tale it would be difficult to do so, for the animals could hardly have
strayed so far from daylight, to say nothing of the difference of level
between the floor of the main channel and that of the Bone Cave. This
branch cave was soon explored, for in about two hundred yards the roof
gradually converged to meet the floor, and we found it necessary to
crawl on hands and knees--a painful thing to do over the rough angular
lava blocks. Retracing our steps we descended to the old river-bed
again and scrambled over rough boulders for a considerable distance,
to emerge after awhile by a long rising snow slope into the open air.
The snow remains in the caves all the year round; it drifts in through
the opening during the winter, and the warmth of the whole summer's sun
does not suffice to melt it--it was then the end of July.

The opening has been caused by the falling in of the roof, but there
is no way out--the edges overhang quite beyond reach. On again we
went, down another snow slope to the second section of the caves,
where the "going" was indescribable. Our way lay over the roughest and
sharpest-edged blocks of lava that it is possible to imagine, where
nothing but the strongest of boots would have withstood the wear and
tear; it was one continuous scramble on hands and feet. I found it
most difficult, for in addition to the candle in my hands, a camera
was slung from my shoulders, and the wretched thing would continually
work round in front and get mixed up with arms or legs at critical
moments when my body was contorted in scrambling up, down, or over, a
particularly awkward series of sharp-edged boulders. At last we reached
another long snow slope, at the top of which there was another opening
to the caves--the second entrance already mentioned. The snow-drifts
are not very deep in places, for I went through twice, though I was
able to scramble out again without assistance.

The last section of the caves is most remarkable. After descending into
it by another snow-drift, we found ourselves in a region of frost and
ice. Water trickled everywhere from the roof, crystallising into long
icicles, and the drops that fell upon the floor were converted into
smooth ice, or gradually built up ice stalagmites. For several hundred
yards the whole floor was coated with ice; there were myriads of
icicles pendent from the roof, and on the floor stood ice stalagmites,
pillars and columns innumerable. One of the first features to notice
was a fine group of clear ice columns, while we came upon the most
beautiful thing in the caves a little farther on, after descending an
ice slope that was most difficult to negotiate without alpenstock and
ice nails in boots. However, by the exercise of great care we got down
without tumbles, and were rewarded by the sight of a very beautiful
snow-white cascade of ice; the scene was very pretty and fairy-like,
illumined as it was by the light shed upon the surroundings by our
candles. It was after passing the cascade that the real difficulty
of the journey began. For several hundred yards we had to make our
way over countless lava boulders, but no longer were they sharp and
angular, and rough to the touch; no, they were far otherwise, for they
were coated with ice and were as smooth as glass, and oh, so cold! and
as slippery as the proverbial glass, only more so, for no glass could
be so slippery. Up and down we went at the slowest possible rate of
progression, climbing over huge blocks of ice-coated lava, hanging
on with hands to some of the ice stalagmites that, fortunately for
our safety, were in hundreds--nay, thousands, and feeling cautiously
with feet for projecting pieces of ice on which to rest them and get
a sort of foothold; but our slips were many in the pitchy darkness
that was but faintly relieved by the dull light from the candles we
carried, which we clasped convulsively in our hands as we clutched at
the icy stalagmites, and slid and slipped and blundered along. At last
we emerged from the ice-bound region to find ourselves on scoriaceous
lava, coated in places with a thin layer of a loamy deposit. Over this
we crunched for a few hundred yards till we came to a cairn built in
the middle of the cave. In a recess of the cairn there was a tin box,
which the guide soon brought to our notice. It contained a number of
visiting cards that had been left from time to time by tourists wishing
to immortalise themselves, for this is one of the least visited of
the "lions" of Iceland. On the top of the cairn, which stood nearly
shoulder high, there was a wooden board, having on it a number of
coins, ancient as well as modern, for one of them, a Danish coin, bears
the date 1743. It is a time-honoured custom for visitors to leave a
coin there; but as water drops from the roof upon the board containing
the coins, they speedily decompose; indeed, many of them were already
unrecognisable from decay. The end of the cave was but a short distance
beyond, perhaps a hundred yards, and there two staves, about three feet
long, with hollow ends, rested in an upright position on the floor at
a spot where the roof and floor rapidly converged; they were kept in
place by the sloping roof, which meets the floor a few yards beyond.
In the hollows of the staves there were several old coins, one of them
being a Danish piece about the size of an English crown. To get out of
the caves we had to retrace our steps over the ice-covered boulders and
through the Icicle Cave to the second entrance. The photograph shows
the view looking towards the entrance just before ascending the snow
slope; we had already passed most of the icicles, but on the floor,
which is of ice, a few of the very small stalagmites are shown.

[Illustration: SURTSHELLIR--THE ICICLE CAVE.]

In the Icicle Cave we met Miss Hastie and Hannes, who had come over
from Gilsbakki because the day was so fine and summer-like--it was
one of the few days that really felt summery. After lunch beside the
Northingafljot we started for Gilsbakki, proceeding down the lava
in the Northingafljot valley. We crossed the river at a convenient
ford not far away, and rode along on the right side of the valley.
We passed by the liparite mountain, Tunga, this time on the western
side of it; the lower slopes were covered with birch, though it did
not grow so far up as on the eastern side. The colouring of the bare
exposed rock was brown, yellow, purple, etc.--just the same as that
at the hot springs at Kerlingarfjöll, and it looked as if several
places were the sites of hot springs, then extinct. I had no time to
examine the mountain, but I should doubtless have found the matter
quite hard, whereas that by the hot springs at Kerlingarfjöll was of
the consistency of soft clay. Beyond Tunga, the Northingafljot lava
joins that coming from the other side of the mountain in the Hvitá
valley, and thence they continue as one flow down the Hvitá valley to
just beyond Gilsbakki. We travelled for several miles beside the river
Thorvaldsdalsá, and could not help noticing that it decreased in volume
as we descended, although several streams flowed into it from the
mountain-sides; its waters drain underground, and doubtless contribute
to the falls on the right bank of the Hvitá, a few miles distant at
Barnafoss.



CHAPTER XIII

GILSBAKKI TO STATHARHRAUN


Arrived at Gilsbakki I took up my quarters in the church, for the house
was then rather full: besides the minister and his wife, and family of
five sons and three daughters, the haymakers had to be accommodated,
the total number sleeping there being twenty-six. In looking at the
outside of the house, it was difficult to believe that so many persons
could be stowed away there. Haymaking was in full swing on the farm,
and the haymakers worked far into the night--I could hear them laughing
and talking at intervals through the open door of the church, for they
were in the fields all around. As there was bad weather impending, and
the next day would be Sunday, they probably worked till the whole of
the hay had been raked into small stacks in readiness for the rain,
which fell, as expected, during most of the following day. It is
noteworthy that we escaped much of the discomfort of travelling in bad
weather by our Sunday rests, for it rained continuously nearly every
Sunday we were in Iceland.

[Illustration: A LAVA ARCH.]

Though it poured nearly the whole day, there was an interval in the
evening when it became a mere drizzle, so Miss Hastie and I again
visited the Barnafoss Falls. I took several photographs thereabouts,
for I saw many interesting features. At the falls the river has several
times changed its course in eroding first one soft spot, then another.
A hard dyke stretches half-way across the gorge, and there is a series
of terraces in the old course of the Hvitá, where the river had
formerly flowed, foaming and tumbling over great steps in the rock. The
gaps in the upper terrace are clearly seen, and a little water still
flows through some of them; but the main volume now escapes through
a great gap where the water has carved its way down to a lower level
through softer rock. There are some interesting formations in the lava
on the banks of the Hvitá, one being an arch illustrating the origin
of some of the caves; it is obvious that this arch is due to pressure
acting from the sides, which has forced the crust of lava upwards. This
on a large scale might have been the origin of the Surtshellir Caves,
which were subsequently enlarged by the action of flowing water, though
their origin was probably due to bubble formation. There were also some
exceedingly good specimens of "ropy" lava, so named because of the ropy
appearance and rope-like structure of the surface.

[Illustration: ROPY LAVA AT BARNAFOSS.]

On leaving Gilsbakki we proceeded down the valley of the Hvitá for
a considerable distance on the right side of the river, where there
are indications, which are quite as plain as those we saw on the
other side, that the river was at one time very much wider, for there
is much alluvial material, forming a series of river terraces one
above another, and these are intersected by various streams from the
mountains.

While lunching at Sithumuli we saw great clouds of steam rising from
the valley of the Reykjadalsá. A mountain range separates the valleys
of the Reykjadalsá and the Hvitá where we were, but we could just see
into the former round the end of the spur of the range. The steam
arose from the geysers at Tunguhver, which were in great agitation and
violent eruption; but we could not get across to see them, for the
Hvitá intervened, and there was but one way--that over the bridge at
Barnafoss, several hours distant. The track diverged from the Hvitá at
Sithumuli, and our way lay over a ridge of basalt and across a series
of scarped rises to the valley of the Kjarrá, a river that lower down
towards its confluence with the Hvitá is known as the Thverá. The river
is bridged at Northtunga by a small iron suspension bridge. A feature
in the landscape hereabouts is the conical peak of Baula; there is
also a smaller peak known as Little Baula, but the former stands out
prominently for many miles around. It has the appearance of a volcanic
cone, but I think (I did not visit the place) the shape is entirely due
to erosion; and there are many instances of this erosion, one being
a peak in Arnarfjord, a photograph of which appears in its place. We
had to recross the Kjarrá, and soon afterwards one of the pack-ponies
took it into its head to go for a swim in the river. I laughed until
I discovered that _my_ box was on its back, but then my laughter was
turned to concern as to the fate of the contents. I expected to find
everything saturated, but was agreeably surprised, on opening it, to
find that the box had proved to be almost water-tight; the damage
done was practically nothing, the contents were uninjured. It was no
uncommon thing for the ponies to take a swim on their own account. On
another occasion one of the provision boxes was immersed, and damage
to sundry articles of food resulted. We crossed the Kjarrá again,
and close by came upon the tents of an Englishman who had hired the
salmon-fishing for the season. No salmon-fishing was to be had in that
district, as all the good rivers had been hired out.

We camped at Hjartharholt, where we managed to get eggs for our evening
meal; but as egg-cups were unattainable, we had difficulty in holding
the eggs in our fingers, for their temperature was near boiling-point.

Next morning I got a very good picture of the haymakers at Hjartharholt
just before we set out for Statharhraun. We proceeded down the valley
of the Northrá, passing, on the way to Stafholt, a number of scarped
ridges of lava--these escarpments were on both sides of the river,
which flowed in the depression between two of them; in the background
was the conical peak of Baula, and just to the left of it a peculiar
pyramidal hill formation. There are two ways from Hjartharholt to
Statharhraun--one via a valley known as Vestri-Skarthsheithi, and the
other, less interesting, by way of Stafholt and across the low swampy
level country lying between the headlands at the end of the mountain
ranges and the open sea of Faxafloi. Through a misunderstanding we
started along the wrong route, and before the mistake was discovered we
were well on the journey over the swamps.

A peculiar feature, common in the stony and sandy regions, must be
mentioned. The surface of the ground often appears as if it had been
laid out in a sort of rough design, for large stones are to be seen
arranged in lines, forming irregular figures with sandy and stony
matter between. The sandy waste regions in which this feature is common
is known by the name _melr_, a word originally meaning "a kind of wild
oat, especially bent grass, _arundo arenaria_, growing in sandy soil";
hence the term became applied to expanses of sand, or any waste place
where _melr_ might grow. The explanation of these irregular figures
seems to be that the earth becomes dry during the summer, and cracks
under the influence of the sun's heat; when rain falls, the particles
of sand and small stones are separated from the larger lumps and drain
into the cracks, leaving a network of the large stones to mark their
site.

Another peculiar feature was often met with, not only in
desert regions, but elsewhere. I refer to the hard-looking
surfaces--apparently gravelly areas with a few stones in them--that
are really a kind of bog. A pony comes to a halt on the edge of one of
them, and sniffs; its rider, a new-comer, unused to the country, urges
his beast onward, but as a rule it will not go. If it does consent
to move on a few paces it suddenly sinks in, and then makes a wild
endeavour at recovery. After one or two experiences of this kind, the
new-comer sometimes thinks it better to allow the pony to have its own
way, for it seems that it knows more about the country and the nature
of the ground than its rider does.

Our journey across the swamps was not devoid of incident, for the
ponies were continually sinking into the boggy ground and performing
violent gymnastics in their endeavours to reach something more solid.
We had some compensation farther on, for after crossing the river
Langá we had to round the headland locally named Mular, a word that
means simply a jutting crag or headland, being equivalent to the
Scottish _Mull_. Here there are some very fine bold scarps of basalt
having a number of hard and soft weathered dykes running through them,
the former sticking out in places like horns; there was a quantity
of birch scrub growing on the scree slopes (the talus) at the foot
of the scarps. Thence we went on over broken lava and through birch
scrub, past the entrance to the valley of Vestri-Skarthsheithi and the
headland of Svarfholsmuli into the lava-filled valley of the Grjotá
(Grjotardalr), where at Statharhraun we came to a halt.

For the next day I planned a circular journey which the local people
soberly informed me would take twenty-four hours to cover. I wanted
to see Vestri-Skarthsheithi, the valley that we had missed by coming
across the swamps to Hjartharholt, and having formed the opinion that
nothing like that time should be required, I strongly suspected that an
endeavour was being made to "choke me off" the journey, and therefore
announced my intention of trying whether it could be done in less time.
We set out with only a moderate food-supply, which seemed to imply that
Hannes did not consider the journey would occupy such a long time as
that first estimated. We proceeded for some distance along the track
that we had traversed the previous day, and rounded Svarfholsmuli,
where just at the entrance to Vestri-Skarthsheithi we pulled up at
Hraundalur to consult with the farmer as to the route. I obtained a
very good picture of Hannes and the farmer when in consultation.

[Illustration: AUTHOR'S ROUTE

Near Statharhraun]

[Illustration: HANNES AND THE FARMER IN CONSULTATION.]

At this farm I found a woman with a dislike for cameras; she ran
away when I happened to be pointing mine in her direction. I took
a snapshot, but the shutter did not work properly, so it was a
failure. Afterwards when pointing the camera in fun at her child,
who was standing beside her close to the door of the farm-house,
she mistook my intention, and snatching up the boy, ran hurriedly
indoors with him, much to my amusement. We arranged with the farmer
to come with us in the capacity of guide; so we started off together
up Vestri-Skarthsheithi, along a track in the alluvium at the foot
of the mountains of Svarfholsmuli, where the "going" was very good.
The valley is filled with the lava from two volcanoes quite close
to Langavatn, a lake just beyond the head of the valley. These are
extinct volcanoes covered with brown scoriaceous lava, and the craters
are well-marked depressions, though in each case there is a gap in
the side through which much of the lava must have flowed. In the lava
just below there are several small vent cones, miniature volcanoes
that are quite hollow, which spurted up small streams of lava when the
locality was a scene of eruptive activity. From this spot we struck
up over the mountains in a north-easterly direction, and from the
high altitudes attained, got some exceedingly fine views over a wide
stretch of country, comprising the ice-fields of Eyriks Jökull and
Lang Jökull, the mountain group of Skarthsheithi, etc. Much nearer we
looked down upon Lake Langavatn and towards the conical peak, Baula. On
the other side we saw into the valley of the Grjotá, in which reposed
Lake Grjotarvatn, and across to the range beyond, where very curious
four-sided and three-sided pyramids rise high above the mountain ridge.

[Illustration: SMALL VENT CONES.]

The ponies had some very stiff work in climbing these mountains and in
scrambling down to the Grjotá valley; but we occasionally dismounted
to give them a rest. Once in the valley, we were able to make good
progress beside the river to the lake, where the shore on one side was
composed of small shingle. The opportunity for a gallop was too good
to be missed, so we scampered the ponies along as hard as they could
go, and they seemed to enjoy it quite as much as their riders did,
for it is a rare thing to be able to gallop in Iceland. Just beyond
the end of the lake we came to an extinct volcano, its truncated cone
being covered with brown scoria; from this flowed the lava that now
fills the valley of the Grjotá. There is no trace of lava on the lake
side of the volcano, for it all flowed down towards the sea from a rift
on the valley side. On we went down the valley, carefully picking our
way through the lava, and travelling at a vastly different rate from
that at which we had galloped beside the lake. About half a mile from
Statharhraun we crossed the river Grjotá and made our way back to the
farm-house, arriving there in something less than twenty-four hours
from the start--to wit, within seven!

On our return there was an excellent supper ready, the result of a
fishing expedition undertaken by Miss Hastie, the clergyman, and Jón.
When returning, Miss Hastie's rod was broken beyond immediate repair
by a collision with a pony, and it became the property of Jón, who
doubtless patched it up at his leisure.



CHAPTER XIV

TO ELDBORG AND HELGAFELL


Next day, before proceeding on the direct route, Miss Hastie and I,
with a local guide, made a short detour up Hitadalr. At first we
picked our way through the lava, and then went on by the side of a
comparatively small stream, a branch of the Grjotá. A few miles up
the valley we came upon what was left of several volcanic cones, the
tuff remains of which were spread over the valley. At one of these
about one-third of the lip of the crater still existed, having on it
a quantity of reddish scoria. The cindery tuff of these remains has
weathered into very fantastic shapes. Farther up the valley the brown
scoria-covered cone of a more recent volcano could be seen, but we
had not time to go on, for we had to meet Jón and Hannes two or three
miles beyond Statharhraun for lunch. Returning on the other side of the
valley (the west), we rode along the alluvial deposits of the Hitá, a
river that we crossed and recrossed several times. Near to the end of
Fagraskogarfjall, a range of basalt, there is a peculiar hill, known
as Gretisbali, standing away from it; this hill is a mass of cindery
tuff in course of rapid denudation, the result being a somewhat
conical-looking hill very fantastically weather-worn. In a view that
I took, the hill is on the left; to the right there is the main mass
of the range, the horizontal lines of some of the basalt flows being
just distinguishable. In between the basalt range and the tuff hill
there is, coming down the valley, what looks (in the photograph) like a
fan-shaped glacier, with a vertical face at the end, but it is merely
the alluvium resulting from the denudation of the hill; the clean-cut
face is due to the river Hitá, which flows very rapidly at the foot
of the range, and carries away the alluvial matter as it falls over
the edge of the fan. The foreground is part of a broken-up lava-field,
where the vegetation is typical: birch scrub, dwarf willow, coarse
grass that grows all over Iceland, mosses, etc.; they grow in the soil
formed of the decomposed lava and wind-blown material filling the
interstices.

Opposite the hill and at the end of the range we found Jón and Hannes
awaiting us, and as lunch was ready, we had our mid-day meal before
proceeding on our way. After passing the end of the Fagraskogarfjall
range we crossed the river Kaldá, a stream running down to the
sea from the valley between the range just mentioned and that of
Kolbeinstathafjall; thence we crossed a quantity of alluvium brought
down from the valley and deposited by the Kaldá in a wide belt
extending from the mountains to the sea. We were making for Eldborg
(fire burgh, or fortress), a "recent" volcano often referred to in
the Sagas. We soon passed from the alluvium to the lava-field around
Eldborg, and then ascended by a gradual slope to the foot of the
volcano, which is a mere ring of green scoria. Up the steep slope we
scrambled to the top, and there found ourselves on the ridge of a very
narrow ring of loose lava surrounding a deep crater--a great yawning
hole in the earth below us. The lip is much serrated and weather-worn,
and the broken lava of the sides is held together by the moss that
grows in the interstices. From Eldborg we struck across a cotton-grass
swamp, and had a bad time on the way--perhaps, however, the ponies had
the worst of it, for we were seated on their backs, sticking on for
"all we were worth," while they plunged and scrambled along, performing
a series of remarkable feats as first a hind-leg, then a fore-leg, and
sometimes two, three, or even all four legs, sank deep down into the
soft, spongy matter of which the ground was composed. At last we came
to the river Kaldá again, and crossed to the firmer alluvial ground,
over which we cantered to the farm-house of Kolbeinstathir, where we
camped for the night.

As usual I occupied the church, which was now to be put to a new use.
The farm-house was very small, and there being no guest-chamber in
which we could take our meals, the church had to be requisitioned to
supply the accommodation it lacked. We dined and breakfasted in it, and
I took a photograph showing the corner in which the breakfast-table was
laid. As a special mark of attention we were here supplied with coffee
flavoured with cinnamon; now Miss Hastie had a firmly-rooted dislike to
the flavour of cinnamon, so the attention fell flat in her case, and I
dropped in for the good things the local goddess had sent. Jugs and
basins were rather scarce, and Miss Hastie had to perform her ablutions
in the porridge bowl, while the water for that purpose was brought in
the coffee-pot. At this farm haymaking was completed and the hay being
brought in by ponies. The bundles were hooked upon a pack-saddle, one
on each side of the pony.

We had before us an interesting journey across the peninsula of
Snaefellsnes from near Faxafloi, the sea south of it, to the great
fjord on the north side, Breithifjord. From Kolbeinstathir to
Rauthimelr we made our way chiefly over a series of swamps, where we
had the usual experiences, and the ponies the usual bad times. Hannes'
pony got bogged, and he was obliged to dismount in a particularly
soft place. We skirted a plain of lava, or rather a series of lava
flows surrounding the old volcanic cones from which they had issued;
many of these were so distinct that there could be no difficulty in
apportioning the lava to particular volcanoes, for the ends of some of
the flows were vertical faces.

Rauthimelr lies just at the foot of the mountains, and from the farm
we struck up into them, for several miles following up a branch of the
Haffjathurá, a river that we had previously crossed in the plain just
by the edge of the lava. After awhile we reached a spring of water--a
"carbonic acid" spring it is called. The water bubbles up from the
ground under cover of a shed that has been erected over it; it contains
soda in solution, and is strongly impregnated with carbonic acid gas.
Were this spring in a more accessible place and the property of a
mineral-water manufacturer, it would no doubt bring him a considerable
accession of wealth. The quality of the water is excellent, as
I ascertained on taking a whisky and soda from it--that is, the
soda-water came from it, the whisky being abstracted from our stock of
medical comforts. Rauthamisolkaldá is the name of the spring--I did not
trouble to commit it to memory, but made a note of it!

The mountains over which we were passing were composed of a series of
flows of basalt one upon another, and as usual in this formation we
found many waterfalls in the course of the branch of the Haffjathurá
that we continued to follow up. I took a photograph of the confluence
of this branch with another (I could not ascertain their names--they
did not seem to have any), and also of two of the waterfalls that we
saw; there is a conical mountain in the background of one of them,
but it is not a volcano--it is merely another instance of the typical
weathering of a series of basalt flows.

We caught sight of many fine peaks as we ascended, but just beyond the
divide they were gradually shut out as we descended into what would
have been a rather dull and uninteresting valley, but that after a mile
or so the river flowing there (which at first increased in volume)
gradually became smaller and smaller as we descended, and this in
spite of the fact that a number of mountain streams coming down on
each side of the valley added their waters to it; finally, the river
disappeared altogether. I further noticed that the mountain streams had
gradually been contributing less and less of their waters, and when
the river was no more, the streams coming down the valley sides also
disappeared before arriving at its bottom. There was an underground
river of considerable magnitude flowing down the valley beneath the
great accumulations of moraine pebbles with which it was filled; as
the pebbles were all of large size they were separated by large vacant
spaces, and the thickness of the deposit must have increased very
rapidly to allow the much greater volume of water to flow through it
below the surface. Several miles lower down, where an area of flat land
was met with, the river reappeared, flowing on the surface of the land
once more, through fine grass country--a striking contrast to the dry
valley of pebbles.

We then came in view of the sea on the north side of Snaefell Peninsula
at Alftafjord, a fjord that is dotted over with hundreds of islands,
the majority of which are very small. From here we made a rapid descent
to the shores of the fjord, where at Narfeyri we camped, later in the
evening witnessing a very fine red sunset over the fjord. My pony
behaved rather badly this day, stumbling frequently: he fell with
me twice, nearly unseating me on the second occasion. It is really
wonderful, when the state of the ground is considered, that the ponies
do not stumble more often; some of them rarely ever make a mistake,
others get a bit careless at times, and then they stumble along in a
free and easy sort of way, though they rarely come a real "cropper."

Next morning Miss Hastie was amused at the persistent staring of a
small boy, who stolidly looked at her, in spells of ten to fifteen
minutes without a blink, through the window of the guest-chamber where
we were breakfasting. Afterwards, when I sallied out camera in hand,
the same small boy turned his attention to me, and eyed me just as
attentively as he had Miss Hastie. I thought that a boy who could stare
so well deserved to be immortalised, so I brought my camera to bear
upon him, with the result that I have him in a characteristic attitude,
staring for "all he was worth"; he was _quite_ unconscious of what I
was doing, and was not posing for his photograph. I have him in another
picture, that below, in which Jón and Hannes are loading up a pony, and
are hooking two of the boxes upon the pack-saddle; but though he was
paying some attention to his collar, he still had his weather eye on me.

[Illustration: HANNES AND JÓN LOADING UP A PONY.]

I obtained an excellent view of a field of cotton grass, in which
several of our ponies were grazing, looking across the waters of
Breithifjord. I also caught an old woman busy stacking peat, while
smoking her pipe with evident enjoyment.

On leaving Narfeyri we skirted the foot of the mountains at the
back of the farm-house, and passed round them towards the head of
Alftafjord, a name signifying swan-fjord. This is one of the places
where numerous swans resort during the breeding season. We had timed
our start so as to catch the tide at the ebb when nearly low water;
this enabled us, by crossing the fjord some little distance from its
head, to cut off more than a mile. When in the middle of the water some
of the bedding broke loose and got wetted. While the packs were being
adjusted, the ponies stopped for a drink of salt water, for which they
have a taste, and they indulge it whenever opportunity occurs.

Our destination was Stykkisholm, whence we expected to embark in three
or four days' time on board the ss. _Vesta_. After crossing the fjord
we skirted it for awhile, proceeding in a northerly direction just at
the foot of the mountains, which there came down close to the water's
edge. We passed over a quantity of moraine material, and then entered
green fertile-looking fields once more, where a number of farm-houses
were dotted over an undulating tract of country. Before long we came
upon a road, a _made_ road leading over a series of basalt rises to
Stykkisholm. When near Helgafell we made a slight divergence from the
road to a farm-house, where we halted for lunch.

Afterwards we went across to Helgafell, a hill of columnar basalt
rising two or three hundred feet above the surrounding low-lying land.
It was curious to note that wherever the columns were broken, there on
the top, where a little soil had gathered, vegetation was growing in
comparative luxuriance. From the hilltop we obtained a most excellent
view of the surroundings, comprising mountain and hill, sea and lake,
a meandering river, islands and islets. There was plenty of light
and shade and colour, sunshine and cloud, to make up a picture; but
the scene could not be done justice to by camera, which only records
physical features, and could not reproduce effects that impressed me.
The hill is situated on a peninsula jutting into Breithifjord; it is
the site of one of the earliest of the Christian churches built in the
land. In "heathen days the hill was sacred to the god Thor," and before
any one was permitted to look upon the holy place, he had to perform
certain rites. Helgafell and the neighbourhood is often referred to
in the Sagas. At the foot of the hill there are now a farm-house and
a church. While passing the farm-house, one of the Iceland dogs made
demonstrations of friendship--they are all more or less friendly--and
he stood very nicely to have his photograph taken.

From Helgafell to Stykkisholm is but a short distance, and we covered
it in less than an hour. On the way we saw a very fine reflection
of clouds in one of the branches of the fjord where the water was
perfectly still, the beauty of the scene being due chiefly to the
colours.



CHAPTER XV

STYKKISHOLM AND BERSERKJAHRAUN


Stykkisholm is a very picturesque little town built in a valley and on
the slopes of the enclosing hills. It is situated at the extreme end of
the peninsula, overlooking Breithifjord and its branch, Hvammsfjord.
In front of the town, the island of Sugandisey acts as a sort of
breakwater, and affords shelter from storms to small craft. This
island is composed of columnar basalt; it is a striking feature in the
surrounding scenery, where hundreds of smaller islands dot the fjord.

We were put up at the house of the Rural Dean of the district, where
we remained for two or three days exploring the neighbourhood until
the steamer from Reykjavik called on its way to the fjords of the
north-west, north and east coasts. Here at Stykkisholm Miss Hastie and
I changed about as regards sleeping apartments, for she occupied the
guest-chamber in our host's house, while I camped in the tent that she
had abandoned. The tent was pitched in the grounds of an adjoining
house, the owners of which did not seem to mind at all, for they
readily granted permission for it to be put up there.

The next day, Sunday, it rained as usual, so we did not go very far
from the house.

[Illustration: THE COLUMNAR BASALT ISLAND, SUGANDISEY.]

On Monday, accompanied by our host, we set out for a mountain to the
south of Helgafell, where it was rumoured specimens of coal, lignite,
and gold were to be seen, but we had doubts as to what we should
find. On the way I had a difference of opinion with my pony. He had
lately developed a habit of suddenly jumping aside from all pools of
water that lay in his path. I had previously not checked the growing
habit, but after the previous day's rain the road was a series of
puddles, so I objected to being continually switched off to right or
left at the pony's sweet will, and therefore brought him up to all the
puddles. At first he would not go through unless brought up to them
from ten to twenty times; at last, however, he consented to do it in
fewer, and at the end of the day's journey he was completely broken
in. We took the road via Helgafell to Saurar, and thence traversed a
swamp, some moraine matter, and alluvium to the foot of the mountain
that was our destination, Drapuhlitharfjall--a name that Miss Hastie
vainly endeavoured for days to get the correct pronunciation of, and
I am not at all sure that I was quite successful myself. The mountain
is a mass of liparite, which is there found in all its varieties. I
had strongly suspected the so-called coal to be obsidian, the black
form of liparite; and on ascending the mountain to the spot where it
was supposed to exist, obsidian it was found to be. Having camera
in hand, I had an awkward scramble up a very steep scree slope, and
I often started small avalanches, which scattered in all directions
on their descent. Our host ascended by a longer and easier route: he
was up before me, and crossed the scree at a higher altitude, with
the result that he started an avalanche of big jagged boulders that
passed perilously near to where I was lying flat upon the slope and
endeavouring to wriggle upward--a yell from me caused him to wait until
I had reached his level before proceeding farther.

We lunched on the mountain-side, and then went down to the supposed
gold mine at its foot. On the way up we had called at a farm-house on
the lower slopes of the mountain, and had there enlisted the services
of the farmer to show us the shortest way up to the coal (!) and to
dig out some gold. He had come provided with pick and shovel, so on
reaching the mine he set to work and soon handed up a quantity of earth
having a number of bright, shining, yellow metallic crystals in it,
and these he pointed out as the gold. I smiled, having seen much of the
same sort of thing in other parts of the world. It was iron pyrites!
The mistake was not to be wondered at, for the metal had deceived many
people before. I told the man that he would not get much gold out of
it; but he did not seem to believe me, for he stated that a quantity
of it had been sent to America, had there been tested, and had been
reported on to the effect that of gold there was "a trace."

The search for gold having proved abortive, we returned to the
farm-house. It was then raining hard. I wanted, before leaving the
neighbourhood, to pay a visit to a lava-field some two hours distant,
so I let Hannes decide whether we should go on through the rain, or
make a separate journey there on the morrow. Hannes elected to go
on then, because he wanted, if possible, to give _all_ the ponies a
rest the next day, for he was to start with them on the way back to
Reykjavik the following day. We set out in torrents of rain--Hannes and
I, the rest of the party remaining under shelter at the farm-house,
where they were regaled with coffee, etc. I fancy they thought me a
lunatic, but I was bent on seeing the lava-field of the Berserkers,
where two members of that race are reported to lie buried. We started
with the rain beating in our faces; the going was good, for the ground
was alluvial, so Hannes led off at a hand gallop, in the evident
intention of "getting through with it" as quickly as possible. I
followed close at his pony's heels, and away we went through a perfect
deluge of rain. It beat violently in our faces, but we did not care,
enveloped in oilskins as we were; and save for my face, which was
thoroughly well washed, and for a few drops of water that trickled down
my neck, I rode through it all with dry skin. The rate at which we
travelled brought us to the edge of the lava-field in far less than the
two hours stated as necessary for the journey; in fact, we got there
in about an hour and a quarter. In the last quarter of an hour the
weather, as so often happens in Iceland, underwent a very rapid change:
the rain ceased, the clouds condensed over the hills and finally rolled
away, and by the time that we were ready to return, it was a fine clear
evening.

The story connected with the Berserkers' lava-field (Berserkjahraun)
is related in the Eyrbyggja Saga; it is as follows. There were two
Berserkers, or Berserks, brothers named Halli and Leiknir, one of whom
was anxious to obtain in marriage Ásdisa, the daughter of one Styr; but
Styr had no fancy for the marriage, for he regarded him as unworthy
of his daughter; yet he had not the courage to decline the match,
because the Berserks were men of valour, and he did not think it safe
to decline; so he was diplomatic and sought a way to circumvent them.
He consulted one Snorri, a priest, with the result that Styr imposed
a task upon the Berserks, that they should make a road through the
lava-field within a time that he considered an impossible one, agreeing
that on the successful completion of the work his daughter should be
given in marriage to one of them, though which was the suitor is not
mentioned in the Saga. The Berserks willingly undertook the task, for
they were strong men and had confidence in their own powers, and they
set about the work in earnest. It soon became apparent to Styr that he
had misjudged the capabilities of the two Berserks, and that they would
complete their undertaking within the allotted time; so he thought
out a scheme and built a bath-house. When the Berserks had finished
making the road--and a very good road it is, as the photograph shows,
certainly the best pathway that I met with in lava--Styr invited them
to take a warm bath, remarking that they would find it very refreshing
after their arduous labours. He had prepared for their reception,
and the furnaces had been heated far beyond what was necessary. The
Berserks accepted the invitation and entered the bath unsuspectingly.
They thought it hot, but on finding the water becoming much hotter,
they concluded that something must be wrong, and their suspicion
was confirmed when they discovered that the door had been barricaded
against them. They were strong men, as has been stated, and their
strength was equal to the occasion, for they broke down the door. Now
this contingency had been provided for: a fresh ox-hide had been spread
outside the door, so when the Berserks emerged with a rush, they fell
when crossing the slippery hide; one was slain as he lay sprawling on
the ground, while the other was thrust back into the bath and soon
became boiled Berserk. Styr afterwards went around bragging of his
prowess! The pith of the story lies in the sequel, for Snorri, the
priest, married Ásdisa!

[Illustration: THE BERSERKERS' ROAD THROUGH THE LAVA-FIELD.]

In the lava, just beside the road through it, there is a mound where
the Berserks are said to lie buried; that may be so or not, but the
mound was opened some time ago and human remains there found. The mound
is shown in the picture of the lava-field--a small square patch just
in front of the two ponies that we left standing on the pathway to
indicate the spot. The Berserkjahraun farm-house lies in the middle of
some hummocky land adjoining the lava-field; it is built on the site of
Styr's house and named after the Berserks.

The weather was most unfavourable next day, for it rained during the
greater part of it, the result being that we were confined to the
house until late in the evening. However, we made an inspection of the
library, where there is the nucleus of a good collection of books; it
is questionable, though, whether the books will last long, for the
dampness of the atmosphere is already playing havoc with them: many
that I took down from their shelves were in a badly mildewed state, the
leaves and binding being already in an advanced stage of decomposition.
The following day we were to have embarked on board the _Vesta_, and to
have set sail from Stykkisholm. The vessel hove in sight at about ten
in the morning, but a very strong wind was blowing--straight in shore,
too; so she remained all day under shelter of an island a few miles out
to sea, and did not come to Stykkisholm till about eleven at night. The
weather was fine overhead during the day, so we were able to get out
a bit. I took a number of photographs, including several of the town;
one showing the sea-front was taken from a small headland a few yards
away from my tent. Our hostess kindly sat for her photograph attired
in the national costume, which is donned on high days, holidays, and
festivals. The headdress (_faldr_ is the Icelandic name) is peculiar;
it is in shape somewhat like the French cap of Liberty, with a horn
curling over to the front, and having a short veil which is thrown
back from the head; a gold or silver band is, as a rule, worn round
the forehead just below the cap. When wearing the ordinary head-gear a
lady's dress is not considered complete unless an apron is worn, and
it is not at all the thing to appear in public without one. With the
_faldr_ an apron is _not_ necessary.

Jón and Hannes set out early in the afternoon on the return journey to
Reykjavik. I attempted to photograph them just as they were leaving the
grounds at the back of our host's house, and again when the pack-train
was ascending the main street, with Jón and Hannes bringing up the
rear--the last I saw of them; but the shutter of the camera jammed, so
the pictures were failures.

In the afternoon Miss Hastie went for a ride, using an Icelandic lady's
saddle, but she did not go far, for she did not take kindly to it.

We took leave of our kind host and hostess after coffee next morning,
and went on board the _Vesta_ for breakfast. As we proceeded to the
wharf, we passed some women who were carrying goods on bearers and
loading up small cargo-boats for shipment by the _Vesta_.



CHAPTER XVI

THE NORTH-WEST PENINSULA


The _Vesta_ set sail at about 1 P.M., shaping a course northward in
Breithifjord through a sea of small islands, which I thought to be the
remains of old lava flows denuded and perhaps sunk below sea-level. I
had no opportunity of examining them, but they are said to be "crater
islets," most of them. The sea in Breithifjord is very shallow, and
on the journey to the island of Flatey, and afterwards thence towards
the open ocean, our course was anything but a straight one; so shallow
was the water in one place after leaving Flatey, that the wash of our
vessel raised breakers on the edge of a long line of submerged bank
lying parallel to and not far from our course.

Flatey is one of the remains of a broken-up lava flow; a small island
opposite the town has a peculiar circular harbour whose shape is
rather suggestive of a coral atoll, but perhaps this is one of the
"crater islets." I did not examine it, because we had no opportunity
of going ashore: we arrived just as dinner was announced, and steamed
away within ten minutes of the completion of the meal. The waters of
Breithifjord were alive with thousands of puffins, which flapped along
the surface of the water or dived beneath it as our vessel approached.
We passed through miles of them while skirting the southern coast of
the North-West Peninsula. The sea was quite calm as we steamed out of
the fjord and rounded the south-western corner of the peninsula, in
strong contrast to the heavy winds and stormy seas of the day before.
We entered Patreksfjord when it was growing dark, and came to an
anchorage just at midnight.

In the early morning I turned out to look at the scenery in
Patreksfjord; it was rather forbidding. We were surrounded by high
mountains which came steeply down to the water's edge, there being
but little land available for cultivation or for grazing purposes
in consequence. I found that there would be no time to go ashore,
for we were to start in half an hour's time, and there was no boat
available to take me; in any case, there was nothing much but the wild
surroundings to be seen, and they could be viewed just as well from the
vessel's deck.

At about breakfast-time we arrived opposite to Biludalr in Arnarfjord.
We were in a decidedly picturesque spot, and no doubt we were more
favourably impressed because of the clear bright sky and sunny weather.
Ashore, the chief interest centred in the cod-fish curing and storing
station, where many women, assisted by a few men, were employed in the
various branches of the industry. It was the best-equipped station that
I saw in Iceland; everything seemed to be in order, and to be carried
on in a thoroughly business-like way. There was a tram line running
between two long rows of well-built galvanised iron sheds that lined
the track.

[Illustration: A BASALT MOUNTAIN CONE DUE TO EROSION.]

It was in this fjord while on the way out that I obtained, on the north
side, a photograph showing excellently the typical cone-like form to
which a succession of basalt flows are reduced by erosion. There were
other features of interest: on the south side of the fjord there were
many fine specimens of corries, but the position of the sun prevented
a successful attempt being made to photograph them, though, just
when turning into Dyrafjord, I caught a good specimen in a suitable
light. A little farther on, at Hraun, there was a view looking up a
valley where the face of a moraine is kept straight by the wash of
the sea at its base. We proceeded up Dyrafjord as far as Thingeyri,
where we anchored. Distant about three miles, at Framnes, there was a
whale-fishing station, where whales, brought in by the whalers, were
being reduced to the commercial forms of oil, bone, and manure. We--a
party of four--obtained a boat and sailed across to the station. We
were courteously received by the foreman, who kindly showed us over
the factory and explained matters as we proceeded; he was a Norwegian
who had been whale-fishing for seventeen years before he was appointed
foreman of these works. The first thing that struck us--so severely,
indeed, that we were nearly bowled over--was a very choice assortment
of "smells" of the most objectionable kind: they had a distinct
flavour of ancient whale, and were all more or less (generally more,
and sometimes most) disgusting. We were conducted by the foreman to a
platform where the whales were cut up. A dozen or more were floating in
the water beyond some wooden staging that jutted out into the fjord.
They are kept there until required to be cut up and placed in the
boiling-down vats; then one is hauled upon the platform and cut into
big slabs. The platform was a horrible sight, covered as it was with
slimy offal and refuse; this stuff, being valueless, is disposed of
by being shot into the fjord, there to pollute its water. Below the
platform a similar state of things existed, and the stench that arose
from the decomposing matter was too disgusting for words to describe.

The slabs of blubber are thrown into a rotary machine, where a number
of knives reduce them to pieces of much smaller size; thence the
blubber is taken into the boiling-down room and boiled for ten hours
in great cylindrical tanks by having steam passed through. At the
expiration of that time the oil has been set free and is floating on
the top, whence it is drawn off into casks; it is then shipped to
Glasgow to be refined. The whale-bone, which is taken from the upper
jaw of the head, is cut away and piled in heaps in a yard near the
cutting-up platform. The bones are sent to another room, and are there
boiled; they are then dried and ground to a fine powder; this bone dust
is exported in sacks for manure. The refuse of the blubber, after the
extraction of the oil, is dried in special revolving machines, which
reduce it to the consistency of coarse meal; this also is used as
manure, and commercially is called guano. The whale-bone is taken from
the heaps to the shed; it is first pulled apart and then washed in vats
containing soda and water; it is afterwards dried, when it is ready
for exportation. In the blacksmith's shop we were shown the harpoons
used on the whaling-vessels in securing the whales. They are shot from
a short cannon into the whale; the head is hollow, and is filled with
gunpowder; when the whale dashes off, the tension on the line attached
to the harpoon causes the arrowheaded blades to expand and the charge
of gunpowder to explode; the shell bursts and usually kills the whale.
A vessel carries two harpoons, to each of which three hundred fathoms
of rope is attached; the second harpoon is discharged if the first does
not kill the whale. I took a photograph at Thorshavn in the Faroes
showing a modern whaling-vessel. The bird's-nest where the look-out man
is posted is on the foremast, and the harpoon gun is in the bows of
the vessel. We returned to the _Vesta_ with the distinct impression
that we were taking along with us on boots and clothes some remnants
of smelly whale, for the odour seemed to stick to us and accompany us
wherever we went; it was days before all suspicion of whale wore away.

The next port of call, in Onundarfjord, was not very interesting
as regards scenery. The chief industry is carried on at a large
whale-fishing and boiling-down station at Flateyri, where we anchored
opposite the town. The presence of the station was made evident to me
as I lay in my bunk in the small hours of the morning, by the fine
full-flavoured aroma that came wafting into the cabin through the open
port-hole. We made but a short stay at this port, for we departed
before breakfast, and were thus enabled to enjoy that meal free from
the disturbing influences of whale.

We entered Skutilsfjord, a branch of Isafjord, at about mid-day, and
anchored opposite the town of the same name, Isafjord. Miss Hastie
and I went ashore soon afterwards and proceeded up the valley towards
Flateyri, intending to walk to the ridge overlooking Onundarfjord;
but the Fates, in the form of bad weather, were against us, for it
rained so heavily that we abandoned our original intention after we had
ascended to a considerable altitude and had become thoroughly wetted.
We stood for awhile with our backs against the leeward side of a cairn
on the mountain-side, trying to imagine that we had effectual shelter;
but as the cairn was of rather less height than we ourselves, and as
we could feel the raindrops trickling down the backs of our necks,
the reality was rather at variance with our attempts at imagination.
Shelter or no shelter, we stuck to our posts while devouring biscuits
and cheese, and sandwiches made of Danish sausage and such like greasy
delicacies, and did not abandon our post, or the intention of going to
the summit of the divide, until we had finished lunch and had become
uncomfortably soaked. Then we retraced our steps down the valley, by
the side of a small stream that descended in a series of rapids and
waterfalls. On the way we met some men road-making, and found them
using a cart for conveying material for the purpose from a quarry on
the road-side--the first cart that I had seen in use in Iceland. Almost
opposite to our anchorage there was a good example of a small corrie
high up above the water of the fjord, but the photograph proved a
failure. Isafjord is reputed to be the third town in Iceland in point
of population; its importance is due to the cod and herring fisheries,
and to the establishments where curing is carried on. A small cod-liver
oil factory emitted an odour that caused us to avoid its immediate
vicinity. With regard to this oil, it has been said that some of the
so-called cod-liver oil is not derived from the cod at all, but is
really produced from the liver of the Greenland Shark, known locally
as _hakarë_ (Danish name _haukal_). I was assured, however, by one
Danish merchant that this is not the case. Modern inventions were
brought to mind on seeing telephone posts and the wire that connects
Isafjord with Eyri. I ought to mention that one modern invention, the
cream separator, is in common use on the best farms throughout Iceland.
I was often awakened in the morning by hearing the whirring of the
rapidly rotating cylinder of the machine. A whale-fishing establishment
was said to be somewhere in the main branch of Isafjord away round
the point, but we could not see it when coming in, and we were quite
content not to smell it. It was doubtless several miles distant, though
that avails but little when the wind blows from the direction of
decaying or boiling whales.

We left Isafjord in the early morning, and between 7 and 8 A.M. rounded
the northernmost point of the North-West Peninsula, known as The Horn,
or North Cape. It is said to be a bold, striking headland; but as the
upper portion was enveloped in fog, we could not see it properly. Fog
soon afterwards descended over the sea, and the vessel slowed down to
half speed; while the steam-whistle screeched out at short intervals
its warning to other vessels. The result was, that we saw nothing
whatever of the coast along which we were passing. It was a great
pity, for that part of the peninsula, which faces north-east and is
known as the Hornstrandr, is the wildest, most inhospitable, and one
of the least productive regions of Iceland. There the inhabitants eke
out a precarious livelihood chiefly by wild-fowling--a most dangerous
occupation in that region, and it is carried on at the cost of not a
few human lives; they have a very hard struggle for existence and are
often on the verge of starvation. The habitations are exposed to the
rigours of the weather, which are very severe, for the coast is blocked
with drift ice during more than half the year, and its effect is felt
for a much longer period.

In consequence of the fog we did not reach Reykjarfjord until the
afternoon was well advanced; but at its entrance we experienced a
delightful change, for we suddenly emerged from the sea fog into bright
sunshine. We anchored opposite the small settlement known as Kuvikr,
in a picturesque fjord where the mountains on the south side rise to
a sharp-looking ridge between Reykjarfjord and Veithileysa, a fjord
lying to the south. After enjoying the sunshine on deck for an hour,
Miss Hastie and I went ashore and ascended the lower part of the ridge
just mentioned to a sort of secondary ridge, overlooking much of the
surrounding country. We found a continuation of the sea fog lying
below us over Veithileysa and the valley at its head, the peaks of the
mountains on the far side of the fjord standing out clear and bright in
the sunshine.

[Illustration: A "GLORIFIED" SHADOW ON THE FOG OVER VEITHILEYSA.]

A few minutes later we had an unusual experience. The fog was being
blown up the fjord and over the valley at its head towards us, while
the sun, which was shining brightly behind us, was rather low down in
the heavens. The time was just 7 P.M. I moved away from Miss Hastie,
who was sitting on a rock, to some higher ground about a hundred
yards distant; as I reached the highest point, I was astonished to
see, cast upon the fog, an elongated dark shadow of myself, with an
oval halo of brilliant colours around the shadow. My head was the
centre of the halo, and there around it shone a bright golden yellow
light; this gradually changed in the outer rings to green, and so on
through blue and indigo to violet; then the colours of the spectrum
were continued outward in the reverse order, from violet to indigo,
blue, green, yellow, orange, while the outside ring was a brilliant
red. The effect was rather startling at first, as may be imagined
from the sketch I made on the spot, and superstitious persons would
have thought it to be a very strong omen of something or other--good
or otherwise. I was very unfortunate in having just exposed the last
film (isochromatic) in my camera, so I was unable to secure any better
record than that sketched in my note-book. It is further unfortunate
that, in developing the negative I took only a few seconds before the
"glorified" shadow appeared,--a view looking across the fog or clouds
to the mountain peaks rising above it,--I completely destroyed the
only photographic record I had of the scene; for instead of pouring
pyro into the solution to hasten development, I inadvertently took up
the hypo bottle and used some of its contents, with the result that the
negative was absolutely destroyed before I guessed what I had done--my
annoyance can be imagined, but not expressed in words! The appearance
in the sketch was that produced while I was drawing with arms bent and
book held before me. When I held my arms in different positions, the
shadow of course varied, but without affecting the form or position of
the oval-shaped halo. When I had finished the sketch, I saw Miss Hastie
coming towards me, and beckoned to her to hurry, but she arrived when
the fog was clearing and the halo fading away. I then learned that she
had had a similar experience from the spot where I had left her seated,
and that she had seen her own shadow surrounded by a halo, which
accompanied her for a considerable distance as she came towards me, but
faded away as the atmospheric conditions gradually changed.

These halos are known as _Anthelia_ (Greek = "opposite the sun")
or _Glories_. The rings may be circular if the shadow is thrown in
an upright position upon the fog, but when the shadow is elongated
through being thrown at an angle upon it, as in my own case, they are
elliptical in consequence. In all cases the observer sees the rings
round the shadow of his head, and they have a common centre "in the
point where a line from the sun through the eye of the observer meets
the fog." I saw two brilliant _sets_ of coloured rings, though more are
sometimes seen; but those beyond are much fainter.



CHAPTER XVII

THE NORTHERN FJORDS


Bortheyri in Hrutafjord was our next port of call. It was by no means
an interesting place: the country was low-lying, and the settlement
consisted of a few houses only. We left early in the afternoon, and
steamed almost due north out of the fjord. When in Hunafloi beyond
the promontory that separates Hrutafjord and Mithfjord, we obtained
an excellent view, looking straight up Mithfjord, of Eyriks Jökull.
Later on, after rounding the promontory of Vatnsnes, and when crossing
Hunafjord towards Blonduos, we caught sight of Lang Jökull, and could
trace distinctly the line of the ice-field, although nearly seventy
miles distant.

We anchored opposite Blonduos late in the evening. The settlement
consists of a store or two, a few houses, and a church. We did not
go ashore, for no boat was available until the sun had set, and it
was getting quite dark. It was about a quarter-past nine when the sun
descended below the horizon. The sunset effects were very fine--one of
those magnificent sights that Iceland is famous for.

The Blandá, one of Iceland's largest rivers, discharges its waters
into the fjord at Blonduos, which lies at its mouth. The river rises at
Lang and Hoff Jökulls, and brings down thence considerable quantities
of glacier water, proof of which is the whitish colour of the water of
Hunafjord round about Blonduos. Seals were said to abound there; one
was seen, I believe, but my own eyes did not fall upon it.

Skagastrond was not much more than an hour's sail. The coast hereabouts
is not so precipitous as that all round the North-West Peninsula: there
is more lowland between the shore and the mountains, which stand back
several miles from the coast, and the nature of the country is more
undulating. The original level of the lava flows of this peninsula,
Hegranes, can be well seen, as we saw it, from the western side of
Hunafloi. The land has been much more worn down than has that of the
North-West Peninsula, and only comparatively small fragments of the
upper flows remain. I went ashore in the afternoon and found the land
rather swampy, with peat bogs in places. A very small boy and a dog
bigger than the boy both made friendly overtures to me when I was
strolling along by the beach; they were both sportively inclined, and
engaged in several rough-and-tumble scrambles. There are several small
islands in the vicinity whereon the eider duck has its home, and where
it brings forth its young during the nesting season in the spring. The
eider-duck industry is an increasing one, and year by year the birds
are more cared for.

We reached Sautharkrokr early the next morning, and after breakfast I
went ashore. The town is built under the steeply sloping face of an
old moraine, the material of which was brought down the valley at the
back of the town; a stream runs down the valley by a channel which it
has eroded through the old moraine matter. From a prominent situation
above the town I obtained a good view up the Herradsvötn (the left
bifurcation of it, that is), where there is a lake several miles long
close to the mouth of the river. The lake was no doubt at one time
part of Skagafjord, and it is probable that the northerly seas rolling
up the fjord met the waters of the river laden with solid particles,
and caused the deposition of the detritus and the gradual formation
of a bar; the final stages were doubtless the gradual widening of
the alluvial dam, and the gradual filling up of one side of the lake
itself. Looking up the valley I saw our old friend Maelifellshnukr
standing out prominently to the right at a distance of but twenty-five
miles. In Sautharkrokr a peculiar dwelling attracted my attention; it
was the deck-house of an old wrecked vessel.

One of the few wild animals found in Iceland is the blue fox; we had
two on board the _Vesta_. Though in a hopeless state of captivity they
were quite untamed, and snapped at any one who attempted to be friendly
with them.

On leaving Sautharkrokr and sailing two or three miles north into
Skagafjord, Kolbeinsdalr opened out on the east side. This valley has
been fairly well worn down: there is a mass of moraine matter on the
sea front, which is cut through by a mountain stream from the Unadal
and Myrkar Jökulls. Farther north the valleys of Deildardalr and
Unadalr came into view. Then we passed between a tuff hill that almost
hides Lake Hofthavatn, and Drangey Island, where an outlying Kerling
rock (old woman) stands pillar-like beside it; there was a Karl rock
(old man) also, but it fell recently. Malmey Island was next passed.
The section of this island is peculiar, for a thick stratum of what
looks like iron-stone lava lies on the top, then there are two or three
layers of basaltic lava with what is apparently sedimentary strata
between them, and beneath all there is some tuff. The situation of Lake
Hofthavatn is also peculiar. The tuff hill in front of it is connected
with the mainland by the merest strips on each side; the hill was no
doubt an island not long ago, and the strips of land are beaches washed
up by the action of the sea on the north side, and on the south by the
effect of the current when the Herradsvötn river is in flood.

The entrance to Siglufjord is very fine, and it is remarkable for
its bold masses of lava. On the western side the flows are clearly
indicated, as also is the peculiar erosion. There are bands of red tuff
between some of the lava flows, also several scree slopes and alluvial
fans at the foot; on the eastern side there are pyramidal peaks. Inside
the fjord and at its head the bold scenery is continued. All this was
made brilliant by some wonderful sunset effects later in the evening.



CHAPTER XVIII

ACROSS COUNTRY FROM AKUREYRI TO HUSAVIK


The next port at which we touched was Akureyri in Eyjafjord, the place
from which we had started several weeks before to cross the island.
We arrived at about nine in the morning, and the vessel was timed to
stay there two days before departing for Husavik. I had formed the plan
that if we reached Akureyri in good time, I would make a two days' trip
across country to Husavik, and there pick up the steamer again. Fortune
favoured me, for on going on deck to get a boat to take me ashore,
where I intended to hunt up a guide and ponies, I came face to face
with Sigurthur, one of our guides on the Akureyri-Reykjavik journey.
Sigurthur had just come aboard to look for old friends. As he was
disengaged as a guide, a few minutes sufficed to arrange with him to
act as conductor, and to supply ponies, etc., for the journey, and in a
few more he was rowing back to the shore to make arrangements.

After breakfast I went ashore to purchase some provisions, etc., and an
hour or so after mid-day, all being ready, we started from the Hotel
Akureyri with four ponies: two were for riding, one was for the packs,
and there was a spare animal. We proceeded south along the shore of the
fjord for about a mile, and then, as the tide was low, we struck off at
right angles straight through the water, by that means saving about an
hour and a half that would have been required to round the head of the
fjord. The distance across was something between a mile and a half and
two miles; the water was rather deep in the channels cut by the current
from the river, and in one the water reached to the saddle-flaps; but I
escaped a wetting by balancing myself on the saddle, with feet tucked
up.

[Illustration]

On the eastern side of Eyjafjord we ascended the steep side of
Vathlaheithi by a long gradually-sloping path to the top, whence we
looked down upon Oddeyri, the suburb of Akureyri, whose formation has
already been noted. A good view up the valley of the Eyjafjorthará
was also obtained, showing the deltaic formation of the river where
it enters the head of the fjord. From the top of Vathlaheithi there
is a sharp descent by a zigzag road to the valley of the Fjnoská, an
excellent specimen of a meandering river, on each side of which there
are fine river-terraces. After crossing the river and ascending the
terraces, we struck into Ljosavatnskarth. On the south side of this
valley I came across a good example of various forms due to erosion.
Below the upper lava flows there were some alluvial fans, and below
that, cones and river-terraces. Just beyond, we passed along the
northern shore of Ljosavatn, and proceeded to the farm-house of the
same name, about a mile farther on, where we put up for the night.

When coming along the valley I learned the cause of what had sometimes
struck me as strange. Towards evening I had often heard children
uttering peculiar cries away up valley slopes, and I had imagined
that they were calling to one another, but the real reason had never
suggested itself to me: by their cries they were directing the dogs to
"round up" and drive the milking-sheep to the farm-houses. Towards the
end of the summer the sheep recognise the cries, and congregate without
much rounding up by the dogs.

Next day was an interesting one, and we had fifteen hours in the
saddle. Starting at eight in the morning, we did not get through to
Husavik till eleven at night. The first point of interest on the
day's journey was the Gothafoss, a fine waterfall on the river
Skjalfandafljot, which we reached after proceeding a few miles across
some broken lava that was partially covered by a deposit of clayey
matter. The fall is split into two main divisions by a hard dyke, and
it is probable that the rock on each side of it has different degrees
of hardness also, for the water flows over at different levels. The
central mass itself has a depression in it, and a narrow stream of
water runs through it at much the same level as the higher of the two
big divisions. There is another fall a few hundred yards lower down
the river, but it is not so impressive, and the height is only about
one-fourth that of the other. Just below the second fall, the river
is spanned by a bridge--a light wood and iron structure supported on
strong pillars built up from the lava beneath. A few hundred yards
below the bridge there is a remarkably good example of river erosion:
the river has split at a hard dyke, which stands in the middle of the
stream resisting the rush of the water.

From the bridge we made the gradual ascent to Fljotsheithi, which
we crossed, and then descended into Reykjadalr to the farm-house
of Einarstathir. In a way, this day's journey was one of the most
annoying and tantalising of all I spent in Iceland. Gun I had not, nor
ammunition; but I could have counted grouse by the thousand, ducks by
hundreds, and golden plover by tens! I could almost have wept had there
been time. I did not say very much--if I had, the tears would have
been apparent in my voice; but--I thought just about as deeply as the
sailor's parrot did. Fljotsheithi, over which we had just come, had
been alive with grouse! Just think of it--thousands of grouse, and--no
gun! From Einarsthathir we followed down the river Reykjadalsá to
Helgastathir, crossed it just beyond, and continued down stream, past
a number of lakes, the chief of which is known as Vestmannsvatn. The
Reykjadalsá flows through these lakes; but from Vestmannsvatn to its
confluence with the Laxá it is known as Eyvindarlaekur.

Just beyond Muli, which we left on our right, we got upon lava again,
and came to the Laxá, which we crossed three times in the course of
the day. We made the first crossing at the spot where we first touched
it, and it proved to be the widest and deepest fording-place in all
the rivers I crossed in Iceland. It was nearly half a mile wide, and I
entered without thinking it was very deep; but soon I found otherwise,
for the water often reached nearly to the level of my knees. I was very
anxious to get across with dry feet, for it was comparatively early in
the day, and I knew that we had a long journey before us. I had once
suffered from the discomfort of getting my boots filled with water and
having to ride for a considerable distance without change, so did not
wish to repeat the experience. By tucking up my legs upon the saddle,
and balancing somehow, I did get over with dry feet, but my legs were
fearfully cramped on reaching the other side. My pony, however, did his
best to give me a complete cold bath, for he stumbled and went down on
his knees in one of the deepest spots; but I did not lose my balance,
and I succeeded in pulling him up without getting more than just a few
drops of water in one boot. On we went over lava beside the Laxá for
awhile, but the river had to be recrossed a short distance from Nes, a
farm-house at which we pulled up for lunch. Here we arranged for fresh
ponies to take us to a very fine lava-field a few miles to the north,
and induced the farmer to act as guide.

[Illustration: LAVA PILLARS NEAR NES.]

In the lava-field there were many examples of circular vents, through
which lava had spurted in times of volcanic activity. These vents were
rounded lava excrescences and circular pillars, all of which were
hollow inside. They were of somewhat similar formation to two I saw in
Vestri-Skarthsheithi on the western side of Iceland, of which I took
a photograph. The vegetation hereabouts is that common in decomposing
lava, and is chiefly birch scrub. There was an opening in the side
of one of the largest vents, through which I was able to crawl with
my camera; unfortunately, I misjudged the light, so the negative
was much under-exposed, and the view of the interior a complete
failure. The country about Nes is dotted over with cones covered with
cindery-looking scoria, and having small central depressions; there are
hundreds of them, and all around they stick up above the general level
of the country. All these cones threw up more or less lava or cindery
matter when volcanic activity was in progress.

[Illustration: UXAHVER GEYSER IN ERUPTION.]

On our return to Nes we were met by the farmer's wife, who informed
us that during our absence _our_ ponies had got away and were then
missing! There was a pretty mess! What were we to do? Abandon them, and
go on with the farmer's ponies seemed to be our only resource! Time
was pressing and precious, for the light was failing, and to see the
Uxahver geysers was one of the objects of my expedition, and--we were
still two hours distant from the geysers! While we were discussing
the matter, we were overjoyed to see the ponies suddenly come up from
between some of the farm outbuildings, followed by the farmer's son,
who had been in search of them. We did not waste time then, but saddled
up and away; but in less than a quarter of a mile we were brought to
a standstill by the river Laxá, at a spot where we were to be ferried
over. Of course the ferry-boat was not _there_; it was some distance
up the river, and had to be sent for. On its arrival, however, there
was no further delay, for we crossed at once, and the ponies followed
by swimming the river. After saddling up again we set off for Uxahver,
taking with us the farmer's son to show the shortest and quickest way
to the geysers. We crossed Hvamsheithi and forded the Reykjavisl and
a smaller branch stream on the way to Reykir farm-house. On arrival
there we saw a quantity of steam rising from several places up the
valley, so we hastened towards the desired goal. A stream of hot water
runs down the valley from the geysers, which are continually ejecting
large volumes of it: the stream's course is indicated by the light
clouds of steam that rise from it. We reached the geysers at last, at
about seven o'clock, in a bad and failing light. I proceeded at once
to the chief of the geysers, Uxahver, and got to work with my camera.
Uxahver very obligingly made one or two of its best efforts, and I was
fortunate to snap once or twice at the right moment. I also took a shot
at it when quiescent, with good result. The next geyser of importance,
Bathstovukver, also gave an excellent display that I took advantage
of, and the resultant picture gives a better idea of a small geyser in
eruption than any of the others.

[Illustration: BATHSTOVUKVER GEYSER IN ERUPTION.]

When I had finished my shots at the geysers, Sigurthur informed me
that we were then only about three hours distant from Husavik, where
I had to pick up the steamer the next morning. It was not quite eight
o'clock, and the ponies seemed to be comparatively fresh after their
rest in the middle of the day; so I thought it would be better, and
Sigurthur agreed, to push on to Husavik, instead of staying at Reykir
till the morning as we had originally intended when uncertain about
procuring change ponies for part of the day's work. This arrangement
would enable me to get on board without delay, if the weather should
prove bad enough in the morning to prevent the _Vesta_ from staying
to take in cargo. At Husavik there is an open roadstead, and in stormy
weather vessels do not remain long; sometimes they pass without calling
at all. We _did_ push on, and the farther we went the fresher the
ponies seemed to get, until during the last hour they raced along
at their best pace, evidently knowing their way and where they were
going. The night was dark--_I_ could not see the track, so I simply
sat tight and let my pony go, without attempting to steer, trusting
to him to make the best of the way; this he did at top speed without
a single stumble the whole way--a feat that he had not accomplished
in broad daylight. We arrived at the hotel at Husavik just at eleven
o'clock, after fifteen hours in the saddle. In the earlier part of the
day, Sigurthur had several times hinted that what I wanted to do could
not be done in the time at our disposal; but I intended to try. So it
happened that, with the aid of extra ponies and guides, and by dint of
impressing Sigurthur with my determination, he gradually came round to
the same view, and at last expressed agreement that it _might_ be done
if things went smoothly; from that time he made no further suggestion
as to the desirableness of "cutting" some part of the journey, and we
got through it all successfully.

I found the accommodation at the hotel quite good, and at breakfast
an excellent meal was served. One of the dishes was "whale"--a thick
gelatine kind of stuff, cut from the fin of the whale. I took a small
piece and found it almost tasteless.

I have omitted previously to note that _skyr_ is one of the articles
of food served at all the farm-houses. It is a kind of clotted cream,
eaten with powdered sugar, and milk or ordinary cream poured over it.
At the hotel at Husavik the _skyr_ was of the best quality, as indeed
it was at most of the farms, though sometimes it had a distinctly
peaty flavour that was due to the nature of the surrounding country.
Another article of food in general use, which we obtained from time to
time from the farm-houses, is a sort of flat pancake introduced by the
Danes. It is of a very leathery nature, and we used to tear off pieces
as we wanted it, though more often one took a piece of the stuff and
offering a corner to another the two would pull it apart. In spite of
its leathery qualities, when eaten with butter and jam, and with good
appetite as sauce, it is not so bad!



CHAPTER XIX

THE EASTERN FJORDS


The _Vesta_ was late in arrival, and as the taking in of cargo occupied
several hours, we did not get away from Husavik till the afternoon;
we then headed straight for the Arctic Circle, passing the island of
Lundey on the way out of Skjalfandi. When we entered within the Arctic
Circle in the evening, the atmospheric conditions and the temperature
were in keeping with our position on the earth's surface, for it was
cold and bleak, and the night promised to be a dirty one; but the
weather during the night was not so bad after all, and when I awoke in
the morning it was to find the sunshine streaming into my cabin through
the open port.

At Vopnafjord we remained from early morning till late at night. We
climbed the hills at the back of the town and made our way over towards
Nypsfjord. From an elevated spot we obtained a view looking into that
fjord. It was not a scene of striking beauty, but I was interested to
see that the entrance to the inner fjord was narrowed considerably by
a spit that extended well into it, perhaps two-thirds across. This
had been formed, as usual, by the sea beating in and banking up the
detritus brought down by the river, the Vestradalsá. Up there on the
rises I succeeded in stalking some sheep and in photographing them.
I had tried several times before, but had always failed. Nearly all
the sheep in Iceland are horned, while most of the cattle are without
horns. There were several things of interest in Vopnafjord that I
photographed--the interior of a cod-fish store being one of them;
another was the home of "Socrates," a notification to that effect being
prominent on the front of the house. There were several stores on a
point near the middle of the town, and in front of them there were
about a dozen fish-drying grids lying on the slope of the beach. Here
at Vopnafjord we found the people to be most curious regarding us and
our movements. It was Sunday, and having nothing to do, they displayed
to the fullest extent the Icelander's worst characteristic, that of
staring hard and persistently.

In the afternoon while cargo was being taken in, a little mild
excitement was caused by the capsizing of nine bales of wool into the
water, and by their subsequent rescue from drifting out to sea by a
boat that went in pursuit.

Before departing from Vopnafjord we had an invasion of Icelanders. They
came on board, boatloads at a time; the smoking-room was soon full of
them, and there were crowds on deck. I was writing in a recess just
above the companion-way to the saloon; small crowds descended by it
to the regions below and did not reappear--goodness knows where they
managed to stow themselves. A fellow-passenger came up from a visit
to his cabin and informed me that he had stumbled over two of the
Icelanders, who had taken possession of his cabin. Helvit!--to use the
mild Icelandic swear-word--what about mine? I went down to see what
was going on in _my_ cabin, and returned on deck breathing more freely
(in two ways!), for I found that my cabin companion had early taken
possession and had so far kept out all invaders, in spite of repeated
attacks upon his stronghold. The atmosphere below was becoming quite
oppressive, and one could almost have cut out a chunk of it!--hence, as
I have stated, I breathed more freely on deck. But it occurred to me
that if I took possession of my own bunk, I could help my companion in
resisting future attacks of the enemy; so I went down again.

"There's a cry and a shout, and a deuce of a rout" going on generally,
for we had arrived at Seythisfjord, and the invading horde was
preparing to leave the vessel--it had come to take part in the
ceremony of unveiling a monument that was to be performed that day,
and to enjoy the subsequent festivities and gaieties. The trampling of
feet above informed me that the natives were congregating round the
companion-ladder. I shoved my head through the port-hole, and there,
but a few yards off, were two or three boats. One was just pulling away
very fully laden, another was loading up with passengers, and a third
awaiting its turn to take on its human cargo. I went to my tub, and so,
for a few minutes, escaped from the noise.

During breakfast I listened to the tales of woe as related by my
fellow-passengers. One had had four of the natives camped in his
cabin. In the morning they severally made use of his sponge and soap
in performing their ablutions, while his tooth-brush only just escaped
service. Whatever of his effects were lying loose about his cabin
were subjected to inspection and examination: a bottle of "Elliman's"
was uncorked and smelt, and the Icelanders seemed inclined to taste,
but in their discretion refrained; had they but tested its virtues,
they would no doubt have found it a most excellent pick-me-up. After
performing his own toilet he went on deck, but on returning to his
cabin a few minutes later, found two women in possession, and busy at
his wash-basin. My fellow-passenger was a man who did not object to
cleanliness in a general way, but for the native Icelander, both sexes,
to take possession of his cabin and make use of his toilet things,
was too much for his nerves. If he did not take a leaf out of the
Icelanders' book and make use of their swear-word, Helvit! it was only
because he was a clergyman; but I have no doubt that he thought that
and much more of a similar kind!

Another passenger reported that he had lost one of his native
companions in a very extraordinary way. I must state that some of
the Icelanders have the disgusting habit of spitting in all sorts of
places, and they are not, as a rule, particular where--to them the
whole world is a spittoon! This passenger stated that he had found
a big Icelander in his cabin the night before, who remarked that he
was going to sleep there, and immediately afterwards made some noisy
throaty sounds, inquiring where he could spit. On being informed that
it was not customary for anybody to spit anywhere in a cabin, and
that there was no place where _he_ could do so, he looked surprised
and expressed himself to that effect. Much to this passenger's relief,
the Icelander then took himself off from the cabin, and was seen there
no more. No doubt the native had found some spot where he was able to
indulge his habit to his heart's content.

I went ashore after breakfast, and landed just in time to see a
procession of Icelanders and others. The occasion was the unveiling
of a memorial stone that had been erected by the inhabitants of
Seythisfjord and the surrounding country to the memory of a Norwegian,
one Otto Andreas Wathue, who died in 1898. This man had been
instrumental in making Seythisfjord a place of considerable importance,
and its prosperity was due entirely to him.

[Illustration: THE PROCESSION AT SEYTHISFJORD.]

The ceremony had drawn to Seythisfjord all the notabilities of the
neighbourhood, as well as others from the near fjords, and a few from
such distant places as Akureyri; it had also drawn thither two Danish
men-of-war, and there were in port three vessels belonging to the
United Steamship Company: the _Ceres_, the _Vesta_, and another. Some
of the chief of the officers from the war-ships attended in their
official capacity, while others from the Company's three vessels also
attended the ceremony; several joined in the procession, which started
from the veiled monument at the head of the fjord near the heart of
the town. The Norwegian, Wathue, had lived on the south side of the
fjord in a large house about a mile from the monument, and there the
widow still lived. The procession made its way along the road by the
side of the fjord, and then passed the house, where everybody saluted
the widow, who, with her relatives and a few friends, was a spectator
from an elevated grass plat. I was standing just beside the house
taking snap-shots. My picture shows the head of the procession: some
of the leading figures may be seen in the act of saluting the party
assembled on the grass in front of the house. The procession halted a
short distance beyond, and then returned to the starting-point at the
monument, round which the members of it congregated. The ceremony of
unveiling was performed after some speechifying had been got through
and several poems, composed by Icelandic poets for the occasion, had
been recited or sung. Those assembled then adjourned to the fête ground
on the other side of the river, where dancing and running and other
athletic sports were carried on during the rest of the day, and where
fireworks were displayed in the evening. I took several photographs
on the outskirts of the crowd round the monument while the ceremony
of unveiling was going on; in them are two young women attired in the
national costume. One is dressed in white and the other in a dark
dress, but both have on the peculiar national state headdress.

[Illustration: SEYTHISFJORD--ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF THE CROWD ROUND THE
MONUMENT.]

We called at Northfjord in the early morning, and after less than
an hour there, set sail for Eskefjord, arriving there just before
breakfast-time. Though we remained for several hours, I did not get
ashore, for there was so much uncertainty about the time of departure
that we might have started at any moment; there was also the usual
difficulty of getting a boat.

Faskruthsfjord is a very picturesque place; bold and peculiarly shaped
mountains are all around. A liparite and tuff mountain on the southern
side is noticeable chiefly for the inclined strata that lie upon its
southern slopes. Behind the town a huge pyramid (a fine example of
the result of denudation) towers high above. Faskruthsfjord is the
chief resort of the French fishermen who carry on their avocation on
the coast of Iceland, and though there are a few Icelanders in the
settlement, yet the greater number are French.

During the latter part of the voyage we had a passenger, an
Englishwoman, lying dangerously ill. The doctor from ashore, an
Icelander, came on board here to see her, as other doctors had at other
ports of call; but he did not go away decently as the others had--no,
he remained on board drinking and smoking, and talking at the top of
his voice, with a number of men from shore, the carousal being carried
on just outside the cabin-door of his patient! A specimen of the
customs of the country as observed by at least _one_ Icelander!

Our last port of call in Iceland was in Berufjord, where we arrived at
about six in the morning. As it was rainy and misty, I could not well
judge of the scenery. It looked an interesting place, and there were
several sharp conical peaks showing dimly through the thick atmosphere.
We put to sea about an hour later, in weather that promised to be
blowy, and the promise was fulfilled, for we were soon in a fairly
heavy sea, which increased as the day wore on; it continued bad until
we approached the Faroes next day, when it cleared up, and we had
bright, fine weather while amongst those islands.

We obtained excellent views of the various headlands at the north end
of the Faroes; it was noticeable that all had perpendicular precipices
facing the north, where the sea is continually at work eroding their
bases. We passed through Kalsofjord, the channel between the island of
Kalso on the west and those of Kuno and Bordo on the east. The islands
have many corries, soft dykes, and mountains of pyramidal shape. There
are several villages most picturesquely situated in the valleys and
corries, but as we steamed along in mid channel we were not near enough
for the camera to be of service.

We reached Thorshavn in the early afternoon, so I went ashore for an
hour to have another look at the picturesque town and at the Faroese.
In the evening we set sail for Leith.

[Illustration: FAREWELL FAROESE!]



APPENDIX I

NOTES ON PLANTS COLLECTED IN THE FAROES AND ICELAND

BY A. W. HILL, M.A.


The decumbent character of the vegetation and the practical absence
of trees form the most striking features of the flora in both the
Faroes and Iceland. In the Faroes the steep and rocky hillsides are
very exposed and wind swept, and the vegetation is in consequence
characteristically dwarfed, and most plants raise themselves but little
above the general level of the grass.

The dwarfed habit was well shown by some plants, such as _Orchis
maculata_, which was very common on the slopes, and was only a few
inches high. The inflorescences did not, as a rule, bear more than
five to ten flowers, which, however, were large and pale in colour.
The ovaries in many cases were not twisted, so that the labellum was
consequently uppermost.

Another example of the effect of the conditions on the vegetation was
afforded by the dandelion _Taraxacum deus leonis_, which exhibited the
prostrate habit exceedingly well, for in order to protect the flowers
from the wind, the flower scapes were bent over and laid parallel to
the surface of the ground and the inflorescence was exposed to the
light by a right-angled bend of the scape just below the head of the
flowers. The inflorescence was by this means protected from the wind by
being kept just below the general level of the vegetation.

_Cardamine pratensis_ was also influenced in a similar way on the
lower slopes, but at higher altitudes plants were found bearing single
radical flowers on short stalks instead of the usual raceme.

We proceeded to Akureyri in the north of Iceland by way of the east
coast, and it was interesting to notice the difference in the condition
of the vegetation on the northern and eastern shores of the island. On
the east coast, at Seythis-and Vopnafjords, the plants were stunted
and for the most part only in bud; but in the north, at Husavik and
Akureyri, similar plants were much earlier, and were not only in full
flower, but were also much less stunted, and showed a more robust
growth than those found on the eastern side. For example, _Plantanthera
hyperborea_, which was in tight bud on the east coast, and also
_Thymus_ and other plants, were in full flower at Husavik.

_Thalictrum alpinum_, which grows abundantly all over the hillsides,
was found to be attacked by the æcidial stage of one of the rust fungi,
_Puccinia septentrionalis_;[1] and at Seythisfjord, where it was
especially noticed, it was found that only the topmost leaflets were
affected, that is to say, only those leaflets which protruded above
the general level of the vegetation, and which were in consequence
infected by wind-blown spores. At Seythisfjord the leaflets were only
slightly attacked, the fungus being in a young state; but at Husavik it
was much more advanced, and the hypertrophied purple tissues were very
conspicuous. The effect often extended some way down the petioles.

The case of the fungus is a further example of the greater forwardness
of the plants in the north.

There can be no doubt that the characteristics of the east coast
vegetation are due to the prevalence of cold winds and the occurrence
of cold currents.

Whilst crossing the island several interesting features of the
vegetation were noticed. Between Akureyri and our first camp (Thverá)
several "forests" were passed through, consisting of _Betula nana_,
_Vaccinium uliginosum_, and Willows, _Salix lanata_ and _S. glauca_
rising to a height of from nine to eighteen inches, with an undergrowth
of other small plants.

The hillsides all round were covered by _Dryas octopetala_, which was
by far the commonest plant in the northern half of the island, and it
was abundant also on the east coast.

Travelling along the Oxnadal and then turning off towards
Silfrastathir, _Dryas_ at first was the most conspicuous feature of
the vegetation covering the rocky moraines and talus slopes; but about
three miles from the head of the valley the _Dryas_ was replaced by
_Cerastium alpinum_ and _Potentilla maculata_, which then in their turn
became the dominant plants for a considerable distance. As we traversed
the island we kept passing through well-marked zones of different
plants, whose limits seemed largely to be determined by the character
of the soil.

After crossing the "col" some very rough screes were passed, on which
the Iceland poppy, _P. nudicaule_, was growing abundantly. The screes
were formed of rough angular blocks with very little soil between them,
and the poppy was only growing in the most barren spots; where moraines
occurred the poppy did not grow. It was also found on the stony ground
by the river at Silfrastathir.

The hillsides were covered in many places by large tracts of
_Equisetum_ (_E. arvense_ and _E. pratense_). The various species of
the Equisetaceæ seem to be among some of the commonest plants of the
island. The swampy regions by the rivers are covered with _Equisetum_
and _Scirpus cæspitosus_; and they are very abundant on the mountains.

From the river until we reached Gilhagi, the flora showed no features
of any particular note; but a meadow there with large plants of
_Saxifraga cernua_ in full flower was a very beautiful sight.

On ascending from Gilhagi a change in the flora was gradually seen.
After about 2000 feet _Pedicularis flammea_ appeared and became
common; on the lower slopes the leaves were green and the plants tall,
but at greater elevations the plants became short and stunted, with
deep red leaves. The high ground was very much broken up, being of a
deep hummocky character and covered by a dwarfed growth of Willows,
_Empetrum_, Mosses, etc.

Passing over ground from which the snow had just melted, the willows
were found to be either still quite bare or just coming out into
leaf, but everywhere in such barren places cones of _Equisetum_ were
seen sticking up on pale brown stalks some six inches above the soil;
the sterile green shoots do not grow up until some time after the
appearance of the cones.

All around Athalmansvatn the ground was very hummocky, the mounds being
from a foot to eighteen inches high, with narrow depressions or ruts
between. The elevation of this region was about 2500 feet, and as the
snow had only recently melted, everything was in consequence backward,
_Thalictrum_ and willows, etc., not yet being in flower.

Leaving Athalmansvatn a large tract of hummocky ground was crossed,
covered chiefly by _Cassiope hypnoides_, _Empetrum_, Willows, _Salix
lanata_ and _S. herbacea_, Grey Lichens, such as _Cladonia_, and
Mosses. After this our route lay across a piece of the northern desert
land or _Sandr_, which is a barren, sandy, and stony expanse. The soil
was a light brownish loam, and was easily blown about by the wind, and
scattered all over it were large angular or rounded blocks of stone.
_Arabis petræa_ was the only plant occurring in any quantity over this
region, and it formed a very conspicuous feature in the landscape,
growing in rosettes closely adpressed to the soil with the racemes of
flowers growing out horizontally.

As we travelled on in a southerly direction, _Silene acaulis_ appeared
and then a little thrift, _Armeria sibirica_, and the _Arabis_ became
less frequent. Here the soil was more sandy, and the strong wind
blew clouds of dust. Still farther south, _Armeria_ reigned supreme
over the desert; but occasional patches containing _Silene acaulis_,
_Potentilla_, _Cerastium alpinum_, and _Silene maritima_ occurred.
Where the soil became more loamy, _Arabis petræa_ again came in. At the
edge of the desert the willows were seen encroaching on the sand, and
soon a willow and birch (_Betula nana_) scrub was passed through, which
in its turn gave place to moister land with _Empetrum_, _Pedicularis
flammea_, etc.

Near Blandá, _Salir phyllicifolia_ was noticed for the first time.
A good deal of hummocky ground was also passed over, and its
characteristic and invariable features were noticed (_v_. later).

After passing over very rough morainic ground with snow still lying
in patches and quite devoid of vegetation, we reached Hveravellir, a
perfect oasis in the desert. The hot springs and fumaroles occur along
a long line of fissure, and warm up the soil of a considerable tract of
country in their neighbourhood. The effect on the vegetation is most
striking, for a strip of verdant meadow-land occurs in the middle of
bare country, covered in many places with snow at the end of June. All
the flowers occurring there were in a very forward state, and a large
number of different plants were obtained; some spots were yellow with
buttercups, and the ground was carpeted with thyme in full bloom.

_Botrychium lunaria_ occurred in quantity, and a very small variety of
_Ophioglossum vulgatum_, _O. vulgatum_, var. _polyphyllum_, was found
in a warm place. _Selaginella spinosa_ was also abundant.

On the edges of this warm tract barren land occurred and in many places
snow, so that there was a very sharp contrast between the warm and cold
earth; and on the latter the willows were only just coming into leaf.
This tract of country occurs at the edge of the great lava flow from
Strytur.

Towards Strytur the lava was in places covered by "hummocky ground,"
which showed the usual features noticed elsewhere.

The characteristic plants seem invariably to be:--

  *_Carex vulgaris_ (_rigida_), a creeping variety.
  *_Salix lanata._
  *_Salix herbacea._
  *_Cassiope hypnoides._
  *_Empetrum nigrum_ (very abundant).
  *_Vaccinium uliginosum._
  _Loiseleuria procumbens._
  _Armeria sibirica._
  _Silene acaulis_ (not very frequent).
  _Bartsia alpina._
  _Pedicularis flammea._
  *Two or three Lichens, species of _Cladonia_, and a Moss, _Rhacomitrium
   lanuginosum_.

Those marked with an asterisk appear to be invariably present, the
others are not so constant, but some are usually found.

Shortly after leaving Hveravellir the watershed of the island was
crossed, and a marked difference in the flora was noticed in the
valley, Thjofadal, on the southern side of the ridge, owing no doubt to
the much greater rainfall which occurs on this, the south-western, side
of the island.

Among plants noticed in this region, which had not been met with
before, were:--

  _Draba alpina._
  _Cardamine bellidifolia_, and
  _Ranunculus pygmæus_ (which grew upright in the valley, but was
    prostrate and creeping on the surrounding hillsides).

Fungoid diseases were very prevalent in the valley, and _Saxifraga
cæspilosa_, which was extremely dwarfed on the high ridges, was in many
places badly attacked by a rust fungus.

_Saxifraga cernua_ was also affected by the conditions in this region,
for in other localities north of the watershed all the plants were
found with the usual terminal flower, but here no terminal flower was
developed, and the upright stems bore leaves and bulbils only.

_Epilobium latifolium_ occurred among the stones in the glacier
streams, and a very decumbent form of _Epilobium alpinum_ was common on
the hillsides.

The hills all round were formed of loose morainic matter, the slopes
consisting of fine sandy earth with pebbles, and the vegetation is
distributed on the hillsides in the form of banks and terraces, thus
giving the hills a peculiar appearance with very gentle steps. In
some cases the vegetation has spread and grown over the edges of the
terraces, and by further growth hummocks have been formed.

The formation of hummocky ground on a morainic hillside appears to be
somewhat as follows:--

If conditions, such as snow-line, wind, etc. (on a bare hillside of
sandy and stony ground) permit, isolated plants begin to appear,
and collect soil around them by their prostrate habit of growth and
with their roots; in consequence of the loose nature of the soil,
and owing to the action of snow or water, slipping frequently takes
place, and the plants tend to keep up the earth. As the plants spread,
terraces get formed and the plants bank up the loose earth, and the
mountain-side is then broken up into broad steps. The vegetation
continues to grow over the edges of the terraces, and in consequence
more soil is collected by the plants, and small mounds result, and
later on, if the slope is not too great, true hummocks may be formed.
If the slope is steep, the hummocks are usually flat-topped, but this
is also often due to snow, wind, etc.

The hummocky ground usually seen occurs in fairly level country, and
its origin may probably have been somewhat different from that just
described; the hummocks are from one to two feet high, and the ruts
between are often so narrow that two hummocks have frequently united.
The normal breadth of a hummock is from one to two feet across, and it
is closely covered by _Empetrum_ or _Cassiope_, with _Carex vulgaris_,
the Moss _Rhacomitrium lanuginosum_, and the other plants already
enumerated.

Hummocky ground was also met with in meadows at Gilhagi (near
Maelifell); here they were covered by grass and other meadow-plants,
and _Saxifraga cernua_ grew in masses in the depressions. These
hummocks were on a hillside, and may have been originally formed in the
manner already described; but owing to some change in the snow-line,
meadow-land plants may have wandered up the hillside, and ousted the
characteristic plants of the hummocks.

Our journey from Thjofadal to Gránanes lay for the most part over
the lava-flows from Strytur, which were covered by a close-growing
vegetation, large tussocks of moss, very dwarf _Saxifrages, S.
cæspitosa_, _Empetrum_, _Salix herbacea_, and other plants usually
found on the hummocks. True hummocks were, however, rare.

Near our camp and before the Svatá was reached we came to the end
of the lava and crossed a sandy tract, and the usual change in the
flora was at once noticeable; large clumps of willows bound the sand
together, around which the soil collected, forming mounds, and patches
of _Armeria_, _Arabia petræa_, _Silene_, and _Arenaria_ were scattered
about. In some places the willows were killed by having been buried in
the blown sand.

Between Gránanes and Hvitarvatn the country is at first hummocky, and
then covered by birch and willow scrub. On the hummocks, especially in
the patches of moss, _Saxifraga Hirculus_ was not uncommon. The large
tract of swampy ground at the edge of the lake was covered by masses of
cotton grass. Leaving Hvitarvatn our way lay through willow scrub until
the Hvitá was reached. After crossing the river the ground was very
rough, being composed of morainic matter from the adjacent mountains
and covered with large angular blocks of lava. The only flowers growing
here were _Arenuria_, _Armeria_, _Thymus_ and _Dryas_ in isolated
patches. As we travelled farther south, the plants were noticed to
be taller and more vigorous than those seen in the interior, and the
flora was more home-like in character. _Juniperus_, _Betula odorata_,
_Calluna_, and _Arctostaphylos uva ursi_ were noticed for the first
time.

Both birches (_B. odorata_, _B. nana_) were very plentiful, and from
two to three feet high (in the north _B. nana_ was only six to nine
inches high) willows were not common.

Between Sandá and Gullfoss another small desert area was traversed
where earth-pillars occurred. The plants were hardly able to exist, as
the smaller ones were blown away, and the willows and birches were in
many places buried by the blown sand.

Around Gullfoss the vegetation was luxuriant, _Geum rivale_, _Geranium
sylvaticum_, and _Alchemilla vulgaris_ covered the ground, and
above _Rubus saxatilis_ and _Frugaria vesca_ were abundant, whilst
_Arctostaphylos uva ursi_ also grew in profusion.

At Bratholt we reached civilisation again, and were presented with some
of the lichen from which the orange dye, still used in the island, is
obtained.

Between Geysir and Thingvellir we passed through one of the largest
forests in the island; the hillsides were covered with birch-bushes,
and in places they were quite six feet high; usually they did not rise
to a height of more than three or four feet, and the topmost branches
became entangled in our legs as we rode among the bushes. All four
species of birch were noticed, and the scent of the bruised leaves
was very pleasant. By way of undergrowth, the ground was carpeted
with _Geranium sylvaticum_, _Ranunculus repens_, and large patches of
_Orchis maculata_, etc. It was altogether a beautiful spot, and we
spent nearly four hours wending our way through it. The river Bruará
runs through the middle of this forest.

At Thingvellir _Gentiana nivalis_ was found among other plants.

The rarity of blue flowers in the part of the island visited by us,
and indeed throughout the island, was very striking, as the only other
blue flowers noticed, besides the gentian, were the _Veronicas_, and
the _Myosotis_ and _Viola tricolor_ found at Akureyri, and _Campanula
rotundifolia_ and _Pleurogyne rotata_, which were found on the east
coast on the return journey. _Gentiana campestris_ and _G. nivalis_
were also found on the west coast. _White_, _pale pink_, and _yellow_
were the common colours, white being the predominant. The three
most common orchids, _Habenaria albida_, _Habenaria viridis_, and
_Plantanthera hyperborea_ were green and fairly inconspicuous. Perhaps
the most striking flowers are the large rose-coloured _Epilobium
latifolium_, which grows on bare islands of stones and black sand
in the glacier streams, the yellow _Saxifraga Hirculus_, and _Dryas
octopetala_, which covers vast tracts of country.

Between Thingvellir and Keykjavik is an extensive _Heithi_, over which
we rode rapidly. There appeared to be no features of any special
interest, and as the day was very wet it was not possible to study the
flora carefully. On the beach at Reykjavik _Mertensia maritima_ is a
fairly common plant.

The hot springs at Hveravellir and other places contain large
quantities of algæ, mostly belonging to the blue-green family or
_Cyanophyceæ_. Specimens were collected from various springs at
Hveravellir, Kerlingarfjöll, and Geysir, and the temperature of the
water in which they were growing was carefully recorded. As I was
unable to examine them in detail, I sent them to Professor West of
Cirencester, who has worked through my material and published a paper
on hot-spring algæ in the _Journal of Botany_,[2] in which he gives a
list of all the algæ we brought back from Iceland.

The highest temperature at which algæ were found was 85° C. (185° F.).
Most of the forms found had not been previously recorded from Iceland,
and there was one new species belonging to the genus _Aulosira_, _A.
thermalis_. Full details of these interesting algæ will be found in the
paper to which a reference has been given.



APPENDIX II

A LIST OF PLANTS COLLECTED IN THE FAROES AND ICELAND IN JUNE AND JULY
1900


  Caltha palustris                I.                              F.
  Ranunculus flammula                                             F.
      hyperboreus                 I. Seythisfjord, Kerlingarfjöll.
      pygmæus                     I. Thjofadal.
      repens                      I.                              F.
  Thalictrum alpinum              I.                              F.

  Papaver nudicaule               I. Near Silfrastathir on screes and
                                       among stones in river bed.

  Arabis alpina                   I. Thjofadal.
      petræa                      I. The desert between Athalmansvatn
                                       and Hveravellir, near Gránanes.
  Cardamine bellidifolia          I. Thjofadal.
      pratensis                   I.                              F.
  Cochlearia officinalis          I.                              F.
      groenlandica                I.
  Draba alpina                    I. Thjofadal.
      rupestris                   I.
      verna                       I.                              F.
      incana                      I. Silfrastathir, etc.
      tomentosa                   I.

  Viola cricetorum                I.                              F.
      palustris                   I.                              F.
      tricolor                    I. Akureyri.

  Polygala vulgaris                                               F.

  Alsine arctica[3]               I. Athalmansvatn, Thjofadal.

  Cerastium alpinum               I.
      trigynum                    I. Akureyri.
      triviale                    I.
  Halianthus peploides                                  F. Klaksvig.
  Lychnis flos cuculi                                             F.
  Silene acaulis                  I.                              F.
  Silene maritima                 I.
  Lychnis alpina                  I.
  Stellaria uliginosa             I. Seythisfjord.
  Arenaria norvegica              I.
      rubella                     I.

  Montia fontana                  I.                              F.

  Hypericum pulchrum                                    F. Klaksvig.

  Linum catharticum               I.

  Geranium sylvaticum             I.                              F.

  Vicia cracca                    I. Narfeyri.

  Alchemilla alpina               I.                              F.
      vulgaris                    I.                              F.
  Comarum palustre                I.                              F.
  Dryas octopetala                I.                              F.
  Geum rivale                     I.                              F.
  Fragaria vesca                  I.
  Potentilla anserina             I. Reykholt.
      maculata                    I.
      tormentilla                 I.                              F.
  Rubus saxatilis                 I. Modruvellir, Gullfoss, etc.
  Sibbaldia procumbens            I. Athalmansvatn, Hveravellir.

  Hippuris vulgaris               I.

  Epilobium alpinum               I. Thjofadal.
      latifolium                  I. Gránanes.
      palustre                    I.
      alsinefolium                I. Kerlingarfjöll.

  Rhodiola rosea                  I. Thjofadal.
  Sedum villosum                  I.

  Saxifraga aizoides              I. Vopnafjord.
      cernua                      I. Gilhagi and Thjofadal.
      cæspitosa                   I.                              F.
      Hirculus                    I.
      hypnoides                   I.
      nivalis                     I.
      oppositifolia               I.
      rivularis                   I. Thjofadal, Sandá, etc.
      stellaris                   I.                              F.
  Parnassia palustris             I. Hveravellir, near Springs, etc.

  Angelica sylvestris             I.
  Hydrocotyle vulgaris            I.

  Galium boreale                  I.
      uliginosum                  I.                              F.

  Achillea millefolium            I.                              F.
  Bellis perennis                 I.                              F.
  Erigeron alpinus                I.
  Gnaphalium norvegicum           I. Isafjord, Hveravellir.
      supinum                     I. Isafjord, Hveravellir.
  Taraxacum dens leonis           I.                              F.

  Campanula rotundifolia          I. Vopnafjord, Seythisfjord.

  Pyrola media                    I. Hveravellir, Sandá.
  Vaccinium uliginosum            I.
  Arctostaphylos uva ursi         I. Near Thingvellir.
  Cassiope hypnoides              I. (Especially on hummocky ground.)
  Calluna vulgaris                I. Near Thingvellir.
  Loiseleuria procumbens          I. Seythisfjord, Athalmansvatn.

  Pinguicula vulgaris             I. Hveravellir, near Springs.   F.

  Gentiana campestris             I. Helgafell.
      nivalis                     I. Thingvellir.
  Pleurogyne rotata               I. Vopnafjord.
  Menyanthes trifoliata           I. Vopnafjord, etc.
  Mertensia maritima              I. Reykjavik.
  Myosotis arvensis               I. Akureyri.
      versicolor                                                  F.

  Bartsia alpina                  I. (On hummocky ground.)
  Euphrasia officinalis et. varr. I.                              F.
  Pedicularis flammea             I. Gilhagi, Athalmansvatn.
  Rhinanthus minor                I. Sandá.
  Veronica alpina                 I.
      saxatilis                   I.
      serpyllifolia               I.                              F.
      officinalis                 I.

  Thymus serpyllum                I.                              F.
  Galeopsis tetrahit              I. Geysir.
  Prunella vulgaris               I. Grund.

  Armeria sibirica                I.

  Plantago maritima               I.

  Konigia islandica               I.
  Oxyria digyna                   I.
  Polygonum viviparum             I.
  Rumex acetosa                   I.
      acetosella                  I.

  Empetrum nigrum                 I.

  Salix glauca                    I.
      herbacea                    I.                              F.
      lanata                      I.
      phyllicifolia               I. S.W. Iceland.
      arctica                     I.
      and others, hybrids, etc., which could not be determined.

  Betula nana                     I.
      alpestris                   I.
      intermedia                  I.
      odorata                     I.

  Triglochin palustre             I.
  Corallorhiza innata             I.   Vopnafjord and Husavik.
  Habenaria viridis               I.                              F.
      albida                      I.
  Orchis maculata                 I.                              F.
  Plantanthera hyperborea         I.

  Tofieldia borealis              I.

  Juncus balticus                 I.
      trifidus                    I.
  Luzula campestris               I.
      multiflora                  I.
      spicata                     I.

  Scirpus cæspitosus              I.
  Carex capillaris                I.
      rigida                      I.
      vulgaris                    I. (Common on hummocky ground.)
  Elyna spicata                   I.
  Eriophorum capitatum            I.
      angustifolium               I.

  Agrostis stolonifer             I. Hveravellir.
  Aira alpina                     I.
  Elymus arenarius                I. Skagastrond.
  Festuca ovina                   I.
  Hierochloe borealis             I.
  Phleum alpinum                  I.
  Poa alpina                      I.
  Anthoxanthum odoratum           I.

  Juniperus communis, v. nana     I. Near Thingvellir.

  Selaginella spinosa             I. Hveravellir, etc.
  Lycopodium alpinum              I. Hveravellir.                 F.
      selago                      I.

  Blechnum spicant                                                F.
  Cystopteris fragilis            I.
  Botrychium lunaria              I.
  Ophioglossum vulgatum,
        var. polyphyllum          I. Hveravellir.

  Equisetum arvense               I.
      pratense                    I.


[Illustration: MAP OF ICELAND TO ILLUSTRATE THE AUTHOR'S ROUTE IN 1900]



INDEX OF PLACES


  Akrafjall, 129

  Akureyri, 24-32, 50, 109, 196, 211, 218, 224

  Alftafjord, 168, 170

  Almanna-gjá, 107-109

  Althing, 107, 116, 118, 119

  Arctic Circle, 8, 24, 207

  Arhver, 134

  Arnarfjord, 155, 182

  Arnarvatnsheithi, 122, 143

  Ásquidsá, 76

  Athalmansvatn, 53, 219

  Athalmansvötn, 53

  Audakilsá, 132


  Barnafoss, 138-140, 143, 151, 153-155

  Bathstovukver, 203, 204

  Baula, 133, 155, 156, 161

  Baula, Little, 155

  Beljandi, 56

  Berserkjahraun, 172, 176, 178

  Berufjord, 214

  Biludalr, 182

  Bláfell, 83, 85, 88

  Blandá, 55, 56, 192, 220

  Blonduos, 192, 193

  Bone Cave, 143, 146

  Bordo, 12, 215

  Borgarfjord, 132

  Borovig, 13

  Bortheyri, 192

  Bratholt, 92, 95, 223

  Breithifjord, 166, 169, 171, 172, 181, 182

  Brgnjudalsá, 127

  Bruará, 102, 103


  Copenhagen, 1, 118


  Dalatangi Point, 17

  Deildardalr, 194

  Draghals, 130, 132

  Draghalsá, 131

  Drangey Island, 195

  Drapuhlitharfjall, 174

  Dufufell, 60, 85

  Dyrafjord, 183


  Efriskutur, 80, 82

  Einarstathir, 199, 200

  Eldborg, 163-165

  Engey Island, 119

  Esja, 123, 124

  Eskefjord, 213

  Eyjafjord, 25, 29, 32, 196, 197

  Eyjafjorthará, 29, 198

  Eyri, 187

  Eyriks Jökull, 137, 140, 142, 144, 161, 192

  Eyvindarlaekur, 200


  Fagraskogarfjall, 163, 164

  Falakvisl, 69, 82

  Faroes, 1, 6, 9, 185, 214, 215, 217

  Faskruthsfjord, 214

  Faxafloi (or Faxafjord), 156, 166

  Ferstikluhals, 129

  Fiskivötn, 142, 143

  Fjnoská, 198

  Flatey, 181

  Flateyri, 186

  Fljotsheithi, 199

  Flokadalsá, 134

  Fossá, 127

  Framnes, 184

  Fremrikot, 40


  Geirsholmi, 128

  Geitá, 140, 141

  Geysir, 95, 97-102, 223, 224

  Geysir, Little, 101

  Gilhagi, 49, 50, 219, 222

  Gilsbakki, 138, 140, 149, 150, 152, 154

  Glerá, 31, 32

  Gothafoss, 198

  Gránanes, 68-70, 79, 80, 222, 223

  Gretisbali, 163

  Grimsá, 133, 134

  Grjotá, 158, 161-163

  Grjotardalr, 158

  Grjotarvatn, 161

  Grund, 132, 133

  Gulf Stream, 124

  Gullfoss, 80, 89-93, 96, 139, 223


  Haffjathurá, 166, 167

  Hegranes, 193

  Helgafell, 163, 170, 171, 173, 174

  Helgastathir, 200

  Herradsvötn, 42-44, 47, 48, 194, 195

  Hitá, 163, 164

  Hitardalr, 163

  Hjartharholt, 156, 158

  Hoff Jökull, 54, 60, 68, 69, 85, 193

  Hofthavatn, 195

  Horgá, 32, 33

  Horgadalr, 32

  Horn, The, 188

  Hornstrandr, 188

  Hrafna-gjá, 104, 107, 108

  Hraun, 183

  Hraundalur, 159

  Hrutafell, 54, 63, 64, 66-68, 83, 84

  Hrutafjord, 192

  Hunafjord, 192, 193

  Hunafloi, 192, 193

  Husafell, 140, 142

  Husavik, 24, 25, 196, 198, 204-207, 218

  Hvalfjord, 127, 129

  Hvammsfjord, 172

  Hvamsheithi, 202

  Hveravellir, 57, 59, 62, 85, 220, 221, 224

  Hvitá, 85, 86, 88, 90, 92, 129, 133, 137, 139, 140-143, 150, 151,
         153-155, 223

  Hvitarvatn, 60, 79, 80, 82, 83, 85, 90, 223


  Icicle Cave, 143, 144, 149, 150

  Isafjord, 186-188


  Jarlhettur, 91

  Jokulvisl, 72, 73


  Kaldá, 140, 164, 165

  Kalfstindar, 103

  Kalmanstunga, 140-142, 145

  Kalso, 12, 215

  Kalsofjord, 12, 14, 215

  Karl rock, 195

  Kerling rock, 195

  Kerlingarfjöll, 54, 71-76, 78, 79, 82-85, 150, 224

  Kjalfell, 54, 68

  Kjalhraun, 63, 83

  Kjarrá, 155, 156

  Klaksvig, 11-13

  Kolbeinsdalr, 194

  Kolbeinstathafjall, 164

  Kolbeinstathir, 165, 166

  Kropprmuli, 134

  Kuno, 12, 215

  Kuvikr, 189


  Lagafell, 122

  Lang Jökull, 54, 60, 63, 64, 66, 67, 70, 79, 81-83, 85, 90, 108,
               122, 140, 141, 161, 192, 193

  Langá, 158

  Langanes, 23

  Langavatn, 160, 161

  Laug, 135

  Laugarvatn, 103

  Laugarvatnshellirar, 103

  Laxá, 124, 125, 127, 129, 200, 202

  Laxadal, 125

  Laxavogr, 125

  Leirárvogar, 129

  Leiruvogsá, 123

  Leith, 1, 3, 215

  Lille Dimon, 6, 9

  Litlisandr, 52

  Ljosavatn, 198

  Ljosavatnskarth, 198

  Logberg, 107, 109

  Lundey Island, 207


  Maelifell, 49, 222

  Maelifellshnukr, 43, 45, 49, 194

  Malmey Island, 195

  Mithfjord, 192

  Mjofifjord, 17

  Mossfell, 122, 123, 129

  Mount Tarawera (N.Z.), 58

  Muláfjall, 127

  Mular, 158

  Muli, 200

  Murderesses' Pool, 108, 109

  Myrkar Jökull, 194


  Narfeyri, 168, 169

  Nes, 201, 202

  North Atlantic Drift, 124

  North Cape, 188

  North Island (N.Z.), 77

  North-West Peninsula, 182, 188, 193

  Northfjord, 16, 17, 213

  Northingafljot, 142, 143, 149, 150

  Northrá, 40-42, 156

  Northradal, 41, 42

  Northtunga, 155

  Nypsfjord, 207


  Oddeyri, 27, 31, 32, 198

  Onundarfjord, 186

  Oxará, 108, 109

  Oxnadalr, 33, 218

  Oxnadalsá, 33, 40


  Patreksfjord, 182

  Pink Terraces of N.Z., 58


  Rauthamisolkaldá, 167

  Rauthimelr, 166

  Rauthkollur, 66, 67

  Reykholt, 133-137, 139

  Reykholtsdal, 137

  Reykir, 203, 204

  Reykjadalr, 199

  Reykjadalsá, 134, 136, 155, 200

  Reykjarfjord, 189

  Reykjavik, 25, 49, 50, 102, 109-115, 117, 119, 121, 122, 133, 135,
             172, 175, 179, 224

  Reykjavisl, 203

  Reynivallahals, 127

  Reynivellir, 125-127


  Sandá, 90, 223

  Sandfell, 125

  Saurar, 174

  Sautharkrokr, 193

  Seythisfjord, 17, 20, 21, 209, 211-213, 218

  Siglufjord, 195

  Silfrastathr, 42, 45, 46, 47, 218, 219

  Sithumuli, 155

  Skagafjord, 194

  Skagastrond, 193

  Skalafell, 123

  Skarthsheithi, 132, 161

  Skeljafiall, 54

  Skjalfandafljot, 199

  Skjalfandi, 24, 207

  Skorradalsvatn, 132

  Skriflir, 135

  Skrutharfell, 83

  Skuo, 6

  Skutilsfjord, 186

  Snaefell Peninsula, 168

  Snaefellsnes, 166

  South Ronaldshay, 5

  Stafholt, 156

  Statharhraun, 152, 156, 158, 159, 162, 163

  Stathr, 129

  Store Dimon, 9

  Stori Ás, 137

  Strangákvisl, 55

  Strokur, 97, 98

  Stromo, 9

  Strutr, 137, 138, 141, 142

  Strytur, 60, 61, 63-66, 68, 82, 83, 221, 222

  Stykkisholm, 170-172, 179

  Sudero, 6

  Sugandisey, 172, 173

  Surtshellir Caves, 122, 141-145, 150, 154

  Svarfholsmuli, 158-160

  Svartá, 48, 49

  Svatá, 69, 82, 85, 223

  Sviná, 124

  Svinadal, 124, 129

  Svinaskarth, 124


  Thingeyri, 183

  Thingvallavatn, 105, 107, 110

  Thingvellir, 95, 104-111, 122, 223, 224

  Thjofadal, 63, 66, 67, 221, 222

  Thjofadalsá, 63

  Thjofafell, 68

  Thorshavn, 9, 185, 215

  Thorvaldsdalsá, 151

  Thverá (river), 155

  Thverá (in Oxnadal), 35, 37, 218

  Thyrill, 127-129

  Thyrillsnes, 128

  Trangisvaag, 6-8

  Tunga, 138, 140, 142, 150

  Tungufljot, 97

  Tunguhver, 134, 155

  Tungusveit, 48


  Unadal Jökull, 194

  Unadalr, 194

  Uxhaver Geyser, 202, 203


  Vallholt, 105

  Vathlaheithi, 197, 198

  Vatnsnes, 192

  Veithileysa, 189, 190

  Vestmannsvatn, 200

  Vestradalsá, 208

  Vestri-Skarthsheithi, 156, 158-160, 201

  Vopnafjord, 21-23, 207, 208, 218


THE END


_Printed by_ R. & R. CLARK, LIMITED, _Edinburgh_.



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writers of the day into the military needs of the Empire and the means
of satisfying them. The book is rendered additionally interesting
by the incorporation of extracts from the evidence given before the
War Commission, which justifies the author's argument in the most
remarkable manner.



THIRTY SEASONS IN SCANDINAVIA.

By E. B. KENNEDY.

_Demy 8vo. With numerous Illustrations. 10s. 6d. nett._


'No one has properly seen Norway,' says Mr. Kennedy, 'until he has
been up and sojourned on the roof of that grand country'; and surely
Mr. Kennedy has a right to speak, for he has spent thirty seasons in
exploring every part, not only of its 'roof,' but of its fjords, lakes,
rivers, and islands, and knows perhaps as much as any living man of
Scandinavia from the sporting point of view. In this record of his
adventures he writes of every kind of sport with delightful freshness
and appreciation. He is a true sportsman, and as one reads one realizes
the secret of his keen enjoyment of his life; for he understands men
and loves animals, and has that observant sympathy with Nature in all
its forms which many men who live in the open air either lack or are
unable to express in words. His pages teem with anecdotes of fishing,
shooting, hunting, and _ski-ing_, and contain incidentally many
valuable hints on camping and cooking. There is also much interesting
information about the people, their manners and customs; nor are the
lemmings, beavers, and ponies forgotten.

The book, which is illustrated with some remarkable photographs, cannot
fail to delight all lovers of the rod and gun.



FRATRIBUS.

Sermons preached mainly in Winchester College Chapel.

By JOHN TRANT BRAMSTON, M.A.

_Crown 8vo. 5s. nett._


Mr. Bramston has found, from an experience as a Winchester College
house-master extending over thirty-four years, that the preacher most
likely to influence a school congregation is not the professor or
the lecturer, or even the schoolmaster, but the man who will speak
to the boys as _brothers_, and endeavour to look at the problems of
school-life from their own point of view. Among the twenty-seven
sermons in this volume are included some specially addressed to the
younger boys at the outset of their career. It is believed that
schoolmasters and parents alike will find the collection a valuable
one.



ROUND KANGCHENJUNGA.

By DOUGLAS W. FRESHFIELD, F.R.G.S.,

LATELY PRESIDENT OF THE ALPINE CLUB.

_Royal 8vo. With Maps and numerous Illustrations. 18s. nett._


The magnificent range of Kangchenjunga is perhaps, in one sense, the
best-known portion of the Himalaya Mountains, inasmuch as it is visible
from the popular hill-station of Darjiling; but till quite recently
it was almost unexplored and very inadequately mapped. The complete
circuit of the great mountain had never been made, and its possibility
was uncertain, till it was demonstrated by Mr. Freshfield's remarkable
journey.

The map which was the first-fruit of that journey is in itself an
invaluable addition to our geographical knowledge, but the volume which
describes it has a far wider range of interest. Its results have been
dealt with by Professor Garwood, but the book will appeal first and
foremost to mountaineers and lovers of adventurous travel. The country
traversed has also its own crop of frontier questions and political and
racial problems, and these, too, are dealt with by Mr. Freshfield with
his usual clearness, while his descriptive powers have found abundant
scope in what is, perhaps, the most superb scenery in the world. In
connection with the numerous photographs which adorn his narrative, it
is enough to mention the name of Signor Vittorio Sella.



MEMORIES OF THE MONTHS.

THIRD SERIES.

By the Right Hon. Sir HERBERT MAXWELL, Bart., M.P.

_Large crown 8vo. With Photogravure Illustrations. 7s. 6d._


It is now three years since the Second Series of 'Memories of the
Months' appeared, and it is hoped that the public will welcome this
fresh instalment, which, while dealing with Sport and Natural History
on the same general lines as its predecessors, is, of course, entirely
different from anything that has hitherto been published in the
'Memories.' Sir Herbert is, indeed, continually adding to his stock
of Memories by fresh experiences, so that his books afford a valuable
index to the condition of angling and deer-stalking at the time of
writing; while it is rare to find a sportsman who has so keen an
interest in all matters of Natural History, Forestry, etc.

This volume is uniform in style and binding with the First and Second
Series.



THREE ROLLING STONES IN JAPAN.

By GILBERT WATSON.

_Demy 8vo. With numerous Illustrations. 12s. 6d. nett._


Japan is proverbially a young man's paradise, and when three young
men wander through the country with the fixed intention of enjoying
themselves, one expects to hear a glowing account of their proceedings.
But it is not often that the story combines literary charm with its
other merits. The adventures of these 'Rolling Stones' are not only
interesting--that they could hardly fail to be--but are described with
quite exceptional skill.

Mr. Watson gives a picture of Japan and its people which fills one with
a great longing. Possessing an artist's appreciation of the beautiful
as well as a keen sense of humour, he sketches his scenery and
characters with a light and sympathetic touch. The heroine Karakamoko,
a rickshaw-man's daughter, who accompanies the party as interpreter
and guide, is a most fascinating creature, with whom the reader will
inevitably fall in love.

The book is copiously illustrated with photographs.



AUSTRALIND.

A Narrative of Wanderings in Western Australia and the Maylay East.

By HENRY TAUNTON.

_One volume 8vo. 10s. 6d. nett._


There are few of the wilder aspects of life in Australia of which
Mr. Taunton does not possess an intimate first-hand knowledge, and a
remarkable knack of vivid writing has enabled him to turn his varied
material to excellent account. Whether he is lying in wait for wild
cattle, riding after wild horses, or striving gallantly to sit a
buck-jumper, the reader hears and sees and struggles with him. Equally
graphic are his sketches of Australian types and of the aborigines,
and his chapters on pearl-fishing give an interesting picture of this
curious industry.



IMPERIAL FISCAL REFORM.

By Sir VINCENT H. P. CAILLARD.

_Crown 8vo. 3s. 6d. nett._


Sir Vincent Caillard has long been meditating a comprehensive work on
Imperial Trade and Finance. But in view of the general inquiry into
the fiscal policy of the Empire suggested by Mr. Chamberlain last May,
he has postponed for a time the completion of this work, thinking that
he would render greater service to those who wish to take part in
the inquiry by showing them in less voluminous form the figures and
arguments which have led him to his well-known economic conclusions.

The present book is especially remarkable for the care taken to
eliminate the effect on trade of the South African War, and to keep in
view the conditions prevailing in normal circumstances. A large portion
of the earlier chapters have already appeared in a more condensed shape
in the pages of the _National Review_, but the concluding chapters
are entirely fresh matter, and have been written with the express
purpose of discussing the scheme for the preferential treatment of the
colonies, as understood up to the present time. Sir Vincent Caillard
directs the attention of all who desire earnestly to search for the
truth to two propositions: (1) That preferential treatment of the
colonies must only be looked upon as a step towards Free Trade within
the Empire; and (2) that it is a very great error to draw hard-and-fast
conclusions from the present conditions of the world without any regard
to the future.



KNOWLEDGE IS POWER.

A Guide to Personal Culture.

By PHILIP GIBBS.

_Crown 8vo. 3s. 6d._


This book is a revised and much enlarged edition of the volume of
Essays on self-education, by Mr. Gibbs, already so favourably received
by the public to whom the name of 'Self-Help' is familiar as that of
an attractive writer in weekly newspapers. It contains a series of
articles on the various elements which contribute to the true culture
of the mind, short sketches of Great Writers and studies on Great
Subjects, together with many valuable suggestions for serious inquiry
into 'the things which matter' and upon which every thoughtful man or
woman should have an opinion.



PAT M'CARTY, FARMER OF ANTRIM: HIS RHYMES.

By J. STEVENSON.

_Crown 8vo. 6s. nett._


A good deal has been written lately about the coming poet of Ireland.
Without going so far as to claim that rôle for Pat M'Carty, we are
confident that he will be welcomed as _an_ Irish poet, whose native
notes are thoroughly racy of the soil. A poet must make his own way
with his readers; but we can at least promise this to those who will
give Pat a trial--that, whether they like him or not, they will find
him something entirely unexpected.



LADY ANNE'S WALK.

By ELEANOR ALEXANDER.

_Large crown 8vo. With Photogravure Illustrations, 7s. 6d._


To Miss Alexander, residing in the historic palace of Armagh, with her
father the Archbishop, and deeply sensitive to the _religio loci_, it
was a natural and pretty fancy to find its embodiment in Lady Anne, who
lived there in her day with a former Primate, her brother, and to weave
about her memory pleasant pictures of an age and a generation that
have passed away. But she draws her inspirations from other sources,
too--from legend and old-world history, and from the present as well
as from the past--the beauties of the venerable precincts as they are
to-day, and the humours of its inhabitants and visitants. The result is
a charming pot-pourri, which should appeal to all who are susceptible
to the charm and romance of Ireland.



THE SAD END OF ERICA'S BLACKAMOOR

By F. CLAUDE KEMPSON.

_Super royal 4to. 3s. 6d._


This is a delightful children's picture-book, full of amusing fancy and
clever black-and-white drawing. The 'story' is written in capitals by
hand, and reproduced in facsimile.



NEW NOVELS.

_Crown 8vo. 6s. each._


  THE BERYL STONES.

  By Mrs. ALFRED SIDGWICK.

  AUTHOR OF 'CYNTHIA'S WAY,' 'THE THOUSAND EUGENIAS,' ETC.


  THE RIVER OF VENGEANCE.

  By PHILIP LAURENCE OLIPHANT.

  AUTHOR OF 'THE LITTLE RED FISH.'


  GOD'S SCHOLARS.

  By CHARLES FIELDING MARSH.


  THE NEBULY COAT.

  By J. MEADE FALKNER.

  AUTHOR OF 'MOONFLEET.'


  THE LONGSHOREMEN.

  By GEORGE BARTRAM.


  THE KEY OF PARADISE.

  By SIDNEY PICKERING.

  AUTHOR OF 'VERITY.'


  MR. PAGE'S WILD OATS.

  By CHARLES EDDY.

  AUTHOR OF 'WINIFRED AND THE STOCKBROKER' AND 'THE TAINT OF THE CITY.'


  THE BOY, SOME HORSES, AND A GIRL. A
  Tale of an Irish Trip.

  By DOROTHEA CONYERS.



NEW EDITIONS.


 THE LIFE OF FATHER DOLLING. By the Rev. C. E. OSBORNE, Vicar of
 Seghill, Northumberland. Crown 8vo. 6s.

 TALKS WITH MR. GLADSTONE. By the Hon. L. A. TOLLEMACHE. Large crown
 8vo. With a Portrait of Mr. Gladstone. 6s.

 A MEMOIR OF ANNE J. CLOUGH, PRINCIPAL OF NEWNHAM COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE.
 By her Niece, BLANCHE A. CLOUGH. Crown 8vo. With Portrait. 6s.



ESSEX HOUSE PRESS PUBLICATIONS.


MR. EDWARD ARNOLD has much pleasure in calling attention to the fact
that almost without exception these interesting books have all been
bought up and become out of print before publication, while one or two
that have found their way into the sale-rooms have commanded a high
premium.

These books are printed by the Guild of Handicraft, at Essex House, on
the hand presses used by the late Mr. William Morris at the Kelmscott
Press. Members of Mr. Morris's staff are also retained at the Essex
House Press, and it is the hope of the Guild of Handicraft by this
means to continue in some measure the tradition of good printing and
fine workmanship which William Morris revived.

Subscribers to the complete series of Essex House Publications are
given priority for any new book issued, and the number of subscribers
is constantly increasing. Intending subscribers and persons who
desire to receive announcements of the forthcoming publications are
recommended to enter their names as soon as possible.


_ORDERS MAY NOW BE GIVEN FOR THE FOLLOWING:_

 =Wordsworth's 'Ode on the Intimations of Immortality.'= With
 frontispiece drawn by WALTER CRANE. Vellum Series. 150 copies. £2 2s.
 nett.

 =Heine's 'Selected Songs.'= Edited by EDMOND HOLMES. This book will
 contain a frontispiece by REGINALD SAVAGE, and will be uniform in
 size with the 'Endeavour.' It will be printed in the original German.
 The edition will consist of 250 paper copies bound in boards at 1
 guinea, and 12 vellum copies at 2 guineas each.

 =The Guild of Handicraft Song-Book.= With cuts and music in four-page
 sheets at 1s. a sheet, to be issued in sets of ten at a time, or
 bound up subsequently by arrangement.

 Cicero's 'De Amicitia' in Latin and English (John Harrington's
 translation, Elizabethan).


_COPIES MAY YET BE OBTAINED OF THE FOLLOWING:_

 =The 'Parentalia' of Sir Christopher Wren.= The Life and Account of
 the Works of the Great Architect by his Son. Containing a series of
 illustrations of the remaining City Churches. £3 13s. 6d. nett.

 =Benvenuto Cellini's Treatises on Metal Work and Sculpture.= By C. R.
 ASHBEE. 600 copies. A few still left. 35s. nett.

 =Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress.= Edited from the earlier editions by
 JANET E. ASHBEE, with a frontispiece by REGINALD SAVAGE. Vellum
 cover. 750 copies. 30s. nett.

 =American Sheaves and English Seed Corn.= By C. R. ASHBEE. 300
 copies. 30s. nett.

 =The Doings of Death.= Folio Volume of Large Woodcuts. By WILLIAM
 STRANG. 140 copies. £6 6s.

 =The Old Palace of Bromley-by-Bow.= By ERNEST GODMAN. 350 copies,
 of which 200 are for the use of the Committee for the Survey of the
 Memorials of Greater London, leaving 150 for sale. 21s. nett.

 =The Masque of the Edwards of England.= By C. R. ASHBEE. With
 a series of pictured pageants by EDITH HARWOOD. Limited to 300
 copies at £3 3s. There are also 20 copies on vellum, coloured in
 water-colours by the artist, at £12 12s.



KING EDWARD THE SEVENTH'S PRAYER-BOOK.


This will be a sumptuous edition of the Book of Common Prayer, which,
by gracious permission of His Majesty, will be entitled 'King Edward
the Seventh's Prayer-Book.'

The new Prayer-Book will be hand printed at the Essex House Press, and,
whilst conforming to the Authorized Version, will rank, as a piece of
typography, with the Great Prayer-Book of Edward VI. It is to be in new
type designed by Mr. C. R. Ashbee, with about one hundred and fifty
woodcuts, and is to be printed in red and black on Batchelor hand-made
paper. There will also probably be a special binding of green vellum
with a gold block design and clasps.

Exceptional circumstances connected with the Book of Common Prayer
render it essential that this work, in order to be of historic
value, shall be issued with the imprint of the King's printers; the
Prayer-Book will therefore be published by his Majesty's printers,
Messrs. Eyre and Spottiswoode, acting under the Royal Letters Patent,
who will superintend the work of the Essex House Press.

Mr. EDWARD ARNOLD, publisher to the Essex House Press, is now entering
subscriptions for the work, and as the few available copies are being
rapidly taken up, those who desire to possess this important work are
recommended to apply as soon as possible.

The edition will be strictly limited to a total of four hundred copies
for England and America, at a price of Twelve Guineas (£12 12s.) nett.
There will also be five copies for England on vellum at Forty Pounds
(£40) nett, all of which are already sold.



THE NATIONAL REVIEW.

Edited by L. J. MAXSE.

_Price 2s. 6d. net._


This important Review now occupies the foremost place among the monthly
periodicals of the United Kingdom. Its circulation has shown a steady
and continuous increase, and is at present more than double what it
was five years ago. It has, moreover, established for itself a unique
position from the tone of public-spirited independence in which it
approaches the political and social questions of the day. The influence
of the NATIONAL REVIEW, and the respect in which it is held, may be
gauged from the attention given every month by the Press, both English
and foreign, to the articles appearing in the current number, as well
as from the list of contributors, some of whose names are given below.

The NATIONAL REVIEW pays special attention to Foreign Politics, and
each number contains a series of Editorial Notes, summing up in a
masterly fashion the more important 'Episodes of the Month' both at
home and abroad. Another special feature is the prominence given to
the affairs of the United States. Literature and Finance are also ably
handled, and articles in a lighter vein are to be found in every number.

Some of the Contributors to the 'National Review.'

  THE ARCHBISHOP OF ARMAGH.
  H. O. ARNOLD-FORSTER, M.P.
  LORD ALVERSTONE.
  RIGHT HON. H. H. ASQUITH, K.C., M.P.
  LORD AVEBURY.
  RIGHT HON. A. J. BALFOUR, M.P.
  SIR ROWLAND BLENNERHASSETT, Bart.
  RIGHT HON. ST. JOHN BRODRICK, M.P.
  SIR VINCENT CAILLARD.
  RIGHT HON. J. CHAMBERLAIN, M.P.
  ARTHUR CHAMBERLAIN.
  E. T. COOK.
  LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON.
  PROFESSOR A. V. DICEY, K.C.
  RIGHT HON. SIR MOUNTSTUART GRANT-DUFF.
  SIR EDWARD GREY, Bart., M.P.
  COL. LONSDALE HALE, R.E.
  RIGHT HON. LORD GEORGE HAMILTON, M.P.
  BENJAMIN KIDD.
  RUDYARD KIPLING.
  SIDNEY J. LOW.
  CAPTAIN A. T. MAHAN.
  J. A. FULLER MAITLAND.
  W. H. MALLOCK.
  GEORGE MEREDITH.
  DR. MAX NORDAU.
  H.M. KING OSCAR II.
  RIGHT HON. SIR HORACE RUMBOLD, Bart., G.C.B., G.C.M.G.
  THE MARQUIS OF SALISBURY, K.G.
  SIR LESLIE STEPHEN, K.C.B.



THE TIMES ATLAS.


This well-known and magnificent work, which is generally considered the
finest reference Atlas that has ever been produced, is issued in the
following Editions:

  Handsome cloth binding         27s. 6d. nett.
  Half morocco, gilt edges       35s. nett.
  Fully bound Edition de Luxe    55s. nett.



_Published in the Spring of 1903._


 RECOLLECTIONS OF A TOWN BOY AT WESTMINSTER, 1849-1855. By CAPTAIN F.
 MARKHAM, late Rifle Brigade. Demy 8vo. With Illustrations. 10s. 6d.
 nett.

 NATURE'S LAWS AND THE MAKING OF PICTURES. By W. L. WYLLIE, A.R.A.
 With over eighty illustrations from drawings by the author, and a few
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 WITH MACDONALD IN UGANDA. By MAJOR HERBERT H. AUSTIN, C.M.G., D.S.O.,
 R.E., Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. Demy 8vo. With
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 THE TALE OF A TOUR IN MACEDONIA. By G. F. ABBOTT. Demy 8vo. With
 Illustrations and a Map. Second Impression. 14s. nett.

 JOURNALS OF FIELD-MARSHAL COUNT VON BLUMENTHAL, for 1866 and 1870-71.
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 THE MINOR MORALIST. By Mrs. HUGH BELL. Second Impression. Crown 8vo.,
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 THE DEAN OF ST. PATRICK'S: A Play in Four Acts. By Mrs. HUGH BELL.
 Crown 8vo., 2s. 6d. nett.



NOVELS.


 THE ABSURD REPENTANCE. By ST. JOHN LUCAS. Crown 8vo. 6s.

 THE LITTLE RED FISH. By PHILIP LAURENCE OLIPHANT. Crown 8vo. 6s.

 THE TAINT OF THE CITY. By CHARLES EDDY, Author of 'Winifred and the
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 THE TEMPLARS. By E. H. LACON WATSON. Crown 8vo. 6s.



STANDARD WORKS FOR THE LIBRARY.


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 ENGLAND IN EGYPT. By VISCOUNT MILNER, High Commissioner for South
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 TURKEY IN EUROPE. By ODYSSEUS. With Maps, 1 vol., demy 8vo., 16s.

 STYLE. By WALTER RALEIGH, Professor of English Literature in the
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 MILTON. By WALTER RALEIGH. Crown 8vo., cloth, 6s.

 WORDSWORTH. By WALTER RALEIGH. Crown 8vo., cloth, 6s.

 ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON. By WALTER RALEIGH. Second Edition. Crown
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 THE HOUSE OF SELEUCUS. By EDWYN ROBERT BEVAN. 2 vols. With Portraits,
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 CROSS-BENCH VIEWS ON CURRENT CHURCH QUESTIONS. By H. HENSLEY HENSON,
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 THE CHANCES OF DEATH, and other Studies in Evolution. By KARL
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 ANIMAL BEHAVIOUR. By C. LLOYD MORGAN, LL.D., F.R.S., Principal of
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 HABIT AND INSTINCT: A STUDY IN HEREDITY. By Professor LLOYD MORGAN.
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 FOOD AND THE PRINCIPLES OF DIETETICS. By ROBERT HUTCHISON, M.D.
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 THE PRINCIPLES OF LANDED ESTATE MANAGEMENT. By HENRY HERBERT SMITH,
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 OLD ENGLISH GLASSES. An Account of Glass Drinking-Vessels in
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POPULAR BOOKS.


 A BOOK ABOUT ROSES. By the Very Rev. S. REYNOLDS HOLE, Dean of
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 THE MEMORIES OF DEAN HOLE. By Dean HOLE. With Illustrations from
 Sketches by Leech and Thackeray. Popular Edition. Crown 8vo., 6s.

 A LITTLE TOUR IN IRELAND. By 'OXONIAN' (Dean Hole). Illustrated by
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 SEVENTY YEARS OF IRISH LIFE. By the late W. R. LE FANU. Popular
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 PHASES OF MY LIFE. By the Very Rev. FRANCIS PIGOU, Dean of Bristol.
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 FRANCIS: the Little Poor Man of Assisi. By JAMES ADDERLEY, Author of
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 MONSIEUR VINCENT: a Short Life of St. Vincent de Paul. By JAMES
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 MEMORIES OF THE MONTHS (First, Second, and Third Series). By the
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 POULTRY-KEEPING AS AN INDUSTRY FOR FARMERS AND COTTAGERS. By EDWARD
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_BY THE SAME AUTHOR._

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BOOKS FOR THE YOUNG.


 MY ADVENTURES DURING THE LATE WAR: A Narrative of Shipwreck,
 Captivity, Escapes from French Prisons, and Sea Service in 1804-1814.
 By DONAT HENCHY O'BRIEN, Captain R.N. Edited by Professor C. W. OMAN.
 With Maps and Illustrations. Large crown 8vo., 7s. 6d.

 ADVENTURES WITH THE CONNAUGHT RANGERS FROM 1809-1814. By WILLIAM
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 C. W. OMAN. With Maps and Illustrations. Large crown 8vo., 7s. 6d.

 WAGNER'S HEROES. By CONSTANCE MAUD. Illustrated by H. GRANVILLE FELL.
 Fourth Impression. Crown 8vo., 5s.

 WAGNER'S HEROINES. By CONSTANCE MAUD. Illustrated by W. T. MAUD.
 Second Impression. Crown 8vo., 5s.

 MEN OF MIGHT. Studies of Great Characters. By A. C. BENSON, M.A.,
 and H. F. W. TATHAM, M.A., Assistant Masters at Eton College. Fourth
 Impression. Crown 8vo., cloth, 3s. 6d.

 LAMB'S ADVENTURES OF ULYSSES. With an Introduction by ANDREW LANG.
 Square 8vo., cloth, 1s. 6d. Also the Prize Edition, gilt edges, 2s.

 PATRIOTIC SONG: A Book of English Verse. Being an Anthology of the
 Patriotic Poetry of the English Empire from the Defeat of the Spanish
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 ARTHUR STANLEY. Crown 8vo., 2s. 6d.

 HISTORICAL TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE. By A. T. QUILLER-COUCH ('Q').
 Author of 'The Ship of Stars,' etc. Crown 8vo., 6s.

 FRIENDS OF THE OLDEN TIME. By ALICE GARDNER, Lecturer in History at
 Newnham College, Cambridge. Fourth Impression. Illustrated, 2s. 6d.

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                              FOOTNOTES:

[1] _Polygonum viviparum_ in the "host" for the Uredo stage of this
fungus, and the disease was noticed on it in several places.

[2] "On some Algæ from Hot Springs," G. S. West, _Journal of Botany_,
July 1902, p. 242.

[3] Not in _Warming's_ list, but given by _Babington_ from Akureyri.





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