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of Iceland's goodliest rivers, the White river, the Salmon river, the Tongue-flood, the Bridge-stream, and the Bull river.” We changed horses at Laugarvatn. The lake is certainly curious. In the green morass east of the lake rose a dense column of dazzling white steam, and we could see by the leaping and tossing of the vaporous whorls that the water below was boiling savagely. Beyond the lake close to the margin, is a jet which intermits, sending up puff, puff, puff, like a steam engine. Vapour rises from the sheet of the lake itself, showing that hot springs are bubbling up in its bed, and near the farm are fountains, some throwing up water about two feet, whilst others smoke quietly, or gurgle through holes in the beach. The soil around these springs consists of grey, blue, and red clay containing sulphur and gypsum. These jets empty themselves by a little brook into the lake. The smell of rotten eggs which issues from the water shows that it contains sulphuretted hydrogen in solution. On attempting to bathe in Laugarvatn, one soon finds out that there is a stratum of hot water spread over the surface of the lake, whilst the body of water below is intensely cold. We skirted the lake, and our course then lay over smooth ground, passing near farms which studded the slopes of this smiling country. Certainly a tourist who runs to the Geysirs and back to Reykjavik gets no true idea of Icelandic scenery. I saw nothing so bright, fertile, and grass-grown in any other portion of Iceland. Yet poor is the best, and inferior to an Irish bog, Presently we came upon the Brúará, which is crossed in a somewhat eccentric fashion. In the midst of the river is a fissure, into which a considerable portion of the water roars; the rest flows down a series of shelves, till it tumbles over a ledge into still water, and unites with the foaming stream bursting from the rift. Over this chasm a slender wooden bridge has been thrown, and the horses wade to it,
scramble across, and wade again to the opposite bank. The width of the river is about eighty yards, that of the chasm seven or eight at the point where spanned by the bridge. This bridge consists of planks laid from one wall of the crack to the other, with a hand-rail on either side, to prevent one from slipping off—an accident which might easily happen, as the floor is wet with spray. It is a curious sight, looking up the chasm from the middle of the bridge. Where the rent terminates, the water rolls in with considerable violence, whilst minor cascades gush down on either side of the fissure, at right angles to the stream; and the torrent tumbles foaming angrily and hissing through the narrow gap below one's feet. We spent the night at Uthlith, in the church, and supped off coffee and Icelandic moss stewed in milk, which the farmer's wife laid for us on the communion-table. We ate it, lying on our beds placed within the rails, by the light of the altar candles, which the good woman had kindled to do us honour. The farmer and his wife were the cleanest people we had met for some time; their pleasant, cheerful faces and neat dresses were quite refreshing. The lady wore handsome gold earrings in the shape of crescents, and I have no doubt that the farmer was a man of means, for the land around was productive, his tún extensive, his flocks of sheep and droves of cattle numerous. The church of Uthlith is quite new; over the altar is a gilt frame, containing a black board like that usually seen in Schools. On this are chalked the hymns which are to be sung during divine service ; but this is intended to give place to a painting when the parish is rich enough to buy one. The candlesticks are poor, and the vestments modern ; but the silver chalice is peculiarly graceful and of considerable antiquity. On the following morning we took leave of our kind host and hostess, promising to look in upon them on our return from the Geysir, and reached our destination about noon.
A thin vapour, visible from a mile off, marked the site of
the springs so celebrated as one of the world's wonders.
The position of the Geysir district is rather peculiar. A range of hills on the north rise out of the great plain; south
of them, a node of trachyte has been forced like an island out of the morasses to the height of 600 feet; and it is on the
slope of this that the Geysir jets lie.
The springs form a rude ellipse, the axis major of which is 440 yards and the axis minor 140 yards. The direction of the axis major is N.E. by S.W. The springs first reached are situated in a marsh of hot mud and moss, and consist of steaming pools, with here and there a fountain boiling and hissing. North of these lies the Little Geysir, dancing and overflowing, tossing up jets to the height of three feet, with occasional bursts of steam. The fountain is in the centre of a small heap of deposit; its mouth is about two feet in diameter, and the depth of the bore is twelve feet, below which it takes a bend towards the S.W. Curiously enough, we saw no explosion of the Little Geysir ; it boiled briskly during the three days that we spent in this district of hot springs, but did not erupt, as we had been led to expect from the account of former travellers. Close to the Little Geysir is a puddle of black mud, presenting the most ludicrous appearance. It remained tranquil for about half a minute, and then a bell rose like a thumb, to the height of four inches and sank again, without bursting, scattering, throwing out steam, or making the slightest sound. I named it “Jack in the box.” But Jack was not always so demure: on my choking the throat of the Little Geysir with turf, I found that the slime puddle was converted into a jet of steam and inky water, which played with vivacity, till the Little Geysir had relieved itself of its dose. South of these are some limpid pools, so hot that the hand cannot be borne in them for an instant, and sufficiently shallow at the edges to make them admirable places for washing clothes. To the north, on the farther side of a scalding brook, is a noisy fountain, which may have played at one time to a considerable height when it was not choked with stones. Now the water can only escape in hot squirts, which fizz and growl among the encumbering fragments, without the power of dislodging them. I must take this opportunity of protesting most earnestly against the mischief which travellers do in choking the throats of boiling fountains with stones. As I have already said, the alternating Geysir at Tunguhver is spoiled by the wanton folly of visitors; and I fear that damage will be done to Strokr by tricks of this kind being played on it. Turf can do no harm, but stones are very likely to block the throat or injure the mechanism. The following quotation is from a newly published voyage to Iceland by Carl Vogt. It arouses my indignation most thoroughly. “In the hopes of being able to excite a second eruption, moreover with the view of forcing the Geysir (i. e. that at Reykir) to exert its utmost violence, we dragged great stones up and filled the bore of the fountain completely to the brim. However, our expectations of thus arousing the spring were disappointed, for no second outburst took place before we rode away on the following morning.” Proceeding north-east from Little Geysir, we came upon several splits and holes in the ground or floor of incrustation which extends to the Great Geysir. Down them the water can be seen and heard, lashing and sobbing, whilst the steam blows off from the orifices. The largest of these is a tunnel with an oblique pipe, so that the boiling water cannot be seen, though it can be heard roaring angrily in its den. Though we baited it with a great amount of turf, we could not induce it to break loose. In the crevices of the pipe overhanging the water was a bunch of dog violet in blossom, seeming to enjoy its warm berth. To the south-west again, close to Strokr, is a well of boiling water, which can be seen, chafing the sides, six feet below the surface of the floor on which we stood. We came next to Strokr or the Churn, whose crater is like a saucer turned the right way up, whilst the Great Geysir mound is like a saucer inverted. In the middle of this bowl is a well, down which, at the depth of sixteen feet, is the water in violent ebullition. Strokr erupts of itself, but it can also be made to jet at the visitor's pleasure, by choking the gullet with sods of turf.