Page images

The lava hereabouts is very old, and is covered with moss and grass, except along these lines. They run parallel to the direction of the flow of lava, and were formed, I believe, by the edges of the molten stream cooling and resisting the tension of the still viscous centre. It was twelve o'clock when we reached Grenjatharstathr, and rapped loudly at the door. A thermometer over the window stood at 2° cent., but as neither my breath nor the application of my hand raised it half a degree, the reading was worthless. Tired after a ride of twelve hours, I soon fell asleep in the clean and comfortable bed of the guest-room. The church of Grenjatharstathr—pronounce that who can is particularly interesting. There are Runes in the graveyard which I copied, rubbing

them with a German Sausage, as I was unprovided with heelball.

[ocr errors][merged small]

The fashion of having stone staves laid on the graves is very prevalent here. From one I copied, “Hjer hyilir Jdrottni Thurur . . . .”—“Here sleeps Idrottni Th 's daughter.” Another probably bore Runes, but the inscription is effaced. The iron-work of the church door is most exquisite, I have Seldom seen it surpassed in boldness and beauty of design and execution.

“The sea must have washed that up,” quoth the priest; “never was anything so fine made in Iceland.”

On one of the bells, hung in the lych-gate, were the lines—

“Aus dem Feuer ben Ich gegosen,
Hans Meyer in Kopenhagen hat mich geflossen.
Anno 1663.”

The date on the other bell is 1740. Within the church are three altar-pieces of different dates, the newest one over the table, a very paltry affair. Above the screen, viewed from the east, is a curious Last Supper, the figures in low relief and painted, date circ. 1620. At the back of this, facing the west, is a fine old triptych, rich with gold, but sadly mutilated. In the centre is the Sacred Trinity; God the Father supporting the crucifix, upon which the holy Dove descends. On the sides are medallions containing the annunciation, the nativity, the coronation of the Virgin, and subjects from the life of a bishop, probably S. Thorlac. The font is a brass bowl, the chalice of silvergilt is most exquisite, and the paten to match has the Agnus Dei encircled in the centre. Nothing could exceed the kindness of the priest; an intelligent, polished gentleman. He offered to guide us to Uxahver, as Jón had never been up to the boiling springs, and would be unable to thread his way to them among the bogs by which they were surrounded. On reaching the morasses, the priest himself was at fault; he tried several places, but his horse floundered in to the girths, and we were obliged to ride to the head of the valley, where there is a little byre. The priest asked the farmer to lead us up to the springs, which he willingly consented to do;-“but,” said he, after we had got a little way nearer to the volumes of steam, which burst from the ground, and rolled away before the wind; the central jet shooting into a column, which veiled the whole hill-side, and then dying into an insignificant fume. “But,” quoth the farmer, “I have not been up to the springs myself this year, and the bogs change repeatedly. My son can guide us best. I will call him.” So the young man guided the farmer, the farmer guided the priest, the priest guided Jón, Jón guided Grímr, and Grímr guided me, after the fashion of the old nursery jingles. In this vale there are four or five springs of boiling water. Three only are of any size; the small ones lie in and near the river, one a pool of simmering red clay, another of boiling water, which thumps and throbs underground, before each ebullition. The first of the great springs, or Northrhver, has two bores, really unconnected, but with their encrusted mouths close together, and discharging their waters down the same channel. The volumes of steam were so dense, that I found it difficult to get at the basins of these fountains, and I had to tread cautiously among rills of scalding water, and over pools of steaming red bolus; then, through the hot vapour, I could see a surface of still water filling a basin measuring thirty-five feet by thirty-three feet. Henderson, who saw this in 1813, describes it as— “Simmering, and emitting large columns of steam for about the space of four minutes, when a few gentle concussions ensuing, a violent ebullition took place, and the water was raised in the middle of the basin to a height of a foot above the brim, which it immediately overflowed. In less than half a minute the ebullition began to subside, and the contents of the basin were almost instantly diminished to the same quantity that it displayed while in a more quiet state; but in stormy weather this fountain is said to send up lofty and frequent jets.” At the time when I saw the spring, it overflowed quietly, and exhibited none of the phenomena described by Henderson, and the farmer assured me that now it never erupted. Henderson measured the pipe, and found it to be ten feet in diameter. I made it seventeen feet by six feet. This alteration in the bore may have something to do with the change in the character of the spring. The other pipe opens in the same mound of incrustation; it is about eight feet in diameter, and is very irregular in shape; it has no basin, and one can stand close to the lip and watch the water boiling furiously. Spouts of steam break through, and fling scalding drops in all directions; the surface is never at rest, now throbbing up and down and letting steam bubbles escape, then dashing upwards, or flying with a rumble and thump against the sides its own water has built up, so that one has to leap aside as the boiling jets squirt suddenly at one over the red beslubbered rim. Tired with its violence, the water sinks in the pipe a few feet, only to rage to its brim with redoubled vehemence, and shoot its superfluous water through an arched passage it has bored in its own encrusted lips. We leave this fountain with reluctance, and go to the second, the real Uxahver, situated one hundred and fifty yards to the south. It acquires its name from a tradition of an ox having fallen into the northern spring, and having been shot up out of this one boiled to rags.

The second sprix G.

This spring is particularly curious, being intermittent. At the moment that we reached it, its crater was empty, and I stepped into it to examine the pipe. About six feet below the margin, the water was gently agitated. It slowly rose during the next minute, bubbles of steam burst upwards, and the water poured into the basin, filling it, and driving me before it over the edge. The water next began to boil immediately over the bore, and then, with a premonitory concussion, which made me retreat to the bank, a column of water, and then a succession of jets broke from the orifice, accompanied by dense pillars of steam nearly obscuring the exploded water. Drops, however, were spirted violently into the sunlight from the white opaque whorls of vapour, and now and then a higher jet was tossed many feet above the cloud. The eruption lasted for a minute and a half, and then subsided. The fountain shoots up from twenty to twenty-five feet, and Gaimard's picture, representing a fountain some forty feet high, is a great exaggeration. It intermitted with great regularity, at intervals of four minutes forty seconds to a nicety, whilst I watched it during five or six explosions. A stream of cold water flows down the hill immediately behind the spring, and on reaching the mound of incrustation, bends to the south, and rattles down to join the river Helgá, which winds among the swamps in the bottom. The work of an hour would divert this stream into the mouth of the boiling spring, an experiment worth making, as it might change the fountain into a great geysir, and there could be no danger of injuring the mechanism, as the cold water could always be turned off again. Two hundred yards beyond this spring is the Sythastrhver. Henderson's account of it is as follows:—“It consists of three apertures, one of which is always perfectly quiet, though at the boiling point, and is that used for the bending of hoops, and the other two, situate at the distance of fifteen feet from one another, regularly alternate, which circumstance compensates for the diminutive size, and renders them scarcely less interesting than the Uxahver. The largest can only be measured to the depth of five feet. It is about half as much in diameter, and jets for about two minutes to the height of six feet, when all remains quiet nearly five minutes; after which the smaller one throws up three curious oblique jets through three holes in the thin crust with which the pipe is arched. Having acted its part, the water instantly subsides, and, in the course of two or three minutes the larger one again commences. This was the only instance of alternation I observed about these springs, though I have since found that Horrobow remarked a regular rotation in all the three. I am sorry I did not then know of the circumstance alleged by the same

« PreviousContinue »