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These employments, delightful as they were, formed only the interlude of the grand spectacle. They pitched their tent about a hundred yards from the Great Geyser, and kept regular watch during the night. After two false alarms, they were roused to behold an explosion of the New Geyser : there was little water, but the force with which the steam escaped produced a white column of spray and vapour at least sixty feet high, accompanied with a tremendous noise. The second night they were more fortunate.
• On lying down, we could not sleep more than a minute or two at a time; our anxiety causing us often to raise our heads to listen. At last the joyful sound struck my ears: and I started up with a shout, at the same moment when our guides, who were sleeping in their Iceland tent at a short distance opposite to us, jumped up in their shirts and hallooed to us. In an instant we were within sight of the Geyser; the discharges continuing, being more frequent and louder than before, and resembling the distant firing of artillery from a ship at sea. This happened at half past eleven o'clock; at which time, though the sky was cloudy, the light was more than sufficient for shewing the Geyser; but it was of that degree of faintness which rendered a gloomy country still more dismal. Such a midnight scene as was now before us can seldom be witnessed. Here description fails altogether. The Geyser did not disappoint us, and seemed as if it was exerting itself to exhibit all its glory on the eve of our departure. It raged furiously, and threw up a succession of magnificent jets, the highest of which was at least ninety feet. At this time I took the sketch from which the engraving is made: but no drawing, no engraving, can possibly convey any idea of the noise and velocity of the jets, nor of the swift rolling of the clouds of vapour, which were hurled, one over another, with amazing rapidity.'—
Mr. Hooker's account is equally impressive. We must insert that part of it, which describes the bason of the Great Geyser, because it is a remarkable instance of successful description.
“A vast circular mound (of a substance which, I believe, was first ascertained to be siliceous by Professor Bergman) was elevated a considerable height above those that surrounded most of the other springs. It was of a brownish grey color, made rugged on its exterior, but more especially near the margin of the basin, by numerous hillocks of the same siliceous substance, varying in size, but generally about as large
molehill, rough with minute tubercles, and covered all over with a most beautiful kind of efflorescence; so that the appearance of these hillocks has been aptly compared to that of the head of a cauliflower. On reaching the top of this siliceous mound, I looked into the perfectly circular basin, which gradually shelved down to the mouth of the pipe or crater in the centre, whence the water issued. This mouth lay about four or five feet below the edge of the basin, and proved, on my afterwards measuring it, to be as nearly as possible seventeen feet distant from it on every side; the greatest difference in the distance not being more than a foot. The inside was not rugged, like the outside;
but apparently even, although rough to the touch, like a coarse file : it wholly wanted the little hillocks and the efflorescence of the exterior, and was merely covered with innumerable small tubercles, which, of themselves, were in many places polished smooth by the falling of the water upon them. It was not possible now to enter the basin, for it was filled nearly to the edge with water the most pellucid I ever beheld, in the centre of which was observable a slight ebullition, and a large, but not dense, body of steam, which, however, increased both in quantity and density from time to time, as often as the ebullition was more violent.'-pp. 116, 117.
A simple and ingenious theory of these Geysers is offered by Şir G. Mackenzie. He supposes a cavity partially filled with boiling water, and communicating with a shaft or pipe. That part of the cavity which is not filled with water is of course filled with steam, by the pressure of which the water is sustained to the top of the pipe. But upon any sudden addition of heat under the cavity, a quantity of steam will be produced, which, owing to the great pressure, will be revolved in starts, causing the noises, and the shaking of the ground. The water must now rise above the pipe; an oscillation is produced; the water is pressed downward, and the steam, he says, having now room to escape, darts upward, breaking through the column, and carrying with it a great part of the water. As long as the extraordinary supply of steam continues, these oscillations and jets will go on. But at every jet some of the water is thrown over the bason, and a considerable quantity rụns out of it. The pressure is thus diminished; the steam plays more and more powerfully, till at last a forcible jet takes place; a prodigious quantity of steam escapes, and the remaining water sinks into the pipe.
Mr. Hooker observes, that the water is never of a greater heat than 212° of Fahrenheit: he had forgotten that this is the boiling point, though he might have been reminded of it when Jacob boiled his mutton for him in the great Geyser. The Icelanders who live near these hot-springs, send their clothes to be washed; and the people who are thus employed, dress their eggs and miserable potatoes there. They indeed are accustomed to more formidable effects of the burning soil upon which they tread. Horrebow speaks of a man who lighted his pipe at a stream of lava, This was during the eruption of mount Krabla, which from 1724 to 1730 almost incessantly poured forth its burning torrents. The natives call these tremendous streams by the appropriate name of Stone-floods. By day they emit a blue sulphureous fame, obscured by smoke and vapour : by night they redden and illuminate the whole horizon. Balls of fire are sent up from the stone-floods as well as from the burning mountains. In 1755, Katlegiaa poured out a torrent of
would still leave the balance of happiness on the side of the Icelander. In those delicious countries, where the earth brings forth her fruits spontaneously, the inhabitants have abandoned themselves to the most loathsome and pernicious vices, are becoming every year more savage and miserable, and, in a few generations, will, undoubtedly, be extinct, if left to themselves. This may be safely predicted from their perpetual wars, their cannibalism, their human sacrifices, their promiscuous intercourse, their child murder, and other unutterable abominations. How much happier, amidst all the terrors of nature, the poor and virtuous Icelander! Perhaps it is not possible to produce a more beautiful instance of the beneficial effects of a common bond of faith, and an established religion, than is to be found in the works before us. An Icelandic church is hardly of better construction than the rudest English barn—but we will take Mr. Hooker's description of the church of Thingvalla.
* It was of a simple construction; in form, an oblong quadrangle, with thick walls, leaning a little inwards, composed of alternate layers of lava and turf. The roof was of turf, thickly covered with grass, and from the top of this to the ground, the building was scarcely more than sixteen or eighteen feet high. The entrance end alone, was of unpainted fir planks, placed vertically, with a small door of the same materials. I was surprised to find the body of the church crowded with large old wooden chests, instead of seats, but I soon understood that these not only answered the purpose of benches, but also contained the clothes of many of the congregation, who, as there was no lock on the door, had free access to their property at all times. The bare walls had no covering whatever, nor the floor any pavement, except a few ill-shapen pieces of rock, which were either placed there intentionally, or, as seems most probable, had not been removed from their natural bed at the time of the building of the church. There was no regular ceiling: only a few loose planks, laid upon some beams, which crossed the church at about the height of a man, held some old bibles, some chests, and the coffin of the minister, which he had made himself, and which, to judge from his aged look, he probably soon expected to occupy. The whole length of the church was not above thirty feet, and about six or eight of this was parted off by a kind of skreen of open work (against which the pulpit was placed) for the purpose of containing the altar, a rude sort of table, on which were two brass candlesticks, and, over it, two extremely small glass windows, the only places that admitted light, except the door-way. Two large bells hung on the righthand side of the church, at an equal height with the beams. pp. 93, 94.
The church-yard is often enclosed by a rude wall of stone or turf, and the area thinly sprinkled with banks of green sod, which alone serve to mark the burial places of the natives. And here we must grațify our readers with the most beautiful passage in Sir G. Mackenzie's book.