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These employments, delightful as they were, formed only the interlude of the grand spectacle. They pitched their tent about a hundred yards from the Great Geyser, and kept regular watch during the night. After two false alarms, they were roused to behold an explosion of the New Geyser: there was little water, but the force with which the steam escaped produced a white column of spray and vapour at least sixty feet high, accompanied with a tremendous noise. The second night they were more fortunate.
On lying down, we could not sleep more than a minute or two at a time; our anxiety causing us often to raise our heads to listen. At last the joyful sound struck my ears : and I started up with a shout, at the same moment when our guides, who were sleeping in their Iceland tent at a short distance opposite to us, jumped up in their shirts and hallooed to us. In an instant we were within sight of the Geyser; the discharges continuing, being more frequent and louder than before, and resembling the distant firing of artillery from a ship at sea. This happened at half past eleven o'clock; at which time, though the sky was cloudy, the light was more than sufficient for shewing the Geyser; but it was of that degree of faintness which rendered a gloomy country still more dismal. Such a midnight scene as was now before us can seldom be witnessed. Here description fails altogether. The Geyser did not disappoint us, and seemed as if it was exerting itself to exhibit all its glory on the eve of our departure. It raged furiously, and threw up a succession of magnificent jets, the highest of which was at least ninety feet. At this time I took the sketch from which the engraving is made: but no drawing, no engraving, can possibly convey any idea of the noise and velocity of the jets, nor of the swift rolling of the clouds of vapour, which were hurled, one over another, with amazing rapidity,'
Mr. Hooker's account is equally impressive. We must insert that part of it, which describes the bason of the Great Geyser, because it is a remarkable instance of successful description.
A vast circular mound (of a substance which, I believe, was first ascertained to be siliceous by Professor Bergman) was elevated a considerable height above those that surrounded most of the other springs. It was of a brownish grey color, made rugged on its exterior, but more especially near the margin of the basin, by numerous hillocks of the same siliceous substance, varying in size, but generally about as large as a molehill, rough with minute tubercles, and covered all over with a most beautiful kind of efflorescence; so that the appearance of these hillocks has been aptly compared to that of the head of a cauliflower. On reaching the top of this siliceous mound, I looked into the perfectly circular basin, which gradually shelved down to the mouth of the pipe or crater in the centre, whence the water issued. This mouth lay about four or five feet below the edge of the basin, and proved, on my afterwards measuring it, to be as nearly as possible seventeen feet distant from it on every side; the greatest difference in the distance not being more than a foot. The inside was not rugged, like the outside ;
but apparently even, although rough to the touch, like a coarse file : it wholly wanted the little hillocks and the efflorescence of the exterior, and was merely covered with innumerable small tubercles, which, of themselves, were in many places polished smooth by the falling of the water upon them. It was not possible now to enter the basin, for it was filled nearly to the edge with water the most pellucid I ever beheld, in the centre of which was observable a slight ebullition, and a large, but not dense, body of steam, which, however, increased both in quantity and density from time to time, as often as the ebullition was more violent.'-pp. 116, 117.
A simple and ingenious theory of these Geysers is offered by Şir G. Mackenzie. He supposes a cavity partially filled with boiling water, and communicating with a shaft or pipe. That part of the cavity which is not filled with water is of course filled with steam, by the pressure of which the water is sustained to the top of the pipe. But upon any.sudden addition of heat under the cavity, a quantity of steam will be produced, which, owing to the great pressure, will be revolved in starts, causing the noises, and the shaking of the ground. The water must now rise above the pipe; an oscillation is produced; the water is pressed downward, and the steam, he says, “having now room to escape, darts upward, breaking through the column, and carrying with it a great part of the water. As long as the extraordinary supply of steam continues, these oscillations and jets will go on. But at every jet some of the water is thrown over the bason, and a considerable quantity runs out of it. The pressure is thus diminished; the steam plays more and more powerfully, till at last a forcible jet takes place; a prodigious quantity of steam escapes, and the remaining water sinks into the pipe.'
Mr. Hooker observes, that the water is never of a greater heat than 212° of Fahrenheit: he had forgotten that this is the boiling point, though he might have been reminded of it when Jacob boiled his mutton for him in the great Geyser. The Icelanders who live near these hot-springs, send their clothes to be washed; and the people who are thus employed, dress their eggs and miserable potatoes there. They indeed are accustomed to more formidable effects of the burning soil upon which they tread. Horrebow speaks of a man who lighted his pipe at a stream of lava. This was during the eruption of mount Krahla, which from 1724 to 1730 almost incessantly poured forth its burning torrents. The natives call these tremendous streams by the appropriate name of Stone-floods. By day they emit a blue sulphureous flame, obscured by smoke and vapour': by night they redden and illuminate the whole horizon. Balls of fire are sent up from the stone-floods as well as from the burning mountains. In 1755, Katlegiaa poured out a torrent of
water which swept glaciers and rocks before it, and inundated an extent of country fifteen miles long and twenty wide: alternate discharges of fire and water took place, each equally destructive; loud subterranean noises were heard to the distance of eighty or ninety miles; and three hundred miles off, asbes fell like rain in the Feroe isles.
But the most tremendous eruption recorded in the Icelandic annals, is that of 1783. It began on the 1st of June with earthquakes; these continued to increase till the irth, when the inhabitants quitted their houses and took up their abode in tents: meantime a coutinual smoke was seen rising from the northern and uninhabited part of the country; three fire-spouts broke out, which, after they had risen to a considerable height, were formed into one, visible at a distance of more than 150 miles. The whole atmosphere was darkened with sand and dust and brimstone; showers of pumice stones fell red-hot, together with a dirty substance like pitch in small balls or rings, which blasted all vegetation. At the same time, great quantities of rain fell, which, running in torrents upon the hot ground, tore up the earth and carried it into the lower country. This rain was so impregnated with salt and sulphur in passing the clouds of smoke which tilled the sky, as to occasion considerable smarting on the skin. At a greater distance from the fire, there was in some places a shower of hail, in others a fall of snow, so heavy as to do much injury to the cattle. Meanwhile, such steams arose as to darken the sun, and make its disk appear like blood: this was perceived in England. A tract of country, above sixty English miles in length, was converted into one great lake of fire. Its perpendicular height was from sixteen to twenty fathoms. The hills which it did not cover, it inelted down; so that the whole surface was one level expanse of molten matter. Two burning islands were thrown up in the sea. Ships sailing between Copenhagen and Norway were covered with a black and pitchy mixture of brimstone and ashes; and the rain which fell in Norway was so acrid that it totally destroyed the leaves of the trees. Nearly all the grass in the island was burnt, and what was left was in such a state that most of the cattle which escaped the fire and tlood, died for want of food, or were poisoned by what hunger compelled them to eat. The atmosphere proved fatal to old persons, and all who had any tendency to pulmonary disease. But the greatest evil was the famine which ensued ; and which was so dreadful that the number of inhabitants who perished in consequence of the eruption, amounted to near 9000.
This is sufficiently awful--yet were we to contemplate the different effects of moral and physical evil, a comparison between this ravaged island and the earthly paradises of the South Sea would still leave the balance of happiness on the side of the Icelander. In those delicious countries, where the earth brings forth her fruits spontaneously, the inhabitants have abandoned themselves to the most loathsome and pernicious vices, are becoming every year more savage and miserable, and, in a few generations, will, undoubtedly, be extinct, if left to themselves. This may be safely predicted from their perpetual wars, their cannibalism, their human sacrifices, their promiscuous intercourse, their child murder, and other unutterable abominations. How much happier, amidst all the terrors of nature, the poor and virtuous Icelander! Perhaps it is not possible to produce a more beautiful instance of the beneficial effects of a common bond of faith, and an established religion, than is to be found in the works before us. An Icelandic church is hardly of better construction than the rudest English barn—but we will take Mr. Hooker's description of the church of Thingvalla.
. It was of a simple construction; in form, an oblong quadrangle, with thick walls, leaning a little inwards, composed of alternate layers of lava and turf. The roof was of turf, thickly covered with grass, and from the top of this to the ground, the building was scarcely more than sixteen or eighteen feet high. The entrance end alone, was of unpainted fir planks, placed vertically, with a small door of the same materials. I was surprised to find the body of the church crowded with large old wooden chests, instead of seats, but I soon understood that these not only answered the purpose of benches, but also contained the clothes of many of the congregation, who, as there was no lock on the door, ħad free access to their property at all times. The bare walls had no covering whatever, nor the floor any pavement, except a few ill-shapen pieces of rock, which were either placed there intentionally, or, as seems most probable, had not been removed from their natural bed at the time of the building of the church. There was no regular ceiling: only a few loose planks, laid upon some beams, which crossed the church at about the height of a man, held some old bibles, some chests, and the coffin of the minister, which he had made himself, and which, to judge from his aged look, he probably soon expected to occupy. The whole length of the church was not above thirty feet, and about six or eight of this was parted off by a kind of skreen of open work (against which the pulpit was placed) for the purpose of containing the altar, a rude sort of table, on which were two brass candlesticks, and, over it, two extremely small glass windows, the only places that admitted light, except the door-way. Two large bells hung on the right. hand side of the church, at an equal height with the beams. pp. 93, 94.
The church-yard is often enclosed by a rude wall of stone or turf, and the area thinly sprinkled with banks of green sod, which alone serve to mark the burial places of the natives. And here we must grațify our readers with the most beautiful passage in Sir G: Mackenzie's book,
• The moral and religious habits of the people at large may be spoken of in terms of the most exalted commendation. In bis domestic capacity, the Icelander performs all the duties which his situation requires, or renders possible; and while by the severe labour of his hands, he obtains a provision of food for his children, it is not less his care to convey to their minds the inheritance of knowledge and virtue. In his intercourse with those around him, his character displays the stamp of honour and integrity. His religious duties are performed with cheerfulness and punctuality; and this even amidst the numerous obstacles, which are afforded by the nature of the country, and the climate under which he lives. The Sabbath scene at an Icelandic church is indeed one of the most singular and interesting kind. The little edifice, constructed of wood and turf, is situated perhaps amid the rugged ruins of a stream of lava, or beneath mountains which are covered with never-melting snows; in a spot where the mind almost sinks under the silence and desolation of surrounding nature. Here the Ice.' landers assemble to perform the duties of their religion. A group of male and female peasants may be seen gathered about the church, waiting the arrival of their pastor; all habited in their best attire, after the manner of the country; their children with them; and the horses, which brought them from their respective homes, grazing quietly around the little assembly. The arrival of a new-comer is welcomed by every one with the kiss of salutation; and the pleasures of social intercourse, so rarely enjoyed by the Icelanders, are happily connected with the occasion which summons them to the discharge of their religious duties. The priest makes his appearance among them as a friend, he salutes individually each member of his flock, and stoops down to give his almost parental kiss to the little ones, who are to grow up under his pastoral charge. These offices of kindness performed, they all go together into the house of prayer.'--pp. 31, 32,
A picture worthy of the poet of the Sabbath, and which would have delighted his affectionate and gentle heart. The clergy appear to perform their duties in an exemplary manner.
Sir George has copied a page of a parish register, in which the worthy pastor, Mr. Healtalin, for his own satisfaction, makes an annual record of the moral-and religious state of every family in his parish ; his labour indeed is not very great, for the population varies from 200 to 210; this, however, is not remarked with any intention of detracting from the merit of this excellent pastor. This example, Sir George says,
of the attention and pious care with which the duties of a country priest are performed, in so remote a corner of the Christian world, may excite a blush in many of his brethren in more fortunate countries, and amid more opulent establishments.'
It would extend this article to an undue length were we to follow Sir George upon his mineralogical excursions, and through bis speculations in geology; or botanize with Mr. Hooker. We must