By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Across the Vatna Jökull; or Scenes in Iceland - Being a Description of Hitherto Unkown Regions
Author: Watts, William Lord
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Across the Vatna Jökull; or Scenes in Iceland - Being a Description of Hitherto Unkown Regions" ***

(This file was produced from images generously made


  Italic text is denoted by _underscores_.

  Footnote anchors are denoted by [number], and the two footnotes have
  been placed at the end of the book.

  A superscript is denoted by ^x, for example Edw^d or C^o.

  Basic fractions are displayed as ½ and ¼; there are no other fractions
  in this book.

  Icelandic names frequently have accented characters, and often have
  the ‘eth’ character which displays as ð.

  All changes noted in the ERRATA in the frontmatter have been applied
  to the etext.

  Some minor changes to the text are noted at the end of the book.

  [Illustration: MOUNT PAUL.


                      ACROSS THE VATNA JÖKULL;

                         Scenes in Iceland;



                        WILLIAM LORD WATTS.



                             THIS WORK




                           W. L. WATTS.


Having traversed several parts of Iceland concerning which nothing
has hitherto been known, I have ventured to publish the few
following pages, giving an account of my journey across the Vatna
Jökull, and my visit to the volcanoes in the North of Iceland.

  W. L. W.


  No. 1.  Mount Paul--_Frontispiece_.

  No. 2.  The Öskjugjá                                    88

      Map of Iceland                        _To face page_ 1

      Map of the Author’s Routes from
        Núpstað to Reikjahlíð                      ”      45


  Page 11, line 16, _for_ A.M., _read_ P.M.
   ”   26, lines 1 and 5, _for_ zoolites, _read_ zeolites.
   ”   27, line  2, _omit_ comma _after_ Paul.
   ”   29,   ”  26, _for_ 12 A.M., _read_ midday.
   ”   30,   ”  14, _for_ laid, _read_ lay.
   ”   35,   ”  12, _after_ Fahrenheit, _omit_ of frost.
   ”   58,   ”  18, _for_ laid, _read_ lay.
   ”  100,   ”  22, _for_ meat, _read_ feet.


  _London, Longmans & C^o._
  _Edw^d. Weller, Litho. Red Lion Square._


                      ACROSS THE VATNA JÖKULL.

Iceland again! Reykjavík again! Here I am upon the same errand as
in 1871 and 1874--foolhardiness and folly as it is denounced by
some at home. I fancy I can see some of my worthy countrymen at
ten o’clock in the morning, clad in dressing-gown and slippers,
breakfast half finished, and a copy of some journal that has
condescended to take notice of my little expedition in his hand.
Umph! he says, 5,000 square miles of uninhabited country, a howling
wilderness, nothing but volcanoes, ice, and snow--a man must be
a fool to want to go there; no one ever has crossed this cold,
desolate region, why, in the name of everything that is worth
pounds, shillings, and pence, should any one be mad enough to want
to do so now? It would be in vain to refer him to that element in
the Anglo-Saxon, which especially longs to associate itself with
the unknown; he scouts the idea of possible scientific results;
no pulse would quicken in his frame because he stood where no
mortal had planted his foot before. He sees it costs money, time,
and labour. He thinks of the hard cash going out that might
be advantageously invested (and rightly so, too, if he enjoys
the felicity of being a paterfamilias); he magnifies the risk a
thousandfold, and stamps the whole concern as “utter folly.” Well!
well! let our worthy friend stop at home; it is his element. Only
it would be as well if he did not go out of his way to anathematise
an expedition which costs him not a farthing, which occupies not
one moment of his time, and risks not a hair of his head. Everyone,
it is said, is mad upon some point or another. Our worthy friend’s
mania may be, that he thinks he is specially called upon to spend
his energies in breeding a superior race of poultry; mine may be
to wander amongst unknown or unfrequented corners of the earth;
but so long as I leave his chicken-house unmolested, I think he
should leave off sneering at my wild peregrinations. But a truce to
critical stay-at-homes, for we are again upon our travels.

We have endured the unstable liveliness of the old steam-ship
“Diana,” and have reached the little capital of Iceland again, to
find most of our friends alive and well, and Paul Paulsen (whom the
readers of “Snioland” will recognise as my head man upon the Vatna
Jökull last year), who greets us with the cheering intelligence
that our horses have been all provided, that our complement of men
has been already hired, and that as soon as I have paid a few
complimentary visits to my friends in Reykjavík, he is ready to
raise the shout of, “Forward to the snows of Vatna Jökull!”

Twelve hours are sufficient to effect my friendly purposes, and the
evening after that upon which we landed a small boat full of boxes,
saddles, and the necessary equipments for our long journey was
lying alongside one of the little wooden landing-stages in front
of the town. It was 8 P.M. before we made our appearance, escorted
by a numerous party of Icelandic friends. As many as could do so,
without inconvenience to the rowers, squeezed themselves into the
little boat, and we departed amid the cheers of our friends and,
I believe, the good wishes of all the inhabitants. Clear of the
shore, we hoisted our sail and glided along at no inconsiderable
pace towards the little farm of Laugarnes, at the east end of the
bay, where our horses were awaiting us, while we enlivened our
brief voyage by a Norse song or two, accompanied by an intermittent
fantasia by friend Oddr Gíslasson upon the French horn. We found
our horses in as fair a condition as was possible for the time of
year; but it saves an immense deal of trouble and some money if one
knows of any person to be relied on, who can be entrusted with a
commission to purchase horses previous to one’s arrival, for we
thus avoid not merely the harassing delay incidental to procuring
these important necessaries for Icelandic travel, but the payment
of a long price for the sorry animals which generally fall to the
lot of the tourist, who must purchase a stud as soon as he has
landed in the island. My horses had been procured from the south
of Iceland; they cost from fifty to ninety dollars each, and were,
upon the whole, I think, the finest set of horses I had ever seen
in the country.

As I intended to travel as fast as I could to the seat of our
summer’s work, I had a change of horses for riding and for the
pack-boxes. This is absolutely necessary where anything like hard
riding is contemplated, but it is by no means essential where
time is not an object. After some delay incidental to reducing
the baggage to a portable shape and proportion, which is always
a matter of some difficulty at the commencement of either an
equestrian or pedestrian journey, we took leave of the remainder
of our friends, and accompanied by Paul and another Icelander,
we pursued our way eastward, over the roughest path imaginable,
towards Eyrarbakki, amid the gathering gloom of what turned out
to be a wet and miserable day. It is always necessary to take an
extra man to help during the first day’s journey, for the horses
are always more unruly and obstinate the first day or two. This
is especially the case where the route is a rough one, like that
towards Eyrarbakki. The first part of our course lay over a series
of ancient lava streams, upon which the scant herbage was being
cropped by a few miserable sheep which had escaped the hand of the
shearer; their dirty, ragged coats had been partly torn from their
backs by the crags among which they had scrambled, giving them a
deplorable appearance quite in keeping with the forbidding aspect
of the country and the miserable day. About midday we reached
the wretched little farm of Lœkjarbotn. It boasted nothing but
squalor, stock-fish, and dirty children. I do not know why it is,
but most of the farms in the immediate neighbourhood of Reykjavík
are of the poorest and most wretched description. It is true their
pastures in most cases are poorer than those of other parts of
the country, but there is a great difference in the people also.
No one can help noticing a settled look of contented despair in
their countenance, scarcely to be wondered at considering their
surroundings, which, in this particular instance, seemed as much
like hopeless wretchedness as anything I had ever seen. Ah, well!
our horses are rested, we have waded through the slush pools and
the mire which front that heterogeneous mound of lava blocks, turf,
and timber, which we can scarcely conceive anyone, by any stretch
of sentimental imagination, calling _home_. Our horses struggled
down the steep mound of slippery mud which by no means assists
travellers either to arrive at or depart from Lœkjarbotn. Leaving
this little patch of stagnant misery behind us, we come upon the
desolate lava, the dank mists from the adjacent mountains wrapping
themselves around us, a driving rain beating into our faces, and a
nipping wind exaggerating our discomfort, and assisting the rain to
find out the weak places in our mackintosh armour.

We next ascended the hills of Hengilsfjall. This volcano (Hengill)
and its neighbours have given vent to numerous pre-historic
eruptions, from which vast streams of lava have issued in various
directions, not only having poured from the craters of the
mountains themselves, but having welled up at various places
in huge mamelonic forms. Near the summit of the mountains is a
boiling spring, the medicinal properties of which are thought very
highly of by the well-known Dr. Hjaltalín, of Reykjavík. In fine
weather this part of the country must be very interesting, and
even Lœkjarbotn itself might not have looked so extra melancholy.
In journeying through these centres of volcanic activity we cannot
but be struck with the general lowness of the volcanoes in Iceland.
This is doubtless owing to the number of vents which exist in
close proximity to one another, so that the volcanic force,
having piled up a certain amount of superincumbent matter, finds
readier exit by bursting through the superficial overlying rocks
in adjacent localities, which offered less resistance than the
accumulated volcanic products which they themselves had previously
erupted, or by availing themselves of some pre-existing point of
disturbance which afforded them a readier escape. The evening found
us at the small farm of Hraun, which impressed me more favourably
than Lœkjarbotn, although it was kept by a poor widow whose means
were excessively limited.

Not having burdened myself with more provisions than I required
for the Vatna Jökull alone, we were here again dependent upon the
resources of the country, and although this is the worst time
of year to travel without provisions in Iceland, still we fared
not amiss, obtaining a sufficiency of rye cake, milk, and smoked
mutton, which, without being very palatable, answered all the
purpose of affording us a meal. Although we had employed a lad to
watch our horses during the night, some of them were found astray
in the morning. When travelling in this country, especially in
the earlier part of the journey, it is by far the best to hire
some one to watch the horses, rather than to hobble them while
grazing, for, in the first place, even when hobbled, horses will
stray a long way, and, very often, the only effect of hobbling is
to prevent their picking out the best of the pasture, and one finds
in the morning they have decamped just the same as if they had been
turned out loose.

Having again got under weigh, we were soon upon the sandy shores
of the Ölfusá. This river is formed by the confluent waters of the
Hvítá and the Sog, which unite, some twenty English miles from the
point where they flow into the sea, forming a very large body of
water. Here several seals were basking in the sun, and lying like
pieces of rock within a hundred yards of our track, but upon our
nearer approach they scrambled into the water with considerable
agility. Eyrarbakki really means sandy bank; it is situated upon
the east side of the Ölfusá, at the point where that river empties
itself into the sea. Upon both sides of the Ölfusá, and on the west
side in particular, are great stretches of black sand, while upon
the west side these are grown over with wild oats, and the more one
looks on the vast accumulation on the west of the river, the more
one is struck with its magnitude. Its cause, however, is apparent.

At this point, huge lava streams, flowing down from the volcanoes
upon the west side of the river, have obstructed the mud and sand
brought down by the waters of that stream; where an immense
bed of sand was formed, which diverted the course of the river,
causing it to empty itself further to the east, leaving these huge
accumulations of sand high and dry on the western side.

Having crossed the stream by means of a ferry, we found that the
irons of all our pack-boxes required alteration, and we could not
halt at a better place than Eyrarbakki to have them attended to.
These irons, which attach the pack-box to the pack-saddle, are
the nightmare of Icelandic travel; and travellers cannot be too
particular in having them of the most careful construction, also of
the best material possible; again, if anything be amiss with them,
they should be always attended to at the earliest opportunity, or
a breakdown is sure to occur in some inconvenient or outlandish
place; and, but for the Icelanders’ remarkable faculty for
improvising ways and means, such occasions would cause a serious
delay in a day’s march. Eyrarbakki is one of the principal trading
stations in the south of Iceland. It is situated upon a dreary
sandbank, the view from which is most monotonous and depressing,
while the wailing roar of the formidable breakers, which here
extend a long distance out to sea, is melancholy in the extreme.

All along this portion of the shore, ancient lava streams have run
out into the sea; but upon the land they are indiscernible, owing
to the alluvium with which they are covered. The whole of the south
coast, from Eyrarbakki to Papós, is rendered inaccessible to ships
by shoals, sand-banks, and sunken rocks, and there is not an inlet
during all that distance of some 200 miles which a ship could enter.

Having ridden within a few miles of the River Thjórsá, although
it was the middle of the night, we stopped at a farm to purchase
another horse, and, having roused the inmates from their beds,
we completed our purchase, took “schnapps,” and rode away to the
Thjórsá. It was past 1 A.M., and the ferryman had gone to bed on
the opposite side of the river; it was raining, sleeting, and
blowing hard; again and again we shouted, but the storm and the
roaring of the water proved too much even for our united lungs,
which were none of the weakest. Fortunately, Paul remembered there
was a farmer who owned a boat a mile or so further up the side
of the river we were on, he therefore roused him while I looked
after the horses. This was scarcely an easy task, for, in spite of
the driving storm, they strayed away to graze in every direction.
Bye-and-bye the farmer and his wife made their appearance. They
seemed quite happy at being disturbed from their warm beds in the
middle of a cold, stormy night, to earn a dollar-and-a-half by
paddling about in the icy cold water of the Thjórsá and ferrying
over their nocturnal visitors with their goods and chattels. In
fact, our worthy Charon seemed to look upon it as a piece of good
fortune. _At this time of the year, it is light all night._

The weather cleared about 8 A.M. and we had a good view of Mount
Hekla as we forded the West Rángá. We stopped between the rivers
East and West Rángá, where we had to pay for one of the horses we
were riding, for Paul had only brought it with him to Reykjavík
on sale or return. Here we took coffee, and next proceeded to
Breiða-bólstaðr, where, as usual, we were received with great
kindness and hospitality. After taking two hours’ sleep, we pushed
on to Holt, which we reached about 1 P.M. The day was half spent
before we were again on our way; so we rode briskly to Skógarfoss,
one of the largest and most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland, where
there is a very good farm, and the people are extremely thrifty. I
suppose they had never been able to procure any of the legendary
gold beneath the falls of Skógarfoss, but they evidently manage to
screw a tolerable amount out of travellers who come to admire its

On, on; past the ice cliffs of Eyjafjalla Jökull to Heiði, where we
were so kindly entertained last year. It was 10 P.M. when eight
horses, which showed as though they wanted to graze, and two men,
who looked as if they wanted to go to bed, drew up in front of this
hospitable dwelling.

The farm is a poor one, though the good folks make the best of
it. Their lives, like that of all the poorer Icelanders, must be
one continuous struggle against poverty, inclement weather, and
a fruitless soil. Yet they have a few sheep and cows upon the
hillside; plenty of fish in the lake; and withal are contented. But
their contentment is evidently of a very different kind to that
which we noticed at Lœkjarbotn; it manifestly results from a hope
that their circumstances may be improved by domestic thrift, and
good fortune with their flocks. Hopeful contentment differs from
the contentment of despair in this respect, the one is cheerful
and open to improvement, the other is sullen and so sunken in the
slough of despondency as to have given up all hope of a change for
the better, and thus to be incapable of availing itself of any
propitious opportunity, if such should occur. One day’s rest at
Heiði, and we mount again, directing our course eastward; riding
swiftly over the arid waste of Myrdals Sandr, we reached the banks
of the river Kuða-fljót. We find that this river, which we forded
with considerable difficulty last year, could now only be crossed
in boats. This shows how the unstable beds of Icelandic rivers
shift and change about, transforming shallows into deep water, and
creating sand-banks amid the deepest river channels.

We purchased of our ferryman some birds (skümur) which were
considered very good to eat. We stopped for the night at the farm
of Króki. The farmer, who had been previously hired to form one
of my expedition across the Vatna Jökull, regaled us with swan’s
flesh, which much resembled tough beef; and, although eating it
was rather hard work, it was certainly nutritious and palatable.
The farmer, Olgi by name, had taken up shooting as his special
hobby, and, in spite of his inefficient tools, a very profitable
use he appeared to make of it, if we might judge from the numerous
swan-skins which were drying outside his house, and the amount
of swan’s flesh that was being salted. The swans of Iceland are
valuable on account of their down; the outer feathers are seldom
of any good, for they are never pure white; the value of a swan
skin is about one rix dollar, Danish. After a ramble amongst the
lava which had flowed from the Skaptar Jökull during the remarkable
eruption of 1783, we resumed our journey; the day was very hot--as
much so as any July day in England. Passing the beautiful waterfall
of Seljalandsfoss, which appeared in the bright sunlight like
curtains of silvery foam upon the face of the dark basaltic cliffs,
which here are about 200 feet in height, we arrived at the farm of
Hörgsdalr. Here dwelt another of our “Jökull men” (as Paul called
those he had hired for my expedition) named Eyólfur; he was one of
the toughest, blithest-hearted, and most good-natured fellows I had
ever come across.

The bóndi (as the Icelandic farmer is called) was a relation of the
farmer at Núpstað, whose farm, where I had received such kindly
welcome in 1871 and 1874, was only half-a-day’s journey eastward.

I found the farmer of Hörgsdalr, like his relative, extremely
hospitable; taking a great interest in my expedition, and willing
to give every assistance in his power.

The next day we ascended the Kaldbakkr, a mountain 2279 feet in
height, in order to get a good look at the south side of the
Vatna Jökull, which was directly to the north of it. Kaldbakkr is
situated a few miles to the north of Hörgsdalr.

Accompanied by the farmer, we rode to the last patch of grass that
was nearest the mountain, and, after a smart scramble, reached
the summit. The Jökull looked decidedly whiter than I had ever
seen it, but there was the same expanse of snow losing itself in
the northern distance; pure, silent, dazzling, beautiful, and
spotless, save where a few black peaks and uncouth masses of dark
rock protruded through the frozen covering. These were scattered
at long intervals across the unsullied snow-slopes, and clustered
together in the south-west, where lies that portion of the Vatna
known as the Skaptar Jökull. Harmless and guileless they looked
in the morning sunshine; but they had vomited the lava which had
desolated the plain below, and had given vent to the fiery force
which from time to time had shaken Iceland to its very foundations!
One peak to the north-west especially attracted my attention, on
account of its height and its perfectly conical form, and my guide
informed me that it had erupted on several occasions, and that the
last outburst occurred about thirty years ago.

It was with no small satisfaction I arrived at the now familiar
homestead of Núpstað, and received the usual glad welcome from
the bóndi Ayólver, who had been expecting us. I again took up
my quarters in the disused little church, which makes such a
good storehouse for my friend Ayólver, and such an excellent
resting-place for chance travellers like myself. It seemed
quite home-like as I tumbled into the little bed which had been
improvised upon the boxes in the corner, and I experienced the
comfortable feeling of being in my old place again as I ate my
breakfast off and posted up my diary upon the antiquated communion
table. Do not be shocked, good reader! all sanctity had long ago
departed from this useful piece of furniture, and if we were to
peep into the inside, we should find neither sacred utensils nor
vestments; but simply the serviceable homespun garments of the
bóndi’s wife.

The farm and the rocks behind it were but little altered since I
first saw them four years ago. One year in Núpstað is much like
its predecessor, and things go on, year after year, in just the
same routine, except where the inevitable changes of life and
death intervene. The people had altered the most, for of course
they had grown older, and one or two faces were missing! Well, I
have grown older, too--it is no good to stand dreaming. There is a
bullock to be bought, butchered, and salted, preparatory to making
it into “kœfar,” as the Icelanders call the kind of pemmican I
make for my Jökull expeditions. Skin-bags and mocassins have to be
procured; butter, bread, and stock-fish have to be sought after; in
fact, the greater part of three weeks’ provisions for six men must
be collected from the neighbouring farms. We made the necessary
arrangements, and settled that these various articles are to be
ready for us in a week’s time; we then deputed Paul’s father to
attend to the levying of our requisitions, and the payment for
them. The ox was next slain, dissected, and salted, and we were
again ready to start on our travels.

Some little difficulty was experienced in getting all into train,
owing to the hurry all the farmers of this locality were in to get
this year’s wool to the store at Papós, which is situated four
days’ journey to the east; for tidings had been received that the
ice of a portion of the Vatna Jökull, known as the Breiðamerkr
had advanced to such an extent as to threaten the cutting off of
all communication along the sea-shore, since the advance still
continued. In consequence of this alarm every farmer was busy
preparing the wool for market; steaming cauldrons were cleansing
it from its grease, bands of sturdy Icelandic maidens were rinsing
it in the clear water of the mountain streams--which are almost
sure to be found in close proximity to the farms in this part of
the country--patches of white wool were drying upon the ground,
while the male part of the community were measuring it in quaint
wooden baskets, packing it into sacks, and forming bundles of
equal weight to balance on each side of the pack-horses. It would
be a very serious thing, indeed, if the road to Papós were to be
intercepted, as it would compel the dwellers in this district to
journey to Eyrarbakki before they could exchange their produce for
the necessaries they require. Leaving Núpstað behind us, we set
out for the advancing glacier, and turned our faces towards the
snowy slopes of Örœfa.

The Súla river, or Núpsvatn, had to be crossed. It was deeper than
I had before seen it, though its volume of water scarcely seemed
to have increased. Its bed was changed to one of pebbles and
quicksand. In 1871 it was of pebbles only, in 1874 it was black
sand, in 1875 it is again pebbles and sand.

We crossed the river and fast sped on our way over the desert of
Skeiðarár Sandr. This sand occupies an area of 300 square miles.
It has been formed by the joint efforts of volcanoes upon the
Vatna and Mount Örœfa, which have strewn this tract with sand and
ashes, and whose ejectamenta have been brought down by the shifting
waters of numerous glacial streams which traverse the Skeiðarár
Sandr in many directions. It would seem that the portion of the
Vatna which here bounds the Skeiðarár Sandr upon the north has
acted in a similar manner to the Breiðamerkr Jökull; for numerous
_moraines_ occur upon these sands, some of which are at a great
distance from the utmost limit of the Jökull at the present time.
Indeed, there has been an obvious advance at this point since 1871
of the fringe of the glacier which almost surrounds the Vatna
Jökull. The existence of scratched rocks in _moraines_ in Iceland
below the limit of the glaciers does not of necessity prove that
such glaciers have bodily advanced, as during extensive eruptions
of glacial mountains huge masses of ice frequently slip forward to
considerable distances, scratching the harder and furrowing the
softer rocks in their progress, which, upon their melting, leave
large piles of glacial _débris_, in no way distinguishable from a
_moraine_ stranded upon the lower elevations.

It was blowing hard from the east with heavy rain, but upon the
west side of the mountain before us (Örœfa) the sun was shining in
the most tantalising manner, so that as we urged our horses along
the heavy sands we were fain to fancy ourselves exploring those
dazzling glaciers and snowy slopes which seemed to fascinate the
sunshine and detain it from reaching us.

We were soon under the lee of the mountains before us. Sheltered
from the wind and the storm, we could stop to admire the grand
sweep from the Örœfa to the commencement of the Skeiðará Jökull.
Looking back at Núpstað, we saw it enwrapped in gloom, the clouds
clustering round the Lómagnúpar,[1] a mountain which seems to
attract all the bad weather to Núpstað and the storm sat heavily
upon the western portion of the plain of Skeiðarár Sandr, which was
exposed to the fury of the east winds.

Crossing the river Skeiðará, we reached the Saga-famed Svínafell.
Here we stayed to refresh ourselves with the national panacea
for the ills of Icelandic travel, namely, a cup of coffee of the
real Icelandic brew! The art of making good coffee is one of the
greatest accomplishments of the fair sex here, and it is a pity
it is not more generally attained by the lady population of other
countries. The occurrence of drinkable coffee in Iceland, a good
cup of it being always to be obtained at the poorest farm, is
the more remarkable, as the coffee sold by the merchants at the
various stores is never of the best quality; but is principally the
Java coffee. The grand secret of success in this special domestic
art is doubtless owing to the fact that the coffee is roasted at
home, exactly to the right turn, and deftly manipulated in some
particular way which early training and long practice can alone
effect. The last and by no means the least adjunct to this national
_bonne bouche_ is in most cases a good supply of cream.

Being thus fortified, we were taken to see a birch-tree upon the
hill behind the farm. This tree might have been five-and-twenty
feet in height, and it was considered the largest tree in this
part of the island. There is, however, a considerable growth of
bushy trees, principally birch, in the valley called Núpstaða-skógr
down which the river Súla flows. It is by far the largest wood
in the south of Iceland. Núpstaða-skógr is likewise remarkable
for containing a breed of wild sheep, which belongs to our friend
Ayólver, who is the owner of the skógar, together with the valuable
farm of Núpstað. There is also another patch of wood at the
north-west base of Örœfa, which is of great use to Svínafell and
the adjacent farms.

The hills behind Svínafell are basaltic; but as we proceeded
further eastward, we soon found ourselves surrounded by the more
recent products of the volcano Örœfa, which towered above us upon
our left hand. Seeing a party of horsemen approaching, we whipped
our little drove together, and met them upon the grass which was a
few hundred yards off.

The party consisted of an Althing’s-man, who was going to Reykjavík
to attend the Althing, or Icelandic Parliament, with his servants,
and the priest from Sandfell, at whose house he had been staying,
and who was escorting him for a short distance. The priest turned
out to be a cousin of my man Paul, so after a brief colloquy, and
requesting the Althing’s-man to convey our greetings to friends at
Reykjavík, we rode on to Sandfell.

Our road lay past several beds of white pumice which had all been
ejected from Örœfa. A smart gallop over cinders and fragments of
lava brought us to the church and parsonage. Sandfell is situated
at the south base of Örœfa. Behind it rise barren hills of compact
agglomerate, composed of volcanic ash and fragments of lava, but
our friend the priest is compensated for his dreary surroundings
by having one of the prettiest Icelandic women I have seen for
his wife. She seemed quite piqued because I could not own to
thinking Sandfell a very pretty place. Going hence, we crossed the
stream of lava and agglomerate, which I was informed resulted from
the eruption of Örœfa in 1862. This stream is a remarkable one,
inasmuch as the agglomerate has flowed down in a semi-molten state,
cotemporaneously with the lava, both being mixed together; the
agglomerate appears to preponderate, but this may be the result of
the lava being of higher specific gravity, which causes it to sink
to the bottom of the stream.

We stopped for the night at Myrum,[2] on the south-west of the
Breiðamerkr Sandr. The bóndi, like all the people of this district,
was hastening to get to Papós with his wool. We supped and
breakfasted off some birds which our host called Svartfugl. They
were the nicest birds I had ever tasted in Iceland, the meat being
tender and plenty of it, and I thought so well of this dish that I
took one of the birds away with us for our lunch on the road.

Here we hired a fresh horse, leaving Paul’s, which had contracted
a sore back, and started over the Breiðamerkr Sandr. The sands,
like the Skeiðarár Sandr are the result of the great efforts of
the Örœfa and Vatna Jökulls, more especially the part of the Vatna
known as the Breiðamerkr Jökull, which was the one whose movements
we had to examine.

The road over these sands is long and dreary, especially in such
weather as had just overtaken us. We passed an extensive encampment
of farmers, who were on their way to Papós; but, despairing of
crossing the rivers which traverse the Breiðamerkr Sandr upon such
a day with heavily laden horses, they had decided on remaining
encamped upon the little patch of grass they had reached. About
one third of the way over the Sandr we arrived at the farm of
Kvísker, which is situated upon a little oasis of grass-land. We
found it a very acceptable halting-place, and although we were wet,
we were glad to sit down and take coffee and schnapps, and smoke
a pipe inside; the room had no windows, and it was filled with
planks and carpenter’s tools, for the house was being enlarged. We
could obtain but little food for our horses, and the greater part
of our day’s work had yet to be accomplished, so a quarter of an
hour saw us again to horse, and rapidly approaching the extreme
point of the advancing Jökull. This Jökull appeared unlike most of
the Icelandic glaciers I have seen. Instead of terminating in an
even slope, or steep rounded cliffs of ice, sometimes fissured,
but generally very regular, it terminated in an irregular wall of
cloven and contorted masses of the rifled and dislocated glaciers;
while the more elevated masses assumed the form of spires, towers
and grotesque architectural shapes. As we were intently looking at
them, some of them tottered and fell. It is indeed a serious matter
to contemplate the short distance now left between the Jökull and
the sea--at one point not more than 250 yards--in addition to this,
new rivers have been formed between the Jökull and the sea, which
have to be crossed, but which it would be impossible to do with a
strong south wind blowing. The Jökulsá is quite bad enough, but to
have several miles of road converted into quicksand by the diverted
waters of the Jökulsá, and to have new rivers in addition to the
advance of the Jökull, is enough to make the people of the district
fear for the road to Papós. One consolation may exist--that the
Jökull has advanced before, and, after a considerable time,
retreated. Still, as an old inhabitant of the neighbourhood
informed me, “It never has advanced as it does now,” and even upon
the other occasion, upon the whole, it gained ground. Alas! poor
Iceland--both fire and water appear allied against it; the latter
especially, in all its forms--boiling, cold, and frozen, and in the
form of rain, hail, snow, and vapour! We were obliged at one point
to travel along the sea-shore, where we espied the body of a large
fish with some dark objects moving about it. A nearer approach
showed it to be a small whale, which, from olfactory evidence,
had lain there for some time. The dark objects, startled at our
appearance, rose in a covey of--well, the same birds of which we
had enjoyed the flavour at Myrum. Svartfugl have never tasted quite
so nice to me since. At last the Breiðamerkr Sandr were passed;
fresh mountains rose before us, and the weather cleared. To our
right was a remarkable lagoon, Breiða-bólstaðalón; which is a
narrow fjord, twelve miles in length, enclosed upon the south by
a large sand-bank running parallel with the shore. This lagoon is
open to the sea at the north-east end, but is too shallow for ships
to enter.

Evening found us at Kálfafellstaðr, a place pleasantly situated
beneath the outlying hills of the Vatna Jökull. These hills
are principally composed of amygdaloidal basalt, abounding in
zeolites; chalcedonies are especially plentiful, and I dare say it
might pay to look for the precious opal. This eastern corner of
Iceland appears to be particularly rich in zeolites; I noticed the
same when I was at Berufjörðr.

We stayed for the night with another relative of Paul--he seemed
to have kindred nearly all over the island, and a very superior
race they appear to be. This relation was the widow of the former
priest of Kálfafellstaðr. Here we bought another horse, and hired
the widow’s son, a lad about seventeen; for we required a man and a
lad to drive our horses round to the north of the island while we
crossed the Vatna Jökull. The widow and her daughter accompanied
us a short distance upon our return journey, and, after two days’
riding, we were again at Núpstað.

Preparations for our journey across the Vatna now commenced in
earnest. The sleighs and the snow-shoes had been made according
to our instructions. All was there except the men and the butter;
enough of the latter, however, turned up in the morning to enable
us to make the pemmican, which I at once set myself to work to

A fire was lighted and a cauldron of water soon heated, and the
beef boiled; then came the work of cutting up an entire ox
into pieces the size of ordinary wine-corks. Paul senior, and I
commenced operations by first taking out the bones; and, by dint
of sharp knives, and a few hours’ hard work, we prepared about
seventy-eight pounds of meat. Twenty pounds of salt butter and
half-a-pound of salt were then melted in the cauldron, and the meat
carefully mixed with it. After a short time it was ready to be
packed in the skin bags in which it was to be carried.

The bags were placed in troughs of water during the operation of
filling, to prevent leakage at the seams, and when they were filled
they were tied up and laid in a stream close by, where stones were
piled upon them to press down the meat. When they were sufficiently
pressed, and the contents had become cold (which took about twenty
hours), they were each placed in ordinary sacks for more easy
carriage; for greasy skin-bags full of meat are rather slippery
things to carry, and somewhat nasty things to handle.

By June 25th all my preparations were made, and my men arrived;
Paul Paulsen and a cousin of his from Skaptarfellssysla; Helgi,
from the farm of Króki; Finnur, from Myrdalssysla; and Eyólfur,
from Hörgsdalr: these were to accompany me across the Vatna
Jökull. In addition were Bjarni, who was with me last year; the
farmer from Rauðberg, who carried the post between Prestbakki and
Berufjörðr--a deaf and dumb man, and a man named Vigfúss; these
four were to return when we reached the mountain which I last year
named “Mount Paul,” about a third of the way across the Jökull. I
had also arranged with Paul’s father and little Arni, whom I had
hired at Kálfafellstaðr, to take our horses from Núpstað round the
east side of the Vatna into the north of the island.

Our equipment, which was to be drawn upon hand-sleighs, consisted
of a low tent, four feet high; a large sleeping-bag, which would
accommodate six of us--this was eight feet long, and five feet
wide--one side being made of a layer of cork and felt, covered
with mackintosh, and the other of a stout blanket also covered
with waterproof. This bag was open at both ends, so that three
could sleep with their heads one way and three with their heads the
other. Both these openings were covered by a hood, which proved a
great protection to our heads while sleeping, and prevented the
snow from getting into the bag. This gave us sleeping accommodation
for six persons, with a weight of only sixty pounds. This bed,
however, had its disadvantages; for instance, if any one was taken
with cramp, or dreamt of engaging in any particularly active
exercise, its limited dimensions became painfully apparent;
moreover, it is almost impossible to keep the inside of the bag
perfectly dry, owing to the exhalation from our bodies. I have
paid great attention to this matter, but have found that for a
prolonged sojourn amidst wet snow, where weight is a subject of
paramount importance, it is the best sleeping arrangement that can
be contrived.

Our provisions consisted of 100 lbs. of pemmican in skin bags,
50 lbs. of butter, 100 lbs. of skonrok, or Danish ship-biscuits,
15 lbs. of dried fish, 15 lbs. of dried mutton, 15 lbs. of gravy
soup, 2 tins of “soupe Julienne,” in packets; 6 tins of chocolate
and milk, 2 lbs. of cocoa, and 4 lbs. of sugar; 2 gallons of proof
whiskey, 1 gallon of spirit for burning, 5 lbs. of tobacco, and
3 tins of Peek and Frean’s meat biscuits. I had a small Russian
furnace, which is an excellent lamp for heating water or melting
snow. These articles, with a good supply of warm clothing,
waterproofs, and mocassins (for it is impossible to wear leather
boots in the snow), and the necessary instruments and implements,
completed our outfit.

All things were now ready, and the day had at length arrived when
we were to assail the Vatna again. We rose betimes, but it was
midday before we were fairly on our way. I took leave of the bóndi
Ayólver, who would not charge me anything for my own board and for
the keep of my own horses. He was too unwell to accompany us to
the Vatna, and seemed quite upset at saying good-bye, as he said
he felt sure it would be for the last time, whether we got across
the Jökull or not. I cheered him up, and said, I hoped some day or
another to come to Núpstað again; and so we started on horseback,
and, after crossing the river Diúpá, we commenced the ascent of
Kálfafellsfjall, which hill lay between us and the Vatna.

The journey was a very trying one to the horses; it is so at the
best of times, but now the melting snow still lay thickly, and
in places had converted the unstable soil into quicksands. In
some parts it was necessary to cross ravines full of snow, which
had melted underneath, leaving the bottom of the ravine roofed.
The horses fought very shy of these snow-roofed valleys, and
when we came to any hole which had been formed by the subsidence
of a portion of the snow into the valley beneath, it was with
difficulty we could get them along, as the noise of the stream,
which invariably ran below, made them rather fractious. But the
snow having regelated into an indurated compact mass, was often
some yards in thickness, so I do not think there was any real
danger of sinking through it. These preliminary difficulties were
soon disposed of, and 6 P.M. found us at that point where the rocks
terminate and the eternal snows of the Vatna commence.

A squall of sleet and wind now rolled down upon us. I immediately
directed two men to prepare some coffee, for we had brought wood
for that purpose, while some gave the horses a feed of hay, and
others unpacked the burdens they had carried so pluckily from
Núpstað. The coffee was soon ready, the storm cleared, and the
scene must have bordered on the picturesque, or perhaps the
“_unique_,” as we all clustered round the remnant of the fire, amid
the different packages that were to cross the Vatna, our horses
pawing the ground, impatient to return to their pastures. The
grand white Jökull lay before us, the black crags of the fjalls
behind us, and the roar of the Diúpá in our ears, while a beautiful
rainbow spanned the eastern sky--a harbinger, we trusted, of good

Here we took leave of Paul’s father and his cousin Arni, directing
them where to wait for us with the horses, in the north of the
island. The evening promised to be showery; but having a lively
reminiscence of the black sand of this locality, which at our last
year’s encampment upon this spot got into our ears, our eyes, and
our food, I determined to advance and camp, as soon as we needed
to do so, upon the deep snow, although my men had already begun
to put up a temporary abode with loose stones from the terminal
_moraine_ of the Jökull.

At this point last year the Jökull was a crevassed glacier,
whose surface was covered with aiguilles and hummocks of black
sand and ice. But all traces of the glacier were buried beneath
a vast accumulation of snow! From the first we were able to use
our sleighs, and, turning due northward, we left the habitable
world behind us, being face to face with the hardest piece of
our summer work. As far as the eye could see was one lifeless,
pathless wilderness of snow, destitute alike of animal, insect,
or floral life. Our footsteps gave no sound, and our very voices
seemed strange in this drear solitude, the death-like stillness
of whose snowy wastes is broken only by the howling of the storm,
or the outburst of a volcano! It was evident that a much greater
snowfall had taken place during the past winter than in the
preceding one, and the newly-fallen snow took us up to our knees,
making our progress very difficult and slow. After about three
hours’ dragging, it began to snow, and a thick fog enveloped us,
so I decided to encamp. The plan I usually adopt for sleeping in
the snow--and I believe one of the warmest and best methods--is to
dig a square hole, three or four feet deep; over this I pitch my
tent, banking it well round the sides with snow. I then spread the
sleeping bag at the bottom of the hole, with the hoods doubled down
over the ends to prevent any snow getting into it. If a storm is
blowing, I cast up a bank of snow to windward, and take everything
that will be required for immediate use into the tent. The next
thing is to draw the sleighs up to the door of the tent; so that
if anything extra is required it can be procured without much
difficulty, and having stuck up all sticks and shovels firmly in
the snow, to prevent their getting covered up and lost, we turn
in, changing our wet or snowy clothes sitting upon the waterproof
exterior of the bag, and, putting on a dry change, we all get into
the bag, having previously fixed up waterproof coats upon the snowy
wall at each end, to lean against. If it is not freezing very hard,
we hang our snowy clothes upon a line at the top of our tent,
with our satchels, &c.; but if it is freezing hard we put them
underneath the bed. Snow is then melted, soup or chocolate is made,
and rations served, which, with a small allowance of grog, pipes,
and a song all round, finish our labours for the day or night, as
the case may be, and we go to sleep.

This was the manner in which we now camped, six of us occupying the
sleeping-bag, much after the manner of sardines in a sardine box,
the remaining four, who were only to accompany us as far as Mount
Paul, made themselves as comfortable as they could with rugs and
mackintosh coats in the front part of the tent. I ordered every man
to fill his flask with snow and put it in his pocket, that each
might have a drink of water when he awoke, and in the course of an
hour nothing could be heard but the heavy, stentorian breathing of
nine out of ten of our party. Having posted up my diary, I slept
well for an hour, when I was awakened by a sudden commotion at the
other end of the tent. I called out to Paul for an explanation,
saying, “Holloa! what’s the matter at your end?” He replied in a
deep, solemn voice, “Now is the dumb beating his feet.” Although
our dumb friend’s feet were doubtless cold, I could not allow
that method of warming them in a tent only 10 by 6½ feet, and I
therefore directed that another man should chafe the dumb man’s
feet and cuddle them up in his arms. The morning brought us only
fog and storm, but after a few hours the latter abated. I served
out some warm soup, and we got under weigh. After an hour the fog
became so dense, the snow so soft and deep, and a determined sleet
had set in, that I was obliged reluctantly to call a halt. Between
nine and ten in the evening the weather cleared, the wind shifted
to the north-west and the sun came out, and we again advanced; but
the snow being up to our knees, I perceived I was tiring my men.
So after going on a few miles I again halted, as it had begun to
freeze, and the probability was that in about two hours the snow
would be firm enough to travel on. Casting up a bank of snow to
windward, we six turned into our bag upon the surface of the snow,
leaving the tent and all other wraps for our four extra men.

It was bitterly cold, but the atmosphere was very clear. By 3 A.M.
I roused my men; the thermometer registered 20° Fahrenheit; a firm
crust had formed upon the snow which bore us bravely. It was a
glorious morning and a stiff north wind was blowing; the sleigh
travelled merrily along, and as the sun illumined the magnificent
snow slopes around us, everything seemed to promise fine weather
and success. The pure element we were breathing seemed to give us
fresh life and strength, and made us feel equal to the work before
us. After three hours one of the men (Vikfúss) gave out, said he
could go no further, and lay down upon the snow; but as there were
not nearly so many degrees of frost now, the man was warmly clad,
and I had a great idea he was shirking, I left him behind, much
against the will of his companions. Before we were half a mile
away I had the satisfaction of seeing him following, apparently
not very much the worse for wear. The ascent from the first had
been a very gradual slope of snow, which now became undulating and
somewhat steeper, especially upon the N.E., where steeps of snow
swept up to the mountain. I last year named Vatna Jökull “Housie,”
from the great resemblance which its summit, then free from snow,
bore, when viewed in one aspect, to the roof of a house. The
likeness was now much less striking, from its being all white.

I can scarcely go on without remarking upon the excellence of
the postman from Rauðberg. He was always cheerful, willing and
obliging, and had twice the hardihood and strength of the other
men. I only regretted I could not take him right across the Vatna,
but his postal duties would not admit of so prolonged an absence.
We sighted Mount Paul at 9 A.M. Here we made a good breakfast, and
our disabled man having slunk up, he made better progress with his
meal than he did with his sleigh.

Mount Paul is a cluster of one large and several smaller volcanic
eminences, rising to the height of 150 feet above the surrounding
snow. A semi-circular pit being thawed out by the radiation of the
sun’s rays from the south side of the mountain, we found here an
abundant supply of water. The mountain is composed of varieties
of obsidian, varying from the highly vitreous to the grey stony
variety; one portion of it consists of vitreous obsidian cementing
together multitudes of the concretionary forms commonly known as

We slept for two or three hours; but the state of the snow was such
that it was impossible to get the sleighs through it. I sent back
my four extra men, for they had little or nothing to carry, and
we had left them a good supply of provisions at the commencement
of the Jökull. As the accommodation in the tent was but small for
them, and it seemed to promise bad weather, they preferred forcing
their way back through the soft snow to running the chance of being
weather-bound for three or four days. They had not been gone away
many hours when it began to rain, and as night drew on it became
more and more evident that there would be no frost. The wind had
shifted to the S.S.E., the thermometer stood at 33° Fahr., and as
the night advanced the snow became so soft and rotten that in some
places it took us up over our knees.

The next day the wind was still S.S.E., and the fog and sleet
were as bad as ever; and as progress was impossible, I minutely
inspected the rocks of Mount Paul. They rise from a large crater
now filled with snow. To the south-east is a pit-crater partially
filled with snow. Mount Paul is composed almost entirely of
perlite and obsidian. This is the only place in Iceland in which
I have found obsidian “in situ.” The west side of the mountain
particularly attracted my attention, being composed of multitudes
of spherulites cemented together by obsidian. Thousands of these
small globular formations had been weathered out of the obsidian,
and in some places one might have collected a hat-full.

Night brought no improvement in the weather; and a somewhat
remarkable scene presented itself of six men lying in a hole in
the snow, 4250 feet above the sea-level, in Iceland, all hoping
for a frost--but no frost came, and morning found us in the same
position. This was very aggravating for one who had spent much
money, time and labour, in order to complete a survey across the
Vatna Jökull; but the day was fine, and I could post up my diary,
plan for the future, learn Icelandic, eat, drink and smoke, upon
the volcanic _débris_ on the leeward side of Mount Paul, where the
thermometer at midday rose to 75 and 80 degrees in the sun, and it
was infinitely preferable to lying in the snow. Towards evening it
began to freeze, so we packed up our sleighs and retired to Mount
Paul, until the crust was strong enough to bear the weight of the
sleigh. By ten P.M. there were twelve degrees of frost, and the
wind blew freshly from the N.W. The crust now bore the sleigh, but
we sank through it up to our knees at every step. This was such
laborious work that after two hours we halted, hoping the crust
would soon become firmer; but we were doomed to disappointment, for
after a while the wind suddenly shifted to the S.E., and almost
simultaneously a fog appeared. However, we were soon upon our legs,
and although the surface of the snow became worse and worse, and we
sank deeper and deeper into it as we proceeded, we managed to do
five hours’ work by halting every quarter of an hour.

About 3 P.M. I noticed a curious phenomenon. The sun was above the
horizon, and was occasionally discernible through the fog--for at
this time of the year at this altitude, about 4500 feet, the sun
can scarcely be said to set--appearing to move in a circle from the
meridian westward, and still keeping above the horizon to almost
due north, where it dips for about half-an-hour, appearing again
about N.N.E., and by six P.M. it bears due east, some forty degrees
above the horizon. A strong current of air was drifting the clouds
and fog at our level across the surface of the Jökull from the
S.E., while dark masses of cloud were perfectly discernible passing
at a very rapid rate across the face of the sun from a precisely
opposite direction.

The storm now increased in violence, and we were soon so
surrounded by whirling clouds of snow that it was impossible to
distinguish from what quarter the wind was blowing. The compass had
for a long time been almost useless, in all probability owing to
the magnetic ore contained in the rocks which underlie the snows
of the Jökull. This rendered us entirely dependent upon the wind
and the sun for our direction. In clear weather, where the compass
is useless, I always steer by a circular piece of card marked off
into four right angles, so that by carefully taking the angular
bearings of all distinguishable objects, one is able to steer a
pretty straight course.


  _London, Longmans & C^o._
  _E. Weller, Litho._

  Map of the
  Núpstað to Reikjahlíð]

Being now unable to avail myself of either compass, sun, wind, or
card, nothing remained for us but another halt. For two days the
storm continued and it would have been impossible to get many yards
away from the tent without being lost. On the third day at noon
the storm abated, the wind shifted due east, and the sun broke
through the clouds. We all turned out, but it was useless to think
of struggling through the loose, deep snow. We took our bed out
to dry it, for it was wet with the exhalations from our bodies.
This, however, was rather against the wish of some of my men,
upon whom the inactivity of the last few days had begun to tell.
I observed two black peaks protruding through the snow, one
about five miles due north, and the other about eleven miles N.W.
I was surprised to find a considerable quantity of volcanic ash
upon the snow, of a fine, light, grey description. This appeared
the more remarkable, as I knew of no volcano that had been in
eruption south of the Vatna Jökull, and the storm had blown almost
entirely from the S.E. Moreover, I was aware there was no ash of
that kind anywhere upon the south. It appeared to me that this must
have been carried either from an erupting volcano, or from some
ash-strewn district to the north of the Jökull, by a current of air
travelling in a different direction to the S.S.E. wind which we
had experienced during the last few days, and bisecting the latter
current at a point south of our present position, had been unable
to resist its force, and had been carried by it to the place where
it was now lying.

We here obtained an excellent view of the Vatna Jökull Housie,
which appeared to be higher than any other point on the Jökull,
our present height being 4500 feet--the summit of the Housie being
at least 1500 feet above us. Its form is a lop-sided cone, from
which I could trace, through my telescope, the course of huge lava
streams, now deeply buried in the snow, but still leaving unequal
ridges upon each side of the mountain, and in some instances
extending to a considerable distance upon the main body of the
Vatna Jökull. An extensive eruption of one of these snow-covered
volcanoes must be awful, when any vast volume of lava is suddenly
ejected upon such a tremendous accumulation of frozen material;
but minor eruptions and smaller streams of lava, I should think,
can make but little impression upon such an enormous quantity of
snow in the first instance. Probably (unless there has been any
great amount of sand or ashes previously ejected) they melt their
way through the snow to the rocky bed of the mountain, and forming
a sort of tube by the aid of the rapidly consolidated crust upon
their surface continue their course, much as a lava stream would
upon ordinary ground, or more especially, perhaps, at the bottom
of the sea, without occasioning any very remarkable phenomena, and
even the effect of the most extensive eruptions must of necessity
be but local.

By 4 P.M. the wind shifted back to its old quarter, S.S.E., and,
despairing of frost, we again betook ourselves to the tent.
Towards midnight, for about the twentieth time, I went out with
Paul to look at the weather. We tried the sleighs, and found it
was as much as one man could do to pull a sleigh with nothing
on it, and a very small weight almost buried the sleigh in the
snow, and enabled it to resist our united efforts to get it
along. During our experiment we sunk very deep into the snow.
For the last three days I had put every one on half rations, and
as anything is better than inactivity with insufficient food, we
determined to abandon our sleighs and attempt to force our way
through the snow, carrying everything upon our backs. It was rather
foggy and sleeting, but the wind was blowing pretty steadily. We
communicated our determination to the rest of our party, and they
quietly accepted it without a murmur. We packed up everything, and
leaving our sleighs and a gathering storm behind us, we turned
our faces northward with a cheer which was more animated than
might have been expected under the circumstances. I must say our
position bore rather a forlorn aspect. Six men heavily laden,
wading through snow up to their knees at every step, no view but
an ever-advancing circle of gloom, the only variation being that
it was darker towards the south, from which quarter a strong wind
was blowing, with squalls of sleet and snow. About every quarter
of an hour we had to stop from sheer exhaustion, and after two or
three hours’ arduous toil two of my men became quite incapacitated
and too ill to proceed. This was evidently not a case of sham. I
therefore halted, and served out with all speed some warm grog; one
man was spitting blood, and another was suffering severe pains in
the stomach. I had previously advised every man to wear a cloth
bandage round his stomach, but none of them had cared to do so. I
suffered rather from pains in the bowels the previous year upon the
Vatna Jökull, but I was now wearing an abdominal bandage of tarred
cloth, and throughout our prolonged stay upon the snow suffered no
inconvenience whatever. The next day was finer, with sunshine and
increased cold, with snow at intervals, the thermometer being below
freezing point all day; one of the sick men had recovered, but the
other was still too ill to travel. Towards evening the wind blew
from the west, and it began to freeze hard. I therefore sent back
for the sleighs, which we had taken the precaution to stand upright
and fix firmly in the snow before we left them.

By 9 P.M. it was freezing very sharply. I served out an allowance
of warm grog, and as the invalid was greatly recovered and said he
would rather die than go back, we again struck N.N.E., allowing
him to go free. We had packed everything on one of the sleighs,
four pulling and one pushing behind, and so firm a crust had now
formed upon the surface of the snow that this heavily laden sleigh
travelled as easily as an empty one would have done the evening
before. We now gradually ascended until at 1 A.M. we reached
a rolling plain, at the height of 5750 feet. It was perfectly
clear in the west, and I obtained a good view of Tungufell’s and
Arnarfell’s Jökulls, which from the angle they made with our line
of march, showed me we were two-thirds of the way across the Vatna
Jökull. It was still very thick in the south and east, and the
wind had shifted to the south-west. An ice-storm was almost the
immediate result, a driving mist encrusting everything with ice;
the undulations in the plateau became more and more marked, the
variation in altitude being sometimes as much as 100 feet or more.
A most obdurate mist continued to prevent our obtaining any further
view, which was very exasperating, as we might have passed within
a short distance of objects of interest without being conscious of
the fact.

We made our first halt at 3 A.M., and took a light meal of Peek
and Frean’s meat biscuits and snow. When I say snow I do not mean
the pure white frosty snow which lies upon the surface, but the
coarse, granular, icy particles of which the crust we were walking
upon was composed. I have often been dependent upon snow for the
water supply, both in North-West America and upon mountains, and
I find the coarser the snow is, and the more it approaches the
character of ice, the better it quenches the thirst, and the less
likely it is to occasion pain in the stomach. When the fine white
snow only can be procured, as every tyro knows, it can be made
more palatable by compressing it into a snowball. In other words,
the less cold air is swallowed, entangled in the snow, the better;
for the very act of squeezing the snow causes it to part with
some portion of air, as is shown by the change of colour, as it
regelates towards the form of ice. Thus we preferred the coarse icy
granules, which formed the crust upon the older snow, to the pure
white tempting frost-snow which, owing to the extra amount of air
it contained, must have been of a considerably lower temperature
than the granulated snow beneath. We were now at the height of 5900
feet, and the temperature was 15° of frost. The rim of the sun was
occasionally observable through the fog which surrounded us, giving
us a good line to steer by, and bright fog-bows escorted us to
windward; but these were simply bows, and had none of the cruciform
corona in the interior, which were so observable upon the Myrdal’s
Jökull last year. At 6 P.M. we reached a steep ascent, where our
compass twisted and turned about in the most eccentric fashion;
the heavens became black as night to windward, the wind had risen,
and was making the peculiar booming noise I have often remarked in
these regions before a storm, and driving a blinding, pitiless
drifting snow before it, which eddied about the sleigh and wrapped
itself around us, as if longing to enshroud and bury us in its
frozen toils. But we had an idea of burying ourselves in our own
fashion. “Oskôp mikill stormur kèmur bráðum” (A bad storm is coming
on presently), said Eyólfur, sitting down for a moment on the
sleigh, and clapping his feet together to knock off the snow which
was clinging to his legs, and we were all of the same opinion. We
were at the height of 6150 feet, so I ordered a hole to be dug,
and the tent to be pitched. The snow was very hard and firm, even
at the depth of four feet, and we cut out as clean a hole as if it
had been in salt, but the wind drifted so much loose snow into it,
that the men were obliged to hold up the tent to windward during
its completion. We had barely got ourselves snug and commenced
breakfast, when the storm burst upon us, seeming to threaten the
tearing up of the very snow in which we had taken refuge; and had
not former experience taught us to fortify our tent well all round
with banks of snow, I have no doubt it would have been the last we
should have seen of that article of furniture. Being satisfied that
all was snug, and that the worst which could happen to us was that
we might be buried a few feet in the snow, we went to sleep. When
we awoke at mid-day the storm had subsided and the fog had lifted,
showing three dark mountains to the north--doubtless Skjaldbreið,
Herðubreið, and Dyngjufjöll.

We were speculating as to whether we should go on in spite of the
still threatening aspect of the weather, when the fog returned,
and the booming wind announced another storm to be close at hand.
Presently it broke upon us; never before had I heard the wind make
such an unearthly wail. It seemed as if every imaginable demon and
all the storm spirits of that wild region had assembled to howl and
make a united attack upon us. The light was fast becoming obscure,
and we were getting fairly snowed up, but that made us all the
warmer, all the more secure, and the shrieking of the storm was
deadened by the friendly covering. We partook of some chocolate,
smoked and sung, and finally slept again. At 8 P.M. the storm had
somewhat subsided, and I sent out a man to clear away some of the
snow from the roof of the tent to let a little light in. The snow
had drifted nearly over the tent, and it took some hard work before
we were dug sufficiently out to let in enough light to write by;
outside there were 10° of frost, but we were comfortably warm in
the tent. The air outside was so full of snow that we could not
see a couple of yards in advance. Another day showed us only a
continuation of storm and snow which utterly prevented progress. We
had now only about a week’s provision left, so I again put every
one on half rations. The men were obliged to take turns in clearing
away the snow, at intervals of every three hours, from the top
of the tent, and before very long the tent had the appearance of
lying at the bottom of a deep hole in the snow. We passed the time
as best we could, by sleeping, eating, smoking, writing, singing,
spinning yarns, and I occasionally amused the assembly by learning
strings of Icelandic words by Mr. Stokes’s method of mnemonics,
and repeating them in order, either backwards or forwards, which
puzzled the Icelanders not a little.

Before I started for the Vatna in 1871, I remember saying I
should like to see one of its worst storms: I now had that
gratification. Storms are interesting natural phenomena, but when
prolonged indefinitely are, to say the least, tedious hindrances to
progress; and now, lying upon the top of the Vatna Jökull, with the
possibility of their lasting for a month, and provisions materially
diminishing, their dreary monotony became intolerably oppressive,
and after mature consultation we all came to the conclusion that
if the weather did not clear in two days’ time, we would leave all
impedimenta behind, except provisions, instruments and my diary,
and strike northward, storm or no storm--“_sauve qui peut_.”

When we lay down and were fairly snowed over, the booming of the
storm sounded as if it came from the interior of the mountain, and
almost any familiar sound could be singled out from the hurly-burly
in an exaggerated degree, without any great stretch of imagination.
It stormed all night; the wind “Trolls” shrieked around us, the
thunder of the storm roared through the, to us, dark midnight
hours, surging upon the icy bosom of the Jökull, sweeping up its
snowy slopes, bearing with it avalanches of snow-drift which had
buried us several feet deep by morning. By 5 A.M. it lessened
somewhat, the furies of the Vatna appeared to have given up the
idea of overwhelming us, and the disheartened tempest sunk away
in melancholy sobs, but a determined drift and south-west wind
persevered in harassing us.

It was clear that we must now start forward, for not only was there
a considerable amount of snow yet to be traversed, but a howling
wilderness of volcanic sand, lava, and mountain torrents had to
be crossed which lay between the north base of the Jökull and the
nearest habitation. We could not remain in our present position,
so deeply were we buried, and so difficult was it to get in and
out of the tent; moreover the fury of the storm had beaten the
snow hard, so there was no time to be lost. I served out a hearty
meal, and as packing up under such circumstances seemed to demand
some stimulant, I made some grog out of methylated spirit, for
all our whisky was gone. This served to quicken our circulation,
although it was far from being palatable, having, as my Icelanders
said, “slœmr dropi,” or a bad after-taste, and no wonder, as the
first taste was not suggestive of an agreeable sequel. We packed,
but with great difficulty, owing to everything being frozen quite
hard. Upon leaving, I drew over my mocassins a pair of fishing
stockings; they were as hard as sheet iron, and were a very great
inconvenience to me; but it was too cold to stop and take them off,
for it seemed as if we should freeze as we stood. These stockings
had been of great service in keeping me dry hitherto, and I hoped
they would protect me now. I felt a hard lump in the bottom of my
left stocking; if it was snow it meant a frozen foot. But there
was no help for it--we could not think of stopping to change
foot-gear in such a tempest. The wind had shifted to the west,
almost freezing the side exposed to it. We steered N.N.E.: it was
fortunate the wind was almost at our back, for we could hardly have
faced it.

After three hours’ hard tugging we reached the height of 6,150
feet, and straight away began to descend, and presently at so rapid
a rate that I had to send three men behind, in order to prevent
the sleigh from starting on its own account for the bottom of the
mountain. Suddenly the clouds cleared away before us, disclosing a
deep, snowy valley at our feet, and a tall black mountain, streaked
with snow, upon our left and west. Lower and lower we descended,
more and more precipitous, till it was evident that we could go
no farther upon our present course with the sleigh; so Paul and
I went forward to explore. The side of the valley terminated in
almost perpendicular walls of snow, which were now frozen perfectly
hard, and glazed over by the severity of the frost; the opposite
side was more broken, with dark crags here and there protruding,
while a copious lava stream appeared to flow northwards from the
termination of the snow, though I afterwards found that a fringe of
glaciers intervened.

We next decided on striking due north, along the sloping sides of
the valley, to what we supposed to be Querkfjall, but afterwards
found to be Kistufell. Upon returning to the sleigh, while putting
back my field-glass, which I was obliged to do barehanded, for my
gloves were a mass of ice upon the outside, my fingers began to
freeze; but a little hard clapping, and by getting two of my men
to beat them with their hands, the circulation was restored. I now
ordered three of my men to put spiked iron clamps upon their feet,
for without this precaution I doubt not but we should have ended
our career, sleigh and all, by an abrupt descent into the valley
beneath, unless we had been stopped by some of the ugly crevasses
which yawned half-way down the snowy steep, upon the slippery and
precipitous sides of which we were descending.

We proceeded, but with great difficulty; our trouble now being, not
that the sleigh was hard to get along, but that it would go too
fast; in fact, it seemed likely to run away with us altogether.
Behind us was a fierce wind, beneath us a precipice of some 800 or
1,000 feet; and the sloping snow-banks we were treading shelved off
at such an alarming angle that it rendered the work more dangerous
than pleasant. In this critical position I became painfully aware
that I had frozen my left big toe; for the increased exertions
and the lessening altitude were causing it to thaw. The pain was
horrible; but presently the slope became less abrupt, and we
stepped along at such a rate that 1,500 feet were negociated with
considerable speed. Hurrah! we were again in bright sunshine; but
the moment we stood still, the wind cut us to the bone. Before us
lay the long looked-for Norðurland. We arrived at the bottom of the
valley, and found it full of loose snow, which was knee-deep, for
the crust was here much too light to bear our weight, and at every
few feet we sunk into a miniature crevasse. After struggling on for
some few hours, however, we pitched our tent.

Right thankful was I to get some warm soup and creep into the bag.
One of my men--and a real good fellow he was--named Sigurð, cuddled
my left foot in his arms, although my writhings kept him as well as
myself awake while the others slept. I have had many parts of my
body frozen, but I never suffered so much as from that toe.

After a few hours we again started; and although the sleigh
travelled easily over the crust, we still broke through it, which
occasioned me so much pain at every step that I sat upon the sleigh
and was drawn along until we had descended so much that the crust
ceased altogether. The snow terminated in a half-melted slush,
lying upon a bottom of ice. Wading through the slush, which at
times took us up to the waist, we next reached Kistufell, where
the ice and snow terminated. Here we landed on a bed of volcanic
débris, which covered the ice to such a depth that one could in no
way, except by digging, distinguish it from the adjacent fjall.
The Vatna Jökull now lay behind us with its mysterious recesses
and volcanoes carefully guarded from intrusion by gloom and
storm. To the north of us rose a cluster of mountains from which
great quantities of steam were rising, and hovering above their
summits in a huge mushroom-shaped cloud; to our left and west lay
a wide-spreading lava-field, arms of which stretched amongst the
neighbouring mountains like the troubled waters of a cindery ocean.
Patches of black sand at intervals broke the continuity of this
tract of lava, and culminated in a desert still farther to the
north-east. Beyond, all the weird forms of fire-wrought mountains
formed a fitting back-ground; their rude outlines rendered still
more uncouth and grim by the fierce storms of ages. A huge tongue
of glaciers at this point swept down to a distance of some ten
miles beyond its most northern limit, as represented upon the map
published by Olsen in 1844, from a survey made by Gunnlaugsson,
in 1835. I here caught sight of Snæfell; and, upon taking its
bearings with the smoking mountains, which were evidently the
Dyngjufjöll, I found that instead of being at Querkfjall, which
was the point I had intended to strike, we were upon the east
side of Kistufell, about ten miles too much to the west. What
astonished us most was (granted that we were at the east side of
Kistufell) that we could see nothing of the Jökulsá-á-fjöllum,
which river, upon Olsen’s map, rises at the foot of Kistufell;
besides, upon his map the Jökull ends at Kistufell, while here a
huge glacier extended east and north-east as far as the eye could
reach, though exactly to our north and north-west it terminated
abruptly, and only an insignificant river flowed to the north. We
here abandoned our sleigh and snow-shoes which had served us so
well, and whatever we no longer required, and, making everything
into packs, continued our descent over huge piles of moraine, which
doubtless covered glacial ice, buttresses and points of which here
and there protruded. Having slidden down several steep slopes of
snow, which had collected in all the hollows, affording us ready
means of descent, we found ourselves at the height of 3,850 feet,
in the bed of what evidently had been a large river, though now
only an insignificant stream.

To our east and right stretched the immense glaciers before
mentioned, completely overrunning the route taken by Gunnlaugsson
in 1835, and diverting the source of the Jökulsá, which rises
in several arms from the extremity of the glacial tongue before
mentioned. Upon our left and west lay the wide-spreading
lava-desert of the Ódáðahraun.

Our way over the sandy bottom of the grand old watercourse was an
easy one to travel, for the sand had absorbed sufficient water
to make it firm and compact. Our attention was engaged for some
time in watching the fanciful shapes that crowned the dark wall
of ice upon our right, on the opposite side of the stream which
now lay between us and the glacier; and now and then we could not
help stopping to peer into some of the dark chasms which seemed
to penetrate into the heart of the icy monster, and to admire the
little cataracts of foam which spouted from clefts in the dark
green ice, or to wonder at some icy pinnacle or turret, that ever
and again tumbled from, perhaps, some few hundred feet above us
with a roar and a splash into the river, there to be slowly melted,
while the sound of its downfall echoed and re-echoed amongst the
cavernous openings in the glacier from which it had fallen! After
an hour or so we settled on a low sandy island in the middle of the
river, which must have formed formidable rapids when the immense
stream that had hollowed out this mighty watercourse had roared
over its bed; but it was shallow enough now, and by judiciously
picking our way it scarcely reached up to our knees as we waded
to the little island. I here noticed, as I had often done before,
an intermittent occurrence of waves in certain portions of the
stream. These, in large rivers, are rather terrible things, but
here they were on so small a scale as to make their examination
simply a safe indulgence of harmless curiosity. These waves occur
in all the sandy rivers, and they are occasioned by the sand and
detritus, which is brought down by the river in large quantities,
accumulating against some obstacle until such a time as it forms
rapids, which increase in proportion to the durability of this
suddenly-formed sandbank. In most cases it readily yields to
the action of the water, and is carried away; if, however, the
material which is thus piled up should be of a heavier character
than usual, it soon accumulates to such an extent as to resist the
action of the water altogether, and cause the current to alter its
course. This shows how the rivers of Iceland may be diverted and
changed from this cause alone, converting shallows into deep water,
and deep water into shallows, indeed altering the position and
character of the rivers altogether.

As we lay down, the volcanoes in the Dyngjufjöll were smoking
away with increased violence. My frost-bitten toe would not allow
me to sleep much, so after a doze of two hours we started on our
way; we had but two days’ full rations left, and as Grímstaðir
was the nearest farm, a series of forced marches was necessary.
Before us to the N.E. was a cluster of hills, which stretched from
the southern extremity of the Dyngjufjöll in a S.E. direction
towards the Jökulsá, upon the east and west sides of which valleys
appeared to open northwards. Wishing, however, to get a good view
of the country before us, as neither of us had been here before,
and it was a matter of paramount importance that we should make
no mistake as to the direction, I decided to steer for the centre
of the hills, and to cross them. For a short distance we skirted
the tongue of the Jökull, past a line of moraine which shewed that
the glacier had ebbed as well as flowed, then bearing more to the
north, after a hard walk of three hours we reached the hills before
us. They were composed of the usual confusion of agglomerate,
sand and lava, which had issued from it--it was impossible to say
where; but they were evidently of a very ancient date, and many
of the harder rocks were glaciated, while the softer ones were
simply ruinous heaps. After an arduous scramble, we crossed these
hills and reached the little desert of black volcanic sand we had
seen from the northern edge of the Vatna Jökull. This sand plain
lay between the Dyngjufjöll and a chain of mountains upon the
opposite side of the Jökulsá-á-fjöllum. It was now raining somewhat
heavily, but there was no fog; the burdens of my men were heavy,
and I was carrying all I could manage with my bad foot. Under these
conditions we were obliged often to rest, which much hindered in
our progress. We sighted some low, black, misshapen volcanoes,
about half way across the plain, and near these we determined to
camp for the night. Two hours brought us to a field of lava which
had flowed from and surrounded those eccentric little volcanoes
which rose in four ghastly eminences in the centre of the plain,
in no part more than 100 feet high. Tired as I was, and greatly
inconvenienced by my foot, I could not refrain from examining them.
They were situated upon a crack from which the lava had welled up
in four mamelonic shapes, which in two instances showed irregular
breached craters, nearly filled with sand, which had been drifted
thither by the wind. The lava was basaltic, and of a remarkably
scoriaceous nature, though in the immediate neighbourhood of the
volcanoes no cinders were visible around them, so their eruptions
must have been attended with but little of explosive character.

The worst feature of our night’s lodging was the absence of water,
so I ordered the waterproof coats to be spread out to catch rain
for our use in the morning.

It was 1.30 A.M. before we all turned in for the night. Sand is
warm to camp upon, but it gets into everything, and when one is
wet it sticks to clothes, &c., in a most objectionable manner. By
six A.M. we were all awake, sufficient water had collected for
immediate use, and we were soon all under weigh over the lava,
which in most places flowed very evenly, and being of a more
compact character than that which was close to the volcanoes we
had just left, had allowed little pools of rain water to collect
upon the surface. We marched for four hours, and then struck
a large river upon our east. This was the Jökulsá-á-fjöllum.
After following its course for some time, we decided to “cache”
everything but the remainder of our provisions, our maps, and
my diary, for it was my intention to return with horses to the
Dyngjufjöll mountains which now lay to our N.W., when I could
recover them without much difficulty. Having carefully made our
“cache,” we planted a flag-pole upon an adjacent sandbank, and
having carefully taken its bearings, struck for the Vaðalda
hills, which were not very far distant. These hills run for some
nine miles parallel with the course of the Jökulsá; their base
being washed by the Svartá, or Black river, which rises in the
Dyngjufjöll, but is soon lost in the sand, re-appearing on the
Svartá at the commencement of the Vaðalda. Upon the opposite side
of this river we found a root of angelica (Icelandic, _hvönn_), the
stem and root of which we shared and ate with great relish; we also
saw two white sheep, but how they manage to eke out an existence
must have puzzled their sheeps’ heads not a little. Though,
proverbially, two heads are better than one, I doubt if the proverb
would hold good in their case, but there may be some grass in glens
which I have not seen in the Ódáðahraun, where enough herbage may
grow to feed Icelandic sheep, as they are not very dainty, and are
accustomed to short commons.

The Vaðalda hills, although of no great height, command an
extensive view towards the Vatna Jökull, and upon reaching their
summit I glanced back over the plain. It was one broad wilderness
of black sand and lava, girt about with ridges of volcanic
mountains, whose numerous cones and chasms have vomited the immense
amount of ash, sand and lava with which the surrounding country
is covered. In the centre of the plain rose the little volcanoes
by which we had encamped the previous night, grimly and perkily
protruding, as if they aped their monster brethren around them.
Beyond all was the wide, white expanse of the Vatna Jökull, from
which a huge tongue of glacier extended more than half way across
the plain; from its extremity commenced the river we had been
following (the Jökulsá-á-fjöllum), which stretched through the
black bare plain sometimes in many arms, enclosing little islands
of black sand and pebbles in its sinuous embrace, then surging
along through a single deep channel it had worn for itself in the
sand, where the unstable banks, even while we gazed on them, were
crumbling and falling in, patch after patch of sand rendering still
more murky its already discoloured waters.

From here I obtained the first good view of the Querkfjall, which
appeared to be a cluster of conical mountains, one huge crater
being on the northern side of the Vatna Jökull. This large crater,
though partially filled with snow, was smoking at three points,
but presented no other signs of activity. Having advanced about
a mile upon the Vaðalda, we were soon upon the pumice which was
ejected last year from the Öskjugjá, or chasm of oval casket,
in the Dyngjufjöll mountains. It has fallen in a line of about
twenty-five miles in breadth from the centre of the Vaðalda to
the south of Herðubreið, in a band of continually extending ladià
eastward towards the sea shore, destroying in its course six farms
in the Jökuldalr, and injuring others in the immediate vicinity.
This shows that the prevalent winds during the eruption of Öskjugjá
must have been south-west.

This pumice is of a remarkably vitreous nature and vesicular in
structure, often assuming very beautiful forms, such as sponge,
honeycomb, coral or grained wood. As far as the eye could see,
the whole country was buried under greyish cinders, often to the
depth of several feet; while in places it had been swept up into
huge banks of many feet in thickness by the wind, sometimes burying
whole lava fields, the more elevated crags of which protruded, as
if struggling to get free, and proclaim the existence of the lava
stream underneath. We descended into a valley in which everything,
like the surrounding country, was covered with the same white
greyish pumice, except where the darkly-flowing river wound
silently along, deep, black and foul, bearing upon its surface
floating islands of pumice.

The pumice had evidently fallen upon the winter’s snow, for a thick
layer lay underneath, protected by the cinders from the influences
of the summer temperature. Ever and again this substratum gave
way, and we sank deeply into a mixture of snow and ashes. It was
trying work, but we were well warmed, and pushed on at a good pace.
We again climbed to the crest of the hills, and another valley
opened to our view, running S.S.E., and another river not marked
upon Olsen’s map helped to swell the waters of the Jökulsá, while
the river at our feet poured through a rocky chasm it had worn for
itself; further on was a jam of floating pumice which blocked up a
portion of the river, causing it in some places to look precisely
similar to the adjacent ground. Presently, a wide plain opened
before us, from which rose a lofty mountain, shaped like a huge
pork-pie, crusted over with ice and snow upon its flattened summit,
which rose gradually to a fantastic, ornamental apex in the centre.
This was Herðubreið, and it was at once recognised by Paul, who had
been in the north of Iceland before. Beyond Herðubreið the country
was of a darker hue, no doubt caused by the absence of the pumice,
which had not fallen upon the sand and lava desert of the Mývatns
Örœfí. We now halted to determine our exact position. We found we
were about forty-five miles from Grímstaðir, and upon the north
end of the Vaðalda, and as it would be necessary to hit the exact
spot where the boat was kept, Grímstaðir being upon the east side
of the river and we upon the west, we agreed to follow the course
of the Jökulsá. This river, in the map, appeared to flow pretty
nearly straight, but in reality does no such thing. As food was
getting short we took a light meal off our pipes, and reviewed our
supplies. We had a half-pound pot of chocolate and cream, about a
pound of hard tack, half a pound of butter, and three square inches
of “gravy soup”--rather short commons for six men, with forty-five
miles, at the very least computation, of the very roughest country
possible before them, and which, as we intended to follow the
course of the river the greater part of the way, would be sure to
develop into considerably more.

There was a lovely yellow sunset as we descended the northern slope
of the Vaðalda; the sun was waning towards the north, and the
ashen covering of the surrounding mountains reflected an unearthly
light, which added a ghastly grandeur to the chaotic desolation
through which we were passing, while we ourselves, dirty, brown,
and wayworn, as we travelled almost noiselessly in our moccasins
over the ash-strewn ground, seemed fitting representatives of the
outlaws and evil spirits with which tradition had peopled this wild
region. A very suitable abode it seemed for all of evil omen, but
even such must have had a hard time of it if the country were in
their day such as it is now, which probably was not the case.

By two A.M. we rested, purposing to take a couple of hours’
sleep. I scooped out a place for myself in the cinders, and lying
down under the lee of a large stone, covered myself over with my
mackintosh coat. Unfortunately my men could not sleep as they were
so cold, so we soon resumed our journey. At five A.M. we were due
east of Herðubreið, where we took a slight meal, the most prominent
feature of which was water from the Jökulsá. We were travelling
over an old lava stream nearly covered with pumice, and the river
had assumed formidable proportions, having been joined by a third
arm upon the east side, which roared over the lava in its bed. The
sun was shining brightly, the clouds were beginning to melt away
from the summit of Herðubreið, leaving a cloudless sky; a slight
frost was glistening upon everything and stiffening our beards, the
pumice was getting thinner and thinner, and presently altogether
disappeared. Before us lay a broad waste of sand and lava, and
in the far distance loomed the mountains of Mývatn, which Paul
recognised as old friends, as some years of his life had been spent
in the Mývatn sveit. For the first few miles my foot troubled me a
good deal, but as soon as I got warm the pain ceased, and as the
day promised to be hot, we made the most of these early hours.

Following the course of the river, we found ourselves upon a plain
of sand and pebbles, and as we advanced, a little scanty herbage
began to make its appearance, while occasional sheep tracks showed
that sheep in this quarter were, as usual, wont to stray from
richer and more plentiful pastures to those which afforded but
a poor and meagre supply. By 8.30 we reached the little river
Grafalandá, which here flows into the Jökulsá; and here there was
plenty of grass. The sun now shone warmly, and as we were not more
than twenty-seven miles from Grímstaðir in a straight line, we lay
down and slept for two hours. Upon rising we still followed the
river, which, as before remarked, is by no means a straight one.
Our road now lay through a considerable quantity of thick herbage,
principally galix and coarse grass. Some hills here interrupted
our progress, the base of which was washed by the river, and since
no way was possible between the river and the over-hanging cliffs,
for the river here took a great turn eastward, we decided to ascend
the hills. The summits of these, as is often the case in Iceland,
were formed of stones imbedded in sand and decomposed rock, after
the fashion of a loosely macadamized road. This is doubtless caused
by the heavy covering of the winter’s snow, which presses down the
stones, and then as it melts converts the material in which they
are embodied into slush, into which the fragments of rock, &c.,
readily sink, so that when the water has drained off and the fine
weather comes, it is found transformed into a kind of cement, for
the decomposed fellspathic lavas especially set very firmly under
such circumstances. By three P.M. we reached a delightful little
mountain stream brawling over the rocks and lava, fertilizing the
parts of the mountain through which it ran, and calling into birth
green borders of galix and grass, forming a beautiful little
cascade directly in our path. Here we halted; the sun was intensely
hot, but it felt rather comfortable than otherwise. Here we found
an abundant growth of angelica, which we ate with the remainder of
our provisions. We then washed our socks and laid down to sleep,
lulled by the bubble of the stream and the sweet fresh smell of
the herbage around us, which our long absence from everything that
could produce so agreeable an aroma rendered all the more welcome.

Evening came before we again started, and our road was through a
deep loose sand, which was very trying and heavy to our feet, for
beneath this was a layer of pure white ash of the consistency of
flour--probably decomposed pumice. When this was mixed with sand,
it seemed to be a good fertilizer, for wherever it occurred a patch
of wild oats was the invariable result. Before we again reached the
river, we found it cut directly through a cluster of low mountains,
striking a field of very dark and almost vitreous lava. By midnight
we sighted Grímstaðir to the S.E., upon the opposite side of the
river, although at some considerable distance, and the ferry was
beyond the farm, to the north of it. We followed closely down the
bank of the river that we might not miss it, for there was no track
to guide one across the Mývatns Örœfí, and it was a good three
hours before we found the boat, which was a leaky concern, but by
dint of bailing and rowing we eventually reached the opposite side.
Five A.M. saw us arrived at Grímstaðir, much to the surprise of the
occupants, who had not at all expected the intrusion of six men _on
foot_ at such an hour, and from such a quarter.

The bóndi having been roused, the whole establishment turned
out to have a look at us. Grímstaðir was decidedly the best and
most extensive farm I had seen in the island, except, perhaps,
Breiðarbólstað in Rangarvallasýsla. The bóndi was a good type of
the genuine old-fashioned Icelander, and everything in the place
was cleanly and comfortable. He had passed all his life in the
north of the island, and had not ever journeyed to Reykjavík.

There was a good-sized windmill in front of the farm, to grind the
rye and wheat sold by the store-keepers; and this was a very great
improvement upon the old stone handmill so generally used in other
parts of the country, especially in the south. Windmills seem to be
rather a characteristic of the north of Iceland. My first object
was to procure coffee and a good meal; this having been secured,
I proceeded to purchase four sheep, and give instructions for
their death and disposal. One was destined for immediate use, the
other three to be made into pemmican, their skins being dried for
carriage to England.

What a glorious institution is a bed! What a happy thought it was
of the man who first conceived the idea of taking off his clothes
before turning into it! What luxury! a tub, hot water, soap, a
sponge, a towel, clean sheets, an eiderdown quilt, a little tallow
for my poor sore nose, and sleep! What sublimity of comfort!
Well, I slept as only a well-worn traveller could sleep, till I
was roused by the novel sound of a knock at the door of my room.
“What’s the matter? Who’s there?” My watch said twelve o’clock.

It was the bóndi’s daughter, with coffee and a plate full of
delicate little pancakes, each carefully rolled up with a few
raisins inside, and nicely powdered over with white sugar. Forgive
the weakness, good reader, but that little tray! Can I ever forget
it or its contents, to say nothing of its comely bearer? Will I
have any more? Oh yes, by all means. My mid-day meal became an
interesting speculation, to say nothing of the comely bearer of it,
through whom I ordered sheep’s fry, and ere long was greeted with
its savoury smell.

Paul had gone to Reikjahlíð to try and hire a man and some horses
to enable us to go to Öskjugjá (the volcano we had seen smoking),
for my own horses had not yet arrived, but I learnt that it was
almost impossible to obtain either horses or men, as all were
engaged in gathering in the hay harvest.

In the afternoon two students arrived from the college at Reykjavík
to spend their vacation in the north, and a merry evening we had of
it with my men, who were in high spirits at having fairly reached
the Norðurland by a route which had never before been trodden by
the foot of man, since their island first rose above the waters of
the North Atlantic--a feat that would immortalise their names in
local Icelandic history!

We had then travelled from Núpstað in the south of the island to
Grímstaðir in the north, a distance of about 270 miles, in sixteen
days, twelve of which had been passed amongst the regions of
perpetual snow. I must here remark that the pluck, perseverance,
and obedience of the Icelanders who accompanied me are deserving of
all praise; for without them I could never have crossed the Vatna
Jökull. The next day was Sunday, and at breakfast I was informed
that the bóndi would read a service in the baðstofa, an apartment
for general use. This room was filled with little truck bedsteads,
and somewhat reminded me of a hospital. All the household were
gathered about, neat and orderly, sitting on the bedsteads, and
the service consisted of singing, reading, and prayer.

One cannot help noticing the softening and harmonising influences
of all forms of civilized religion when not clouded by fanaticism,
more especially among those whose lives are spent in close contact
with the ruder elements of the world.

The beautiful clear sunny weather continued, enabling us on the
following day to obtain a good view of the distant hills of
the Mývatn, across the arid waste of the Mývatns Örœfí, where
occasional puffs of wind were raising small clouds of the light
volcanic sand, carrying them high into the air. Sometimes, too,
circular currents raised screw-shaped columns of sand, which now
and then increased to rather formidable dimensions, and even
crossed the Jökulsá, blinding the chance traveller, and scaring
any stray sheep that might be cropping the tufts of scant herbage
sprinkled at long intervals over the plain.

The volcano in the Dyngjufjöll was smoking away with greater
ferocity than ever, and the dark columns which formed the centre of
the great mushroom of vapour which still hung over these remarkable
mountains showed that something heavier than steam was being

Paul returned in the evening with a man from Grœnavatn, named
Thorlákur, who was to accompany me to the Ódáðahraun and the
Dyngjufjöll, but my difficulty lay in not having sufficient horses,
as Paul had found it impossible either to buy or hire more than
two, and they belonged to Thorlákur; and as I could not afford to
wait for my own, I was compelled to modify my plan of operations.
Requiring a fresh supply of necessaries, I first despatched Paul
to the stores at Vopnfjörðr, and then, with the rest of my men
and Thorlákur, set out for the Ódáðahraun on foot, one horse
carrying hay and the other provisions. Our first stage was to be
the Grafalandá, where there was plenty of grass, and our next some
point between the Dyngjufjöll mountains and the river Svartá,
within easy reach of the baggage I had left behind. From here I
determined to start with Thorlákur and Eyólfur, while the rest
returned to the Grafalandá with everything we did not absolutely
need, directing them in the meantime to fetch more provisions
from Grímstaðir, and a sufficient number of my own horses (which
doubtless by that time would have arrived) to carry us and our
belongings from the Grafalandá to Mývatn.

In the evening two of the farm servants, who were refugees from
some of the devastated farms in the Jökuldalr, recounted their
experiences during the eruptions of last spring, which, however, by
no means damped the ardour of my men.

The next day was spent in completing my preparations, and in the
evening, we bade adieu to Paul and our good friends at Grímstaðir,
after which we again turned our faces towards the mountains.

My supplies now consisted of 50 lbs. of pemmican, 25 lbs. of bread,
10 lbs. of butter, two large dried trout from Mývatn, and about
half-a-gallon of corn brandy.

Having crossed the ferry, my attention was arrested by a small
crater orgjà (chasm), as the natives called it, which had opened
in the plain about two miles to the west; it was an ancient vent,
named Hrossaberg, and many similar to it occur in the plain of
the Mývatns Örœfí. The fissures which had erupted in the spring
were of a like nature, and the heated lava from them we could just
perceive farther to the west, looking like a black bank, while from
it little clouds of steam were occasionally rising, and a thinnish,
darker vapour overshadowed it; and even at the distance we stood
from it pungent exhalations were perceptible. We continued on our
way towards Herðubreið in a southerly direction, over a desert of
sand and lava streams which had intersected and flowed over one
another, but my foot still greatly inconvenienced me, though I had
given it entire rest during my stay at Grímstaðir. At five A.M. we
stopped for half-an-hour to let the horses refresh themselves at
a patch of wild oats which here grew rather abundantly in patches,
generally in shape and size rather resembling ordinary haycocks, so
that in the distance they often made the plain appear as if it were
covered with hay in cocks all ready for carting. The peculiarity of
their form is doubtless due to the roots that protect the sand in
which they grow, while the sand on the surface of the surrounding
plain is being constantly swept away by the wind.

We were now in a line west of the hills of Grímsfjall, which are
not marked upon Olsen’s map. We pursued our journey with the
morning sun, and it is surprising what an effect the sunlight
has upon one, to refresh, cheer, and revive one’s strength. I
have often remarked (and others have told me they have done the
same) that, when travelling all night, the sensation of weakness
and weariness is most felt between the hours of one and three
o’clock in the morning, but as soon as the sun appears there is a
consciousness of refreshment almost as though one had slept.

We perceived a small quantity of steam, perhaps from a hot spring
or a fissure in the lava, about seven miles to our west, but I
could not spare time to inspect it.

We next reached the Grafalandá, which is a small river taking its
rise north-west of Herðubreið, and flows north-east into the
Jökulsá. This water no doubt comes from patches of snow upon the
Dyngjufjöll, the Trölladýngjur mountains and Herðubreið, and as
is generally the case around these mountains, loses itself in the
sand and lava at their base to reappear as a stream when it can no
longer find a subterranean passage. The banks of this stream were
covered with dwarf birch and salix, but the larger wood was dead,
and this would seem to show that the woods were more extensive and
of a stronger growth in bygone years than at the present time. I
have observed this in other parts of Iceland. There was also here
an abundance of grass, making it an excellent halting place for
anyone desirous of exploring the adjacent mountains. It was in
this vicinity, tradition tells us, that the last of the Icelandic
outlaws found a shelter, and, as late as a hundred years ago, one
man, named Eyvindr, lived here for a considerable time, and a cave
in the north of Herðubreið hill memorialises his handy-work, in
the shape of a horse carved upon its roof or walls. He appears,
however, to have been by no means of terrible character, and was in
great favour with the country people.

We next moved on to the river Lindá, about four miles in advance,
and three miles north-east of Herðubreið. Here there was good grass
for the horses, and angelica grew abundantly, and the stems and
roots of it were very acceptable and refreshing in a region so
void of vegetable life as this. I wonder the inhabitants do not
more cultivate it in their gardens, for I believe it would be quite
possible for them to acquire a national fondness for it as a staple
article of vegetable diet.

A short trudge over the lava brought us level with Herðubreið,
and here we soon began to observe signs of the volcano in the
Dyngjufjöll in the shape of the peculiar vitreous pumice I have
before mentioned.

Weary, weary work for sore feet this pumice-deluged country. Many
masses were four or five feet in circumference, but the majority
varied from the size of a man’s hand to that of a wine cork. In
many places it had drifted into huge beds, which was bad enough
for us to travel over, but it was still worse for the poor horses,
who seemed much fatigued with their journey. In ascending and
descending these large cinder heaps, great quantities would often
suddenly shift, leaving us deeper than our knees in dust and
pumice. We were steering west of the course we had taken from the
Vatna Jökull, and the pumice was thicker than we had yet found it;
while occasionally we met with round white masses of lava glazed
over upon the outside, but when broken they disclosed a highly
vesicular nature in their interior. This stony shower must have
been appalling, especially when accompanied by darkness, floods of
scalding water, and mephitic vapours.

The dust occasioned by our progress was excessively trying to the
eyes, and even penetrated our clothes. In many places floods of
water had evidently flowed from the direction of the volcano. The
pumice was rapidly decomposing under the action of the atmosphere,
especially where it was wet, and a great deal of it appeared
to have been ejected in a wet state, and had since absorbed a
kind of wet earthy matter, which seemed materially to assist its
decomposition. These floods of water from volcanoes which are
neither glacial nor snow-capped mountains, can only be explained
in two ways, either by supposing the water to have accumulated as
a subterranean lake in the chimney of the volcano, or that it was
previously entangled in the very elements of the matter ejected.
We were now leaving the Vaðalda hills to the east, and we could
see by what a tortuous course we had travelled by keeping so close
to the river Jökulsá on our journey to Grímstaðir. At two A.M. we
rested and gave the horses some hay, for they were very tired, and
most of my men had scarcely recovered from their long march. After
an hour’s rest, we again moved on; the men were suffering much
from thirst, for Icelanders drink more water when on a walking
expedition than any people I ever met with, which I suppose is
because they are accustomed to consume a great quantity of milk
when at home.

The pumice became finer and less deep as we advanced, and
remembering it had fallen in the winter, I dug through it to reach
the snow, which greatly relieved our thirst. We were now between
the Vaðalda and the Dyngjufjöll mountains, and from the top of a
lava field, almost buried beneath the pumice, we beheld the broad
sand plain we had crossed upon our journey from the Vatna. I here
noticed some rounded masses of lava, which were just the reverse
of the bombs I had seen before, being harder and more compact in
the centre than upon the exterior. The pumice now grew less and
less, and a gentle slope brought us to the sand plain; so, having
deposited our loads about one mile south-east of the Askja, and two
west of the southern extremity of the Vaðalda, I despatched two men
with the horses to seek the remainder of the belongings we had left
a week before upon the sand, about four miles away to the S.S.E.

We then pitched by the side of three or four large shallow pools
of water, formed by several small streams which here run from the
Dyngjufjöll and lose themselves in the sand, re-appearing, as I
have before described, as the Svartá, a few miles to the S.S.E.

The sand was very trying, for a westerly wind filled the air with
clouds of a most irritating dust. It was some time before the
men returned, when they informed me they had seen several sheep,
looking plump and well, and had found some grass near the source of
the Svartá, where they had given the horses a rest. Having taken
a good meal, I sent three of my men on their return journey, for
we had not sufficient hay to keep the horses any longer. I was
now left with only Thorlákur and Eyólfur, so we pitched our tent
in order that we might take a good sleep before setting out for
the Dyngjufjöll. The wind had died away upon the plain, the sand
no longer troubled us, the sun was shining warmly, so after our
long journey we were rewarded by a most refreshing sleep. Seven
P.M., however, saw us again on our legs. I had determined that the
volcanoes of Öskjugjá must be north-west of our present position,
and therefore decided to take a northern course along the E.S.E.
face of the mountains, and take the first _gill_ which should
anyway lead in a westerly direction. I also arranged for five days’
provision to be taken with us, and the remainder to be _cached_
upon the sand. Our whisky was now reduced to two small bottles
full, for I had been compelled to be rather liberal with it the
previous night. I therefore directed that a pint or more of water
should be placed in the keg, and this we left in the cache to await
our return.

Having crossed a few small streams to the north, which flowed into
the pools by which we had encamped, the road became tolerably good,
being formed of very fine pumice, sand, and mud that had evidently
been cast up by the volcano in question. This, in all probability,
had been showered down towards the termination of the eruption,
when the pumice had been many times ejected and swallowed again by
the volcano, thus reducing it to very small pieces, lapilli and
mud,--while at the same time the eruption itself was waxing feeble.
Our good road terminated after about three hours’ walking, and then
we trod again upon a series of heaps of large and most execrable
pumice. All night we continued our difficult progress, but no
_gill_ presented itself, up which we might turn towards the object
of our search.

My position may be imagined by the reader supposing himself toiling
over vast piles of rotten cinders, with 20 lbs. weight on his back,
in wet skin socks, with villanously sore feet. The circumstances
demanded a halt, for the sun was beginning to show itself in an arc
of misty, crimson light, which grew broader and broader and more
vivid with approaching day. To our left there arose crags to the
height of over 1000 feet above us, their sides being draped with
slopes of lava and shifting pumice. Around us were misshapen rocks
and conical eminences, carrying our thoughts back to eruptions
in bygone ages of the volcanic fires beneath. Here was a chasm,
yawning widely where it had not been filled up with pumice,
while many others cut deeply into the flanks of the surrounding
mountains. These were probably the result of the earthquakes
which had preceded the recent eruptions; while in the north of
the volcano we were now ascending they were very numerous, but I
did not observe any to the south of it. The wind was blowing from
the east, and hitherto the volcano had not troubled us with its
noisome smell; but as the heavy midnight clouds began to roll down
the mountain sides, a pungent sulphurous odour reminded us that
the dread power which had created the wilderness around was still
alive, though somewhat feeble, in the heart of the mountains which
seemed to scowl upon their nocturnal intruders. The snowy turban of
Herðubreið, however, was glowing in the sunlight, and the bright
face of the luminary broke through the eastern mists, showering
beautifully upon the cinder-strewn country around us the heavenly
gift of morning sunlight. “Já blessuð sólin,” exclaimed both my
companions. “Aye, the blessed sun!” and we all for some minutes
silently watched the approach of the tutelar spirit of Icelandic
travellers. Who can wonder at the uneducated or the uncivilized
worshipping the sun? Crude nature always regards what it cannot
understand with superstitious fear, and sometimes with love and
worship, and if we did not recognise in all a great Primeval Cause,
we might worthily deify the sun; but it was useless to lay dreaming
and it was too cold to lie still, and lying still would not get us
up the mountain, for up the mountain we were fain to go. We had
already gone too far to the north, and as there was no gill, we
must needs climb straight up, and steer for the thickest steam and
the foulest smell; in short, when our eyes failed, to follow our

Toiling up the sides of the mountain, the mist thickened, while
dense clouds settled around us as though they would draw us
into the volcano; the smell grew sickening, and the pumice more
muddy. What was falling, rain or sand? Neither; it was a kind of
fatty loam, falling in coarse granules, the smells from which
were most offensive, and it was very fortunate we were almost to
windward of the volcano, or progress would have been impossible.
My aneroid here marked 3500 feet, and as higher and higher we
climbed the mist cleared a little, until we stood upon the top;
while beneath us lay a pandemonium of steam and hideous sounds.
Suddenly a fearful crash made us stand aghast; it seemed as if half
the mountain had tumbled in upon the other side of this horrible
valley, and for some time we could see nothing for the dense
clouds of steam which seethed up before us, and the heavy rain of
loam which was falling, while the most hideous shrieks, groans,
booming and screaming sounds rose from all parts of this terrible
depression, the bottom of which was now utterly obscured. Again
and again came a crash and a roar from the opposite side, and also
occasionally from the side we were standing upon. The sides of
the crater were evidently falling in, and huge wide cracks, even
where we stood, showed us that our position was not altogether a
safe one; but the wind was clearing the clouds away, so, seating
ourselves upon some large blocks of pumice, we lit our pipes and
waited until we could obtain a better view. One thing was certain,
this was evidently the volcano of the Öskjugjá which had wrought
so much devastation in the Jökuldalr and its vicinity, and we were
upon the eastern wall of its crater! Presently the clouds lifted in
the distance, and as gap after gap, and space after space cleared,
we could see the scorched and blasted country which stretched for
many a league behind us. Mountain after mountain gradually shook
off the clouds in which the night had enfolded them, and as the
mist cleared toward the north we could distinguish a three-cornered
plain, encircled except at one point, N.N.E., by semi-detached
sections of volcanic mountains, some of which had broken out in
ancient times, and by their insignificant lava streams had helped
to swell the widely-extending lava stream of the Ódáðahraun.

The crater upon the eastern edge of which we stood was situated
in its southern corner. This plain was the Askja (or oval wooden
casket). It is about six miles long, and from three to four
broad, and at this end was some 4000 feet above sea level. I
believe it could be easily reached by a glen upon the N.E. side
of the Dyngjufjöll. Presently, apparently about a mile away to
the north, we could see the rim of the crater, at a great depth
beneath us, and while we were looking at it, a great crack opened
upon the margin, and a huge slice slipped with but little noise
into the crater, deep down beyond the range of vision. The mist,
however, somewhat cleared away, and then a shaft, like the mouth
of a large coal-pit, was disclosed to the N.N.E. corner of the
valley, but beyond the rim of the crater, from which a straight
column of pitch-black vapour was issuing. Boom, boom, from its
hoarse black throat, was succeeded in a few seconds by a heavy
shower of the coarse earthy granules before mentioned; then a
long line of chasms and holes burst to view in the dark floor of
the crater, from which issued screaming noises, intermingled with
inky vapour, patches of steaming ground, and gaping rifts and
chasms. The sun now broke through, and almost simultaneously the
clouds lifted from the valley, shaking off the Plutonic vapours
which had chained them during the night, and, as if ashamed to own
their temporary bondage in the presence of the lord of day, they
slunk away to windward. By this time we could see the whole of
the crater and its surroundings, except in places where the thick
smoke and steam intervened. I felt it was well worth taking the
journey from England to stand even for a moment and look into the
abyss which opened at our feet, with its black pits and grim chasms
all contributing to the general aggregate of steam, and loam, and
stench, and horrid sound; while behind us stretched a wild waste of
glen, desert, and mountain, a country moaning in ashes, and howling
with desolation.

This crater, which perhaps we may be allowed to call Öskjugjá,
or “the chasm of the oval casket,” is triangular in shape, and
is about five miles in circumference, the base of the triangle
being to the N.W., and about 1¼ English miles across. From this
base, which was nearly at the level of the plain of Askja, a
perpendicular wall of rock cut off all communication with the floor
of the crater, which sloped gradually towards the centre, to the
depth probably of four or five hundred feet below the plain above
described; but I had no opportunity of measuring it, as I could not
get down to the crater at any point, neither could I see nor hear
the stones which I flung in strike the bottom, as they gave back no
sound, on account of the soft mud into which they must have fallen;
for the floor of the crater appeared to be covered with the same
soft loam which was at intervals rained upon us.

[Illustration: THE ÖSKJUGJÁ.

  _Page 88._]

The eastern and western sides of the crater converged towards the
south, being shut in by lofty mountains, which rose in some places
to the height of 1000 feet above the plain of Askja; so that they
appeared to be shorn of their inner faces by the violence of the
eruption, which had left perpendicular cliffs of great height. The
edges of the crater, too, were rapidly tumbling in, and had formed
in several places steep slopes of pumice and débris, which it was
quite possible to descend; all access to the floor of the crater,
however, was prevented by an interior rim of precipice immediately
at the bottom of these heights. How long this shape will remain
unaltered is, however, a matter of great doubt, for during our stay
there, sometimes scarcely a minute elapsed between the roar of
the stony avalanches, which increased the din and gradually altered
the form of the crater! Three principal lines of fissures, pits,
and irregular openings diverged from the centre of the crater to
the south-east and west respectively. These, together with black
patches of steaming ground and several minor cracks, were all that
remained of the huge chasm which at one time must have occupied
this valley.

I now selected a spot where there had been a considerable fall in
the wall of the crater, forming a slope of a much smaller angle
than anywhere else, and exposed a stratum of the previous winter’s
snow which enabled us to obtain sufficient water for our breakfast.

My men slept here while I posted up my diary, but I was presently
disturbed by a peculiar rushing sound. I instinctively looked
towards the crater, and there saw what at first sight seemed to
be a fog-bow amongst the steam, but presently the increasing
noise gave sufficient evidence of its true character. It was a
huge column of water springing up from a fissure in the bottom of
the crater, which, being ejected in a slanting direction, almost
described an arc, rising to a much greater height than even the
level of the spot we were encamped upon, was, of course, converted
into spray long before it reached such an elevation, and falling
with great violence upon the opposite edge of the valley, caused
a great portion of the wall of the crater at that point to fall
away with a prodigious noise, the concussion of which produced a
series of avalanches in various other parts of the volcano. One
could imagine, from the effect of such a comparatively small body
of water, what a terrible scene must have presented itself when the
mountain was in a state of general activity, and when the entire
crater vomited a vast volume of pumice, mud, and water, and the
whole valley beneath was a seething cauldron of fire and water! We
next removed to the lee of a large rock of agglomerate, and having
scooped a bed in the pumice, slept comfortably, with the tent
spread over all of us like one large blanket.

Upon awaking I ascended the highest point in the wall of the
crater, which was almost its southern extremity, and there I found
its height by my aneroid to be about 4500 feet above sea level,
the angles by my azimuth compass being from Herðubreið 40° west,
Skjaldbreið 103° east. From this point the floor of the crater
appeared more bent about and upheaved, while many of its gaping
fissures seemed much wider than before, doubtless the result
of the longitudinal view of them which the position commanded;
in fact, each fissure seemed trying to excel its neighbour in
making the most horrible noise, while emitting the most nauseous
smell. I doubt if even Cologne, in all its former nastiness and
“thousand well defined and separate stinks,” could have produced
anything so utterly putrid and abominable as the effluvia which
were wafted to the summit we were standing upon! At one point it
seemed just possible for us to reach the floor of the crater, and
as it would save us a considerable detour if we were able to cross
it, we packed up and began again to descend a very precipitous
slope of pumice. From thence we descended as far as 750 feet, and
then found our way barred by the interior rim of precipice before
spoken of. Hitherto we had been unable to see its full extent from
the overhanging wall of the crater, but from this vantage-ground
it seemed to be about 300 feet deep, while the floor appeared to
be dark mud: many of the fissures must have been twenty or thirty
feet across, and others at least a quarter of a mile in length.
I tried to measure the precipice by flinging over a large lump
of the heaviest pumice, but it gave no sound as it reached the
bottom, for it was so light I could not fling it far enough to see
where it struck, hence we were afraid to go to the extreme edge of
the precipice on account of the loose and crumbling nature of the
rocks. Nothing now remained for us but to climb back again. This
was no easy matter, because of the great angle of the slope, so
I was compelled to dig my sore toes into the pumice with all my
might; and in one place, for a distance of some 200 feet, to dig
steps with my ice axe. We reached the summit at last, very warm,
but very glad to be at the top instead of at the bottom of those
750 feet, for had we slipped, we should in all probability have
fallen to the bottom of the crater. At last we arrived at the plain
of Askja by following along the top of cliffs upon the eastern
side of the crater, and there we found everything covered with a
dark brown loam, which was still falling thickly around us. I next
inspected the pit I had noticed in the morning, which was situated
by itself at the top of the precipice, and found it about a quarter
of a mile in circumference. Upon looking into it, for a long time
nothing could be seen but dense clouds of steam and loam which
were rising from it with intermittent violence; but after a while
a large portion of the margin slipped in, and stopping the steam
for a few moments, enabled us to discern a black funnel-shaped pit
tapering towards the bottom, from which huge volumes of steam were
again beginning to rise; then came a sudden burst of hot steam,
loam, and stench, which again compelled us to make a precipitate
retreat. I next investigated every part of this side of the crater
in order to see if I could by any means descend to the floor of
it, but I found the interior precipice extended all round, and at
every point prevented my doing so. We therefore camped but a short
distance from the pit, that we might be the better able to watch
the wonderful and varying manœuvres which from time to time were

The worst of our position now was, that it lacked both snow and
water, but the loam made us a tolerably nice soft bed, and we slept
soundly. Soon, however, a heavy fall of loam upon our tent awoke
us, and our eccentric friend outside was uttering such fiendish
noises, and giving off such a putrid stench, that we thought the
better part of valour was to retreat; so we hastily packed up
amid a copious shower of loam, our movements being quickened by
the surmise that we might also be treated to a little pumice and
hot water. Moreover, the stench was beginning to tell upon us,
causing us to feel sick. We next proceeded along the N.N.W. side
of the crater, as I wished to count the number of paces along it,
in order that I might approximate the size, which I found to be
about one and a quarter miles in length. The ground was now much
fissured, and disclosed in many places the snow of the previous
winter at the depth of six feet beneath the pumice, as well as a
quantity of loam which had been flung out by the volcano. After
breakfasting beside one of these fissures, at mid-day we turned our
backs upon what I can imagine to be one of the most marvellous,
and perhaps I may add, one of the most indescribable sights the
world can anywhere present! On resuming our journey, we set our
faces towards Skjaldbreið, alias Trölladyngjá, and the first part
of our journey was across the little plain of Askja, over a lava
stream, which here enters from the Ódáðahraun, and had run for
some distance up hill. The loam which had been showered down by
Öskjugjá had taken the edge off the lava, which was a great source
of comfort, and soon we were glad to sight the broad black desert
of the Ódáðahraun. There was the snowy mound of Skjaldbreið,
spotted with black lava, with its curious tuft of rock at the
top, somewhat similar to that on Herðubreið. Before us there was
Kistufell, by which we had first descended into Norðurland, and
behind all, the broad expanse of the Vatna Jökull, sweeping the
horizon from east to west, where it appeared in the distance to
be joined by Tungufell and Tindafells Jökull. From here, we could
not see the Sprengi Sandr, which lay between them, but perceiving
through my telescope a patch of snow upon the hills which almost
joined Skjaldbreið upon the east, I determined to strike a line
across the Ódáðahraun to it, that I might take another rest and
relinquish all our loads before we ascended Skjaldbreið the next

I may here remark that the Ódáðahraun is a desert of sand and lava,
extending over an area of 1200 square miles, the greater part of
which seems to have flowed from Skjaldbreið, so I think it must be
one of the oldest lava flows in Iceland, for this volcano has not
erupted since 1305. Some of the lava may, however, have flowed from
the Dyngjufjöll, or, possibly, from fissures in the plain itself.
I could, however, trace no distinct stream from the above-named
mountains, nor has any one, I believe, travelled along the west
side of them for the purpose of ascertaining. In several places the
lava of the Ódáðahraun has run up hill. This, I believe, has been
occasioned by the crust which flowed upon the surface of the lava
stream, constituting a sort of pipe with the ground upon which the
stream rested; and the air being thus excluded, the still liquid
lava underneath has acted in the same way as water would when
enclosed in a pipe, by finding its own level, or approximately so,
according to its degree of fluidity. At any rate it took us five
hours to cross the Ódáðahraun and reach the snow patch I had seen.
There we rested, and early next morning, accompanied by Thorlákur,
I set off for Skjaldbreið, leaving Eyólfur, who was very tired,
in camp. We next followed an immense lava stream about half-way
up the mountain, and during the early part of our walk I several
times heard the muffled sound of water running beneath the lava.
When about half-way up, we reached deep indurated snow, through
which protruded the black hummocks and masses giving Skjaldbreið
such a mottled appearance when I first saw it from the Dyngjufjöll
mountains. Skjaldbreið is, however, nothing but a huge mound of
basaltic lava, partially covered with snow, rising by a very
gradual slope to about 4000 feet above sea level, and from it has
evidently flowed the greater part of the Ódáðahraun, though, as all
the neighbouring mountains seem to have erupted at some period or
another, it is but fair to presume they have also helped to swell
this vast wilderness of volcanic dregs; but I have been unable
to trace any lava stream in the Ódáðahraun to any other source
than Skjaldbreið. The summit of Skjaldbreið I found was thickly
enveloped in clouds, so I stopped when within 300 feet of the top
to look at the surrounding country. To our north lay the arid
waste of the Ódáðahraun, the unearthly desolation of which I have
never seen equalled. Truly, it may be said that it extends over
but a small area when compared with many of the mighty deserts
in other parts of the world, but there is a forbidding, yet
fascinating grimness about this which is an especial characteristic
of Icelandic scenery, and as this savage region extends as far
as the eye can see, it produces none the less vivid impression
upon the mind of the beholder, although one can refer to the map
and find that it extends over only about 1500 square miles. When
first gazing at a dreary Icelandic lava desert the sensations are
something akin to those experienced when for the first time one
sees a prairie immediately after the fire has swept across it; but
although one is conscious that there may be a million instead of
a thousand square miles of burnt, black, cindery country around,
it does not impress one with its awful magnificence and grandeur
of desolation as the Ódáðahraun does. To the north and east were
the Dyngjufjöll mountains, with their volcanoes smoking away with
renewed vigour in the cold morning air. A point further to the east
was the long weary route we had just traversed, stretching away
bleak and bare to where the grey pumice in the distance gave the
country the appearance of lying in bright sunshine. To the south
rose the Vatna Jökull, cold and gloomy, with its heights wrapped in
fog and mist. Kverkfjall and Kistufell, however, were exceptionally
clear; the former was smoking in three places, and a great quantity
of sand and lava appeared to have proceeded from it. Between us
and the Kverkfjall swept the broad tongue of glacier, reaching
two-thirds of the way northward towards the Vaðalda hills, and
from its extremity I counted five arms of the Jökulsá which issued
from it, while the small stream from Kistufell was hidden by the
intervening hills. We next continued our journey to the summit, and
then found a small but perfectly formed crater, about 500 yards
in circumference, but of no great depth, while in the centre rose
a ridge of burnt lava, which gave the mountain the black tufted
appearance I had noticed in the distance.

The latest eruptions, I should imagine, from the contour and
disposition of the surrounding lava, have taken more the form
of prodigious boilings over than of explosive outbursts, and it
seems as if it had continued to burn tranquilly long after its
last outburst. From here we descended a short distance upon the
north-west side, in order to get below the fog, and obtain a view
of the country to the west. The same dreary desolation presented
itself--the pure white Jökull, with the black sand and the rugged
lava fields were alike cold, silent, motionless, and dead! The
mountains were a little different in form, but there was the
same grand desolate wilderness, seeming ready to blast every
living thing that dared to intrude on its enchanted solitude. We
therefore returned to camp, and were not sorry to sit down to a
good breakfast of pemmican, bread and butter, and water. The sun
shone fiercely at midday, and the heat, radiated by the sand and
lava, became so great that we rested till the cool of the evening,
when we struck for the south-east end of the Dyngjufjöll, which
we reached about midnight, but as a thick fog descended upon us,
I steered close along the base of the mountains, preferring a
little circuit to wandering about all night in uncertainty upon the
plain. Our course from here was over an old lava stream, buried in
light volcanic dust, which was very trying to travel over, for we
sunk rather deeply into it, and had to stop every now and then to
empty our shoes, which were constantly becoming filled with sand.
At length we struck upon the pumice, which showed we were nearing
the volcano of Öskjugjá; soon after we came to a small stream, and
being all very thirsty, the water was highly appreciated. Seeing
that the pumice increased, and fearing we should be getting too far
to the east, I resolved to follow the course of the next stream,
conjecturing that it would bring us down to the pools by which we
had made our cache. It was a crooked way, but it brought us right
at last; for as the mist dispersed we sighted the pools, and it was
not long before we gladly lighted upon our cache. The first thing
that came to hand was a box of Fry’s chocolate powder, so we all
sat down upon our packs and with our broad knife blades began to
operate upon the powdery treasure. Eating chocolate powder we found
was thirsty work, so having emptied the box, we took a good drink
of water, pitched the tent, and turned in.

We had hitherto been using stones for tent pegs, but here there
were none to be had, and as we could not now avail ourselves of
little screws of hay, as we had done when last camped upon the same
spot, we took off our mocassins and buried them, with a string
attached to each, at intervals round the tent; these answered the
purpose of pegs very well, and as it is always necessary to bury
untanned mocassins while resting, to prevent them from shrinking
and becoming too hard to wear, we, by this device, managed to
“kill two birds with one stone.” After a good sleep, I debated on
the possibility of reaching the Kverkfjall, which I particularly
wished to examine, but the Jökulsá and a long stretch of country
lay between us, and as Thorlákur assured me if we did so we should
have soon “_to go on our naked feet_,” it was a matter for grave
consideration what was best to do. The lava had already played sad
havoc with our foot-gear--we had each of us worn out four pairs
of mocassins since we left Grímstaðir--and those which were doing
duty as tent pegs were almost played out, while there were but
two pairs remaining in our small stores, which was anything but
encouraging. Moreover, we had a long way before us yet; so all
things considered, I came to the conclusion that Kverkfjall was
impracticable. I determined, therefore, to ascend the Dyngjufjöll
again, and from the peak above us take a farewell look around,
directing Eyólfur in the mean time to carry all our things to a
small stream at the foot of the mountains, about two miles north
of our present position, which could be easily done in two shifts.
Accordingly, I began my climb accompanied by Thorlákur, but our
progress was continually interrupted by deep “gjás,” or fissures,
many of which were of great depth, probably several hundred feet.
In some cases, however, we found bridges of snow and pumice, by
which we were able to cross these chasms.

At this time the sun was wending its way westward across the snowy
slopes of the Vatna, as we reached the top of this part of the
Dyngjufjöll, and really language quite fails me when I attempt to
describe the wildness of that view! Behind us was the volcano,
from which vast volumes of dark smoke and steam were rising; the
various mountains which studded the sterile wastes before us were
all clothed in the same dull grey covering; the black sand of the
Mývatns Örœfí was just visible to the north, and as far as the eye
could see eastward, there stretched a series of mountains, valleys
and wasted plains. During nearly two hours we might almost be said
to have slept in the view before us; indeed, I was hardly conscious
how the time had gone until the sun seemed to have slipped behind
the Hofs Jökulls, giving their snows a golden outline, while my
watch reminded me that it was nearly 11 P.M.

The atmosphere now turned very cold, the frost was already
sparkling upon the surrounding rocks, a purple glow stole over the
mountains, blending their softened outlines with the tinted sky,
and we felt that a little brisk work would sensibly add to our
comfort. Our descent afforded us some amusement, sliding down the
steep beds of small pumice, which we did at a furious rate. It had
taken us more than three hours to ascend the mountain, but less
than one to come down it! We found Eyólfur where I had directed him
to wait; making a good meal, we patched up our mocassins as well as
we could by moonlight, and by a different route to that by which
we came we struck a straight line for Herðubreið. Ultimately we
reached Herðubreið with the sun, and I was not at all sorry to find
myself on my way home; for increased inflammatory symptoms in my
great toe showed that a liberal application of blue-stone and rest
were absolutely indispensable to its cure. The weather by this
time appeared very uncertain, for the heavens were spotted all over
with masses of golden nimbus, drifting rapidly before a wind which
was blowing above, though the atmosphere beneath was perfectly
calm, which are invariably indications of storm in Iceland.

We were now clear of the pumice, and after a hard scramble over
some very rough lava, part of which had flowed from an ancient
volcano not marked upon the map, about eight miles S.S.E. of
Herðubreið, part, apparently, from the Dyngjufjöll mountains, and
some from Trölladýngjur (Troll’s bowers). Here we camped by a pool
of water.

Herðubreið, whose trigonometrical height is 5447 feet, is a
snow-covered cone, resting upon a perpendicular mass of rock,
whose height equals about twice the diameter of the cone. Upon its
south-east and west sides are tali of disintegrated and greatly
weather-worn rocks, and bulging, misshapen masses of agglomerate.
At every point except the S.E. and N.N.W. the sides are perfectly
perpendicular, presenting walls of about 2000 feet from the base of
the mountain to the commencement of the snow-covered cone; it is
surrounded by a dry sandy foss, and choked in places with rounded
_débris_, which had fallen from the agglomerate of which Herðubreið
is principally composed.

Probably the most remarkable feature of this mountain is that no
streams of water flow down its sides, while the base of most other
Icelandic snow-capped mountains are generally watered with streams,
which, as we have already seen, often disappear in sandy or
cavernous ground; but here all the water which must result from the
melting of the frozen accumulation upon the summit of Herðubreið
seemed utterly lost, until it issued in springs such as those which
form the source of the Lindá, at a considerable distance from the
base of the mountain, or collects in pools such as Herðubreiðvatn.

The gulleys which had in many places worn the side of Herðubreið
into the fantastic forms so peculiar to this formation
(agglomerate), appear to be the result of rain and wind, and the
only points from which the mountain is assailable are the S.S.E.
and N.W. It was from the latter that Captain Burton attempted it in
1872, and that experienced traveller seems to regard it as the core
of a much larger mountain; possibly such may be the case, but its
shape is decidedly against its being a volcano of anything but the
most ancient order. History tells us, however, that this mountain
has erupted upon several occasions. The eccentricity of its form is
sufficient to suggest any amount of speculations as to its origin
and character, while nothing but a careful investigation of the
mountain from the base to the apex could enable anyone to arrive
at a satisfactory conclusion. The palagonitic agglomerate (which,
as I have said, constitutes the greater part of the mountain), is
of so friable a nature, and so rapid is the erosive influence of
the Icelandic climate, while so disturbed and metamorphosed has
the whole of the island been by volcanic agency, that one ceases
to wonder at the eccentric shape and anomalous character of its

I much regretted being compelled to pass by Herðubreið without
attempting to ascend it, but our foot gear was in tatters and my
sore toe required immediate attention, so we camped in a large
gulley of sand and lava, which extended a mile or more, gradually
rising to the level of the plain towards the south. Here, while we
were lying with the tent spread over us all, blanket fashion, and
had just dropped off to sleep, we were suddenly awakened by such
a blast of wind, and a deluge of the finest sand and pumice, that
for the moment I didn’t know what it was. At first we started to
our feet, only to get our eyes full of finely-powdered pumice, and
as I tried to speak I got my mouth full. We saw all the smaller
articles of our packs making the most speedy tracks for the more
settled portions of the country. I tried to save my hat, but in so
doing kicked my bad toe against a lava block, tangled my feet up
in the tent rope, and fell down, the latter being about the most
sensible thing I could do, for in a few moments the gust was past
and I could look up.

Blind with the sand, and wild with the agony it was occasioning
us, we all rushed for the water, and opened our eyes in it. While
so doing there came another gust, which compelled us to wait upon
our knees, keeping our heads in the shallow water until it was
over; and then, soaked with sand and water, we made our way back to
where our things had been. I say _had been_, for all were not there
then; my broad-brimmed Danish hat, and half my small etceteras were
gone, and, worst of all, my map and case, where were they? Four
white spots upon a lava field a quarter of a mile away caused me to
run--yes, run--bad toe and all! However, my painful and spasmodic
effort was amply repaid by the recovery of Olsen’s map, which had
been nicely mounted and packed up in a case by the bookbinder at
Reykjavík; now, even the bookbinder would scarcely have recognised
it. Its journey across the Vatna Jökull had not improved its
“personnel,” but the short cut it had made through the neighbouring
pool had in some places rendered it illegible. Fortunately the
Vatna Jökull and its surroundings, with my various markings, were
miraculously preserved, but its case I never saw again.

To return to camp. Everything that had been buried in the sand had
been dug out, and just as we were about to start again another gust
came sweeping down the gulley, half smothering us. We buried our
faces in our mackintosh coats until it was past, when my companion
Thorlákur remarked, “This is not fine;” to which I assented in
the most emphatic language my stock of Icelandic would command.
We now made very fair progress over the lava field, where, under
an overhanging lava block, we bathed our eyes with sulphate of
zinc and rose water, which had often been a great relief during
my Icelandic journeys, and I advise all travellers who may follow
in my wake by no means to omit taking so essential a medicament.
We soon reached the grass at the source of the Lindá, which river
rises from a single spring about two miles N.N.E. of Herðubreið.
Here we took the rest we had been unable to obtain at our last
halting-place, and by evening we reached the remainder of our party
at the Grafalandá, where I was rejoiced to find our horses and a
good supply of provisions, which had been sent with a kind note
from the good people of Grímstaðir, who had sent us some pancakes,
flat bread, coffee and milk, and the latter, though sour, was very
acceptable. From Vopnafjörd I also had ordered some schnapps and
chocolate; so that we made what seemed to us a right royal feed,
and after a good wash, I enjoyed a night of sound rest in the
sleeping bag, which had previously sheltered my men who had been
waiting for us upon the banks of the Grafalandá.

At 5 A.M. the next morning we were on horseback, and away over the
sand and the lava of Mývatns Örœfí, leaving the Vatna Jökull and
the land of the outlaws behind us, enveloped in clouds of light
grey dust which were blown up from the pumice by a S.E. wind. This
dust, I must explain, was of the most irritating nature, resembling
finely-powdered glass; our clothes got saturated with it, and I
was already beginning to feel its effect in the severe abrasion
of skin it was inflicting upon me. By 12 A.M. we were level with
Grímstaðir, only much more to the west, and here we stopped to
allow the horses to graze off the wild oats, for the heat of the
sun was intense. After lunch we must all have taken a nap, for
suddenly looking up, I found it was one o’clock, and the horses
were nowhere in sight, and more than an hour elapsed before we
recovered them. Having secured the vagrant animals, we made for the
new lava, which was produced by the eruptions of last spring in the
Mývatns Örœfí. Sulphurous and acid vapours had long announced its
proximity, although the wind was unfavourable for their reaching
so far. This lava stream, which is about fifteen miles long,
and varies from one to three broad, has flowed almost entirely
over ancient lava streams, most of which have flowed from an old
crater situated in the vicinity, called Sveinagjá. The new lava
extended to about an English mile to the north of the old road from
Reykjahlíð to Grímstaðir.

At this particular point it is bordered by a rather fertile stretch
of ground, where a few sheep managed to sustain a miserable
existence on cinders and salix, though further to the north and
east there are excellent pastures. The lava stream was basaltic,
and presented the usual chaos of black crags, waves, and fanciful
shapes, blisters, and heaps of clinker. It was intensely black,
and still hot; thin, pungent choking fumes being emitted in
all directions, while from various places puffs of steam were
constantly bursting out. This stream, or rather, these two streams,
which have since joined one another, I find have flowed from a long
fissure in the plain, the course of which was marked by a line of
conical mounds thrown up by the eruptions in the late spring; of
these a fuller description will be found upon another page, and an
account of the previous eruption in the Appendix.

We climbed a few hundred yards over the lava stream, but could not
reach the mounds from which the lava had flowed, on account of
the deleterious fumes exhaled from them. The fissures were lined
with various sublimations, to the thickness in some places of
half-an-inch. Amongst them chloride of ammonia was very prominent,
but this was in a state of rapid deliquescence. It might have paid
to collect it, for the quantity was considerable.

We next turned more than a mile out of our course, to a part
where Thorlákur expected to find some water, for we were all very
thirsty. Our road, however, was over old and viscous lava for
some distance, and we came upon some coarse hillocky grass land,
in a line north of the lava stream. Here we encountered a variety
of fissures which had been formed by the earthquake, several of
which, Thorlákur informed me, had cast out sand, stones, and a
little lava. We found only dry pits at the place where Thorlákur
had expected water, so nothing remained but to strike westward for
Reykjahlíð. No doubt the various cracks and fissures so recently
formed in the plain accounted for the absence of water.

The new lava obliges a traveller from Grímstaðir to Reykjahlíð to
go three miles out of his way. We here crossed a depression of
about thirty feet, extending over several square miles, caused by
the late volcanic disturbances. In the vicinity of this depression
the ground was upheaved and much fissured. Thorlákur informed me
that the depression was formed shortly after the first eruption
in the Mývatn Orœfí in the preceding spring. We were, however,
soon amongst the hills of Mývatn, where we obtained some water,
and before long ascended the Námufjall, whose dirty yellow, red
and brown sides, had in some places the appearance of washed-out
posters. Here the smell was filthy. In this locality the treasures
of the Northern Sulphur Mining Company are situated, but as I was
thinking more about my supper than the hidden wealth of the hills
over which we were riding, I will say more about them presently.

A wadi near the summit which divides the Námufjall upon the south
from the Dalfjall upon the west, brought us to the western side
of the sulphur hills, where we first caught sight of the Lake of
Mývatn, or Midge-water, upon the north end of which Reykjahlíð is
situated. Lake Mývatn is seen to the best advantage at a distance,
but it cannot lay claim to great beauty of appearance, although
certainly both remarkable and interesting. Surrounded as it is
with volcanic mountains, and rugged lava streams stretching along
its shores, studded with misshapen little islands, it presents an
eccentric and striking aspect. A short ride past spluttering and
steaming solfataras brought us to the farm of Reykjahlíð, where
we were hospitably received by the bóndi Pètur Jónsson, who was
expecting our arrival.

Reykjahlíð is of the average better class of byre. The farm is a
good one, and has been in the possession of the same family for
600 years. I was glad to find Paul and the rest of my belongings
awaiting us, and anything but displeased to receive the information
that an Englishman occupied the guest chamber. My compatriot I
found to be Mr. G. Fitzroy Cole, who was making a survey of the
neighbourhood for the Company purposing to work these northern
sulphur mines. I also heard that a sulphur prospecting party,
under the guidance of the well-known Captain Burton, had only just
left for Húsavík, upon the sea coast. The guest chamber being thus
occupied, I shared another room with Paul and Thorlákur, and in
the morning I had the pleasure of making Mr. Cole’s acquaintance,
sharing the guest room with him, and likewise a magnificent salmon.

The two days following I rested, as the weather was so
unfavourable. I also paid off all my men excepting Paul and Olgi,
and sent them home to the south. Mr. Cole in the meantime left,
so I proceeded to investigate the sulphur mines for myself. These
I found to be situated in the Námufjall, upon the eastern side of
the Lake of Mývatn, and these collectively are designated the
Hlíðar-Námur; they consist of a series of solfataras, which occur
not only upon the Námufjall itself, but extend a considerable
distance upon either base of the mountains. The Námufjall is
composed of palagonitic agglomerate and lava, the solfataras being
simply pools of calcareo-siliceous mud, formed by the decomposition
of the lava and agglomerate. Upon the surface of these pools the
sulphur sublimates in crusts varying from half-an-inch to several
feet in thickness. The phenomena of solfataras are so well known
that it is needless for me to dilate upon them in the abstract.
However, I first examined the west side of the Námufjall, where
I found both active and latent fumeroles, the former spluttering
and fizzing, and tranquilly steaming, the latter in the form of
cold accumulations of sulphur, siliceous clay and gypseous earth.
I was able to follow the tracks of the sulphur exploring party,
who had preceded me. They had dug into the sulphur crust upon the
surface of the solfataras, and in some places had excavated the
calcareo-siliceous clay, which hardens into a species of sinter.
This clay likewise contains a percentage of sulphur; at all events
the specimens I obtained varied from 5 to 40 per cent. In many
places I found crusts of sulphur covered over with light _débris_,
which a little digging showed to extend for a considerable
distance. Roughly estimating it by stepping the length and breadth
of the various conspicuous sulphur patches, and lumping the
smaller ones together, gave about twenty sulphur-covered spots of
twenty square yards, upon which the crust of pure sulphur averaged
probably half a foot in thickness. On ascending the Námufjall by a
deep gulley worn by the rain in the side of the mountain, we found
this gulley to be cut through several feet of a friable arenaceous
agglomerate, formed by atmospheric action on the disintegrated
constituents of the rocks composing the Námufjall. Passing various
patches of steaming sulphur, we reached the summit, where we
found several solfataras which bear perhaps the thickest deposits
of sulphur, though, in the aggregate I should hardly think they
extend over so large an area as those upon the western side of the
mountain. This mountain is capped by several castellated masses
of basaltic lava, much weather-worn and decomposed by the acid
vapours evolved from the surrounding solfataras, which upon the
eastern slope are decidedly the most extensive to be met with, and
I imagine they contain more pure sulphur than either the summit or
the western side. Of course when speaking of the relative amount of
sulphur, I allude to the exposed crusts, and there must be a great
deal more sulphur than appears upon the surface.

Upon the east base were circular pools of bluish boiling slush,
which emitted a fœtid smell somewhat resembling the effluvia which
so disgusted us at the Öskjugjá. These pools boil with great but
intermittent violence, sometimes splashing the scalding mud to the
distance of four or five feet. They have surrounded themselves
with walls of hardened mud a few feet in height, and from a breach
in two of these walls I should imagine that these springs were
occasionally subject to paroxysms of extraordinary violence. While
approaching the most northern of these slush cauldrons, the earth
on which I was walking gave way, and I slipped into a fissure
up to my armpits; a violent burst of steam from beneath me was
the immediate result, and I was glad to be extricated from this
unenviable position by my companion Olgi. It was indeed fortunate
the fissure was not filled with boiling slush, or I might have
been scalded even more severely than was my travelling companion,
the Rev. J. W----, in 1874, in the solfataras of Krísuvík, in the
south of Iceland. This fissure had probably been formed by the
earthquakes in the spring, and had at one time been filled with
slush, which had hardened on the surface, and afterwards flowed
away through some other channel, leaving a treacherous pitfall
for any unlucky tourist who, like myself, should have a fancy to
closely examine these slush pools.

On returning to the west side of the mountain, and on my way to
Reykjahlíð, I took the liberty of scraping off all the sulphur
from a small solfatara, which I piled in a heap by the side of it;
for the grand question for the Sulphur Company to consider, to my
mind, appears to be--how long does this sulphur take to accumulate?
I trust Mr. Locke, the owner of these mines, will forgive me the
trespass; but in a year’s time he will be able to form some idea of
the rate of accumulation. I shall feel curious to know how soon the
sulphur will again accumulate.

We next returned to Reykjahlíð and supped with the bóndi Pètur
Jónsson, his son-in-law, Thorlákur, and Paul. The former seemed
a little aggrieved at the sulphur business generally, and from
what I could gather, it had from time immemorial been a sore point
as to whether the sulphur mines belonged to his family or to the
Danish Government. There could not be the slightest doubt about
the matter, but I could scarcely wonder at the existence of such
a feeling; for a family who had owned the neighbouring country
for 600 years might naturally think the intervening mountains
were their own fee simple. This feeling quite accounts for any
brusquerie the Sulphur Prospecting Expedition may have met with.
I can only bear testimony, that during my stay at Reykjahlíð I
received the kindest attention, that I had the best of everything
there was in the place, and that the charges were moderate. Old
Pètur informed me that he was building a stone church in place of
the old turf and wooden structure, which required repair. He had
plenty of stone, but his chief difficulty was the want of lime; in
fact, he had been obliged to import all he had hitherto used from
Denmark, which of course was very expensive to him; so I advised
him to try and burn the gypsum from the solfataras, and instructed
him how to set about it, which piece of information seemed to
rejoice his heart exceedingly.

The old church in question is the veritable building, with some
additions and improvements, concerning the escape of which from
destruction during the eruption of some craters to the S.W. of
Krafla, in 1720, so much has been said and written. Suffice it to
say, that the lava could not have reached the church unless it had
previously filled up the Lake of Mývatn. My day’s work ended with
making preparations for a visit to Dettifoss.

The morrow brought very unsatisfactory weather; it had snowed
heavily in the night, and the mountains and ground were white, a
piercing north-west wind was blowing, and it seemed as if we had
suddenly jumped into mid-winter; however, by nine o’clock we were
on horseback. As we journeyed on we were much amused and surprised
to see hay-making going on in the middle of a snow storm; but still
it was the fact that the good people of Reykjahlíð were busily
engaged in the tún (home field) mowing grass, and piling that which
had been cut a day or so previously into cocks, that it might
receive as little injury as possible. Leaving Reykjahlíð behind,
we crossed the rugged lava at the west base of the Námufjall, and
ascended the winding path of the Námu-skarð which divides the
Námufjall from the Dalfjall, and turning to the north pursued our
way by the side of an ancient lava stream, covered with verdure,
and thence bending sharply to the north-east we reached the little
bothy of Skarðsel, a poor dilapidated hut of turf and lava blocks,
which sheltered some of the servants from Reykjahlíð, who during
the summer months tend the sheep in the neighbouring grass land.
Here we took a good draught of milk, and leaving behind us a large
piece of Mr. Cole’s salmon, some hard tack, chocolate and schnapps,
to refresh us upon our return, we crossed the Sandbalnafjöll by
means of a sandy pass, and reached the plain of the Mývatns Örœfí
amid a blinding storm. Our route lay again over lava, covered with
sand, which I was informed had been ejected by Krafla. On, on,
N.N.E., the storm utterly defying our tattered mackintoshes. A
little herbage had begun to make its appearance, and presently we
were galloping over excellent sheep pastures, varied occasionally
by barren stretches of sand and pebbles. Several times, however, we
were stopped by fissures which had been very recently formed in the
plain, probably by the volcanic action of the previous spring, but
very insignificant in comparison with those we had previously met
with in the Mývatns Örœfí. At last, after about six hours’ riding,
we sighted the column of spray arising from the Dettifoss, and soon
after we descended into what appeared to have been the bed of a
large river, most likely an ancient bed of the Jökulsá, which may
have been diverted to its present channel by an earthquake; while
upon ascending its eastern bank, the dull roar of the Dettifoss
reached us. Climbing over crags of basalt we rode to the edge of
the river, where we dismounted upon a patch of excellent grass,
and thence obtained a good view of the cataract, which is very
imposing. The Jökulsá is here about 250 yards across, and roars
along in a series of rapids, till its broken and foaming waters
pour down a perpendicular wall of basalt at least 200 feet in
height, into a chasm some hundred yards wide, seething and boiling
in pent-up wrath, forming a “riotous confluence of water-courses,
blanching and bellowing in the hollow of it,” until, released from
this confinement, it softens, a few hundred yards further down,
into a broad swift-flowing stream of milky water. The Dettifoss is
by far the largest waterfall in Iceland, and, I believe, in Europe,
being about the size of the Canadian Niagara Fall. The only view
obtainable, however, is not calculated to impress the beholder with
an adequate idea of its height, for one has to look down upon it,
which is always a disadvantage: still, although the Dettifoss lacks
the beauty of Niagara, it does not convey the impression of the
thinness of the body of water, as does the Transatlantic cataract;
for the grace and beauty of the latter are greatly enhanced by
its surroundings of richly-wooded heights and the clearness of
the water. Although Dettifoss is much smaller than the Falls of
Niagara in their entirety, nevertheless, it is a grand and terrible
spectacle, and is all the more striking on account of the diablerie
of the wild scenery by which it is environed. There is an upper
cascade, but of no great height, and it is scarcely worth naming
beside Dettifoss; for one waterfall is so much like another, that,
after having seen several of the largest, one rather tires of the
similarity, unless there be some distinguishing peculiarity to
enliven the interest.

When satiated with admiring the scenery at this part, we took a
light meal, and commenced our return journey amid pouring rain.
It was past midnight before we reached the west side of Mývatns
Örœfí; and as the mist had somewhat lifted from the hills, I turned
my horse’s head towards Krafla. Upon reaching the height of a few
hundred feet the mist again beat down upon us; besides which the
snow lay so thick in many places that it became very dangerous for
the horses in the half-light and fog. We therefore abandoned Krafla
for the moment, and taking the first gill which ran in a southerly
direction, we descended to the little hut where we had left our
salmon and reserve supply of provisions. The good folks were in
bed, but one of the women immediately got up to assist us, and the
other produced, first the bottle of schnapps, and then, one by one,
the biscuits and the chocolate, from what appeared to be the only
cupboard in the place, viz., from underneath the bedclothes. As the
bed had three occupants, I was in terror lest my salmon had been
stored in the same undesirable repository, but fortunately it had
been put up outside. The biscuits and chocolate might have been
none the worse for their safe storage, but they were unpleasantly
warm, and I preferred to wait for the salmon, which with some good
coffee, sheep’s milk, and schnapps, was not to be despised by a
hungry traveller who had been exposed to the storm for nearly a
score of hours.

We reached Reykjahlíð at five A.M., and I turned in for a short
sleep, till breakfast at seven o’clock, and then we made our start
for Krafla. Over the Námufjall again, by the Námu-skarð, a gill
of solfataras, we passed the parti-coloured heaps, slopes, and
accumulations, which reminded me of the refuse from some huge
dye-works, and turned to the north along the east base of the
Dalfjall, skirting a lava stream upon our right hand. Hereabout
the aspect was much improved by (for Iceland) a luxuriant
overgrowth of dwarf birch and salix. Crossing hence to the base
of Sandbalnafjöll, we drew up for a minute at the little hut of
Skarðsel for a draught of sheep’s milk. Pursuing our way over a
lava field covered with alluvium, we hastened on towards Krafla. We
hobbled our horses at the base of the high ground between Krafla
and Leirhnúkur, and forthwith commenced the ascent, passing several
solfataras of no great importance, their chief characteristic
being the production of abominable smells. Soon after we reached
comparatively level ground, which extended for some distance at the
S.S.W. base of Krafla proper. Cheered by the sight of our horses
making tracks for home, in spite of their hobbles, we now continued
along the south-west margin of a crater-lake, which probably was
more than two miles in circumference, its length equalling about
twice its breadth, being surrounded by steep slopes of clay,
disintegrated rock and fragmentary _débris_. There was a similar
crater further to the N.N.W., of more circular form. Following
along a neck of land between the two, we commenced the ascent of
Krafla proper, which is a sub-conical mass of agglomerate, pierced
to the summit and in many other places with intruded lava. The
sides we found to be everywhere strewed with all kinds of volcanic
_débris_, amongst which were numerous trachitic masses, some of
which contained atoms of iron pyrites, and although these occurred
very frequently in loose fragments and masses, I was unable to find
any _in situ_. Half-an-hour’s hard climbing next brought us to the
summit, which my aneroid shewed to be scarcely 3000 feet above
Reykjahlíð, or a little under 4000 feet above sea level. On looking
around we found upon the high ground to the west several pools of
clear water, probably small crater lakes, as doubtless were the
two depressions immediately beneath us to the south-west. My guide
informed me that it was from the most northern of these that the
last eruption of Krafla proceeded, and that the water in it used to
be hot; he also told me a fact which was afterwards corroborated by
his father, that Krafla had never been known to erupt lava, having
cast out only ashes, pumice, sand and water; indeed, the aspect
of these pit craters would lead one so to imagine it. I was also
much surprised at not finding any obsidian, for I had heard so much
of the obsidian of Krafla; but on further inquiry I ascertained
that it is only found on the portion of the mountain known as the
Hrafntinnuhryggr (the obsidian back), and there it only occurs in
fragments--indeed, the only obsidian I have met with _in situ_ in
Iceland is at Mount Paul, in the middle of the Vatna Jökull.

The summit of Krafla commands a most extensive view. Looking
south-west, over the hills beneath, with their dirty splotches of
whitish yellow sulphur, the country looked wintry indeed after
the snow storm of the previous day, while the eye as it wandered
southward caught a fine view-range over the Hliðarfjall and
Dalfjall, as well as over the straggling lake of Mývatn, where the
scenery widened out over the Mývatnsveit towards the snow-capped
Seljalandsfjall, standing out like an island in the commencement of
the dark stony sea of the Ódáðahraun. In another direction, between
the snow-covered hills upon the east side of the Skjálfandifljót
and the smoking Dyngjufjöll, the view extended over the pitiless
waste of the Ódáðahraun to the snowy mound of Skjaldbreið, while
the broad white expanse of the Vatna seemed to join the sky, till,
almost wearied with the strain upon the visual power, it seemed
quite a relief to turn to the nearer and happier-looking spots of
green which the volcano and the glaciers have spared to Iceland.

Further to the east are the Bláfjall, where the Fremri-Námur
deposits of sulphur are situated, and the fire-scorched hills
of Trölladýngjur, whose position on the map Captain Burton has
corrected, and the lordly Herðubreið, whose snowy cap looked all
the purer for the recent snow storm. To the east and north-east
stretched the plain of the Mývatns Örœfí, with its black patch
of new lava enshrouded in a dim mist. Bearing N.N.E. was a tall
column, apparently of steam, upon which the sun was shining; it was
the spray from the Dettifoss, varying in shape as the wind acted on
it, and reflecting rainbow colours in the sunlight. To the north
the prospect was between the Hágaunguhnúkur (high-going hills) and
Jónstindr, over a level country to the hills of Theistareykjafjall,
where a third large deposit of sulphur occurs. It was seven P.M.
before we returned to Reykjahlíð, and in a few hours we bade
adieu to old Pètur and started along the eastern side of Lake
Mývatn, accompanied by Paul and Arngrimur, for the little lake of
Grœnavatn. The road was a bad one, over a continuation of lava
streams which had flowed into the Lake of Mývatn, forming the
curious little islands that spotted its sedgy waters. We put to
flight several of the duck tribe, which were enjoying themselves
after the manner of ducks upon the margin of the lake, and reached
Grœnavatn at three A.M.; this was very slow work, but the nature of
the ground prevented our travelling at anything beyond a walking
pace for the greater part of the way. One of the principal features
of this ride was the numerous gates which had to be opened and
shut; these marked the termination of the various holdings, and
also prevented the sheep belonging to the different homesteads upon
the side of the lake from straying; for very often, where the gates
were situated, the lava prevented the passage even of sheep by any
other way.

The occupants of the farm at Grœnavatn may be described as “a happy
family.” The two sons of Pètur of Reykjahlíð, Jón and Arngrimur,
had married the two sisters of my previous guide, Thorlákur, and
he, by way of returning the compliment, had married one of their
sisters. They were all living under the same roof with Thorlákur’s
father, and together managed their thriving homestead.

About midday we started for the sulphur mines of Fremri-Námur, on
the east and west slopes of the Bláfjall and Hvannfell. Proceeding
in a S.S.E. direction we crossed the lava which occupies the
entire eastern side of the valley of Mývatn, and began to ascend
the hills at the base of the Bláfjall. We here inspected two small
but perfectly-formed craters, both of which had discharged lava
streams into the valley beneath. A little further up the hill to
the north of the Bláfjall we came upon the tracks of the Sulphur
Exploring Expedition, under the conduct of Capt. Burton, who had
passed that way a few days previously. From this point the hills
commanded a striking view of Mývatn, Krafla, and the neighbouring
mountains, with a glimpse to the south-west of Arnarfells Jökull
in the far distance. This we found was a difficult route for the
horses, and it did not improve as we reached the lava which had
flowed from the Fremri-Námur at the time of its latest eruption.
This lava stream had flowed into a valley between the Bláfjall
and the Hvannfell, destroying all herbage except a little “island
of green,” which it almost encircled; this small patch of verdure
is called Heilag (holy valley). Here, choosing a spot where there
was the most grass, we rested and lunched. The grass, however, was
not plentiful, the greater part being what is called kinder-grass
(sheep’s grass), or a mixture of straggling birch and salix
intermixed with coarse grass and herbage. The sheep eat this with
avidity, but horses must be very hungry before they will feed
upon it. As we were about to depart a heavy snow storm burst upon
us. My guide had no waterproof, but I had a large oilskin that Mr.
Kent, one of the sulphur explorers, had given to Paul; we therefore
took shelter under the lee of a crag in the ancient lava stream
underlying the grass-land, and improvised a roof with the oilskin
and our whips. We were imprisoned for more than an hour; so violent
was the storm that it was impossible to see many yards around
us. Eventually it cleared up; we had almost succeeded in keeping
ourselves dry, and I think our drenched and shivering horses were
only too glad to resume their journey.

It was getting on towards night; the wind was blowing from the
north-west, making our soaked saddles anything but pleasant, for so
suddenly had the storm come on that we had not time to unsaddle our
horses. We next followed the lava stream for some distance until
we sighted the yellow depression which marked the commencement of
the sulphur mines. As we decided that it would be more pleasant to
travel on foot, and that by doing so we could make better progress,
we fastened our horses each with his head tied to the tail of his
companion, and steered for the light yellow patches, from which a
few wreaths of steam were curling. A short climb brought us to
the most regularly-formed crater I have seen in Iceland. This was
an oval depression, with a circumference of about half-a-mile and
nearly 150 feet deep, called the “Great Kettle;” it was formed of a
scoriaceous basaltic lava. No lava stream had actually flowed from
this crater, but it seemed as if it had been tapped by a fissure
some distance westward, whence a great quantity of lava had flowed,
although all traces of such fissure or opening were now obscured by
lava. The principal sulphur mines are upon the north and east side
of the mountain, extending upon the latter right away up to the
edge of the crater, and breaking out even within the crater itself
upon its eastern side. I followed in the track of the exploring
party, as I had done at Hlíðar-Námur, and dug into several parts
of the solfataras. The sulphur here, as at the above-named place,
rests upon a bed of calcareo-siliceous clay, and is strewed in many
places with pieces of gypsum and fragments of lava coated with
various sublimations; in some parts I found the pure sulphur to
be upwards of two feet in thickness, the average thickness being,
perhaps, half-a-foot. These deposits are much more extensive than
those of Reykjahlíð, and I believe I did not inspect the whole of
them. Returning to the summit, the extensive view was anything
but a cheering one. To the east lay the Mývatns Orœfí, with its
black patches of new lava, the thin vapour which was rising from
it making it dim and indistinct; further to the south we looked
across the Trölladýngjur to Herðubreið, whose snowy cone was alone
brightened by the sunlight, which had long forsaken the dark,
shadowy waste of the Ódáðahraun; due south were the Dyngjufjöll
mountains, and upon them the night clouds were brooding heavily.
A strong wind was raising great clouds of dust upon the plain
which lay to the east between us and the Jökulsá. A fresh storm
was rapidly shutting out the twilight in the west, and an ominous
gloom had settled upon the rocks around us. A hunt after our horses
in a blinding storm would have been anything but pleasant in such
an inhospitable region, so we returned with all haste to our poor
trembling steeds. Then with our clothes stiffly frozen, and our
saddles covered with ice, all night long we rode in the face of a
blinding storm, at a snail’s pace, on account of the darkness.

By two A.M. we arrived at the foot of Bláfjall. The snow had turned
into rain, and amid a thick woolly fog we made our way over the
lava stream which lay between us and Grœnavatn. Our pace was of
necessity very slow, and it was not until four A.M. that we reached
the farm. Here we found materials for a hearty meal spread out
for us by the good folks, who had long since retired to bed. After
doing justice to the catering of our unconscious hosts, I posted up
my diary and turned in. On awaking again next morning I took a swim
in the lake, and breakfast preparatory to my departure with Paul
for Húsavík, where I hoped to have the pleasure of falling in with
the exploring party. Passing to the south of the Lake of Mývatn,
we crossed the Laxá (salmon river), which takes its name from the
abundance of salmon found in the more northerly portion of its
waters, and considerable time was here taken up in drinking coffee
with an old friend.

The river Laxá, I may here remark, rises in the west end of the
lake, and after flowing out a short distance is joined by the
Kráká. From Mývatn Lake to Grenjaðastaðir (which may be called
the upper portion of the river) its waters abound with trout and
char, but at that point a waterfall (the Brúarfoss) prevents the
salmon ascending the river any further. From the Brúarfoss to the
sea there is, however, some of the finest salmon and trout fishing
in Iceland, as many an English sportsman can testify. The Laxá, I
found, emptied itself into the sea at the Skjálfandifjörð, not very
far from the store at Húsavík.

Crossing the Mývatns Sandr, the road lies through an undulating
grazing country, and upon the high ground to the south of the
little Lake of Laugarvatn we caught sight simultaneously of the
steam from the hot springs of Reykir, to the north-east the
Arctic ocean, which washes the northern shore of Iceland, and the
mountains of Theistar-reykir, where a third series of sulphur mines
is located.

On, on we sped, as fast as our horses could carry us, as the
English steamer, for anything we knew, might be on the point of
starting. The Mýrarkvísl, however, was reached in good time, and
as I had stopped behind to give my horse a drink, leaving Paul to
go on before me, upon crossing the river I was pleased to find him
in conversation with Mr. Kent, who had been fishing. Great was my
joy, too, on finding that the steamer had not gone, and that the
exploring party was still at Húsavík. Soon after we proceeded to
the farm of Laxámyri, which was the best farm I had seen in the
country, and must have cost a great sum for an Icelander, as it
was built by Danish workmen, with a wooden carving of a salmon and
an eider duck over the front door to indicate the sources of the
owner’s wealth. Here I made a good meal, and after half-an-hour’s
nap we were off again, in company with Mr. Kent, for Húsavík, where
I met with a most hospitable reception from the members of the
Sulphur Prospecting Expedition, and Herra Guðmundson, the merchant.

The sulphur party, I found, were submitting to an enforced stay,
for their steamer was a week behind the time she was expected
to arrive. They were all lodged in the house of the sheriff,
which happened to be vacant, and a merry time they were having,
especially the sporting portion of their community, who, I have no
doubt, for a long time will sing the praises of Laxá.

Besides the veteran traveller Capt. Burton, there was another
member of the party known to fame, Mr. Baldwin, a companion of
the late Dr. Livingstone in his travels in Central Africa, whose
“Twelve Years of Sporting Experience in South Africa” presents a
series of vivid pictures of sporting travel.

Húsavík is pleasantly situated at the foot of Húsavík-urfjall, upon
the eastern side of the bay of Skjálfandi, and has a good harbour
except when the wind is blowing from the north. The mountains of
Víkna-fjöll upon the western side of the bay form a great addition
to the scenery; they were covered with snow even at this season of
the year.

Having so long followed in the wake of the exploring party, it
was impossible for me not to speculate upon the prospects of
“the North Iceland Sulphur Company,” and my lucubrations ran in
the following strain:--There is certainly no lack of sulphur
both at Hlíðar-Námur and at Fremri-Námur, and the report of the
_prospectors_ on the smaller solfataras of _Theistareykir-Námur_ is
a good one. The road between the sulphur mines and the sea is not
of such an impracticable nature but that it would be quite possible
to construct a road, or to sledge the sulphur down in the winter.
If the company set about their work in the right way and keep their
undertaking in the hands of some half-dozen capitalists, they will
probably not only enrich themselves, but also add another valuable
export to needy Iceland. If, however, the shares are sent into the
Stock Exchange, the chances are the undertaking will be weighted
with too much capital, and thus be at the mercy of cliques of
speculators belonging to that body.

After spending a night with the travellers, whose hospitality and
agreeable society added greatly to the pleasure of my stay at
Húsavík, the merchant, Herra Guðmundson invited me to stay with
him, and, as I needed rest, I accepted his kind invitation.

Nothing could exceed the kindness of my host, and I do not know
how the sulphur expedition would have fared had it not been for
his kindness and assistance. I was beyond measure sorry, on my
return to England, to see a long article in a Scotch newspaper,
from one member or some members of the party, disparaging almost
everything at Húsavík, and making invidious remarks about the wine
which Herra Guðmundson had supplied us with from his own cellar,
and which we had all partaken of with him at his house. Several
members of the expedition whom I have since had the pleasure of
meeting agree with me that it is a matter to be thoroughly ashamed
of. After a few days’ rest I left Húsavík to visit the remarkable
cliffs of Ásberg, which Herra Guðmundson had informed me were
equal to those of Thingvalla: his sister and nephew joined me,
so that, with Paul, we made up quite a pleasant little party.
Unfortunately, however, none of the other visitors were able to go
with us, for they were afraid the steam ship might arrive, and not
be able to wait their return. The road we took to Ásberg lay across
a monotonous stretch of country (the Reikjahlíð), which for the
greater part of the way was undulating high ground, covered with
ancient lava, partly grown over with dwarf straggling birch and
herbage. The track which leads across it is called Bláskógavegr,
or the way of the Blue forest. Bláberrie bushes are apparently
the largest trees one meets with here; they, however, were rather
abundant, and in some instances grew almost to the height of the
long straggling apologies for birch brush which were occasionally
to be met with. If it had not been that we were a merry party, I
should have felt the journey decidedly dull; but it was not, and
ultimately we arrived at the small farm of Ás about midnight, a
short distance to the west of the river Jökulsá, where we took
coffee, bought a lamb, and, accompanied by the farmer, proceeded
at sunrise to the cliffs of Ásberg. We found Ásberg to consist of
a V-shaped valley some 300 feet deep, surrounded by perpendicular
walls of basaltic lava to the east and west, while it opened out
towards the north, inosculating an elongated cliff of basaltic
lava, like a rocky island, towards the northern and widest part
of the valley. This glen is a little more than a Danish mile in
circumference, occurring towards the termination of an ancient lava
stream, supposed by Capt. Burton and the geologist who accompanied
his expedition to have been the work of pre-historic oceans, and
that the walls of the valley are old sea cliffs--probably they are

The valley contains the finest wood I have seen in the island,
consisting of a thick growth of birch and willow, in many places
attaining to the height of thirty or forty feet.

Our guides informed us that in the spring time large streams
flowed over the cliffs at the south end of the valley, forming
magnificent cascades; and we noticed that in three places they had
worn water-courses for themselves, over which there now trickled
only a feeble stream. There were also two deep pits filled with
water, that appeared to have been hollowed out by the waterfalls
which in the spring empty themselves into them. It was a beautiful
day, and the fragrant birch reminded me of many a glorious ramble
in North West America. Here we bivouacked, and cooked our lamb to a
turn, under the supervision of our lady friend, and after enjoying
the meal we shouted ourselves almost hoarse in awakening the echoes
which probably had slumbered for years in the old grey cliffs, so
it was not until ten in the evening that we started on our homeward
journey. Right well and bravely did our lady ride, in spite of the
fatigue which she had undergone, over rough ground and smooth.

We stayed at a small farm called Geîtar Staðir (goats’ farm) for
coffee and a drink of goat’s milk, and arrived at Húsavík at 6 A.M.
The exploring party we found, with the exception of Mr. Tennant
and Mr. Baldwin, were about to start for the Dettifoss, intending
to take Ásberg in the way; so I passed a convivial evening with my
host, but was not sorry to turn in rather early. I was, however,
soon awakened abruptly by two voices which seemed familiar enough,
calling me to get up again. My early visitors proved to be Mr.
Slimond and Mr. Wight, of Leith, whose acquaintance I had the
pleasure of making in the previous spring, giving me warning that
the steamer Buda had arrived and was lying in Húsavík bay. On
hearing that, I hastily dressed, and having given orders to Paul to
take the best horses and start forthwith, bearing a note to Capt.
Burton and his party, with the letters which had arrived for them,
I proceeded with all haste to the Buda, to ask my newly-arrived
friends to breakfast with me.

Upon nearing the ship, Mr. Slimond called out that they were
just off to Borðeyri, and asked if I would join them. The steps
were just about to be hauled up the ship’s side, but I accepted
his offer, and in five minutes we were steaming out of the Bay
of Skjálfandi and sitting down to a genuine English breakfast.
After rounding the island of Flatey, which lies at the mouth of
the Skjálfandi, we obtained a beautiful view of the mountainous
coast of the north of the island. The weather was delightful, and
the pleasant society of old acquaintances, with the interesting
occupation of looking through the latest news from England, made
the twenty-four hours pass with amazing rapidity; so in fact I
felt quite sorry when the next morning found us steaming up the
Húnaflói upon the S.W. extremity of which Borðeyri is situated.
Here Capt. Cockle, whose acquaintance I had previously made, had
been waiting a whole fortnight with some 300 Icelandic ponies, the
delay having been occasioned by the break-down of the engine of the
Fifeshire, which Mr. Slimond had first chartered for his Icelandic
trip. Mr. Slimond, I must explain, entirely commands the Icelandic
horse trade, and has done more towards developing that branch of
commerce in Iceland than any other man. During the time he has been
in connexion with it, it is stated that he has spent over £50,000
in the country. This amount has wonderfully helped many of the
Icelanders to improve their dwellings, and it cannot fail to have
exercised a very beneficial influence in stimulating Icelandic
trade as well as assisting the development of other branches of

The horses were at last all penned into a corral, and by the time
the Buda was fairly anchored in the Húnaflói, the obstreperous
cargo was ready for shipment--a rather difficult matter, for the
horses had to be conveyed to the ship in small boats, and as their
respective ages varied from two to five years, as may be expected,
the trouble of getting them all conveyed to the ship, hoisted on
board, and stowed away can scarcely be described. While the process
of loading was going on I took a walk on shore, in the company of
Mrs. Slimond, her sister, and Mr. Wight, and I must say we neither
of us received a very favourable impression either of the place or
the people.

Borðeyri itself is uninteresting in the extreme, as most of the
more fertile parts of Iceland are; it is neither barren enough to
exhibit the desolate grandeur of many other portions of the island
through which I had travelled during the two previous months,
nor fertile enough to be pleasant to the eye. By dint of great
labour on the part of Mr. Slimond, Captain Cockle, and some of the
ship’s crew, together with the tardy assistance of some of the
inhabitants of the place, the animals were at length stowed away,
the Buda steamed out of the Húnaflói, and we arrived at Húsavík
the following morning. Here the Sulphur Company came on board with
all their belongings; Mr. Locke, however, remained, as he had
some further business to transact at Húsavík and Reykjavík; so I
took leave of Mr. Slimond and his party with many thanks for his
hospitality, and, having shaken hands with the other members of
the company, we parted with mutual good wishes for our respective

Accompanied by Mr. Locke, I climbed into the little boat that was
waiting for us, and returned to our kind host, Herra Guðmundson,
while the good ship Buda sped on her way to Scotland. Mr. Locke,
Herra Guðmundson, and his sister were bound for Reykjavík, but I
intended to cross the Sprengisandr, and pay a visit to the Skaptar
Jökull. We therefore agreed to journey part of the way together,
and I was easily persuaded to accompany them as far as Akreyri,
as I wished to see the place--town it can scarcely be called--of
second importance in Iceland. The next day, therefore, Mr. Locke,
Herra Guðmundson, his wife, his sister, his little son, and a
servant, Paul, Olgi, and myself, all set out first for Mývatn,
where I inspected the solfatara I had cleared of its sulphur about
three weeks before, and found it had quite a yellow tinge, although
there was no appreciable fresh deposit of sulphur. From Mývatn we
advanced towards Akreyri, and crossing the river Skjálfandifljót
(quivering flood), we turned to the N.W., to view the waterfall
of Godafoss. This waterfall is but a tame affair after Dettifoss,
and the fall is about thirty-five feet; but the Skjálfandi is a
much smaller river than the Jökulsá. There is, however, a finer
waterfall higher up, upon the Skjálfandifljót, a distance of about
a day-and-a-half’s journey. We halted at the farm of Ljósavatn, and
next day took the road past the Lake of Ljósavatn (Lake of Light)
for Arkeyri, but at the lake Mrs. Guðmundson, her son, and servant
left us, and we rode briskly on, up the pass of Ljósavatnskarð. In
clear weather this must be a beautiful pass, but the clouds were
hanging so low upon the hills they obscured the view, and deprived
us of what otherwise would, no doubt, have been a grand prospect.
We soon reached the church and parsonage of Háls, and thence
descended into a valley, Fnjóskádalr, in which there is the finest
growth of birch, next to that in the valley of Ásberg, which had
as yet come under my notice. We next crossed the river of Fnjóská,
and forthwith commenced to ascend the heights of Vaðlaheiði, a
mountainous ridge upon the opposite side of the Eyjafjörð to
Akreyri. The summit of these heights was so enveloped in mist
that all hope of benefitting by the view which such an altitude,
viz. 2,118 feet, must of necessity command, was quite out of the
question, we therefore descended straight away to Akreyri, which we
reached by fording the mouth of the Eyjafjarðará, which can only be
done at low tide. Here we put up at the inn, where several friends
soon made their appearance, and a jolly time we had of it.

Although Akreyri is not so extensive a settlement as Reykjavík, it
possesses a much better harbour, being shut in upon the east by
the Vaðlaheiði, and upon the west by the hills of Súlur and the
outlying mountains of the Vindheima Jökull, which rise in some
places to the height of 3000 feet. The town is situated at the
south end of the Eyjafjörð (island firth), taking its name from
the little island of Hrísey which lies in its mouth. The trade of
this small place does not equal that of its sister settlement,
owing, perhaps, to the numerous stores situated in various fjords
in the north of Iceland, whereas Reykjavík and Eyrarbakki command
the trade of the greater part of the south, in consequence of the
iron-bound nature of its coast. Arkeyri is composed of two streets
of wooden frame-houses, one of which runs so close to the sea shore
as to be occasionally flooded, and it has a renown of its own, from
the largest trees in the whole island growing there. These however,
are merely two or three mountain-ash trees, about 25 to 30 feet in
height, flourishing in front of a house facing the fjord, belonging
to one of the principal store keepers!

The luxuriance of their growth is the more remarkable, as all the
attempts which have hitherto been made to grow trees in Reykjavík
have failed, although its mean temperature is much higher than that
of Akreyri. The explanation of this probably is that Akreyri is
one of the most sheltered spots in the island, while Reykjavík is
exposed to the full fury of the east and west winds.

A short distance to the north of the town we found a cluster of
black sheds, the filthy smell from which informed us at once of the
odoriferous business carried on there, which was at full swing. I
had often smelt from afar this same disgusting effluvium, and found
it to arise from the profitable but revolting work of extracting
oil from sharks’ livers. Accompanied by Paul, I determined to
inspect this manufacture, so, passing through an avenue of vats
full of sharks’ putrid livers, reeking and sweltering in the sun,
we thrust our pocket-handkerchiefs into our mouths and plunged
into the boiling-house. Here about half-a-dozen cauldrons of
sharks’ livers were simmering, and slowly “frying out” the filthy
but valuable shark-oil, exhaling the foulest stench imaginable.
Three grimy oleaginous men and a boy, who seemed to thrive amid
their abominable surroundings, were engaged in stoking the fires,
stirring up the stewing livers and baling out the oil, as it
accumulated, into a long trough, which discharged itself into a
large iron tank outside, whence it was drawn off again into barrels
ready for shipment to the various parts of the world where there
is a demand for such a very unpleasant lubricator. The men seemed
quite surprised that we found anything disagreeable in the smell of
the oil, and seemed quite to enjoy giving the cauldrons an extra
stir on our account, which was a pleasure we could have dispensed

In the evening we paid a visit to the apothecary, whose house
seemed to be the rendezvous of all the captains whose ships were
lying in the harbour, and there we arranged to depart the next day.

Here I may as well observe there are two ways from the north to the
south of Iceland, the shortest being, however, the most difficult
road, which lies across the Sprengisandr, and the longest, but
easiest, across the Stórisandr. Mr. Locke, with Herra Guðmundson
and his sister, had resolved to go by the Stórisandr to Reykjavík,
and I wished to go by the Sprengisandr to the east, so that I might
visit the Skaptar Jökull. Although I intended to have left early,
it was night before we got away from Akreyri, for leave-taking
always occupies an indefinite time in inverse proportion to the
size of the place. Re-crossing Vaðlaheiði, we reached Ljósavatn
(where I had left my baggage and baggage-horses) with the daylight,
from whence we proceeded along the Skjálfandifljót to Stóruvellir.
The river Skjálfandifljót runs down a broad fertile valley shut
in by hills of basalt, which rise in some places as much as 1300
feet above the level of the river. From thence a broad stretch
of grass-land, extending some 25 miles long, brought us to
Stóruvellir, a flourishing farm surrounded by grass-lands. The
people, we found, were all busy hay-making; so I ascended the
hills behind the farm to look at the surrounding country, but
before I could reach the summit it had clouded over, and I could
see but a very short distance. Early next morning a man brought
word that a fresh eruption had broken out in the Mývatns Örœfí.
This was news indeed, and as it was Sunday, when some of the more
distant population would be assembled at the neighbouring church, I
despatched Paul to ascertain from them the accuracy of the news. In
the meanwhile, however, accompanied by the farmer’s son, I ascended
the hills to reconnoitre, and when about half-way up I espied a
tall dense column of white smoke in the east, which announced the
correctness of the intelligence we had received. On arriving at the
summit I looked again, and then perceived six smaller columns in a
line with the larger one, rising to about half its height. These
columns of smoke had evidently originated in the Mývatns Örœfí,
and rose in perpendicular columns, which spread out at the apex
like phantoms of giant palm trees in the calm atmosphere of that
early autumn Sabbath morning! The position I occupied commanded a
magnificent view of the Dyngjufjöll mountains and the Kverkfjöll,
both of which volcanoes lie south of the Mývatns Örœfí; neither
of these, however, seemed to be particularly disturbed, but the
mushroom-shaped cloud of smoke which had been there all the summer
still hovered over the Dyngjufjöll. There appeared, however, no
increase in the three thin columns of vapour I had before observed
rising from the Kverkfjöll. Looking in another direction I found
the country to the east obscured by what seemed to be a fog, which
was, probably, vapour and ashes from the fresh eruption drifting
slowly towards the Vatna Jökull. Presently the large volume of
smoke from the Mývatns Orœfí disappeared, leaving in its place a
cloud of thin black vapour, but before many seconds had elapsed it
again sprang up in three distinct bursts to more than its former
height. Hastily descending, I ordered the horses to be saddled, and
at once we rode away at full gallop towards the seat of the new

By evening we reached the farm of Grœnavatn, where I had the
pleasure of again seeing Thorlákur and his brother-in-law, and I
forthwith made preparations for visiting the point of volcanic
activity the following morning, but my plans were frustrated by a
violent storm of rain, wind, and snow, which made it a matter of
impossibility to cross the hills; so, chafing at the delay, I was
compelled to postpone my expedition. During the previous night a
man had arrived from Grímstaðir, upon the eastern side of the
Mývatns Örœfí, and reported that between ten and eleven o’clock on
Sunday morning, August 15th, a smart shock of earthquake was felt
at that place, travelling from north-east to south-west, while
almost simultaneously columns of smoke were seen upon the plain
of Mývatns Örœfí, and forthwith an eruption commenced from the
same place as in the previous spring. Upon the 17th the storm had
sufficiently abated, so, accompanied by Jón, who had been my guide
to Fremri-Námur, I set out for the eruption. Upon entering a valley
in the mountains of Mývatn, by which we intended to gain access to
the Mývatns Örœfí, a few columns of smoke in the distance warned
us that the eruption lay before us, and as we emerged from the
glen, a line of some twenty columns of smoke burst upon our view,
while at the north end lay two clusters of black mounds in close
proximity. From the most southerly of these sprung up two columns
of dense black smoke, which struggling to ascend, were beaten back
to earth again by the wind in a foul heavy mist that spread itself
out for miles over the lava streams, both old and new, which lay
to eastward, clinging to the higher crags in dark, ominous-looking
masses, and obscuring large patches of the more level plain. From
its neighbour to the north a high column of stones, ashes, and
dust proclaimed the principal volcanic vent, and as we gazed upon
the scene, suddenly, with a roar, every particle seemed on fire,
while explosion after explosion hurled the larger fragments to a
height beyond our view in the dense canopy of vapour which hung
over us, making the ground upon which we stood and the rocks around
us tremble. While the lava sloped over the most northerly side,
the large column of fire sank, and only stones and cinders were
ejected. This column of _débris_ I noticed continually varied both
in size and volume, sometimes clustering like a large swarm of bees
in the smoke, apparently scarcely a hundred feet above the crater,
while at other times it shot up into a tall column with explosive
violence, the masses of scoriæ shrieking in their passage through
the air. This was followed by a calm, and then again by a rending
sound, as a new crater opened on the north side of the mound, which
ejected a stream of white hot lava that tumbled in a cascade of
fiery froth upon the old lava stream of the previous spring. At
this point a dense smoke and the sound of splitting rocks marked
its progress till it oozed in bright red viscous masses through the
interstices of the older lava, forming pools beyond the limit of
the elder stream, which glowed for a moment only and then turned
black. As we looked on these wonderful changes of the face of
nature, a dim twilight supervened, although only six P.M., so we
stopped upon a patch of wild oats which grew profusely upon many
parts of these sands, and here we left our horses to feed while we
took our evening meal upon a sand-bank commanding a full view of
the eruption, which was rather more than a mile away. The scene was
grand, but our horses did not appear to be particularly frightened
at the eruption, for after standing some time looking at it, they
quietly went on grazing.

On approaching the volcano as closely as the heated lava would
allow, I found it to consist of a cluster of black mounds,
describing together an irregular cone, from the centre of which,
and probably towards the termination of the spring-eruption,
a large crater had been formed, apparently little more than
half-a-mile in circumference; its northern wall had now evidently
been broken down, while from the centre rose the conical walls of
the crater then erupting. There was a breach also in the north
side, from which the lava poured at intervals, while numerous
cracks in the walls of the cone caused the glow from the intense
burning within to shine through with such brilliancy as to give the
summit the appearance of being wrapped in flames. As I intently
examined this, two smaller craters became suddenly visible, one
in the north base of the erupting mound and the other some little
distance further north, in the lava itself. Both these were burning
with a brilliant white light, and emitted a rending, crushing
sound, although erupting with little violence. From these two
craters the principal lava streams were advancing with considerable
rapidity, encircling from time to time patches of ancient lava
and sand which formed the plain, and finally overwhelming them in
its fiery embrace. As night closed in, the heated lava and the
noxious gases arising from it prevented me from getting nearer than
within a few hundred yards of the volcano, so I lit my pipe at the
nearest lava _coulée_ and returned to camp. There again, while
sitting by my tent, upon a high bank of volcanic sand, I gazed for
a long time upon the mighty fountains of volcanic fire, which in
one continuous stream assailed the sky with a glorious display of
natural pyrotechnics. All through the dark hours of the night the
volcano burned and roared, followed by explosion after explosion,
which shook the desolate waste around to its very foundation.
When I rose at midnight to take another look at this grand and
terrible spectacle, it was still energetically erupting with a
grandeur the equal of which I may never have another opportunity
of witnessing; for the grim sands and lava fields of the Mývatns
Örœfí were bathed in an unwonted light which reddened the lurid
sky and deepened the shadows amongst the weird crags of lava,
rendering them still more unearthly in that fire-blasted wilderness
in the midst of which we were encamped. The wind still blew freely
from the north-west, from which quarter, fortunately, it had been
blowing all the evening, so that I was enabled to reach a neck of
land almost encircled with lava within about two hundred yards of
the crater which was erupting. From this coign _d’avantage_ I was
able to examine minutely the progress of the eruption; but the
heat was very great even at this distance, while my field glass
shewed me that the fiery column seemed to be made up of myriads of
molten atoms. The whole scene was, in fact, utterly indescribable,
yet I could not but reflect how meagre and insignificant was even
that glorious display in comparison with those mighty fires which
have been occasionally let loose from such mountains as the Vatna
and Skaptar Jökulls, and how terrible! how utterly unapproachable
must have been their outburst! Yes, that is the unsatisfactory
part about them; when they are in full working order there is no
getting near them, and at other times one can only climb, shudder
and freeze over their temporary tombs.

However, nothing daunted, at 6 A.M. I started to examine the line
of smoking mounds which marked the course of the great fissure
or gjá (chasm). As mentioned before, this fissure was formed in
the early spring, and re-opened on the 15th August, 1875, to
give vent to the volcanic fires which have rifted and contorted
the surrounding plain. The erupting mound had grown about 50 or
60 feet in the night, but the eruption itself, as I saw it, was
evidently upon the wane. The next cluster of mounds towards the
south contained three craters, but the largest was covered with
whitish yellow sublimations, probably sulphur and sal-ammoniac.
This was tranquilly steaming and had evidently not been disturbed
during the recent outburst; in fact, all along the fissure there
occurred mounds at intervals, and some were smoking violently,
while many other smaller lateral cracks and fissures were likewise
smoking, but not to the same extent. These fissures, I noticed,
were entirely environed with hot lava, apparently of recent
production, and a depression in some places of 50 feet in depth
had sunk around them, varying from two to about four miles in
breadth, while numerous deep chasms crevassed the adjacent plain.
They were mostly parallel to the principal line of disturbance,
and as they approached the depression they increased in size and
depth, while those in close proximity to it ran into one another
where the ground was upheaved by a general chaotic dislocation. The
whole line of smoking fissures appeared to me to have erupted lava
both during the spring and at the eruption in August; the fissures
terminated in a series of cracks, the edges of which were in many
places covered with sublimations of sulphur and sal-ammoniac.

Aided by a strong north-westerly wind, which had fortunately been
blowing throughout my visit to this remarkable spot, and a strong
pair of leather boots, I succeeded at one point in traversing
the still hot lava, till I reached the principal fissure about
half-a-mile from its southern termination. In many places I found
it was four or five feet wide, in some places choked with solid
lava; and in others gaping widely open, but at some points it was
spanned with cinders and lava, encrusted with various sublimations,
which showed that there had been no recent outburst in that
particular spot. In some places, however, similar accumulations had
been scattered around by the recent disturbances, in fragments so
variously encrusted that at first sight I was led to suppose the
fissure had cast out great quantities of party-coloured cinders; at
all events, at all points where the eruption had been particularly
violent circles of cinders and clinkers had formed varying from
one or two to many feet in height, bridging over the fissure and
forming conical mounds wherever the outburst had continued for any
lengthened period. This struck me as being rather remarkable, as I
should almost have expected to find the clinkers, etc., piled up in
banks upon each side of the fissure, instead of assuming, as they
did, such regular shapes, often at right-angles with the fissures
producing them; but where the fissure was not blocked up it steamed
violently, emitting nauseous smells and making hoarse choking
sounds. Its depth I could not ascertain, as the emanations which
arose from the lava I was standing upon compelled me to beat a
hasty retreat, and indeed they made me feel dizzy for the remainder
of the day. This gjá is situated in the Mývatns Örœfí, in a line
parallel with Lake Mývatn, at the height of a little less than
1000 feet above sea level; its direction is N.N.E. to S.S.W. The
length of the fissure is about twelve English miles, and from it
has issued a lava stream of about fourteen English miles in length
and perhaps three-and-a-half broad upon an average, though it is
much narrower at some points than at others, especially towards
its southern extremity. This recent lava, both of the spring and
autumn, had flowed over the ancient lava and sand, rendering so
large a portion of the Mývatns Örœfí a useless desert; while it
had particularly overflowed an ancient lava stream, produced by
a vent in the west portion of the Mývatns Örœfí, called Svínagjá.
The new lava appeared to differ from the old only in this respect,
viz., that the ancient lava contained olivine, which the closest
microscopic examination failed to discover in the more recent
production. I also found that no pumice had been ejected from this
fissure up to last August; lava, stones, cinders and ashes only
having been thrown up. This spot may be regarded as the northern
centre of recent volcanic activity, and the Öskjugjá as the
southern, both occurring in the same rectilinear bearing, N.N.E.
and S.S.W., and so coinciding with the great fissure which it has
been presumed bisects the island from N.E. to S.W.

Carefully taking the bearings of the neighbouring mountains from
the south end of the fissure, I made two or three dashes over the
hot lava to look into the grim jaws of a chasm which had been
erupting with especial violence, where the various heights of the
conical mounds gauged the violence and the extent of the eruption;
but a very short distance farther north the heated lava became too
broad to permit of such excursions with any degree of safety, so
I ascended some elevated ground to the west, in order to obtain a
bird’s-eye view of the seat of eruption.

This fissure, as I have before said, extends through a
recently-formed depression, in the direction N.N.E. to S.S.W.,
extending from about one mile north of the road from Grímstaðir
to Reikjahlíð to a point bearing Jörundr 19° N., Búrfell 349°
N.W. It had erupted in seven places with great violence, and had
formed there conical hills, containing several craters. After
inspecting these, I turned my back upon the line of steaming vents,
having seen all that could be seen, and I was well contented with
my little expedition. After a while we reached our horses by a
short cut over the ancient lava, which had flowed partly from
the Svínagjá and partly from the Mývatn hills, then returning to
Grœnavatn, and proceeded thence to Stóruvellir the next day.

We left Stóruvellir amid a heavy gale and were accompanied by
the farmer as far as Halldórstaðir where the priest, who spoke a
little English, would not hear of our leaving without partaking of
coffee, chocolate, or schnapps. We took leave here of the bóndi of
Stóruvellir, who had treated us hospitably and had charged very

Leaving here we next made our way to Mýri, where lived an old man
whose father was the first to cross the Sprengisandr, in 1810, as
the south of Iceland previously had been always reached by crossing
the Stórisandr. This old man was pleased to see me, and gladly
gave me an account of the road, written by his father, to guide
future travellers, and my informant I found was eighty-three years
of age. Before leaving my new acquaintance I purchased a spoon
of him said to be fifty years old. This was quite an ingenious
novelty, for when unscrewed it divided into fifteen different
pieces; I also bought a wooden roller which used to serve the
purpose of a mangle a few centuries back, and a rude representation
of the crucifixion in needlework upon green wadmal (Icelandic
homespun cloth), which the old man told me had been worked by
the nuns of an Icelandic convent long, long ago,--he could not
say how long, but he knew that the banner was “eld gamalt” (very
old). He also informed me that when he first went to Reykjavík
for stock-fish no ships came to the north of Iceland, and that in
Reykjavík coffee and sugar cost five marks (about 1_s._ 10½_d._)
per pound, while they could only obtain fifteen skillings (3½_d._)
per pound for their wool. The present price of these commodities,
I may remark, is--coffee, three marks (1_s._ 1½_d._), sugar,
thirty-two to thirty-four skillings (6_d._ to 8_d._) per
pound--while they are now able to sell their wool at 1_s._ 1½_d._
per pound.

I sent Paul and Olgi on with the baggage while I, accompanied by
the old man’s son, went a little out of the way to visit the
waterfall of Alderjufoss, where the river Skjálfandifljót pours
into a rift in an ancient lava stream, about forty-five feet deep.
This sight is well worth going out of the way to see, as it is a
much finer fall than the Godafoss.

The most remarkable feature about these falls, however, is the
wall of rock over which they descend, the bottom of the wall being
composed of perpendicular basaltic columns, overlaid by a compact
basaltic lava of a very crystalline nature, while the columns
themselves are of a compact stony basaltic lava, but in neither
of the specimens I broke off could I find a single crystal. I
am, however, inclined to think that both lavas are of identical
composition, and of contemporaneous production.

Having satisfied my curiosity here I left the Alderjufoss behind,
and rode quickly after Paul and Olgi, overtaking them not far from
the lake of Ísholtsvatn, from whence a short ride brought us to the
farm of Ísholt, which was inhabited by a bachelor brother and his
three sisters. Here we enjoyed a good supper of char and potatoes
(for the latter were now of an edible size), and a good night’s
rest, preparatory to our journey across the Sprengisandr.

Although there are no fish in the Skjálfandifljót, there are plenty
in Ísholtsvatn and the Fiskiá, which flows out of it into the
Skjálfandifljót. I suppose this is on account of the turbid nature
of the water in the latter, which is purely a glacial stream.

After resting a while here I left Ísholt in company with the
farmer, and commenced our journey southwards, there being at the
time a severe storm of wind from the N.W., bearing with it clouds
of sand. On our way we paid a visit to the brother of the old man
of Mýri, from whom I obtained some more curiosities in the shape of
ancient spoons, one of which, like the other, could be separated
into fifteen different pieces, and an old Prayer-book, printed at
Hólar in 1742. This man lived at the farm of Mjófidalr (narrow
valley) and had the reputation of being a good herb doctor. I
found him pleased to see us, and before we left he treated us to a
compound of schnapps and angelica root which was very refreshing.
A fierce gale was blowing at the time from the S.W., and the sand
was intolerable, even penetrating through the gauze of our snow
spectacles, and almost blinding us; while at times the sand storm
was so heavy that we were unable to see one another even when
within touching distance. Our poor horses felt it very much, the
eyes of some being completely closed up, so that when we reached
to the grass hills to the north of Kiðagil, we were compelled to
halt and bathe their eyes with water. As the road here lay over
a series of stony hills, grown over in many places with moss and
scanty grass, the dust became less troublesome, and therefore
we were glad to alight in the evening at the song-famed Kiðagil
(goats’ valley). The last grass to be found upon the north side of
the Sprengisandr is in this valley, and it takes several hours’
hard riding before the next grass is reached.

This valley is fertilized by the river Kiðagilsá which runs through
it, and empties itself into the Skjálfandifljót at this spot. The
weather cleared beautifully in the evening, so I climbed to the
summit of Kiðagilshnukur, which commands an extensive view towards
the snowy heights of Arnarfells, the Tungufells, and the white
slopes of the Vatna Jökull, with their black cones and buttresses
protruding through the snow. To the N.E. stretched the country to
the north of the Vatna Jökull, with the well-remembered mountains
which I had traversed with so much interest, and the desert plains
over which I had trudged for many a weary hour, sore-footed and
tired. The wind had sunk to rest with the sun, and the serrated
outline of the Dyngjufjöll grew darker and darker, beneath the
heavy canopy of smoke which still hovered over them, while the
neighbouring mountains grew more indistinct and shadowy as the
light faded from the west.

My tent had been pitched in the valley below, the autumn nights
had now commenced, and the fitful gleam of the aurora told me
my summer work was almost ended. On looking around upon those
old familiar scenes--it might be for the last time--my emotion
was so great that my tongue, in its endeavours to give audible
expression to the sentiments that filled my breast, exclaimed
with all the enthusiasm my nature was capable of, “Farewell,
farewell, dear old Northernland! I came to your rugged and barren
shores an enthusiastic traveller, anxious and resolved to seek
out the wonderful things hidden in your frozen casket; and having
enjoyed your simple and honest hospitalities and gratified my
ambitious curiosity, I must now bid you adieu, bearing with me
an affectionate remembrance of your craters and geysers, your
mountains of eternal snow, and, above all, of the kind and faithful
services rendered me by your hardy and generous sons and daughters.”

Having relieved my emotion by this crude expression of my feelings,
I took one more fond look and then turned in to rest for the night,
feeling amid my regret at leaving old Iceland, something akin to
an inward pride, to think that although so humble a member of the
Alpine Club, I had been enabled to accomplish so much, and that,
too, notwithstanding the doubts of my friends, and the opinion of
Mr. Forbes, who seems to have formed very erroneous notions as to
the Vatna Jökull, or of the determination and endurance a member
of the Alpine Club is capable of if once he sets his mind upon
exploring a mountain.

To return to my narrative. Soon after day-break my men and I were
again astir and in our saddles; but I was sorry to perceive that
the weather had changed for the worst, which was a serious thing
for us, seeing that we had a long, bad road before us, as well as
a tiring journey to perform under various difficulties, enough
to daunt the sturdiest of us. To add to our misery the clouds
above were black as ravens’ wings, and a fierce wind blew in such
piercing gushes that we could scarcely stand against them, as they
came bursting on straight into our very teeth. As I shuddered
beneath the blast, I consoled myself with the thought that such
a parting with Iceland was, after all, quite characteristic; and
soon one poetic notion after another took such possession of me
that by the time I had got thoroughly awake I began to find myself
growing quite warm with excitement, and of course less sensible to
the real severities of the storm. True to his kindly nature, and
well sustaining the character of his countrymen, my old friend the
bóndi of Ísholt resolved to see me part of the way on my journey;
and although unwilling to trouble him, I must certainly acknowledge
the extreme pleasure this trifling act of courtesy and kindness
afforded me. And when at last the hour arrived for us to separate,
we shook each other heartily by the hand, and cheered ourselves in
a parting cup which drained the last of my schnapps. “God speed”
having been expressed on both sides, I resolutely turned my back
upon the fascination of the distant mountains, and faced the
driving storm of wind and sand to thread my way southward.

Our route at first lay over a series of low terraced hills, and
presently a wet tedious ride brought us to a cluster of small stone
cairns, round which were collected a number of horses’ bones, not a
very cheering sight to our own animals, and they seemed rather shy
of the ghastly remains of their ill-fated brethren.

While looking on this sad sight, Paul told me it was often the
custom to write a verse, and leave it in a bone upon such a mound
as this for the next traveller, and, accordingly, I wished to do
so too, but could not find one suitable, and so we felt ourselves
relieved from the responsibility of keeping up the “old custom.”
It would have been all the same, however, if we had desired to do
so, for the cheerless prospect of fog and rain, with the apparently
boundless Sprengisandr around us, varied only by an occasional
glimpse of some snowy Jökull, would have been sufficient to freeze
the most gushing of poetical ideas.

Wishing to quit this spot without delay, we determined upon taking
the route known as the Arnarfells-vegr upon the west bank of the
Thjórsá rather than follow the track upon the east, as by doing
so we should be able to cross the numerous smaller rivers whose
confluent waters form the Thjórsá, one by one, instead of having to
wait perhaps a day or so, until the waters of the Thjórsá should be
sufficiently low to enable us to ford them.

In the course of our journey we passed between Arnarfells Jökull
and Tungufells Jökull, and thence bearing to the west, we got as
close to the former as possible in order that we might cross these
smaller arms at their source. Some of these arms, I imagine, must
be very difficult in warm weather, for even upon this cold and
stormy day they were in many places over our horses’ girths.

Arnarfell, upon the N.E., rises from a band of glaciers, from
which steep slopes of snow sweep up to the black peaks of
Arnarfell-hið-Mikla which must be of considerable altitude, a
little more than a Danish mile away from the termination of the
glacier. The nature of the ground we were traversing precluded
the possibility of quick riding, hence it took us five hours more
to reach Arnarfell-hið-Mikla, which was to be our destination for
the night. This elevation is a cluster of eminences formed of
agglomerate, which has been weathered into peaks of considerable
height, and these are traversed by several dykes and intruded
masses of basaltic lava. Here we found a good patch of grass and
angelica, extending along the sides of Arnarfell-hið-Mikla, as well
as along the banks of the river washing its eastern base.

Our arrival at this part disturbed a bevy of swans, which at this
season of the year (August) lose the feathers of their wings, of
course preventing their flight. Taking advantage of this, chase was
immediately given, and four of their number very soon captured.

I am glad to say the next morning showed us a more cheery prospect,
for a stiff breeze blew from the N.W., and although the clouds
hung upon the mountains, the sun occasionally broke through,
encouraging us to put some of our wet things out to dry. While
this was being done I ascended the Arnarfell-hið-Mikla, and was
well repaid for my trouble, for the clouds were lifting from the
adjacent mountains, which gave me a peep at the Vatna Jökull, as
well as the more western hills, over the broad plain lying between
it and the Arnarfells Jökull. The Sprengisandr is here cut up
by a network of rivers and streams, which upon our side of the
Sprengisandr all flowed into the Thjórsá. We now pursued our way
with a bright sun shining upon us; the ground was in most places
covered with swampy moss, which was much better travelling than the
stones of the preceding day. Many streams with quicksands had to
be crossed, whose waters were all the deeper for the fine weather
we were enjoying. Turning thence directly southwards we struck the
main stream of the Thjórsá. Travellers to the south who take the
eastern route generally cross this stream at this point, but they
are sometimes detained for days in consequence of freshets, which
may occur at any season of the year; therefore the west side of
the Thjórsá, though a little longer, is found to be much the surer
road. Here we saw a number of sheep grazing upon the opposite bank,
belonging to farmers in the south; and as may be well imagined, we
hailed their appearance as the first sign of the “Suðurland” we
were approaching.

After a short enjoyable halt here, we continued our journey to a
point between the rivers Kisá and Miklilœkr, where we encamped. On
continuing our journey, an uninteresting ride over an undulating
and gradually descending moor, which in fine weather commands a
good view of Hekla, brought us to an ancient lava stream which had
flowed from the Rauðu Kambar, an old volcano lying to the west of
the road, and here again we found ourselves amongst lava, pumice
and black sand.

I will not weary my readers any longer by continuing a description
of the monotonous dreary scenery met with at this stage of my
journey, and in fact as I trudged along dreamily, recalling to
mind the many incidents that had crowded themselves upon me since
I had been on the island, my eyes had been as it were blind to
the surroundings to such an extent that more than once I was only
recalled to them by the stumbling of my faithful horse, the rolling
of a boulder, or an extra fierce gust of blinding wind; and then,
once more reminded of the fact that I was still a traveller, I
gazed around like a wanderer amongst the sepulchres of a past race,
awe-struck with the lifeless condition of the place, while my mind
wandered back from the silent scene to the one or two living giants
(Öskjugjá, &c.) that still existed, lonely examples of the activity
and power of an age so far removed from the world’s history as to
be lost in antiquity, and yet still so vigorous as to fulfil the
important and wonderful mission of connecting the present with the
most primitive ages of the world.

Well, after trudging along several miles in this dreamy mood we at
last arrived at the Skriðufell farm, but here, I regret to say, we
found no welcome, for the farmer was a noted churl, and instead of
offering us the same generous hospitality as all others had, he
positively refused the smallest assistance, even going so far as to
object to let us put our horses under the old roof of an outhouse.
My companions pleaded in his behalf that he could not help it, as
he had had the misfortune to be crossed in love! which I was very
sorry to hear, and sincerely trust no similar calamity might happen
to spoil the other inhabitants.

However, being compelled to push on again by this unpleasant
contretemps, we made as much haste as we could, and were soon
pleased to find ourselves in front of a poor little homestead,
where we were glad to find a generous welcome, plenty of good
milk and other necessaries, of which we availed ourselves, being
made truly welcome. After this brief halt we again pushed on to
the Hagafell along the banks of the Hagafjall, with Hekla full in
sight, its summit being, as usual, enveloped in clouds. Here we
obtained a good night’s rest, and wishing to obtain some specimens
from the Great Geysir, I decided to reach Reykjavík _viâ_ Geysir
and Thingvellir, although it was the longest route, and accordingly
in the morning we made our way towards Hruni, upon the banks of
the Kálfá. I next turned a little out of my way to examine a white
buttress of rock protruding from a grassy hill upon our right hand.
This proved to be a ridge of intruded trachytic lava, extending a
considerable distance; I mention this as it was the only instance
of purely trachytic lava which I had met with, excepting in a
pumiceous form. Here we were most cordially and hospitably received
by the priest of Hruni, who would not allow us to depart without
bringing out a bottle of his best port wine, and hearing an account
of our experience. It was late in the night before we arrived at
Great Geysir. One of the principal objects of my visit to this
part was to seek a box of minerals I had entrusted to the care of
the farmer of Haukadalr to take to Reykjavík in the previous year,
but which had never come to hand, though he protested that he had
delivered them according to my directions, however, I set about
collecting fresh specimens, which was no very serious trouble.

Great Geysir did not favour us with an eruption, as we had wished,
so we stirred up Stroker with the usual meal of turf, which caused
it to spout, but scarcely to the same height as when I witnessed
its performance in 1874. In the evening we left for Thingvellir,
but as we did not arrive there till one A.M. we did not awake our
friend the priest, who, on rising, found us lying asleep, with
the tent covered over us, upon the grass just outside his door.
This good gentleman upbraided us for not waking him up, brought
out everything of his best, and gave us a hearty breakfast, for
we were old friends. Five hours’ hard riding later on brought us
to Reykjavík, where I again put up at the house of friend Oddr
Gíslasson, who had two Scotch ladies staying with him. These I
found to be Miss Oswald and Miss Menzies, who had been making a
prolonged tour in the island--a plucky undertaking, which perhaps
may encourage other ladies to seek health and amusement amongst the
wild rocks of salubrious Iceland, undeterred by the fear of having
no other escort than an Icelander.

Upon the arrival of the Post ship, I was amused to receive an
extract from the “Evening Echo” of August giving a most deplorable
account of my health and personal appearance after crossing the
Vatna Jökull. Though it amused us all at Reykjavík, I felt sorry
to think of the unnecessary distress and anxiety it might cause to
my friends at home. If such were the motive of the writer, it may
gratify him to learn that he succeeded admirably. However, any one
of the Sulphur Company would at once have pronounced the statement
to be false.

I rejoiced in the possession of two pairs of Alpine boots, but I
preferred wearing Icelandic mocassins, they being easier to walk
in. I had also two coats, but always preferred wearing a tight
knitted jersey and waistcoat, which were much more convenient for
movement, while I generally prefer a knitted cap instead of a hat,
for a cap draws down about the ears and keep them warm, and is less
at the mercy of sudden gusts of wind. It seemed curious how such
a worthless little piece of pure imagination could gain access
to London newspapers. The simple facts are, I sent a carefully
written letter, giving a succinct account of my journey across
the Vatna Jökull and my visit to Öskjugjá, the effects of which
volcano were creating much discussion in England at the time.
This letter Capt. Burton kindly forwarded for me to the “Times,”
and it was set up in type (as the proof came into my hand on my
return), but for some reason or another, best known to the editor,
it subsided into the waste paper basket, while a more lengthy
letter I afterwards wrote to the same journal, giving an account
of the eruption in the Mývatns Örœfí, appeared in full. There are
anomalies in the civilized world which confound one even more than
the idiosyncracies of nature.

With the Post ship came several tourists who were bent on making a
few days’ excursion in the island. We therefore made up a party,
including Miss Oswald, Miss Menzies, Mr. Young, of Edinburgh, and
myself, to pay a visit with Oddr Gíslasson to some solfataras
belonging to him at Cape Reykjanes, and a very pleasant trip it
was, though the way was extremely monotonous, being as usual over
a series of lava streams flowing from the Krísuvík mountains.
The part of the S.W. peninsular we were traversing was called
the Vatns-leysuströnd, or waterless strand; here there is no
fresh water to be obtained except upon the beach where the lava
streams terminate. These can often only be reached at low water,
and then, as may be imagined, the water is brackish. Two days’
journeying brought us to Kirkjuvogr, where Oddr Gíslasson’s mother
and brothers-in-law lived. It is one of the best homesteads in the
south, besides having about the largest piece of grass land on this
peninsular. It is also a fishing station of some importance, lying
as it does upon the south bank of a little boot-shaped creek named
Oscar. We were very kindly received, and the next day rode on to
the solfataras of Reykjanes at the extremity of the peninsular. The
day was miserable, and we were unable to get a satisfactory view.
These solfataras, however, are remarkable, as the acid and heated
vapours have here, as in other places, formed extensive pools of
calcareo-siliceous mud, hardened in some instances into almost a
semi-opal, coloured and streaked with blood-red stains from the
ferruginous nature of the rocks which have been decomposed, but the
sublimations of sulphur were very insignificant.

The most remarkable feature of the locality occurred where the
lava was not much decomposed by the erosive action of the vapours,
and upon splitting such masses of the partially decomposed rock,
scarlet vapours could be seen issuing from crevices beneath,
coating any surface that was partially exposed to the air with a
film of iron pyrites. Further up the side of the old volcano, at
the base of which these curiosities are to be found, are pools and
pits of blue, red, and green boiling clay. While in this locality
the rain continued and the fog became more dense, and as it would
have been anything but pleasant to be caught in a thick fog amongst
the lava and solfataras of Reykjanes, we curtailed our visit, and
returned with all speed to Kirkjuvogr.

The next day, wishing to avoid the tedious road over the lava by
which we came, we rode to Njarðvík, where we hired a sailing boat,
and returned by sea to Reykjavík. Here I found that Captain Cockle
and Mr. Slimond had returned by the Post-ship with the welcome
intelligence that the steamer “Queen” would arrive in about a week,
and sail almost as soon as the old tub “Diana.” This was indeed
good news to us all, for we had determined to return by a small
sailing ship belonging to a horse-trader, Mr. Ascham, rather than
subject ourselves to the floating purgatory of the Diana.

In due time the “Queen” arrived, and I bade Iceland and Icelandic
friends farewell, feeling satisfied with my summer’s work, and
consoling myself with the thought that I had accomplished the
little piece of “utter folly” I had thrice undertaken. I resignedly
committed myself to the evils of sea-sickness, from which I had
scarcely recovered when we arrived at Edinburgh, two days before
the Diana, which had sailed from Reykjavík a day before the Queen.
Here I accepted the hospitality of Mr. Slimond, of Leith, and
greatly enjoyed British fare and a relapse into civilization.

“Ah!” my reader may say with a smile, “after all the toil and
trouble undertaken the wonders seen could not have been worth the
toil and privation.” My readers, like myself, must by this time
have grown somewhat weary of the eternal repetition of lava,
pumice, &c., &c., and therefore we will mutually congratulate
ourselves upon being able to vary the subject with reference to
scenes and subjects more lively and civilized; but I must most
respectfully demur to that conclusion, for if the general aspect of
nature throughout Iceland be dreary and wild, there is also plenty
to reward a man of scientific and athletic inclinations. Indeed
the same tiresome pumice and lava and sand, when placed beneath
the power of the microscope, is found to possess such wonders
and exquisite beauty of form, that the beholder is struck with
admiration and astonishment to find so much perfection treasured
up in such rough settings, giving material for many an hour of
patient study and enjoyment which has alone fully compensated for
the hardships of the journey across the Vatna Jökull.


It may now be as well to take a retrospective view of Iceland to
determine the opinion we have formed of the Icelanders themselves,
and sum up the leading physical features and characteristics of
the country. Iceland, apart from its historical and literary fame,
which it is not our purpose to consider, is of especial interest
to the geologist and the physical geographer. It lies almost at
the northern extremity of the great volcanic line which skirts
the extreme west of the Old World, extending from the island of
Jan-Mayen in the Arctic Ocean, through Iceland, the Faroe Isles,
Great Britain, the Madeiras, the Azores, the Canaries, along the
west coast of Africa, right away down to the Antarctic island of
Tristan d’Acunha; and its equal as a centre of volcanic activity
can alone be found amongst the islands of the Pacific Ocean. The
peculiar manner in which we here find ice and snow mixed up with
the igneous productions of its volcanoes imparts a grim beauty to
its scenery, that I can well imagine we might travel the whole
world over without seeing surpassed. A very short sojourn amongst
the weird rocks of Iceland arouses that latent superstition which
will lurk in the minds of even the most materialistic, and while
we laugh at the mythological credulity of the ancient Icelanders,
we cannot help acknowledging that a more fitting place to create
an implicit belief in wraiths and demons could not possibly be
found, all the way from the elf and pixy dancing amongst the timid
flowers, whose bright eyes peep from sheltered rocks in ancient
lava streams, to the hobgoblin and the ghoul, moaning and shrieking
and performing their nameless deeds upon blasted peaks and barren
mountain-tops, where fire strives with frost.

This remarkable little island was colonized 1002 years ago by
Norwegians, though its earliest settlement is involved in some
obscurity. It afterwards became subject to Denmark, until the
year before last, when it received its legislative freedom. The
Icelanders are upon the whole a harmless, struggling race, and
like most other nations that have been unable to draw upon the
arteries of other countries for renewed vitality, are encumbered
with that contentment which, however conducive it may be to
domestic ease, is fatal to advancement. The last twelve months,
however, have introduced the element of enterprise which before
was only conspicuous by its absence. This may result from
their newly-acquired liberties or the reflective influence of
emigration; at any rate it augurs well for Iceland, whose emigrants
have already shown that the Icelander contains a good deal of the
right sort of stuff in his composition, and the determined pluck
of those who accompanied me across the Vatna Jökull shows us that
the spirit of their Viking forefathers, who visited both Greenland
and America long before the birth of Columbus, is not yet extinct.
Pre-eminently perhaps in the Icelanders’ character stands love
for his country. It is a remarkable fact that the more barren and
unfruitful a country is, the stronger seems to be the attachment
and love of the sons of its soil. This trait appears very strongly
in the Icelanders’ national song, the first stanza of which runs

      “World old Iceland, beloved fosterland,
      As long as the ocean girds our shores,
      As long as lovers for their sweethearts sigh,
      As long as the sun shines upon our mountains,
      Thy sons shall love thee.”

There is great room for improvement in the home industries of
the country, especially in the art of cheese-making, for the
milk is rich and excellent, and there is no reason why cheese
should not be produced in Iceland that would find a ready sale in
European markets. The Icelandic wool, which is unsurpassed, might
be likewise worked at home during the winter to a much better
advantage; for many choice woollen productions which would command
a high price have long ceased to be manufactured. There is also
room for improvement in the breeding of stock, and much valuable
grass-land might be reclaimed by proper drainage.

The climate of Iceland is very uncertain, but it is much milder
than might be expected from its latitude. This is doubtless owing
to its insular position, and the influence of the Gulf Stream, one
arm of which touches its southern shore. The summer begins in June
and ends in September, and during those months the climate is very
similar to that of the north of Scotland. The rainfall, especially
in the south of Iceland, is very great during the summer, but
thunderstorms seldom occur except in the winter. Upon the
mountains the climate is still more variable, and I have sometimes
experienced a variation of sixty degrees between day and night upon
the snows of the Vatna Jökull, at the height of some 4,000 feet
above sea level. But few vegetables can now be grown in Iceland--a
modicum of potatoes, turnips, radishes, and cabbages alone eking
out a struggling existence against an adverse climate, and seldom
attaining to what we should consider maturity. The trees of Iceland
are mere bushes of birch, willow, and a little ash, and even these
are but rarely met with. The chief exports of the country are fish,
oil, tallow, wool, horses, sheep, and Iceland spar, but it is to
be hoped (now the sulphur mines in the north of Iceland are about
to be worked) that in the course of a year sulphur may be added to
these. The imports are some of the luxuries and a good many of the
necessaries of life. So much for Iceland itself; we will pass by
its history, people, exports or imports, and forthwith consider its
physical characteristics; these may be defined as the volcanoes of
Iceland and their products, the hot springs, the Jökulls, or ice
mountains, and their effects upon the climate. Iceland contains no
less than twenty-two mountains that have been witnessed in active
eruption during historical times. The best known volcano is Hekla.
This remarkable mountain rises directly from a plain that has been
devastated by its repeated eruptions. As the mountain is approached
from the north-west its form appears to be that of an oblong cone;
it is about twenty miles in circumference, and 5,000 feet in
height; it is capped by three smaller cones, the product of recent
eruptions. Its craters are all upon the west and south-west sides,
and most of its lava streams have flowed in that direction.

The next best known of the Icelandic volcanoes is perhaps Kötlugiá,
which has erupted no less than fifteen times since the year 900.
It now presents nothing but a deep valley filled with snow, cutting
into the very heart of Myrdals Jökull; it is one of the largest
examples of breached craters in the world. The principal phenomena
attending eruptions of this volcano are stupendous floods of heated
water and the prodigious quantities of sand ejected. It has, I
believe, never been known to produce lava, but upon the base of the
mountain I found numerous ancient lava streams, proving that at
one time Kötlugiá was no exception to its neighbouring volcanoes.
The floods from Kötlugiá during eruptions have often submerged a
district of 280 square miles, continuing sometimes for days, in
spite of the rapid outflow to the sea. These floods are produced
not only by the melting of the snow at the time of eruption,
but in all probability by the bursting of large cavities in and
beneath the mountain, in which water might have been for years
accumulating. This aqueous phenomenon is, however, by no means
peculiar to Kötlugiá, although it occurs on the largest scale,
for during the 13th and 14th centuries all the volcanoes in the
south of Iceland erupted water. The most extensive eruption that
ever occurred in Europe during historic times proceeded from the
south-west portion of the Vatna, named the Skaptar Jökull. This
volcano has only been known to have erupted upon that occasion,
viz., A.D. 1783, when it produced two of the most extensive lava
streams in Europe. The highest volcano in Iceland is Örœfa Jökull,
which reaches the height of 5927 feet.

The volcanoes which erupted so violently in the spring of 1875,
and one of which wrought such damage in the north of Iceland,
are--the Öskjugjá (or the chasm of the oval casket), situated in
the Dyngjufjöll mountains upon the north of the Vatna, and a chasm
some twelve miles in length, which opened in the Mývatns Örœfí (or
sandy desert of Mývatns), but as these have already been described
at some length I need only casually mention them.

Having briefly enumerated the more important volcanoes of
Iceland, we will now consider their products. First there are
the agglomerates, which form such an important feature in the
geology of Iceland, formed either directly by debacles at periods
of eruption, or indirectly by streams and atmospheric influences.
Secondly we come to the lavas; these occur either as stony streams
that have flowed from the volcanoes, or as pumice which has been
hurled high into the air and fallen in a destructive shower of
vesicular cinders. Another class of lavas we must likewise mention,
namely, the glassy, but we must for the present confine ourselves
more particularly to the physical geology of Iceland, leaving the
character of the Icelandic rocks for other consideration. Of the
stony streams of lava we have two very good examples; first, the
huge lava streams which flowed from Skaptar Jökull in 1783, being
50 miles long and 15 wide; and the other 40 miles in length and
seven broad, being in some places 500 feet in depth. It has been
computed that the entire mass exceeds in bulk that of Mont Blanc.
This lava is basaltic and highly ferruginous, and impregnates very
strongly the waters of the river Eldvatn, which flows through
it. The second example is the lava stream which has flowed into
the far-famed valley of Thingvellir, wherein the Althing, or
Parliament, of Iceland used to hold their meetings, and the
wonderful rifts of the Almanna-gjá and the Raven’s-gjá occur. At
some remote period of the geological history of Iceland a large
river of lava flowed from Mount Skjaldbreið, which is about thirty
miles distant, into the valley of Thingvellir; a crust, of course,
soon formed on the surface, and upon the cessation of the eruption,
the still liquid lava at the bottom of the stream continued to flow
into the deeper parts of the lake which occupies the south-east end
of the valley of Thingvellir, leaving the unsupported crust, which
was now of great thickness, to sink down to the present level
of the valley, occasioning lateral rifts upon either side of the
stream, viz., the Almanna-gjá on one side, and the Raven’s rift
upon the other. The valley of Thingvellir is likewise traversed
by many smaller fissures and crevasses, which in many instances
enclose and almost inosculate large masses of lava; the Lögberg,
or “hill of laws,” is such an island of rock, and is rendered
inaccessible, except at one point, by deep yawning crevasses. It
was on account of these natural fortifications that it was chosen
as a forum for the ancient court of Althing, which assembled there
once a year. Such are the monuments of Iceland, which take the
place of the ruined castles and abbeys of other countries, simply
the rude rocks of nature ennobled by brave deeds of history or some
touching romance of love.

We now come to the hot springs of Iceland. The chief of these,
_par excellence_, is, of course, the Great Geysir; it has been so
often described and re-described that it scarcely needs a remark
from me. Professor Forbes calculated its age, from the thickness
of the siliceous sinter which surrounds its basin, at 1000 years.
The Great Geysir is surrounded by numerous other springs of all
temperatures and sizes, whose deposits differ according to the
character of the rocks through which they pass. There are numerous
hot springs scattered about in various parts of Iceland, some of
which owe their existence to earthquakes, which instantaneously
called them into being--in 1339 a hot spring sixty feet in diameter
suddenly opened at Mosfell--and during the earthquakes which
preceded the great eruption of Skaptar Jökull in 1783, no less
than thirty-five new hot springs made their appearance. We may not
dwell longer upon these interesting phenomena, but we will turn our
attention to the huge ice mountains or Jökulls of Iceland, which
constitute such an important feature in the physical geography of
the country. The principle ones are the Vatna, Arnarfells, Hofs,
Lang, Myrdals, Godalands, Eyjafjalla, Dránga, and Glámu Jökulls. Of
these remarkable features in the physical geography of Iceland we
could not find a better example than the Vatna Jökull, which has
formed the principal subject of this little book: until recently it
was almost a _terra incognita_, and until this year had resisted
all attempts to cross it.

The Vatna Jökull is a vast accumulation of volcanoes, ice, and
snow, comprising an area of over 3000 square miles. It is for the
most part surrounded by a wilderness, formed by the destructive
outbursts of its volcanoes, and the constant drifting of the
glacial torrents which flow from its melting snows. The Vatna
Jökull and its immediate surroundings constitute the most lofty
portions of Iceland, and I believe the oldest, for we find lava
streams which have flowed from its volcanoes in a state of ruin
and decay unequalled in any other part of the country; and, again,
we find it bounded upon the south by sea cliffs that were washed
by pre-historic oceans when many other parts of the island must
necessarily have been under water, unless very serious depressions
have taken place since the waters which washed the south outlying
hills of the Vatna receded to their present limit. The Vatna
Jökull comprises by far the most important mountain section in
Iceland, and a far greater area is covered by its snows than could
be occupied by the sum of all the remaining snow-clad mountains
in Iceland. As may be supposed, perhaps half the river water of
Iceland flows either directly or indirectly from the Vatna Jökull,
either issuing in torrents from the extremity of its glaciers, or,
after filtering for long distances through the loose and cavernous
ground, appearing as land springs at a lower elevation. The rocks
of the Vatna, as far as I have had an opportunity of judging, are
purely and simply the product of this very remarkable cluster of
volcanoes, which have piled up layer after layer of ash, sand, and
agglomerate, until a mountain heap was formed of such a height that
it allowed snow and ice to accumulate upon it to such an extent as
to render the summer’s warmth quite inadequate to remove it. This
vast snow pile then grew of its own accord, and glaciers commenced
to creep down the sides of the barren mountains upon which it
rested. Volcanoes continued to erupt, but the effect of their fires
upon the accumulating snow must have been purely local and limited
in the extreme; for volcanic productions are the worst possible
conductors of heat, and I should imagine that a lava stream,
unless it be of gigantic proportions, conducts itself beneath the
profound snows of the Vatna much as a lava stream would beneath
the sea, without producing any very violent commotion. Thus this
vast mountain mass was accumulated, growing with each succeeding
winter and each eruption. The Vatna Jökull rises by a very gradual
slope upon the south, and it is not until more than thirty miles
of snow fields have been traversed that the highest part of the
Vatna, viz., 6,150 feet, can be reached from that direction. I
have at present omitted any mention of the snow line in Iceland;
this is on account of its variable nature, incidental to local
causes. Thus upon the Vatna we have the snow line much lower upon
its southern than northern slopes, the cause of which we will
consider presently. Of late years the volcanic forces of Iceland
appear to have retreated to the Vatna Jökull and its immediate
neighbourhood, and volcanic eruptions have been witnessed in force
in several directions. The Kverkfjall we found to be smoking and
Öskjugjá can only be regarded as a lateral crater of the Vatna,
and, I doubt not, had we been favoured with better weather, we
should have found many other eruptive vents; but so rapid is the
accumulation of snow upon the Vatna, and so bad a conductor of heat
are all volcanic eruptions, that the traces of them are very soon
obliterated. As may be supposed, such a prodigious accumulation
of ice and snow as the Vatna Jökull produces a very sensible and
marked effect upon the climate of certain parts of Iceland. It has
this effect--it deluges the country to the south of it with rain,
and gives to those districts which lie to the north of it a happier
climate than they would otherwise possess. The snowy heights of
the Vatna attract to themselves the aqueous vapours which travel
northwards from more southern latitudes, depositing them upon their
broad shoulders in the form of snow and hail, and refrigerating and
drying the vapours which travel across their snows, thus rendering
the south wind a wet one in the country to the south of the Vatna
and the north wind a dry one, whilst in those districts which
lie to the north of it the reverse is the case. And since by far
the greater part of the aqueous vapours which reach Iceland are
borne thither from the more readily evaporating waters of southern
oceans by that bugbear to travellers in the south of Iceland, the
southerly wind, we see at once why the snow line is lower upon
the south than the north of the Vatna Jökull. When we inspect the
glaciers which fringe the south of the Vatna Jökull, we find they
have decidedly advanced; indeed, at one point so much so as to
almost destroy communication along that part of the south shore.
Upon the north we find that a huge tongue of glacier has flowed
down full ten or twelve miles beyond the utmost limit assigned to
it by Gunnlaugsson some forty years ago, while the route traversed
by that enterprising man is completely overrun by the ice, and the
traditionary road of the Vatna Jökull’s verge is now amongst the
high snows of the Vatna. Icelanders, as a rule, are loth to admit
the advance of their glaciers, and vainly appeal to striated rocks
at much lower altitudes than most of the Icelandic glaciers of the
present day, and to moraines stranded upon the plains beneath some
of the principal mountain sections; but since it is impossible
to say when these rocks were scratched, or even whether the very
rocks to whose striæ they so confidently point were not erupted
long before Northern Europe and America disappeared beneath the ice
and snow of the earlier glacial period, what is the use of such
evidence? The very moraines may have been produced by the glaciers
which have strewn even our own country with erratic boulders and
glacial _débris_. Again, it is no uncommon thing in Iceland for
huge masses of glaciers to slide down the mountain side during
periods of eruption, scratching the harder and furrowing the softer
rocks in their progress, and leaving heaps of _débris_ in no way
distinguishable from terminal moraines. These facts are rather
startling. True, the glaciers of Iceland may, and, no doubt, do ebb
and flow, but they gain upon the whole, and never would increase
to this extent was not the annual accumulation vastly in excess of
the waste. It may be said this is due to a cycle of unpropitious
seasons. Possibly; but we find this advance of northern glaciers is
not peculiar to Iceland. Dr. Nordenskjöld has proved a considerable
advance in the glaciers of Spitzbergen; Greenland gives us the same
intelligence. This seems to point to something more than a local
advance, compensated for by a retreat in other places. It is too
rapid an advance to be accounted for by astronomical causes; but
cannot we suggest some comparatively slight physical changes which
may account for it? Granted that above a certain latitude the earth
only receives as much heat during the summer as it does during the
winter, and that in one winter it will accumulate just as much
snow and ice as the summer’s heat will suffice to melt, if it were
all employed for that purpose. Now we are perfectly aware that snow
and ice having once accumulated, a greater part of the succeeding
summer’s heat would be reflected back into space and not employed
in melting them, while the aqueous vapours condensing above it
would screen the snow from solar influence. Thus a new glacial
period would creep upon us, heralding its approach by an advance
band of low temperature of its own production were it not for the
warm oceanic and atmospheric currents, for the beneficial influence
of which we have only to look at the varying temperature of many
localities in similar latitudes to appreciate. A great alteration
in temperature and climate would certainly take place supposing
any variation should occur in the direction of these currents--in
the Gulf Stream, for instance. Supposing that its waters, instead
of reaching so far north, were deflected southwards, then not
only would Arctic climates and Arctic ice be less affected by it,
but the deflected stream would heighten the temperature of the
waters of lower latitudes, and cause an increased evaporation;
consequently there would be an increased condensation upon northern
mountains and Polar shores, and an increased reflection of the
succeeding summer’s sun. It is rather a curious fact that less
American driftwood has been brought to the northern shores of
Iceland during late years, and an increased amount has been cast
upon its southern coast. This little fact of course proves nothing
in itself; but when we see northern glaciers advancing to the
extent they have done one naturally asks the reason. Astronomical
causes we must put on one side, for the glacial advance is too
rapid to admit of that solution. But if northern glaciers continue
to advance, it will be a matter of some interest if we could
ascertain whether those mysterious forces which give birth to the
earthquake and the volcano have wrought any alteration in the flow
of that guardian angel of the north--the Gulf Stream.

We will now pass on to the volcanic rocks of which Iceland is
constituted. The foundation of Iceland is palagonitic tuff of
sub-aqueous origin, disturbed and at times metamorphosed by
enormous masses of amygdaloidal basaltic lava whose cavities abound
with zeolites, being traversed by dykes and layers of interjected
basaltic and trachytic lava at all times dislocated and confused by
the various earthquakes which from time to time have shaken Iceland
to its nethermost stone. These rocks are overlaid by lava streams
of sub-ærial origin, pumiceous tuffs and agglomerates that have
been formed by debacles and atmospheric influences. Concerning
the strike and dip of the various layers of trap and basalt there
is no general inclination, no uniformity--all is confusion. The
loose soil of Iceland is entirely composed of disintegrated and
decomposed volcanic rocks and decayed vegetable matter, and would
be very fruitful if it were in a lower latitude. The vast period
of time which it must have taken to decompose the huge lava
streams that we find almost entirely converted into humus may be
appreciated when we look upon pre-historic lava fields, grey with
lichens, like that of Thingvellir, while the actual decomposition
of its surface scarcely amounts to half-an-inch. We may divide the
lavas of Iceland, like those of most other volcanic districts,
into two classes; first, the basalts passing into dolerites, and
secondly, the trachytic lavas. The more ancient basalts occur
most frequently as intruded masses of amygdaloidal character; the
doleritic lavas of Iceland are the more recent products of its
volcanoes, varying only in this respect, that the earlier erupted
lavas contain crystals of olivine, in addition to the felspar and
augite which occur in most of the lavas of our own time.

Trachytic lava occurs but sparingly in the parts of Iceland that I
have visited. It has for a long time been assumed that a trachytic
band was disposed upon a fissure which bisected Iceland from N.E.
to S.W., namely from Cape Langanes to Reykjanes upon which the
principal centres of eruption were supposed to be situated. This,
however, is a presumption unwarranted by investigation. A glance at
the map will show us that there are many other centres of volcanic
activity which do not occur in this imaginary trachytic band.
True most of the more recently active volcanoes occur upon this
rectilinear, but there are Myrdals Jökull, Eyjafjalla and Örœfa
Jökull, all volcanoes that have erupted comparatively recently, and
a host of more ancient volcanoes distributed over other portions of
the island, which might lead us to surmise that there were a dozen
instead of one great fissure in the superficial rocks of Iceland.

Trachytes, principally I believe in an altered condition, have been
found around and between Hekla and the Geysers, and notably at the
volcano of Rauðarkamb. I was informed, however, that we must look
for the greater part of the trachyte of Iceland other than in a
pumiceous form upon the peninsulars of Snæfells Jökull. Certainly
I found that trachytic lava almost died out upon the north side of
the Vatna Jökull, or else it is so covered up with recent volcanic
productions as to be undiscernible. The obsidians of Iceland, which
are found so universally distributed in fragmentary forms upon the
sides of the volcanoes are seldom to be met with _in situ_, indeed
the only instance that I have met with of obsidian _in situ_ was at
Mount Paul, in the heart of the Vatna Jökull. That mountain, as we
have already seen, is entirely composed of obsidian, varying from
the vitreous to the grey stony variety.

The obsidians of Iceland seldom contain the beautiful felspar
crystals, so characteristic of the Arran pitch-stones, but some
of them are of a porphyritic nature, showing under the microscope
crystals of quartz much fissured and split about, no doubt during
the process of cooling. We must also regard the greater part of
the pumice which was ejected last year from the Öskjugjá as an
obsidian, in spite of its remarkably vesicular character. The
fine dust which was carried to Norway during the eruption of last
Easter-day resembled powdered glass, and led geologists there to
come to the conclusion that the mountain which was erupting must
have been pouring out great quantities of obsidian. As compared
with the lavas of Vesuvius, I cannot help suggesting that many of
the more ancient lavas in both instances are of a more trachytic
and porphyritic character. In the Vesuvian lavas especially, the
crystals contained by the older rocks have crystallized out of the
uncrystalline or semi-crystalline mass. A prevalent mineral in the
older Vesuvian lavas is leucite, which corresponds to the olivine
that occurs so frequently in the older erupted lavas of Iceland,
while those minerals are seldom to be met with in the more recent
lavas of either Iceland or Italy.

I must now bring these few pages to a close. I dare say they
contain a great deal of what is not worth reading; but as they give
the only account of the Vatna Jökull and the part of the Ódáðahraun
which I traversed, I trust those that may take the trouble to read
them, will accept them as the best and the most accurate account of
those districts that I am able to give.



  Agglomerates                                           183

  Akreyri                                                143

  Alderjufoss                                            159

  Arnarfell-hið-Mikla                                    166

  Ásberg                                                 136

  Askja, plain of                                         86

  Birch-tree                                              20

  Borðeyri                                               138

  Breiðamerkr Glacier                                 17, 24
      ”   ”   Sandr                                       23

  Climate                                                180

  Crater Lakes                                           122

  Dettifoss                                              119

  Dyngjufjöll                                             83
      ”      ascent of                                   101

  Equipment                                               28

  Eyrarbakki                                               8

  Glaciers                                               190

  Grafalandá River                                        76

  Grímstaðir                                              70

  Heiði                                                   11

  Hekla                                                  181

  Hengill, volcano of                                      6

  Herðubreið                                         65, 103

  Hot Springs                                            185

  Hraun                                                    7

  Hrossaberg                                              75

  Húsavík                                                133

  Iron Pyrites, sublimation of                           174

  Jökulls                                                186

  Jökulsá-á-fjöllum                                       61

  Kaldbakkr                                               14

  Kálfafellsfjall                                         30

  Kálfafellstaðr                                          25

  Kiðagil                                                160

  Kistufell                                               54

  Kötlugiá                                               181

  Krafla                                                 123

  Lœkjarbotn                                               5

  Lake Grœnavatn                                         126
    ”  Mývatn                                            111

  Lavas of Iceland                                  183, 193
    ”   ”  Mývatns Orœfí                            108, 155

  Laxá River                                             131

  Lindá River                                             77

  Lómagnúpar                                              19

  Mount Paul                                              36

  Mud-pools                                              115

  Mývatns Orœfí, eruption of                             146

  Námufjall                                              113

  Núpstað                                                 15

  Núpstaða-skógr                                          21

  Núpsvatn River                                          18

  Obsidian                                           36, 124

  Ódáðahraun                                              95

  Ölfusá, river of                                         8

  Öskjugjá, crater of                                     88
      ”     volcano of                                    84

  Pemmican, preparation of                                26

  Perlite                                                 38

  Provisions                                              29

  Pumice  63, 78

  Querkfjall                                              63

  Reykjahlíð                                             112

  Rivers, diversion of                                    57

  Seljalandsfoss                                          13

  Shark-liver oil                                        144

  Skeiðarár Sandr                                         18

  Skjaldbreið, ascent of                              83, 96

  Skjálfandifljót                                        145

  Skógarfoss                                              11

  Snow, camping in                                        32

  Solfataras                                             174

  Spherulite                                              38

  Sprengisandr                                           165

  Storms on the Vatna                                     46

  Sulphur mines                                     112, 129

  Svartfugl                                           23, 25

  Swans                                                   13

  Thjórsá                                            10, 167

  The “Great Kettle”                                     129

  Trachytic lava                                         170

  Vaðalda Hills                                           61

  Vatna Jökull                                       32, 186
     ”    ”    Housie                                     41

  Volcanic mud                                    84, 88, 92

  Water, eruption of                                      89


[1] So called from a particular kind of bird, called Lómi,
which frequents this mountain.

[2] Not marked on the map.


  For consistency all occurrences of a.m. and p.m. have been changed
  to A.M. and P.M.

  Icelandic names often have accents and hyphens, but they are applied
  inconsistently in the original text. Names in the etext have
  been adjusted to be consistent and follow the most common variant in
  the text. For example Reykjahlid, Reykjahlið, Reykjahlíð, have all
  been rendered as Reykjahlíð.

  Five occurrences of Öskjagjá have been changed to Öskjugjá.
  Eight occurrences of Dyngjufjall have been changed to Dyngjufjöll.
  Seven occurrences of Reykjahlaíð have been changed to Reykjahlíð.

  Obvious typographical errors and punctuation errors have been
  corrected after careful comparison with other occurrences within
  the text and consultation of external sources.

  Except for those changes noted below, all misspellings in the text,
  and inconsistent or archaic usage, have been retained: for example,
  sandbank, sand-bank; mid-day, midday; grass land, grass-land;
  under weigh; negociated; felspar; enwrapped; indurated; coign.

  Pg 3: ‘Oddr Gíslason upon’ replaced by ‘Oddr Gíslasson upon’.
  Pg 14: ‘named Eyólfr; he’ replaced by ‘named Eyólfur; he’.
  Pg 27: ‘and Eyólfr, from’ replaced by ‘and Eyólfur, from’.
  Pg 28: ‘accomodate six’ replaced by ‘accommodate six’.
  Pg 37: ‘known as spherolites’ replaced by ‘known as spherulites’.
  Pg 38: ‘pearlite and obsidian’ replaced by ‘perlite and obsidian’.
  Pg 38: ‘spherolites cemented’ replaced by ‘spherulites cemented’.
  Pg 52: ‘reached the the height’ replaced by ‘reached the height’.
  Pg 66: ‘to develope into’ replaced by ‘to develop into’.
  Pg 70: ‘baleing and rowing’ replaced by ‘bailing and rowing’.
  Pg 70: ‘Ha had passed’ replaced by ‘He had passed’.
  Pg 74: ‘and Eyolpur, while’ replaced by ‘and Eyólfur, while’.
  Pg 82: ‘The circumtances’ replaced by ‘The circumstances’.
  Pg 92: ‘again begining to’ replaced by ‘again beginning to’.
  Pg 111: ‘wady near the’ replaced by ‘wadi near the’.
  Pg 114: ‘which upon eastern’ replaced by ‘which upon the eastern’.
  Pg 127: ‘at the the time of’ replaced by ‘at the time of’.
  Pg 128: ‘the commencment of’ replaced by ‘the commencement of’.
  Pg 136: ‘north, insoculating’ replaced by ‘north, inosculating’.
  Pg 139: ‘into a karal’ replaced by ‘into a corral’.
  Pg 139: ‘the obstreporous cargo’ replaced by ‘the obstreperous cargo’.
  Pg 141: ‘cross the Sprengrtandr’ replaced by ‘cross the Sprengisandr’.
  Pg 168: ‘view of Hecla’ replaced by ‘view of Hekla’.
  Pg 185: ‘almost insoculate’ replaced by ‘almost inosculate’.
  Pg 190: ‘by Gunlaugson some’ replaced by ‘by Gunnlaugsson some’.
  Pg 190: ‘vergr is now’ replaced by ‘verge is now’.

  Index. ‘Dyngjafjöll’ replaced by ‘Dyngjufjöll’.
  Index. ‘Lake Grænavatn’ replaced by ‘Lake Grœnavatn’.
  Index. ‘Myvatus’ replaced by ‘Mývatns’.
  Index. ‘Námurfjall’ replaced by ‘Námufjall’.
  Index. ‘Núpsvatu’ replaced by ‘Núpsvatn’.
  Index. ‘Querkfjöll’ replaced by ‘Querkfjall’.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Across the Vatna Jökull; or Scenes in Iceland - Being a Description of Hitherto Unkown Regions" ***

Copyright 2023 LibraryBlog. All rights reserved.