Page images
PDF
EPUB
[graphic][merged small]
[graphic][merged small]

rounding objects--snail-shells, pebbles, twigs, and the like. On a larger scale, bubbling brooks, waterfalls, and whirlpools were represented-now no longer a burning flood, but stiff, stark, and motionless. One sketch, which is reproduced, bore a startling resemblance to some of the marble effigies on the tombs of medieval knights.

The distant mountains were covered with their perpetual mantles of snow. Nearer, on the verge of the valley, were the red peaks of the foot-hills. To the right lay the quiet waters of the lake glistening in the sunbeams. In front, a great black fissure stretched from the shores of the lake to the base of the mountains, presenting to the eye an impassable barrier. This was the famous IIrafnajau—the uncouth and terrible twin-brother of the Almannajau.

A toilsome ride of cight miles brought us to the edge of the Pass, which in point of rugged grandeur far surpasses the Almannajau, though it lacks the extent and symmetry which give the latter such a remarkable effect. Here was a tremendous gap in the earth, over a hundred feet deep, hacked and shivered into a thousand fantastic shapes; the sides a succession of the wildest accidents; the bottom a chaos of broken lava, all tossed about in the most terrific confusion. It is not, however, the extraordinary desolation of the scene that constitutes its principal interest. The resistless power which had rent the great lava-bed asunder, as if touched with pity at the ruin, had also flung from the tottering cliffs a causeway across the gap, which now forms the only means of passing over the great Hrafnajau. No human hands could have created such a colossal work as this; the imagination is lost in its massive grandeur; and when we reflect that miles of an almost impassable country would otherwise have to be traversed in order to reach the opposite side of the gap, the conclusion is irresistible that in the battle of the elements Nature still had a kindly remembrance of man.

Five or six miles beyond the Hrafnajan, near the sum

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][graphic]

mit of a dividing ridge, we came upon a very singular volcanic formation called the Tintron. It stands, a little to the right of the trail, on a rise of scoria and burned earth, from which it juts up in rugged relief to the height of twenty or thirty feet. This is, strictly speaking, a huge clinker not unlike what comes out of a grate-hard, glassy in spots, and scraggy all over. The top part is shaped like a shell; in the centre is a hole about three feet in diameter, which opens into a vast subterranean cavity of unknown depth. Whether the Tintron is an extinct crater, through which fires shot out of the earth in by-gone times, or an isolated mass of lava, whirled through the air out of some distant volcano, is a question that geologists must determine. The probability is that it is one of those natural curiosities so common in Iceland which defy research. The whole country is full of anomalies—bogs where one would expect to find dry land, and parched deserts where it would not seem strange to see bogs; fire where water ought to be, and water in the place of fire.

While the pack-train followed the trail, Zöega suggested that the Tintron had never been sketched, and if I felt disposed to take it down”-as he expressed it-he would wait for me in the valley below; so I took it down.

During this day's journey we crossed many small rivers which had been much swollen by the recent rains. The fording-places, however, were generally good, and we got over them without being obliged to swim our horses. One river, the Brúará, gave me some uneasiness. When we arrived at the banks it presented a very formidable obstacle. At the only place where it was practicable to reach the water it was a raging torrent over fifty yards wide, dashing furiously over a bed of lava with a velocity and volume that bade apparent defiance to any attempt at crossing. In the middle was a great fissure running parallel with the course of the water, into which the current converged from each side, forming a series of cataracts that shook the earth, and made a loud reverberation from the depths below.

« PreviousContinue »