Page images
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][graphic]
[ocr errors][graphic]

dalr, and drilled a hole in the stone, so that, by looking

through this, the eye might rest directly on the entrance to the glen. The opening is distinguishable enough from the

point; but the slab, though it still stands, has been shaken out of the upright by some of the convulsions of the volcano, so that the hole does not point directly to the vale. My intention was, to have examined this traditional dale, but the grass was not sufficiently grown to allow of the horses being kept more than a day in the neighbourhood, and it was absolutely necessary that we should have fine weather for the passage of Kaldidalr. Thorir's vale receives its name from a Troll or mountain being who dwelt there; he is vaguely mentioned in the Gretla, but he is spoken of also in the Bárthar-Saga. In all probability, the Trolls of old Icelandic historical romance were nothing more than ruffians who lived in dens and caves of the earth, robbing bonders and preying on wayfarers. This is remarkably borne out by the fact of one of Grettir's friends, Hallmund, spoken of in the Gretla as a man whose hand

was against every man, being named in the Bárthar-Saga

as a Troll or evil being. Several attempts have been made to rediscover Thorisdalr, but all have been unsuccessful. Messrs. Olafsen and Powelsen mention an account of the ascent of Geitland's Jökull by Bjárnarson and Helgi, two Icelandic ecclesiastics, but state that their journal was written in such a confused style that it was difficult to make anything of it. According to this account, they arrived towards evening, in delightful weather, at a large valley situated in the heart of Geitland's Jökull; it was of such depth that they could not distinguish whether it were covered with grass or not, and the descent to it was so steep that they were not able to go down, and consequently they returned. Messrs. Olafsen and Povelsen themselves effected an ascent of the glacier, but without discovering the mysterious vale, probably because they climbed the mountain from the Kalmanstünga side, whilst the glen lies on that nearest to Skjaldbreith. Their account of the ascent is as follows:–

“On the 9th of August we started for Reykholtsdal on our way for the glacier of Geitland; our object was not so much to discover a region or inhabitants different from those we had quitted, as to observe the glacier with the most scrupulous accuracy, and thus to procure new intelligence relative to the construction of this wonderful edifice of nature. The weather was so fine and the sky so clear, that we had reason to expect that we should accomplish our object according to our wish, but it is necessary to state that in a short time the Jökulls draw towards them the fogs and clouds that are near. On the 10th of August in the morning, the air was calm, but the atmosphere was so loaded with fog that at times the glacier was not visible. About eleven o'clock, however, it cleared up, and we continued our journey from Kalmanstünga. The high mountains of Iceland rise in gradations, so that on approaching them you discover only the nearest elevation, or that whose summit forms the first projection. On reaching this you perceive a similar height, and so pass over successive elevations till you reach the summit of the ridge. In the glaciers, these projections generally commence in the highest parts, and may be discovered at a distance because they overtop those mountains that do not form Jökulls themselves. We found that it was much farther to the Jökull than we had imagined, and at length we reached a pile of rocks which, without forming steps or gradations at the point where we ascended, were of considerable height and very steep; these rocks extend to a great distance, and appear to make a circumvallation around the glacier, for we perceived their continuance as far as the eye could reach. Between this pile of rocks and the glacier, there is a small plain about a quarter of a mile in width, the soil of which is clay, having neither pebbles nor flakes of ice, because the waters which continually flow from the glacier, carry them off. On advancing a little farther we discovered, to the right, a lake situated at one of the angles of the glacier, the banks of which were formed of ice, and the bed received a portion of the waters which flowed from the moun

« PreviousContinue »