Page images
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][graphic]

the clouds. The column advanced slowly against the wind, till it reached the marshes around the lake, when it split in the middle, the upper portion being absorbed into the clouds, and the lower sinking to the earth. This was a sand column on the Sprengi-sandur, and was distant about fifteen miles. To the best of my judgment, the diameter must have been over two miles.

Grimr assured me that he had only once seen a sand pillar on such a gigantic scale, and that was during the eruption of Kotlugja.

"It is not impossible that there may be an explosion somewhere," said the farmer; "indeed, I have heard a report that Skapta is in eruption."

Grimr reminded me of a peculiar noise resembling thunder which we had heard on the Eagle-tarn heithi, and told me that the same sound had been noticed at Akureyri. The Skapta had thrown up sand in 1861, and it was by no means improbable that it should be active now.

The next day I spent in visiting and sketching the immediate neighbourhood of Reykjahlith. There is a hot spring *• alled Thur'asbath, in the lava at no great distance from the farm, but it is unimportant.

Hverfjall is worth a visit; a sharp scramble of a quarter of an hour takes one to the top, and the great bowl lies before one, slightly raised in the middle. The hill is composed of Palagonite tuff. The church of Keykjahlith is interesting. The font basin is the same as that of Svinavatn; there is a coloured lanthorn in the chancel; the altar is poor; the chasubles are three in number, one rather ancient, of white silk, figured with pomegranates; the other two are modern, one of red damask, the other of crimson velvet. The two latter have gold crosses on the backs, but the former has simply a coloured bar in front and behind. Hanging against the screen is a curious candlerack of wrought iron foliage of considerable beauty. The workmanship is delicate, but the iron has suffered sadly from rust. At the door is a bronze ring, said to have been the sacrificial ring from

[ocr errors]

the temple, on which, when dipped in blood, vows were taken.

The ride to Namarfjall is over old lava, and must be traversed cautiously, lest the horses should break their legs, as the track passes across bubbles of stone, cracked at the top, and with holes just large enough for the hoof to enter. Heaps of burned and erupted stone on either side of the way look like exaggerated cinders from a smelting furnace, and are coloured red, black, and brown.

In half-an-hour we reach the sulphur mountains, a chain of red hills perfectly destitute of vegetation. We dip into a glen, and find it full of fumaroles, from which steam is puffing, and sulphur is being deposited. These run along the dale in a zig-zag. There are no considerable jets. Some way up the mountain, a gush of steam escapes with a whistle from a wild crag much rent by heat.

By the roadside I noticed a block of pure sulphur, from which every traveller breaks a piece, so that in time it will disappear altogether. The soil is composed of soft bolus full of splinters of trachyte, all of a brick-red hue. Wherever there is a hot spring in Iceland, the same clay reappears; it is, I am convinced, formed of trachyte, or trap, disintegrated by the action of steam and water at a high temperature. This theory is borne out most clearly, by the phenomenon of the Namarfjall, which is being gradually resolved into bolus; so that the stages of the process may be distinctly traced. On examining the steam jets which issue from splits in the rock, I found a soft deposit of mud in each fissure. Passing through the Namar-skarth, a winding cleft in the mountain, I came upon a most appalling scene.

Picture to yourself a plain of mud, the wash from the hills, bounded by a lava field; the mountains steaming to their very tops, and depositing sulphur, the primrose hue of which gives extraordinary brightness to the landscape. From the plain vast clouds of steam rise into the air and roll in heavy whorls before the wind, whilst a low drumming sound proceeding from them tells of the fearful agencies at work.

We left our horses to cross a patch of dwarf willow at some distance from the steam clouds, as they became very frightened and restive, and we then advanced on foot. My guide pointed to my feet and laughed. I was wearing indiarubber goloshes.

"You must take those off," said he; "or they will melt on your feet."

As we walked we sank in the clay, which became warmer as we approached the jets of steam; and, at last was so hot, that I could not bear to hold my finger two inches below the surface.

[graphic][merged small]

Let me recommend you, reader, to get an iron pan or tray, and fill it three inches deep with clay and water, worked to the consistency of paste; place the tray on a stove, and watch the result. After a few minutes you will notice air

« PreviousContinue »