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at him with all the swell of the ocean unbroken from the coasts of Labrador. Through gaps in the lava fringe, great spouts of foam were driven with a roar like that of artillery, and up the shelving sides the surge rushed and then retired, leaving a mass of white rivulets, which poured down to the flood from which they had come.
To our left we could distinguish the Mealsack, a columnar rock, in shape resembling the Bass. It is just eight miles from Keykjanes, and stands 200 feet above the sea. Its sides are perfectly perpendicular; it is about 150 feet in diameter, and is nearly circular. The head is not horizontal, but dips towards the north-west; it is white with the excrement of sea birds, which throng it in myriads. The Mealsack has never been sealed and never will. The great Auk (Alea impennis) is said to breed at its foot, and among some neighbouring skerries. The sea is rarely sufficiently calm for a boat to venture near the rocks. The great Auk has not been seen since 1844; it was not obtained in the Arctic expeditions, and Mr. Audubon could gain little authentic information regarding it in Labrador.
In ancient times these birds were common in Iceland, and many skerries are named after them. Those near Keykjanes were famous for them, and their bones are said still to be found heaped on the rocks of that cape j but probably the repeated eruptions in the sea have obliged them to desert their favourite haunt. This Auk used also to be found on S. Kilda, according to an old description of that islet, by a Mr. Martin, who visited it in 1697, and who says, " The sea-fowls are, first, the gairfowl, being the stateliest, as well as the largest, of all the fowls here, and above the size of a solan goose, of a black colour, red about the eyes, a large white spot under each eye, a long broad bill; stands stately, his whole body erected, his wings short; he flyeth not at all; lays his eggs upon the bare rock, which, if taken away, he lays no more for that year: he is palmipes, or web-footed, and has the hatching-spot upon his breast, i. e. a bare spot, from which the feathers have fallen off with the heat in hatching; his egg is twice as big as that of a solan goose, and is variously spotted, black, green, and dark; he comes, without regard to any wind, appears the 1st of May, and goes away about the middle of June."
The bird was becoming scarce in the Faroe Isles in the end of the last century, according to Landt, who lived there from 1791-98. The bird cannot fly, but is a powerful swimmer; its wings are about four inches in length, and the length of the body nearly three feet. The wings are used for swimming under water, and are without produced feathers. The feet are thrown very far back, so that the Auk sits remarkably upright; it can only shuffle in an erect position, balancing itself by its flaps. The bill, four inches long, is jet black with transverse furrows, the grooves white; the culmen of the upper mandible is considerably arched, and so also is the gape; the lower mandible has its outline marked by two curves meeting at an angle.
Between the beak and eye is a large oval patch of white; the breast, belly, and under parts are white; the head, throat, back, wings, and tail are of a glossy black with a metallic lustre. The feet are also black; the tips of the secondaries are white, forming a band along the wing.
A hundred pounds has been offered in Denmark for a living bird, and fifty pounds for a dead specimen, and one would fetch, in England, a very considerable sum; yet, since the date mentioned above, no penguin or great Auk has been seen and captured. Enthusiastic naturalists may perhaps be stirred to going a voyage of discovery when I tell them that an Icelandic record of the beginning of the seventeenth century speaks of a whole boat-load of these birds having been taken from certain skerries, called in the Sagas, Gunubjarnar-eyjar, situated somewhere between Iceland and Greenland. (Gronland's Hist. Mindesm. i. 124.) Where these skerries are I cannot say with any precision, but a paper Codex in the Copenhagen Royal Library—quoted by Thorfoaus (in his Grosnlandia, 73), states that " Greenland was colonized by Erik the Red, but it was first discovered by a man hight Gunnbjorn. After him is named the Gunnbjarnarsker. This is six weeks' sail from the penguin-skerries beyond Reykjanes, and one has to sail due south from it twelve weeks to reach Garth in Greenland, which is the Bishop's seat."
In the British Museum there are two specimens only of the great Auk, one being the individual obtained by Mr. Bullock, from Papa Westra; the other was purchased at a sale which took place in Holland, about 1861. A specimen is also to be seen in the Newcastle Museum.
In old times the Auk must have been common in the Isles of Denmark, for among the Kioekkeen-moeddinger, or refuse of the kitchens of the early Danish inhabitants, a considerable number of the bones of this bird have been discovered.
The only spots which the bird can now frequent are the islets in Breithi-fjord, the north-western friths and skerries, or Grimsey; but, in all probability, it is extinct.
Arrival—Description of Reykjavik—" A very ancient fish-like smell! "—The School—The Residence—The Cathedral—Thorwaldsen—Icelandic Silverwork—-The Merchant Stores—Mr. Briggs and the Porters—Dinner—I visit the Rector—A would-be Suicide—The Catholic Mission—The Origin of Iceland.
On the following morning, June the 16th, we were in the bay of Reykjavik, the wind blowing from the south-west in stormy gusts, laden with vapour, which clung to the high grounds and condensed into showers.
The captain took me ashore in his yawl, whilst the others were making up their minds how to transport themselves and their multifarious luggage to land.
I made for the inn, and secured rooms. Dinner was promised in an hour's time, and the landlord, Jorgensen, engaged to board us at the rate of one specie dollar (4s. 6d.) a piece, per diem, exclusive of wine and spirits.
Reykjavik is a jumble of wooden shanties, pitched down wherever the builder listed. Some of the houses are painted white, the majority black, one has broken out in green shutters, another is daubed over with orange. The roofs are also of wood, and coloured black or grey. The town lies between the sea and a fresh-water lake full of reeds and wild-fowl; it is in the shape of a rude parallelogram, facing the sea on one side, showing its back to the lake on the other; the other sides rise up the slopes of hills from three to four hundred feet high, the one crowned by a windmill, the other by the Roman Catholic mission.
Near the lake is a square, or market-place, covered with turf, the cathedral forming the most conspicuous object in it. At right angles is the French consulate and apothecary's shop combined.
There are but two streets, and these are hardly worthy of the name. One leads from the jetty to the inn, and is called the Athalstroeti, or High Street; in it live the agent for the steamer and the printer. The second starts from this street, and terminates at a bridge crossing a brook, which flows from the lake into the sea. In this thoroughfare live the sheriff (Landvogt) and Professor Pjetur Pjetursson, head of the theological seminary. The sea-front is occupied by a line of merchant stores. The moment that the main thoroughfares are quitted, the stench emitted from the smaller houses becomes insupportable. Decayed fish, offal, filth of every description, is tossed anywhere for the rain to wash away, or for the passer-by to trample into the ground.