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snow fell in the vallies and plains, even in the most temperate parts of the island. In common seasons * the changes that take place in the atmosphere in the course of the twenty-four hours are very extraordinary; since it often happens that after a night of hard frost the thermometer will in the day rise to 7°°' During the winter of the year 1348, the annals of the country relate that the sea was frozen all round the coasts, and that a person might ride on horseback upon the ice from one Cape to another across all the gulphs and bays in the island. In February, 1755, the thermometer in the southern quarter of the country, fell to 7*. In 1754, on January 13th, it was at 9*j on February 13th, 8°; on the 14th of March 11°; on December 6th, ll£°; and on the 12th of the following February, 12°5 even in the month of May, in the same year, the frosts were so severe that in one night's time water in the neighborhood of the sea was frozen an inch and half in thickness. Icer islands in the years l6l5, 1639, l683, and 1695 came round to the south coast, which is by no means an usual circumstance. * Voyage en Istande.
The northern part of the island is, as may be concluded, exposed to much more severe weather than the southern”. Vegetation is scanty, and the herbage difficult to be dried for hay. The quantity of floating ice driven by the westerly and north-westerly winds from the coast of Greenland is prodigious, and not only fills all the bays, but covers the sea to that extent, from the shore that the eye cannot trace its boundary from the highest summit of the mountains. These masses of ice, known by the name of iceislands, are so large that a body of sixty or eighty fathoms in thickness is sunk below the level of the water, and a height of many toises rises above it. Their motion is rapid, and they are often driven together by the sea with so tremendous a crash that the report is heard at an immense distance, and with such force, that, according to Povelsen and Olafsen, the pieces of float-wood that they bring with them, have been known to take fire, in consequence of the friction. It is a singular fact, that, soilong as these ice-islands continue floating
* Voyage en Islande.
about in the ocean, the weather is fickle and stormy, and the current and ebb and flow of the tide are all in disorder and confusion: but, as soon as they become stationary in the gulphs and inlets, and the waters have carried away the smaller detached pieces, nature returns to its accustomed state of order and regularity; the weather growing calm in the country, and the air thick and loaded with fogs, though at the same time accompanied by a moist and penetrating cold. Among the inconveniences arising from the arrival of this ice, besides the excessive cold which destroys vegetation and cattle, is to be reckoned the opportunity it affords for the white bears of Greenland to visit the country, which they occasionally do in alarming numbers, and render it necessary for the natives to assemble in parties for the purpose of destroying them, lest so unwelcome a visitor should fix himself permanently among them.
In mentioning the general face of the country, I cannot do better than copy the exclamation of Von Troil on his arrival. "Imagine to yourself an island, which from One end to the "other presents to your view! pnly barren mountains, whose summits are. covered with eternal snow, and between them fields divided by vitrified cliffs, whose high and sharp points seem. to vie with each other: to' deprive you of the sight of a little grass which scantily springs up among them. These same dreary rocks likewise. conceal the few scattered habitations of the natives, and no where does a single tree appear which might afford shelter to friendship and innocence. The prospect before us, though not pleasing, was uncommon and surprising. Whatever we saw bore; the marks of devastation, and our eyesj accustomed to behold the pleasing coasts of England, now saw nothing but the vestiges of the operation of a fire, heaven knows how ancient!" Of the mountains of Iceland, some are composed of loose fragments of rock to their very summit, while others apparently retain their primaeval form and nature, lying in horizontal strata. The height of a very few has been accurately ascertained; and these, though said to measure nearly seven thousand feet of elevation, are by no means the loftiest in the island. Geitland and Blaa-fel Jokul tower over the rest in the southern quarter, where Hecla, also, is situated, more remarkable for the frequency of its eruptions than for its height, which is only about five thousand feet. The western quarter of the island contains, among other vast mountains, Snoefel Jokul*, well known to all navigators along that coast, more by its vicinity to the sea, than its great elevation; and Boula, conspicuous for its singularly conical form. Lange and Hofs-Jokul are the loftiest in the northern division of the country; and in the eastern Klofa, Skaptar, and Torf Jokul, the latter esteemed the most stupendous in the whole island.
Rivers and fresh-water lakes abound; the latter of very considerable extent and well
* Snoeful Jokul, which I have in the course of my Journal, stated, upon the authority of Eggert Olafsen, to be seven thousand feet in elevation, has been ascertained by Sir George Mackenzie to be only four thousand five hundred and fifty eight feet high. His observation is also confirmed by the calculations of the two Danish officers who are employed in surveying the coasts.