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island clear of all miasma. Owing to the remarkable rarity of the air, distances are deceptive to a degree not witnessed elsewhere. Not even the Mediterranean itself in early autumn can, in this respect, match the perspective. To the eye a snow-mountain, which by the map is some fifty miles distant, appears within an easy ride of thirty miles. But when two weary, laborious days have passed, and the traveller is but beginning to ascend its spurs, the reality dawns upon him. In the brisk and bracing air, however, the spirits cannot droop, and actual distance is forgotten. As the head of one fiord after another is passed, each opening out a panorama equal in extent to that which is gained by looking northwards from the summit of the Simplon Pass, a feeling of the grandeur of Nature is produced which could hardly elsewhere be obtained. Björn Gunnlaugson mapped the whole island with as much precision as is attained by our own Ordnance Survey on the larger scale; and, unless there are days and nights of continuous mist or fog, there is less danger of losing the way than there used to be in ascending Ben Nevis before the path from Fort William was completed. If, however, it rains in Iceland, it rains in such torrents that one inch is often recorded in an hour. When the pitiless icy sleet comes down, a rain-gauge is useless, and records are at the best imperfect. The fearful tempests of an Iceland winter root up everything. They rage for days together with a force and fury that makes a storm on the Jungfrau Alps a plaything in comparison. The perennial snowline is lower than in more southern latitudes. In Iceland it may be marked off at 3,000 feet; in the Alps it is 9,000 feet; and among the summits of the Apennines it is 500 feet higher. To go to Iceland too early in the season is a mistake.' Ponies fit to carry are seldom to be had before June, and there is little grass for them to live on before that time. In spring the fishermen, who act as guides, are at sea; the bogs are impassable, and the melting of the snow converts the country into a morass. From July to the middle of September is on the whole the best period for a visit, and July and August are the true summer months. No traveller should fail to take a suit of yellow oilskins and a “sou-wester’; umbrellas are useless. Christmas too has its charms, even though the Arctic night is at its darkest, and the cold at its sharpest. There is then often a spell of settled weather; the aurora borealis is in its fullest splendour; and the indoor employments of the people are in their most vigorous activity. Fishing-nets are repaired, socks and mittens knitted, shoes made; and the spinning-wheel and the

the weaving-loom are mever silent. But the closeness and unventilated atmosphere in the houses, the rancid smell from the oil lamps, and the overcrowded rooms, offer serious drawbacks to enjoyment. Were fuel more plentiful, no doubt ventilation would be more encouraged; as it is, conservation of warm air, however heated, is a prime necessary of existence. This land, poor in all else, has in the aurorae of its long winter nights, a wealth of riches that the gorgeous though short sunsets of the tropics cannot equal. No grander sight for the human eye exists on earth than these streamers, 100 to 150 miles long, pushing towards the magnetic zenith; or, anon, changing into magnificent coronae with a colouring that no brush can depict, and that the truest artist can but faintly attempt to reproduce. Waves upon waves now cross each other, leaping rapidly to and fro with ever-changing form, or dart singly towards the pole-star, only to sink into a temporary thick darkness, which seems all the darker for the previous blaze of light. Attaining a maximum of development at the time of the winter solstice, this mysterious phenomenon of nature—for science has yet done nothing more than speculate and theorise about it—gives no light of any value to the Icelanders. Its actual illuminating power is not greater than that of a quarter-old moon, and it is invisible when the moon is near the full. It refuses to be caught by the camera; spectrum analysis, so useful a witness-bearer with distant heavenly bodies, is helpless in its presence; and it lasts so short a time, when at its very best, that tracks over the snowy wastes are never travelled by its help. It counts almost as a by-product in the economy of nature, though we have come within measurable distance of truth when we state that it is intimately connected with terrestrial magnetic phenomena. The aurora australis of the South never approaches the magnificence of that which is witnessed on the verge of the Arctic Circle. Still further polewards, it may be added, the aurora has a tendency to decrease in brilliancy, at least in many of its individual types. Is there, it has been often asked, any sound associated with the appearance? Popular belief avers that there is an audible noise; but Trombolt's scientific investigations, the fullest, the longest-continued and most searching that have been made, tell us that absolute silence reigns. As in Switzerland, so in Iceland, the advance in winter and the retrogression in summer of the ends of the glacier fields, the glacier body all the while moving on, are perfectly established facts. A cool summer produces less retrogression, and this is followed by a more severe winter and a greater advance, though the the open sea which surrounds the island prevents the intensity of cold from passing beyond a certain point. There is rarely floe-ice of any consequence, as on the Greenland coast opposite. The statement that the land was covered with forest growth as late as the tenth century wants corroboration; but the size of the birch trunks which are found in the bogs is in its favour. No remains of the pine tribe, it is to be observed, have been discovered, and this piece of negative evidence implies that the soil or climate in previous centuries did not materially differ from its present conditions. The Sagas repeatedly refer to the forests, and the outlaws and wild cattle that they harboured; but the woodland areas of which they speak are geographically now covered by bogs. No doubt the vast tracts in the south, that have been covered at different times by volcanic eruptions, to some extent account for the hideous wastes which confront the modern traveller. Grossman says of his last year's journey, that existing evidences prove that Iceland was at one time covered with an ice-cap similar to that which Greenland still possesses; and Mr. Thoroddsen (“Proceedings of the Geogr. Soc. of Berlin') is equally positive that “during the Glacial Period Iceland was totally covered with an ice-cap of a thickness of about 1000 metres.’ Roads, in our sense of the term, and bridges, are among the great wants of the country. The former are often mere tracks, from which, where there is much traffic, the stones are taken off, never, as with us, laid down. When the track wears so deep that riding becomes impossible, a parallel line is adopted, and thus many ‘roads’ are found running side by side. The Icelandic travelling-box, which supplants the Gladstone bag and the solid leather portmanteau, is 15 inches high, 10.inches wide, and 22 inches long; it is a necessary institution of the Country, two of them being slung across a pony's back. The art of packing is only acquired by experience. Every article must be wedged in so tightly that none can move. Iceland depends on its ponies. Without its shaggy friends inland communication would be at a standstill. To these Northern dwellers they are the very ‘ship of the desert’; they are ubiquitous; they meet one everywhere; there is almost nowhere that they cannot go, and almost nothing that they tannot accomplish. Ladies must however be prepared to adopt native ways; they must either ride man-fashion, or else use the women's special saddle, which is practically a chair with a high back, set sideways on the horse. The English side-saddle is less suitable for icelandic roads and travel. Madame Pfeiffer, who was not a clever équestrienne, tried it with painful results. Wol. 179.—No. 357. F. * I do * I do not know, she sadly says, “how often I fell and cut my hands’; that is, on the jagged points of lava. Those, however, who, accept the teaching of experience find these, ponies comfortable, and easy to ride, whether at a canter or gallop. It is not every horse that can be taught the former gait, and hence a good canterer fetches an exceptional price, and is never exported. As stallions run loose all the year round, there is no choice in breeding; and until this haphazard fashion is altered, there cannot be the improvement of which the race is capable." Good fishing may be had for the asking. Of course near the Canneries, the salmon are strictly preserved ; but the rules of the Reykjavik Angling Club are not such as would quite pass muster with the Conservators of the Thames. In other respects, sportsmen find little encouragement to visit Iceland, for the Arctic fox is more easily stalked in Alaska than here; and the few herds of reindeer now keep themselves to the least accessible part of the inland plateau, where it is difficult to carry a rifle. The wholesale slaughter of the numerous sea-birds is not sport, while half the creatures that fall to the gun are either too coarse for food, or cannot be recovered when killed. The centre of Iceland is chiefly occupied by a plateau, averaging 2,000 feet above the sea-level, broken in places by the Jokulls, that send their spurs down into it, and by the broad and rapid rivers that are met in the most unexpected places. Here and there rise low hills, holding between them valleys that at least are grassy during the brief summer. In such spots are set down lonely homes, separated by vast distances from their nearest neighbours, most of the accessible part of the farm consisting of bog and marsh, where the abundant cotton-grass only makes the monotony more profound. The same description applies to many of the farms situated forty or fifty miles up the fiords, with this advantage in their favour, that the water forms a more convenient mode of external communication, and they are also nearer the fishing-grounds. - - But even this great central plateau, corresponding in its way to the Bog of Allen, could be made more accessible were the Danish or the Local Government equal to the task of forming, a few arterial lines of road, and spanning the rivers. with bridges. The latter task is not such a difficult, undertaking, for the , Olfusa, Suspension Bridge, lately put up by Englisheng ineers, shows what can be done even in the excep

: * The prevailing colours are black, grey, or chestnut: they run from 10 to 13 hands in height; those sent to this country are generally five years old, and they realize 6l. or upwards at port of arrival. - -

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tionally short summer that allows work to proceed. A couple of spans, 252 and 126 feet respectively, with a roadway of 9% feet, now ensures a safe crossing, where formerly it was but a hard pony-swim at the best of times. The planting of birch, willow, or mountain ash for protection, must be left till a later day. It is possible that no plantation would survive, for the hurricanes sweep off everything from the poor foothold that is obtainable. The climate cannot be altered, but the drainage of bogs and morasses, with the excellent fall which can generally be obtained at no great distance, is wholly within reach. Nature will do the rest; better grasses would in a short time take the place of sedges and morass-growth that are displaced. And, with more hay, the Iceland farmer would be a prince indeed. The lakes are numerous, but, with one or two exceptions, small; they are commonly surrounded with a marshy expanse, resembling in general features the alluvial tract where the Rhone enters Lake Geneva. These stretches of land would produce excellent crops of grass, if even the slightest efforts were made at cutting open ditches, and mowing down the ranker vegetation for a year or two. At present many of them are practically unapproachable during the summer months, owing to the infinite swarms of gnats and midges which abound, and which make even a temporary halt disagreeable in the extreme. Although unable to boast of the possession of ferocious mosquitoes, yet Iceland possesses in these countless and bloodthirsty legions a very fair equivalent to the insect troubles of the tropics. Wherever there are bog and morass, they swarm to a certainty; and smoking and similar devices seem only to aggravate the trouble. The average Icelander, inured to the woe since childhood, makes little account of it; but the finer-skinned Englishman, or, worse still, Englishwoman, speedily becomes disfigured by the poisoned arrows of the enemy, and often suffers

seriously. For the fauna, the botany, and the geology of the island, by far the best work is that of Professor Paijkull of Upsala, who spent “A Summer in Iceland’ some thirty years since, and whose work, translated by the Rev. M. R. Barnard, B.A., ought to be consulted by everyone desiring acquaintance with these subjects. He has, in fact, left little for other observers to note. Players, teal, snipe, ptarmigan, the snow owl, snow bunting, Curlews, and wading birds are comparatively abundant; gosandets, wild swans, and occasionally an eagle may be seen. Our Common crow cannot stand the conditions of life imposed, but his place is fairly filled by the raven, to whom everything comes handy. Young lambs, eider-duck eggs, or any F 2 other

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