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Full text of "Letters from high latitudes : being some account of a voyage, in 1856, in the schooner yacht "Foam", to Iceland, Jan Meyen, and Spitzbergen"

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' But since it pleased a vanished eye, 
I go to plant it on his tomb, 
That if it can, it there may bloom, 
Or dying there at least may die." 


To whom a thousand memories call, 
Not being less, but more than all 
The gentleness he seemed to be, 

So wore his outward best, and joined 
Each office of the social hour 
To noble manners, as the flower 

And native growth of noble mind." 

In Mejiwriam. 

Printed by Hazell, Watson, & Viney, Ld., London and Aylesbury. 




** Witness, too, the silent cry, 
The prayer of many a race, and creed, and clime, 
Thunderless lightnings striking under sea 
From sunset to sunrise of all thy realm, 
And that true North." 


A CYNIC has suggested that after a certain interval 
** the return to life of our dearest relative might often 
occasion as much perplexity as pleasure. 

However harshly this sentiment may grate on the ears of 
Constancy, I confess to a kindred feeling of embarrassment 
in being suddenly confronted, after so many years, with the 
alien self that reappears in the following pages ; but I am 
told that the friendly community with which I am now con- 
nected, and with whose fortunes my own are temporarily 
interwoven, may be disposed to take an interest in the 
youthful yatching experiences of their present Governor 

But for this I should never have had the hardihood to 
appear as an author before the public of this Continent, 
whose geographical position and fiscal arrangements 
enable its inhabitants to skim the cream from the litera- 
ture of Europe, without troubling themselves either with 
its sedimentary deposits, or the irritating restrictions of 
its copyrights. Once indeed through the "enterprise" of 
a transatlantic Editor, whose nationality shall be nameless, 
a mutilated issue of these "Letters" obtained an ephemeral 


publicity in a provincial serial, but in spite of my spirited 
impressario having prefaced his piracy by the assertion 
that " he had commissioned a British Lord at a handsome 
salary " " to discover the North Pole " and to furnish his 
Magazine with " an account of his adventures," confirmed 
as it was by such a transfiguration of the dates, tenses, and 
superscriptions in my narrative as might best colour this 
ingenious fiction the speculation must have proved a 
financial failure, as no per centage on his profits has 
hitherto reached my hands. 

Notwithstanding this discouraging experience. I am still 
in hopes that the Canadian reader, apart from any per- 
sonal interest with which he may regard the author, will 
not grudge an occasional half-hour to a description of those 
out-land countries that share with his Dominion the 
Aurora's ruby affluence, and are wrapped by winter in the 
same silver mantle as his own; whose early mariners 500 
years before Columbus swept through the gulfs of his 
St. Lawrence, and struck the headlands of his Acadie ; and 
whose modern inhabitants, in the simplicity of their lives, 
in the nobleness of their courtesy, in the freedom of their 
political institutions, and in their masculine energy exem- 
plify and prefigure within their lesser limits the qualities, 
virtues, and attainments proper to a great Northern 

And here I should be disposed to end my brief apology 
for this Edition, were it not that I am tempted to seize the 
opportunity of answering a question that has been frequently 
put to me " What has become of Wilson ? " 


This kind and faithful servant remained with me for 
many years after my return from the North, environed by 
something of an heroic halo in the eyes of the ladies of 
his acquaintance, and of the public whom he frequented. 
He subsequently accompanied me on an eighteen months' 
cruise to the Mediterranean, as well as on my visit to 
Syria as British Commissioner, but neither the sunshine 
of the South nor the glitter of the parti-coloured East, 
mercurialized the melancholy of his temperament. In 
the congenial atmosphere of the graveyards of Egypt he 
displayed indeed a transient sprightliness, which the occa- 
sional exhumation of a mummy, and such traffic with the 
dead and their appurtenances as my excavations at Thebes 
afforded him, stimulated into spasms of hilarity. 

Of the Pyramids he was disposed to think but lightly, 
until informed that they had served for sepulchres; but 
on quitting the heights of Gizeh I observed that he had 
selected two skulls as the appropriate memorials of his 
visit. With his brows bound in the folds of a yellow tur- 
ban, a striped Arab mantle enveloping his person, and 
seated on a donkey, these fleshless countenances grinning 
from under either arm, his own, the least jovial of the 
three, he presented, I confess, something of a weird and 
ghoul-like appearance as, wending round the ransacked 
tombs of the Pharaohs, we passed to our boats through the 
purple haze of evening. 

He continued to the end to solemnize his announcements 
with phrases of dolorous import. One day at Thebes I 
was lying in my berth prostrate with a feverish attack, my 


nerves in that impressionable state peculiar to sickness in a 
tropical climate ; suddenly Wilson enters the cabin and 
proclaims in his hollow tones, " If you please, rny Lord, 
the Corpse is come aboard ! " by which dignified but depres- 
sing title he was pleased to designate a mummy which my 
people had just brought down from a rock-temple I had 
recently discovered. 

His bedside visits, however, were not always so inno- 
cuous. On our arrival at Beirut some months afterwards, 
we found a traveller at the hotel stricken with Syrian fever 
a disease which seldom pardons. The patient's life 
hung by a thread. The doctors had enjoined the most 
absolute quiet, and every inmate of the house passed his 
door breathless and on tiptoe. One kind lady, who had 
constituted herself his nurse, was allowed to visit him. But 
on an unlucky Sunday afternoon she was absent for a brief 
half hour at Church. 

Forthwith Wilson stole upon his victim, and gliding into 
a chair at the bed-head, whispered forth at intervals these 
sentences of dole : " Well, sir ! you do look bad ! " " Syrian 
fever, I understand, sir ? " " Ah ! they say people don't 
recover from Syrian fever." "I am Wilson, sir." "THE 
Wilson ! " with which ghostlike revelation of his identity 
he concluded his dismal Avatar, the particulars of which 
the sick man happily survived to relate. 

I could multiply these paragraphs by the relation of a 
hundred similar traits of my poor follower's saturnine 
humour. It would be more difficult to give an adequate 
idea of his kindness and affectionate serviceableness, his 


resolution in danger, his versatility of resource, and 
unassailable integrity ; only those who have travelled much 
in wild countries can understand what an infinite enhance- 
ment of one's pleasure, comfort and security, is born of 
such faithful comradeship. If every now and then 1 have 
endeavoured to enliven my story with glimpses of the share 
my poor servant took in our daily life, the reader will feel 
that a loving hand has guided the pencil. To this day I 
never prepare for a journey without a sigh of regret for my 
lost travelling companion. 

Some time after our return to England Wilson's health 
became affected by an obscure disease, which subsequently 
developed very distressing symptoms, and after much 
suffering, borne with great patience, he died in the Hospital 
for incurables at Wimbledon, 

Ottawa, 1873. 






































WARDS ...... 240 




Wilson - - - 44 

Snorro - - 47 


Plain of Thingvalla - 52 


Ground Plan of Thingvalla - 54 


The Althing - - 6c 

The Great Geysir - 72 

Sketch of Waterworks - - - 79 

An Icelandic Lady - - 97 

Remains of Basaltic Dykes - 102 

Mountains of Norway - 136, 139 


THE ICELANDIC Fox - - 151 

A Lapp Lady - 153 

A Lapp Lady's Bonnet - - 154 

IN THE ICE - 175 

Sigurdr - - - 179 


<; T EGO IN ARCTIS" - 191 


"It is a strange thing, _ that in sea voyages, where there is 

nothing to be seen, but sky and sea, men should make Diaries; 
but in land-travel, wherein so much is to be observed, for the most 
part, they omit it ; as if chance were fitter to be registered than 
observation. : ' BACON. 



CALM sculptured image of as sweet a face 
As ever lighted up an English home, 

Whose mute companionship has deigned to grace 
Our wanderings o'er a thousand leagues of foam, 

Our progress was your triumph duly hailed 
By ocean's inmates ; herald dolphins played 

Before our stem, tall ships that sunward sailed 
With stately curtseys due obeisance paid. 


Fair Fortune's fairer harbinger ! you smoothed 
Our way before us, through the frantic fling 

Of roystering waves as once Athene soothed 

The deeps that raged around the wandering King ; 


The scowling tempest rose in vain to clutch 

His forked bolts ; you smiled, they harmless turned 

To sheets of splendour at his palsied touch, 
And all their anger perished ere it burned. 



Now tinkling waves a peal of welcome rang 
Against the sheathing of our brazen bows, 

No gladder hymn the rosy Nereids sang, 
When, clad in sunshine, Aphrodite rose. 

Anon, a mightier passion stirred the deep 

Presumptuous billows scaled the quivering deck ; 

Up to your very lips would dare to leap, 
And fling then- silver arms about your neck ; 

The uncouth winds stole kisses from your cheek, 
Then, wild with exultation, hurried on, 

And boasting bade their laggard comrades seek 
The momentary bliss themselves had won, 

Who, following, filled our prosperous sails until 
We reached eternal winter's drear domain, 

Where suns of June but frozen light distil, 
And, baffled, quickly abdicate their reign. 

Yet even here your gracious beauty shed 
Deep calm ; old Ocean slumbered 'neath its spell ; 

And Summer seemed to follow where you led, 
As loth to bid your kindred smile farewell. 

The ominous shapes of drifting ice, that pack 
The desolate channels of the polar flood, 

Clustered like wolves around our Northward track, 
Till swayed by that sweet power to altered mood, 


They cowered, and ranged themselves on either side, 
Like vassal ranks who watch some passing Queen 

Through her white columned halls in silence glide, 
Nor mingling meet till she no more is seen. 


And we with confident souls still followed you, 
Where stern those serried files of icebergs rose,- 

As James of Douglas followed, staunch and true, 
The honoured heart he flung amongst his foes ; 

Till in my sailors' child-like hearts there grew 
A vague, half-sportive reverence for that Form,- 

Which, like commissioned angel, onward flew, 
And with a halcyon spell conjured the storm ! 

What marvel then, if when our wearied hull 
In some lone haven found a brief repose, 

Rude hands, by love made delicate, would cull 
A grateful garland for your Goddess' brows ? 


What marvel if their leader, too, would lay 

His fragile wreath of evanescent rhyme 
At her dear feet whose image cheered hio way, 

And warmed with old home thoughts the lonely time, 


When as he watched that sculptured life-like smile 
Through many an anxious hour of Arctic gloom, 

Its magic influence would half beguile 
The bleak and barren ocean tracts to bloom 


With well remembered woods, and Highland hills 
That cluster round a castle's stately towers ; 

And gleaming lawns, and glens, and murmuring rills, 
*Where Edith plays amid the summer flowers I 


SIGURDR, Son O/JONA.S, Icelander ; Law Student. 
CHARLES E. FITZGERALD, Surgeon ; Photographer ; Botanist. 
LORD DUFFERIN, Navigator ; Sagaman ; Artist. 
WILLIAM WILSON, Valet ; Gardener ; Cape Colonist. 
ALBERT GRANT, Steward ; Watchmaker ; Bird-stuffer. 
JOHN BEVIS, First Cook ; afterwards Ducrow. 

WILLIAM WEBSTER, Second Cook ; Carpenter ; late of Her Majesty's 
Foot Guards ; afterwards Maid Marian. 

EBENEZER WYSE, Master ; Calif ornian Gold-digger. 









Voice of a French Captain. 

A German Gnat-catcher. 

An early Village Cock. 

A Goat. 

An Icelandic Fox. 

A White Bear. 

Ladies and Cavaliers of the ICELANDIC, NORSE, LAPPISH, and FRENCH 

SCENE. Sometimes on board the "FoAM," sometimes in ICELAND, 





Glasgow, Monday, June 2, 1856. 

OUR start has not been prosperous. Yesterday evening, on 
passing Carlisle, a telegraphic message was put into my 
hand, announcing the fact of the " Foam " having been 
obliged to put into Holyhead, in consequence of the sudden 
illness of my Master. As the success of our expedition en- 
tirely depends on our getting off before the season is further 
advanced, you can understand how disagreeable it is to have 
received this check at its very outset. As yet, of course, I 
know nothing of the nature of the illness with which he has 
been seized. However, I have ordered the schooner to pro- 
ceed at once to Oban, and I have sent back the Doctor to 
Holyhead to overhaul the sick man. It is rather early in 
the day for him to enter upon the exercise of his functions. 




Greenock, Tuesday, June 3, 1856. 

I FOUND the Icelander awaiting my arrival here, pacing up 
and down the coffee-room like a Polar bear. 

At first he was a little shy, and, not having yet had much 
opportunity of practising his English, it was some time be- 
fore I could set him perfectly at his ease. He has something 
so frank and honest in his face and bearing, that I am certain 
he will turn out a pleasant companion. There being no 
hatred so intense as that which you feel towards a disagree- 
able shipmate, this assurance has relieved me of a great 
anxiety, and I already feel I shall hereafter reckon Sigurdr 
(pronounced Segurthur), the son of Jonas, among the num- 
ber of my best friends. 

As most educated English people firmly believe the Ice- 
landers to be a " Squawmuck," blubber-eating, seal-skin-clad 
race, I think it right to tell you that Sigurdr is apparelled in 
good broadcloth, and all the inconveniences of civilization, 
his costume culminating in the orthodox chimney-pot of the 
nineteenth century. He is about twenty-seven, very intelli- 
gent-looking, and all women would think lovely to behold. 
A high forehead, straight, delicate features, dark blue eyes, 
auburn hair and beard, and the complexion of Lady 

S d ! His early life was passed in Iceland ; but he is 

now residing at Copenhagen as a law student. Through 
the introduction of a mutual friend, he has been induced 
to come with me, and do us the honours of his native land. 

" O whar will I get a skeely skipper, 
To sail this gude ship o' mine ? " 

Such, alas ! has been the burden of my song for these last 


four-and-twenty hours, as I have sat in the Tontine Tower, 
drinking the bad port wine ; for, after spending a fortune in 
telegraphic messages to Holyhead, it has been decided that 

B cannot come on, and I have been forced to rig up a 

Glasgow merchant skipper into a jury sailing-master. 

Any such arrangement is, at the best, unsatisfactory; but 
to abandon the cruise is the only alternative. However, con- 
sidering I had but a few hours to look about me, I have been 
more fortunate than might have been expected. I have had 
the luck to stumble on a young fellow, very highly recom- 
mended by the Captain of the Port. He returned just a 
fortnight ago from a trip to Australia, and having since 
married a wife, is naturally anxious not to lose this oppor- 
tunity of going to sea again for a few months. 

I start to-morrow for Oban, vid, Inverary, which I wish to 
show to my Icelander. At Oban I join the schooner, and 
proceed to Stornaway, in the Hebrides ; whither the un- 
domestic Mr. Ebenezer Wyse (a descendant, probably, of 
some Westland Covenanter) is to follow me by the steamer. 



Oban, June 5, 1856. 

I HAVE seldom enjoyed anything so much as our journey 
yesterday. Getting clear at last of the smells, smoke, noise, 
and squalor of Greenock, to plunge into the very heart of the 
Highland hills, robed as they were in the sunshine of a beau- 
tiful summer day, was enough to make one beside oneself 
with delight ; and the Icelander enjoyed it as much as I did. 
Having crossed the Clyde, alive with innumerable vessels, its 
waves dancing and sparkling in the sunlight, we suddenly 
shot into the still and solemn Loch Goil, whose waters, dark 
with mountain shadows, seemed almost to belong to a dif- 
ferent element from that of the yellow, rushing, ship-laden 
river we had left. In fact, in the space of ten minutes we 
had got into another world, centuries remote from the steam- 
ing, weaving, delving Britain, south of Clyde. 

After a sail of about three hours, we reached the head of 
the loch, and then took coach along the worst mountain road 
in Europe, towards the country of the world-invading Camp- 
bells. A steady pull of three hours more, up a wild bare 
glen, brought us to the top of the mica-slate ridge which 
pens up Loch Fyne, on its western side, and disclosed what 
I have always thought the loveliest scene in Scotland. 

Far below at our feet, and stretching away on either hand 
among the mountains, lay the blue waters of the lake. 

On its other side, encompassed by a level belt of pasture- 
land and corn-fields, the white little town of Inverary glit- 
tered like a gem on the sea-shore ; while to the right, amid 
lawns and gardens, and gleaming banks of wood, that hung 
down into the water, rose the dark towers of the Castle ; the 


whole environed by an amphitheatre of tumbled porphyry 
hills, beyond whose fir-crowned crags rose the bare blue 
mountain-tops of Lorn. 

It was a perfect picture of peace and seclusion, and I 
confess I had great pride in being able to show my com- 
panion so fair a specimen of one of our lordly island homes 
the birthplace of a race of nobles whose names sparkle 
down the page of their country's history as conspicuously as 
the golden letters in an illuminated missal. 

While descending towards the strand, I tried to amuse 
Sigurdr with a sketch of the fortunes of the great house of 

I told him how in ancient days three warriors came from 
Green Terne, to dwell in the wild glens of Cowal and Lochow, 
how one of them, the swart Breachdan, all for the love of 
blue-eyed Eila, swam the Gulf, once with a clew of thread, 
then with a hempen rope, last with an iron chain ; but this 
time, alas ! the returning tide sucks down the over-tasked 
hero into its swirling vortex ; how Diarmid O' Duin, i.e. 
son of "the Brown," slew with his own hand the mighty 
boar, whose head still scowls over the escutcheon of the 
Campbells ; how in later times, while the murdered Dun- 
can's son, afterwards the great Malcolm Canmore, was yet 
an exile at the court of his Northumbrian uncle, ere Birnam 
wood had marched to Dunsinane, the first Campbell i.e. 
Campus-bellus, Beau-champ, a Norman knight and nephew 
of the Conqueror, having won the hand of the lady Eva, 
sole heiress of the race of Diarmid, became master of the 
lands and lordships of Argyll ; how six generations later 
each of them notable in their day the valiant Sir Colin 
created for his posterity a title prouder than any within a 
sovereign's power to bestow, which no forfeiture could at- 
taint, no act of parliament recall ; for though he cease to be 
Duke or Earl, the head of the Clan Campbell will still 
remain Mac Calan More, and how at last the same Sir 
Colin fell at the String of Cowal, beneath the sword of that 
fierce lord, whose granddaughter was destined to bind the 


honours of his own heirless house round the coronet of his 
slain foeman's descendant ; how Sir Neill at Bannockburn 
fought side by side with the Bruce whose sister he had 
married ; how Colin, the first Earl, wooed and won the Lady 
Isabel, sprung from the race of Somerled, Lord of the Isles, 
thus adding the galleys of Lorn to the blazonry of Argyll ; 
how the next Earl died at Flodden, and his successor fought 
not less disastrously at Pinkie ; how Archibald, fifth Earl, 
whose wife was at supper with the Queen, her half-sister, 
when Rizzio was murdered, fell on the field of Langside, 
smitten not by the hand of the enemy, but by the finger of 
God; how Colin, Earl and boy-General at fifteen, was 
dragged away by force, with tears in his eyes, from the un- 
happy skirmish at Glenlivit, where his brave Highlanders 
were being swept down by the artillery of Huntleyand Errol, 
destined to regild his spurs in future years on the soil of Spain. 
Then I told him of the Great Rebellion, and how, amid 
the tumult of the next fifty years, the Grim Marquis 
Gillespie Grumach, as his squint caused him to be called 
Montrose's fatal foe, staked life and fortunes in the deadly 
game engaged in by the fierce spirits of that generation, and 
losing, paid the forfeit with his head, as calmly as became a 
brave and noble gentleman, leaving an example, which his 
son already twice rescued from the scaffold, once by a 
daughter of the ever-gallant house of Lindsay, again a pri- 
soner, and a rebel, because four years too soon to be a 
patriot as nobly imitated ; how, at last, the clouds of mis- 
fortune cleared away, and honours clustered where only 
merit had been before ; the martyr's aureole, almost become 
hereditary, being replaced in the next generation by a ducal 
coronet, itself to be regilt in its turn with a less sinister 
lustre by him 

" The State's whole thunder born to wield, 
And shake alike the senate and the field ; '' 

who baffled Walpole in the cabinet, and conquered with 
Marlborough at Ramilies, Oudenarde, and Malplaquet; 
and, last, how at that present moment, even while we were 


speaking, the heir to all these noble reminiscences, the 
young chief of this princely line, had already won, at the age 
of twenty-nine, by the manly vigour of his intellect and his 
hereditary independence of character, the confidence ot 
his fellow-countrymen, and a seat at the council board of 
his sovereign. 

Having thus duly indoctrinated Sigurdr with the Sagas of 
the family, as soon as we had crossed the lake I took him 
up to the Castle, and acted cicerone to its pictures and heir- 
looms, the gleaming stands of muskets, whose fire wrought 
such fatal ruin at Culloden ; the portrait of the beautiful 
Irish girl, twice a Duchess, whom the cunning artist has 
painted with a sunflower that turns from the sun to look at 
her ; Gillespie Grumach himself, as grim and sinister-look- 
ing as in life ; the trumpets to carry the voice from the hall 
door to Dunnaquaich ; the fair beech avenues, planted by 
the old Marquis, now looking with their smooth grey boles, 
and overhanging branches, like the cloisters of an abbey ; 
the vale of Esechasan, to which, on the evening before his 
execution, the Earl wrote such touching verses ; the quaint 
old kitchen-garden ; the ruins of the ancient Castle, where 
worthy Major Dalgetty is said to have passed such uncom- 
fortable moments ; the Celtic cross from lone lona : all 
and everything I showed off with as much pride and pleasure, 
I think, as if they had been my own possessions ; and the 
more so as the Icelander himself evidently sympathised with 
such Scald-like gossip. 

Having thoroughly overrun the woods and lawns of 
Inverary, we had a game of chess, and went to bed pretty 
well tired. 

The next morning, before breakfast, I went off in a boat 
to Ardkinglass to see my little cousins ; and then returning 
about twelve, we got a post-chaise, and crossing the boastful 
Loch Awe in a ferry-boat, reached Oban at nightfall. Here 
I had the satisfaction of finding the schooner already arrived, 
and of being joined by the Doctor, just returned from his 
fruitless expedition to Holyhead. 



Stornaway, Island of Lewis, Hebrides, 
June 9, 1856. 

WE reached these Islands of the West the day before 
yesterday, after a fine run from Oban. 

I had intended taking Staffa and lona on my way, but it 
came on so thick with heavy weather from the south-west, 
that to have landed on either island would have been out of 
the question. So we bore up under Mull at one in the 
morning, tore through the Sound at daylight, rounded 
Ardnamurchan under a double-reefed mainsail at two P.M., 
and shot into the Sound of Skye the same evening, leaving 
the hills of Moidart (one of whose "seven men" was an 
ancestor of your own), and the jaws of the hospitable Loch 
Hourn, reddening in the stormy sunset. 

At Kylakin we were obliged to bring up for the night ; but 
getting under weigh again at daylight, we took a fair wind 
with us along the east coast of Skye, passed Raasa and 
Rona, and so across the Minch to Stornaway. 

Stornaway is a little fishing-town with a beautiful harbour, 
from out of which was sailing, as we entered, a fleet of 
herring-boats, their brown sails gleaming like gold against 
the dark angry water as they fluttered out to sea, unmindful 
of the leaden clouds banked up along the west, and all the 
symptoms of an approaching gale. The next morning it 
was upon us ; but brought up as we were under the lea of 
a high rock, the tempest tore harmlessly over our heads, 
and left us at liberty to make the final preparations for 


Fitz, whose talents for discerning where the vegetables, 
fowls, and pretty ladies of a place were to be found, I had 
already had occasion to admire, went ashore to forage ; while 
I remained on board to superintend the fixing of our sacred 
figure-head executed in bronze by Marochetti and brought 
along with me by rail, still warm from the furnace 

For the performance of this solemnity I luckily possessed 
a functionary equal to the occasion, in the shape of the 
second cook. Originally a guardsman, he had beaten his 
sword into a chisel, and become carpenter ; subsequently 
conceiving a passion for the sea, he turned his attention to 
the mysteries of the kitchen, and now sails with me in the 
alternate exercise of his two last professions. This indi- 
vidual, thus happily combining the chivalry inherent in the 
profession of arms with the skill of the craftsman and the 
refinement of the artist to whose person, moreover, a paper 
cap, white vestments, and the sacrificial knife at his girdle, 
gave something of a sacerdotal character I did not con- 
sider unfit to raise the ship's guardian image to its appointed 
place ; and after two hours' reverential handiwork, I had the 
satisfaction of seeing the well-known lovely face, with its 
golden hair, and smile that might charm all malice from the 
elements, beaming like a happy omen above our bows. 

Shortly afterwards Fitz came alongside, after a most 
successful foray among the fish-wives. He was sitting in 
the stern-sheets, up to his knees in vegetables, with seven 
elderly hens beside him, and a dissipated-looking cock 
under his arm, with regard to whose qualifications its late 
proprietor had volunteered the most satisfactory assurances. 
I am also bound to mention, that protruding from his 
coat- pocket were certain sheets of music, with the name of 
" Alice Louisa," written therein in a remarkably pretty hand, 
which led me to believe that the Doctor had not entirely 
confined his energies to the acquisition of hens and vegeta- 
bles. The rest of the day was spent in packing away our 
newly-purchased stores, and making the ship as tidy as cir- 
cumstances would admit. I am afraid, however, many a 


smart yachtsman would have been scandalized at our decks, 
lumbered up with hen-coops, sacks of coal, and other 
necessaries, which, like the Queen of Spain's legs, not only 
ought never to be seen, but must not be supposed even to 
exist, on board a tip-top craft. 

By the evening, the gale, which had been blowing all day, 
had increased to a perfect hurricane. At nine o'clock we 
let go a second anchor ; and I confess, as we sat comfort- 
ably round the fire in the bright cheerful little cabin, and 
listened to the wind whistling and shrieking through the 
cordage, that none of us were sorry to find ourselves in 
port on such a night, instead of tossing on the wild Atlantic 
though we little knew that even then the destroying 
angel was busy with the fleet of fishing-boats which had 
put to sea so gallantly on the evening of our arrival. By 
morning the neck of the gale was broken, and the sun shone 
brightly on the white rollers as they chased each other to 
the shore ; but a Queen's ship was steaming into the bay, 
with sad news of ruin out to seaward, towing behind her, 
boats, water-logged, or bottom upwards, while a silent 
crowd of women on the quay were waiting to learn on what 
homes among them the bolt had fallen. 

About twelve o'clock the Glasgow packet came in, and a 
few minutes afterwards I had the honour of receiving on 
my quarter-deck a gentleman who seemed a cross between 
the German student and swell commercial gent. On his 
head he wore a queer kind of smoking-cap, with the peak 
cocked over his left ear ; then came a green shooting-jacket, 
and flashy silk tartan waistcoat, set off by a gold chain, hung 
about in innumerable festoons, while light trousers and 
knotty Wellington boots completed his costume, and made 
the wearer look as little like a seaman as need be. It 
appeared, nevertheless, that the individual in question was 
Mr. Ebenezer Wyse, my new sailing-master ; so I accepted 
Captain C.'s strong recommendation as a set-off against the 
silk tartan ; explained to the new comer the position he was 
to occupy on board, and gave orders for sailing in an hour. 


The multitudinous chain, moreover, so lavishly displayed, 
turned out to be an ornament of which Mr. Wyse might well 
be proud ; and the following history of its acquisition recon- 
ciled me more than anything else to my Master's unnautical 

Some time ago there was a great demand in Australia for 
small river steamers, which certain Scotch companies under- 
took to supply. The difficulty, however, was to get such 
fragile tea-kettles across the ocean ; five started one after 
another in murderous succession, and each came to grief 
before it got half-way to the equator ; the sixth alone re- 
mained with which to try a last experiment. Should she 
arrive, her price would more than compensate the pecuniary 
loss already sustained, though it could not bring to life the 
hands sacrificed in the mad speculation ; by this time, how- 
ever, even the proverbial recklessness of the seamen of the 
port was daunted, and the hearts of two crews had already 
failed them at the last moment of starting, when my friend 
of the chain volunteered to take the command. At the 
outset of his voyage everything went well ; a fair wind (her 
machinery was stowed away, and she sailed under canvas) 
carried the little craft in an incredibly short time a thousand 
miles to the southward of the Cape, when one day, as she 
was running before the gale, the man at the wheel startled 
at a sea which he thought was going to poop her let go the 
helm ; the vessel broached to, and tons of water tumbled in 
on the top of the deck. As soon as the confusion of the 
moment had subsided, it became evident that the shock had 
broken some of the iron plates, and that the ship was in a 
fair way of foundering. So frightened were the crew, that, 
after consultation with each other, they determined to take 
to the boats, and all hands came aft, to know whether there 
was anything the skipper would wish to carry off with him. 
Comprehending the madness of attempting to reach land in 
open boats at the distance of a thousand miles from any 
shore, Wyse pretended to go into the cabin to get his com- 
pass, chronometer, etc., but returning immediately with a 


revolver in each hand, swore he would shoot the first man 
who attempted to touch the boats. This timely exhibition 
of spirit saved their lives : soon after the weather moderated ; 
by undergirding the ship with chains, St. Paul fashion, the 
leaks were partially stopped, the steamer reached her desti- 
nation, and was sold for 7,ooo/. a few days after her arrival. 
In token of their gratitude for the good service he had done 
them, the Company presented Mr. Wyse on his return with 
a gold watch, and the chain he wears so gloriously outside 
the silk tartan waistcoat. 

And now, good-bye. I hear the click-click of the chain as 
they heave the anchor ; I am rather tired and exhausted with 
all the worry of the last two months, and shall be heartily 
glad to get to sea, where fresh air will set me up again, I 
hope, in a few days. My next letter will be from Iceland ; 
and, please God, before I see English land again, I hope to 
have many a story to tell you of the islands that are washed 
by the chill waters of the Arctic Sea 



Reykjavik, Iceland, June 21, 1856. 

WE have landed in Thule ! When, in parting, you moaned 
so at the thought of not being able to hear of our safe 
arrival, I knew there would be an opportunity of writing to 
you almost immediately after reaching Iceland ; but I said 
nothing about it at the time, lest something should delay this 
letter, and you be left to imagine all kinds of doleful reasons 
for its non-appearance. We anchored in Reykjavik harbour 
this afternoon (Saturday). H.M.S. " Coquette" sails for 
England on Monday ; so that within a week you will get this. 

For the last ten days we have been leading the life of the 
"Flying Dutchman." Never do I remember to have had 
such a dusting: foul winds, gales, and calms or rather 
breathing spaces, which the gale took occasionally to muster 
up fresh energies for a blow with a heavy head sea, that 
prevented our sailing even when we got aslant. On the 
afternoon of the day we quitted Stornaway, I got a notion 
how it was going to be ; the sun went angrily down behind 
a bank of solid grey cloud, and by the time we were up 
with the Butt of Lewis, the whole sky was in tatters, and the 
mercury nowhere, with a heavy swell from the north-west. 

As, two years before, I had spent a week in trying to beat 
through the Roost of Sumburgh under double-reefed try- 
sails, I was at home in the weather ; and guessing we were 
in for it, sent down the topmasts, stowed the boats on board, 
handed the foresail, rove the ridge-ropes, and reefed all 


down. By midnight it blew a gale, which continued without 
intermission until the day we sighted Iceland ; sometimes 
increasing to a hurricane, but broken now and then by sudden 
lulls, which used to leave us for a couple of hours at a time 
tumbling about on the top of the great Atlantic rollers 01 
Spanish waves, as they are called until I thought the ship 
would roll the masts out of her. Why they should be called 
Spanish waves, no one seems to know ; but I had always 
heard the seas were heavier here than in any other part of 
the world, and certainly they did not belie their character. 
The little ship behaved beautifully, and many a vessel twice 
her size would have been less comfortable. Indeed, few 
people can have any notion of the cosiness of a yacht's 
cabin under such circumstances. After having remained 
for several hours on deck, in the presence of the tempest, 
peering through the darkness at those black liquid walls of 
water, mounting above you in ceaseless agitation, or tum- 
bling over in cataracts of gleaming foam, the wind roaring 
through the rigging, timbers creaking as if the ship would 
break its heart, the spray and rain beating in your face, 
everything around in tumult, suddenly to descend into the 
quiet of a snug, well-lighted little cabin, with the firelight 
dancing on the white rosebud chintz, the well-furnished 
book-shelves, and all the innumerable nick-nacks that deco- 
rate its walls, little Edith's portrait looking so serene, 
everything about you as bright and fresh as a lady's boudoir 
in May Fair, the certainty of being a good three hundred 
miles from any troublesome shore, all combine to inspire 
a feeling of comfort and security difficult to describe. 

These pleasures, indeed, for the first days of our voyage, 
the Icelander had pretty much to himself. I was laid up 
with a severe bout of illness I had long felt coming on, and 
Fitz was sea-sick. I must say, however, I never saw any 
one behave with more pluck and resolution ; and when we 
return, the first thing you do must be to thank him for 
his kindness to me on that occasion. Though himself 
almost prostrate, he looked after me as indefatigably as if 


he had already found his sea legs ; and, sitting down on the 
cabin floor, with a basin on one side of him, and a pestle 
and mortar on the other, used to manufacture my pills, 
between the paroxysms of his malady, with a decorous 
pertinacity that could not be too much admired. 

Strangely enough, too, his state of unhappiness lasted a 
few days longer than the eight-and-forty hours which are 
generally sufficient to set people on their feet again. I 
tried to console him by representing what an occasion it 
was for observing the phenomena of sea-sickness from a 
scientific point of view ; and I must say he set to work most 
conscientiously to discover some remedy. Brandy, prussic 
acid, opium, champagne, ginger, mutton-chops, and tumblers 
of salt-water, were successively exhibited; but, I regret to 
say, after a few minutes, each in turn r^-exhibited itself with 
monotonous punctuality. Indeed, at one time we thought 
he would never get over it ; and the following conversation, 
which I overheard one morning between him and my servant, 
did not brighten his hopes of recovery. 

This person's name is Wilson, and of all men I ever met 
he is the most desponding. Whatever is to be done, he is 
sure to see a lion in the path. Life in his eyes is a perpetual 
filling of leaky buckets, and a rolling of stones up hill. He 
is amazed when the bucket holds water, or the stone perches 
on the summit. He professes but a limited belief in his 
star, and success with him is almost a disappointment. 
His countenance corresponds with the prevailing character 
of his thoughts, always hopelessly chapfallen ; his voice is as 
of the tomb. He brushes my clothes, lays the cloth, opens 
the champagne, with the air of one advancing to his execu- 
tion. I have never seen him smile but once, when he came 
to report to me that a sea had nearly swept his colleague, 
the steward, overboard. The son of a gardener at Chiswick, 
he first took to horticulture ; then emigrated as a settler to 
the Cape, where he acquired his present complexion, which 
is of a grass-green ; and finally served as a steward on board 
an Australian steam-packet. 


Thinking to draw consolation from his professional ex- 
periences, I heard Fitz's voice, now very weak, say in a tone 
of coaxing cheerfulness, 

" Well, Wilson, I suppose this kind of thing does not last 

The Voice, as of the tomb. " I don't know, Sir." 

Fitz. " But you must have often seen passengers sick." 

The Voice. "Often, Sir; very sick." 

Fitz. " Well ; and on an average, how soon did they 
recover ? " 

The Voice. " Some of them didn't recover, Sir." 

Fitz. " Well, but those that did ? " 

The Voice. " I know'd a clergyman and his wife as were 
ill all the voyage ; five months, Sir." 

Fitz. (Quite silent) 

The Voice; now become sepulchral. " They sometimes dies, 

Fitz." Ugh ! " 

Before the end of the voyage, however, this Job's com- 
forter himself fell ill, and the Doctor amply revenged him- 
self by prescribing for him. 

Shortly after this, a very melancholy occurrence took 
place. I had observed for some days past, as we proceeded 
north, and the nights became shorter, that the cock we 
shipped at Stornaway had become quite bewildered on the 
subject of that meteorological phenomenon called the Dawn 
of Day. In fact, I doubt whether he ever slept for more 
than five minutes at a stretch, without waking up in a state 
of nervous agitation, lest it should be cock-crow. At last, 
when night ceased altogether, his constitution could no 
longer stand the shock. He crowed once or twice sarcasti- 
cally, then went melancholy mad : finally, taking a calenture, 
he cackled lowly (probably of green fields), and leaping 
overboard, drowned himself. The mysterious manner in 
which every day a fresh member of his harem used to dis- 
appear, may also have preyed upon his spirits. 

At last, on the morning of the eighth day, we began to 


look out for land. The weather had greatly improved 
during the night ; and, for the first time since leaving the 
Hebrides, the sun had got the better of the clouds, and 
driven them in confusion before his face. The sea, losing 
its dead leaden colour, had become quite crisp and burnished, 
darkling into a deep sapphire blue against the horizon ; 
beyond which, at about nine o'clock, there suddenly shot 
up towards the zenith, a pale, gold aureole, such as precedes 
the appearance of the good fairy at a pantomime farce ; 
then, gradually lifting its huge back above the water, rose a 
silver pyramid of snow, which I knew must be the cone of 
an ice mountain, miles away in the interior of the island. 
From the moment we got hold of the land, our cruise, as 
you may suppose, doubled in interest. Unfortunately, how- 
ever, the fair morning did not keep its promise ; about one 
o'clock, the glittering mountain vanished in mist ; the sky 
again became like an inverted pewter cup, and we had to 
return for two more days to our old practice of threshing 
to windward. So provoked was I at this relapse of the 
weather, that, perceiving a whale blowing convenient, I could 
not help suggesting to Sigurdr, son of Jonas, that it was an 
occasion for observing the traditions of his family ; but he 
excused himself on the plea of their having become obsolete. 
The mountain we had seen in the morning was the south- 
east extremity of the island, the very landfall made by one 
of its first discoverers. 1 This gentleman not having a com- 
pass, (he lived about A.D. 864,) nor knowing exactly where 

1 There is in Strabo an account of a voyage made by a citizen of the 
Greek colony of Marseilles, in the time of Alexander the Great, through 
the Pillars of Hercules, along the coasts of France and Spain, up the 
English Channel, and so across the North Sea, past an island he calls 
Thule ; his further progress, he asserted, was hindered by a barrier of 
a. peculiar nature, neither earth, air, nor sky, but a compound of all 
three, forming a thick viscid substance which it was impossible to 
penetrate. Now, whether this same Thule was one of the Shetland 
Islands, and the impassable substance merely a fog, or Iceland, and 
the barricade beyond, a wall of ice, it is impossible to say. Probably 
Pythias did not get beyond the Shetlands. 



the land lay, took on board with him, at starting, three con- 
secrated ravens as an M.P. would take three well-trained 
pointers to his moor. Having sailed a certain distance, he 
let loose one, which flew back : by this he judged he had 
not got half-way. Proceeding onwards, he loosed the second, 
which, after circling in the air for some minutes in apparent 
uncertainty, also made off home, as though it still remained 
a nice point which were the shorter course toward terra 
firma. But the third, on obtaining his liberty a few days 
later, flew forward, and by following the direction in which 
he had disappeared, Rabna Floki, or Floki of the Ravens, 
as he came to be called, triumphantly made the land. 

The real colonists did not arrive till some years later, for 
I do not much believe a story they tell of Christian relics, 
supposed to have been left by Irish fishermen, found on the 
Westmann islands. A Scandinavian king, named Harold 
Haarfager (a contemporary of our own King Alfred's), having 
murdered, burnt, and otherwise exterminated all his brother 
kings who at that time grew as thick as blackberries in Nor- 
way, first consolidated their dominions into one realm, as 
Edgar did the Heptarchy, and then proceeded to invade the 
Udal rights of the landholders. Some of them, animated 
with that love of liberty innate in the race of the noble 
Northmen, rather than submit to his oppressions, determined 
to look for a new home amid the desolate regions of the icy 
sea. Freighting a dragon-shaped galley the " Mayflower" 
of the period with their wives and children, and all the 
household monuments that were dear to them, they saw the 
blue peaks of their dear Norway hills sink down into the 
sea behind, and manfully set their faces towards the west, 
where some vague report had whispered a new land 
might be found. Arrived in sight of Iceland, the leader of 
the expedition threw the sacred pillars belonging to his 
former dwelling into the water, in order that the gods might 
determine the site of his new home : carried by the tide, 
no one could say in what direction, they were at last dis- 
covered, at the end of three years, in a sheltered bay on 


the west side of the island, and Ingolf l came and abode 
there, and the place became in the course of years Reykjavik, 
the capital of the country. 

Sigurdr having scouted the idea of acting Iphigenia, there 
was nothing for it but steadily to beat over the remaining 
hundred and fifty miles, which still separated us from Cape 
Reikianess. After going for two days hard at it, and sight- 
ing the Westmann islands, we ran plump into a fog, and lay 
to. In a few hours, however, it cleared up into a lovely sunny 
day. with a warm summer breeze just rippling up the water. 
Before us lay the long wished-for Cape, with the Meal-sack, 
a queer stump of basalt, that flops up out of the sea, 
fifteen miles south-west of Cape Reikianess, its flat top 
white with guano, like the mouth of a bag of flour, five 
miles on our port bow ; and seldom have I remembered a 
pleasanter four-and-twenty hours than those spent stealing 
up along the gnarled and crumpled lava flat that forms the 
western coast of Guldbrand Syssel. Such fishing, shooting, 
looking through telescopes, and talking of what was to be 
done on our arrival ! Like Antaeus, Sigurdr seemed twice 
the man he was before, at sight of his native land; and 
the Doctor grew nearly lunatic when after stalking a solent 
goose asleep on the water, the bird flew away at the moment 
the schooner hove within shot. 

The panorama of the bay of Faxa Fiord is magnificent, 
with a width of fifty miles from horn to horn, the one run- 
ning down into a rocky ridge of pumice, the other towering 
to the height of five thousand feet in a pyramid of eternal 
snow, while round the intervening semicircle crowd the 
peaks of a hundred noble mountains. As you approach 
the shore, you are very much reminded of the west coast of 
Scotland, except that everything is more intense the atmo- 
sphere clearer, the light more vivid, the air more bracing, the 
hills steeper, loftier, more tormented, as the French say, and 
more gaunt ; while between their base and the sea stretches 

1 It was in consequence of a domestic feud that Ingolf himself was 
forced to emigrate. 


a dirty greenish slope, patched with houses which them- 
selves, both roof and walls, are of a mouldy green, as if 
some long-since inhabited country had been fished up out 
of the bottom of the sea. 

The effects of light and shadow are the purest I ever saw, 
the contrasts of colour most astonishing, one square front 
of a mountain jutting out in a blaze of gold against the 
flank of another, dyed of the darkest purple, while up 
against the azure sky beyond, rise peaks of glittering snow 
and ice. The snow, however, beyond serving as an orna- 
mental fringe to the distance, plays but a very poor part at 
this season of the year in Iceland. While I write, the 
thermometer is above 70. Last night we remained playing 
at chess on deck till bedtime, without thinking of calling for 
coats, and my people live in their shirt-sleeves, and 
astonishment at the climate. 

And now, good-bye. I cannot tell you how I am enjoy- 
ing myself, body and soul Already I feel much stronger, 
and before I return I trust to have laid in a stock of health 
sufficient to last the family for several generations. 

Remember me to , and tell her she looks too 

lovely ; her face has become of a beautiful bright green 
a complexion which her golden crown sets off to the great- 
est advantage. I wish she could have seen, as we sped 
across, how passionately the waves of the Atlantic flung 
their liquid arms about her neck, and how proudly she 
broke through their embraces, leaving them far behind,, 
moaning and lamenting. 



Reykjavik, June 28, 1856. 

NOTWITHSTANDING that its site, as I mentioned in my last 
letter, was determined by auspices not less divine than those 
of Rome or Athens, Reykjavik is not so fine a city as either, 
though its public buildings may be thought to be in better 
repair. In fact, the town consists of a collection of wooden 
sheds, one story high rising here and there into a gable 
end of greater pretentions built along the lava beach, and 
flanked at either end by a suburb of turf huts. 

On every side of it extends a desolate plain of lava that 
once must have boiled up red-hot from some distant gate- 
way of hell, and fallen hissing into the sea. No tree or 
bush relieves the dreariness of the landscape, and the 
mountains are too distant to serve as a background to the 
buildings ; but before the door of each merchant's house 
facing the sea, there flies a gay little pennon ; and as you 
walk along the silent streets, whose dust no carriage-wheel 
has ever desecrated, the rows of flower-pots that peep out 
of the windows, between curtains of white muslin, at once 
convince you that notwithstanding their unpretending ap- 
pearance, within each dwelling reign the elegance and com- 
fort of a woman-tended home. 

Thanks to Sigurdr's popularity among his countrymen, by 
the second day after our arrival we found ourselves no longer 
in a strange land. With a frank energetic cordiality that 
quite took one by surprise, the gentlemen of the place ac 


once welcomed us to their firesides, and made us feel that 
we could give them no greater pleasure than by claiming 
their hospitality. As, however, it is necessary, if we are to 
reach Jan Mayen and Spitzbergen this summer, that our 
stay in Iceland should not be prolonged above a certain date, 
I determined at once to make preparations for our expedition 
to the Geysirs and the interior of the country. Our plan 
at present, after visiting the hot springs, is to return to 
Reykjavik, and stretch right across the middle of the island 
to the north coast scarcely ever visited by strangers. 
Thence we shall sail straight away to Jan Mayen. 

In pursuance of this arrangement, the first thing to do 
was to buy some horses. Away, accordingly, we went in the 
gig to the little pier leading up to the merchant's house who 
had kindly promised Sigurdr to provide them. Everything 
in the country that is not made of wood is made of lava. 
The pier was constructed out of huge boulders of lava, the 
shingle is lava, the sea-sand is pounded lava, the mud on the 
roads is lava paste, the foundations of the houses are lava 
blocks, and in dry weather you are blinded with lava 
dust. Immediately upon landing I was presented to a fine, 
burly gentleman, who, I was informed, could let me have a 
steppe-ful of horses if I desired, and a few minutes afterwards 
I picked myself up in the middle of a Latin oration on the 
subject of the weather. Having suddenly lost my nomina- 
tive case, I concluded abruptly with the figure syncope, and 
a bow, to which my interlocutor politely replied "Ita." 
Many of the inhabitants speak English, and one or two 
French, but in default of either of these, your only chance 
is Latin. At first I found great difficulty in brushing up 
anything sufficiently conversational, more especially as il 
was necessary to broaden out the vowels in the high Roman 
fashion; but a little practice soon made me more fluent, and 
I got at last to brandish my " Pergratum est," etc. in the 
face of a new acquaintance, without any misgivings. On 
this occasion I thought it more prudent to let Sigurdr make 
the necessary arrangements for our journey, and in a few 


minutes I had the satisfaction of learning that I had become 
the proprietor of twenty-six horses, as many bridles and 
pack-saddles, and three guides. 

There being no roads in Iceland, all the traffic of the 
country is conducted by means of horses, along the bridle- 
tracks which centuries of travel have worn in the lava plains. 
As but little hay is to be had, the winter is a season of fasting 
for all cattle, and it is not until spring is well advanced, and 
the horses have had time to grow a little fat on the young 
grass, that you can go a journey. I was a good deal taken 
aback when the number of my stud was announced to me ; 
but it appears that what with the photographic apparatus, 
which I am anxious to take, and our tent, it would be im- 
possible to do with fewer animals. The price of each pony 
is very moderate, and I am told I shall have no difficulty in 
disposing of all of them, at the conclusion of our expedition. 

These preliminaries happily concluded, Mr. J invited 

us into his house, where his wife and daughter a sunshiny 
young lady of eighteen were waiting to receive us. As 
Latin here was quite useless, we had to entrust Sigurdr with 
all the pretty things we desired to convey to our entertainers ; 
but it is my firm opinion that that gentleman took a dirty 
advantage of us, and intercepting the choicest flowers of our 
eloquence, appropriated them to the advancement of his own 
interests. However, such expressions of respectful admira- 
tion as he suffered to reach their destination were received 
very graciously, and rewarded with a shower of smiles. 

The next few days were spent in making short expeditions 
in the neighbourhood, in preparing our baggage-train, and 
in paying visits. It would be too long for me to enumerate 
all the marks of kindness and hospitality I received during 
this short period. Suffice it to say, that I had the satisfac- 
tion of making many very interesting acquaintances, of be- 
holding a great number of very pretty faces, and of partaking 
of an innumerable quantity of luncheons. In fact, to break 
bread, or, more correctly speaking, to crack a bottle witli the 
master of the house, is as essential an element of a morning 


call as the making a bow or shaking hands, and to refuse to 
take off your glass would be as great an incivility as to de- 
cline taking off your hat From earliest times, as the 
grand old ballad of the King of Thule tells us, a beaker was 
considered the fittest token a lady could present to her true- 

2)em fterbenb feme SBiiljIe 

(men golbnen 33e$er gab. 

And in one of the most ancient Eddaic songs it is written, 
" Drink, Runes, must thou know, if thou wilt maintain thy 
power over the maiden thou lovest. Thou shalt score them 
on the drinking-horn, on the back of thy hand, and the word 
NAUD " (need necessity) " on thy nail." Moreover, when it 
is remembered that the ladies of the house themselves 
minister on these occasions, it will be easily understood that 
all flinching is out of the question. What is a man to do, 
when a wicked little golden-haired maiden insists on pouring 
him out a bumper, and dumb show is his only means of 
remonstrance ? Why, of course, if death were in the cup, he 
must make her a leg, and drain it to the bottom, as I did. 
In conclusion, I am bound to add that, notwithstanding the 
bacchanalian character prevailing in these visits, I derived 
from them much interesting and useful information ; and I 
have invariably found the gentlemen to whom I have been 
presented persons of education and refinement, combined 
with a happy, healthy, jovial temperament, that invests theii 
conversation with a peculiar charm. 

At this moment people are in a great state of excitement 
jt the expected arrival of H.I.H. Prince Napoleon, and two 
days ago a large full-rigged ship came in laden with coal for 
his use. The day after we left Stornaway, we had seen her 
scudding away before the gale on a due west course, and 
guessed she was bound for Iceland, and running down the 
longitude ; but as we arrived here four days before her, our 
course seems to have been a better one. The only other 
ship here is the French frigate " Artemise" Commodore 


Dumas, by whom I have been treated with the greatest 
kindness and civility. 

On Saturday we went to Vedey, a beautiful little green 
island where the eider ducks breed, and build nests with the 
soft under-down plucked from their own bosoms. After the 
little ones are hatched, and their birthplaces deserted, the 
nests are gathered, cleaned, and stuffed into pillow-cases, for 
pretty ladies in Europe to lay their soft, warm cheeks upon, 
and sleep the sleep of the innocent; while long-legged, 
broad-shouldered Englishmen protrude from between them 
at German inns, like the ham from a sandwich, and cannot 
sleep, however innocent. 

The next day, being Sunday, I read prayers on board, 
and then went for a short time to the cathedral church, 
the only stone building in Reykjavik. It is a moderate- 
sized, unpretending place, capable of holding three or four 
hundred persons, erected in very ancient times, but lately 
restored. The Icelanders are of the Lutheran religion; 
and a Lutheran clergyman, in a black gown, etc., with a ruff 
round his neck, such as our bishops are painted in about 
the time of James the First, was preaching a sermon. It 
was the first time I had heard Icelandic spoken continuously, 
and it struck me as a singularly sweet caressing language, 
although I disliked the particular cadence, amounting almost 
to a chant, with which each sentence ended. 

As in every church where prayers have been offered up 
since the world began, the majority of the congregation 
were women, some few dressed in bonnets, and the rest in 
the national black silk skull-cap, set jauntily on one side of 
the head, with a long black tassel hanging down to the 
shoulder, or else in a quaint mitre of white linen, of which 
a drawing alone could give you an idea ; the remainder of 
an Icelandic lady's costume, when not superseded by Paris 
fashions, consists of a black bodice fastened in front with 
silver clasps, over which is drawn a cloth jacket, ornamented 
with a multitude of silver buttons ; round the neck goes a 
stiff ruff of velvet, figured with silver lace, and a silver belt, 


often beautifully chased, binds the long dark wadmal petti- 
coat round the waist. Sometimes the ornaments are of gold 
instead of silver, and very costly. 

Before dismissing his people, the preacher descended from 
the pulpit, and putting on a splendid cope of crimson velvet 
(in which some bishop had in ages past been murdered), 
turned his back to the congregation, and chanted some 
Latin sentences in good round Roman style. Though still 
retaining in their ceremonies a few vestiges of the old reli- 
gion, though altars, candles, pictures, and crucifixes yet remain 
in many of their churches, the Icelanders are staunch Pro- 
testants, and, by all accounts, the most devout, innocent 
pure-hearted people in the world. Crime, theft, debauchery, 
cruelty, are unknown amongst them; they have neither prison, 
gallows, soldiers, nor police ; and in the manner of the lives 
they lead among their secluded valleys, there is something 
of a patriarchal simplicity, that reminds one of the Old 
World princes, of whom it has been said, that they were 
' upright and perfect, eschewing evil, and in their hearts no 
guile. ;> 

The law with regard to marriage, however, is sufficiently 
peculiar. When, from some unhappy incompatibility 01 
temper, a married couple live so miserably together as to 
render life insupportable, it is competent for them to apply 
to the Danish Governor of the island for a divorce. If, 
after the lapse of three years from the date of the applica- 
tion, both are still of the same mind, and equally eager to 
be free, the divorce is granted, and each is at liberty to marry 

The next day it had been arranged that we were to take 
an experimental trip on our new ponies, under the guidance 
of the learned and jovial Rector of the College. Unfor- 
tunately the weather was dull and rainy, but we were de- 
termined to enioy ourselves in spite of everything, and a 
pleasanter ride I have seldom had. The steed Sigurdr had 
purchased for me was a long-tailed, hog-maned, shaggy, cow- 
houghed creature, thirteen hands high, of a bright yellow 


colour, with admirable action, and sure-footed enough to 
walk downstairs backwards. The Doctor was not less well 
mounted ; in fact, the Icelandic pony is quite a peculiar 
race, much stronger, faster, and better bred than the High- 
land shelty, and descended probably from pure-blooded 
sires that scoured the steppes of Asia, long before Odin 
and his paladins had peopled the valleys of Scandinavia. 

The first few miles of our ride lay across an undulating 
plain of dolorite, to a farm situated at the head of an inlet 
of the sea. At a distance, the farm-steading looked like a 
little oasis of green, amid the grey stony slopes that 
surrounded it, and on a nearer approach not unlike the 
vestiges of a Celtic earthwork, with the tumulus of a hero 
or two in the centre ; but the mounds turned out to be 
nothing more than the grass roofs of the house and offices, 
and the banks and dykes but circumvallations round the 
plot of most carefully cleaned meadow, called the " tun," 
which always surrounds every Icelandic farm. This word 
" tun " is evidently identical with our own Irish " town- 
land" the Cornish "town" and the Scotch "toon" terms 
which, in their local signification, do not mean a congre- 
gation of streets and buildings, but the yard, and spaces 
of grass immediately adjoining a single house ; just as 
in German we have "tzaun" and in the Dutch " tuyn" 
a garden. 

Turning to the right, round the head of a little bay, we 
passed within forty yards of an enormous eagle, seated on a 
crag ; but we had no rifle, and all he did was to rise heavily 
into the air, flap his wings like a barn-door fowl, and plump 
lazily down twenty yards farther off. Soon after, the district 
we traversed became more igneous, wrinkled, cracked, and 
ropy than anything we had yet seen, and another two hours' 
scamper over such a track as till then I would not have 
believed horses could have traversed, even at a foot's pace, 
brought us to the solitary farm-house of Bessestad. Fresh 
from the neat homesteads of England that we had left 
sparkling in the bright spring weather, and sheltered by 


immemorial elms, the scene before us looked inexpressibly 
desolate. In front rose a cluster of weather-beaten wooden 
buildings, and huts like ice-houses, surrounded by a scanty 
plot of grass, reclaimed from the craggy plain of broken 
lava that stretched the home of ravens and foxes on 
either side to the horizon. Beyond, lay alow black breadth 
of moorland, intersected by patches of what was neither 
land nor water, and last, the sullen sea ; while above our 
heads a wind, saturated with the damps of the Atlantic, 
went moaning over the landscape. Yet this was Bessestad, 
the ancient home of Snorro Sturleson ! 

On dismounting from our horses ana entering the house 
things began to look more cheery; a dear old lady, to whom 
we were successively presented by the Rector, received us, 
with the air of a princess, ushered us into her best room, 
made us sit down on the sofa the place of honour and 
assisted by her niece, a pale lily-like maiden, named after 
Jarl Hakon's Thora, proceeded to serve us with hot coffee, 
rusks, and sweetmeats. At first it used to give me a very 
disagreeable feeling to be waited upon by the woman-kind 
of the household, and I was always starting up, and 
attempting to take the dishes out of their hands, to their 
infinite surprise ; but now I have succeeded in learning to 
accept their ministrations with the same unembarrassed 
dignity as my neighbours. In the end, indeed, I have 
rather got to like it, especially when they are as pretty as 
Miss Thora. To add, moreover, to our content, it appeared 
that that young lady spoke a little French ; so that we had 
no longer any need to pay our court by proxy, which man) 
persons besides ourselves have found to be unsatisfactory. 
Our hostess lives quite alone. Her son, whom I have the 
pleasure of knowing, is far away, pursuing a career of 
honour and usefulness at Copenhagen, and it seems quite 
enough for his mother to know that he is holding his head 
high among the princes of literature, and the statesmen of 
Europe, provided only news of his success and advancing 
reputation shall occasionally reach her across the ocean. 


Of the rooms and the interior arrangement of the house, 
I do not know that I have anything particular to tell you ; 
they seemed to me like those of a good old-fashioned farm- 
house, the walls wainscoted with deal, and the doors and 
staircase of the same material. A few prints, a photograph, 
some book-shelves, one or two little pictures, decorated the 
parlour, and a neat iron stove, and massive chests of drawers, 
served to furnish it very completely. But you must not, I 
fear, take the drawing-room of Bessestad as an average spe- 
cimen of the comfort of an Icelandic interieur. The greater 
proportion of the inhabitants of the island live much more 
rudely. The walls of only the more substantial farmsteads 
are wainscoted with deal, or even partially screened with 
drift-wood. In most houses the bare blocks of lava, pointed 
with moss, are left in all their natural ruggedness. Instead 
of wood, the rafters are made of the ribs of whales. The 
same room but too often serves as the dining, sitting, and 
sleeping place for the whole family ; a hole in the roof is 
the only chimney, and a horse's skull the most luxurious 
fautcuil into which it is possible for them to induct a stranger. 
The parquet is that originally laid down by Nature, the 
beds are merely boxes filled with feathers or sea-weed, 
and by all accounts the nightly packing is pretty close, and 
very indiscriminate. 

After drinking several cups of coffee, and consuming at 
least a barrel of rusks, we rose to go, in spite of Miss 
Thora's intimation that a fresh jorum of coffee was being 
brewed. The horses were resaddled ; and with an eloquent 
exchange of bows, curtseys, and kindly smiles, we took 
leave of our courteous entertainers, and sallied forth into 
che wind and rain. It was a regular race home, single file, 
the Rector leading ; but as we sped along in silence, amid 
the unchangeable features of this strange land, I could not 
help thinking of him whose shrewd observing eye must 
have rested, six hundred and fifty years ago, on the selfsame 
crags, and tarns, and distant mountain-tops ; perhaps on the 
very day he rode out in the pride of his wealth, talent, and 


political influence, to meet his murderers at Reikholt And 
mingling with his memory would rise the pale face of Thora, 
not the little lady of the coffee and buscuits we had just 
left, but that other Thora, so tender and true, who turned 
back King (Dial's hell-hounds from the hiding-place of the 
great Jarl of Lade. 

In order that you may understand why the forlorn bar- 
rack we had just left, and its solitary inmates, should have 
set me thinking of the men and women " of a thousand 
summers back," it is necessary I should tell you a little 
about this same Snorro Sturleson, whose memory so 
haunted me. 

Colonized as Iceland had been, not, as is generally the 
case, when a new land is brought into occupation, by the 
poverty-stricken dregs of a redundant population, nor by a 
gang of outcasts and ruffians, expelled from the bosom of a 
society which they contaminated, but by men who in their 
own land had been both rich and noble, with possessions 
to be taxed, and a spirit too haughty to endure taxation, 
already acquainted with whatever of refinement and learning 
the age they lived in was capable of supplying, it is not 
surprising that we should find its inhabitants, even from the 
first infancy of the republic, endowed with an amount of 
intellectual energy hardly to be expected in so secluded a 

Perhaps it was this very seclusion which stimulated into 
almost miraculous exuberance the mental powers already 
innate in the people. Undistracted during several successive 
centuries by the bloody wars, and still more bloody political 
convulsions, which for too long a period rendered the sword 
of the warrior so much more important to European society 
than the pen of the scholar, the Icelandic settlers, devoting 
the long leisure of their winter nights to intellectual occupa- 
tions, became the first of any European nation to create for 
themselves a native literature. Indeed, so much more ac- 
customed did they get to use their heads than their hands, 
than if an Icelander were injured he often avenged himself, 


not by cutting the throat of his antagonist, but by ridiculing 
him in some pasquinade, sometimes, indeed, he did both ; 
and when the King of Denmark maltreats the crew of an 
Icelandic vessel shipwrecked on his coast, their indignant 
countrymen send the barbarous monarch word, that by way 
of reprisal, they intend making as many lampoons on him 
as there are promontories in his dominions. Almost all the 
ancient Scandinavian manuscripts are Icelandic ; the nego 
tiations between the Courts of the North were conducted 
by Icelandic diplomatists ; the earliest topographical survey 
with which we are acquainted was Icelandic; the cosmogony 
of the Odin religion was formulated, and its doctrinal 
traditions and ritual reduced to a system, by Icelandic 
archseologists ; and the first historical composition ever 
written by any European in the vernacular, was the product 
of Icelandic genius. The title of this important work is 
" The Heimskringla" or world-circle^- and its author was 
Snorro Sturleson ! It consists of an account of the reignaof 
the Norwegian kings from mythic times down to about A.D. 
1150, that is to say, a few years before the death of our own 
Henry II. ; but detailed by the old Sagaman with so much 
art and cleverness as almost to combine the dramatic power 
of Macaulay with Clarendon's delicate delineation of cha- 
racter, and the charming loquacity of Mr. Pepys. His 
stirring sea-fights, his tender love-stories, and delightful bits 
of domestic gossip, are really inimitable; you actually live 
with the people he brings upon the stage, as intimately as 
you do with Falstaff, Percy, or Prince Hal; and there is 
something in the bearing of those old heroic figures who 
form his dramatis persona, so grand and noble, that it is im- 
possible to read the story of their earnest stirring lives with- 
out a feeling of almost passionate interest an effect which 
no tale frozen up in the monkish Latin of the Saxon annalists 
has ever produced upon me. 

As for Snorro's own life, it was eventful and tragic enough. 

1 So called because Heimskringla (world-circle) is the first word in 
the opening sentence of the manuscript which catches the eye. 


Unscrupulous, turbulent, greedy of money, he married two 
heiresses the one, however, becoming the colleague, not the 
successor of the other. This arrangement naturally led to 
embarrassment His wealth created envy, his excessive 
haughtiness disgusted his sturdy fellow-countrymen. He 
was suspected of desiring to make the republic an appanage 
of the Norwegian crown, in the hope of himself becoming 
viceroy ; and at last, on a dark September night, of the year 
1241, he was murdered in his house at Reikholt by his 
three sons-in-law. 

The same century which produced the Herodotean work 
of Sturleson also gave birth to a whole body of miscellane- 
ous Icelandic literature, though in Britain and elsewhere 
bookmaking was entirely confined to the monks, and merely 
consisted in the compilation of a series of bald annals 
locked up in bad Latin. It is true, Thomas of Ercildoune 
was a contemporary of Snorro's ; but he is known to us 
more as a magician than as a man of letters; whereas 
histories, memoirs, romances, biographies, poetry, statistics, 
novels, calendars, specimens of almost every kind of com- 
position, are to be found even among the meagre relics 
which have survived the literary decadence that supervened 
on the extinction of the republic. 

It is to these same spirited chroniclers that we are in- 
debted for the preservation of two of the most remarkable 
facts in the history of the world : the colonization of 
Greenland by Europeans in the icth century, and the dis- 
covery of America by the Icelanders at the commencement 
of the nth. 

The story is rather curious. 

Shortly after the arrival of the first settlers in Iceland, a 
mariner of the name of Eric the Red discovers a country 
away to the west, which, in consequence of its fruitful 
appearance, he calls Greenland. In the course of a few 
years the new land has become so thickly inhabited that it 
is necessary to erect the district into an episcopal see ; and 
at last, in 1448, we have a brief of Pope Nicolas "granting 


to his beloved children of Greenland, in consideration of 
their having erected many sacred buildings and a splendid 
cathedral," a new bishop and a fresh supply of priests. 
At the commencement, however, of the next century, this 
colony of Greenland, with its bishops, priests and people, 
its one hundred and ninety townships, its cathedral, its 
churches, its monasteries, suddenly fades into oblivion, like 
the fabric of a dream. The memory of its existence perishes, 
and the allusions made to it in the old Scandinavian Sagas 
gradually come to be considered poetical inventions or 
pious frauds. At last, after a lapse of four hundred years, 
some Danish missionaries set out to convert the Esquimaux; 
and there, far within Davis' Straits, are discovered vestiges 
of the ancient settlement, remains of houses, paths, walls, 
churches, tombstones, and inscriptions. 1 

What could have been the calamity which suddenly 
annihilated this Christian people, it is impossible to 
say; whether they were massacred by some warlike tribe 
of natives, or swept off to the last man by the terrible 
pestilence of 1349, called "The Black Death," or, most 
horrible conjecture of all, beleaguered by vast masses of 
ice setting down from the Polar Sea along the eastern coast 
of Greenland, and thus miserably frozen, we are never 
likely to know so utterly did they perish, so mysterious 
has been their doom. 

On the other hand, certain traditions, with regard to the 

1 On one tombstone there was written in Runic, " Vigdis M. D. 
Hvilir Her; Glwcle Gude Sal Hennar." "Vigdessa rests here; God 
gladden her soul." But the most interesting of these inscriptions is one 
discovered, in 1824, in an island in Baffin's Bay, in latitude 72 55', as it 
shows how boldly these Northmen must have penetrated into regions 
supposed to have been unvisited by man before the voyages of our 
modern navigators : " Erling Sighvatson and Biomo Thordarson, and 
Eindrid Oddson, on Saturday before Ascension-week, raised these 
marks and cleared ground, 1135." This date of Ascension- week 
implies that these three men wintered here, which must lead us to 
imagine that at that time, seven hundred years ago, the climate was 
less inclement than it is now. 



discovery of a vast continent by their forefathers away in 
the south-west, seems never entirely to have died out of the 
memory of the Icelanders ; and in the month of February, 
1477, there arrives at Reykjavik, in a barque belonging 
to the port of Bristol, a certain long-visaged, grey-eyed 
Genoese mariner, who was observed to take an amazing 
interest in hunting up whatever was known on the subject. 
Whether Columbus for it was no less a personage than he 
really learned anything to confirm him in his noble reso- 
lutions, is uncertain ; but we have still extant an historical 
manuscript, written at all events before the year 1395, that 
is to say, one hundred years prior to Columbus' voyage, 
which contains a minute account of how a certain person 
named Lief, while sailing over to Greenland, was driven out 
of his course by contrary winds, until he found himself off 
an extensive and unknown coast, which increased in beauty 
and fertility as he descended south, and how, in consequence 
of the representation Lief made on his return, successive 
expeditions were undertaken in the same direction. On 
two occasions their wives seem to have accompanied the 
adventurers ; of one ship's company the skipper was a lady : 
while two parties even wintered in the new land, built houses, 
and prepared to colonize. For some reason, however, the 
intention was abandoned ; and in process of time these 
early voyages came to be considered as aprocryphal as the 
Phoenician circumnavigation of Africa in the time of 
Pharaoh Necho. 

It is quite uncertain how low a latitude in America the 
Northmen ever reached ; but from the description given of 
the scenery, products, and inhabitants, from the mildness 
of the weather, and from the length of the day on the 
aistof December, it is conjectured they could not have 
descended much farther than Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, 
or, at most, the coast of Massachusetts. 1 

1 There is a certain piece of rock on the Taunton river, in Massa- 
chusetts, called the Deighton Stone, on which are to be seen rude con- 
figurations, for a long time supposed to be a Runic inscription executed 


But to return to more material matters. 

Yesterday no the day before in fact I forget the date 
of the day I don't believe it had one all I know is, I 
have not been in bed since, we dined at the Governor's ; 
though dinner is too modest a term to apply to the enter- 

The invitation was for four o'clock, and at half-past three 
we pulled ashore in the gig ; I, innocent that I was, in a 
well-fitting white waistcoat. 

The Government House, like all the others, is built of 
wood, on the top of a hillock ; the only accession of dignity 
it can boast being a little bit of mangy kitchen-garden that 
hangs down in front to the road, like a soiled apron. There 
was no lock, handle, bell, or knocker to the door, but im- 
mediately on our approach, a servant presented himself, and 
ushered us into the room where Count Trampe was waiting 
to welcome us. After having been presented to his wife, we 
proceeded to shake hands with the other guests, most of 
whom I already knew ; and I was glad to find that, at all 
events in Iceland, people do not consider it necessary to 
pass the ten minutes which precede the announcement of 
dinner, as if they had assembled to assist at the opening 01 
their entertainer's will, instead of his oysters. The company 
consisted of the chief dignitaries of the island, including the 
Bishop, the Chief Justice, etc. etc., some of them in uniform, 
and all with holiday faces. As soon as the door was opened, 
Count Trampe tucked me under his arm two other gentle- 
men did the same to my two companions and we streamed 
into the dining-room. The table was very prettily arranged 
with flowers, plate, and a forest of glasses. Fitzgerald and 
I were placed on either side of our host, the other guests, 
in due order, beyond. On my left sat the Rector, and 
opposite, next to Fitz, the chief physician of the island. 
Then began a series of transactions of which I have no dis- 
tinct recollection ; in fact, the events of the next five hours 

by these Scandinavian voyagers ; but there can be now no longer any 
tloubt of this inscription, such as it is, being of Indian execution. 


recur to me in as great disarray as reappear the vestiges of 
a country that has been disfigured by some deluge. If I 
give you anything like a connected account of what passed, 
you must thank Sigurdr's more solid temperament ; for the 
Doctor looked quite foolish when I asked him tried to feel 
my pulse could not find it and then wrote the following 
prescription, which I believe to be nothing more than an 
invoice of the number of bottles he himself disposed of. 1 

I gather, then, from evidence internal and otherwise 
that the dinner was excellent, and that we were helped in Ben- 
jamite proportions ; but as before the soup was finished I was 
already hard at work hob-nobbing with my two neighbours, 
it is not to be expected I should remember the bill of fare. 

With the peculiar manners used in Scandinavian skoal- 
drinking I was already well acquainted. In the nice con- 
duct of a wine-glass I knew that I excelled, and having an 
hereditary horror of heel-taps, I prepared with a firm heart 
to respond to the friendly provocations of my host. I only 
wish you could have seen how his kind face beamed with 
approval when I chinked my first bumper against his, and 
having emptied it at a draught, turned it towards him bottom 
upwards, with the orthodox twist. Soon, however, things 
began to look more serious even than I had expected. I 
knew well that to refuse a toast, or to half empty your glass, 
was considered churlish. I had come determined to accept 
my host's hospitality as cordially as it was offered. I was 
willing, at a pinch, to payer de ma personne; should he not 
be content with seeing me at his table, I was ready, if need 
were, to remain under it ! but at the rate we were then going 

' Copy of Dr. F.'s prescription 

& vin : claret : iii btls. 

vin : champ : iv btls. 

vin : sherr : \ btl. 

vin : Rheni : ii btls. 

aqua vitae viii gls. 

trigint : poc : aegrot : cap : quotid : 

C. E. F, 
Reik : die Martis, Junii 27. 


it seemed probable this consummation would take place be- 
fore the second course : so, after having exchanged a dozen 
rounds of sherry and champagne with my two neighbours, I 
pretended not to observe that my glass had been refilled ; 
and, like the sea-captain, who, slipping from between his 
two opponents, left them to blaze away at each other the 
long night through, withdrew from the combat. But it 
would not do ; with untasted bumpers, and dejected faces, 
they politely waited until I should give the signal for a re- 
newal of ^w/ilities, as they well deserved to be called. 
Then there came over me a horrid, wicked feeling. What 
if I should endeavour to floor the Governor, and so literally 
turn the tables on him ! It is true I had lived for five-and- 
twenty years without touching wine, but was not I my 
great-grandfather's great-grandson, and an Irish peer to boot ? 
Were there not traditions, too, on the other side of the 
house, of casks of claret brought up into the dining-room, 
the door locked, and the key thrown out of the window ? 
With such antecedents to sustain me, I ought to be able to 
hold my own against the staunchest toper in Iceland ! So, 
with a devil glittering in my left eye, I winked defiance right 
and left, and away we went at it again for another five-and- 
forty minutes. At last their fire slackened : I had partially 
quelled both the Governor and the Rector, and still survived. 
It is true I did not feel comfortable ; but it was in the neigh- 
bourhood of my waistcoat, not my head, I suffered. " I am 
not well, but I will not out," I soliloquized, with Lepidus 1 
" 6? pot TO Trrepov," I would have added, had I dared. 
Still the neck of the banquet was broken Fitzgerald's chair 
was not yet empty, could we hold out perhaps a quarter 
of an hour longer, our reputation was established; guess 
then my horror, when the Icelandic Doctor, shouting his 
favourite dogma, by way of battle cry, "Si trigintis guttis, 
morbum curare velis, erras," gave the signal for an unex- 
pected onslaught, and the twenty guests poured down on 
me in succession. I really thought I should have run away 
1 Antony and Cleopatra. 


from the house ; but the true family blood, I suppose, 
began to show itself, and with a calmness almost frightful, 
I received them one by one. 

After this began the public toasts. 

Although up to this time I had kept a certain portion of 
my wits about me, the subsequent hours of the entertainment 
became henceforth developed in a dreamy mystery. I can 
perfectly recall the look of the sheaf of glasses that stood 
before me, six in number ; I could draw the pattern of each : 
I remember feeling a lazy wonder they should always be full, 
though I did nothing but empty them, and at last solved 
the phenomenon by concluding I had become a kind of 
Danaid, whose punishment, not whose sentence, had been 
reversed : then suddenly I felt as if I were disembodied, a 
distant spectator of my own performances, and of the feast 
at which my person remained seated. The voices of my host, 
of the Rector, of the Chief Justice, became thin and low, as 
though they reached me through a whispering tube; and when 
I rose to speak, it was as to an audience in another sphere, 
and in a language of another state of being : yet, however 
unintelligible to myself, I must have been in some sort under- 
stood, for at the end of each sentence, cheers, faint as the 
roar of waters on a far-off strand, floated towards me ; and 
if I am to believe a report of the proceedings subsequently 
shown us, I must have become polyglot in my cups. Ac- 
cording to that report it seems the Governor threw off (I 
wonder he did not do something else), with the Queen's 
health in French : to which I responded in the same language. 
Then the Rector, in English, proposed my health, under 
the circumstances a cruel mocker}', but to which, ill as I 
was, I responded very gallantly by drinking to the beaux 
yeux of the Countess. Then somebody else drank success 
to Great Britain, and I see it was followed by really a very 
learned discourse by Lord D., in honour of the ancient Ice- 
landers; during which he alluded to their discovery of 
America, and Columbus' visit. Then came a couple of 
speeches in Icelandic, after which the Bishop, in a magnifi- 


cent Latin oration of some twenty minutes, a second time 
proposes my health ; to which, utterly at my wits' end, I had 
the audacity to reply in the same language. As it is fit so 
great an effort of oratory should not perish, I send you some 
of its choicest specimens : 

" Viri illustres," I began, " insolitus ut sum ad publicum 
loquendum, ego propero respondere ad complimentum quod 
recte reverendus prelaticus mihi fecit, in proponendo meam 
salutem : et supplico vos credere quod multum gratificatus 
et flattificatus sum honore tarn distincto. 

" Bibere, viri illustres, res est, quae in omnibus terris, 
' domum venit ad hominum negotia et pectora : ' 1 (i) requirit 
' haustum longum, haustum fortem, et haustum omnes simul :' 
(2) ut canit Poeta, 'unum tactum Naturae totum orben facit 
consanguineum,' (3) et hominis Natura est bibere (4). 

" Viri illustres, alterum est sentimentum equaliter univer- 
sale : terra communis super quam septentrionales et meri- 
dionales, eadem enthusiasma convenire possunt : est necesse 
quod id nominarem ? Ad pulchrum sexum devotio ! 

" Amor regit palatium, castra, lucum : (5) Dubito sub quo 
capite vestram jucundam civitatem numerare debeam. Pala- 
tium ? non Regem ! Castra ? non milites ! lucum ? non ullam 
arborem habetis ! Tamen Cupido vos dominat haud aliter 
quam alios, et virginum Islandarum pulchritude, per omnes 
regiones cognita est. 

" Bibamus salutem earum, et confusionem ad omnes 
bacularios : speramus quod eae carae et benedictae creaturae 

1 As the happiness of these quotations seemed to produce a very 
pleasing effect on my auditors, I subjoin a translation of them for the 
benefit of the unlearned : 

1. "Comes home to men's business and bosoms." Paterfamilias, 

2. "A long pull, a strong pull, and a pull all together." Nelson at 
the Nile. 

3. " One touch of nature makes the whole world kin." Jeremy 

4. Apothegm by the late Lord Mountcoffeehouse. 

5. "Love rules the court, the camp, the grove." Venerable Bed f. 


invenient tot maritos quot velint, quod geminos quottanis 
habeant, et quod earum filise, maternum exemplum sequentes, 
gentem Islandicam perpetuent in ssecula sseculorum." 

The last words mechanically rolled out, in the same " ore 
rotundo" with which the poor old Dean of Christchurch 
used to finish his Gloria, etc. in the Cathedral. 

Then followed more speeches, a great chinking of glasses, 
a Babel of conversation, a kind of dance round the table, 
where we successively gave each alternate hand, as in the 
last figure of the Lancers, a hearty embrace from the 
Governor, and finally, silence, daylight, and fresh air, as 
we stumbled forth into the street. 

Now what was to be done ? To go to bed was impossible. 
It was eleven o'clock by our watches, and as bright as noon. 
Fitz said it was twenty-two o'clock ; but by this time he had 
reached that point of enlargement of the mind, and develop- 
ment of the visual organs, which is expressed by the term 
" seeing double," though he now pretends he was only 
reckoning time in the Venetian manner. We were in the 
position of three fast young men about Reykjavik, deter- 
mined to make a night of it, but without the wherewithal. 
There were neither knockers to steal, nor watchmen to bon- 
net. At last we remembered that the apothecary's wife had 
a conversazione, to which she had kindly invited us ; and 
accordingly, oft" we went to her house. Here we found a 
number of French officers, a piano, and a young lady ; in 
consequence of which the drum soon became a ball. Finally, 
it was proposed we should dance a reel; the second lieutenant 
of the " Artemise" had once seen one when his ship was 
riding out a gale in the Clyde ; the little lady had frequently 
studied a picture of the Highland fling on the outside of a 
copy of Scotch music ; I could dance a jig the set was 
complete, all we wanted was the music. Luckily the lady 
of the house knew the song of " Annie Laurie," played 
fast it made an excellent reel tune. As you may suppose, 
all succeeded admirably ; we nearly died of laughing, and I 
only wish Lord Breadalbane had been by to see. 


At one in the morning, our danseuse retiring to rest, the 
ball necessarily terminated ; but the Governor's dinner still 
forbidding bed, we determined on a sail in the cutter to 
some islands about three-quarters of a mile out to sea ; and 
I do not think I shall ever forget the delicious sensation of 
lying down lazily in the stern-sheets, and listening to the 
rippling of the water against the bows of the boat, as she 
glided away towards them. The dreamy, misty landscape, 
each headland silently sleeping in the unearthly light, 
Snoefell, from whose far-off peaks the midnight sun, though 
lost to us, had never faded, the Plutonic crags that stood 
around, so gaunt and weird, the quaint fresh life I had been 
lately leading, all combined to promise such an existence 
of novelty and excitement in that strange Arctic region on 
the threshold of which we were now pausing, that I could not 
sufficiently congratulate myself on our good fortune. Soon, 
however, the grating of our keel upon the strand disturbed 
my reflections, and by the time I had unaccountably stepped 
up to my knees in the water, I was thoroughly awake, and 
in a condition to explore the island. It seemed to be about 
three-quarters of a mile long, not very broad, and a complete 
rabbit-warren ; in fact, I could not walk a dozen yards with- 
out tripping up in the numerous burrows by which the ground 
was honeycombed : at last, on turning a corner, we suddenly 
came on a dozen rabbits, gravely sitting at the mouths of 
their holes. They were quite white, without ears, and with 
scarlet noses. I made several desperate attempts to catch 
some of these singular animals, but though one or two allowed 
me to come pretty near, just as I thought my prize was secure, 
in some unaccountable manner it made unto itself wings, 
and literally flew away ! Moreover, if my eyesight did not 
share the peculiar development which affected that of the 
Doctor's, I should say that these rabbits flew in pairs. Red- 
nosed, winged rabbits ! I had never heard or read of the 
species ; and I naturally grew enthusiastic in the chase, hon- 
ing to bring home a choice specimen to astonish our English 
naturalists. With some difficulty we managed to catch one 


or two, which had run into their holes instead of flying away. 
They bit and scratched like tiger-cats, and screamed like 
parrots; indeed, on a nearer inspection, I am obliged to 
confess that they assumed the appearance of birds, 1 which 
may perhaps account for their powers of flight. A slight 
confusion still remains in my mind as to the real nature 
of the creatures. 

At about nine o'clock we returned to breakfast ; and the 
rest of the day was spent in taking leave of our friends, and 
organizing the baggage-train, which was to start at midnight, 
under the command of the cook. The cavalcade consisted 
of eighteen horses, but of these only one-half were laden, 
two animals being told off to each burthen, which is shifted 
from the back of the one to that of the other every four hours. 
The pack-saddles were rude, but serviceable articles, with 
hooks on either side, on which a pair of oblong little chests 
were slung ; strips of turf being stuffed beneath to prevent 
the creature's back being galled. Such of cur goods as could 
not be conveniently stowed away in the chests were fitted on 
to the top, in whatever manner their size and weight admitted, 
each pony carrying about 140 Ibs. The photographic ap- 
paratus caused us the greatest trouble, and had to be dis- 
tributed between two beasts. As was to be expected, the 
guides who assisted us packed the nitrate of silver bath upside 
down ; an outrage the nature of which you cannot appreciate. 
At last everything was pretty well arranged, guns, powder, 
shot, tea-kettles, rice, tents, beds, portable soups, etc. all 
stowed away, when the desponding Wilson came to me, 
his chin sweeping the ground, to say that he very much 
feared the cook would die of the ride, that he had never 
been on horseback in his life, that as an experiment he had 
hired a pony that very morning at his own charges, had 
been run away with, but having been caught and brought 
home by an honest Icelander, was now lying down that 
position being the one he found most convenient 

1 The Puffin (Alcaarctica). In Icelandic, Soe-papagoie ; In Scotland. 
Priest ; and in Cornwall, Pof>c. 


As the first day's journey was tvvo-and-thirty miles, and 
would probably necessitate his being twelve or thirteen hours 
in the saddle, I began to be really alarmed for rny poor chef; 
but finding on inquiry that these gloomy prognostics were 
entirely voluntary on the part of Mr. Wilson, that the officer 
in question was full of zeal, and only too anxious to add 
horsemanship to his other accomplishments, I did not inter- 
fere. As for Wilson himself, it is not a marvel if he should 
see things a little askew ; for some unaccountable reason, he 
chose to sleep last night in the open air, on the top of a hen- 
coop, and naturally awoke this morning with a crick in his 
neck, and his face so immovably fixed over his left shoulder, 
that the efforts of all the ship's company have not been able 
to twist it back : with the help of a ta'ckle, however, I think 
we shall eventually brace it square again. 

At two we went to lunch with the Rector. The enter- 
tainment bore a strong family likeness to our last night's 
dinner; but as I wanted afterwards to exhibit my magic 
lantern to his little daughter Raghnilder, and a select party 
of her young friends, we contrived to elude doing full justice 
to it. During the remainder of the evening, like Job's chil- 
dren, we went about feasting from house to house, taking 
leave of friends who could not have been kinder had they 
known us all our lives, and interchanging little gifts and 
souvenirs. With the Governor I have left a print from the 
Princess Royal's drawing of the dead soldier in the Crimea. 
From the Rector of the cathedral church I have received 
some very curious books almost the first printed in the 
island ; I have been very anxious to obtain some specimens 
of ancient Icelandic manuscripts, but the island has long 
since been ransacked of its literary treasures ; and to the 
kindness of the French consul I am indebted for a charming 
little white fox, the drollest and prettiest little beast I ever saw. 

Having dined on board the " Artemise? we adjourned at 
eleven o'clock to the beach to witness the departure of the 
baggage. The ponies were all drawn up in one long file, 
the head of each being tied to the tail of the one immediately 




before him. Additional articles were stowed away here and 
there among the boxes. The last instructions were given 
by Sigurdr to the guides, and everything was declared ready 
for a start. With the air of an equestrian star, descending 
into the arena of Astley's Amphitheatre, the cook then 
stepped forward, made me a superb bow, and was assisted 
into the saddle. My little cabin-boy accompanied him as 

The jovial Wilson rides with us to-morrow. Unless we 
get his head round during the night, he will have to sit facing 
his horse's tail, in order to see before him. 

We do not seem to run any danger of falling short of 
provisions, as by all accounts there are birds enough in the 
interior of the country to feed an lEraelitish emigration. 



Reykjavik, July 7, 1856. 

Ax last I have seen the famous Geysirs, of which every one 
has heard so much ; but I have also seen Thingvalla, of 
which no one has heard anything. The Geysirs are cer- 
tainly wonderful marvels of nature, but more wonderful, 
more marvellous is Thingvalla ; and if the one repay you 
for crossing the Spanish Sea, it would be worth, while to go 
round the world to reach the other. 

Of the boiling fountains I think I can give you a good 
idea, but whether I can contrive to draw for you anything 
like a comprehensible picture of the shape and nature of the 
Almannagja, the Hramagja, and the lava vale, called Thing- 
valla, that lies between them, I am doubtful. Before coming 
to Iceland I had read every account that had been written 
of Thingvalla by any former traveller, and when I saw it, it 
appeared to me a place of which I had never heard ; so I 
suppose I shall come to grief in as melancholy a manner as 
my predecessors, whose ineffectual pages whiten the entrance 
to the valley they have failed to describe. 

Having superintended as I think I mentioned to you in 
my last letter the midnight departure of the cook, guides, 
and luggage, we returned on board for a good night's rest, 
which we all needed. The start was settled for the next 


morning at eleven o'clock, and you may suppose we were 
not sorry to find, on waking, the bright joyous sunshine 
pouring down through the cabin skylight, and illuminating 
the white-robed, well-furnished breakfast-table with more 
than usual splendour. At the appointed hour we rowed 
ashore to where our eight ponies two being assigned to 
each of us, to be ridden alternately were standing ready 
bridled and saddled, at the house of one of our kindest 
friends. Of course, though but just risen from breakfast, 
the inevitable invitation to eat and drink awaited us ; and 
another half-hour was spent in sipping cups of coffee poured 
out for us with much laughter by our hostess and her pretty 
daughter. At last, the necessary libations accomplished, 
we rose to go. Turning round to Fitz, I whispered, how I 
had always understood it was the proper thing in Iceland 
for travellers departing on a journey to kiss the ladies who 
had been good enough to entertain them, little imagining 
he would take me at my word. Guess then my horror, 
when I suddenly saw him, with an intrepidity I envied but 
dared not imitate, first embrace the mamma, by way of pre- 
lude, and then proceed, in the most natural manner possible, 
to make the same tender advances to the daughter. I con- 
fess I remained dumb with consternation ; the room swam 
round before me ; I expected the next minute we should be 
packed neck and crop into the street, and that the young 
lady would have gone off into hysterics. It turned out, how- 
ever, that such was the very last thing she was thinking of 
doing. With a simple frankness that became her more 
than all the boarding-school graces in the world, her eyes 
dancing with mischief and good humour, she met him half 
way, and pouting out two rosy lips, gave him as hearty a 
kiss as it might ever be the good fortune of one of us he- 
creatures to receive. From that moment I determined to 
conform for the future to the customs of the inhabitants. 

Fresh from favours such as these, it was not surprising we 
should start in the highest spirits. With a courtesy peculiar 
to Iceland, Dr. Hjaltelin, the most jovial of doctors, and 




another gentleman, insisted on conveying us the first dozen 
miles of our journey ; and as we clattered away through the 
wooden streets, I think a merrier party never set out from 
Reykjavik. In front scampered the three spare ponies, 
without bridles, saddles, or any sense of moral responsibility, 
flinging up their heels, biting and neighing like mad things ; 

then came Sigurdr, now become our chief, surrounded by 
the rest of the cavalcade ; and finally, at a little distance, 
plunged in profound melancholy, rode Wilson. Never shall 
I forget his appearance. During the night his head had 
come partially straight, but by way of precaution, I suppose, 
he had conceived the idea of burying it down to the chin in 
a huge seal-skin helmet I had given him against the in- 


clemencies of the Polar Sea. As on this occasion the 
thermometer was at 81, and a coiip-de-soleil was the chief 
thing to be feared, a ton of fur round his skull was scarcely 
necessary. Seamen's trousers, a bright scarlet jersey, and 
jack-boots fringed with cat-skin, completed his costume ; 
and as he proceeded along in his usual state of chronic con- 
sternation, with my rifle slung at his back and a couple of 
telescopes over his shoulder, he looked the image of Robin- 
son Crusoe, fresh from having seen the foot-print. 

A couple of hours' ride across the lava plain we had 
previously traversed brought us to a river, where our Reyk- 
javik friends, after showing us a salmon weir, finally took 
their leave, with many kind wishes for our prosperity. On 
looking through the clear water that hissed and bubbled 
through the wooden sluice, the Doctor had caught sight of 
an apparently dead salmon, jammed up against its wooden 
bars ; but on pulling him out, he proved to be still breath- 
ing, though his tail was immovably twisted into his mouth. 
A consultation taking place, the Doctors both agreed that 
it was a case of pleurosthotonos, brought on by mechanical 
injury to the spine (we had just been talking of Palmer's 
trial), and that he was perfectly fit for food. In accordance 
with this verdict, he was knocked on the head, and slung at 
Wilson's saddle-bow. Left to ourselves, we now pushed on 
as rapidly as we could, though the track across the lava was 
so uneven, that every moment I expected Snorro (for thus 
have I christened my pony) would be on his nose. In 
another hour we were among the hills. The scenery of this 
part of the journey was not very beautiful, the mountains 
not being remarkable either for their size or shape; but 
here and there we came upon pretty bits, not unlike some 
of the barren parts of Scotland, with quiet blue lakes sleep- 
ing in the solitude. 

After wandering along for some time In a broad open 
valley, that gradually narrowed to a glen, we reached a 
grassy patch. As it was past three o'clock, Sigurdr pro- 
yosed a halt. 


Unbridling and unsaddling our steeds, we turned them 
loose upon the pasture, and sat ourselves down on a sunny 
knoll to lunch. For the first time since landing in Iceland 
I felt hungry ; as, for the first time, four successive hours had 
elapsed without our having been compelled to take a snack. 
The appetites of the ponies seemed equally good, though 
probably with them hunger was no such novelty. Wilson 
alone looked sad. He confided to me privately that he 
feared his trousers would not last such jolting many days ; 
but his dolefulness, like a bit of minor in a sparkling melody, 
only made our jollity more radiant. In about half an hour 
Sigurdr gave the signal for a start; and having caught, 
saddled, and bridled three unridden ponies, we drove Snorro 
and his companions to the front, and proceeded on our way 
rejoicing. After an hour's gradual ascent through a pic- 
turesque ravine, we emerged upon an immense desolate 
plateau of lava, that stretched away for miles and miles like a 
great stony sea. A more barren desert you cannot conceive. 
Innumerable boulders, relics of the glacial period, encum- 
bered the track. We could only go at a foot-pace. Not a 
blade of grass, not a strip of green, enlivened the prospect, 
and the only sound we heard was the croak of the curlew and 
the wail of the plover. Hour after hour we plodded on, but 
the grey waste seemed interminable, boundless ; and the only 
consolation Sigurdr would vouchsafe was, that our journey's 
end lay on this side of some purple mountains that peeped 
like the tents of a demon leaguer above the stony horizon. 

As it was already eight o'clock, and we had been told the 
entire distance from Reykjavik to Thingvalla was only five- 
and-thirty miles, I could not comprehend how so great a 
space should still separate us from our destination. Con- 
cluding more time had been lost in shooting, lunching, etc., 
by the way than we had supposed, I put my pony into a 
canter, and determined to make short work of the dozen miles 
which seemed still to lie between us and the hills, on this 
side of which I understood from Sigurdr our encampment 
for the night was to be pitched. 



Judge then of my astonishment when, a few minutes after- 
wards, I was arrested in full career by a tremendous precipice, 
or rather chasm, which suddenly gaped beneath my feet, and 
completely separated the barren plateau we had been so pain- 
fully traversing from a lovely, gay, sunlit flat, ten miles broad, 
that lay sunk at a level lower by a hundred feet between 
us and the opposite mountains. I was never so completely 
taken by surprise ; Sigurdr's purposely vague description of 
our halting-place was accounted for. 

We had reached the famous Almanna Gja. Like a black 
rampart in the distance, the corresponding chasm of the 
Hrafna Gja cut across the lower slope of the distant hills, 
md between them now slept in beauty and sunshine the 
broad verdant 1 plain of Thingvalla. 

Ages ago, who shall say how long ? some vast commo- 
tion shook the foundations of the island, and bubbling up 
from sources far away amid the inland hills, a fiery deluge 
must have rushed down between their ridges, until, escaping 
from the narrower gorges, it found space to spread itself into 
one broad sheet of molten stone over an entire district of coun- 
try, reducing its varied surface to one vast blackened level. 

One of two things then occurred : either the vitrified mass 
contracting as it cooled, the centre area of fifty square miles 
burst asunder at either side from the adjoining plateau, and 
sinking down to its present level, left the two parallel Gjas, 
or chasms, which form its lateral boundaries, to mark the 
limits of the disruption ; or else, while the pith or marrow of 
the lava was still in a fluid state, its upper surface became 
solid, and formed a roof beneath which the molten stream 
flowed on to lower levels, leaving a vast cavern into which 
the upper crust subsequently plumped down. 2 

1 The plain of Thingvalla is in a great measure clothed with birch 

2 I feel it is very presumptuous in me to hazard a conjecture on a 
subject with which my want of geological knowledge renders me 
quite incompetent to deal ; but however incorrect either of the above 
suppositions may be justly considered by the philosophers, they will 



The enclosed section will perhaps help you a little to 
comprehend what I am afraid my description will have failed 
to bring before you. 

I Gjas. 2 Lava deluge. 

4 Thingvalla sunk to a lower level. 

3 Original surface. 
5 Astonished traveller. 

i. Are the two chasms called respectively Almanna Gja, 1 
or Main Gja, and Hrafna Gja, or Raven's Gja. In the act 
of disruption the sinking mass fell in, as it were, upon itself, 
so that one side of the Gja slopes a good deal back as it 
ascends ; the other side is perfectly perpendicular, and at 
the spot I saw it upwards of one hundred feet high. In the 
lapse of years the bottom of the Almanna Gja has become 
gradually filled up to an even surface, covered with the most 
beautiful turf, except where a river, leaping from the higher 
plateau over the precipice, has chosen it for a bed. You 
must not suppose, however, that the disruption and land-slip 
of Thingvalla took place quite in the spick and span manner 
the section might lead you to imagine ; in some places the 
rock has split asunder very unevenly, and the Hrafna Gja is 
altogether a very untidy rent,. the sides having fallen in in 
many places, and almost filled up the ravine with ruins. On 

perhaps serve to convey to the unlearned reader, for whose amusement 
(not instruction) these letters are intended, the impression conveyed to 
my mind by what I saw, and so help out the picture I am trying to fill 
in for him. 

1 Almanna may be translated main ; it means literally all men's ; 
when applied to a road, it would mean the road along which all the 
tvorld travel. 




the other hand, in the Almanna Gja, you can easily distinguish 
on the one face marks and formations exactly corresponding, 
though at a different level, with those on the face opposite, so 
cleanly were they separated. 

i/sir < 

I Plain of Thingvalla. 
3 Lava plateau. 

5 Rabna Gja. 

2 Lake. 

4 Almanna Gja. 

2. Is the sea of lava now lying on the top of the original 
surface. Its depth I had no means of ascertaining. 

3. Is the level of the surface first formed when the lava 
was still hot. 

4. Is the plain of Thingvalla, eight miles broad, its surface 
shattered into a network of innumerable crevices and fissures 
fifty or sixty feet deep, and each wide enough to have swal- 
lowed the entire company of Korah. At the foot of the plain 
lies a vast lake, into which, indeed, it may be said to slope, 
with a gradual inclination from the north, the imprisoned 
waters having burst up through the lava strata, as it subsided 
beneath them. Gazing down through their emerald depths, 


you can still follow the pattern traced on the surface of the 
bottom, by cracks and chasms similar to those into which 
the dry portion of Thingvalla has been shivered. 

The accompanying ground plan will, I trust, complete what 
is wanting to fill up the picture I so long to conjure up 
before the mind's eye. It is the last card I have to play, 
and, if unsuccessful, I must give up the task in despair. 

But to return to where I left myself, on the edge of the 
cliff, gazing down with astonished eyes over the panorama 
of land and water embedded at my feet. I could scarcely 
speak for pleasure and surprise; Fitz was equally taken aback, 
and as for Wilson, he looked as if he thought we had arrived 
at the end of the world. After having allowed us sufficient 
time to admire the prospect Sigurdr turned to the left, along 
the edge of the precipice, until we reached a narrow pathway 
accidentally formed down a longitudinal niche in the splin- 
tered face of the cliff, which led across the bottom, and up 
the opposite side of the Gja, into the plain of Thingvalla. 
By rights our tents ought to have arrived before us, but when 
we reached the little glebe where we expected to find them 
pitched, no signs of servants, guides, or horses were to be seen. 

As we had not overtaken them ourselves, their non-appear- 
ance was inexplicable. Wilson suggested that, the cook 
having died on the road, the rest of the party must have 
turned aside to bury him ; and that we had passed unper- 
ceived during the interesting ceremony. Be the cause what 
it might, the result was not agreeable. We were very tired, 
very hungry, and it had just begun to rain. 

It is true there was a clergyman's house and a church, 
both built of stones covered with turf sods, close by ; at the 
one, perhaps, we could get milk, and in the other we could 
sleep, as our betters including Madame Pfeiffer had done 
before us ; but its inside looked so dark, and damp, and cold, 
and charnel-like, that one really doubted whether lying in the 
churchyard would not be snugger. You may guess, then, 
how great was my relief when our belated baggage-train was 
descried against the sky-line, as it slowly wended its way 


along the purple edge of the precipice towards the staircase 
by which we had already descended. 

Half an hour afterwards the little plot of grass selected for 
the site of our encampment was covered over with poles, 
boxes, cauldrons, tea-kettles, and all the paraphernalia of a 
gipsy settlement. Wilson's Kaffir experience came at once 
into play, and under his solemn but effective superintendence, 
in less than twenty minutes the horn-headed tent rose, dry 
and taut, upon the sward. Having carpeted the floor with 
oil-skin rugs, and arranged our three beds with their clean 
crisp sheets, blankets, and coverlets complete, at the back, 
he proceeded to lay out the dinner-table at the tent door 
with as much decorum as if we were expecting the Arch- 
bishop of Canterbury. All this time the cook, who looked 
a little pale, and moved, I observed with difficulty, was mys- 
teriously closeted with a spirit-lamp inside a diminutive tent 
of his own, through the door of which the most delicious 
whiffs occasionally permeated. Olaf and his comrades had 
driven off the horses to their pastures ; and Sigurdr and I 
were deep in a game of chess. Luckily, the shower, which 
threatened us a moment, had blown over. Though now 
almost nine o'clock P.M., it was as bright as mid-day ; the 
sky burned like a dome of gold, and silence and deep peace 
brooded over the fair grass-robed plain, that once had been 
so fearfully convulsed. 

You may be quite sure our dinner went off merrily \ the 
tetanus-afflicted salmon proved excellent, the plover and 
ptarmigan were done to a turn, the mulligatawny beyond all 
praise ; but, alas ! I regret to add, that he the artist, by 
whose skill these triumphs had been achieved his task ac- 
complished, no longer sustained by the factitious energy 
resulting from his professional enthusiasm, at last suc- 
cumbed, and, retiring to the recesses of his tent, like Psyche 
in the " Princess," lay down, "and neither spoke nor stirred." 

After another game or two of chess, a pleasant chat, a 
gentle stroll, we also turned in ; and for the next eight hours 
perfect silence reigned throughout our little encampment. 


except when Wilson's sob-like snores shook to their founda- 
tion the canvas walls that sheltered him. 

When I awoke I do not know at what hour, for from this 
time we kept no account of day or night the white sunlight 
was streaming into the tent, and the whole landscape was 
gleaming and glowing in the beauty of one of the hottest 
summer-days I ever remember. We breakfasted in our 
shirt-sleeves, and I was forced to wrap my head in a white 
handkerchief for fear of the sun. As we were all a little stiff 
after our ride, I could not resist the temptation of spending 
the day where we were, and examining more leisurely the 
wonderful features of the neighbourhood. Independently 
of its natural curiosities, Thingvalla was most interesting 
to me on account of the historical associations connected 
with it. Here, long ago, at a period when feudal despotism 
was the only government known throughout Europe, free 
parliaments used to sit in peace, and regulate the affairs of 
the young Republic ; and to this hour the precincts of its 
Commons House of Parliament are as distinct and unchanged 
as on the day when the high-hearted fathers of the emigration 
first consecrated them to the service of a free nation. By a 
freak of nature, as the subsiding plain cracked and shivered 
into twenty thousand fissures, an irregular oval area, of about 
two hundred feet by fifty, was left almost entirely surrounded 
by a crevice so deep and broad as to be utterly impassable; 
at one extremity alone a scanty causeway connected it with 
the adjoining level, and allowed of access to its interior. 
It is true, just at one point the encircling chasm grows so 
narrow as to be within the possibility of a jump ; and an 
ancient worthy, named Flosi, pursued by his enemies, did 
actually take it at a fly ; but as leaping an inch short would 
have entailed certain drowning in the bright green waters 
that sleep forty feet below, you can conceive there was nevei 
much danger of this entrance becoming a thoroughfare. I 
confess that for one moment, while contemplating the scene 
of Flosi's exploit, I felt, like a true Briton, an idiotic desire 
to be able to say that I had done the same ; that I sur- 



vive to write this letter is a proof of my having come subse- 
quently to my senses. 

A. The Althing. 

C. The place where Flosi jumped. 

B. The Hill of Laws. 
D. Adjacent Chasms. 

This spot then, erected by nature almost into a fortress, 
the founders of the Icelandic constitution chose for the 
meetings of their Thing, 1 or Parliament, armed guards 
defended the entrance, while the grave bonders deliberated 
in security within : to this day, at the upper end of the 
place of meeting, may be seen the three hammocks, where 
sat in state the chiefs and judges of the land. 

But those grand old times have long since passed away. 
Along the banks of the Oxeraa no longer glisten the tents and 
booths of the assembled lieges ; no longer stalwart berserks 
guard the narrow entrance to the Althing; ravens alone 
sit on the sacred Logberg ; and the floor of the old Icelandic 

1 From thing, to speak. We have a vestige of the same word i n 
Dingwall, a town of Ross-shire. 

VII.] A DEBATE, A.D. 1000. 61 

House of Commons is ignominiously cropped by the sheep 
-of the parson. For three hundred years did the gallant 
little Republic maintain its independence three hundred 
years of unequalled literary and political vigour. At last its 
day of doom drew near. Like the Scotch nobles in the 
time of Elizabeth, their own chieftains intrigued against the 
liberties of the Icelandic people; and in 1261 the island 
became an appanage of the Norwegian crown. Yet even 
then the deed embodying the concession of their indepen- 
dence was drawn up in such haughty terms as to resemble 
rather the offer of an equal alliance than the renunciation of 
imperial rights. Soon, however, the apathy which invariably 
benumbs the faculties of a people too entirely relieved 
from the discipline and obligation of self-government, 
lapped in complete inactivity, moral, political, and intellec- 
tual, these once stirring islanders. On the amalgamation 
of the three Scandinavian monarchies, at the union of 
Calmar, the allegiance of the people of Iceland was 
passively transferred to the Danish crown. Ever since that 
time, Danish proconsuls have administered their govern- 
ment, and Danish restrictions have regulated their trade. 
The traditions of their ancient autonomy have become as 
unsubstantial and obsolete* as those which record the 
vanished fame of their poets and historians, and the exploits 
of their mariners. It is true, the adoption of the Lutheran 
religion galvanized for a moment into the semblance of 
activity the old literary spirit. A printing-press was intro- 
duced as early as 1530, and ever since the sixteenth century 
many works of merit have been produced from time to 
time by Icelandic genius. Shakespeare, Milton, and Pope 
have been translated into the native tongue ; one of the 
best printed newspapers I have ever seen is now published 
at Reykjavik ; and the Colleges of Copenhagen are adorned 
by many an illustrious Icelandic scholar ; but the glory of 
the old days is departed, and it is across a wide desolate 
flat of ignoble annals, as dull and arid as their own lava 
plains, that the student has to look back upon the glorious 


drama of Iceland's early history. As I gazed around on 
the silent, deserted plain, and paced to and fro along the 
untrodden grass that now clothed the Althing, I could 
scarcely believe it had ever been the battle-field where such 
keen and energetic wits encountered, that the fire-scathed 
rocks I saw before me were the very same that had once 
inspired one of the most successful rhetorical appeals evei 
hazarded in a public assembly. 

As an account of the debate to which I allude has been 
carefully preserved, I may as well give you an abstract of it. 
A more characteristic leaf out of the Parliamentary Annals 
of Iceland you could scarcely have. 

In the summer of the year 1000, when Ethelred the 
Unready ruled in England, and fourteen years after Hugh 
Capet had succeeded the last Carlovingian on the throne of 
France, the Icelandic legislature was convened for the 
consideration of a very important subject no less important, 
indeed, than an inquiry into the merits of a new religion 
lately brought into the country by certain emissaries of Olaf 
Tryggveson, the first Christian king of Norway, and the 
same who pulled down London bridge. 

The assembly met. The Norse missionaries were called 
upon to enunciate to the House the tenets of the faith they 
were commissioned to disclose ; and the debate began. 
Great and fierce was the difference of opinion. The good 
old Tory party, supported by all the authority of the Odin 
establishment, were violent in opposition. The Whigs advo- 
cated the new arrangement, and, as the king supported their 
own views, insisted strongly on the Divine right. Several 
liberal members permitted themselves to speak sarcastically 
of the Valhalla tap, and the ankles of Freya. The discussion 
was at its height, when suddenly a fearful peal of subterranean 
thunder roared around the Althing. " Listen ! " cried an 
orator of the Pagan party ; " how angry is Odin that we 
should even consider the subject of a new religion. His 
fires will consume us." To which a ready debater on the 
other side replied, by " begging leave to ask the honourable 


gentleman, with whom were the gods angry when these 
rocks were melted?" pointing to the devastated plain 
around him. Taking advantage of so good a hit, the 
Treasury " whips " immediately called for a division ; and 
the Christian religion was adopted by a large majority. 

The first Christian missionaries who came to Iceland seem 
to have had a rather peculiar manner of enforcing the truths 
of the Gospel. Their leader was a person of the name of 
Thangbrand. Like the Protestant clergymen Queen Eliza- 
beth despatched to convert Ireland, he was bundled over to 
Iceland principally because he was too disreputable to be 
allowed to live in Norway. The old Chronicler gives a very 
quaint description of him. " Thangbrand/' he says, " was 
a passionate, ungovernable person, and a great man-slayer; 
but a good scholar, and clever. Thorvald, and Veterlid the 
Scald, composed a lampoon against him; but he killed them 
both outright. Thangbrand was two years in Iceland, and 
was the death of three men before he left it." 

From the Althing we strolled over to the Almanna Gja, 
visiting the Pool of Execution on our way. As I have already 
mentioned, a river from the plateau above leaps over the 
precipice into the bottom of the Gja, and flows for a certain 
distance between its walls. At the foot of the fall the waters 
linger for a moment in a dark, deep, brimming pool, hemmed 
in by a circle of ruined rocks ; to this pool, in ancient times, 
all women convicted of capital crimes were immediately 
taken, and drowned. Witchcraft seems to have been the 
principal weakness of ladies in those days, throughout the 
Scandinavian countries. For a long period no disgrace was 
attached to its profession. Odin himself, we are expressly 
told, was a great adept, and always found himself very much 
exhausted at the end of his performance ; which leads me to 
think that perhaps he dabbled in electro-biology. At last 
the advent of Christianity threw discredit on the practice ; 
severe punishments were denounced against all who indulged 
in it ; and, in the end, its mysteries became the monopoly of 
the Laplanders. 


All criminals, men and women, were tried by juries ; and 
that the accused had the power of challenging the jurymen 
empannelled to try them, appears from the following extract 
from the Book of Laws : " The judges shall go out on 
Washday, i.e., Saturday, and continue out for challenges, 
until the sun comes on Thingvalla on the Lord's-day." And 
again, " The power of challenging shall cease as soon as the 
sun can no longer be seen above the western brink of the 
chasm, from the Logberg." 

Turning aside from what, I dare say, was the scene of 
many an unrecorded tragedy, we descended the gorge of the 
Almanna Gja, towards the lake ; and I took advantage of the 
opportunity again to examine its marvellous construction. 
The perpendicular walls of rock rose on either hand from 
the flat greensward that carpeted its bottom, pretty much as 
the waters of the Red Sea must have risen on each side of 
the fugitive Israelites. A blaze of light smote the face of 
one cliff, while the other lay in the deepest shadow ; and on 
the rugged surface of each might still be traced correspond- 
ing articulations, that once had dovetailed into each other, 
ere the igneous mass was rent asunder. So unchanged, so 
recent seemed the vestiges of this convulsion, that I felt as 
if I had been admitted to witness one of nature's grandest 
and most violent operations, almost in the very act of its 
execution. A walk of about twenty minutes brought us to 
the borders of the lake a glorious expanse of water, fifteen 
miles long, by eight miles broad, occupying a basin formed 
by the same hills, which must also, I imagine, have arrested 
the further progress of the lava torrent. A lovelier scene I 
have seldom witnessed. In the foreground lay huge masses 
of rock and lava, tossed about like the ruins of a world, and 
washed by waters as bright and green as polished malachite. 
Beyond, a bevy of distant mountains, robed by the trans- 
parent atmosphere in tints unknown to Europe, peeped over 
each other's shoulders into the silver mirror at their feet, while 
here and there from among their purple ridges columns of 
white vapour rose like altar smoke toward the tranquil heaven. 


On returning home we found dinner waiting for us. I 
had invited the clergyman, and a German gentleman who 
was lodging with him, to give us the pleasure of their com- 
pany ; and in ten minutes we had all become the best of 
friends. It is true the conversation was carried on in rather 
a wild jargon, made up of six different languages Icelandic, 
English, German, Latin, Danish, French but in spite of the 
difficulty with which he expressed himself, it was impossible 
not to be struck with the simple earnest character of my 
German convive. He was about five-and-twenty, a " doctor 
philosophies" and had come to Iceland to catch gnats. After 
having caught gnats in Iceland, he intended, he said, to 
spend some years in catching gnats in Spain the privacy ot 
Spanish gnats, as it appears, not having been hitherto in- 
vaded. The truth is, my guest was an entomologist, and in 
the pursuit of the objects of his study was evidently pre- 
pared to approach hardships and danger with a serenity 
that would not have been unworthy of the apostle of a new 
religion. It was almost touching to hear him describe the 
intensity of his joy when perhaps days and nights of fruitless 
labours were at last rewarded by the discovery of some 
hitherto unknown little fly ; and it was with my whole heart 
that, at parting, I wished him success in his career, and the 
fame that so much conscientious labour merited. From my 
allusion to this last reward, however, he seemed almost to 
shrink, and, with a sincerity it was impossible to doubt, dis- 
claimed as ignoble so poor a motive as a thirst for fame. 
His was one of those calm laborious minds, seldom found 
but among the Teutonic race, that pursuing day by day 
with single-minded energy some special object live in a 
noble obscurity, and die at last content with the conscious- 
ness of having added one other stone to that tower of know- 
ledge men are building up toward heaven, even though the 
world should never learn what strong and patient hands 
have placed it there 

The next morning we started for the Geysirs : this time 
Dividing the baggage-train, and sending on the cook in light 



marching order, with the materials for dinner. The weathei 
still remained unclouded, and each mile we advanced dis- 
closed some new wonder in the unearthly landscape. A 
three hours' ride brought us to the Rabna Gja, the eastern 
boundary of Thingvalla, and, winding up its rugged face, 
we took our last look over the lovely plain beneath us, and 
then manfully set forward across the same kind of arid lava 
plateau as that which we had already traversed before 
arriving at the Almanna Gja. But instead of the boundless 
immensity which had then so much disheartened us, the 
present prospect was terminated by a range of quaint parti- 
coloured hills, which rose before us in such fantastic shapes 
that I could not take my eyes off them. I do not know 
whether it was the strong coffee or the invigorating air that 
stimulated my imagination ; but I certainly felt convinced 
I was coming to some mystical spot out of space, out of 
time where I should suddenly light upon a green-scaled 
griffin, or golden-haired princess, or other bonne fortune of 
the olden days. Certainly a more appropriate scene for such 
an encounter could not be conceived, than that which dis- 
played itself, when we wheeled at last round the flank oi 
the scorched ridge we had been approaching. A perfectly 
smooth grassy plain, about a league square, and shaped like 
a horse-shoe, opened before us, encompassed by bare cinder- 
like hills, that rose round red, black, and yellow in a 
hundred uncouth peaks of ash and slag. Not a vestige of 
vegetation relieved the aridity of their vitrified sides, while 
the verdant carpet at their feet only made the fire-moulded 
circle seem more weird and impassable. Had I had a 
trumpet and a lance, I should have blown a blast of defiance 
on the one, and having shaken the other toward the foui 
corners of the world, would have calmly waited to see what 
next might betide. Three arrows shot bravely forward would 
have probably resulted in the discovery of a trap-door with 
an iron ring ; but having neither trumpet, lance, nor arrow, 
we simply alighted and lunched : yet even then I could not 
help thinking how lucky it was that, not eating dates, we 


could not inadvertently fling their stones into the eye of any 
inquisitive genie who might be in the neighbourhood. 

After the usual hour's rest and change of horses, we galloped 
away to the other side of the plain, and, doubling the further 
horn of the semicircle, suddenly found ourselves in a district 
as unlike the cinder mountains we had quitted as they had 
differed from the volcanic scenery of the day before. On 
the left lay a long rampart of green hills, opening up every 
now and then into Scottish glens and gorges, while from 
their roots to the horizon stretched a vast breadth of meadow- 
land, watered by two or three rivers, that wound, and twisted, 
and coiled about, like blue serpents. Here and there, white 
volumes of vapour, that rose in endless wreaths from the 
ground, told of mighty cauldrons at work beneath that moist 
cool verdant carpet ; while large silvery lakes, and flat-topped 
isolated hills, relieved the monotony of the level land, and 
carried on the eye to where the three snowy peaks of Mount 
Hecla shone cold and clear against the sky. 

Of course it was rather tantalizing to pass so near this 
famous burning mountain without having an opportunity of 
ascending it ; but the expedition would have taken up too 
much time. In appearance Hecla differs very little from the 
innumerable other volcanic hills with which the island is 
studded. Its cone consists of a pyramid of stone and scoriae, 
rising to the height of about five thousand feet, and welded 
together by bands of molten matter which have issued from 
its sides. From A.D. 1004 to 1766 there have been twenty- 
three eruptions, occurring at intervals which have varied in 
duration from six to seventy-six years. The one of 1766 
was remarkably violent. It commenced on the 5th of April 
by the appearance of a huge pillar of black sand mounting 
slowly into the heavens, accompanied by subterranean thun- 
ders, and all the other symptoms which precede volcanic dis- 
turbances. Then a coronet of flame encircled the crater; 
masses of red rock, pumice, and magnetic stones were flung 
out with tremendous violence to an incredible distance, and 
in such continuous multitudes as to resemble a swarm of 


bees clustering over the mountain. One boulder of pumice 
six feet in circumference was pitched twenty miles away ; 
another of magnetic iron fell at a distance of fifteen. The 
surface of the earth was covered, for a circuit of one hundred 
and fifty miles, with a layer of sand four inches deep ; the 
air was so darkened by it, that at a place one hundred and 
forty miles off, white paper held up at a little distance could 
not be distinguished from black. The fishermen could not 
put to sea on account of the darkness, and the inhabitants 
of the Orkney islands were frightened out of their senses by 
showers of what they thought must be black snow. On the 
9th of April, the lava began to overflow, and ran for five 
miles in a south-westerly direction, whilst, some days later, 
in order that no element might be wanting to mingle in this 
devil's charivari, a vast column of water, like Robin Hood's 
second arrow, split up through the cinder pillar to the height 
of several hundred feet ; the horror of the spectacle being 
further enhanced by an accompaniment of subterranean can- 
nonading and dire reports, heard at a distance of fifty miles. 

Striking as all this must have been, it sinks into compara- 
tive tameness and insignificance, beside the infinitely more 
terrible phenomena which attended the eruption of another 
volcano, called Skapta Jokul. 

Of all countries in Europe, Iceland is the one which has 
been the most minutely mapped, not even excepting the 
ordnance survey of Ireland. The Danish Government seem 
to have had a hobby about it, and the result has been a 
chart so beautifully executed, that every little crevice, each 
mountain torrent, each flood of lava, is laid down with an 
accuracy perfectly astonishing. One huge blank, however, 
in the south-west corner of this map of Iceland, mars the 
integrity of its almost microscopic delineations. To every 
other part of the island the engineer has succeeded in pene- 
trating ; one vast space alone of about four hundred square 
miles has defied his investigation. Over the area occupied 
by the Skapta Jokul, amid its mountain-cradled fields of 
snow and icy ridges, no human foot has ever wandered. Yet 


it is from the bosom of this desert district that has descended 
the most frightful visitation ever known to have desolated 
the island. 

This event occurred in the year 1783. The preceding 
winter and spring had been unusually mild. Toward the 
end of May, a light bluish fog began to float along the con- 
fines of the untrodden tracts of Skapta, accompanied in the 
beginning of June by a great trembling of the earth. On the 
8th of that month, immense pillars of smoke collected over 
the hill country towards the north, and coming down against 
the wind in a southerly direction, enveloped the whole dis- 
trict of Sida in darkness. A whirlwind of ashes then swept 
over the face of the country, and on the loth, innumerable 
fire spouts were seen leaping and flaring amid the icy hollows 
of the mountain, while the river Skapta, one of the largest 
in the island, having first rolled down to the plain a vast 
volume of fetid waters mixed with sand, suddenly disappeared. 

Two days afterwards a stream of lava, issuing from sources 
to which no one has ever been able to penetrate, came slid- 
ing down the bed of the dried-up river, and in a little time, 
though the channel was six hundred feet deep and two 
hundred broad, the glowing deluge overflowed its banks, 
crossed the low country of Medalland, ripping the turf up 
before it like a table-cloth, and poured into a great lake whose 
affrighted waters flew hissing and screaming into the air at 
the approach of the fiery intruder. Within a few more days 
the basin of the lake itself was completely filled, and having 
separated into two streams, the unexhausted torrent again 
recommenced its march ; in one direction overflowing some 
ancient lava fields, in the other, re-entering the channel of 
the Skapta, and leaping down the lofty cataract of Stapafoss. 
But this was not all ; while one lava flood had chosen the 
Skapta for its bed, another, descending in a different direc- 
tion, was working like ruin within and on either side the 
banks of the Hverfisfliot, rushing into the plain, by all ac- 
counts, with even greater fury and velocity. Whether the 
two issued from the same crater it is impossible to say, as 


the sources of both were far away within the heart of the 
unapproachable desert, and even the extent of the lava flow 
can only be measured from the spot where it entered the 
inhabited districts. The stream which flowed down Skapta 
is calculated to be about fifty miles in length by twelve or 
fifteen at its greatest breadth ; that which rolled down the 
Hverfisfliot, at forty miles in length by seven in breadth. 
Where it was imprisoned, between the high banks of Skapta, 
the lava is five or six hundred feet thick ; but as soon as it 
spread out into the plain its depth never exceeded one hun- 
dred feet. The eruption of sand, ashes, pumice, and lava, 
continued till the end of August, when the Plutonic drama 
concluded with a violent earthquake. 

For a whole year a canopy of cinder-laden cloud hung 
over the island. Sand and ashes irretrievably overwhelmed 
thousands of acres of fertile pasturage. The Faroe islands, 
the Shetlands, and the Orkneys were deluged with volcanic 
dust, which perceptibly contaminated even the pure skies of 
England and Holland. Mephitic vapours tainted the at- 
mosphere of the entire island ; even the grass, which no 
cinder rain had stifled, completely withered up ; the fish 
perished in the poisoned sea. A murrain broke out among 
the cattle, and a disease resembling scurvy attacked the 
inhabitants themselves. Stephenson has calculated that 
9,000 men, 28,000 horses, 11,000 cattle, 190,000 sheep, 
died from the effects of this one eruption. The most mode- 
rate calculation puts the number of human deaths at up- 
wards of 1,300 ; and of cattle, etc. at about 156,000. 

The whole of this century had proved most fatal to the 
unfortunate people of Iceland. At its commencement small- 
pox destroyed more than 16,000 persons ; nearly 10,000 
more perished by a famine consequent on a succession of 
inclement seasons ; while from time to time the southern 
coasts were considerably depopulated by the incursions of 
English and even Algerine pirates. 

The rest of our day's journey lay through a country less 
interesting than the district we had traversed before luncheon. 


For the most part we kept on along the foot of the hills, 
stopping now and then for a drink of milk at the occasional 
farms perched upon their slopes. Sometimes turning up a 
green and even bushy glen, (there are no trees in Iceland, 
the nearest approach to anything of the kind being a low 
dwarf birch, hardly worthy of being called a shrub,) we 
would cut across the shoulder of some projecting spur, and 
obtain a wider prospect of the level land upon our right ; or 
else keeping more down in the flat, we had to flounder for 
half an hour up to the horses' shoulders in an Irish bog. 
After about five hours of this work we reached the banks of 
a broad and rather singular river, called the Briiara\ Half- 
way across it was perfectly fordable ; but exactly in the 
middle was a deep cleft, into which the waters from either 
side spilt themselves, and then in a collected volume roared 
over a precipice a little lower down. Across this cleft some 
wooden planks were thrown, giving the traveller an oppor- 
tunity of boasting that he had crossed a river on a bridge 
which itself was under water. By this time we had all 
begun to be very tired, and very hungry ; it was 1 1 o'clock 
P.M. We had been twelve or thirteen hours on horseback, 
not to mention occasional half-hours of pretty severe walk- 
ing after the ptarmigan and plover. Many were the ques- 
tions we addressed to Sigurdr on the distance yet remaining, 
and many the conjectures we hazarded as to whether the 
cook would have arrived in time to get dinner ready for us. 
At last, after another two hours' weary jogging, we descried, 
straight in front, a low steep brown rugged hill, standing 
entirely detached from the range at the foot of which we 
had been riding ; and in a few minutes more, wheeling 
round its outer end, we found ourselves in the presence of 
the steaming Geysirs. 

I do not know that I can give you a better notion of the 
appearance of the place than by saying that it looked as if 
for about a quarter of a mile the ground had been 
honey-combed by disease into numerous sores and orifices ; 
not a blade of grass grew on its hot, inflamed surface, which 



consisted of unwholesome-looking red livid clay, or crumpled 
shreds and shards of slough-like incrustations. Naturally 
enough, our first impulse on dismounting was to scamper off 
at once to the Great Geysir. As it lay at the furthest end 
of the congeries of hot springs, in order to reach it we had 
to run the gauntlet of all the pools of boiling water and 
scalding quagmires of soft clay that intervened, and conse- 
quently arrived on the spot with our ankles nicely poulticed. 
But the occasion justified our eagerness. A smooth silicious 
basin, seventy-two feet in diameter and four feet deep, with 
a hole at the bottom as in a washing-basin on board a 
steamer, stood before us brimful of water just upon the 
simmer ; while up into the air above our heads rose a great 
column of vapour, looking as if it was going to turn into the 
Fisherman's Genie. The ground about the brim was com- 
posed of layers of incrusted silica, like the outside of an 
oyster, sloping gently down on all sides from the edge of 
the basin. 

A. Basin. 

B. Funnel. 

Having satisfied our curiosity with this cursory inspection 
of what we had come so far to see, hunger compelled us to 
look about with great anxiety for the cook ; and you may 
fancy our delight at seeing that functionary in the very act 
of dishing up dinner on a neighbouring hillock. Sent for- 
ward at an early hour, under the chaperonage of a guide, he 
had arrived about two hours before us, and seizing with a 
general's eye the key of the position, at once turned an idle 
babbling little Geysir into a camp-kettle, dug a bake-house 


in the hot soft clay, and improvising a kitchen-range at a 
neighbouring vent, had made himself completely master of 
the situation. It was about one o'clock in the morning 
when we sat down to dinner, and as light as day. 

As the baggage-train with our tents and beds had not yet 
arrived, we fully appreciated our luck in being treated to so 
dry a night ; and having eaten everything we could lay hands 
on, were sat quietly down to chess, and coffee brewed in 
Geysir water ; when suddenly it seemed as if beneath our 
very feet a quantity of subterraneous cannon were going off; 
the whole earth shook, and Sigurdr, starting to his feet, 
upset the chess-board (I was just beginning to get the best 
of the game), and flung off full speed towards the great basin. 
By the time we reached its brim, however, the noise had 
ceased, and all we could see was a slight movement in the 
centre, as if an angel had passed by and troubled the water. 
Irritated at this false alarm, we determined to revenge our- 
selves by going and tormenting the Strokr. Strokr or the 
churn you must know, is an unfortunate Geysir, with so 
little command over his temper and his stomach, that you 
can get a rise out of him whenever you like. All that is 
necessary is to collect a quantity of sods, and throw them 
down his funnel. As he has no basin to protect him from 
these liberties, you can approach to the very edge of the 
pipe, about five feet in diameter, and look down at the boil- 
ing water which is perpetually seething at the bottom. In 
a few minutes the dose of turf you have just administered 
begins to disagree with him ; he works himself up into an 
awtul passion tormented by the qualms of incipient sick- 
ness, he groans and hisses, and boils up, and spits at you 
with malicious vehemence, until at last, with a roar of mingled 
pain and rage, he throws up into the air a column of water 
forty feet high, which carries with it all the sods that have 
been chucked in, and scatters them scalded and half-digested 
at your feet. So irritated has the poor thing's stomach be- 
come by the discipline it has undergone, that even long after 
all the foreign matter has been thrown off, it goes on retch- 


ing and sputtering, until at last nature is exhausted, when, 
sobbing and sighing to itself, it sinks back into the bottom- 
of its den 

Put into the highest spirits by the success of this perform- 
ance, we turned away to examine the remaining springs. I 
do not know, however, that any of the rest are worthy of 
particular mention. They all resemble in character the twa 
I have described, the only difference being that they are 
infinitely smaller, and of much less power and importance. 
One other remarkable formation in the neighbourhood must 
not be passed unnoticed. Imagine a large irregular opening 
in the surface of the soft white clay, filled to the very brim 
with scalding water, perfectly still, and of as bright a blue 
as that of the Grotto Azzuro at Capri, through whose trans- 
parent depths you can see down into the mouth of a vast 
subaqueous cavern, which runs, Heaven knows how far, in 
a horizontal direction beneath your feet. Its walls and 
varied cavities really looked as if they were built of the 
purest lupis lazuli and so thin seemed the crust that roofed 
it in, we almost fancied it might break through, and tumble 
us all into the fearful beautiful bath. 

Having by this time taken a pretty good look at the prin- 
cipal features of our new domain, I wrapped myself up in a 
cloak and went to sleep ; leaving orders that 1 should not 
be called until after the tent had arrived, and our beds were 
ready. Sigurdr followed my example, but the Doctor went 
out shooting. 

As our principal object in coming so far was to see an 
eruption of the Great Geysir, it was of course necessary we 
should wait his pleasure ; in fact, our movements entirely 
depended upon his. For the next two or three days, there- 
fore, like pilgrims round some ancient shrine, we patiently 
kept watch ; but he scarcely deigned to vouchsafe us the 
slightest manifestation of his latent energies. Two or three 
times the cannonading we had heard immediately after our 
arrival recommenced, and once an eruption to the height 
of about ten feet occurred ; but so brief was its duration, 


that by the time we were on the spot, although the tent 
was not eighty yards distant, all was over. As after every 
effort of the fountain the water in the basin mysteriously 
ebbs back into the funnel, this performance, though unsatis- 
factory in itself, gave us an opportunity of approaching the 
mouth of the pipe, and looking down into its scalded gullet. 
In an hour afterwards, the basin was brimful as ever. 

Tethered down by our curiosity to a particular spot for 
an indefinite period, we had to while away the hours as best 
we could. We played chess, collected specimens, photo- 
graphed the encampment, the guides, the ponies, and one or 
two astonished natives. Every now and then we went out 
shooting over the neighbouring flats, and once I ventured 
on a longer expedition among the mountains to our left. 
The views I got were beautiful, ridge rising beyond ridge 
in eternal silence, like gigantic ocean waves, whose tumult 
has been suddenly frozen into stone ; but the dread of the 
Geysir going off during my absence made me almost too 
fidgety to enjoy them. Thf; weather luckily remained beau- 
tiful, with the exception of one little spell of rain, which 
came to make us all the more grateful for the sunshine, 
and we fed like princes. Independently of the game, duck, 
plover, ptarmigan, and bittern, with which our own guns 
supplied us, a young lamb was always in the larder, not to 
mention reindeer tongues, skier, a kind of sour curds, 
excellent when well made, milk, cheese whose taste and 
nature baffles description, biscuit and bread, sent us as a 
free gift by the lady of a neighbouring farm. In fact, so 
noble is Icelandic hospitality, that I really believe there was 
nothing within fifty miles round we might not have obtained 
for the asking, had we desired it. As for Fitz, he became 
quite the enfant gate of a neighbouring family. 

Having unluckily caught cold, instead of sleeping in the 
tent, he determined to seek shelter under a solid roof-tree, 
and, conducted by our guide Olaf, set off on his pony at 
bed -time in search of a habitation. The next morning he 
reappeared so unusually radiant that I could not help in- 


quiring what good fortune had in the meantime befallen 
him : upon which he gave me such an account of his last 
night's reception at the farm, that I was almost tempted 
to bundle tent and beds down the throat of our irritable 
friend Strokr, and throw myself for the future upon the 
hospitality of the inhabitants. It is true, I had read in Van 
Troil of something of the kind, but until now I never fully 
believed it. The Doctor shall tell his own history. 

" No sooner," said he, " had I presented myself at the. 
door, and made known my errand, than I was immediately 
welcomed by the whole family, and triumphantly inducted 
into the guest quarters : everything the house could produce 
was set before me, and the whole society stood by to see 
that I enjoyed myself. As I had but just dined an addi- 
tional repast was no longer essential to my happiness ; but 
all explanation was useless, and I did my best to give them 
satisfaction. Immediately on rising from the table, the 
young lady of the house (old Van Troil says it is either 
the mother or the daughter of the house, if she be grown 
up, who performs this office) proposed by signs to conduct 
me to my apartment ; taking in one hand a large plate of 
skier, and in the other a bottle of brandy, she led the way 
through a passage built of turf and stones to the place 
where I was to sleep. Having watched her deposit not 
without misgivings, for I knew it was expected both should 
be disposed of before morning the skier by my bedside, 
and the brandy-bottle under the pillow, I was preparing to 
make her a polite bow, and to wish her a very good night. 
when she advanced towards me, and with a winning grace 
difficult to resist, insisted upon helping me off with my coat, 
and then, proceeding to extremities, with my shoes and 
stockings. At this most critical part of the proceedings, I 
naturally imagined her share of the performance would 
conclude, and that I should at last be restored to that pri- 
vacy which at such seasons is generally considered appro- 
priate. Not a bit of it. Before I knew where I was, I 
found myself sitting in a chair, in my shirt, trouserless, while 


my fair tire-woman was engaged in neatly folding up the 
ravished garments on a neighbouring chair. She then in 
the most simple manner in the world, helped me into bed, 
tucked me up, and having said a quantity of pretty things in 
Icelandic, gave me a hearty kiss and departed. If," he 
added, " you see anything remarkable in my appearance, it 
is probably because 

' This very morn I've felt the sweet surprise 
Of unexpected lips on sealed eyes ; ' " 

by which he poetically intimated the pleasing ceremony 
which had awaked him to the duties of the day. I think it 
needless to subjoin that the Doctor's cold did not get better 
as long as we remained in the neighbourhood, and that, 
had it not been for the daily increasing fire of his looks, 
I should have begun to be alarmed at so protracted an 

We had now been keeping watch for three days over the 
Geysir, in languid expectation of the eruption which was to 
set us free. All the morning of the fourth day I had been 
playing chess with Sigurdr ; Fitzgerald was photographing, 
Wilson was in the act of announcing luncheon, when a cry 
from the guides made us start to our feet, and with one 
common impulse rush towards the basin. The usual sub- 
terranean thunders had already commenced. A violent 
agitation was disturbing the centre of the pool. Suddenly 
a dome of water lifted itself up to the height of eight or ten 
feet, then burst, and fell ; immediately after which a shining 
liquid column, or rather a sheaf of columns wreathed in 
robes of vapour, sprung into the air, and in a succession of 
jerking leaps, each higher than the last, flung their silver 
crests against the sky. For a few minutes the fountain held 
its own, then all at once appeared to lose its ascending energy. 
The unstable waters faltered, drooped, fell, "like a broken 
purpose," back upon themselves, and were immediately 
sucked down into the recesses of their pipe. 


The spectacle was certainly magnificent ; but no descrip- 
tion can give any idea of its most striking features. The 
enormous wealth of water, its vitality, its hidden power, 
the illimitable breadth of sunlit vapour, rolling out in ex- 
haustless profusion, all combined to make one feel the 
stupendous energy of nature's slightest movements. 

And yet I do not believe the exhibition was so fine as 
some that have been seen : from the first burst upwards to 
the moment the last jet retreated into the pipe, was no more 
than a space of seven or eight minutes, and at no moment 
did the crown of the column reach higher than sixty or 
seventy feet above the surface of the basin. Now, early 
travellers talk of three hundred feet, which must, of course, 
be fabulous ; but many trustworthy persons have judged the 
eruptions at two hundred feet, while well-authenticated 
accounts when the elevation of the jet has been actually 
measured make it to have attained a height of upwards oi 
one hundred feet. 

With regard to the internal machinery by which these 
waterworks are set in motion, I will only say that the most 
received theory seems to be that which supposes the exist- 
ence of a chamber in the heated earth, almost, but not quite, 
filled with water, and communicating with the upper air by 
means of a pipe, whose lower orifice, instead of being in the 
roof, is at the side of the cavern, and below the surface of 
the subterranean pond. The water kept by the surrounding 
furnaces at boiling point, generates of course a continuous 
supply of steam, for which some vent must be obtained ; as 
it cannot escape by the funnel, the lower mouth of which 
is under water, it squeezes itself up within the arching roof, 
until at last, compressed beyond all endurance, it strains 
against the rock, and pushing down the intervening waters 
with its broad, strong back, forces them below the level of 
the funnel, and dispersing part, and driving part before it, 
rushes forth in triumph to the upper air. The fountains, 
therefore, that we see mounting to the sky during an eruption, 
are nothing but the superincumbent mass of waters in the 



pipe driven up in confusion before the steam at the moment 
it obtains its liberation. 1 

The accompanying sketch may perhaps help you to under- 
stand my meaning. 

The last gulp of water had disappeared down the funnel. 
We were standing at the bottom of the now empty basin, 
gazing into each other's faces with joyous astonishment, 
when suddenly we perceived a horseman come frantically 
galloping round the base of the neighbouring hill towards us. 
The state of the case was only too evident. He had seen 

1 Professor Bunsen has lately announced a chemical theory, which I 
believe has been received with favour by the scientific world. He points 
to the fact that water, after being long subjected to heat, loses much of. 
the air contained in it, has the cohesion of its molecules much increased, 
and requires a higher temperature to bring it to boil ; at which moment 
the production of vapour becomes so great, and so instantaneous, as to 
cause explosion. The bursting of furnace boilers is often attributable 
to this cause. Now, the water at the bottom of the well of the Great 
Geysir is found to be of constantly increasing temperature up to the 
moment of an eruption, when on one occasion it was as high as 261 
Fahrenheit. Professor Bunsen's idea is, that on reaching some unknown 
point above that temperature, ebullition takes place, vapour is suddenly 
generated in enormous quantity, and an eruption of the superior column 
of water is the consequence. 


the masses of vapour rising round the fountain, and guessing 
" what was tip" had strained every nerve to arrive in time, 
As there was no mutual friend present to introduce us to each 
other, of course under ordinary circumstances I should 
have wrapped myself in that reserve which is the birthright 
of every Briton, and pretended never even to have noticed 
his arrival ; but the sight we had just seen had quite upset 
my nerves, and I confess, with shame, that I so far com- 
promised myself, as to inaugurate a conversation with the 
stranger. In extenuation of my conduct, I must be allowed 
to add, that the new-comer was not a fellow-countryman, but 
of the French tongue, and of the naval profession. 

Occupying then the door of my tent by way of vantage 
ground, as soon as the stranger was come within earshot, I 
lifted up my voice, and cried in a style of Arabian fami- 
liarity, " O thou that ridest so furiously, weary and disap- 
pointed one, turn in, I pray thee, into the tent of thy 
servant, and eat bread, and drink wine, that thy soul may be 
comforted." To which he answered and said, " Man, 
dweller in sulphureous places, I will not eat bread, nor 
drink wine, neither will I enter into thy tent, until I have 
measured out a resting-place for my Lord the Prince." 

At this interesting moment our acquaintance was inter- 
rupted by the appearance of two other horsemen the one a 
painter, the other a geologist attached to the expedition 
of Prince Napoleon. They informed us that His Imperial 
Highness had reached Reykjavik two days after we had left, 
that he had encamped last night at Thingvalla, and might 
be expected here in about four hours : they themselves hav- 
ing come on in advance to prepare for his arrival. My first 
care was to order coffee for the tired Frenchmen ; and then 
feeling that long residence having given us a kind of pro- 
prietorship in the Geysirs, we were bound to do the honours 
of the place to the approaching band of travellers, I sum- 
moned the cook, and enlarging in a long speech on the 
gravity of the occasion, gave orders that he should make a 
holocaust of all the remaining game, and get under way a. 


plum-pudding, whose dimensions should do himself and 
England credit. A long table having been erected within 
the tent, Sigurdr started on a plundering expedition to the 
neighbouring farm, Fitzgerald undertook the ordering of the 
feast, while I rode on my pony across the morass, in hopes 
of being able to shoot a few additional plover. In a couple 
of hours afterwards, just as I was stalking a duck that lay 
innocently basking on the bosom of the river, a cloud of 
horsemen swept round the base of the distant mountain, 
and returning home, I found the encampment I had left so 
deserted alive and populous with as merry a group of 
Frenchmen as it might ever be one's fortune to fall in with. 
Of course they were dressed in every variety of costumes, 
long boots, picturesque brigand-looking hats, with here and 
there a sprinkling of Scotch caps from Aberdeen; but 
whatever might be the head-dress, underneath you might be 
sure to find a kindly, cheery face. My old friend Count 
Trampe, who had accompanied the expedition, at once pre- 
sented me to the Prince, who was engaged in sounding the 
depth of the pipe of the Great Geysir, and encouraged by 
the gracious reception which His Imperial Highness ac- 
corded me, I ventured to inform him that " there was a poor 
banquet toward," of which I trusted he and as many of 
his officers as the table could hold would condescend to 
partake. After a little hesitation, caused, I presume, by fear 
of our being put to inconvenience, he was kind enough to 
signify his acceptance of my proposal, and in a few minutes 
afterwards with a cordial frankness I fully appreciated, 
allowed me to have the satisfaction of receiving him as a 
guest within my tent. 

Although I never had the pleasure of seeing Prince Napo- 
leon before, I should have known him among a thousand, 
from his remarkable likeness to his uncle, the first Emperor. 
A stronger resemblance, I conceive, could scarcely exist 
between two persons. The same delicate, sharply cut fea 
tures, thin refined mouth, and firm determined jaw. The 
Prince's frame, however, is built altogether on a larger scale. 



and his eyes, instead of being of a cold piercing blue are 
soft and brown, with quite a different expression. 

Though of course a little Barmicidal, the dinner went off 
very well, as every dinner must do where such merry com- 
panions are the convives. We had some difficulty about 
stowing away the legs of a tall philosopher, and to each knife 
three individuals were told off; but the birds were not badly 
cooked, and the plum-pudding arrived in time to convert a 
questionable success into an undoubted triumph. 

On rising from table, each one strolled away in whatever 
direction his particular taste suggested. The painter to 
sketch ; the geologist to break stones ; the philosopher to 
moralize, I presume, at least, he lighted a cigar, and the 
rest to superintend the erection of the tents which had just 

In an hour afterwards, sleep though not altogether 
silence for loud and strong rose the choral service intoned 
to Morpheus from every side reigned supreme over the 
encampment, whose canvas habitations, huddled together 
on the desolated plateau, looked almost Crimean. This 
last notion, I suppose, must have mingled with my dreams, 
for not long afterwards I found myself in full swing towards 
a Russian battery, that banged and bellowed, and cannon- 
aded about my ears in a fashion frightful to hear. Appa- 
rently I was serving in the French attack, for clear and 
shrill above the tempest rose the cry, " Alerte ! alerte ! aux 
armes, Monseigneur ! aux armes ! " The ground shook, 
volumes of smoke rose before my eyes, and completely hid 
the defences of Sebastopol ; which fact, on reflection, I per- 
ceived to be the less extraordinary, as I was standing in my 
shirt at the door of a tent in Iceland. The premonitory 
symptoms of an eruption, which I had taken for a Russian 
cannonading, had awakened the French sleepers, a uni- 
versal cry was pervading the encampment, and the entire 
settlement had turned out chiefly in bare legs to witness 
the event which the reverberating earth and steaming water 
seemed to prognosticate. Old Geysir, however, proved less 


courteous than we had begun to hope, for after labouring 
uneasily in his basin for a few minutes, he roused himself 
on his hind-legs fell made one more effort, and then 
giving it up as a bad job, sank back into his accustomed 
inaction, and left the disappointed assembly to disperse to 
their respective dormitories. 

The next morning, the whole encampment was stirring at 
an early hour with preparations for departure ; for unsatis- 
factory as it had been, the French considered themselves 
absolved by the partial performance they had witnessed 
from any longer " making antechamber," as they said, to so 
capricious a functionary. Being very anxious to have one 
more trial at photographing Strokr, I ventured to suggest 
that the necessary bolus of sods should be administered to 
him. In a few minutes two or three cart-loads of turf were 
seething and wallowing within him. In the meantime, Fitz 
seized the opportunity of the Prince being at breakfast to 
do a picture of him seated on a chair, with his staff stand- 
ing around him, and looking the image of Napoleon before 
the battle of Austerlitz. A good twenty minutes had now 
elapsed since the emetic had been given, no symptoms of 
any result had as yet appeared, and the French began to 
get impatient ; inuendoes were hazarded to the disadvantage 
of Strokr's reputation for consistency, inuendoes which I 
confess touched me nearly, and made me feel like a show- 
man whose dog has misbehaved. At last the whole party 
rode off; but the rear horseman had not disappeared round 
the neighbouring hill before splash ! bang ! fifty feet up 
into the air drove the dilatory fountain, with a fury which 
amply avenged the affront put upon it, and more than vin- 
dicated my good opinion. All our endeavours, however, to 
photograph the eruption proved abortive. We had already 
attempted both Strokr and the Great Geysir, but in the case 
of the latter the exhibition was always concluded before the 
plate could be got ready ; and although, as far as Strokr is 
concerned, you can tell within a certain period when the 
performance will take place, yet the interval occurring be- 


tween the dose and the explosion varies so capriciously, 
that unless you are content to spend many days upon the 
spot, it would be almost impossible to hit it off exactly. 
On this last occasion, although we did not prepare the 
plate until a good twenty minutes after the turf was thrown 
in, the spring remained inactive so much longer than is 
usual that the collodion became quite insensitive, and the 
eruption left no impression whatever upon it 

Of our return journey to Reykjavik I think I have no very 
interesting particulars to give you. During the early part of 
the morning there had been a slight threatening of rain ; but 
by twelve o'clock it had settled down into one of those still 
dark days, which wrap even the most familiar landscape in 
a mantle of mystery. A heavy, low-hung, steel-coloured 
pall was stretched almost entirely across the heavens, except 
where along the flat horizon a broad stripe of opal atmos- 
phere let the eye wander into space, in search of the pearly 
gateways of Paradise. On the other side rose the contorted 
lava mountains, their bleak heads knocking against the solid 
sky and stained of an inky blackness, which changed into a 
still more lurid tint where the local reds struggled up through 
the shadow that lay brooding over the desolate scene. If 
within the domain of nature such another region is to be 
found, it can only be in the heart of those awful solitudes 
which science has unveiled to us amid the untrodden fast- 
nesses of the lunar mountains. An hour before reaching 
our old camping-ground at Thingvalla, as if summoned by 
enchantment, a dull grey mist closed around us, and sud- 
denly confounded in undistinguishable ruin the glory and 
the terror of the panorama we had traversed : sky, moun- 
tains, horizon, all had disappeared ; and as we strained oiu 
eyes from the edge of the Rabna Gja across the monotonous 
grey level at our feet, it was almost difficult to believe that 
there lay the same magical plain, the first sight of which had 
become almost an epoch in our lives. 

I had sent on cook, baggage, and guides, some hours be- 
fore we ourselves started, so that on our arrival we found a 


dry, cosy tent, and a warm dinner awaiting us. The rapid 
transformation of the aspect of the country, which I had just 
witnessed, made me quite understand how completely the 
success of an expedition in Iceland must depend on the 
weather, and fully accounted for the difference I had observed 
in the amount of enjoyment different travellers seemed to 
have derived from it. It is one thing to ride forty miles a 
day through the most singular scenery in the world, when 
a radiant sun brings out every feature of the country into 
startling distinctness, transmuting the dull tormented earth 
into towers, domes, and pinnacles of gleaming metal, and 
weaves for every distant summit a robe of variegated light, 
such as the " Delectable Mountains" must have worn for the 
rapt gaze of weary " Christian ; " and another to plod over 
the same forty miles, drenched to the skin, seeing nothing 
but the dim, grey roots of hills, that rise you know not how, 
and you care not where, with no better employment than 
to look at your watch, and wonder when you shall reach your 
journey's end. If, in addition to this, you have to wait, as 
very often must be the case, for many hours after your own 
arrival, wet, tired, hungry, until the baggage-train, with the 
tents and food, shall have come up, with no alternative in 
the meantime but to lie shivering inside a grass-roofed church, 
or to share the quarters of some farmer's family, whose 
domestic arrangements resemble in every particular those 
which Macaulay describes as prevailing among the Scottish 
Highlanders a hundred years ago ; and, if finally after 
vainly waiting for some days to see an eruption which never 
takes place you journey back to Reykjavik under the same 
melancholy conditions, it will not be unnatural that, on 
returning to your native land, you should proclaim Iceland, 
with her Geysirs, to be a sham, a delusion, and a snare ! 

Fortune, however, seemed determined that of these bitter- 
nesses we should not taste ; for the next morning, bright and 
joyous overhead bent the blue unclouded heaven ; while the 
plain lay gleaming at our feet in all the brilliancy of ename 1 . 
I was sorely tempted to linger another day in the neighbour- 


hood ; but we have already spent more time upon the Gey- 
sirs than I had counted upon, and it will not do to remain in 
Iceland longer than the i5th, or Winter will have begun to 
barricade the passes into his Arctic dominions. My plan, 
on returning to Reykjavik, is to send the schooner round to 
wait for us in a harbour on the north coast of the island, while 
we ourselves strike straight across the interior on horseback. 

The scenery, I am told, is magnificent. On the way we 
shall pass many a little nook, shut up among the hills, that 
has been consecrated by some touching old-world story ; and 
the manner of life among the northern inhabitants is, I 
believe, more unchanged and characteristic than that of any 
other of the islanders. Moreover, scarcely any stranger has 
ever penetrated to any distance in this direction ; and we 
shall have an opportunity of traversing a slice of that tre- 
mendous desert piled up for thirty thousand square miles 
in disordered pyramids of ice and lava over the centre of 
the country, and periodically devastated by deluges of molten 
stone and boiling mud, or overwhelmed with whirlwinds of 
intermingled snow and cinders, an unfinished corner of the 
universe, where the elements of chaos are still allowed to 
rage with unbridled fury. 

Our last stage from Thingvalla back to Reykjavik was got 
over very quickly, and seemed an infinitely shorter distance 
than when we first performed it. We met a number of 
farmers returning to their homes from a kind of fair that is 
annually held in the little metropolis ; and as I watched the 
long caravan-like line of pack-horses and horsemen, wearily 
plodding over the stony waste in single file, I found it less 
difficult to believe that these remote islanders should be 
descended from Oriental forefathers. In fact, one is con- 
stantly reminded of the East in Iceland. From the earliest 
ages the Icelanders have been a people dwelling in tents. 
In the time of the ancient Parliament, the legislators, during 
the entire session, lay encamped in movable booths around 
the place of meeting. Their domestic polity is naturally 
patriarchal, and the flight of their ancestors from Norway 


was a protest against the antagonistic principle of feudalism. 
No Arab could be prouder of his courser than they are of 
their little ponies, or reverence more deeply the sacred rights 
of hospitality; while the solemn salutation exchanged be- 
tween two companies of travellers, passing each other in the 
desert as they invariably call the uninhabited part of the 
country would not have misbecome the stately courtesy of 
the most ancient worshippers of the sun. 

Anything more multifarious than the landing of these 
caravans we met returning to the inland districts cannot 
well be conceived : deal boards, rope, kegs of brandy, sacks 
of rye or wheaten flour, salt, soap, sugar, snuff, tobacco, 
coffee; everything, in fact, which was necessary to their 
domestic consumption during the ensuing winter. In ex- 
change for these commodities, which of course they are 
obliged to get from Europe, the Icelanders export raw wool, 
knitted stockings, mittens, cured cod, and fish oil, whale 
blubber, fox skins, eider-down, feathers, and Icelandic moss. 
During the last few years the exports of the island have 
amounted to about 1,200,000 Ibs. of wool and 500,000 pairs 
of stockings and mittens. Although Iceland is one-fifth 
larger than Ireland, its population consists of only about 
60,000 persons, scattered along the habitable ring which runs 
round between the central desert and the sea ; of the whole 
area of 38,000 square miles it is calculated that not more 
than one-eighth part is occupied, the remaining 33,000 
square miles consisting of naked mountains of ice, or valleys 
desolated by lava or volcanic ashes. Even Reykjavik itself 
cannot boast of more than 700 or 800 inhabitants. 

During winter time the men are chiefly employed in 
tending cattle, picking wool, manufacturing ropes, bridles, 
saddles, and building boats. The fishing season commences 
in spring; in 1853 there were as many as 3,500 boats 
engaged upon the water. As summer advances turf-cutting 
and hay-making begins ; while the autumn months are prin- 
cipally devoted to the repairing of their houses, manuring 
the grass lands, and killing and curing of sheep for exporta- 


tion, as well as for their own use during the winter. The 
woman-kind of a family occupy themselves throughout the 
year in washing, carding, and spinning wool, in knitting 
gloves and stockings, and in weaving frieze and flannel for 
their own wear. 

The ordinary food of a well-to-do Icelandic family consists 
of dried fish, butter, sour whey kept till fermentation takes 
place, curds, and skier a very peculiar cheese unlike any 
I ever tasted, a little mutton, and rye bread. As might be 
expected, this meagre fare is not very conducive to health ; 
scurvy, leprosy, elephantiasis, and all cutaneous disorders, 
are very common, while the practice of mothers to leave off 
nursing their children at the end of three days, feeding them 
with cows' milk instead, results in a frightful mortality among 
the babies. 

Land is held either in fee-simple, or let by the Crown to 
tenants on what may almost be considered perpetual leases. 
The rent is calculated partly on the number of acres occu- 
pied, partly on the head of cattle the farm is fit to support, 
and is paid in kind, either in fish or farm produce. Tenants 
in easy circumstances generally employ two or three labourers, 
who in addition to their board and lodging receive from 
ten to twelve dollars a year of wages. No property can be 
entailed, and if any one dies intestate, what he leaves is 
distributed among his children in equal shares to the sons, 
in half shares to the daughters. 

The public revenue arising from Crown lands, commercial 
charges, and a small tax on the transference of property, 
amounts to about 3,ooo/, ; the expenditure for education, 
officers' salaries (the Governor has about 4oo/. a year), 
ecclesiastical establishments, etc., exceeds 6,ooo/. a year ; so 
that the island is certainly not a self-supporting institution. 

The clergy are paid by tithes ; their stipends are exceed- 
ingly small, generally not averaging more than six or seven 
pounds sterling per annum ; their chief dependence being 
upon their farms. Like St. Dunstan, they are invariably 
excellent blacksmiths. 


As we approached Reykjavik, for the first time during the 
whole journey we began to have some little trouble with the 
relay of ponies in front. Whether it was that they were 
tired, or that they had arrived in a district where they had 
been accustomed to roam at large, I cannot tell ; but every 
ten minutes, during the last six or seven miles, one or other 
of them kept starting aside into the rocky plain, across 
which the narrow bridle-road was carried, and cost us many 
a weary chase before we could drive them into the track again. 
At last, though not till I had been violently hugged, kissed, 
and nearly pulled off my horse by an enthusiastic and rather 
tipsy farmer, who mistook me for the Prince, we galloped, 
about five o'clock, triumphantly into the town, without an 
accident having occurred to man or horse during the whole 
course of the expedition always excepting one tremendous 
fall sustained by Wilson. It was on the evening of the day 
we left the Geysirs. We were all galloping in single file 
down the lava pathway, when suddenly I heard a cry behind 
me, and then the noise as of a descending avalanche. On 
turning round, behold ! both Wilson and his pony lay 
stretched upon the ground, the first some yards in advance 
of the other. The poor fellow evidently thought he was 
killed ; for he neither spoke nor stirred, but lay looking up 
at me, with blank, beady eyes as I approached to his 
assistance. On further investigation, neither of the sufferers 
proved to be a bit the worse. 

The cook, and the rest of the party, did not arrive till 
about midnight ; but I make 'no doubt that when that able 
and spirited individual did at length reascend the side of the 
schooner, his cheek must have burned with pride at the reflec- 
tion, that during the short period of his absence on shore he 
had added to his other accomplishments that of becoming a 
most finished cavalier. I do not mean by that to imply that 
he was at all done. Although we had enjoyed our trip so 
much, I was not sorry to find myself on board. The 
descent again, after our gipsy life, into the coquettish little 
cabin, with its books and dear home faces, quite penetrated 


me with that feeling of snug content of which I believe 
Englishmen alone are susceptible. 

I have now to relate to you a most painful occurrence 
which has taken place during my absence at the Geysirs ; 
no less a catastrophe, in fact, than a mutiny among my 
hitherto most exemplary ship's company. I suppose they, 
too, had occasion to bear witness to the proverbial hospi- 
tality of Iceland ; salt junk, and the innocuous cates which 
generally compose ship-board rations, could never have pro- 
duced such an emergency. Suffice it to say, that " Dyspepsia 
and her fatal train " having taken hold of them, in a des- 
perate hour they determined on a desperate deed, and 
rushing aft in a body, demanded of my faithful steward, not 
only access to the penetralia of the absent Doctor's cupboard, 
but that he himself should administer to them whatever 
medicaments he could come by. In vain Mr. Grant threw 
himself across the cabin-door. Remonstrance was useless ; 
my horny-handed lambs were inexorable unless he acceded 
to their demands, they threatened to report him when I 
returned ! The Doctor's sanctuary was thrown open, and all 
its sweets if such they may be called were rifled. A 
huge box of pills, the first that came to hand they happened 
to be calomel was served out, share and share alike, with 
concomitant vials of wrath, of rhubarb and senna ; and it 
was not until the last drop of castor oil had been carefully 
licked up that the marauders suffered their unwilling accom- 
plice to retire to the fastnesses of his pantry. 

An avenging Nemesis, however, hovered over the vio- 
lated shrine of Esculapius. By the time I returned the 
exigencies of justice had been more than satisfied, and the 
outrage already atoned for. The rebellious hands were 
become most penitent stomachs; and fresh from the Oriental 
associations suggested by our last day's ride, I involuntarily 
dismissed the disconsolate culprits, with the Asiatic form of 
condonation : " Mashallah, you have made your faces white ! 
Go in peace ! " 

During our expedition to the interior, the harbour of Reyk- 


javik had become populous with new arrivals. First of all, 
there was my old friend, the " Reine Hortense" the Em- 
peror's yacht, a magnificent screw corvette of 1,100 tons. 
I had last parted with her three years ago in the Baltic, after 
she had towed me for eighty miles on our way from Bomar- 
sund to Stockholm. Then there were two English screw 
steamers, of about 700 tons each, taken up by the French 
Government as tenders to the yacht; not to mention a 
Spanish brig, and one or two other foreigners, which, toge- 
ther with the frigate, the barque, and the vessels we had 
found here on our first arrival, made the usually deserted 
bay look quite lively. Until this year no steamers had ever 
cockneyfied its secluded waters. 

This morning, directly after breakfast, I went on board 
the " Reine Hortense " to pay my respects to Prince Napo- 
leon ; and H. I. H. has just done me the honour of coming 
to inspect the " foam." When I was first presented to him 
at the Geysirs, he asked me what my plans might be ; and 
on my mentioning my resolution of sailing to the North, he 
most kindly proposed that I should come with him West to 
Greenland instead. My anxiety, however, to reach, if it 
were possible, Jan Mayen and Spitzbergen, prevented my 
accepting this most tempting offer ; but in the meantime, 
H.I.H. has, it seems, himself determined to come to Jan 
Mayen, and he is kind enough to say that if I can get ready 
for a start by six o'clock to-morrow morning, the "Reine 
Hortense" shall take me in tow. To profit by this proposal 
would of course entail the giving up my plan of riding 
across the interior of Iceland, which I should be very loth 
to do ; at the same time, the season is so far advanced, the 
mischances of our first start from England have thrown us 
so far behind in our programme, that it would seem almost 
a pity to neglect such an opportunity cf overrunning the 
time that has been lost ; and after all, these Polar islands, 
which so few have visited, are what I am chiefly bent on 
seeing. Before I close this letter the thing will have been 
settbd one way or another ; for I am to have the honour of 


dining with the Prince this evening, and between this and 
then I shall have made up my mind. After dinner there is 
to be a ball on board the frigate, to which all the rank, 
fashion, and beauty of Reykjavik have been invited. 

3 A.M. 

I give up seeing the rest of Iceland, and go North at 
once. It has cost me a struggle to come to this conclusion, 
but on the whole I think it will be better. Ten or fifteen 
days of summer-time become very precious in these lati- 
tudes, and are worth a sacrifice. At this moment we have 
just brought up astern of the " Reine Hortense" and are 
getting our hawsers bent, ready for a start in half an hour's 
time. My next letter, please God, will be dated from 
Hammerfest. I suppose I shall be about fifteen or twenty 
days getting there, but this will depend on the state of the 
ice about Jan Mayen. If the anchorage is clear, I shall 
spend a few days in examining the island, which by all 
accounts would appear to be most curious. 

I happened first to hear of its existence from a very in- 
telligent whaling Captain I fell in with among the Shetlands 
four years ago. He was sailing home to Hull, after fishing 
the Spitzbergen waters, and had sighted the huge mountain 
which forms the northern extremity of Jan Mayen, on his 
way south. Luckily, the weather was fine while he was 
passing, and the sketch he made of it at the time so filled 
me with amazement, that I then determined, if ever I got 
the chance, to go and see with my own eyes so great a 
marvel. Imagine a spike of igneous rock (the whole island 
is volcanic), shooting straight up out of the sea to the height 
of 6,870 feet, not broad-based like a pyramid, nor round- 
topped like a sugar-loaf, but needle-shaped, pointed like the 
spire of a church. If only my Hull skipper were as good a 
draughtsman as he seemed to be a seaman, we should now 
be on our way to one of the wonders of the world. Most 
people here hold out rather a doleful prospect, and say that, 
in the first place, it is probable the whole island will be im- 


prisoned within the eternal fields of ice, that lie out for up- 
wards of a hundred and fifty miles along the eastern coast 
of Greenland ; and next, that if even the sea should be clear 
in its vicinity, the fogs up there are so dense and constant 
that the chances are very much against our hitting the land. 
But the fact of the last French man-of-war which sailed in 
that direction never having returned, has made those seas 
needlessly unpopular at Reykjavik. 

It was during one of these fogs that Captain Fotherby, 
the original discoverer of Jan Mayen, stumbled upon it in 
1614. While sailing southwards in a mist too thick to see 
a ship's length off, he suddenly heard the noise of waters 
breaking on a great shore ; and when the gigantic bases of 
Mount Beerenberg gradually disclosed themselves, he thought 
he had discovered some new continent. Since then it has 
been often sighted by homeward-bound whalers, but rarely 
landed upon. About the year 1633 the Dutch Government, 
wishing to establish a settlement in the actual neighbour- 
hood of the fishing-grounds, where the blubber might be 
boiled down, and the spoils of each season transported home 
in the smallest bulk, actually induced seven seamen to 
volunteer remaining the whole winter on the island. 1 Huts 
were built for them, and having been furnished with an 
ample supply of salt provisions, they were left to resolve the 
problem, as to whether or no human beings could support 
the severities of the climate. Standing on the shore, these 
seven men saw their comrades' parting sails sink down be- 
neath the sun, then watched the sun sink, as had sunk the 

1 The names of the seven Dutch seamen who attempted to winter in 
Jan Mayen's Island were : 

Outgert Jacobson, of Grootenbrook, their commander. 

Adrian Martin Carman, of Schiedam, clerk. 

Thauniss Thaunissen, of Schermehem, cook. 

Dick Peterson, of Veenhuyse. 

Peter Peterson, of Harlem. 

Sebastian Gyse, of Defts-Haven. 

Gerard Beautin, of Bruges. 


sails ; but extracts from their own simple narrative are the 
most touching record I can give you of their fate : 

" The 26th of August, our fleet set sail for Holland with 
a strong north-east wind, and a hollow sea, which continued 
all that night. The 2 8th, the wind the same ; it began to 
snow very hard ; we then shared half a pound of tobacco 
betwixt us, which was to be our allowance for a week. To- 
wards evening we went about together, to see whether we 
could discover anything worth our observation ; but met 
with nothing." And so on for many a weary day of sleet 
and storm. 

On the 8th of September they ''were frightened by a 
noise of something falling to the ground," probably some 
volcanic disturbance. A month later, it becomes so cold 
that their linen, after a moment's exposure to the air, be- 
comes frozen like a board. 2 Huge fleets of ice beleaguered 
the island, the sun disappears, and they spend most of their 
time in " rehearsing to one another the adventures that had 
befallen them both by sea and land." On the i2th of 
December they kill a bear, having already begun to feel the 
effects of a salt diet. At last comes New Year's Day, 1636. 
"After having wished each other a happy new year, and 
success in our enterprise, we went to prayers, to disburthen 
our hearts before God." On the 25th of February (the very 
day on which Wallenstein was murdered) the sun reappeared. 
By the 22nd of March scurvy had already declared itself: 
" For want of refreshments we began to be very heartless, 
and so afflicted that our legs are scarce able to bear us." 
On the 3rd of April, " there being no more than two of us in 

* The climate, however, does not appear to have been then so incle- 
ment in these latitudes as it has since become. A similar deterioration 
in the temperature, both of Spitzbergen and Greenland, has also been 
observed. In Iceland we have undoubted evidence of corn having been 
formerly grown, as well as of the existence of timber of considerable 
size, though now it can scarcely produce a cabbage, or a stunted shrub of 
birch. M. Babinet, of the French Institute, goes a little too far when 
he says, in the Journal des D'ebats of the 3<Dth December, 1856, that for 
many years Jan Mayen has been inaccessible. 


health, we killed for them the only two pullets we had left ; 
and they fed pretty heartily upon them, in hopes it might 
prove a means to recover part of their strength. We were 
sorry we had not a dozen more for their sake." On Easter 
Day, Adrian Carman, of Schiedam, their clerk, dies. "The 
Lord have mercy upon his soul, and upon us all, we being 
very sick." During the next few days they seem all to have 
got rapidly worse ; one only is strong enough to move about. 
He has learnt writing from his comrades since coming to 
the island ; and it is he who concludes the melancholy story. 
" The 23rd (April), the wind blew from the same corner, 
with small rain. We were by this time reduced to a very 
deplorable state, there being none of them all, except myself, 
that were able to help themselves, much less one another, 
so that the whole burden lay upon my shoulders, and I 
perform my duty as well as I am able, as long as God 
pleases to give me strength. I am just now a-going to help 
our commander out of his cabin, at his request, because he 
imagined by this change to ease his pain, he then struggling 
with death." For seven days this gallant fellow goes on 
"striving to do his duty;" that is to say, making entries in 
the journal as to the state of the weather, that being the 
principal object their employers had in view when they left 
them on the island ; but on the 3oth of April his strength 
too gave way, and his failing hand could do no more than 
trace an incompleted sentence on the page. 

Meanwhile succour and reward are on their way toward 
the forlorn garrison. On the 4th of June, up again above 
the horizon rise the sails of the Zealand fleet ; but no glad 
faces come forth to greet the boats as they pull towards the 
shore ; and when their comrades search for those they had 
hoped to find alive and well, lo ! each lies dead in his own 
hut, one with an open Prayer-book by his side ; anothei 
with his hand stretched out towards the ointment he had 
used for his stiffened joints ; and the last survivor, with the 
unfinished journal still lying by his side. 

The most recent recorded landing on the island was 


effected twenty-two years ago, by the brave and pious Cap- 
tain, now Dr. Scoresby, 1 on his return from a whaling cruise. 
He had seen the mountain of Beerenberg one hundred miles 
off, and, on approaching, found the coast quite clear of ice. 
According to his survey and observations, Jan Mayen is 
about sixteen miles long, by four wide ; but I hope soon, 
on my own authority, to be able to tell you more about it. 

Certainly, this our last evening spent in Iceland will not 
have been the least joyous of our stay. The dinner on 
board the " Reine Hortenpe" was very pleasant. I renewed 
acquaintance with some of my old Baltic friends, and was 
presented to two or three of the Prince's staff who did not 
accompany the expedition to the Geysirs ; among others, to 
the Due d'Abrantes, Marshal Junot's son. On sitting down 
to table, I found myself between H.I.H. and Monsieur de 
Saulcy, member of the French Institute, who made that 
famous expedition to the Dead Sea, and is one of the gayest, 
pleasantest persons I have ever met. Of course there was 
a great deal of laughing and talking, as well as much specula- 
tion with regard to the costume of the Icelandic ladies we 
were to see at the ball. It appears that the dove-cots of 
Reykjavik have been a good deal fluttered by an announce- 
ment emanating from the gallant Captain of the " Artemise " 
that his fair guests would be expected to come in low 
dresses; for it would seem that the practice of showing 
their ivory shoulders is, as yet, an idea as shocking to the 
pretty ladies of this country as waltzes were to our grand- 
mothers. Nay, there was not even to be found a native 
milliner equal to the task of marking out that mysterious 
line which divides the prudish from the improper ; so that 
the Collet-monte" faction have been in despair. As it turned 
out, their anxiety on this head was unnecessary; for we 
found, on entering the ball-room, that, with the natural re- 
finement which characterises this noble people, our bright- 
eyed partners, as if by inspiration, had hit off the exact 

1 I regret to be obliged to subjoin that Dr. Scoresby has died since 
the above was written. 


sweep from shoulder to shoulder, at which after those 
many oscillations, up and down, which the female corsage 
has undergone since the time of the first Director good 
taste has finally arrested it. 

I happened to be particularly interested in the above 
important question ; for up to that moment I had always 
been haunted by a horrid paragraph I had met with some- 


where in an Icelandic book of travels, to the effect that it 
was the practice of Icelandic women, from early childhood, 
to flatten down their bosoms as much as possible. This 
fact, for the honour of the island, I am now in a position to 
deny ; and I here declare that, as far as I had the indis- 
cretion to observe, those maligned ladies appeared to me as 
buxom in form as any rosy English girl I have ever seen. 



It was nearly nine o'clock before we adjourned from 
the " Reine Hortense" to the ball. Already, for some time 
past, boats full of gay dresses had been passing under the 
corvette's stern on their way to the " Artemise" looking like 
flower-beds that had put to sea, though they certainly could 
no longer be called a parterre; and by the time we our- 
selves mounted her lofty sides, a mingled stream of music, 
light, and silver laughter, was pouring out of every port-hole. 
The ball-room was very prettily arranged. The upper deck 
had been closed in with a lofty roof of canvas, from which 
hung suspended glittering lustres, formed by bayonets with 
their points collected into an inverted pyramid, and the butt- 
ends serving as sockets for the tapers. Every wall was gay 
with flags, the frigate's frowning armament all hid or turned 
to ladies' uses : 82 pounders became sofas boarding-pikes, 
balustrades pistols, candlesticks the brass carronades set 
on end, pillarwise, their brawling mouths stopped with nose- 
gays ; while portraits of the Emperor and the Empress, busts, 
colours draped with Parisian cunning, gave to the scene an 
appearance of festivity that looked quite fairy-like in so 
sombre a region. As for our gallant host, I never saw such 
spirits ; he is a fine old grey-headed blow-hard of fifty odd, 
talking English like a native, and combining the frank open- 
hearted cordiality of a sailor with that graceful winning gaiety- 
peculiar to Frenchmen. I never saw anything more perfect 
than the kind, almost fatherly, courtesy with which he wel- 
comed each blooming bevy of maidens that trooped up his 
ship's side. About two o'clock we had supper on the main- 
deck. I had the honour of taking down Miss Thora, of 
Bessestad ; and somehow this time, I no longer found 
myself wandering back in search of the pale face of the old- 
world Thora, being, I suppose, sufficiently occupied by the 
soft, gentle eyes of the one beside me. With the other 
young ladies I did not make much acquaintance, as I 
experienced a difficulty in finding befitting remarks on the 
occasion of being presented to them. Once or twice, 
indeed, I hazarded, through their fathers, some little com- 


plimentary observations in Latin but I cannot say that I 
found that language lend itself readily to the gallantries of 
the ball-room. After supper dancing recommenced, and 
the hilarity of the evening reached its highest pitch when 
half a dozen sailors, dressed in turbans made of flags (one 
of them a lady with the face of the tragic muse), came 
fonvard and danced the cancan, with a gravity and decorum 
that would have greatly edified what Gavarni calls "/a 
pudeur municipale." 

At 3 o'clock A.M. I returned on board the schooner, and 
we are all now very busy in making final preparations for 
departure. Fitz is rearranging his apothecary's shop. Sigurdr 
is writing letters. The last strains of music have ceased on 
board the "Artemise;" the sun is already high in the heavens ; 
the flower-beds are returning on shore, a little draggled 
perhaps, as if just pelted by a thunder-storm; the " Reine 
Hortense " has got her steam up, and the real, serious part of 
our voyage is about to begin. 

I feel that my description has not half done justice to the 
wonders of this interesting island ; but I can refer you to 
your friend Sir Henry Holland for further details ; he paid a 
visit to Iceland in 1810, with Sir G. Mackenzie, and made 
himself thoroughly acquainted with its historical and scien- 
tific associations. 

SCENE. R. Y. S. "Foam": astern of the "Reine Hortense? 






Voice of French Captain. " Nous partons." 

Lord D . " All ready, Sir ! " 

Wilson to Doctor (sotto voce). " Sir ! " 


Doctor. "Eh?" 

Wilson. "Do you know, Sir?" 

Doctor" What ? " 

Wilson. " Oh, nothing, Sir ; only we're going to the hicy 
regions, Sir, ain't we? Well, I've just seen that ere brig as 
is come from there, Sir, and they say there's a precious lot 
of ice this year! (Pause.} Do you know, Sir, the skipper 
showed me the bows of his vessel, Sir? She's got seven feet 
of solid timber in her for'ard : we've only two inches, Sir ! " 
(Dives below.} 

Voice of French Captain (with a slight accent]. " Are you 
ready ? " 

Lord I) . " Ay. ay, Sir ! Up anchor i " 



Hammerfest, July. 

BACK in Europe again, within reach of posts ! The glad 
sun shining, the soft winds blowing, and roses on the cabin 
table, as if the region of fog and ice we have just fled forth 
from were indeed the dream-land these summer sights would 
make it seem. I cannot tell you how gay and joyous it all 
appears to us, fresh from a climate that would not have been 
unworthy of Dante's Inferno. And yet had it been twice 
as bad, what we have seen would have more than repaid us, 
though it has been no child's play to get to see it. 

But I must begin where I left off in my last letter, just, 
I think, as we were getting under way, to be towed by the 
" Reine Hortense" out of Reykjavik Harbour. Having been 
up all night, as soon as we were well clear of the land, and 
that it was evident the towing business was doing well I 
turned in for a few hours. When I came on deck again we 
had crossed the Faxe Fiord on our way north, and were 
sweeping round the base of Snaefell an extinct volcano 
which rises from the sea in an icy cone to the height of 
5,000 feet, and grimly looks across to Greenland. The day 
was beautiful ; the mountain's summit beamed down upon 
us in unclouded splendour, and everything seemed to pro- 
mise an uninterrupted view of the west coast of Iceland, 
along whose rugged cliffs few mariners have ever sailed. In- 


deed, until within these last few years, the passage, I believe, 
was altogether impracticable, in consequence of the con- 
tinuous fields of ice which used to drift down the narrow 
channel between the frozen continent and the northern ex- 
tremity of the island. Lately, some great change seems to 
have taken place in the lie of the Greenland ice; and during 
the summer-time you can pass through, though late in the 
year a solid belt binds the two shores together. 


But in a historical and scientific point of view, the whole 
country lying about the basanite roots of Snaefell is most 
interesting. At the feet of its southern slopes are to be 
seen wonderful ranges of columnar basalt, prismatic caverns, 
ancient craters, and specimens of almost every formation 
that can result from the agency of subterranean fires ; while 
each glen, and bay, and headland, in the neighbourhood, 
teems with traditionary lore. On the north-western side of 
the mountain stretches the famous Eyrbiggja district, the 


most classic ground in Iceland, with the towns, or rathei 
farmsteads, of Froda, Helgafell, and Biarnarhaf. 

This last place was the scene of one of the most curious 
and characteristic Sagas to be found in the whole catalogue 
of Icelandic chronicles. 

In the days when the same Jarl Hakon I have already 
mentioned lorded it over Norway, an Icelander of the 
name of Vermund, who had come to pay his court to the 
/ord of Lade, took a violent wish to engage in his own ser- 
vice a couple of gigantic Berserks, 1 named Halli and Leik- 
ner, whom the Jarl had retained about his person, fancying 
that two champions of such great strength and prowess would 
much add to his consequence on returning home. In vain 
the Jarl warned him that personages of that description were 
wont to give trouble and become unruly, nothing would 
serve but he must needs carry them away with him ; nay, if 
they would but come, they might ask as wages any boon 
which might be in his power to grant The bargain accord- 
ingly was made ; but, on arriving in Iceland, the first thing 
Halli took it into his head to require was a wife, who should 
be rich, nobly born, and beautiful. As such a request was 
difficult to comply with, Vermund, who was noted for being 
a man of gentle disposition, determined to turn his trouble- 
some retainers over to his brother, Arngrim Styr, i.e., the 
Stirring or Tumultuous One, as being a likelier man than 
himself to know how to keep them in order. 

Arngrim happened to have a beautiful daughter, named 
Asdisa, with whom the inflammable Berserk of course fell in 
love. Not daring openly to refuse him, Arngrim told his 
would-be son-in-law, that before complying with his suit, he 
must consult his friends, and posted off to Helgafell, where 

1 Berserk, i.e., bare sark. The berserks seem to have been a descrip- 
tion of athletes, who were in the habit of stimulating their nervous 
energies by the use of some intoxicating drug, which rendered them 
capable of feats of extraordinary strength and daring. The Berserker 
gang must have been something very like the Malay custom of running 
a muck. Their moments of excitemenl were followed by periods of 
great exhaustion. 


dwelt the Pagan Pontiff Snorre. The result of this confer- 
ence was an agreement on the part of Styr to give his 
daughter to the Berserk, provided he and his brother would 
cut a road through the lava rocks of Biarnarhaf. Halli and 
Leikner immediately set about executing this prodigious 
task; while the scornful Asdisa, arrayed in her most splendid 
attire, came sweeping past in silence, as if to mock their toil. 
The poetical reproaches addressed to the young lady on this 
occasion by her sturdy admirer and his mate are still extant. 
In the meantime, the other servants of the crafty Arngrim 
had constructed a subterranean bath, so contrived that at a 
moment's notice it could be flooded with boiling water. 
Their task at last concluded, the two Berserks returned 
home to claim their reward; but Arngrim Styr, as if in the 
exuberance of his affection, proposed that they should first 
refresh themselves in the new bath. No sooner had they 
descended into it, than Arngrim shut down the trap-door, 
and having ordered a newly-stripped bullock's hide to be 
stretched before the entrance, gave the signalfor the boiling 
water to be turned on. Fearful were the struggles of the 
scalded giants: Halli, indeed, succeeded in, bursting up the 
door ; but his foot slipped on the bloody bull's hide, and 
Arngrim stabbed him to the heart His brother was then 
easily forced back into the seething water. 

The effusion composed by the Tumultuous .One on the 
occasion of this exploit is also extant, and does not yield in 
poetical merit to those which I have already mentioned as 
having emanated from his victims. 

As soon as the Pontiff Snorre heard of the result of Arn- 
grim Styr's stratagem, he came over and married the Lady 
Asdisa. Traces of the road made by the unhappy cham- 
pions can yet be detected at Biarnarhaf, and tradition still 
identifies the grave of the Berserks. 

Connected with this same Pontiff Snorre is another of 
those mysterious notices of a great land in the western ocean 
which we find in the ancient chronicles, so interwoven with 
narrative we know to be true, as to make it impossible not 


to attach a certain amount of credit to them. This particu- 
lar story is the more interesting as its denouement, abruptly 
left in the blankest mystery by one Saga, is incidentally re- 
vealed to us in the course of another, relating to events with 
which the first had no connection. 1 

It seems that Snorre had a beautiful sister, named Thured 
of Froda, with whom a certain gallant gentleman called 
Bjorn, the son of Astrand fell head and ears in love. Un- 
fortunately, a rich rival appears in the field ; and though she 
had given her heart to Bjorn, Snorre who, we have already 
seen, was a prudent man insisted upon her giving her hand 
to his rival. Disgusted by such treatment, Bjorn sails away 
to the coasts of the Baltic, and joins a famous company of 
sea-rovers, called the Jomsburg Vikings. In this worthy 
society he so distinguishes, himself by his valour and daring 
that he obtains the title of the Champion of Breidavik. After 
many doughty deeds, done by sea and land, he at last returns, 
loaded with wealth and honours, to his native country. 

In the summer-time of the year 999, soon after his arrival, 
was held a great fair at Froda, whither all the merchants, 
" clad in coloured garments," congregated from the adjacent 
country. Thither came also Bjorn's old love, the Lady of 
Froda ; "and Bjorn went up and spoke to her, and it was 
thought likely their talk would last long, since they for such a 
length of time had not seen each other." But to this renewal 
of old acquaintance both the lady's husband and her brother 
very much objected; and "it seemed to Snorre that it would 
be a good plan to kill Bjorn." So, about the time of hay- 
making, off he rides, with some retainers, to his victim's home, 
having fully instructed one of them how to deal the first blow. 
Bjorn was in the home-field (tun), mending his sledge, when 
the cavalcade appeared in sight ; and, guessing what motive 
had inspired the visit, wert straight up to Snorre, who rode 
in front, " in a blue cloak," and held the knife with which he 

1 From internal evidence it is certain that the chronicle which contains 
these Sagas must have been written about the beginning of the thir- 
teenth century. 


had been working in such a position as to be able to stab 
the Pontiff to the heart, should his followers attempt to lift 
their hands against himself. Comprehending the position of 
affairs, Snorre's friends kept quiet. " Bjorn then asked the 
news." Snorre confesses that he had intended to kill him ; 
but adds, " Thou tookest such a lucky grip of me at our 
meeting, that thou must have peace this time, however it 
may have been determined before." The conversation is 
concluded by an agreement on the part of Bjorn to leave 
the country, as he feels it impossible to abstain from paying 
visits to Thured as long as he remains in the neighbourhood. 
Having manned a ship, Bjorn put to sea in the summer-time. 
" When they sailed away, a north-east wind was blowing, 
which wind lasted long during that summer j but of this ship 
was nothing heard since this long time." And so we conclude 
it is all over with the poor Champion of Breidavik ! Not a 
bit of it. He turns up, thirty years afterwards, safe and 
sound, in the uttermost parts of the earth. 

In the year 1029, a certain Icelander, named Gudlief, 
undertakes a voyage to Limerick, in Ireland. On his return 
home, he is driven out of his course by north-east winds, 
Heaven knows where. After drifting for many days to the 
westward, he at last falls in with land. On approaching the 
beach, a great crowd of people came down to meet the 
strangers, apparently with no friendly intentions. Shortly 
afterwards, a tall and venerable chieftain makes his appear- 
ance, and, to Gudliefs great astonishment, addresses him in 
Icelandic. Having entertained the weary mariners very hon- 
ourably, and supplied them with provisions, the old man bids 
them speed back to Iceland, as it would be unsafe for them 
to remain where they were. His own name he refused to 
tell ; but having learnt that Gudlief comes from the neigh- 
bourhood of Snaefell, he puts into his hands a sword and a 
ring. The ring is to be given to Thured of Froda ; the sword 
to her son Kjartan. When Gudlief asks by whom he is to 
say the gifts are sent, the ancient chieftain answers, " Say 
they come from one who was a better friend of the Lady of 


Froda than of her brother Snorre of Helgafell." Wherefore 
it is conjectured that this man was Bjorn, the son of Astrand, 
Champion of Breidavik. 

After this, Madam, I hope I shall never hear you depre- 
ciate the constancy of men. Thured had better have married 
Bjorn after all ! 

I forgot to mention that when Gudlief landed on the 
strange coast, it seemed to him that the inhabitants spoke 
Irish. Now, there are many antiquaries inclined to believe 
in the former existence of an Irish colony to the southward 
of the Vinland of the Northmen. Scattered through the 
Sagas are several notices of a distant country in the West, 
which is called Ireland ed Mekla Great Ireland, or the 
White Man's land. When Pizarro penetrated into the heart 
of Mexico, a tradition already existed of the previous arrival 
of white men from the East. Among the Shawnasee Indians 
a story is still preserved of Florida having been once inhabited 
by white men, who used iron instruments. In 1658, Sir 
Erland the Priest had in his possession a chart, even then 
thought ancient, of " The Land of the White Men, or 
Hibernia Major, situated opposite Vinland the Good ;" and 
Gaelic philologists pretend to trace a remarkable affinity 
between many of the American- Indian dialects and the 
ancient Celtic. 

But to return to the "Foam" After passing the cape, 
away we went across the spacious Brieda Fiord, at the rate 
of nine or ten knots an hour, reeling and bounding at the 
heels of the steamer, which seemed scarcely to feel how 
uneven was the surface across which we were speeding. 
Down dropped Snaefell beneath the sea, and dim before us, 
clad in evening haze, rose the shadowy steeps of Bardestrand. 
The north-west division of Iceland consists of one huge 
peninsula, spread out upon the sea like a human hand, the 
fingers just reaching over the Arctic circle ; while up between 
them run the gloomy fiords, sometimes to the length of 
twenty, thirty, and even forty miles. Anything more grand 
and mysterious than the appearance of their solemn portals, 


as we passed across from bluff to bluff, it is impossible to 
conceive. Each might have served as a separate entrance 
to some poet's hell so drear and fatal seemed the vista 
one's eye just caught receding between the endless ranks of 
precipice and pyramid. 

There is something, moreover, particularly mystical in 
the effect of the grey, dreamy atmosphere of an arctic night, 
through whose uncertain medium mountain and headland 
loom as impalpable as the frontiers of a demon world ; and 
as I kept gazing at the glimmering peaks, and monstrous 
crags, and shattered stratifications, heaped up along the coast 
in cyclopean disorder, I understood how natural it was that 
the Scandinavian mythology, of whose mysteries the Ice- 
landers were ever the natural guardians and interpreters, 
should have assumed that broad, massive simplicity which 
is its most beautiful characteristic. Amid the rugged features 
of such a country the refinements of Paganism would have 
been dwarfed into insignificance. How out of place would 
seem a Jove with his beard in ringlets a trim Apollo a 
sleek Bacchus an ambrosial Venus a slim Diana, and all 
their attendant groups of Oreads and Cupids amid the 
ocean mists, and icebound torrents, the flame-scarred moun- 
tains, and four months' night of a land which the oppos- 
ing forces of heat and cold have selected for a battle-field ! 

The undeveloped reasoning faculty is prone to attach an 
undue value and meaning to the forms of things, and the 
infancy of a nation's mind is always more ready to worship 
the manifestations of a Power, than to look beyond them for 
a cause. Was it not natural then that these northerns, dwell- 
ing in daily communion with this grand Nature, should fancy 
they could perceive a mysterious and independent energy in 
her operations ; and at last come to confound the moral con- 
test man feels within him, with the physical strife he finds 
around him; to see in the returning sun fostering into re- 
newed existence the winter- stifled world even more than a 
type of that spiritual consciousness which alone can make the 
dead heart stir ; to discover even more than an analogy be- 


tween the reign of cold, darkness, and desolation, and the 
still blanker ruin of a sin-perverted soul ? But in that iron 
clime, amid such awful associations, the conflict going on 
was too terrible the contending powers too visibly in pre- 
sence of each other, for the practical, conscientious Norse 
mind to be content with the puny godships of a Roman 
Olympus. Nectar, Sensuality, and Inextinguishable Laughter 
were elements of felicity too mean for the nobler atmosphere 
of their Walhalla ; and to those active temperaments and 
healthy minds, invigorated and solemnized by the massive 
mould of the scenery around them, Strength, Courage, 
Endurance, and above all Self-sacrifice naturally seemed 
more essential attributes of divinity than mere elegance and 
beauty. And we must remember that whilst the vigorous 
imagination of the north was delighting itself in creating a 
stately dreamland, where it strove to blend, in a grand world- 
picture always harmonious, though not always consistent 
the influences which sustain both the physical and moral 
system of its universe, an undercurrent of sober Gothic com- 
mon sense induced it as a kind of protest against the too 
material interpretation of the symbolism it had employed 
to wind up its religious scheme by sweeping into the chaos 
of oblivion all the glorious fabric it had evoked, and pro- 
claiming in the place of the transient gods and perishable 
heaven of its Asgaard that One undivided Deity, at whose 
approach the pillars of Walhalla were to fall, and Odin and 
his peers to perish, with all the subtle machinery of their 
existence ; while man himself immortal was summoned 
to receive at the hands of the Eternal All-Father the sentence 
that waited upon his deeds. It is true this purer system 
belonged only to the early ages. As in the case of every 
false religion, the symbolism of the Scandinavian mythology 
lost with each succeeding generation something of its tran- 
sparency, and at last degenerated into a gross superstition. 
But traces still remained, even down to the times of Christian 
ascendency, of the deep, philosophical spirit in which it had 
been originally conceived ; and through its homely imagery 


there ran a vein of tender humour, such as still characterises 
the warm-hearted, laughter-loving northern races. Of this 
mixture of philosophy and fun, the following story is no bad 
specimen. 1 

Once on a time the two CEsir, Thor, the Thunder god, 
and his brother Lopt, attended by a servant, determined to 
go eastward to Jotunheim, the land of the giants, in search 
of adventures. Crossing over a great water, they came to 
a desolate plain, at whose further end, tossing and waving 
in the wind, rose the tree tops of a great forest. After jour- 
neying for many hours along its dusty labyrinths, they began 
to be anxious about a resting-place for the night. " At last, 
Lopt perceived a very spacious house, on one side of which 
was an entrance as wide as the house itself; and there they 
took up their night-quarters. At midnight they perceived a 
great earthquake; the ground reeled under them and the 
house shook. 

" Then up rose Thor and called to his companions. 
They sought about, and found a side building to the right, 
into which they went Thor placed himself at the door ; 
the rest went and sat down further in, and were very much 

"Thor kept his hammer in his hand, ready to defend 
them. Then they heard a terrible noise and roaring. 
As it began to dawn, Thor went out, and saw a man lying 
in the wood not far from them ; he was by no means small, 
and he slept and snored loudly. Then Thor understood 
what the noise was which they heard in the night. He 
buckled on his belt of power, by which he increased his 
divine strength. At the same instant the man awoke, and 
rose up. It is said that Thor was so much astonished that 
he did not dare to slay him with his hammer, but inquired 
his name. He called himself Skrymer. ' Thy name,' said 
he, ' I need not ask, for I know that thou art Asar-Thor. 
But what hast thou done with my glove ? ' 

1 The story of Thor's journey has been translated from the Edda both 
by the Howitts and Mr. Thorpe. 


" Skrymer stooped and took up his glove, and Thor saw 
that it was the house in which they had passed the night, 
and that the out-building was the thumb." 

Here follow incidents which do not differ widely from 
certain passages in the history of Jack the Giant Killer. 
Thor makes three several attempts to knock out the easy- 
going giant's brains during a slumber, in which he is repre- 
sented as '* snoring outrageously," and after each blow of 
the Thunder god's hammer, Skrymer merely wakes up 
strokes his beard and complains of feeling some trifling 
inconvenience, such as a dropped acorn on his head, a 
fallen leaf, or a little moss shaken from the boughs. 
Finally, he takes leave of them, points out the way to 
Utgard Loke's palace, advises them not to give themselves 
airs at his court, as unbecoming u such little fellows" as 
they were, and disappears in the wood ; " and" as the old 
chronicler slyly adds "it is not said whether the CEsir 
wished ever to see him again." 

They then journey on till noon ; till they come to a vast 
palace, where a multitude of men, of whom the greater 
number were immensely large, sat on two benches. " After 
this they advanced into the presence of the king, Utgard 
Loke, and saluted him. He scarcely deigned to give 
a. look, and said smiling : ' It is late to inquire after true 
tidings from a great distance ; but is it not Thor that I see ? 
Yet you are really bigger than I imagined. What are the 
exploits that you can perform? For no one is tolerated 
amongst us who cannot distinguish himself by some art or 

" ' Then,' said Lopt, ' I understand an art of which I am 
prepared to give proof ; and that is, that no one here can 
dispose of his food as I can.' Then answered Utgard 
Loke : ' Truly this is an art, if thou canst achieve it ; 
which we will now see.' He called from the bench a man 
named Loge to contend with Lopt. They set a trough in 
the middle of the hall, filled with meat. Lopt placed him- 
self at one end and Loge at the other. Both ate the best 


they could, and they met in the middle of the trough. 
Lopt had picked the meat from the bones, but Loge had 
eaten meat, bones, and trough altogether. All agreed Lopt 
was beaten. Then asked Utgard Loke what art the 
young man (Thor's attendant) understood? Thjalfe 
answered, that he would run a race with any one that 
Utgard Loke would appoint. There was a very good race 
ground on a level field. Utgard Loke called a young man 
named Huge, and bade him run with Thjalfe. Thjalfe runs 
his best, at three several attempts according to received 
Saga customs, but is of course beaten in the race. 

" Then asked Utgard Loke of Thor, what were the feats 
that he would attempt corresponding to the fame that went 
abroad of him? Thor answered that he thought he could 
beat any one at drinking. Utgard Loke said, 'Very good ;' 
and bade his cup-bearer bring out the horn from which his 
courtiers were accustomed to drink. Immediately appeared 
the cup-bearer, and placed the horn in Thor's hand. 
Utgard Loke then said, ' that to empty that horn at one 
pull was well done ; some drained it at twice ; but that he 
was a wretched drinker who could not finish it at the third 
draught.' Thor looked at the horn, and thought that it 
was not large, though it was tolerably long. He was very 
thirsty, lifted it to his mouth, and was very happy at the 
thought of so good a draught. When he could drink no 
more, he took the horn from his mouth, and saw, to his 
astonishment, that there was little less in it than before. 
Utgard Loke said : ' Well hast thou drunk, yet not much. 
I should never have believed but that Asar-Thor could 
have drunk more ; however, of this I am confident, thou 
wilt empty it at the second time.' He drank again ; but 
when he took away the horn from his mouth, it seemed to 
him that it had sunk less this time than the first ; yet the 
horn might now be carried without spilling. 

" Then said Utgard Loke : ' How is this, Thor ? If thou 
dost not reserve thyself purposely for the third draught, 
thine honour must be lost ; how canst thou be regarded as 


a great man, as the CEsir look upon thee, if thou dost not 
distinguish thyself in other ways more than thou hast done 
in this ? ' 

" Then was Thor angry, put the horn to his mouth, drank 
with all his might, and strained himself to the utmost ; and 
when he looked into the horn it was now somewhat 
lessened. He gave up the horn, and would not drink any 
more. ' Now,' said Utgard Loke, ' now is it clear that thy 
strength is not so great as we supposed. Wilt thou try 
some other game, for we see that thou canst not succeed in 
this ? ' Thor answered : ' I will now try something else ; but 
I wonder who, amongst the CEsir, would call + Jiat a little 
drink ! What play will you propose ? ' 

"Utgard Loke answered: 'Young men think it mere 
play to lift my cat from the ground; and I would never 
have proposed this to CEsir Thor, if I did not perceive that 
thou art a much less man than I had thought thee.' There- 
upon sprang an uncommonly great grey cat upon the floor. 
Thor advanced, took the cat round the body, and lifted it 
up. The cat bent its back in the same degree as Thor 
lifted ; and when Thor had lifted one of its feet from the 
ground, and was not able to lift it any higher, said Utgard 
Loke : ' The game has terminated just as I expected. The 
cat is very great, and Thor is low and small, compared with 
the great men who are here with us.' 

" Then said Thor : ' Little as you call me, I challenge 
any one to wrestle with me, for now I am angry.' Utgard 
Loke answered, looking round upon the benches : ' I see 
no one here who would not deem it play to wrestle with 
thee ; but let us call hither the old Ella, my nurse ; with 
her shall Thor prove his strength, if he will. She has given 
many one a fall who appeared far stronger than Thor is.' 
On this there entered the hall an old woman ; and Utgard 
Loke said she would wrestle with Thor. In short, the con- 
test went so, that the more Thor exerted himself, the firmet 
she stood ; and now began the old woman to exert herself, 
and Thor to give way, and severe struggles followed. It 


was not long before Thor was brought down on one knee. 
Then Utgard Loke stepped forward, bade them cease the 
struggle, and said that Thor should attempt nothing more 
at his court. It was now drawing towards night ; Utgard 
Loke showed Thor and his companions their lodging, where 
they were well accommodated. 

" As soon as it was light the next morning, up rose Thor 
and his companions, dressed themselves, and prepared to 
set out. Then came Utgard Loke, and ordered the table 
to be set, where there wanted no good provisions, either 
meat or drink. When they had breakfasted, they set out 
on their way. Utgard Loke accompanied them out of the 
castle ; but at parting he asked Thor how the journey had 
gone off ; whether he had found any man more mighty than 
himself? Thor answered, that the enterprise had brought 
him much dishonour, it was not to be denied, and that he 
must esteem himself a man of no account, which much 
mortified him. 

" Utgard Loke replied : ' Now will I tell thee the truth, 
since thou art out of my castle, where, so long as I live and 
reign, thou shalt never re-enter ; and whither, believe me, 
thou hadst never come if I had known before what might 
thou possessest, and that thou wouldst so nearly plunge us 
into great trouble. False appearances have I created for 
thee, so that the first time when thou mettest the man in 
the wood it was I ; and when thou wouldst open the pro- 
vision-sack, I had laced it together with an iron band, so 
that thou couldst not find the means to undo it. After that 
thou struckest at me three times with the hammer. The 
first stroke was the weakest, and it had been my death had 
it hit me. Thou sawest by my castle a rock, with three 
deep square holes, of which one was very deep : those were 
the marks of thy hammer. The rock I placed in the way 
of the blow, without thy perceiving it. 

" ' So also in the games, when thou contendedst with my 
courtiers. When Lopt made his essay, the fact was this : 
he was very hungry, and ate voraciously ; but he who was 


:alled Loge, was fire, which consumed the trough as well as 
the meat And Huge (mind) was my thought with which 
Thjalfe ran a race, and it was impossible for him to match 
it in speed. When thou drankest from the horn, and 
thoughtest that its contents grew no less, it was, notwith- 
standing, a great marvel, such as I never believed could 
have taken place. The one end of the horn stood in the 
sea, which thou didst not perceive ; and when thou comest 
to the shore thou wilt see how much the ocean has dimin- 
ished by what thou hast drunk. Men will call it the ebb. 

" ' Further,' said he, ' most remarkable did it seem to me 
that thou liftedst the cat, and in truth all became terrified 
when they saw that thou liftedst one of its feet from the 
ground. For it was no cat, as it seemed unto thee, but the 
great serpent that lies coiled round the world. Scarcely 
had he length that his tail and head might reach the earth, 
and thou liftedst him so high up that it was but a little way 
to heaven. That was a marvellous wrestling that thou 
wrestledst with Ella (old age), for never has there been any 
one, nor shall there ever be, let him approach what great 
age he will, that Ella shall not overcome. 

" ' Now we must part, and it is best for us on both sides 
that you do not often come to me ; but if it should so hap- 
pen, I shall defend my castle with such other arts that you 
shall not be able to effect anything against me.' 

"When Thor heard this discourse he grasped his hammer 
and lifted it into the air, but as he was about to strike he 
saw Utgard Loke nowhere. Then he turned back to the 
castle to destroy it, and he saw only a beautiful and wide 
plain, but no castle." 

So ends the story of Thor's journey to Jotunheim. 

It was now just upon the stroke of midnight. Ever since 
leaving England, as each four-and-twenty hours we climbed 
up nearer to the pole, the belt of dusk dividing day from 
day had been growing narrower and narrower, until having 
nearly reached the Arctic circle, this, the last night we 
were to traverse, had dwindled to a thread of shadow. 


Only another half-dozen leagues more, and we would stand 
on the threshold of a four months' day ! For the few pre- 
ceding hours clouds had completely covered the heavens, 
except where a clear interval of sky, that lay along the 
northern horizon, promised a glowing stage for the sun's 
last obsequies. But like the heroes of old he had veiled his 
face to die, and it was not until he dropped down to the sea 
that the whole hemisphere overflowed with glory and the 
gilded pageant concerted for his funeral gathered in slow 
procession round his grave ; reminding one of those tardy 
honours paid to some great prince of song, who left during 
life to languish in a garret is buried by nobles in West- 
minster Abbey. A few minutes more the last fiery segment 
had disappeared beneath the purple horizon, and all was 

" The king is dead the king is dead the king is dead : 
Long live the king ! " And up from the sea that had jus 
entombed his sire, rose the young monarch of a new day ; 
while the courtier clouds, in their ruby robes, turned faces 
still aglow with the favours of their dead lord, to borrow 
brighter blazonry from the smile of a new master. 

A fairer or a stranger spectacle than the last Arctic sun- 
set cannot well be conceived : Evening and Morning like 
kinsmen whose hearts some baseless feud has kept asunder 
clasping hands across the shadow of the vanished night. 

You must forgive me if sometimes I become a little 
magniloquent ; for really, amid the grandeur of that fresh 
primaeval world, it was almost impossible to prevent one's 
imagination from absorbing a dash of the local colouring. 
We seemed to have suddenly waked up among the colossal 
scenery of Keats' Hyperion. The pulses of young Titans 
beat within our veins. Time itself, no longer frittered 
down into paltry divisions, had assumed a more majestic 
aspect. We had the appetite of giants was it unnatural 
we should also adopt "the large utterance of the early 
gods ? " 

As the " Reine Hortense" could not cany coals sufficient 


for the entire voyage we had set out upon, it had been 
arranged that the steamer " Saxon " should accompany her 
as a tender, and the Onunder Fiord, on the north-west coast 
of the island, had been appointed as the place of rendez- 
vous. Suddenly wheeling round therefore to the right we 
quitted the open sea, and dived down a long grey lane of 
water that ran on as far as the eye could reach between two 
lofty ranges of porphyry and amygdaloid. The conforma- 
tion of these mountains was most curious : it looked as if 
the whole district was the effect of some prodigious crystal- 
lization, so geometrical was the outline of each particular 
hill, sometimes rising cube-like, or pentagonal, but more 
generally built up into a perfect pyramid, with stairs mount- 
ing in equal gradations to the summit. Here and there the 
cone of the pyramid would be shaven off, leaving it flat- 
topped like a Babylonian altar or Mexican teocalli ; and as 
the sun's level rays, shooting across above our heads in 
golden rafters from ridge to ridge, smote brighter on some 
loftier peak behind, you might almost fancy you beheld the 
blaze of sacrificial fires. The peculiar symmetrical appear- 
ance of these rocks arises from the fact of their being built 
up in layers of trap, alternating with Neptunian beds ; the 
disintegrating action of snow and frost on the more exposed 
strata having gradually carved their sides into flights of 

It is in these Neptunian beds that the famous surturbrand 
is found, a species of bituminous timber, black and shining 
like pitch coal ; but whether belonging to the common 
carboniferous system, or formed from ancient drift-wood, 
is still a point of dispute among the learned. In this 
neighbourhood considerable quantities both of zerlite and 
chabasite are also found, but, generally speaking, Iceland 
is less rich in minerals than one would suppose; opal, 
calcedony, amethyst, malachite, obsidian, agate, and feldspar, 
being the principal. Of sulphur the supply is inexhaustible. 

After steaming down for several hours between these 
terraced hills, we at last reached the extremity of the fiord, 


where we found the "Saxon" looking like a black sea-dragon 
coiled up at the bottom of his den. Up fluttered a signal 
to the mast-head of the corvette, and blowing off her steam, 
she wore round upon her heel, to watch the effects of hei 
summons. As if roused by the challenge of an intruder, 
the sleepy monster seemed suddenly to bestir itself, and 
then pouring out volumes of sulphureous breath, set out 
with many an angry snort in pursuit of the rash troubler of 
its solitude. At least, such I am sure might have been the 
notion of the poor peasant inhabitants of two or three 
cottages I saw scattered here and there along the loch, as, 
startled from their sleep, they listened to the stertorous 
breathing of the long snake-like ships, and watched them 
glide past with magic motion along the glassy surface of the 
water. Of course the novelty and excitement of all we had 
been witnessing had put sleep and bedtime quite out of our 
thoughts : but it was already six o'clock in the morning ; it 
would require a considerable time to get out of the fiord, 
and in a few hours after we should be within the Arctic circle, 
so that if we were to have any sleep at all now was the 
time. Acting on these considerations, we all three turned 
in ; and for the next half-dozen hours I lay dreaming of a 
great funeral among barren mountains, where white bears in 
peers' robes were the pall-bearers, and a sea-dragon chief- 
mourner. When we came on deck again, the northern 
extremity of Iceland lay leagues away on our starboard 
quarter, faintly swimming through the haze ; up overhead 
blazed the white sun, and below glittered the level sea, like 
a pale blue disc netted in silver lace. I seldom remembei 
a brighter day; the thermometer was at 72, and it really 
felt more as if we were crossing the line than entering the 
frigid zone. 

Animated by that joyous inspiration which induces them 
to make a fete of everything, the French officers, it appeared, 
wished to organize a kind of carnival to inaugurate their 
arrival in Arctic waters, and by means of a piece of chalk 
and a huge black board displayed from the hurricane-deck 


of the " Rdne Hortense" an inquiry was made as to what 
suggestion I might have to offer in furtherance of this 
laudable object. With that poverty of invention and love 
of spirits which characterise my nation, I am obliged to 
confess that, after deep reflection, I was only able to answer, 
"Grog." But seeing an extra flag or two was being run 
up at each masthead of the Frenchman, the lucky idea 
occurred to me to dress the "foam" in all her colours. 
The schooner's toilette accomplished, I went on board the 
" Reine Hortense" and you cannot imagine anything more 
fragile, graceful, or coquettish, than her appearance from the 
deck of the corvette, as she curtsied and swayed herself 
on the bosom of the almost imperceptible swell, or flirted 
up the water with her curving bows. She really looked 
like a living little lady. 

But from all such complacent reveries I was soon awakened 
by the sound of a deep voice, proceeding apparently from 
the very bottom of the sea, which hailed the ship in the 
most authoritative manner, and imperiously demanded her 
name, where she was going, whom she carried, and whence 
she came : to all which questions, a young lieutenant, stand- 
ing with his hat off at the gangway, politely responded. 
Apparently satisfied on these points, our invisible interlo- 
cutor then announced his intention of coming on board. All 
the officers of the ship collected on the poop to receive him. 

In a few seconds more, amid the din of the most unearthly 
music, and surrounded by a bevy of hideous monsters, a 
white-bearded, spectacled personage clad in bear-skin, with 
a cocked hat over his left ear presented himself in the 
gangway, and handing to the officers of the watch an enor- 
mous board, on which was written 


by way of visiting card, proceeded to walk aft, and take 
the sun's altitude with what, as far as I could make out, 
seemed to be a plumber's wooden triangle. This prelimi- 
nary operation having been completed, there then began 


a regular riot all over the ship. The yards were suddenly 
manned with red devils, black monkeys, and every kind of 
grotesque monster, while the whole ship's company, officers 
and men promiscuously mingled, danced the cancan upon 
deck. In order that the warmth of the day should not 
make us forget that we had arrived in his dominions, the 
Arctic father had stationed certain of his familiars in the 
tops, who at stated intervals flung down showers of hard 
peas, as typical of hail, while the powdering of each other's 
faces with handfuls of flour could not fail to remind every- 
body on board that we had reached the latitude of snow. 
At the commencement of this noisy festival I found myself 
standing on the hurricane deck, next to one of the grave 
savants attached to the expedition, who seemed to contem- 
plate the antics that were being played at his feet with that 
sad smile of indulgence with which Wisdom sometimes 
deigns to commiserate the gaiety of Folly. Suddenly he 
disappeared from beside me, and the next that I saw or 
heard of him he was hard at work pirouetting on the deck 
below with a red-tailed demon, and exhibiting in his steps 
a "verve" and a graceful audacity which at Paris would 
have certainly obtained for him the honours of expulsion at 
the hands of the municipal authorities. The entertainment 
of the day concluded with a discourse delivered out of a 
wind-sail by the chaplain attached to the person of the Pere 
Arctique, which was afterwards washed down by a cauldron 
full of grog, served out in bumpers to the several actors in 
this unwonted ceremonial. As the Prince had been good 
enough to invite us to dinner, instead of returning to the 
schooner I spent the intermediate hour in pacing the quarter- 
deck with Baron de la Ronciere, the naval commander 
entrusted with the charge of the expedition. Like all the 
smartest officers in the French navy, he speaks English 
beautifully, and I shall ever remember with gratitude the 
cordiality with which he welcomed me on board his ship, 
and the thoughtful consideration of his arrangements for the 
little schooner which he had taken in tow. At five o'clock 


dinner was announced, and I question if so sumptuous a 
banquet has ever been served up before in that outlandish 
part of the world, embellished as it was by selections from 
the best operas played by the corps d'orchestre which had 
accompanied the Prince from Paris. During the pauses of 
the music the conversation naturally turned on the strange 
lands we were about to visit, and the best mode of spiffli- 
cating the white bears who were probably already shaking 
in their snow shoes : but alas ! while we were in the very 
act of exulting in our supremacy over these new domains, 
the stiffened finger of the Ice king was tracing in frozen 
characters a "Mene, mene, tekel upharsin" on the plate 
glass of the cabin windows. During the last half-hour the 
thermometer had been gradually falling, until it was nearly 
down to 32 ; a dense penetrating fog enveloped both the 
vessels (the " Saxon" had long since dropped out of sight), 
flakes of snow began floating slowly down, and a gelid 
breeze from the north-west told too plainly that we had 
reached the frontiers- of the solid ice, though we were still 
a good hundred miles distant from the American shore. 
Although at any other time the terrible climate we had 
dived into would have been very depressing, under present 
circumstances I think the change rather tended to raise our 
spirits, perhaps because the idea of fog and ice in the month 
of June seemed so completely to uncockneyfy us. At all 
events there was no doubt now we had got into les mers 
glaciates, as our French friends called them, and, whatever 
else might be in store for us, there was sure henceforth to 
be no lack of novelty and excitement. 

By this time it was already well on in the evening, so 
having agreed with Monsieur de la Ronciere on a code of 
signals in case of fogs, and that a jack hoisted at the mizen 
of the " Rdne- Hortense" or at the fore of the schooner, 
should be an intimation of a desire of one or other to cast 
off, we got into the boat and were dropped down alongside 
our own ship. Ever since leaving Iceland the steamer had 
been heading east-north-east by compass, but during the 


whole of the ensuing night she shaped a south-east course ; 
the thick mist rendering it unwise to stand on any longer in 
the direction of the banquise, as they call the outer edge of 
the belt that hems in Eastern Greenland. About three A.M. 
it cleared up a little. By breakfast time the sun re-appeared, 
and we could see five or six miles ahead of the vessel. It 
was shortly after this, that as I was standing in the main 
rigging peering out over the smooth blue surface of the sea, 
a white twinkling point of light suddenly caught my eye 
about a couple of miles off on the port bow, which a tele- 
scope soon resolved into a solitary isle of ice, dancing and 
dipping in the sunlight. As you may suppose, the news 
brought everybody upon deck; and when almost immediately 
afterwards a string of other pieces, glittering like a diamond 
necklace, hove in sight, the excitement was extreme. 

Here at all events was honest blue saltwatei frozen solid, 
and when, as we proceeded, the scattered fragments thick- 
ened, and passed like silver argosies on either hand, until 
at last we found ourselves enveloped in an innumerable 
fleet of bergs, it seemed as if we could never be weary of 
admiring a sight so strange and beautiful. It was rather in 
form and colour than in size that these ice islets were re- 
markable ; anything approaching to a real iceberg we neither 
saw, nor are we likely to see. In fact, the lofty ice moun- 
tains that wander like vagrant islands along the coast of 
America, seldom or never come to the eastward or north- 
ward of Cape Farewell. They consist of land ice, and are 
all generated among bays and straits within Baffin's Bay, 
and first enter the Atlantic a good deal to the southward of 
Iceland ; whereas the Polar ice, among which we have been 
knocking about, is field ice, and except when packed one 
ledge above the other, by great pressure is comparatively 
flat. I do not think I saw any pieces that were piled up 
higher than thirty or thirty-five feet above the sea-level, al- 
though at a little distance through the mist they may have 
loomed much loftier. 

In quaintness of form, and in brilliancy of colours, these 

VIII ICE. 123 

wonderful masses surpassed everything I had imagined; 
and we found endless amusement in watching their fantastic 

At one time it was a knight on horseback, clad in sap- 
phire mail, a white plume above his casque. Or a cathe- 
dral window with shafts of chrysophras, new powdered by a 
snow-storm. Or a smooth sheer cliff of lapis lazuli ; or a 
Banyan tree, with roots descending from its branches, and 
a foliage as delicate as the efflorescence of molten metal ; or 
a fairy dragon, that breasted the water in scales of emerald ; 
or anything else that your fancy chose to conjure up. After 
a little time, the mist again descended on the scene, and 
dulled each glittering form to a shapeless mass of white ; 
while in spite of all our endeavours to keep upon our 
northerly course, we were constantly compelled to turn and 
wind about in every direction sometimes standing on for 
several hours at a stretch to the southward and eastward. 
These perpetual embarrassments became at length very 
wearying, and in order to relieve the tedium of our progress 
I requested the Doctor to remove one of my teeth. This 
he did with the greatest ability a wrench to starboard, 
another to port, and up it flew through the cabin sky-light. 

During the whole of that afternoon and the following 
night we made but little Northing at all, and the next day 
the ice seemed more pertinaciously in our way than ever ; 
neither could we relieve the monotony of the hours by con- 
versing with each other on the black boards, as the mist 
was too thick for us too distinguish from on board one ship 
anything that was passing on the deck of the other. Not- 
withstanding the great care and skill with which the steamer 
threaded her way among the loose floes, it was impossible 
sometimes to prevent fragments of ice striking us with con- 
siderable violence on the bows ; and as we lay in bed at 
night, I confess that until we got accustomed to the noise, 
it was by no means a pleasant thing to hear the pieces 
angrily scraping along the ship's sides within two inches of 
our ears. On the evening of the fourth day it came on to 


blow pretty hard, and at midnight it had freshened to half a 
gale j but by dint of standing well away to the eastward we 
had succeeded in reaching comparatively open water, and I 
had gone to bed in great hopes that at all events the breeze 
would brush off the fog, and enable us to see our way a 
little more clearly the next morning. 

At five o'clock A.M. the officer of the watch jumped down 
into my cabin, and awoke me with the news " That the 
Frenchman was a-saying summat on his black board ! " 
Feeling by the motion that a very heavy sea must have been 
knocked up during the night, I began to be afraid that 
something must have gone wrong with the towing-gear, or 
that a hawser might have become entangled in the corvette's 
screw which was the catastrophe of which I had always 
been most apprehensive ; so slipping on a pair of fur boots, 
which I carefully kept by the bedside in case of an emer- 
gency, and throwing a cloak over 

" Le simple appareil 
D'une beaut6 qu'on vient d'arracher au sommeil," 

I caught hold of a telescope, and tumbled up on deck. 
Anything more bitter and disagreeable than the icy blast, 
which caught me round the waist as I emerged from the 
companion I never remember. With both hands occupied 
in levelling the telescope, I could not keep the wind from 
blowing the loose wrap quite off my shoulders, and except 
for the name of the thing, I might just as well have been 
standing in my shirt. Indeed, I was so irresistibly struck 
with my own resemblance to a coloured print I remember 
in youthful days, representing that celebrated character 
" Puss in Boots," with a purple robe of honour streaming 
far behind him on the wind, to express the velocity of his 
magical progress that I laughed aloud while I shivered in 
the blast. What with the spray and mist, moreover, it was 
a good ten minutes before I could make out the writing, 
and when at last I did spell out the letters, their meaning 
was not very inspiriting : "Nous retournons d Reykjavik!* 


So evidently they had given it up as a bad job, and had 
come to the conclusion that the island was inaccessible. 
Yet it seemed very hard to have to turn back, after 
coming so far ! We had already made upwards of 300 
miles since leaving Iceland : it could not be much above 
120 or 130 more to Jan Mayen; and although things 
looked unpromising, there still seemed such a chance of 
success, that I could not find it in my heart to give in ; 
so, having run up a jack at the fore all writing on our 
board was out of the question, we were so deluged with 
spray I jumped down to wake Fitzgerald and Sigurdr, 
and tell them we were going to cast off, in case they had 
any letters to send home. In the meantime, I scribbled a 
line of thanks and good wishes to M. de la Ronciere, and 
another to you, and guyed it with our mails on board the 
corvette in a milk can. 

In the meantime all was bustle on board our decks, and 
I think every one was heartily pleased at the thoughts of 
getting the little schooner again under canvas. A couple of 
reefs were hauled down in the mainsail and staysail, and 
everything got ready for making sail. 

" Is all clear for'ard for slipping, Mr. Wyse ? " 

" Ay, ay, Sir ; all clear ! " 

" Let go the tow-ropes ! " 

" All gone, Sir ! " 

And down went the heavy hawsers into the sea, up flut- 
tered the staysail, then poising for a moment on the 
waves with the startled hesitation of a bird suddenly set 
free, the little creature spread her wings, thrice dipped 
her ensign in token of adieu receiving in return a hearty 
cheer from the French crew and glided like a phantom 
into the North, while the " Reine Hortense" puffed back 
to Iceland. 1 

1 It subsequently appeared that the " Saxon," on the second day after 
leaving Onunder Fiord, had unfortunately knocked a hole in her bottom 
against the ice, and was obliged to run ashore in a sinking state. In 
consequence of never having been rejoined by her tender, the " Rcint 


Ten minutes more, and we were the only denizens of 
that misty sea. I confess I felt excessively sorry to have 
lost the society of such joyous companions ; they had 
received us always with such merry good nature : the 
Prince had shown himself so gracious and considerate, 
and he was surrounded by a staff of such clever, well- 
informed persons, that it was with the deepest regret I 
watched the fog close round the magnificent corvette, 
and bury her and all whom she contained within its 
bosom. Our own situation, too, was not altogether with- 
out causing me a little anxiety. We had not seen the 
sun for two days ; it was very thick, with a heavy sea, and 
dodging about as we had been among the ice, at the 
heels of the steamer, our dead reckoning was not very 
much to be depended upon. The best plan I thought 
would be to stretch away at once clear of the ice, then 
run up into the latitude of Jan Mayen, and as soon as- 
we should have reached the parallel of its northern 
extremity bear down on the land. If there was any 
access at all to the island, it was very evident it would be 
on its northern or eastern side ; and now that we were 
alone, to keep on knocking up through a hundred miles or 
so of ice in a thick fog, in our fragile schooner, would 
have been out of the question. 

The ship's course, therefore, having been shaped in 
accordance with this view, I stole back into bed and 
resumed my violated slumbers. Towards mid-day the 
weather began to moderate, and by four o'clock we were 
skimming along on a smooth sea, with all sails set. This 
state of prosperity continued for the next twenty-four 
hours ; we had made about eighty knots since parting 
company with the Frenchman, and it was now time to 

Hortense" found herself short of coals ; and as the encumbered state of 
the sea rendered it already very unlikely that any access would be found 
open to the island, M. de la Ronciere very properly judged it advisable 
to turn back. He re-entered the Reykjavik harbour without so mucb 
as a shovelful of coals left on board. 


run down West and pick up the land. Luckily the sky 
was pretty clear, and as we sailed on through open water 
I really began to think our prospects very brilliant. But 
about three o'clock on the second day, specks of ice 
began to flicker here and there on the horizon, th en larger 
bulks came floating by in forms as picturesque as ever 
(one, I particularly remember, a human hand thrust up 
out of the water with outstretched forefinger, as if to warn 
us against proceeding farther), until at last the whole sea 
became clouded with hummocks that seemed to gather on 
our path in magical multiplicity. 

Up to this time we had seen nothing of the island, yet 
I knew we must be within a very few miles of it ; and now, 
to make things quite pleasant, there descended upon us a 
thicker fog than I should have thought the atmosphere 
capable of sustaining ; it seemed to hang in solid festoons 
from the masts and spars. To say that you could not see 
your hand, ceased almost to be any longer figurative ; 
even the ice was hid except those fragments immediately 
adjacent, whose ghastly brilliancy the mist itself could 
not quite extinguish, as they glimmered round the vessel 
like a circle of luminous phantoms. The perfect stillness 
of the sea and sky added very much to the solemnity of 
the scene ; almost every breath of wind had fallen, scarcely 
a ripple tinkled against the copper sheathing, as the solitary 
little schooner glided along at the rate of half a knot or so 
an hour, and the only sound we heard was the distant wash 
of waters, but whether on a great shore, or along a belt of 
solid ice, it was impossible to say. In such weather, as 
the original discoverers of Jan Mayen said under similar 
circumstances, " it was easier to hear land than to see it." 
Thus, hour after hour passed by and brought no change. 
Fitz and Sigurdr who had begun quite to disbelieve 
in the existence of the island went to bed, while I re- 
mained pacing up and down the deck, anxiously question- 
ing each quarter of the grey canopy that enveloped us. 
At last, about four in the morning, I fancied some change 


was going to take place ; the heavy wreaths of vapour 
seemed to be imperceptibly separating, and in a few 
minutes more the solid roof of grey suddenly split asunder, 
and I beheld through the gap thousands of feet over- 
head, as if suspended in the crystal sky a cone of illumi- 
nated snow. 

You can imagine my delight It was really that of an 
anchorite catching a glimpse of the seventh heaven. There 
at last was the long-sought-for mountain actually tumbling 
down upon our heads. Columbus could not have been more 
pleased when, after nights of watching, he saw the first fires 
of a new hemisphere dance upon the water; nor, indeed, 
scarcely less disappointed at their sudden disappearance 
than I was, when, after having gone below to wake Sigurdr, 
and tell him we had seen bona fide terra-firma, I found, on 
returning upon deck, that the roof of mist had closed again, 
and shut out all trace of the transient vision. However, I 
had got a clutch of the island, and no slight matter should 
make me let go my hold. In the meantime there was 
nothing for it but to wait patiently until the curtain lifted ; 
and no child ever stared more eagerly at a green drop-scene 
in expectation of " the realm of dazzling splendour " pro- 
mised in the bill, than I did at the motionless grey folds that- 
hung round us. At last the hour of liberation came : a 
purer light seemed gradually to penetrate the atmosphere, 
brown turned to grey, and grey to white, and white to trans- 
parent blue, until the lost horizon entirely reappeared, 
except where in one direction an impenetrable veil of haze 
still hung suspended from the zenith to the sea. Behind 
that veil I knew must lie Jan Mayen. 

A few minutes more, and slowly, silently, in a manner you 
could take no count of, its dusky hem first deepened to a 
violet tinge, then gradually lifting, displayed a long line of 
coast in reality but the roots of Beerenberg dyed of the 
darkest purple ; while, obedient to a common impulse, the 
clouds that wrapped its summit gently disengaged themselves, 
and left the mountain standing in all the magnificence of his 


6,870 feet, girdled by a single zone of pearly vapour, from 
underneath whose floating folds seven enormous glaciers 
rolled down into the sea ! Nature seemed to have turned 
scene-shifter, so artfully were the phases of this glorious 
spectacle successively developed. 

Although by reason of our having hit upon its side 
instead of its narrow end the outline of Mount Beerenberg 
appeared to us more like a sugar-loaf than a spire broader 
at the base and rounder at the top than I had imagined, 
in size, colour, and effect, it far surpassed anything I had 
anticipated. The glaciers were quite an unexpected element 
of beauty. Imagine a mighty river of as great a volume as 
the Thames started down the side of a mountain, 
bursting over every impediment, whirled into a thousand 
eddies, tumbling and raging on from ledge to ledge in 
quivering cataracts of foam, then suddenly struck rigid by a 
power so instantaneous in its action, that even the froth and 
fleeting wreaths of spray have stiffened into the immutability 
of sculpture. Unless you had seen it, it would be almost 
impossible to conceive the strangeness of the contrast 
between the actual tranquillity of these silent crystal rivers 
and the violent descending energy impressed upon their 
exterior. You must remember, too, all this is upon a scale 
of such prodigious magnitude, that when we succeeded sub- 
sequently in approaching the spot where with a leap like 
that of Niagara one of these glaciers plunges down into the 
sea the eye, no longer able to take in its fluvial character, 
was content to rest in simple astonishment at what then 
appeared a lucent precipice of grey-green ice, rising to the 
height of several hundred feet above the masts of the vessel. 
As soon as we had got a little over our first feelings of 
astonishment at the panorama thus suddenly revealed to us 
by the lifting of the fog, I began to consider what would be 
the best way of getting to the anchorage on the west or 
Greenland side of the island. We were still seven or eight 
miles from the shore, and the northern extremity of the 
island, round which we should have to pass, lay about five 



leagues off, bearing West by North, while between us and 
the land stretched a continuous breadth of floating ice. 
The hummocks, however, seemed to be pretty loose with 
openings here and there, so that with careful sailing I thought 
we might pass through, and perhaps on the farther side of 
the island come into a freer sea. Alas ! after having with 
some difficulty wound along until we were almost abreast 
of the cape, we were stopped dead short by a solid rampart 
of fixed ice, which in one direction leant upon the land, 
and in the other ran away as far as the eye could reach into 
the dusky North. Thus hopelessly cut off from all access 
to the western and better anchorage, it only remained to 
put about, and running down along the land attempt to 
reach a kind of open roadstead on the eastern side, a little 
to the south of the volcano described by Dr. Scoresby : 
but in this endeavour also we were doomed to be disap- 
pointed ; for after sailing some considerable distance through 
a field of ice, which kept getting more closely packed as 
we pushed further into it, we came upon another barrier 
equally impenetrable, that stretched away from the island 
toward the Southward and Eastward. Under these cir- 
cumstances, the only thing to be done was to get back to 
where the ice was looser, and attempt a landing wherever 
a favourable opening presented itself. But even to extricate 
ourselves from our present position, was now no longer of 
such easy performance. Within the last hour the wind had 
shifted into the North-West ; that is to say, it was now blow- 
ing right down the path along which we had picked our 
way; in order to return, therefore, it would be necessary 
to work the ship to windward through a sea as thickly 
crammed with ice as a lady's boudoir is with furniture. 
Moreover, it had become evident, from the obvious closing 
of the open spaces, that some considerable pressure was 
acting upon the outside of the field ; but whether originating 
in a current or the change of wind, or another field being 
driven down upon it, I could not tell Be that as it might, 
out we must get, unless we wanted to be cracked like a 


walnut-shell between the drifting ice and the solid belt to 
leeward ; so sending a steady hand to the helm, for these 
unusual phenomena had begun to make some of my people 
lose their heads a little, no one on board having ever seen a 
bit of ice before, I stationed myself in the bows, while Mr. 
Wyse conned the vessel from the square yard. Then there 
began one of the prettiest and most exciting pieces of nau- 
tical manoeuvring that can be imagined. Every single soul 
on board was summoned upon deck ; to all, their several 
stations and duties were assigned always excepting the 
cook, who was merely directed to make himself generally 
useful. As soon as everybody was ready, down went the 
helm, about came the ship, and the critical part of the 
business commenced. Of course, in order to wind and 
twist the schooner in and out among the devious channels 
left between the hummocks, it was necessary she should 
have considerable way on her ; at the same time so narrow 
were some of the passages, and so sharp their turnings, that 
unless she had been the most handy vessel in the world, she 
would have had a very narrow squeak for it. I never saw 
anything so beautiful as her behaviour. Had she been a 
living creature, she could not have dodged, and wound, and 
doubled, with more conscious cunning and dexterity ; and 
it was quite amusing to hear the endearing way in which the 
people spoke to her, each time the nimble creature contrived 
to elude some more than usually threatening tongue of ice. 
Once or twice, in spite of all our exertions, it was impossi- 
ble to save her from a collision ; all that remained to be 
done, as soon as it became evident she could not clear some 
particular floe, or go about in time to avoid it, was to haul 
the staysail sheet a-weather in order to deaden her way as 
much as possible, and putting the helm down let her go 
right at it, so that she should receive the blow on her stem, 
and not on the bluff of the bow ; while all hands, armed 
with spars and fenders, rushed forward to ease off the shock. 
And here I feel it just to pay a tribute of admiration to the 
cook, who on these occasions never failed to exhibit an im- 


mense amount of misdirected energy, breaking I remem- 
ber at the same moment, both the cabin sky-light, and an 
oar, in single combat with a large berg that was doing no 
particular harm to us, but against which he seemed suddenly 
to have conceived a violent spite. Luckily a considerable 
quantity of snow overlaid the ice, which, acting as a buffer, 
in some measure mitigated the violence of the concussion ; 
while the very fragility of her build diminishing the momen- 
tum, proved in the end the little schooner's greatest security. 
Nevertheless, I must confess that more than once, while 
leaning forward in expectation of the scrunch I knew must 
come, I have caught myself half murmuring to the fair face 
that seemed to gaze so serenely at the cold white mass we 
were approaching : " O Lady, is it not now fit thou shouldest 
befriend the good ship of which thou art the pride ? " 

At last, after having received two or three pretty severe 
bumps, though the loss of a little copper was the only 
damage they entailed, we made our way back to the 
northern end of the island, where the pack was looser, and 
we had at all events a little more breathing room. 

It had become very cold ; so cold, indeed, that Mr. 
Wyse no longer able to keep a clutch of the rigging had 
a severe tumble from the yard on which he was standing. 
The wind was freshening, and the ice was evidently still in 
motion ; but although very anxious to get back again into 
open water, we thought it would not do to go away without 
landing, even if it were only for an hour. So having laid 
the schooner right under the cliff, and putting into the gig 
our own discarded figure-head, a white ensign, a flag-staff, 
and a tin biscuit-box, containing a paper on which I had 
hastily written the schooner's name, the date of her arrival, 
and the names of all those who sailed on board, we pulled 
ashore. A ribbon of beach not more than fifteen yards 
wide, composed of iron-sand, augite, and pyroxene, running 
along under the basaltic precipice upwards of a thousand 
feet high which serves as a kind of plinth to the mountain, 
was the only standing room this part of the coast afforded. 


With considerable difficulty, and after a good hour's climb, 
we succeeded in dragging the figure-head we had brought 
ashore with us, up a sloping patch of snow, which lay 
in a crevice of the cliff, and thence a little higher, to a 
natural pedestal formed by a broken shaft of rock ; where 
after having tied the tin box round her neck, and duly 
planted the white ensign of St. George beside her, we left 
the superseded damsel, somewhat grimly smiling across 
the frozen ocean at her feet, until some Bacchus of a bear 
should come to relieve the loneliness of my wooden 

On descending to the water's edge, we walked some little 
distance along the beach without observing anything very 
remarkable, unless it were the network of vertical and hori- 
zontal dikes of basalt which shot in every direction through 
the scoriae and conglomerate of which the cliff seemed to be 
composed. Innumerable sea-birds sat in the crevices and 
ledges of the uneven surface, or flew about us with such 
confiding curiosity, that by reaching out my hand I could 
touch their wings as they poised themselves in the air alosg- 
side. There was one old sober-sides with whom I passed a 
good ten minutes tete-cl-tete, trying who could stare the other 
out of countenance. 

It was now high time to be off. As soon then as we had 
collected some geological specimens, and duly christened 
the little cove, at the bottom of which we had landed, 
" Clandeboye Creek," we walked back to the gig. But 
so rapidly was the ice drifting down upon the island, we 
found it had already become doubtful whether we should 
not have to carry the boat over the patch which during the 
couple of hours we had spent on shore had almost cut her 
off from access to the water. If this was the case with the 
gig, it was very evident the quicker we got the schooner out 
to sea again the better. So immediately we returned on 
board, having first fired a gun in token of adieu to the deso- 
late land we should never again set foot on, the ship was 
put about, and our task of working out towards the open 


water recommenced. As this operation was likely to require 
some time, directly breakfast was over, (it was now about 
eleven o'clock A.M.,) and after a vain attempt had been 
made to take a photograph of the mountain, which the mist 
was again beginning to envelope, I turned in to take a nap, 
which I rather needed, fully expecting that by the time I 
awoke we should be beginning to get pretty clear of the 
pack. On coming on deck, however, four hours later, 
although we had reached away a considerable distance from 
the land, and had even passed the spot, where, the day 
before, the sea was almost free, the floes seemed closer 
than ever ; and, what was worse, from the mast-head not a 
vestige of open water was to be discovered. On every side, 
as far as the eye could reach, there stretched over the sea 
one cold white canopy of ice. 

The prospect of being beset, in so slightly built a craft, 
was to say the least unpleasant ; it looked very much as 
if fresh packs were driving down upon us from the very 
direction in which we were trying to push out, yet it had 
become a matter of doubt which course it would be best to 
steer. To remain stationary was out of the question ; the 
pace at which the fields drift is sometimes very rapid, 1 and 
the first nip would settle the poor little schooner's business 
for ever. At the same time, it was quite possible that any 
progress we succeeded in making, instead of tending towards 
her liberation, might perhaps be only getting her deeper 

1 Dr. Scoresby states that the invariable tendency of fields of ice is to 
drift south-westward, and that the strange effects produced by their 
occasional rapid motions, is one of the most striking objects the Polar 
Seas present, and certainly the most terrific. They frequently acquire a 
rotary motion, whereby their circumference attains a velocity of several 
miles an hour ; and it is scarcely possible to conceive the consequences 
produced by a body, exceeding ten thousand million tons in weight, 
coming in contact with another under such circumstances. The strongest 
ship is but an insignificant impediment between two fields in motion. 
Numbers of whale vessels have thus been destroyed ; some have been 
thrown upon the ice ; some have had then" hulls completely torn open, 
or divided in two, and others have been overrun by the ice, and buried 
beneath its heaped fragments. 


into the scrape. One thing was very certain, Northing or 
Southing might be an even chance, but whatever Easting 
we could make must be to the good ; so I determined to 
choose whichever vein seemed to have most Easterly direc- 
tion in it. Two or three openings of this sort from time to 
time presented themselves ; but in every case, after following 
them a certain distance, they proved to be but cul-de-sacs, 
and we had to return discomfited. My great hope was in a 
change of wind. It was already blowing very fresh from the 
northward and eastward ; and if it would but shift a few 
points, in all probability the ice would loosen as rapidly as 
it had collected. In the meantime, the only thing to do 
was to keep a sharp look-out, sail the vessel carefully, and 
take advantage of every chance of getting to the eastward. 

It now grew colder than ever, the distant land was 
almost hid with fog, tattered dingy clouds came crowding 
over the heavens, while Wilson moved uneasily about the 
deck, with the air of Cassandra at the conflagration of Troy. 
It was Sunday, the i4th of July, and I had a momentary 
fancy that I could hear the sweet church bells in England 
pealing across the cold white flats which surrounded us. At 
last, about five o'clock P.M., the wind shifted a point or two, 
then flew round into the south-east. Not long after, just as 
I had expected, the ice evidently began to loosen, a pro- 
mising opening was reported from the mast-head a mile or 
so away on the port-bow, and by nine o'clock we were 
spanking along, at the rate of eight knots an hour, under a 
double-reefed mainsail and staysail down a continually 
widening channel, between two wave-lashed ridges of drift 
ice. Before midnight, we had regained the open sea, and 
were standing away 

" to Norroway, 
To Norroway, over the faem. " 

In the forenoon I had been too busy to have our usual 
Sunday church ; but as soon as we were pretty clear of the 
ice I managed to have a short service in the cabin. 


Of our run to Hammerfest I have nothing particular to 
say. The distance is eight hundred miles, and we did it in 
eight days. On the whole, the weather was pretty fair, 
though cold, and often foggy. One day indeed was per- 
fectly lovely, the one before we made the coast of Lapland, 
without a cloud to be seen for the space of twenty-four 
hours ; giving me an opportunity of watching the sun per- 
forming his complete circle overhead, and taking a meridian 
altitude at midnight. We were then in 70 25' North lati- 
tude ; i.e., almost as far north as the North Cape ; yet the 
thermometer had been up to 80 during the afternoon. 

Shortly afterwards the fog came on again, and next morn- 
ing it was blowing very hard from the eastward. This was 
the more disagreeable, as it is always very difficult, under the 
most favourable circumstances, to find one's way into any 
harbour along this coast, fenced off, as it is, from the ocean 
by a complicated outwork of lofty islands, which, in their 
turn, are hemmed in by nests of sunken rock, sown as thick 
as peas, for miles to seaward. There are no pilots until you 
are within the islands, and no longer want them, no light- 
houses or beacons of any sort ; and all that you have to go 
by is the shape of the hill-tops ; but as, on the clearest day, 
the outlines of the mountains have about as much variety as 

A/\ A A 


the teeth of a saw, and as on a cloudy day, which happens 
about seven times a week, you see nothing but the line of 
their dark roots, the unfortunate mariner, who goes poking 
about for the narrow passage which is to lead him between 
the islands, at the back of one of which a pilot is waiting 
for him, will, in all probability, have already placed his 
vessel in a position to render that functionary's further 
attendance a work of supererogation. At least, I know it 


was as much surprise as pleasure that I experienced, when, 
after having with many misgivings ventured to slip through 
an opening in the monotonous barricade of mountains, we 

found it was the right channel to our port. If the king of 
all the Goths would only stick up a lighthouse here and 
there along the edge of his Arctic seaboard, he would save 
many an honest fellow a heart-ache. 

I must now finish this long letter. 

Hammerfest is scarcely worthy of my wasting paper on it. 
When I tell you that it is the most northerly town in Europe, 
I think I have mentioned its only remarkable characteristic. 
It stands on the edge of an enormous sheet of water, com- 
pletely landlocked by three islands, and consists of a con- 
gregation of wooden houses, plastered up against a steep 
mountain ; some of which being built on piles, give the 
notion of the place having slipped down off the hill half-way 
into the sea. Its population is so and so, its chief ex- 
ports this and that ; for all which, see Mr. Murray's "Hand- 
book," where you will find all such matters much more 
clearly and correctly set down than I am likely to state 
them. At all events, it produces milk, cream not butter 
salad, and bad potatoes ; which is what we are most inter- 
ested in at present. To think that you should be all revel- 
ling this very moment in green-peas and cauliflowers ! I 
hope you don't forget your grace before dinner. 

I will write to you again before setting sail for Spitzbergen. 



I HAVE received a copy of the "Moniteur" of the 3ist 
July, containing so graphic an account of the voyage of the 
" Rdne Hortense" towards Jan Mayen, and of the catastrophe 
to her tender the " Saxon," in consequence of which the 
corvette was compelled to abandon her voyage to the North- 
ward, that I must forward it to you. 

( Translation.) 

" Voyage of Discovery along the Banquise, north of Iceland, 

" It fell to the lot of an officer of the French navy, M. 
Jules de Blosseville, to attempt to explore those distant 
parts, and to shed an interest over them, both by his dis- 
coveries and by his tragical and premature end. 

In the spring of 1833, on the breaking up of a frost, ' La 
Lilloise, 1 under the command of that brave officer, suc- 
ceeded in passing through the JBanquise, nearly up to lati- 
tude 69, and in surveying about thirty leagues of coast to 
the south of that latitude. After having returned to her 
anchorage off the coast of Iceland, he sailed again in July 
for a second attempt. From that time nothing has been 
heard of ' La Lilloise.' 1 


The following year the ' Bordelaise' was sent to look 
for the ' LUloiseJ but found the whole north of Iceland 
blocked up by ice-fields; and returned, having been 
stopped in the latitude of the North Cape. 


As a voyage to the Danish colonies on the western coast 
of Greenland formed part of the scheme of our arctic 
navigation, we were aware at our departure from Paris, 
that it was our business to make ourselves well acquainted 
with the southern part of the ice-field, from Reykjavik to 
Cape Farewell. But while we were touching at Peterhead, 
the principal port for the fitting of vessels destined for the 
seal fishery, the Prince, and M. de la Ronciere, Commander 
of ' La Reine Hortensej gathered from conversations with 
the fishermen just returned from their spring expedition 
some important information on the actual state of the ice. 
They learnt from them that navigation was completely 
free this year round the whole of Iceland ; that the ice- 
field resting on Jan Mayen Island, and surrounding it to 
a distance of about twenty leagues, extended down the 
south-west along the coast of Greenland, but without block- 
ing up the channel which separates that coast from that of 
Iceland. These unhoped-for circumstances opened a new 
field to our explorations, by allowing us to survey all 
that part of the Banquise which extends to the north of 
Iceland, thus forming a continuation to the observations 
made by the ' Recherche] and to those which we ourselves 
intended to make during our voyage to Greenland. The 
temptation was too great for the Prince ; and Commander 
de la Ronciere was not a man to allow an opportunity to 
escape for executing a project which presented itself to him 
with the character of daring and novelty. 

But the difficulties of the enterprise were serious, and of 
such a nature that no one but a sailor experienced in navi- 
gation is capable of appreciating. The ' Reine Hortense y 
is a charming pleasure-boat, but she offers very few of the 
requisites for a long voyage, and she was destitute of 
all the special equipment indispensable for a long sojourn 
in the ice. There was room but for six days' coals, and 
for three weeks' water. As to the sails, one may say 
the masts of the corvette are merely for show, and that 
without steam it would be impossible to reckon on her 


making any way regularly and uninterruptedly. Add to 
this, that she is built of iron, that is to say, an iron sheet 
of about two centimetres thick constitutes all her plank- 
ing, and that her deck divided into twelve great panels, 
is so weak that it has been thought incapable of carrying 
guns proportioned to her tonnage. Those who have seen 
the massive vessels of the fishermen of Peterhead, their 
enormous outside planking, their bracings and fastenings in 
wood and in iron, and their internal knees and stancheons, 
may form an idea from such precautions imposed by long 
experience of the nature of the dangers that the shock or 
even the pressure of the ice may cause to a ship in the 
latitudes that we were going to explore. 


The ' Cocyte 1 had also been placed at the disposal of H.I.H. 
Prince Napoleon. This vessel which arrived at Reykjavik 
the same day that we did, the 3oth of June is a steam 
schooner, with paddles, standing the sea well, carying coals 
for twelve days, but with a deplorably slow rate of speed. 

We found besides at Reykjavik the war transport ' La 
Perdrix ' and two English merchant steamers, the ' Tasmania 
and the 'Saxon,' freighted by the Admiralty to take to Ice- 
land coals necessary for our voyage to Greenland. These 
five vessels, with the frigate 'Artemise? which performed he 
duties of guardship, formed the largest squadron which had 
ever assembled in the harbour of the capital of Iceland. 

Unfortunately, these varied and numerous elements 
had nothing in common, and Commodore de la Ronciere 
soon saw that extraneous help would afford us no ad- 
ditional security; and, in short, that the ' Reine Hortense' 
obliged to go fast as her short supplies would not allow 
long voyages, had to reckon on herself alone. However, the 
[English] captain of the ' Saxon ' expressing a great desire .to 
visit these northern parts, and displaying on this subject a 
sort of national vanity, besides promising an average speed 
of seven knots an hour, it was decided that at all events, 
that vessel should start alone with the Reine Hortense,' whose 


supply of coals it would be able to replenish, in the event 
a doubtful one, it is true of our making the coast of Jan 
Mayen's Island, and finding a good anchorage. The ' Reine 
Hortense ' had by the help of a supplementary load on deck 
a supply of coals for eight days; and immediately on start- 
ing, the crew as well as the passengers, were to be put on a 
measured allowance of water. 

A few hours before getting under way, the expedition 
was completed by the junction of a new companion, quite 
unexpected. We found in Reykjavik harbour a yacht be- 
longing to Lord Dufferin. The Prince, seeing his great 
desire to visit the neighbourhood of Jan Mayen, offered to 
take his schooner in tow of the ' Reine Hortense' It was a 
fortunate accident for a seeker of maritime adventures ; and 
an hour afterwards, the proposition having been eagerly 
accepted, the Englishman was attached by two long cables 
to the stern of our corvette. 

On the 7th of July, 1856, at two o'clock in the morning, 
after a ball given by Commander de Mas on board the 
' Artemise,' the ' Reine Hortense' with the English schooner 
in tow, left Reykjavik harbour, directing her course along 
the west coast of Iceland, towards Onundarfiord, where we 
were to join the ' Saxon ' which had left a few hours before 
us. At nine o'clock, the three vessels, steering east-north- 
east, doubled the point of Cape North. At noon our ob- 
servation of the latitude placed us about 67. We had just 
crossed the Arctic circle. The temperature was that of a 
fine spring day, lo 3 centigrade (50 Farenh.). 

# # * # * 

The ' Reine Hortense' diminished her speed. A rope 
thrown across one of the towing-ropes enabled Lord 
Dufferin to haul one of his boats to our corvette. He 
himself came to dine with us, and to be present at the 
ceremony of crossing the polar circle. As to the 'Saxon,' 
M. de la Ronciere perceived by this time that the worthy 
Englishman had presumed too much on his power. The 
1 Saxon' was evidently incapable of following us. The 


captain, therefore, made her a signal that she was to take 
her own course, to try and reach Jan Mayen ; and if she 
could not succeed, to direct her course on Onundarfiord, 
and there to wait for us. The English vessel fell rapidly 
astern, her hull disappeared, then her sails, and in the even- 
ing every trace of her smoke had faded from the horizon. 

In the evening, the temperature grew gradually colder ; 
that of the water underwent a more rapid and significant 
change. At twelve at night it was only three degrees centig. 
(about 37 Fahr.). At that moment the vessel plunged into 
a bank of fog, the intensity of which we were enabled to 
ascertain, from the continuance of daylight in these latitudes 
at this time of the year. There are tokens that leave no 
room to doubt that we are approaching the solid ice. True 
enough : at two o'clock in the morning the officer on watch 
sees close to the ship a herd of seals, inhabitants of the 
field ice. A few minutes later the fog clears up suddenly ; a 
ray of sunshine gilds the surface of the sea, lighting up mil- 
lions of patches of sparkling white, extending to the farthest 
limit of the horizon. These are the detached hummocks 
which precede and announce the field ice ; they increase 
in size and in number as we proceed. At three o'clock in 
the afternoon we find ourselves in front of a large pack which 
blocks up the sea before us. We are obliged to change our 
course to extricate ourselves from the ice that surrounds us. 

This is an evolution requiring on the part of the com- 
mander the greatest precision of eye, and a perfect know- 
ledge of his ship. The ' Reine Hortense,' going half speed, 
with all the officers and the crew on deck, glides along be- 
tween the blocks of ice, some of which she seems almost to 
touch, and the smallest of which would sink her instantly if 
a collision took place. Another danger, which it is almost 
impossible to guard against, threatens a vessel in those 
trying moments. If a piece of ice gets under the screw, it 
will be inevitably smashed like glass, and the consequences 
of such an accident might be fatal. 


The little English schooner follows us bravely ; bounding 
in our track, and avoiding only by a constant watchfulness 
and incessant attention to the helm the icebergs that we 
have cleared. 

But the difficulties of this navigation are nothing in clear 
weather, as compared to what they are in a fog. Then, 
notwithstanding the slowness of the speed, it requires as 
much luck as skill to avoid collisions. Thus it happened 
that after having escaped the ice a first time, and having 
steered E.N.E., we found ourselves suddenly, towards two 
o'clock of that same day (the gth), not further than a 
quarter of a mile from the field ice which the fog had hidden 
from us. Generally speaking, the Banquise that we coasted 
along for three days, and that we traced with the great- 
est care for nearly a hundred leagues, presented to us an 
irregular line of margin, running from W.S.W. to E.N.E., 
and thrusting forward toward the south capes and pro- 
montories of various sizes, and serrated like the teeth of a 
saw. Every time that we bore up for E.N.E., we soon found 
ourselves in one of the gulfs of ice formed by the indenta- 
tions of the Banquise. It was only by steering to the S.W. 
that we got free from the floating icebergs, to resume our 
former course as soon as the sea was clear. 

The further we advanced to the northward, the thicker 
became the fog and more intense the cold (two degrees 
centig, below zero) ; and snow whirled round in squalls of 
wind, and fell in large flakes on the deck. The ice began 
to present a new aspect, and to assume those fantastic 
and terrible forms and colours, which painters have made 
familiar to us. At one time it assumed the appearance of 
mountain-peaks covered with snow, furrowed with valleys 
of green and blue ; more frequently they appeared like a 
wide flat plateau, as high as the ship's deck, against which 
the sea rolled with fury, hollowing its edges into gulfs, or 
breaking them into perpendicular cliffs or caverns, into 
which the sea rushed in clouds of foam. 

We often passed close by a herd of seals, which stretched 



on these floating islands, followed the ship with a stupid and 
puzzled look. We were forcibly struck with the contrast 
between the fictitious world in which we lived on board the 
ship, and the terrible realities of nature that surrounded us. 
Lounging in an elegant saloon, at the corner of a clear and 
sparkling fire, amidst a thousand objects of the arts and 
luxuries of home, we might have believed that we had not 
changed our residence, or our habits, or our enjoyments. 
One of Strauss's waltzes, or Schubert's melodies played on 
the piano by the band-master completed the illusion ; and 
yet we had only to rub off" the thin incrustation of frozen 
vapour that covered the panes of the windows, to look out 
upon the gigantic and terrible forms of the icebergs dashed 
against each other by a black and broken sea, and the 
whole panorama of Polar nature, its awful risks, and its 
sinister splendours. 


Meanwhile, we progressed but very slowly. On the loth 
of July we were still far from the meridian of Jan Mayen, 
when we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by a fog, and 
at the bottom of one of the bays formed by the field ice. 
We tacked immediately, and put the ship about, but the 
wind had accumulated the ice behind us. At a distance the 
circle that enclosed us seemed compact and without egress. 
We considered this as the most critical moment of our 
expedition. Having tried this icy barrier at several points, 
we found a narrow and tortuous channel, into which we 
ventured ; and it was not till after an hour of anxieties that 
we got a view of the open sea, and of a passage into it. 
From this moment we were able to coast along the Banquise 
without interruption. 

On the nth of July at 6 A.M. we reached, at last, the 
meridian of Jan Mayen, at about eighteen leagues' 1 distance 
from the southern part of that island, but we saw the ice-field 

1 I think there must be some mistake here ; when we parted company 
with the " Reine ffortense," we were still upwards of loo miles distant 
from the southern extremity of Jan Mayen. 


stretching out before us as far as the eye could reach ; 
hence it became evident that Jan Mayen was blocked up by 
the ice, at least along its south coast. To ascertain whether 
it might still be accessible from the north, it would have 
been necessary to have attempted a circuit to the eastward, 
the possible extent of which could not be estimated ; more- 
over, we had consumed half our coals, and had lost all hope 
of being rejoined by the 'Saxon.' Thus forced to give up 
any further attempts in that direction, Commodore de la 
Ronciere, having got the ship clear of the floating ice, took 
a W.S.W. course, in the direction of Reykjavik. 

The instant the ' Reine Hortense' assumed this new course, 
a telegraphic signal as had been previously arranged ac- 
quainted Lord Dufferin with our determinations. Almost 
immediately, the young Lord sent on board us a tin box, 
with two letters, one for his mother, and one for our com- 
mander. In the latter he stated that finding himself clear 
of the ice, and master of his own movements he preferred 
continuing his voyage alone, uncertain whether he should 
at once push for Norway, or return to Scotland. 1 The two 
ropes that united the vessels were then cast off, a farewell 
hurrah was given, and in a moment the English schooner 
was lost in the fog. 

Our return to Reykjavik afforded no incident worth notice ; 
the ' Reine Hortense? keeping her course outside the ice, 
encountered no impediment, except from the intense fogs, 
which forced her from the impossibility of ascertaining 
her position to lie to, and anchor off the cape during part 
of the day and night of the isth. 

On the morning of the i4th, as we were getting out at 
the Dyre Fiord, where we had anchored, we met to oui 
great astonishment the ' Cocyte' proceeding northward. 
Her commander, Sonnart, informed us that on the evening 
of the izth, the ' Saxon' in consequence of the injuries she 
had received, had been forced back to Reykjavik. She had 

1 I was purposely vague as to my plans, lest you might learn we still 
intended to go on. 


hardly reached the ice on the pth, when she came into col- 
lision with it ; five of her timbers had been stove in, and an 
enormous leak had followed. Becoming water-logged, she 
was run ashore, the first time at Onundarfiord, and again in 
Reykjavik roads, whither she had been brought with the 
greatest difficulty.'' 


HO ! 

July 27th, Alt en. 

THIS letter ought to be an Eclogue, so pastoral a life have 
we been leading lately among these pleasant Nordland val- 
leys. Perhaps it is only the unusual sight of meadows, 
trees and flowers, after the barren sea, and still more barren 
lands we have been accustomed to, that invests this neigh- 
bourhood with such a smiling character. Be that as it may, 
the change has been too grateful not to have made us 
seriously reflect on our condition ; and we have at last de- 
termined that not even the envious ocean shall for the future 
cut us off from the pleasures of a shepherd life. Hence- 
forth, the boatswain is no longer to be the only swain on 
board ! We have purchased an ancient goat a nanny- 
goat so we may be able to go a-milking upon occasion. 
Mr. Webster, late of her Majesty's Foot-guards, carpenter, 
etc., takes brevet-rank as dairy-maid ; and our venerable 
passenger is at this moment being inducted into a sump- 
tuous barrel 1 which I have had fitted up for her reception 
abaft the binnacle. A spacious meadow of sweet-scented 
hay has been laid down in a neighbouring corner for her 
further accommodation ; and the Doctor is tuning up his 
flageolet, in order to complete the bucolic character of the 
scene. The only personage amongst us at all disconcerted 

1 The cask in question was bought in order to be rigged up eventually 
into a crow's-nest, as soon as we should again find ourselves among the 


by these arrangements is the little white fox which has come 
with us from Iceland. Whether he considers the admission 
on board of so domestic an animal to be a reflection on his 
own wild Viking habits, I cannot say; but there is no imperti- 
nence even to the nibbling of her beard when she is asleep 
of which he is not guilty towards the poor old thing, who 
passes the greater part of her mornings in gravely butting at 
her irreverent tormentor. 

But I must relate our last week's proceedings in a more 
orderly manner. 

As soon as the anchor was let go in Hammerfest harbour, 
we went ashore ; and having first ascertained that the exist- 
ence of a post does not necessarily imply letters, we turned 
away, a little disappointed, to examine the metropolis of 
Finmark. A nearer inspection did not improve the im- 
pression its first appearance had made upon us ; and the 
odour of rancid cod-liver oil, which seemed indiscriminately 
to proceed from every building in the town, including the 
church, has irretrievably confirmed us in our prejudices. 
Nevertheless, henceforth the place will have one redeeming 
association connected with it, which I am bound to mention. 
It was in the streets of Hammerfest that I first set eyes on a 
Laplander. Turning round the corner of one of the ill-built 
houses, we suddenly ran over a diminutive little personage 
in a white woollen tunic, bordered with red and yellow stripes, 
green trousers, fastened round the ankles, and reindeer boots, 
curving up at the toes like Turkish slippers. On her head 
for notwithstanding the trousers, she turned out to be a lady 
was perched a gay parti-coloured cap, fitting close round 
the face, and running up at the back into an overarching 
peak of red cloth. Within this peak was crammed as I 
afterwards learnt a piece of hollow wood, weighing about 
a quarter of a pound, into which is fitted the wearer's back 
hair ; so that perhaps, after all, there does exist a more in- 
convenient coiffure than a Paris bonnet. 

Hardly had we taken off our hats, and bowed a thousand 
apologies for our unintentional rudeness to the fair inhabitant 




of the green trousers, before a couple of Lapp gentlemen 
hove in sight. They were dressed pretty much like their 
companion, except that an ordinary red night-cap replaced 
the queer helmet worn by the lady; and the knife and 
sporran fastened to their belts, instead of being suspended 
in front as hers were, hung down against their hips. Their 


tunic?, too, may have been a trifle shorter. None of the three 
were beautiful. High cheek-bones, short noses, oblique Mon- 
gol eyes, no eyelashes, and enormous mouths, composed a 
cast of features which their burnt-sienna complexion, and 
hair like ill-got-in hay did not much enhance. The expres- 
sion of their countenances was not unintelligent ; and there 
was a merry, half-timid, half-cunning twinkle in their eyes. 




which reminded me a little of faces I had met with in the 
more neglected districts of Ireland. Some ethnologists, in- 
deed, are inclined to reckon the Laplanders as a branch of the 
Celtic family. Others, again, maintain them to be Ugrians ; 
while a few pretend to discover a relationship between the 
Lapp language and the dialects of the Australian savages, and 
similar outsiders of the human family ; alleging that as suc- 
cessive stocks bubbled up from the central birthplace of 


mankind in Asia, the earlier and inferior races were gradually 
driven outwards in concentric circles, like the rings produced 
by the throwing of a stone into a pond ; and that conse- 
quently, those who dwell in the uttermost ends of the earth 
are, ipso facto, first cousins. 

This relationship with the Polynesian Niggers, the native 
genealogists would probably scout with indignation, being 
perfectly persuaded of the extreme gentility of their descent. 
Their only knowledge of the patriarch Noah is as a person- 
age who derives his principal claim to notoriety from having 


been the first Lapp. Their acquaintance with any sacred 
history nay, with Christianity at all is very limited. It 
was not until after the thirteenth century that an attempt 
was made to convert them; and although Charles the 
Fourth and Gustavus ordered portions of Scripture to be 
translated in Lappish, to this very day a great proportion of 
the race are pagans ; and even the most illuminated 
amongst them remain slaves to the grossest superstition. 
When a couple is to be married, if a priest happens to be 
in the way, they will send for him perhaps out of complai- 
sance ; but otherwise, the young lady's papa merely strikes a 
flint and steel together, and the ceremony is not less irrevo- 
cably completed. When they die, a hatchet and a flint and 
steel are invariably buried with the defunct, in case he should 
find himself chilly on his long journey an unnecessary pre- 
caution, many of the orthodox would consider, on the part 
of such lax religionists. When they go boar-hunting the 
most important business in their lives it is a sorcerer, with 
no other defence than his incantations, who marches at the 
head of the procession. In the internal arrangements of 
their tents, it is not a room to themselves, but a door to 
themselves, that they assign to their womankind ; for woe 
betide the hunter if a woman has crossed the threshold over 
which he sallies to the chase ; and for three days after the 
slaughter of his prey he must live apart from the female 
portion of his family in order to appease the evil deity 
whose familiar he is supposed to have destroyed. It would 
be endless to recount the innumerable occasions upon 
which the ancient rites of Jumala are still interpolated 
among the Christian observances they profess to have 

Their manner of life I had scarcely any opportunities of 
observing. Our Consul kindly undertook to take us to one 
of their encampments ; but they flit so often from place to 
place, it is very difficult to light upon them. Here and 
there, as we cruised about among the fiords, blue wreaths of 
smoke rising from some little green nook among the rocks 


would betray their temporary place of abode ; but I never 
got a near view of a regular settlement. 

In the summer-time they live in canvas tents: during 
winter, when the snow is on the ground, the forest Lapps 
build huts in the branches of trees, and so roost like birds. 
The principal tent is of an hexagonal form, with a fire in 
the centre, whose smoke rises through a hole in the roof. 
The gentlemen and ladies occupy different sides of the 
same apartment; but a long pole laid along the ground 
midway between them symbolizes an ideal partition, which 
I dare say is in the end as effectual a defence as lath and 
plaster prove in more civilized countries. At all events, the 
ladies have a doorway quite to themselves, which, doubtless, 
they consider a far greater privilege than the seclusion of a 
separate boudoir. Hunting and fishing are the principal 
employments of the Lapp tribes ; and to slay a bear is the 
most honourable exploit a Lapp hero can achieve. The 
flesh of the slaughtered beast becomes the property not 
of the man who killed him, but of him who discovered his 
trail, and the skin is hung up on a pole, for the wives of all 
who took part in the expedition to shoot at with their 
eyes bandaged. Fortunate is she whose arrow pierces the 
trophy, not only does it become her prize, but, in the eyes 
of the whole settlement, her husband is looked upon thence- 
forth as the most fortunate of men. As long as the chase is 
going on, the women are not allowed to stir abroad ; but 
as soon as the parry have safely brought home their booty, 
the whole female population issue from the tents, and 
having deliberately chewed some bark of a species of alder, 
they spit the red juice into their husband's faces, typifying 
thereby the bear's blood which has been shed in the 
honourable encounter. 

Although the forests, the rivers, and the sea supply them 
in a great measure with their food, it is upon the reindeer 
that the Laplander is dependent for every other comfort in 
life. The reindeer is his estate, his horse, his cow, his 
companion, and friend. He has twenty-two different names 


for him. His coat, trousers, and shoes are made of rein- 
deer's skin, stitched with thread manufactured from the 
nerves and sinews of the reindeer. Reindeer milk is the 
most important item in his diet. Out of reindeer horns are 
made almost all the utensils used in his domestic economy ; 
and it is the reindeer that carries his baggage, and drags his 
sledge. But the beauty of this animal is by no means on a 
par with his various moral and physical endowments. His 
antlers, indeed, are magnificent, branching back to the 
length of three or four feet ; but his body is poor, and his. 
limbs thick and ungainly ; neither is his pace quite so rapid 
as is generally supposed. The Laplanders count distances 
by the number of horizons they have traversed ; and if a 
reindeer changes the horizon three times during the twenty- 
four hours, it is thought a good day's work. Moreover, so 
just an appreciation has the creature of what is due to his 
own great merit, that if his owner seeks to tax him beyond his 
strength, he not only becomes restive, but sometimes actually 
turns upon the inconsiderate Jehu who has over-driven him. 
When, therefore, a Lapp is in a great hurry, instead of taking 
to his sledge, he puts on a pair of skates exactly twice as 
long as his own body, and so flies on the wings of the wind. 
Every Laplander, however poor, has his dozen or two 
dozen deer; and the flocks of a Lapp Croesus amount 
sometimes to two thousand head. As soon as a young 
lady is born after having been duly rolled in the snow 
she is dowered by her father with a certain number of 
deer, which are immediately branded with her initials, and 
thenceforth kept apart as her especial property. In propor- 
tion as they increase and multiply does her chance improve 
of making a good match. Lapp courtships are conducted 
pretty much in the same fashion as in other parts of the 
world. The aspirant, as soon as he discovers that he has 
lost his heart, goes off in search of a friend and a bottle of 
brandy. The friend enters the tent, and opens simulta- 
neously the brandy and his business ; while the lover 
remains outside, engaged in hewing wood, or some other 


menial employment. If, after the brandy and the proposal 
have been duly discussed, the eloquence of his friend pre- 
vails, he is himself called into the conclave, and the young 
people are allowed to rub noses. The bride then accepts 
from her suitor a present of a reindeer's tongue, and the es- 
pousals are considered concluded. The marriage does not 
take place for two or three years afterwards ; and during the 
interval the intended is obliged to labour in the service ol 
his father-in-law, as diligently as Jacob served Laban for 
the sake of his long-loved Rachel. 

I cannot better conclude this summary of what I have 
been able to learn about the honest Lapps, than by sending 
you the tourist's stock specimen of a Lapp love-ditty. The 
author is supposed to be hastening in his sledge towards 
the home of his adored one : 

" Hasten, Kulnasatz ! my little reindeer ! long is the way, and 
boundless are the marshes. Swift are we, and light of foot, and soon 
we shall have come to whither we are speeding. There shall I behold 
my fair one pacing. Kulnasatz, my reindeer, look forth ! look around ! 
Dost thou not see her somewhere bathing?" 

As soon as we had thoroughly looked over the Lapp 
lady and her companions, a process to which they submitted 
with the greatest complacency, we proceeded to inspect 
the other lions of the town ; the church, the lazar-house, 
principally occupied by Lapps, the stock fish establish- 
ment, and the hotel. But a very few hours were sufficient 
to exhaust the pleasures of Hammerfest ; so having bought 
an extra suit of jerseys for my people, and laid in a supply 
of other necessaries, likely to be useful in our cruise to 
Spitzbergen, we exchanged dinners with the Consul, a 
transaction by which, I fear, he got the worst of the bargain, 
and then got under way for this place, Alten. 

The very day we left Hammerfest our hopes of being 
able to get to Spitzbergen at all received a tremendous 
shock. We had just sat down to dinner, and I was help- 
ing the Consul to fish, when in comes Wilson, his face, 


as usual, upside down, and hisses something into the 
Doctor's ear. Ever since the famous dialogue which had 
taken place between them on the subject of sea-sickness, 
Wilson had got to look upon Fitz as in some sort his 
legitimate prey ; and whenever the burden of his own mis- 
givings became greater than he could bear, it was to the 
Doctor that he unbosomed himself. On this occasion, I 
guessed, by the look of gloomy triumph in his eyes, that 
some great calamity had occurred, and it turned out that 
the following was the agreeable announcement he had been 
in such haste to make : " Do you know, Sir ? " This was 
always the preface to tidings unusually doleful. " No 
what ? " said the Doctor, breathless. " Oh nothing, Sir ; 
only two sloops have just arrived, Sir, from Spitzbergen, 
Sir where they couldn't get, Sir ; such a precious lot of 
ice two hundred miles from the land and, oh, Sir 
they've come back with all their bows stove in ! " Now, 
immediately on arriving at Hammerfest, my first care had 
been to inquire how the ice was lying this year to the 
northward, and I had certainly been told that the season 
was a very bad one, and that most of the sloops that go 
every summer to kill sea-horses (i.e., walrus) at Spitzbergen, 
being unable to reach the land, had returned empty-handed ; 
but as three weeks of better weather had intervened since 
their discomfiture, I had quite reassured myself with the 
hope, that in the meantime the advance of the season might 
have opened for us a passage to the island. 

This news of Wilson's quite threw me on my back again. 
The only consolation was, that probably it was not true ; so 
immediately after dinner we boarded the honest Sea-horse- 
man who was reported to have brought the dismal in- 
telligence. He turned out to be a very cheery intelligent 
fellow of about five-and-thirty, six feet high, with a dashing 
" devil-may-care " manner that completely imposed upon 
me. Charts were got out, and the whole state of the case 
laid before me in the clearest manner. Nothing could be 
more unpromising. The sloop had quitted the ice but 


eight-and-forty hours before making the Norway coast ; she 
had not been able even to reach Bear Island. Two hundred 
miles of ice lay off the southern and western coast of 
Spitzbergen (the eastern side is always blocked up with 
ice) and then bent round in a continuous semicircle 
towards Jan Mayen. That they had not failed for want of 
exertion the bows of his ships sufficiently testified. As to 
our getting there it was out of the question. So spake the 
Sea-horseman. On returning on board the " Foam " I gave 
myself up to the most gloomy reflections. This, then, 
was to be the result of all my preparations and long-medi- 
tated schemes. What likelihood was there of success, 
after so unfavourable a verdict ? Ipse dixit, equus marinus. 
It is true the horse-marines have hitherto been considered 
a mythic corps, but my friend was too substantial-looking 
for me to doubt his existence : and unless I was to ride off 
on the proverbial credulity of the other branch of that 
amphibious profession, I had no reason to question his- 
veracity. Nevertheless, I felt it would not become a gen- 
tleman to turn back at the first blush of discouragement, 
If it were possible to reach Spitzbergen, I was determined 
to do so. I reflected that every day that passed was telling 
in our favour. It was not yet the end of July ; even in these 
latitudes winter does not commence much before September, 
and in the meantime the tail of the Gulf Stream would still 
be wearing a channel in the ice towards the pole ; so, how- 
ever unpromising might be the prospect, I determined, at 
all events, that we should go and see for ourselves how 
matters really stood. 

But I must explain to you why I so counted upon the 
assistance of the Gulf Stream to help us through. 

The entire configuration of the Arctic ice is determined 
by the action of that mysterious current on its edges. 
Several theories have been advanced to account for its 
influence in so remote a region. I give you one which 
appears to me reasonable. It is supposed, that in obedi- 
ence to that great law of Nature which seeks to establish 


equilibrium in the temperature of fluids, a. vast body of 
gelid water is continually mounting from the Antarctic, to 
displace and regenerate the over-heated oceans of the 
torrid zone. Bounding up against the west side of South 
America, the ascending stream skirts the coasts of Chili and 
Peru, and is then deflected in a westerly direction across the 
Pacific Ocean, where it takes the name of the Equatorial 
Current. Having completely encircled Australia, it enters 
the Indian Sea, sweeps up round the Cape of Good Hope, and, 
crossing the Atlantic, twists into the Gulf of Mexico. Here 
its flagging energies are suddenly accelerated in consequence 
of the narrow limits within which it finds itself compressed. 
So marvellous does the velocity of the current now become, 
so complete its isolation from the deep sea bed it traverses, 
that by the time it issues again into the Atlantic, its hitherto 
diffused and loitering waters are suddenly concentrated into 
what Lieutenant Maury has happily called " a river in the 
ocean," swifter and of greater volume than either the 
Mississippi or the Amazon. Surging forth between the 
interstices of the Bahamas, that stretch like a weir across its; 
mouth, it cleaves asunder the Atlantic. So distinct is its 
individuality, that one side of a vessel will be scoured by its 
warm indigo-coloured water, while the other is floating in 
the pale, stagnant, weed-encumbered brine of the Mar de 
Sargasso of the Spaniards. It is not only by colour, by its 
temperature, by its motion, that this "porj 'flfceavoto" is dis- 
tinguished ; its very surface is arched upwards some way 
above the ordinary sea-level toward the centre, by the 
lateral pressure of the elastic liquid banks between which 
it flows. Impregnated with the warmth of tropic climes, 
the Gulf Stream as it has now come to be called, then 
pours its genial floods across the North Atlantic, laving 
the western coasts of Britain, Ireland, and Norway, and 
investing each shore it strikes upon, with a climate far 
milder than that enjoyed by other lands situated in the 
same latitudes. Arrived abreast of the North Cape, the 
impetus of the current is in a great measure exhausted. 

1 1 


From causes similar (though of less efficacy, in con- 
sequence of the smaller area occupied by water) to those 
which originally gave birth to the ascending energy of the 
Antarctic waters, a gelid current is also generated in the Arc- 
tic Ocean, which, descending in a south-westerly direction, 
encounters the already faltering Gulf Stream in the space 
between Spitzbergen and Nova Zembla. A contest for 
the mastery ensues, which is eventually terminated by a 
compromise. The warmer stream, no longer quite able to 
hold its own, splits into two branches, the one squeezing 
itself round the North Cape, as far as that Varangar Fiord 
which Russia is supposed so much to covet, while the other 
is pushed up in a more northerly direction along the west 
coast of Spitzbergen. But although it has power to split up 
the Gulf Stream for a certain distance, the Arctic current is 
ultimately unable to cut across it, and the result is an accumu- 
lation of ice to the south of Spitzbergen in the angle formed 
by the bifurcation, as Mr. Grote would call it, of the warmer 

It is quite possible, therefore, that the north-west extre- 
mity of Spitzbergen may be comparatively clear, while the 
whole of its southern coasts are enveloped in belts of ice 
of enormous extent. It was on this contingency that we 
built our hopes, and determined to prosecute our voyage, 
in spite of the discouraging report of the Norse skipper. 

About eight o'clock in the evening we got under way 
from Hammerfest ; unfortunately the wind almost immedi- 
ately after fell dead calm, and during the whole night we 
lay " like a painted ship upon a painted ocean." At six 
o'clock a little breeze sprang up, and when we came on 
deck at breakfast time, the schooner was skimming at the 
rate of five knots an hour over the level lanes of water, 
which lie between the silver-grey ridges of gneiss and mica 
slate that hem in the Nordland shore. The distance from 
Hammerfest to Alten is about forty miles, along a zigzag 
chain of fiords. It was six o'clock in the evening, and we had 
already sailed two-and-thirty miles, when it again fell almost 


calm. Impatient at the unexpected delay, and tempted by 
the beauty of the evening, which was indeed most lovely, 
the moon hanging on one side right opposite to the sun on 
the other, as in the picture of Joshua's miracle, Sigurdr, 
in an evil hour, proposed that we should take a row in the 
dingy, until the midnight breeze should spring up, and 
bring the schooner along with it. Away we went, and so 
occupied did we become with admiring the rocky precipices 
beneath which we were gliding, that it was not until the 
white sails of the motionless schooner had dwindled to a 
speck, that we became aware of the distance we had come. 

Our attention had been further diverted by the spectacle 
of a tribe of fishes, whose habit it appeared to be instead 
of swimming like Christian fishes in a horizontal position 
beneath the water to walk upon their hind-legs along its 
surface. Perceiving a little boat floating on the loch not 
far from the spot where we had observed this phenomenon, 
we pulled towards it, and ascertained that the Lapp officer 
in charge was actually intent on stalking the peripatetic 
scfwol to use a technical expression whose evolutions had 
so much astonished us. The great object of the sportsman 
is to judge by their last appearance what part of the water 
the fish are likely to select for the scene of their next pro- 
menade. Directly he has determined this in his own mind, 
he rows noiselessly to the spot, and, as soon as they show 
themselves, hooks them with a landing-net into his boat. 

By this time it had become a doubtful point whether it 
would not be as little trouble to row on to Alten as to 
return to the schooner, so we determined to go on. Unfor- 
tunately we turned down a wrong fiord, and after a long 
pull, about two o'clock in the morning had the satisfaction 
of finding ourselves in a cul-de-sac. To add to our discom- 
fort, clouds of mosquitoes with the bodies of behemoths 
and the stings of dragons, had collected from all quarters of 
the heavens to make a prey of us. In vain we struggled 
strove to knock them down with the oars, plunged our 
heads under the water, smacked our faces with frantic 


violence ; on they came in myriads, until I thought our 
bleaching bones would alone remain to indicate our fate. 
At last Sigurdr espied a log hut on the shore, where we 
might at least find some one to put us into the right road 
again ; but on looking in at the open door, we only saw a 
Lapland gentleman fast asleep. Awaking at our approach 
he started to his feet, and though nothing could be more 
gracefully conciliatory than the bow with which I opened 
the conversation. I regret to say that after staring wildly 
round for a few minutes, the aboriginal bolted straight away 
in the most unpolite manner and left us to our fate. There 
was nothing for it but patiently to turn back, and try some 
other opening. This time we were more successful, and 
about three o'clock A.M. had the satisfaction of landing at 
one of the wharves attached to the copper mines of Kaa- 
fiord. We came upon a lovely scene. It was as light and 
warm as a summer's noon in England; upon a broad 
plateau, carved by nature out of the side of the grey lime- 
stone, stood a bright shining house in the middle of a plot 
of rich English-looking garden. On one side lay the narrow 
fiord, on every other rose an amphitheatre of fir-clad moun- 
tains. The door of the house was open, so were many of 
the windows even those on the ground-floor, and from the 
road where we stood we could see the books on the library 
shelves. A swing and some gymnastic appliances on the 
lawn told us that there were children. Altogether, I thought 
I had never seen such a charming picture of silent comfort 
and security. Perhaps the barren prospects we had been 
accustomed to made the little oasis before us look more 
cheerful than we might otherwise have thought it. 

The question now arose, what was to be done? My 
principal reason for coming to Alten was to buy some salt 
provisions and Lapland dresses; but dolls and junk were 
scarcely a sufficient pretext for knocking up a quiet family 
at three o'clock in the morning. It is true, I happened to 

have a letter for Mr. T , written by a mutual friend, 

who had expressly told me that arrive when I might at 


Alten, the more unceremoniously I walked in and took 
possession of the first unoccupied bed I stumbled on, the 

better Mr. T would be pleased ; but British punctilio 

would not allow me to act on the recommendation, though 
we were sorely tried. In the meantime the mosquitoes had 
become more intolerable than ever. At last, half mad 
with irritation, I set off straight up the side of the nearest 
mountain, in hopes of attaining a zone too high for them to 
inhabit ; and, poising myself upon its topmost pinnacle, I 
drew my handkerchief over my head I was already with- 
out coat and waistcoat and remained the rest of the morn- 
ing " mopping and mowing " at the world beneath my feet. 
About six o'clock, like a phantom in a dream, the little 
schooner came stealing round the misty headland, and 
anchored at the foot of the rocks below. Returning imme- 
diately on board, we bathed, dressed, and found repose 
from all our troubles. Not long after, a message from Mr. 

T , in answer to a card I had sent up to the house as 

soon as the household gave signs of being astir invited us 
to breakfast ; and about half-past nine we presented our- 
selves at his hospitable door. The reception I met with 
was exactly what the gentleman who had given me the 
letter of introduction had led me to expect ; and so eager 

did Mr. T seem to make us comfortable, that I did not 

dare to tell him how we had been prowling about his house 
the greater part of the previous night, lest he should knock 
me down on the spot for not having knocked him up. The 
appearance of the inside of the house quite corresponded 
Avith what we had anticipated from the soigne air of every- 
thing about its exterior. Books, maps, pictures, a number 
of astronomical instruments, geological specimens, and a 
magnificent assortment of fishing-rods, betrayed the habits 
of the practical, well-educated, business-loving English gen- 
tleman who inhabited it ; and as he showed me the various 
articles of interest in his study, most heartily did I con- 
gratulate myself on the lucky chance which had brought me 
into contact with so desirable an acquaintance. 


All this time we had seen nothing of the lady of the 
house ; and I was just beginning to speculate as to whether 
that crowning ornament could be wanting to this pleasant 
home, when the door at the further end of the room sud- 
denly opened, and there glided out into the sunshine 
" The White Lady of Avenel." A fairer apparition I have 
seldom seen, stately, pale, and fragile as a lily blond 
hair, that rippled round a forehead of ivory a cheek of 
waxen purity on which the fitful colour went and came 
not with the flush of southern blood, or flower-bloom of 
English beauty, but rather with a cool radiance, as of 
" northern streamers " on the snows of her native hills, 
eyes of a dusky blue, and lips of that rare tint which lines 
the conch-shell. Such was the Chatelaine of Kaafiord, as 
perfect a type of Norse beauty as ever my Saga lore had 
conjured up ! Frithiof's Ingeborg herself seemed to stand 
before me. A few minutes afterwards, two little fair-haired 
maidens, like twin snowdrops, stole into the room ; and the 
sweet home picture was complete. 

The rest of the day has been a continued fete. In vain 
after having transacted my business, I pleaded the turn- 
ing of the tide, and our anxiety to get away to sea ; nothing 
would serve our kind entertainer but that we should stay to 
dinner ; and his was one of those strong energetic wills it is 
difficult to resist. 

In the afternoon, the Hammerfest steamer called in from 
the southward, and. by her came two fair sisters of our 
hostess from their father's home in one of the Lofifodens 
which overlook the famous Malstrom. The stories about 

the violence of the whirlpool Mr. T assures me are 

ridiculously exaggerated. On ordinary occasions the site 
of the supposed vortex is perfectly unruffled, and it is only 
when a strong weather tide is running that any unusual 
movements in the water can be observed ; even then the 
disturbance does not amount to much more than a lather 
troublesome race. " Often and often, when she was a girl, 
had his wife and her sisters sailed over its fabulous crater in 


an open boat." But in this wild romantic country, with its 
sparse population, rugged mountains, and gloomy fiords, 
very ordinary matters become invested with a character of 
awe and mystery quite foreign to the atmosphere of our 
own matter-of-fact world ; and many of the Norwegians are 
as prone to superstition as the poor little Lapp pagans who 
dwell among them. 

No later than a few years ago, in the very fiord we had 
passed on our way to Alten, when an unfortunate boat got 
cast away during the night on some rocks at a little distance 
from the shore, the inhabitants, startled by the cries of dis- 
tress which reached them in the morning twilight, hurried 
down in a body to the sea-side, not to afford assistance, 
but to open a volley of musketry on the drowning mariners ; 
being fully persuaded that the stranded boat, with its torn 
sails, was no other than the Kracken or Great Sea-Serpent 
flapping its dusky wings : and when, at last, one of the crew 
succeeded in swimming ashore in spite of waves and bullets, 
the whole society turned and fled ! 

And now, again good-bye. We are just going up to dine 

with Mr. T ; and after dinner, or at least as soon as 

the tide turns, we get under way Northward Ho ! (as 
Mr. Kingsley would say) in right good earnest this time ! 



Throndhjem, Aug. 22nd, 1856. 

WE have won our laurels, after all ! We have landed in 
Spitzbergen almost at its most northern extremity; and 
the little " Foam " has sailed to within 630 miles of the. 
Pole ; that is to say, within 100 miles as far north as any 
ship has ever succeeded in getting. 

I think my last letter left us enjoying the pleasant hospi- 
talities of Kaafiord. 

The genial quiet of that last evening in Norway was 
certainly a strange preface to the scenes we have since wit- 
nessed. So warm was it, that when dinner was over, we all 
went out into the garden, and had tea in the open air ; the 
ladies without either bonnets or shawls, merely plucking a 
little branch of willow to brush away the mosquitoes ; and 
so the evening wore away in alternate intervals of chat and 
song. At midnight, seawards again began to swirl the tide, 
and we rose to go, not without having first paid a visit to 
the room where the little daughters of the house lay folded 
in sleep. Then descending to the beach, laden with flowers 
and kind wishes waved to us by white handkerchiefs held in 
still whiter hands, we rowed on board ; up went the liap- 
ping sails, and dipping her ensign in token of adieu the 


schooner glided swiftly on between the walls of rock, until 
an intervening crag shut out from our sight the friendly 
group that had come forth to bid us " Good speed." In 
another twenty-four hours we had threaded our way back 
through the intricate fiords ; and leaving Hammerfest three 
or four miles on the starboard hand, on the evening of the 
28th of July, we passed out between the islands of Soroe 
and Bolsvoe into the open sea. 

My intention was to go first to Bear Island, and ascertain 
for myself in what direction the ice was lying to the south- 
ward of Spitzbergen. 

Bear or Cherie Island, is a diamond-shaped island, 
about ten miles long, composed of secondary rocks prin- 
cipally sandstone and limestone lying about 280 miles due 
north of the North Cape. It was originally discovered by 
Barentz, the gth of June, 1596, on the occasion of his last 
and fatal voyage. Already had he commanded two expe- 
ditions sent forth by the United Provinces to discover a 
north-east passage to that dream-land Cathay; and each 
time, after penetrating to the eastward of Nova Zembla, he 
had been foiled by the impenetrable line of ice. On this 
occasion he adopted the bolder and more northerly courses 
which brought him to Bear Island. Thence, plunging into 
the mists of the frozen sea, he ultimately sighted the western 
mountains of Spitzbergen. Unable to proceed further in 
that direction, Barentz retraced his steps, and again passing 
in sight of Bear Island, proceeded in a south-east direction 
to Nova Zembla, where his ships got entangled in the ice, 
and he subsequently perished. 

Towards the close of the sixteenth century, in spite of 
repeated failures, one endeavour after another was made to 
penetrate to India across these fatal waters. 

The first English vessel that sailed on the disastrous quest 
was the " Bona Espcranza" in the last year of King Edward 
VI. Her commander was Sir Hugh Willoughby, and we 
have still extant a copy of the instructions drawn up by 
Sebastian Cabot the Grand Pilot of England, for his 


guidance. Nothing can be more pious than the spirit in 
which this ancient document is conceived; expressly enjoin- 
ing that morning and evening prayers should be offered on 
board every ship attached to the expedition, and that neither 
dicing, carding, tabling, nor other devilish devices were to 
be permitted. Here and there were clauses of a more ques- 
tionable morality, recommending that natives of strange 
lands be "enticed on board, and made drunk with your 
beer and wine ; for then you shall know the secrets of their 
hearts." The whole concluding with an exhortation to all 
on board to take especial heed to the devices of " certain 
creatures, with men's heads, and the tails of fishes, who swim 
with bows and arrows about the fiords and bays, and live on 
human flesh." 

On the nth of May the ill-starred expedition got under 
way from Deptford, and saluting the king, who was then 
lying sick at Greenwich, put to sea. By the 3oth of July 
the little fleet three vessels in all had come up abreast of 
the Loffoden islands, but a gale coming on, the "s/>eranza " 
was separated from the consorts. Ward-huus a little har- 
bour to the east of the North Cape had been appointed 
as the place of rendezvous in case of such an event, but 
unfortunately, Sir Hugh overshot the mark, and wasted all 
the precious autumn time in blundering amid the ice to the 
eastward. At last, winter set in, and they were obliged to 
run for a port in Lapland. Here, removed from all human 
aid, they were frozen to death. A year afterwards, the ill- 
fated ships were discovered by some Russian sailors, and an 
unfinished journal proved that Sir Hugh and many of his 
companions were still alive in January, 1554. 

The next voyage of discovery in a north-east direction 
was sent out by Sir Francis Cherie, alderman of London, in 
1603. After proceeding as far east as Ward-huus and Kela, 
the " Godspeed" pushed north into the ocean, and on the 
1 6th of August fell in with Bear Island. Unaware of its 
previous discovery by Barentz, Stephen Bennet who com- 
manded the expedition christened the island Cherie Island, 


in honour of his patron, and to this day the two names are 
used almost indiscriminately. 

In 1607, Henry Hudson was despatched by the Muscovy 
Company, with orders to sail, if possible, right across the 
pole. Although perpetually baffled by the ice, Hudson at 
last succeeded in reaching the north-west extremity of 
Spitzbergen, but finding his further progress arrested by an 
impenetrable barrier of fixed ice, he was forced to return. 
A few years later, Jonas Poole having been sent in the 
same direction, instead of prosecuting any discoveries, wisely 
set himself to killing the sea-horses that frequent the Arctic 
ice-fields, and in lieu of tidings of new lands brought back 
a valuable cargo of walrus tusks. In 1615, Fotherby started 
with the intention of renewing the attempt to sail across the 
north pole, but after encountering many dangers he also was 
forced to return. It was during the course of his homeward 
voyage that he fell in with the island of Jan Mayen. Soon 
afterwards, the discovery by Hudson and Davis, of the seas 
and straits to which they have given their names, diverted 
the attention of the public from all thoughts of a north-east 
passage, and the Spitzbergen waters were only frequented 
by ships engaged in the fisheries. The gradual disappear- 
ance of the whale, and the discovery of more profitable fish- 
ing stations on the west coast of Greenland, subsequently 
abolished the sole attraction for human being which this 
inhospitable region ever possessed, and of late years, I un- 
derstand, the Spitzbergen seas have remained as lonely and 
unvisited as they were before the first adventurer invaded 
their solitude. 

Twice only, since the time of Fotherby, has any attempt 
been made to reach the pole on a north-east course. In 
1773, Captain Phipps, afterwards Lord Mulgrave, sailed in 
the " Carcass" towards Spitzbergen, but he never reached a 
higher latitude than 81. It was in this expedition that Nelson 
made his first voyage, and had that famous encounter with 
the bear. The next and last endeavour was undertaken by- 
Parry, in 1827. Unable to get his ship even as far north as 


Phipps had gone, he determined to leave her in a harbour in 
Spitzbergen, and push across the sea in boats and sledges. 
The uneven nature of the surface over which they had to 
travel, caused their progress northward to be very slow, and 
very laborious. The ice too, beneath their feet, was not 
itself immovable, and at last they perceived they were 
making the kind of progress a criminal makes upon the 
treadmill, the floes over which they were journeying 
drifting to the southward faster than they walked north ; so 
that at the end of a long day's march of ten miles, they 
found themselves four miles further from their destination 
than at its commencement. Disgusted with so Irish a 
manoeuvre, Parry determined to return, though not until he 
had almost reached the 83rd parallel, a higher latitude than 
any to which man is known to have penetrated. Arctic 
authorities are still of opinion, that Parry's plan for reaching 
the pole might prove successful, if the expedition were to 
set out earlier in the season, ere the intervening field of ice 
is cast adrift by the approach of summer. 

Our own run to Bear Island was very rapid. On getting 
outside the islands, a fair fresh wind sprung up, and we went 
spinning along for two nights and two days as merrily as 
possible, under a double-reefed mainsail and staysail, on a 
due north course. On the third day we began to see some 
land birds, and a few hours afterwards, the loom of the 
island itself; but it had already begun to get fearfully cold, 
and our thermometer, which I consulted every two hours, 
plainly indicated that we were approaching ice. My only 
hope was that, at all events, the southern extremity of the 
island might be disengaged ; for I was very anxious to land, 
in order to examine some coal-beds which are said to exist 
in the upper strata of the sandstone formation. This expec- 
tation was doomed to complete disappointment. Before 
we had got within six miles of the shore, it became evident 
that the report of the Hammerfest Sea-horseman was too 

Between us and the land there extended an impenetrable 


barrier of packed ice, running due east and west, as far as 
the eye could reach. 

What was now to be done ? If a continuous field of ice 
lay 150 miles off the southern coast of Spitzbergen, what 
would be the chance of getting to the land by going further 
north? Now that we had received ocular proof of the 
veracity of the Hamraerfest skipper in this first particular, 
was it likely that we should have the luck to find the 
remainder of his story untrue ? According to the track he 
had jotted down for me on the chart, the ice in front 
stretched right away west in an unbroken line, to the wall 
of ice which we had seen running to the north, from the 
upper end of Jan Mayen. Only a week had elapsed since 
he had actually ascertained the impracticability of reaching 
a higher latitude, what likelihood could there be of a chan- 
nel having been opened up to the northward during so short 
an interval ? Such was the series of insoluble problems by 
which I posed myself, as we stood vainly smacking our lips 
at the island, which lay so tantalizingly beyond our reach. 

Still, unpromising as the aspect of things might appear, it 
would not do to throw a chance away ; so I determined to 
put the schooner round on the other tack, and run west- 
wards along the edge of the ice, until we found ourselves 
again in the Greenland sea. Bidding, therefore, a last adieu 
to Mount Misery, as its first discoverers very appropriately 
christened one of the higher hills in Bear Island, we suffered 
it to melt back into a fog, out of which, indeed, no part 
of the land had ever more than partially emerged, and 
with no very sanguine expectations as to the result, sailed 
west away towards Greenland. During the next four-and- 
twenty hours we ran along the edge of the ice, in nearly a 
due westerly direction, without observing the slightest indi- 
cation of anything approaching to an opening towards the 
North. It was weary work, scanning that seemingly inter- 
minable barrier, and listening to the melancholy roar of 
waters on its icy shore. 

At last, after having come about 140 miles since leaving 


Bear Island, the long, white, wave-lashed line suddenly 
ran down into a low point, and then trended back with a 
decided inclination to the North. Here, at all events, was 
an improvement ; instead of our continuing to steer W. by 
S., or at most W. by N., the schooner would often lay as high 
up as N.W., and even N.W. by N. Evidently the action 
of the Gulf Stream was beginning to tell, and our spirits 
rose in proportion. In a few more hours, however, this 
cheering prospect was interrupted by a fresh line of ice being 
reported, not only ahead, but as far as the eye could reach 
on the port bow ; so again the schooner's head was put to 
the westward, and the old story recommenced. And now 
the flank of the second barrier was turned, and we were able 
to edge up a few hours to the northward; but only to be again 
confronted by another line, more interminable, apparently, 
than the last. But why should I weary you with the detail 
of our various manoeuvres during the ensuing days ? They 
were too tedious and disheartening at the time, for me to 
look back upon them with any pleasure. Suffice it to say, 
that by dint of sailing north whenever the ice would permit 
us, and sailing west when we could not sail north, we found 
ourselves on the 2nd of August, in the latitude of the 
southern extremity of Spitzbergen, though divided from the 
land by about fifty miles of ice. All this while the weather 
had been pretty good, foggy and cold enough, but with a 
fine stiff breeze that rattled us along at a good rate when- 
ever we did get a chance of making any Northing. But 
lately it had come on to blow very hard, the cold became 
quite piercing, and what was worse in every direction 
round the whole circuit of the horizon, except along its 
southern segment, a blaze of iceblink illuminated the sky. 
A more discouraging spectacle could not have met our 
eyes. The iceblink is a luminous appearance, reflected on 
the heavens from the fields of ice that still lie sunk beneath 
the horizon ; it was, therefore on this occasion an unmis- 
takable indication of the encumbered state of the sea in 
front of us. 


I had turned in for a few hours of rest, and release from 
the monotonous sense of disappointment, and was already 
lost in a dream of deep bewildering bays of ice, and gulfs 
whose shifting shores offered to the eye every possible com- 
bination of uncomfortable scenery, without possible issue, 
when "a voice in my dreaming ear" shouted " Land!" and 
I awoke to its reality. I need not tell you in what double 
quick time I tumbled up the companion, or with what 
greediness I feasted my eyes on that longed-for view, the 
only sight as I then thought we were ever destined to 
enjoy of the mountains of Spitzbergen ! 

The whole heaven was overcast with a dark mantle of 
tempestuous clouds, that stretched down in umbrella-like 
points towards the horizon, leaving a clear space between 
their edge and the sea, illuminated by the sinister brilliancy 
of the iceblink. In an easterly direction, this belt of un- 
clouded atmosphere was etherealized to an indescribable 
transparency, and up into it there gradually grew above 
the dingy line of starboard ice a forest of thin lilac peaks, 
so faint, so pale, that had it not been for the gem-like dis- 
tinctness of their outline, one could have deemed them as 
unsubstantial as the spires of fairy-land. The beautiful 
vision proved only too transient ; in one short half hour 
mist and cloud had blotted it all out, while a fresh barrier 
of ice compelled us to turn our backs on the very land we 
were striving to reach. 

Although we were certainly upwards of sixty miles distant 
from the land when the Spitzbergen hills were first observed, 
the intervening space seemed infinitely less ; but in these 
high latitudes the eye is constantly liable to be deceived in 
the estimate it forms of distances. Often, from some change 
suddenly taking place in the state of the atmosphere, the 
land you approach will appear even to recede ; and on one 
occasion, an honest skipper one of the most valiant and 
enterprising mariners of his day actually turned back, 
because, after sailing for several hours with a fair wind 
towards the land, and finding himself no nearer to it than at 



first, he concluded that some loadstone rock beneath the 
sea must have attracted the keel of his ship, and kept h er 

The next five days were spent in a continual struggle 
with the ice. On referring to our log, I see nothing but a 
repetition of the same monotonous observations. 

"July 31 st. Wind W. by S. Courses sundry to clear ice." 

<l Ice very thick." 

" These twenty-four hours picking our way through ice." 

"August ist. Wind W. courses variable foggy con- 
tinually among ice these twenty-four hours." 

And in Fitz's diary, the discouraging state of the weather 
is still more pithily expressed : 

"August 2nd. Head wind sailing westward large hum- 
mocks of ice ahead, and on port bow, i. e. to the westward 
hope we may be able to push through. In evening, ice 
gets thicker ; we still hold on fog comes on ice getting 
thicker wind freshens we can get no farther ice impass 
able, no room to tack struck the ice several times- 
obliged to sail S. and W. things look very shady." 

Sometimes we were on the point of despairing altogether, 
then a plausible opening would show itself as if leading to- 
wards the land, and we would be tempted to run down it until 
we found the field become so closely packed, that it was 
with great difficulty we could get the vessel round, and 
only then at the expense of collisions, which made the little 
craft shiver from stem to stern. Then a fog would come on 
so thick, you could almost cut it like a cheese, and thus 
render the sailing among the loose ice very critical indeed : 
then it would fall dead calm, and leave us, hours together, 
muffled in mist, with no other employment than chess or 
hopscotch. It was during one of those intervals of quiet 
that I executed the annexed work of art, which is intended 
to represent Sigurdr, in the act of meditating a complicated 
gambit for the Doctor's benefit. 

About this period Wilson culminated. Ever since leaving 
Bear Island he had been keeping a carnival of grief in the 




pantry, until the cook became almost half-witted by reason of 
his Jeremiads. Yet I must not give you the impression that 
the poor fellow was the least wanting in pluck far from it. 
Surely it requires the highest order of courage to anticipate 
every species of disaster every moment of the day, and yet 
to meet the impending fate like a man as he did. Was it 
his fault that fate was not equally ready to meet him ? His 
share of the business was always done : he was ever pre- 
pared for the worst; but the most critical circumstances 

never disturbed the gravity of his carriage, and the fact 
of our being destined to go to the bottom before tea-time 
would not have caused him to lay out the dinner-table a 
whit less symmetrically. Still, I own, the style of his service 
was slightly depressing. He laid out my clean shirt of a 
morning as if it had been a shroud ; and cleaned my boots 
as though for a man on his last legs. The fact is, he was 
imaginative and atrabilious, contemplating life through a 
medium of the colour of his own complexion. 

This was the cheerful kind of report he used invariably 
to bring me ot a morning. Coming to the side of my cot 


with the air of a man announcing the stroke of doomsday, 
he used to say, or rather, toll 

" Seven o'clock, my Lord ! " 

" Very well ; how's the wind ?" 

" Dead ahead, my. Lord dead!" 

" How many points is she off her course ? " 

" Four points, my Lord full four points ! " (Four points 
being as much as she could be.) 

" Is it pretty clear ? eh ! Wilson ? '' 

" Can't see your hand, my Lord! can't see youi 
hand ! " 

" Much ice in sight ? " 

" Ice all round, my Lord ice a-all ro-ound ! " and 
so exit, sighing deeply over my trousers. 

Yet it was immediately after one of these unpromising 
announcements, that for the first time matters began to 
look a little brighter. The preceding four-and-twenty hours 
we had remained enveloped in a cold and dismal fog. But 
on coming on deck, I found the sky had already begun to 
clear ; and although there was ice as far as the eye could 
see on either side of us, in front a narrow passage showed 
itself across a patch of loose ice into what seemed a freer 
sea beyond. The only consideration was whether we could 
be certain of finding our way out again, should it turn out 
that the open water we saw was only a basin without any 
exit in any other direction. The chance was too tempting 
to throw away ; so the little schooner gallantly pushed her 
way through the intervening neck of ice where the floes 
seemed to be least huddled up together, and in half an hour 
afterwards found herself running up along the edge of the 
starboard ice, almost in a due northerly direction. And 
here I must take occasion to say that, during the whole of 
this rather anxious time, my master Mr. Wyse conducted 
himself in a most admirable manner. Vigilant, cool, and 
attentive, he handled the vessel most skilfully, and never 
seemed to lose his presence of mind in any emergency. It 
is true the silk tartan still coruscated on Sabbaths, but its 


brilliant hues were quite a relief to the colourless scenes 
which surrounded us, and the dangling chain now only 
served to remind me of what firm dependence I could 
place upon its wearer. 

Soon after, the sun came out, the mist entirely disap- 
peared, and again on the starboard hand shone a vision of the 
land ; this time not in the sharp peaks and spires we had first 
seen, but in a chain of pale blue egg-shaped islands, floating 
in the air a long way above the horizon. This peculiar ap- 
pearance was the result of extreme refraction, for, later in 
the day, we had an opportunity of watching the oval cloud- 
like forms gradually harden into the same pink tapering 
spikes which originally caused the island to be called Spitz- 
bergen : nay, so clear did it become, that even the shadows 
on the hills became quite distinct, and we could easily trace 
the outlines of the enormous glaciers sometimes ten or 
fifteen miles broad that fill up every valley along the shore. 
Towards evening the line of coast again vanished into the 
distance, and our rising hopes received an almost intole- 
rable disappointment by the appearance of a long line of ice 
right ahead, running to the westward, apparently, as far as 
the eye could reach. To add to our disgust, the wind flew 
right round into the North, and increasing to a gale, brought 
down upon us not one of the usual thick arctic mists to 
which we were accustomed, but a dark, yellowish brown fog, 
that rolled along the surface of the water in twisted columns, 
and irregular masses of vapour, as dense as coal smoke. 
We had now almost reached the eightieth parallel of north 
latitude, and still an impenetrable sheet of ice, extending 
fifty or sixty miles westward from the shore, rendered all 
hopes of reaching the land out of the question. Our ex- 
pectation of finding the north-west extremity of the island 
disengaged from ice by the action of the currents was at all 
events for this season evidently doomed to disappointment 
We were already almost in the latitude of Amsterdam Island 
which is actually its north-west point and the coast 
seemed more encumbered than ever. No whaler had ever 


succeeded in getting more than about 120 miles further 
north than we ourselves had already come ; and to entangle 
ourselves any further in the ice unless it were with the 
certainty of reaching land would be sheer folly. The only 
thing to be done was to turn back. Accordingly, to this 
course I determined at last to resign myself, if, after stand- 
ing on for twelve hours longer, nothing should turn up to 
improve the present aspect of affairs. It was now eleven 
o'clock ; P.M. Fitz and Sigurdr went to bed, while I 
remained on deck to see what the night might bring forth. 
It blew great guns, and the cold was perfectly intolerable ; 
billow upon billow of black fog came sweeping down 
between the sea and sky, as if it were going to swallow up 
the whole universe; while the midnight sun now com- 
pletely blotted out now faintly struggling through the 
ragged breaches of the mist threw down from time to 
time an unearthly red-brown glare on the waste of roaring 

For the whole of that night did we continue beating up 
along the edge of the ice, in the teeth of a whole gale of 
wind ; at last, about nine o'clock in the morning, but two 
short hours before the moment at which it had been agreed 
we should bear up, and abandon the attempt, we came up 
with a long low point of ice, that had stretched further to 
the Westward than any we had yet doubled ; and there, 
beyond, lay an open sea ! open not only to the Northward 
and Westward, but also to the Eastward ! You can ima- 
gine my excitement. " Turn the hands up, Mr. Wyse ! " 
" 'Bout ship ! " " Down with the helm ! " " Helm a-lee ! " 
Up comes the schooner's head to the wind, the sails flap- 
ping with the noise of thunder blocks rattling against the 
deck, as if they wanted to knock their brains out ropes 
dancing about in galvanised coils, like mad serpents and 
everything to an inexperienced eye in inextricable confusion ; 
till gradually she pays off' on the other tack the sails stiffen 
into deal-boards the staysail sheet is let go and heeling 
over on the opposite side, again she darts forward over the 


sea like an arrow from the bow. " Stand by to make sail!" 
" Out all reefs ! " I could have carried sail to sink a man- 
of-war ! and away the little ship went, playing leapfrog 
over the heavy seas, and staggering under her canvas, as if 
giddy with the same joyful excitement which made my own 
heart thump so loudly. 

In another hour the sun came out, the fog cleared away, 
and about noon up again, above the horizon, grow the 
pale lilac peaks, warming into a rosier tint as we approach. 
Ice still stretches toward the land on the starboard side ; 
but we don't care for it now the schooner's head is point- 
ing E. and by S. At one o'clock we sight Amsterdam 
Island, about thirty miles on the port bow ; then came the 
" seven ice-hills " as seven enormous glaciers are called 
that roll into the sea between lofty ridges of gneiss and 
mica slate, a little to the northward of Prince Charles's 
Foreland. Clearer and more defined grows the outline of 
the mountains, some coming forward while others recede ; 
their rosy tints appear less even, fading here and there into 
pale yellows and greys ; veins of shadow score the steep 
sides of the hills ; the articulations of the rocks become 
visible ; and now, at last, we glide under the limestone 
peaks of Mitre Cape, past the marble arches of King's 
Bay on the one side, and the pinnacle of the Vogel Hook 
on the other, into the quiet channel that separates the 
Foreland from the main. 

It was at one o'clock in the morning of the 6th of August, 
1856, that after having been eleven days at sea, we came to 
an anchor in the silent haven of English Bay, Spitzbergen. 

And now, how shall I give you an idea of the wonderful 
panorama in the midst of which we found ourselves ? I 
think, perhaps, its most striking feature was the stillness, 
and deadness, and impassibility of this new world : ice, and 
rock, and water surrounded us ; not a sound of any kind 
interrupted the silence ; the sea did not break upon the 
shore ; no bird or any living thing was visible ; the midnight 
sun, by this time muffled in a transparent mist, shed an 


awful, mysterious lustre on glacier and mountain ; no atom 
of vegetation gave token of the earth's vitality : an universal 
numbness and dumbness seemed to pervade the solitude. 
I suppose in scarcely any other part of the world is this 
appearance of deadness so strikingly exhibited. On the 
stillest summer day in England, there is always perceptible 
an under-tone of life thrilling through the atmosphere ; and 
though no breeze should stir a single leaf, yet in default of 
motion there is always a sense of growth ; but here not so 
much as a blade of grass was to be seen on the sides of 
the bald excoriated hills. Primeval rocks and eternal ice 
constitute the landscape. 

The anchorage where we had brought up is the best to be 
found, with the exception perhaps of Magdalena Bay, along 
the whole west coast of Spitzbergen ; indeed it is almost the 
only one where you are not liable to have the ice set in upon 
you at a moment's notice. Ice Sound, Bell Sound, Horn- 
Sound the other harbours along the west coast are all 
liable to be beset by drift-ice during the course of a single 
night, even though no vestige of it may have been in sight 
four- and- twenty hours before; and many a good ship has- 
been inextricably imprisoned in the very harbour to which 
she had fled for refuge. This bay is completely landlocked, 
being protected on its open side by Prince Charles's 
Foreland, a long island lying parallel with the mainland. 
Down towards either horn run two ranges of schistose rocks, 
about 1,500 feet high, their sides almost precipitous, and the 
topmost ridge as sharp as a knife, and jagged as a saw ; the 
intervening space is entirely filled up by an enormous glacier, 
which, descending with one continuous incline from the 
head of a valley on the right, and sweeping like a torrent 
round the roots of an isolated clump of hills in the centre 
rolls at last into the sea. The length of the glacial river from 
the spot where it apparently first originated, could not have 
been less than thirty, or thirty-five miles, or its greatest 
breadth less than nine or ten ; but so completely did it 
fill up the higher end of the valley, that it was as muc)> 


as you could do to distinguish the further mountains 
peeping up above its surface. The height of the precipice 
where it fell into the sea, I should judge to have been 
about 1 20 feet. 

On the left a still more extraordinary sight presented 
itself. A kind of baby glacier actually hung suspended half 
way on the hill side, like a tear in the act of rolling down the 
furrowed cheek of the mountain. 

I have tried to convey to you a notion of the falling im- 
petus impressed on the surface of the Jan Mayen ice rivers ; 
but in this case so unaccountable did it seem that the over- 
hanging mass of ice should not continue to thunder down 
upon its course, that one's natural impulse was to shrink 
from crossing the path along which a breath a sound 
might precipitate the suspended avalanche into the valley. 
Though, perhaps, pretty exact in outline and general effect, 
the sketch I have made of this wonderful scene, will never 
convey to you a correct notion of the enormous scale of the 
distances, and size of its various features. 

These glaciers are the principal characteristic of the 
scenery in Spitzbergen ; the bottom of every valley in every 
part of the island, is occupied and generally completely 
filled by them, enabling one in some measure to realize the 
look of England during her glacial period, when Snowdon 
was still being slowly lifted towards the clouds, and every 
valley in Wales was brimful of ice. But the glaciers in 
English Bay are by no means the largest in the island. We 
ourselves got a view though a very distant one of ice 
rivers which must have been more extensive ; and Dr. 
Scoresby mentions several which actually measured forty or 
fifty miles in length, and nine or ten in breadth ; while the 
precipice formed by their fall into the sea, was sometimes 
upwards of 400 or 500 feet high. Nothing is more dan- 
gerous than to approach these cliffs of ice. Every now and 
then huge masses detach themselves from the face of the 
crystal steep, and topple over into the water ; and woe be to 
the unfortunate ship which might happen to be passing below. 


Scoresby himself actually witnessed a mass of ice, the size 
of a cathedral, thunder down into the sea from a height of 
400 feet; frequently during our stay at Spitzbergen we 
ourselves observed specimens of these ice avalanches ; and 
scarcely an hour passed without the solemn silence of the 
bay being disturbed by the thunderous boom resulting from 
similar catastrophes occurring in adjacent valleys. 

As soon as we had thoroughly taken in the strange 
features of the scene around us, we all turned in for a night's 
rest. I was dog tired, as much with anxiety as want of 
sleep ; for in continuing to push on to the northward in 
spite of the ice, I naturally could not help feeling that if any 
accident occurred, the responsibility would rest with me ; 
and although I do not believe that we were at any time in 
any real danger, yet from our inexperience in the pecu- 
liarities of arctic navigation, I think the coolest judgment 
would have been liable to occasional misgivings as to what 
might arise from possible contingencies. Now, however, all 
was right ; the result had justified our anticipations ; we had 
reached the so longed-for goal ; and as I stowed myself 
snugly away in the hollow of my cot, I could not help heartily 
congratulating myself that for that night at all events 
there was no danger of the ship knocking a hole in her 
bottom against some hummock which the lookout had been 
too sleepy to observe ; and that Wilson could not come 
in the next morning and announce " ice all round, a-all 
ro-ound ! " In a quarter of an hour afterwards, all was still 
on board the " Foam; " and the lonely little ship lay floating 
on the glassy bosom of the sea, apparently as inanimate as 
the landscape. 

My feelings on awakening next morning were very plea- 
sant ; something like what one used to feel the first morn- 
ing after one's return from school, on seeing pink curtains 
glistening round one's head, instead of the dirty- white boards 
of a turned-up bedstead. When Wilson came in with my 
hot water, I could not help triumphantly remarking to him, 
"Well, Wilson, you see we've got to Spitzbergen, after all ! " 


But Wilson was not a man to be driven from his convictions 
by facts ; he only smiled grimly, with a look which meant 
"Would we were safe back again!" Poor Wilson! he 
would have gone only half way with Bacon in his famous 
Apothegm ; he would willingly " commit the Beginnings of 
all actions to Argus with his hundred eyes, and the Ends" 
to Centipede, with his hundred legs. " First to watch, and then 
to speed " away I would have been his pithy emendation. 
Immediately after breakfast we pulled to the shore, carry- 
ing in the gig with us the photographic apparatus, tents, guns, 
ammunition, and the goat. Poor old thing ! she had suffered 
dreadfully from sea-sickness, and I thought a run ashore might 
do her good. On the left-hand side of the bay, between 
the foot of the mountain and the sea, there ran a low flat 
belt of black moss, about half a mile broad ; and as this 
appeared the only point in the neighbourhood likely to offer 
any attraction to reindeer, it was on this side that I deter- 
mined to land. My chief reason for having run into English 
Bay rather than Magdalena Bay was because we had been 
told at Hammerfest that it was the more likely place of the 
two for deer ; and as we were sadly in want of fresh meat 
this advantage quite decided us in our choice. As soon, 
therefore, as we had superintended the erection of the tent, 
and set Wilson hard at work cleaning the glasses for the 
photographs, we slung our rifles on our backs, and set off in 
search of deer. But in vain did I peer through my tele- 
scope across the dingy flat in front ; not a vestige of a horn 
was to be seen, although in several places we came upon 
impressions of their track. At last our confidence in the 
reports of their great plenty became considerably diminished. 
Still the walk was very refreshing after our confinement on 
board ; and although the thermometer was below freezing, 
the cold only made the exercise more pleasant. A little to 
the northward I observed, lying on the sea-shore, innume- 
rable logs of driftwood. This wood is floated all the way 
from America by the Gulf Stream, and as I walked from one 
hucre bole to another, I could not help wondering in what 


primeval forest each had grown, what chance had originally 
cast them on the waters, and piloted them to this desert 
shore. Mingled with this fringe of unhewn timber that 
lined the beach lay waifs and strays of a more sinister kind ; 
pieces of broken spars, an oar x a boat's flagstaff, and a 
few shattered fragments of some long-lost vessel's planking. 
Here and there, too, we would come upon skulls of walrus, 
ribs and shoulder-blades of bears, brought possibly by the 
ice in winter. Turning again from the sea, we resumed our 
search for deer ; but two or three hours' more very stiff walk- 
ing produced no better luck. Suddenly a cry from Fitz, 
who had wandered a little to the right, brought us helter- 
skelter to the spot where was standing. But it was not a 
stag he had called us to come and look upon. Half im- 
bedded in the black moss at his feet, there lay a grey deal 
coffin falling almost to pieces with age ; the lid was gone 
blown off probably by the wind and within were stretched 
the bleaching bones of a human skeleton. A rude cross at 
the head of the grave still stood partially upright, and a half 
obliterated Dutch inscription preserved a record of the dead 
man's name and age. 


OB 2 JUNE 1758 ^ET 44. 

It was evidently some poor whaler of the last century to 
whom his companions had given the only burial possible in 
this frost-hardened earth, which even the summer sun has no 
force to penetrate beyond a couple of inches, and which will 
not afford to man the shallowest grave. A bleak resting- 
place for that hundred years' slumber, I thought, as I gazed 
on the dead mariner's remains ! 

" I was snowed over with snow, 
And beaten with rains, 
And drenched with the dews ; 
Dead have I long been," 

murmured the Vala to Odin in Nifelheim, and whispers 


of a similar import seemed to rise up from the lidless coffin 
before us. It was no brother mortal that lay at our feet, 
softly folded in the embraces of " Mother Earth," but a 
poor scarecrow, gibbeted for ages on this bare rock, like a 
dead Prometheus ; the vulture, frost, gnawing for ever on 
his bleaching relics, and yet eternally preserving them ! 

On another part of the coast we found two other corpses 
yet more scantily sepulchred, without so much as a cross to 
mark their resting-place. Even in the palmy days of the 
whale-fisheries, it was the practice of the Dutch and English 
sailors to leave the wooden coffins in which they had placed 
their comrades' remains, exposed upon the shore ; and I 
have been told by an eye-witness, that in Magdalena Bay 
there are to be seen, even to this day, the bodies of men 
who died upwards of 250 years ago, in such complete pre- 
servation that, when you pour hot water on the icy coating 
which encases them, you can actually see the unchanged 
features of the dead, through the transparent incrustation. 

As soon as Fitz had gathered a few of the little flowering 
mosses that grew inside the coffin, we proceeded on our way, 
leaving poor Jacob Moor like his great namesake alone 
in his glory. 

Turning to the right, we scrambled up the spur of one of 
the mountains on the eastern side of the plain, and thence 
dived down among the lateral valleys that run up between 
them. Although by this means we opened up quite a new 
system of hills, and basins, and gullies, the general scenery 
did not change its characteristics. All vegetation if the 
black moss deserves such a name ceases when you ascend 
twenty feet above the level of the sea, and the sides of the 
mountains become nothing but steep slopes of schist, split 
and crumbled into an even surface by the frost. Every 
step we took unfolded a fresh succession of these jagged 
spikes and break-neck acclivities, in an unending variety of 
quaint configuration. Mountain climbing has never been a 
hobby of mine, so I was not tempted to play the part of 
Excelsior on any of these hill sides ; but for those who love 



such exercise a fairer or a more dangerous opportunity of dis- 
tinguishing themselves could not be imagined. The super- 
cargo or owner of the very first Dutch ship that ever came 
to Spitzbergen, broke his neck in attempting to climb a 
hill in Prince Charles's Foreland. Barentz very nearly 
lost several of his men under similar circumstances ; and 
when Scoresby succeeded in making the ascent of another 
hill near Horn Sound, it was owing to his having taken the 
precaution of marking each upward step in chalk, that he 
was ever able to get down again. The prospect from the 
summit, the approach to which was by a ridge so narrow 
that he sat astride upon its edge, seems amply to have 
repaid the exertion ; and I do not think I can give you a 
better idea of the general effect of Spitzbergen scenery, 
than by quoting his striking description of the panorama 
he beheld : 

" The prospect was most extensive and grand. A fine 
sheltered bay was seen to the east of us, an arm of the same 
on the north-east, and the sea, whose glassy surface was 
unruffled by a breeze, formed an immense expanse on the 
west ; the icebergs rearing their proud crests almost to the 
tops of mountains between which they were lodged, and 
defying the power of the solar beams, were scattered in 
various directions about the sea-coast and in the adjoining 
bays. Beds of snow and ice filling extensive hollows, and 
giving an enamelled coat to adjoining valleys, one of which 
commencing at the foot of the mountain where we stood 
extended in a continued line towards the north, as far as 
the eye could reach mountain rising above mountain, until 
by distance they dwindled into insignificancy the whole con- 
trasted by a cloudless canopy of deepest azure, and enlight- 
ened by the rays of a blazing sun, and the effect aided by a 
feeling of danger, seated as we were on the pinnacle of a rock 
almost surrounded by tremendous precipices, all united to 
constitute a picture singularly sublime. 

" Our descent we found really a very hazardous, and in 
some instances a painful undertaking. Every movement 


was a work of deliberation. Having by much care, and 
\vith some anxiety, made good our descent to the top of 
the secondary hills, we took our way down one of the 
steepest banks, and slid forward with great facility in a 
sitting posture. Towards the foot of the hill, an expanse 
of snow stretched across the line of descent. This being 
loose and soft, we entered upon it without fear; but on 
reaching the middle of it, we came to a surface of solid 
ice, perhaps a hundred yards across, over which we launched 
with astonishing velocity, but happily escaped without 
injury. The men whom we left below, viewed this latter 
movement with astonishment and fear." 

So universally does this strange land bristle with peaks 
and needles of stone, that the views we ourselves obtained 
though perhaps from a lower elevation, and certainly 
without the risk scarcely yielded either in extent or 
picturesque grandeur to the scene described by Dr. 

Having pretty well overrun the country to the northward, 
without coming on any more satisfactory signs of deer than 
their hoof-prints in the moss, we returned on board. The 
next day but I need not weary you with a journal of our 
daily proceedings ; for, however interesting each moment of 
our stay in Spitzbergen was to ourselves as much perhaps 
from a vague expectation of what we might see, as from any- 
thing we actually did see a minute account of every walk 
we took, and every bone we picked up, or every human 
skeleton we came upon, would probably only make you 
wonder why on earth we should have wished to come so 
far to see so little. Suffice it to say that we explored the 
neighbourhood in the three directions left open to us by the 
mountains, that we climbed the two most accessible of the 
adjacent hills, wandered along the margin of the glaciers, 
rowed across to the opposite side of the bay, descended a 
certain distance along the sea-coast, and in fact exhausted 
all the lions of the vicinity. 

During the whole period of our stay in Spitzbergen, we 


had enjoyed unclouded sunshine. The nights were even 
brighter than the days, and afforded Fitz an opportunity of 
taking some photographic views by the light of a midnight 
sun. The cold was never very intense, though the ther- 
mometer remained below freezing ; but about four o'clock 
every evening, the salt-water bay in which the schooner lay 
was veneered over with a pellicle of ice one-eighth of an 
inch in thickness, and so elastic, that even when the sea 
beneath was considerably agitated, its surface remained 
unbroken, the smooth, round waves taking the appearance 
of billows of oil. If such is the effect produced by the 
slightest modification of the sun's power, in the month of 
August, you can imagine what must be the result of his 
total disappearance beneath the horizon. The winter is, in 
fact, unendurable. Even in the height of summer, the 
moisture inherent in the atmosphere is often frozen into 
innumerable particles, so minute as to assume the appear- 
ance of an impalpable mist. Occasionally persons have 
wintered on the island, but unless the greatest precautions 
have been taken for their preservation, the consequences 
have been almost invariably fatal. About the same period 
as when the party of Dutch sailors were left at Jan Mayen, 
a similar experiment was tried in Spitzbergen. At the former 
place it was scurvy, rather than cold, which destroyed the 
poor wretches left there to fight it out with winter ; at Spitz- 
bergen, as well as could be gathered from their journal, it 
appeared that they had perished from the intolerable seventy 
of the climate, and the contorted attitudes in which their 
bodies were found lying, too plainly indicated the amount 
of agony they had suffered. No description can give an 
adequate idea of the intense rigour of the six months' winter 
in this part of the world. Stones crack with the noise of 
thunder ; in a crowded hut the breath of its occupants will 
fall in flakes of snow ; wine and spirits turn to ice ; the snow 
burns like caustic ; if iron touches the flesh, it brings the 
skin away with it ; the soles of your stockings may be burnt 
off your feet, before you feel the slightest warmth from the 


fire ; linen taken out of boiling water, instantly stiffens to 
the consistency of a wooden board ; and heated stones will 
not prevent the sheets of the bed from freezing. If these 
are the effects of the climate within an air-tight, fire-warmed, 
crowded hut what must they be among the dark, storm- 
lashed mountain-peaks outside ? 

It was now time to think of going south again ; we had 
spent many more days on the voyage to Spitzbergen than I 
had expected, and I was continually haunted by the dread 
of your becoming anxious at not hearing from us. It was a 
great disappointment to be obliged to return without having 
got any deer ; but your peace of mind was of more conse- 
quence to me than a ship-load of horns ; and accordingly we 
decided on not remaining more than another day in our 
present berth leaving it still an open question whether we 
should not run up to Magdalena Bay, if the weather proved 
very inviting, the last thing before quitting for ever the 
Spitzbergen shores. 

We had killed nothing as yet, except a few eider ducks, 
and one or two ice-birds the most graceful winged creatures 
I have ever seen, with immensely long pinions, and plumage 
of spotless white. Although enormous seals from time to 
time used to lift their wise, grave faces above the water, with 
the dignity of sea-gods, none of us had any very great incli- 
nation to slay such rational human-looking creatures ; and 
with the exception of these and a white fish, a species of 
whale no other living thing had been visible. On the very 
morning, however, of the day settled for our departure, Fitz 
came down from a solitary expedition up a hill with the 
news of his having seen some ptarmigan. Having taken a 
rifle with him instead of a gun, he had not been able to shoot 
more than one, which he had brought back in triumph as 
proof of the authenticity of his report; but the extreme 
juvenility of his victim hardly permitted us to identify the 
species ; the hole made by the bullet being about the same 
size as the bird. Nevertheless, the slightest prospect of 
obtaining a supply of fresh meat was enough to reconcile us 


to any amount of exertion ; therefore, on the strength of the 
pinch of feathers which Fitz kept gravely assuring us was the 
game he had bagged, we seized our guns I took a rifle in 
case of a possible bear and set our faces toward the hill. 
After a good hour's pull we reached the shoulder which Fitz 
had indicated as the scene of his exploit, but a patch of snow 
was the only thing visible. Suddenly I saw Sigurdr, who 
was remarkably sharp-sighted, run rapidly in the direction 
of the snow, and bringing his gun up to his shoulder, point 
it as well as I could distinguish at his own toes. When 
the smoke of the shot had cleared away, I fully expected to 
see the Icelander prostrate ; but he was already reloading 
with the greatest expedition. Determined to prevent the 
repetition of so dreadful an attempt at self-destruction, I 
rushed to the spot. Guess then my relief when the bloody 
body of a ptarmigan driven by so point blank a discharge 
a couple of feet into the snow was triumphantly dragged 
forth by instalments from the sepulchre which it had received 
contemporaneously with its death wound, and thus happily 
accounted for Sigurdr's extraordinary proceeding. At the 
same moment I perceived two or three dozen other birds, 
brothers and sisters of the defunct, calmly strutting about 
under our very noses. By this time Sigurdr had reloaded, 
Fitz had also come up, and a regular massacre began. Re- 
tiring to a distance for it was the case of Mahomet and the 
mountain reversed the two sportsmen opened fire upon the 
innocent community, and in a few seconds sixteen corpses 
strewed the ground. 

Scarcely had they finished off the last survivor of this 
Niobean family, when we were startled by the distant re- 
port of a volley of musketry, fired in the direction of the 
schooner. I could not conceive what had happened. Had 
a mutiny taken place ? Was Mr. Wyse re-enacting, with a 
less docile ship's company, the pistol scene on board the 
Glasgow steamer? Again resounded the rattle of the firing. 
At all events, there was no time to be lost in getting back ; 
so, tying up the birds in three bundles, we flung ourselves 


down into the gully by which we had ascended, and leaping 
on from stone to stone, to the infinite danger of our limbs 
and necks, rolled rather than ran down the hill On 
rounding the lower wall of the curve which hitherto had 
hid what was passing from our eyes, the first I observed was 
Wilson breasting up the hill, evidently in a state of the 
greatest agitation. As soon as he thought himself within 
earshot, he stopped dead short, and, making a speaking- 
trumpet with his hands, shrieked, rather than shouted, " If 
you please, my Lord ! " (as I have already said, Wilson 
never forgot les convenances) "If you please, my Lord, 
there's a b-e-a-a-a-a-r!" prolonging the last word into a poly- 
syllable of fearful import. Concluding by the enthusiasm 
he was exhibiting, that the animal in question was at his 
heels, hidden from us probably by the inequality of the 
ground, I cocked my rifle, and prepared to roll him over 
the moment he should appear in sight. But what was my 
disappointment, when, on looking towards the schooner, my 
eye caught sight of our three boats fastened in a row, and 
towing behind them a white floating object, which my glass 
only too surely resolved the next minute into the dead bear ! 

On descending to the shore, I learned the whole story. 

As Mr. Wyse was pacing the deck, his attention was sud- 
denly attracted by a white speck in the water, swimming 
across from Prince Charles's Foreland, the long island which 
lies over against English Bay. When first observed, the 
creature, whatever it might be, was about a mile and a half 
off, the width of the channel between the island and the 
main being about five miles. Some said it was a bird, others 
a whale, and the cook suggested a mermaid. When the fact 
was ascertained that it was a bond fide bear, a gun was fired 
as a signal for us to return; but it was evident that unless at 
once intercepted, Bruin would get ashore. Mr. Wyse, there- 
fore, very properly determined to make sure of him. This 
was a matter of no difficulty : the poor beast showed very 
little fight. His first impulse was to swim away from the 
boat ; and even after he had been wounded, he only turned 


round once or twice upon his pursuers. The nonour of 
having given him his death wound rests between the steward 
and Mr. Wyse ; both contend for it. The evidence is con- 
flicting, as at least half-a-dozen mortal wounds were found 
in the animal's body; each maybe considered to have had 
a share in his death. Mr. Grant rests his claim principally 
upon the fact of his having put two bullets in my new rifle 
which must have greatly improved the bore of that instru- 
ment. On the strength of this precaution, he now wears as 
an ornament about his person one of the bullets extracted 
from the gizzard of our prize. 

All this time, Wilson was at the tent, busily occupied in 
taking photographs. As soon as the bear was observed, a 
signal was made to him from the ship, to warn him of the 
visitor he might shortly expect on shore. Naturally con- 
cluding that the bear would in all probability make for the 
tent as soon as he reached land, it became a subject of con- 
sideration with him what course he should pursue. Weapons 
he had none, unless the chemicals he was using might be so 
regarded. Should he try the influence of chloroform on his 
enemy; or launch the whole photographic apparatus at 
his grisly head, and take to his heels ? Thought is rapid, 
but the bear's progress seemed equally expeditious ; it was 
necessary to arrive at some speedy conclusion. To fly 
was to desert his post and leave the camp in possession 
of the spoiler; life and honour were equally dear to him. 
Suddenly a bright idea struck him. 

At the time the goat had been disembarked to take her 
pleasure on terra Jirma, our crow's-nest barrel had been 
landed with her. At this moment it was standing unoccupied 
by the side of the tent By creeping into it, and turning its 
mouth downward on the ground, Wilson perceived that he 
should convert it into a tower of strength for himself against 
the enemy, while its legitimate occupant, becoming at once 
a victim to the bear's voracity, would probably prevent the 
monster from investigating too curiously its contents. It was 
quite a pity that the interposition of the boats prevented his 


putting this ingenious plan into execution. He had been 
regularly done out of a situation, in which the most poignant 
agony of mind and dreary anticipations would have been 
absolutely required of him. He pictured the scene to him- 
self; he lying fermenting in the barrel, like a curious vin- 
tage; the bear sniffing querulously round it, perhaps cracking 
it like a cocoa-nut, or extracting him like a periwinkle ! Of 
these chances he had been deprived by the interference of 
the crew. Friends are often injudiciously meddling. 

Although I felt a little vexation that one of us should not 
have had the honour of slaying the bear in single combat, 
which would certainly have been for the benefit of his skin, 
the unexpected luck of having got one at all, made us quite 
forget our personal disappointment. As for my people, they 
were beside themselves with delight To have killed a polar 
bear was a great thing, but to eat him would be a greater. 
If artistically dealt with, his carcase would probably cut up 
into a supply of fresh meat for many days. One of the hands 
happened to be a butcher. Whenever I wanted anything 
a little out of the way to be done on board, I was sure to 
find that it happened to be the sp'ecialite of some one of the 
ship's company. In the course of a few hours, the late bear 
was converted into a row of the most tempting morsels of 
beef, hung about the rigging. Instead of in flags, the ship 
was dressed in joints. In the meantime it so happened that 
the fox, having stolen a piece of offal, was in a few minutes 
afterwards seized with convulsions. I had already given 
orders that the bear's liver should be thrown overboard, as 
being, if not poisonous, at all events very unwholesome. 
The seizure of the fox, coupled with this injunction, brought 
about a complete revolution in the men's minds, with regard 
to the delicacies they had been so daintily preparing for 
themselves. Silently, one by one, the pieces were untied 
and thrown into the sea : I do not think a mouthful of bear 
was eaten on board the "Foam" I never heard whether it 
was in consequence of any prognostics of Wilson's that this 
act of self-denial was put into practice. I observed, however, 


that for some days after the slaughter and dismemberment 
of the bear, my ship's company presented an unaccountably 
sleek appearance. As for the steward, his head and whiskers 
seemed carved out of black marble : a varnished boot would 
not have looked half so bright : I could have seen to shave 
myself in his black hair. I conclude, therefore, that the 
ingenious cook must, at all events, have succeeded in 
manufacturing a supply of genuine bear's grease, of which 
they had largely availed themselves. 

The bagging of the bear had so gloriously crowned our 
visit to Spitzbergen, that our disappointment about the 
deer was no longer thought of; it was therefore with light 
hearts, and most complete satisfaction, that we prepared 
for departure. 

Maid Marian had already carved on a flat stone an 
inscription, in Roman letters, recording the visit of the 
" Foam " to English Bay ; and a cairn having been erected 
to receive it, the tablet was solemnly lifted to its resting- 
place. Underneath I placed a tin box, containing a memo- 
randum similar to that left at Jan Mayen, as well as a printed 

dinner invitation from Lady , which I happened to have 

on board. Having planted a boat's flag beside the rude 
monument, and brought on board with us a load of drift- 
wood, to serve hereafter as Christmas yule-logs, we bade 
an eternal adieu to the silent hills around us ; and weighing 
anchor, stood out to sea. For some hours a lack of wind 
still left us hanging about the shore, in the midst of a grave 
society of seals ; but soon after, a gentle breeze sprang up 
in the south, and about three o'clock on Friday, the nth 
of August, we again found ourselves spanking along before 
a six-knot breeze, over the pale green sea. 

In considering the course on which I should take the 
vessel home, it appeared to me that in all probability we 
should have been much less pestered by the ice on our way 
to Spitzbergen, if, instead of hugging the easterly ice, we 
had kept more away to the westward ; I determined there- 
fore as noon as we got clear of the land to stand right 


over to the Greenland shore, on a due west course, and 
not to attempt to make any southing, until we should have 
struck the Greenland ice. The length of our tether in that 
direction being ascertained, we could then judge of the 
width of the channel down which we were to beat, for it 
was still blowing pretty fresh from the southward. 

Up to the evening of the day on which we quitted English 
Bay, the weather had been most beautiful ; calm, sunshiny, 
dry, and pleasant. Within a few hours of our getting under 
weigh, a great change had taken place, and by midnight it 
had become as foggy and disagreeable as ever. The sea 
was pretty clear. During the few days we had been on 
shore, the northerly current had brushed away the great 
angular field of ice which had lain off the shore, in a north- 
west direction ; so that instead of being obliged to run up 
very nearly to the 8oth parallel, in order to round it, we 
were enabled to sail to the westward at once. During the 
course of the night, we came upon one or two wandering 
patches of drift ice, but so loosely packed that we had no 
difficulty in pushing through them. About four o'clock in 
the morning, a long line of close ice was reported right 
a-head, stretching south as far as the eye could reach. 
We had come about eighty miles since leaving Spitzbergen. 
The usual boundary of the Greenland ice in summer runs, 
according to Scoresby, along the second parallel of west 
longitude. This we had already crossed ; so that it was to 
be presumed the barricade we saw before us was a frontier 
of the fixed ice. In accordance, therefore, with my pre- 
determined plan, we now began working to the southward, 
and the result fully justified my expectations. 

The sea became comparatively clear, as far as could be 
seen from the deck of the vessel ; although small vagrant 
patches of ice that we came up with occasionally as well 
as the temperature of the air and the sea continued to 
indicate the proximity of larger bodies on either side of us. 

It was a curious sensation with which we had gradually 
learnt to contemplate this inseparable companion : it had 


become a part of our daily existence, an element, a thing 
without which the general aspect of the universe would be 
irregular and incomplete. It was the first thing we thought 
of in the morning, the last thing we spoke of at night. It 
glittered and grinned maliciously at us in the sunshine ; it 
winked mysteriously through the stifling fog ; it stretched 
itself like a prostrate giant, with huge, portentous shoulders 
and shadowy limbs, right across our course; or danced 
gleefully in broken groups in the little schooner's wake. 
There was no getting rid of it, or forgetting it ; and if at 
night we sometimes returned in dreams to the green summer 
world to the fervent harvest fields of England, and heard 
" the murmurs of innumerous bees," or the song of larks on 
thymy uplands thump ! bump ! splash ! gra-a-ate ! came 
the sudden reminder of our friend on the starboard bow ; 
and then sometimes a scurry on deck, and a general "scrim- 
mage " of the whole society, in endeavours to prevent more 
serious collisions. Moreover, I could not say, with your 
old French friend, that " Farniliar'ty breeds despise." The 
more we saw of it, the less we liked it ; its cold presence 
sent a chilly sense of discouragement to the heart, and I had 
daily to struggle with an ardent desire to throw a boot at 
Wilson's head, every time his sepulchral voice announced 
the "Ice all round!" 

It was not until the i4th of August, five days after quitting 
Spitzbergen, that we lost sight of it altogether. From that 
moment the temperature of the sea steadily rose, and we felt 
that we were sailing back again into the pleasant summer. 

A sad event which occurred soon after, in some measure 
marred our enjoyment of the change. Ever since she had 
left Hammerfest, it had become too evident that a sea-going 
life did not agree with the goat. Even the run on shore at 
Spitzbergen had not sufficed to repair her shattered constitu- 
tion, and the bad weather we had had ever since completed 
its ruin. It was certain that the butcher was the only doctor 
who could now cure her. In spite, therefore, of the distress 
it occasioned Maid Marian, I was compelled to issue orders 


for her execution. Sigurdr was the only person who regarded 
the tragical event with indifference, nay, almost with delight. 
Ever since we had commenced sailing in a southerly direction, 
we had been obliged to beat ; but during the last four-and- 
twenty hours the wind kept dodging us every time we tacked, 
as a nervous pedestrian sets to you sometimes on a narrow 
trottoir. This spell of ill-luck the Icelander heathenishly 
thought would only be removed by a sacrifice to Rhin, the 
goddess of the sea, in which light he trusted she would look 
upon the goat's body when it came to be thrown overboard. 

Whether the change which followed upon the consignment 
of her remains to the deep really resulted from such an in- 
fluence, I am not prepared to say. The weather immediately 
thereafter certainly did change. First the wind dropped 
altogether ; but though the calm lasted several hours, the 
sea strangely enough appeared to become all the rougher, 
tossing and tumbling restlessly up and down (not over and 
over as in a gale) like a sick man on a fever bed ; the im- 
pulse to the waves seeming to proceed from all four quarters 
of the world at once. Then, like jurymen with a verdict 
of death upon their lips, the heavy, ominous clouds slowly 
passed into the north-west. 

A dead stillness followed a breathless pause until, at 
some mysterious signal, the solemn voice of the storm 
hurtled over the deep. Luckily we were quite ready for it; 
the gale came from the right quarter, and the fiercer it blew 
the better. For the next three days and three nights it was 
a scurry over the sea such as I never had before; nine or 
ten knots an hour was the very least we ever went, and 240 
miles was the average distance we made every four-and- 
twenty hours. 

Anything grander and more exciting than the sight of the 
sea under these circumstances you cannot imagine. The 
vessel herself remains very steady ; when you are below you 
scarcely know you are not in port. But on raising your head 
above the companion the first sight which meets your eye is 
an upright wall of black water, towering, you hardly know 


how many feet, into the air over the stern. Like a lion 
walking on its hind legs, it comes straight at you, roaring 
and shaking its white mane with fury it overtakes the ves- 
sel the upright shiny face curves inwards the white mane 
seems to hang above your very head ; but ere it topples 
over, the nimble little ship has already slipped from under- 
neath. You hear the disappointed jaws of the sea-monster 
snap angrily together, the schooner disdainfully kicks up 
her heel and raging and bubbling up on either side the 
quarter, the unpausing wave sweeps on, and you see its 
round back far ahead, gradually swelling upwards, as it 
gathers strength and volume for a new effort. 

We had now got considerably to the southward of North 
Cape. We had already seen several ships, and you would 
hardly imagine with what childish delight my people hailed 
these symptoms of having again reached more " Christian 
latitudes," as they called them. 

I had always intended, ever since my conversation with 
Mr. T. about the Malstrom, to have called in at LofToden 
Islands on our way south, and ascertain for myself che real 
truth about this famous vortex. To have blotted such a 
bugbear out of the map of Europe, if its existence really 
was a myth, would at all events have rendered our cruise not 
altogether fruitless. But, since leaving Spitzbergen, we had 
never once seen the sun, and to attempt to make so dan- 
gerous a coast in a gale of wind and a thick mist, with no 
more certain knowledge of the ship's position than our dead 
reckoning afforded, was out of the question ; so about one 
o'clock in the morning, the weather giving no signs of im- 
provement, the course I had shaped in the direction of the 
island was altered, and we stood away again to the south- 
ward. This manoeuvre was not unobserved by Wilson, but 
he mistook its meaning. Having, I suppose, overheard us 
talking at dinner about the Malstrom, he now concluded the 
supreme hour had arrived. He did not exactly comprehend 
the terms we used, but had gathered that the spot was one 
fraught with danger. Concluding from the change made 


in the vessel's course that we were proceeding towards 
the dreadful locality, he gave himself up to despair, and lay 
tossing in his hammock in sleepless anxiety. At last the 
load of his forebodings was greater than he could bear ; he 
gets up, steals into the Doctor's cabin, wakes him up, and 
standing over him as the messenger of ill tidings cnce 
stood over Priam whispers, " Sir /" " What is it? " says 
Fitz, thinking, perhaps, some one was ill. " Do you know 
where we are going ?" "Why, to Throndhjem," answered 
Fitz. "We were going to Throndhjem," rejoins Wilson, 
"but we ain't now the vessel's course was altered two hours 
ago. Oh, Sir ! we are going to Whirlpool to Whirl-rl-pooo-l! 
Sir ! " in a quaver of consternation, and so glides back to 
bed like a phantom, leaving the Doctor utterly unable to 
divine the occasion of his visit. 

The whole of the next day the gale continued. We had 
now sailed back into night ; it became therefore a question 
how far it would be advisable to carry on during the ensuing 
hours of darkness, considering how uncertain we were as to 
our real position. As I think I have already described to 
you, the west coast of Norway is very dangerous ; a con 
tinuous sheet of sunken rocks lies out along its entire edge 
for eight or ten miles to sea. There are no lighthouses to 
warn the mariner off ; and if we were wrong in our reckon- 
ing, as we might very well be, it was possible we might 
stumble on the land sooner than we expected. I knew the 
proper course would be to lie to quietly until we could take 
an observation ; but time was so valuable, and I was so 
fearful you would be getting anxious. The night was pretty 
clear. High mountains, such as we were expecting to 
make, would be seen, even at night, several miles off. Ac- 
cording to our log we were still 150 miles off the land, and, 
however inaccurate our calculation might be, the error 
could not be of such magnitude as that amounted to. To 
throw away so fair a wind seemed such a pity, especially as 
it might be days before the sun appeared ; we had already 
been at sea about a fortnight without a sight of him, and his 


appearance at all during the summer is not an act de rigueur 
in this part of the world ; we might spend yet another fort- 
night in lying to, and then after all have to poke our way 
blindfold to the coast ; at all events it would be soon 
enough to lie to the next night. Such were the considera- 
tions, which after an anxious consultation with Mr. Wyse 
in the cabin, and much fingering of the charts, determined 
me to carry on during the night. 

Nevertheless, I confess I was very uneasy. Though I 
went to bed and fell asleep for at sea nothing prevents 
that process my slumbers were constantly agitated by the 
most vivid dreams that I ever remember to have had. 
Dreams of an arrival in England, and your coming down to 
meet us, and all the pleasure I had in recounting our adven- 
tures to you ; then suddenly your face seemed to fade away 
beneath a veil of angry grey surge that broke over low, 
sharp-pointed rocks ; and the next moment there resounded 
over the ship that cry which has been the preface to so 
many a disaster the ring of which, none who have ever 
heard it are likely to forget " Breakers ahead ! " 

In a moment I was on deck, dressed for it is always 
best to dress, and there, sure enough, right ahead, about a 
mile and a half off, through the mist, which had come on 
very thick, I could distinguish the upward shooting fluff of 
seas shattering against rocks. No land was to be seen, but 
the line of breakers every instant became more evident ; at 
the pace we were going, in seven or eight minutes we should 
be upon them. Now, thought I to myself, we shall see 
whether a stout heart beats beneath the silk tartan ! The 
result covered that brilliant garment with glory and salt 
water. To tack was impossible, we could only wear, and 
to wear in such a sea was no very pleasant operation. But 
the little ship seemed to know what she was about, as well 
as any of us : up went the helm, round came the schoonei 
into the trough of the sea, high over her quarter toppled 
an enormous sea, built up of I know not how many tons 
of water, and hung over the deck ; by some unaccount 

XL] ROOST. 209 

able wriggle, an instant ere it thundered down she had 
twisted her stern on one side, and the waves passed under- 
neath. In another minute her head was to the sea, the 
mainsail was eased over, and all danger was past. 

What was now to be done ? That the land we had seen 
was the coast of Norway I could not believe. Wrong as 
our dead reckoning evidently was, it could not be so wrong 
as that. Yet only one other supposition was possible, viz., 
that we had not come so far south as we imagined, and that 
we had stumbled upon Roost a little rocky island that lies 
about twenty miles to the southward of the Loffoden Islands. 
Whether this conjecture was correct or not, did not much 
matter; to go straight away to sea, and lie to until we 
could get an observation, was the only thing to be done. 
Away then we went, struggling against a tremendous sea for 
a good nine hours, until we judged ourselves to be seventy 
or eighty miles from where we had sighted the breakers, 
when we lay to, not in the best of tempers. The next morn- 
ing, not only was it blowing as hard as ever, but all chance 
of getting a sight that day seemed also out of the question. 
I could have eaten my head with impatience. However, 
as it is best never to throw a chance away, about half-past 
eleven o'clock, though the sky resembled an even sheet of 
lead, I got my sextant ready, and told Mr. Wyse to do the 

Now, out of tenderness for your feminine ignorance I 
must state, that in order to take an observation, it is neces- 
sary to get a sight of the sun at a particular moment of the 
day : this moment is noon. When, therefore, twelve o'clock 
came, and one could not so much as guess in what quarter 
of the heavens he might be lying perdu, you may suppose I 
almost despaired. Ten minutes passed. It was evident we 
were doomed to remain, kicking our heels for another four- 
and-twenty hours where we were. No ! yes ! no ! By 
Phoebus ! there he is ! A faint spongy spot of brightness 
gleamed through the grey roof overhead. The indistinct 
outline grew a little clearer; one-half of him, though still 



behind a cloud, hardened into a sharp edge. Up went the 
sextant. "52.43!" (or whatever it was) I shouted to Mr. 
Wyse. "52.41, my Lord!" cried he, in return; there was 
only the discrepancy of a mile between us. We had got 
the altitude ; the sun might go to bed for good and all now, 
we did not care, we knew our position to an inch. There 
had been an error of something like forty miles in our dead 
reckoning, in consequence as I afterwards found of a 
current that sets to the northward, along the west coast of 
Norway, with a velocity varying from one to three miles an 
hour. The island upon which we had so nearly run was 
Roost. We were still nearly 200 miles from our port. 
"Turn the hands up! Make sail!" and away we went 
again in the same course as before, at the rate of ten knots 
an hour. 

" The girls at home have got hold of the tow-rope, I think, 
my Lord," said Mr. Wyse, as we bounded along over the 
thundering seas. 

By three o'clock next day we were up with Vigten ; and 
now a very nasty piece of navigation began. In order to 
make the northern entrance of the Throndhjem Fiord, you 
have first to find your way into what is called the Froh 
Havet, a kind of oblong basin about sixteen miles long, 
formed by a ledge of low rocks running parallel with the 
mainland, at a distance of ten miles to seaward. Though 
the space between this outer boundary and the coast is so 
wide, in consequence of the network of sunken rocks which 
stuffs it up, the passage by which a vessel can enter is very 
narrow, and the only landmark to enable you to find the 
channel is the head one of the string of outer islets. As 
this rock is about the size of a dining-table, perfectly flat, 
and rising only a few feet above the level of the sea, to 
attempt to make it is like looking for a needle in a bottle of 
hay. It was already beginning to grow very late and dark 
by the time we had come up with the spot where it ought to 
have been, but not a vestige of such a thing had turned up. 
Should we not sight it in a quarter of an hour, we must go 


to sea again, and lie to for the night, a very unpleasant 
alternative for any one so impatient as I was to reach a port. 
Just as I was going to give the order, Fitz who was cer- 
tainly the Lynceus of the ship's company espied its black 
back just peeping up above the tumbling water on our star- 
board bow. We had hit it off to a yard ! 

In another half-hour we were stealing down in quiet water 
towards the entrance of the fiord. All this time not a rag 
of a pilot had appeared ; and it was without any such func- 
tionary that the schooner swept up next morning between the 
wooded, grain-laden slopes of the beautiful loch, to Thron- 
dhjem the capital of the ancient sea-kings of Norway. 



OffMunkholm, Aug. 27, 1856. 

THRONDHJEM (pronounced Tronyem) looked very pretty and 
picturesque, with its red-roofed wooden houses sparkling in 
the sunshine, its many windows filled with flowers, its bright 
fiord covered with vessels gaily dressed in flags, in honoui 
of the Crown Prince's first visit to the ancient capital of the 
Norwegian realm. Tall, pretentious warehouses crowded 
down to the water's edge, like bullies at a public show 
elbowing to the foremost rank ; orderly streets stretched in 
quiet rows at right angles with each other, and pretty villas 
with green cinctures sloped away towards the hills. In the 
midst rose the king's palace, the largest wooden edifice in 
Europe ; while the old grey cathedral stately and grand, in 
spite of the slow destruction of the elements, the mutila- 
tions of man's hands, or his yet more degrading rough-cast 
and stucco reparations still towered above the perishable 
wooden buildings at his feet, with the solemn pride which 
befits the shrine of a royal saint. 

I cannot tell you with what eagerness I drank in all the 
features of this lovely scene ; at least, such features as Time 
can hardly alter the glancing river, from whence the city's 
ancient name of Nidaros, or " mouth of the Nid," is derived, 
the rocky island of Munkholm, the bluff of Lade, the 
land-locked fiord and its pleasant hills, beyond whose grey 
stony ridges I knew must lie the fatal battle-field of Stickle- 
stad. Every spot to me was full of interest, but an interest 


noways connected with the neat green villas, the rectangular 
streets, and the obtrusive warehouses. These signs of a 
modern humdrum prosperity seemed to melt away before my 
eyes as I gazed from the schooner's deck, and the accessories 
of an elder time came to furnish the landscape; the clumsy 
merchantmen lazily swaying with the tide, darkened into 
armed galleys with their rows of glittering shields, the snug, 
bourgeois-looking town shrank into the quaint proportions 
of the huddled ancient Nidaros, and the old marauding 
days, with their shadowy line of grand old pirate kings, rose 
up with welcome vividness before my mind. 

What picture shall I try to conjure from the past, to live 
in your fancy, as it does in mine ? 

Let the setting be these very hills, flooded by this same 
cold, steely sunshine. In the midst stands a stalwart form, 
in quaint but regal attire. Hot blood deepens the colour of 
his sun-bronzed cheek; an iron purpose gleams in his earnest 
eyes, like the flash of a drawn sword ; a circlet of gold binds 
the massive brow, and from beneath it stream to below his 
waist thick masses of hair, of that dusky red which glows like 
the heart of a furnace in the sunlight, but deepens earth- 
brown in the shadow. By his side stands a fair woman; her 
demure and heavy-lidded eyes are seldom lifted from the 
earth, which yet they seem to scorn ; but the king's eyes rest 
on her, and many looks are turned towards him. A multi- 
tude is present, moved by one great event, swayed by a 
thousand passions; some with garrulous throats full of base 
adulation and an unworthy joy; some pale, self-scorning, 
with averted looks, and hands that twitch instinctively at their 
idle daggers, then drop hopeless, harmless at their sides. 

The king is Harald Haarfager, " of the fair hair ; " the 
woman is proud and beautiful Gyda, whose former scorn for 
him, in the days when he was nothing but the petty chief of 
a few barren mountains, provoked that strange wild vow of 
his, " That he would never clip or comb his locks till he 
could woo her as sole king of Norway." 

Among the crowd are those who have bartered, for ease, 


and wealth, and empty titles born of the king's breath their 
ancient Udal rights, their Bonder privileges; others have 
sunk their proud hearts to bear the yoke of the stronger 
hand, yet gaze with yearning looks on the misty horizon that 
opens between the hills. A dark speck mars that shadowy 
line. Thought follows across the space. It is a ship. Its 
sides are long, and black, and low ; but high in front rises 
the prow, fashioned into the semblance of a gigantic golden 
dragon, against whose gleaming breast the divided waters 
angrily flash and gurgle. Along the top sides of the deck 
are hung a row of shining shields, in alternate breadths of 
red and white, like the variegated scales of a sea-monster, 
whilst its gilded tail curls aft over the head of the steersman. 
From either flank projects a bank of some thirty oars, that 
look, as they smite the ocean with even beat, like the legs 
on which the reptile crawls over its surface. One stately 
mast of pine serves to carry a square sail made of cloth, 
brilliant with stripes of red, white, and blue. 

And who are they who navigate this strange, barbaric 
vessel ? why leave they the sheltering fiords of their beloved 
Norway ? They are the noblest hearts of that noble land 
freemen, who value freedom, who have abandoned all 
rather than call Harald master, and now seek a new home 
even among the desolate crags of Iceland, rather than submit 
to the tyranny of a usurper. 

" -iftorb ober <Sut> ! tt>enn nitv bte eelen gluten ! " 

Another picture, and a sadder story ; but the scene is 
now a wide dun moor, on the slope of a seaward hill ; the 
autumn evening is closing in, but a shadow darker than that 
of evening broods over the desolate plain, the shadow of 
Death. Groups of armed men, with stern sorrow in their 
looks, are standing round a rude couch, hastily formed of 
fir branches. An old man lies there dying. His ear is 
dulled even to the shout of victory ; the mists of an endless 
night are gathering in his eyes ; but there is passion yet in 


the quivering lip, and triumph on the high-resolved brow; 
and the gesture of his hand has kingly power still. Let me 
tell his saga, like the bards of that old time. 


All was over : day was ending 
As the foeman turned and fled. 
Gloomy red 

Glowed the angry sun descending ; 
While round Hacon's dying bed, 
Tears and songs of triumph blending, 
Told how fast the conqueror bled 


" Raise me," said the King. We raised him- 
Not to ease his desperate pain ; 
That were vain ! 

" Strong our foe was but we faced him : 
Show me that red field again." 
Then, with reverent hands, we placed him 
High above the bloody plain. 


Silent gazed he ; mute we waited, 
Kneeling round a faithful few, 
Staunch and true, 
Whilst above, with thunder freighted, 
Wild the boisterous north wind blew, 
.\nd the carrion-bird, unsated, 
On slant wing around us flew. 


Sudden, on our startled hearing, 
Came the low-breathed, stern command 
"Lo ! ye stand? 
Linger not, the night is nearing ; 
Bear me downwards to the strand, 
Where my ships are idly steering 
Off and on, in sight of land." 



Every whispered word obeying, 
Swift we bore him down the steep, 
O'er the deep, 

Up the tall ship's side, low swaying 
To the storm-wind's powerful sweep, 
And his dead companions laying 
Round him, we had time to weep. 


But the King said " Peace ! bring hithei 
Spoil and weapons battle-strown, 
Make no moan ; 

Leave me and my dead together, 
Light my torch, and then begone." 
But we murmured, each to other, 
"Can we leave him thus alone ? " 


Angrily the King replieth ; 
Flash the awful eyes again, 
With disdain 
*' Call him not alone who lieth 
Low amidst such noble slain ; 
Call him not alone who dieth 
Side by side with gallant men." 

Slowly, sadly, we departed : 

Reached again that desolate shore, 


Trod by him, the brave true-hearted 

Dying in that dark ship's core ! 

Sadder keel from land ne'er parted, 

Nobler freight none ever bore ! 

There we lingered, seaward gazing, 
Watching o'er that living tomb, 
Through the gloom 
Gloom ! which awful light is chasing- 
Blood-red flames the surge illume ! 
Lo ! King Hacon's ship is blazing ; 
Tis the hero's self-sought doom. 



Right before the wild wind driving, 
Madly plunging stung by fire 
No help nigh her 
Lo ! the ship has ceased her striving ! 
Mount the red flames higher higher ! 
Till on ocean's verge arriving, 
Sudden sinks the Viking's pyre 
Hacon's gone ! 

Let me call one more heroic phantom from Norway's 
romantic past. 

A kingly presence, stately and tall ; his shield held high 
above his head a broken sword in his right hand. Olaf 
Tryggvesson ! Founder of Nidaros ; that cold Northern 
Sea has rolled for many centuries above your noble head, 
and yet not chilled the battle heat upon your brow, nor 
staunched the blood that trickles down your iron glove, 
from hidden, untold wounds, which the tender hand of 
Thyri shall never heal ! 

To such ardent souls it is indeed given " to live for ever " 
(the for ever of this world) ; for is it not " Life " to keep 
a hold on our affections, when their own passions are at 
rest, to influence our actions (however indirectly) when 
action is at an end for them ? Who shall say how much of 
modern heroism may owe its laurels to that first throb of 
fiery sympathy which young hearts feel at the relation of 
deeds such as Olaf Tryggvesson's ? 

The forms of those old Greeks and Romans whom we 
are taught to reverence, may project taller shadows on the 
world's stage ; but though the scene be narrow here, and 
light be wanting, the interest is not less intense, nor are the 
passions less awful that inspired these ruder dramas. 

There is an individuality in the Icelandic historian's 
description of King Olaf that wins one's interest at first 
as in an acquaintance and rivets it at last as in a personal 
friend. The old Chronicle lingers with such loving minute- 
ness over his attaching qualities, his social, generous 
nature, his gaiety and " frolicsomeness ; " even his finical 


taste in dress, and his evident proneness to fall too hastily 
in love, have a value in the portrait, as contrasting with the 
gloomy colours in which the story sinks at last. The warm,, 
impulsive spirit speaks in every action of his life, from the 
hour when a young child, in exile he strikes his axe into- 
the skull of his foster-father's murderer, to the last grand 
scene near Svalderoe. You trace it in his absorbing grief 
for the death of Geyra, the wife of his youth ; the saga says, 
" he had no pleasure in Vinland after it," and then naively 
observes, " he therefore provided himself with war-ships, and 
went a-plundering," one of his first achievements being to 
go and pull down London Bridge. This peculiar kind of 
" distraction " (as the French call it) seems to have had the 
desired effect, as is evident in the romantic incident of his 
second marriage, when the Irish Princess Gyda chooses 
him apparently an obscure stranger to be her husband, 
out of a hundred wealthy and well-born aspirants to her 
hand. But neither Gyda's love, nor the rude splendours of 
her father's court, can make Olaf forgetful of his claims 
upon the throne of Norway the inheritance of his father , 
and when that object of his just ambition is attained, and 
he is proclaimed King by general election of the Bonders, 
as his ancestor Harald Haarfager had been, his character 
deepens in earnestness as the sphere of his duties is en- 
larged. All the energies of his ardent nature are put forth 
in the endeavour to convert his subjects to the true Faith. 
As he himself expresses it, " he would bring it to this, 
that all Norway should be Christian or die/" In the 
same spirit he meets his heretic and rebellious subjects at 
the Thing of Lade, and boldly replies, when they require 
him to sacrifice to the false gods, " If I turn with you to 
offer sacrifice, then shall it be the greatest sacrifice that 
can be made ; I will not offer slaves, nor malefactors to 
your gods, I will sacrifice men; and they shall be the 
noblest men among you ! " It was soon after this that he 
despatched the exemplary Thangbrand to Iceland. 

With a front not less determined does he face his country's 


foes. The king of Sweden, and Svend " of the forked 
beard," king of Denmark, have combined against him. 
With them is joined the Norse jarl, Eric, the son of Hacon. 
Olaf Tryggvesson is sailing homewards with a fleet of 
seventy ships, himself commanding the famous "Long 
Serpent" the largest ship built in Norway. His enemies 
are lying in wait for him behind the islands. 

Nothing can be more dramatic than the description of 
the sailing of this gallant fleet (piloted by the treacherous 
Earl Sigwald) within sight of the ambushed Danes and 
Swedes, who watch from their hiding-place the beautiful 
procession of hostile vessels, mistaking each in turn for the 
"Long Serpent," and as often undeceived by a new and yet 
more stately apparition. She appears at length, her dragon 
prow glittering in the sunshine, all canvas spread, her 
sides bristling with armed men ; "and when they saw her, 
none spoke, all knew it to be indeed the ' Serpent,' and 
they went to their ships to arm for the fight." As soon as 
Olaf and his forces had been enticed into the narrow 
passage, the united fleets of the three allies pour out of the 
Sound ; his people beg Olaf to hold on his way and not 
risk battle with such a superior force; but the King re- 
plied, high on the quarter-deck where he stood, " Strike the 
sails ! I never fled from battle : let God dispose of my life, 
but flight I will never take ! " He then orders the war- 
horns to sound, for all his ships to close up to each other. 
" Then," says Ulf the Red, captain of the forecastle, "if 
the ' Long Serpent ' is to lie so much a-head of the other 
vessels, we shall have hot work of it here on the forecastle." 

The King replies, " I did not think I had a forecastle man 
afraid, as well as red." 1 

Says Ulf, '' Defend thou the quarter-deck, as I shall the 

The King had a bow in his hands ; he laid an arrow on 
the string, and made as if he aimed at Ulf. 

1 There is a play on these two words in the Icelandic, " Raudan 
c Ragan." 


Ulf said, " Shoot another way, King, where it is more 
needful, my work is thy gain." 

Then the King asks, " Who is the chief of the force right 
opposite to us ? " He is answered, " Svend of Denmark, 
with his army." 

Olaf replies, " We are not afraid of these soft Danes ! 
Who are the troops on the right ? " 

They answer, " Olaf of Sweden, and his forces." 

" Better it were," replies the King, " for these Swedes to 
be sitting at home, killing their sacrifices, than venturing 
under the weapons of the ' Long Serpent' But who owns 
the large ships on the larboard side of the Danes ? ' 

"That is Jarl Eric, son of Hacon," say they. 

The King says, " He has reason for meeting us; we may 
expect hard blows from these men ; they are Norsemen like 

The fierce conflict raged for many hours. It went hard 
with the " soft Danes," and idolatrous Swedes, as Olaf had 
foreseen : after a short struggle they turn and fly. But Jarl 
Eric in his large ship the "'Iron Beard" is more than a 
match for Olaf s lighter vessels. One by one their decks 
are deluged with blood, their brave defenders swept into the 
sea ; one by one they are cut adrift and sent loose with the 
tide. And now at last the "Iron Beard" lies side by side 
with the " Long Serpent" and it is indeed "hot work" both 
on forecastle and quarter-deck. 

" Einar Tambarskelvar, one of the sharpest of bowmen, 
stood by the mast, and shot with his bow." His arrow hits 
the tiller-end, just over the Earl's head, and buries itself up 
to the shaft in the wood. " Who shot that bolt ? " says the 
Jarl. Another flies between his hand and side, and enters 
the stuffing of the chief's stool. Then said the Jarl to a 
man named Fin, " Shoot that tall archer by the mast ! " Fin 
shoots; the arrow hits the middle of Einar's bow as he is in 
the act of drawing it, and the bow is split in two. 

" What is that," cried King Olaf, " that broke with such a 
noise ? " 


" Norway, King, from thy hands ! " cried Einar. 

" No ! not so much as that," says the King ; " take my 
bow, and shoot," flinging the bow to him. 

Einar took the bow, and drew it over the head of flu* 
arrow. " Too weak, too weak/' said he, " for the bow of a 
mighty King ! " and throwing the bow aside, " he took 
sword and buckler, and fought valiantly." 

But Olaf's hour is come. Many slain lie around him : 
many that have fallen by his hand, more that have fallen at 
his side. The thinned ranks on board the "Iron Beard" 
are constantly replenished by fresh combatants from other 
vessels, even by the Swedes and soft Danes, now " strong, 
upon the stronger side," while Olaf, cut off from succour, 
stands almost alone upon the "Serpent's" deck, made slip- 
pery by his people's blood. The Jarl had laid out boats to 
intercept all who might escape from the ship ; but escape is 
not in the King's thoughts. He casts one look around him, 
glances at his sword broken like Einar's bow draws a 
deep breath, and, holding his shield above his head, springs 
overboard. A shout a rush ! who shall first grasp that 
noble prisoner ? Back, slaves ! the shield that has brought 
him scathless through a hundred fights, shall yet shelter 
him from dishonour. 

Countless hands are stretched to snatch him back to 
worthless life, but the shield alone floats on the swirl of the 
wave ; King Olaf has sunk beneath it. 

Perhaps you have already had enough of my Saga lore ; 
but with that grey cathedral full in sight, I cannot but 
dedicate a few lines to another Olaf, king and warrior like 
the last, but to whom after times have accorded a yet 
higher title. 

Saint Olaf's Saint Olave, as we call him early history 
savours little of the odour of sanctity, but has rather that 
" ancient and fish-like smell" which characterised the doings 
of the Vikings, his ancestors. But those were days when 
honour rather than disgrace attached to the ideas of booty 
and plunder, especially in an enemy's country; it was a 


"spoiling of the Egyptians" sanctioned by custom, and 
even permitted by the Church, which did not disdain occa- 
sionally to share in the profits of a successful cruise, when 
presented in the decent form of silver candlesticks and 
other ecclesiastical gauds. As to the ancient historian, he 
mentions these matters as a thing of course. " Here the 
King landed, burnt, and ravaged ; " " there the Jarl gained 
much booty ; " " this summer, they took a cruise in the 
Baltic, to gather property," etc., much as a modern biogra- 
pher would speak of a gentleman's successful railroad specu- 
lations, his taking shares in a coal mine, or coming into a 
"nice little thing in the Long Annuities." Nevertheless, 
there is something significant of his future vocation, in 
a speech which Olaf makes to his assembled friends and 
relations, imparting to them his design of endeavouring 
to regain possession of the throne : " I and my men have 
nothing for our support save what we captured in war, 
for which we have hazarded both life and soul ; for many an 
innocent man have we deprived of his property, and some of 
their lives, and foreigners are now sitting in the possessions 
of my fathers." One sees here a faint glimmer of the Saint's 
nimbus, over the helmet of the Viking, a dawning percep- 
tion of the "rights of property," which, no doubt, must 
have startled his hearers into the most ardent conservative 
zeal for the good old marauding customs. 

But though years elapsed, and fortunes changed, before 
this dim light of the early Church became that scorching 
and devouring flame which, later, spread terror and con- 
fusion among the haunts of the still lingering ancient gods, 
an earnest sense of duty seems to have been ever present 
with him. If it cannot be denied that he shared the errors 
of other proselytizing monarchs, and put down Paganism 
with a stern and bloody hand, no merely personal injury ever 
weighed with him. How grand is his reply to those who 
advise him to ravage with fire and sword the rebellious 
district of Throndhjem, as he had formerly punished num- 
bers of his subjects who had rejected Christianity: "We 


had then God's honour to defend ; but this treason against 
their sovereign is a much less grievous crime ; it is more 
in my power to spare those who have dealt ill with me, 
than those whom God hated." The same hard measure 
which he meted to others he applied to his own actions : 
witness that curiously characteristic scene, when, sitting in 
his high seat, at table, lost in thought, he begins uncon- 
sciously to cut splinters from a piece of fir-wood which he 
held in his hand. The table servant, seeing what the King 
was about, says to him, (mark the respectful periphrasis !) 
' It is Monday, Sire, to-morrow." The King looks at him, 
and it came into his mind what he was doing on a Sunday. 
He sweeps up the shavings he had made, sets fire to them, 
and lets them burn on his naked hand ; " showing thereby 
that he would hold fast by God's law, and not trespass 
without punishment." 

But whatever human weaknesses may have mingled with 
the pure ore of this noble character, whatever barbarities 
may have stained his career, they are forgotten in the 
pathetic close of his martial story. 

His subjects, alienated by the sternness with which he 
administers his own severely religious laws, or corrupted 
by the bribes of Canute, king of Denmark and England, 
are fallen from their allegiance. The brave, single-hearted 
monarch is marching against the rebellious Bonders, at the 
head of a handful of foreign troops, and such as remained 
faithful among his own people. On the eve of that last 
battle, on which he stakes throne and life, he intrusts a large 
sum of money to a Bonder, to be laid out " on churches, 
priests, and alms-men, as gifts for the souls of such as may 
fall in battle against himself," strong in the conviction of 
the righteousness of his cause, and the assured salvation of 
such as upheld it. 

He makes a glorious end. Forsaken by many whom he 
had loved and served, yet forgiving and excusing them ; 
rejecting the aid of all who denied that holy Faith which 
had become the absorbing interest of his life, but sur- 


rounded by a faithful few, who share his fate ; " in the lost 
battle, borne down by the flying " he falls, transpierced by 
many wounds, and the last words on his fervent lips are 
prayer to God. 1 

Surely there was a gallant saint and soldier. Yet he was 
not the only one who bore himself nobly on that day. 
Here is another episode of that same fatal fight. 

A certain Thormod is one of the Scalds (or Poets) in 
King Olaf s army. The night before the battle he sings a 
spirited song at the King's request, who gives him a gold 
ring from his finger in token of his approval. Thormod 
thanks him for the gift, and says, " It is my prayer, Sire, 
that we shall never part, either in life or death." When the 
King receives his death- wound Thormod is near him, but, 
wounded himself, and so weak and weary that in a desperate 
onslaught by the King's men, nicknamed " Dag's storm," 
he only stood by his comrade in the ranks, although he could 
do nothing. 

The noise of the battle has ceased ; the King is lying dead 
where he fell. The very man who had dealt him his death- 
wound has laid the body straight out on the ground, and 
spread a cloak over it. "And when he wiped the blood 
from the face it was very beautiful, and there was red in the 
cheeks, as if he only slept." 

Thormod, who had received a second wound as he stood 
in the ranks (an arrow in his side, which he breaks off at 
the shaft), wanders away towards a large barn, where other 
wounded men have taken refuge. Entering with his drawn 
sword in his hand, he meets one of the Bonders coming 
out, who says, "It is very bad there, with howling and 
screaming ; and a great shame it is, that brisk young fellows 
cannot bear their wounds. The King's men may have 
done bravely to-day, but truly they bear their wounds ill." 

Thormod asks what his name is, and if he was in the 
battle. Kimbe was his name, and he had been " with the 

1 The exact date of the battle of Sticklestad is known : an eclipse of 
the sun occurred while it was going on. 


Bonders, which was the best side." " And hast thou been 
in the battle too ? " asks he of Thormod. 

Thormod replies, " I was with them that had the best." 

"Art thou wounded? " says Kimbe. 

'' Not much to signify," says Thormod. 

Kimbe sees the gold ring, and says, " Thou art a King's 
man : give me thy gold ring, and I will hide thee." 

Thormod replies, " Take the ring if thou canst get it ; 1 
have lost that which is more worth. '' 

Kimbe stretches out his hand to seize the ring ; but Thor- 
mod, swinging his sword, cuts off his hand; "and it is 
related, that Kimbe behaved no better under his wound than 
those he had just been blaming." 

Thormod then enters the house where the wounded men 
are lying, and seats himself in silence by the door. 

As the people go in and out, one of them casts a look at 
Thormod, and says, " Why art thou so dead pale ? Art thou 
wounded?" He answers carelessly, with a half-jesting rhyme ; 
then rises and stands awhile by the fire. A woman, who is 
attending on those who are hurt, bids him "go out, and bring 
in firewood from the door/' 3 He returns with the wood, and 
the girl then looking him in the face, says, " Dreadfully 
pale is this man ; " and asks to see his wounds. She exa- 
mines his wound in his side, and feels that the iron of the 
arrow is still there , she then takes a pair of tongs and tries 
to pull it out, " but it sat too fast, and as the wound was 
swelled, little of it stood out to lay hold of." Thormod bids 
her " cut deep enough to reach the iron, and then to give 
him the tongs, and let him pull." She did as he bade. He 
takes the ring from his hand, and gives it to the girl, saying, 
"It is a good man's gift ! King Olaf gave it to me this 
morning." Then Thormod took the tongs and pulled the 
iron out. The arrow-head was barbed, and on it there hung 
some morsels of flesh. When he saw that he said, " The 
King has fed us well ! I am fat, even at the heart-roots ! " 
And so saying, he leant back, and died. 1 

1 When a man was wounded in the abdomen, it was the habit of the 


Stout, faithful heart ! if they gave you no place in your 
master's stately tomb, there is room for you by his side in 
heaven ! 

I have at last received I need not say how joy fully two 
letters from you; one addressed to Hammerfest. I had 
begun to think that some Norwegian warlock had bewitched 
the post-bags, in the approved old ballad fashion, to prevent 
their rendering up my dues ; for when the packet of letters 
addressed to the "foam" was brought on board, immediately 
after our arrival, I alone got nothing. From Sigurdr and the 
Doctor to the cabin-boy, every face was beaming over " news 
from home ! " while I was left to walk the deck, with my 
hands in my pockets, pretending not to care. But the spell is 
broken now, and I retract my evil thoughts of the warlock 
and you. 

Yesterday, we made an excursion as far as Lade, saw a 
waterfall, which is one of the lions of this neighbourhood 
(but a very mitigated lion, which " roars you as soft as any 
sucking dove "), and returned in the evening to attend a ball 
given to celebrate the visit of the Crown Prince. 

At Lade", I confess I could think of nothing but "the great 
Jarl " Hacon, the counsellor, and maker of kings, king himself 
in all but the name, for he ruled over the western sea-board 
of Norway, while Olai Tryggvesson was yet a wanderer and 
exile. He is certainly one of the most picturesque figures of 
these Norwegian dramas; what with his rude wit, his personal 
bravery, and that hereditary beauty of his race for which he 
was conspicuous above the rest. His very errors, great as 
they were, have a dash and prestige about them, which in 
that rude time must have dazzled men's eyes, and especially 
women's, as his story proves. It was his sudden passion for 
the beautiful Gudrun Lyrgia (the "Sun of Lunde," as she was 
called), which precipitated the avenging fate which years of 
heart-burnings and discontent among his subjects had been 
preparing. Gudrun's husband incites the Bonders to throw 

Norse leeches to give him an onion to eat ; by this means they learnt 
whether the weapon had perforated the viscera. 


off the yoke of the licentious despot, Olaf Tryggvesson is 
proclaimed king, and the "great Jarl of Lade" is now a 
fugitive in the land he so lately ruled, accompanied by a 
single thrall, named Karker. 

In this extremity, Jarl Hacon applies for aid to Thora of 
Rimmol, a lady whom he had once dearly loved ; she is faith- 
ful in adversity to the friend of happier days, and conceals the 
Jarl and his companion in a hole dug for this.purpose, in the 
swine-stye, and covered over with wood and litter ; as the 
only spot likely to elude the hot search of his enemies. Olaf 
and the Bonders seek for him in Thora's house, but in vain ; 
and finally, Olaf, standing on the very stone against which the 
swine-stye is built, promises wealth and honours to him who 
shall bring him the Jarl of Lade's head. The scene which 
follows is related by the Icelandic historian with Dante's 
tragic power. 

There was a little daylight in their hiding-place, and the 
Jarl and Karker both hear the words of Olaf. 

" Why art thou so pale ? " says the Jarl, " and now 
again as black as earth? Thou dost not mean to betray 

" By no means," said Karker. 

" We were born on the same night," said the Jarl, " and 
the time will not be long between our deaths." 

When night came, the Jarl kept himself awake, but 
Karker slept ; a troubled sleep. The Jarl awoke him, and 
asked of what he was dreaming. He answered, " I was at 
Lade, and Olaf was laying a gold ring about my neck." 

The Jarl said, "It will be a ra/ring about thy neck, if he 
catches thee : from me thou shall enjoy all that is good, 
therefore, betray me not ! " 

Then they both kept themselves awake; "the one, as it 
were, watching upon the other." But towards day, the Jarl 
dropped asleep, and in his unquiet slumber he drew his heels 
under him, and raised his neck as if going to rise, "and 
shrieked fearfully." On this, Karker, " dreadfully alarmed/' 
drew a knife from his belt, stuck it into the Jarl's throat, 


and cut off his head. Late in the day he came to Ladd, 
brought the Jarl's head to Olaf, and told his story. 

It is a comfort to know that "the red ring" was laid round 
the traitor's neck : Olaf caused him to be beheaded. 

What a picture that is, in the swine-stye, those two haggard 
faces, travel-stained and worn with want of rest, watching 
each other with hot, sleepless eyes through the half darkness, 
and how true to nature is the nightmare of the miserable Jarl I 

It was on my return from Lade, that I found your letters ; 
and that I might enjoy them without interruption, I carried 
them off to the churchyard (such a beautiful place !) to 
read in peace and quiet The churchyard was not "popu- 
lous with young men, striving to be alone," as Tom Hood 
describes it to have been in a certain sentimental parish ; so 
I enjoyed the seclusion I anticipated. 

I was much struck by the loving care and ornament 
bestowed on the graves ; some were literally loaded with 
flowers, and even those which bore the date of a long past 
sorrow had each its own blooming crown, or fresh nosegay. 
These good Throndhjemers must have much of what the 
French call la religion des souvenirs, a religion in which we 
English (as a nation) are singularly deficient. I suppose 
no people in Europe are so little addicted to the keeping of 
sentimental anniversaries as we are ; I make an exception 
with regard to our living friends' birthdays, which we are 
ever tenderly ready to cultivate, when called on ; turtle, 
venison, and champagne, being pleasant investments for the 
affections. But time and business do not admit of a faithful 
adherence to more sombre reminiscences ; a busy gentleman 
" on 'Change " cannot conveniently shut himself up, on his 
" lost Araminta's natal- day," nor will a railroad committee 
allow of his running down by the 10.25 A.M., to shed a tear 
over that neat tablet in the new Willow-cum-Hatband 
Cemetery. He is necessarily content to regret his Araminta 
in the gross, and to omit the petty details of a too pedantic 

The fact is, we are an eminently practical people, and are 


easily taught to accept " the irrevocable," if not without 
regret, at least with a philosophy which repudiates all super- 
fluous methods of showing it. Decent is the usual and 
appropriate term applied to our churchyard solemnities, and 
we are not only " content to dwell in decencies for ever," 
but to die, and be buried in them. 

The cathedral loses a little of its poetical physiognomy on 
a near approach. Modern restoration has done something 
to spoil the outside, and modern refinement a good deal to 
degrade the interior with pews and partitions ; but it is a 
very fine building, and worthy of its metropolitan dignity. 
I am told that the very church built by Magnus the Good, 
son of Saint Olave over his father's remains, and finished 
by his uncle Harald Hardrada, is, or rather was, included in 
the walls of the cathedral ; and though successive catastro- 
phes by fire have perhaps left but little of the original 
building standing, I like to think that some of these huge 
stones were lifted to their place under the eyes of Harald 
the Stern. It was on the eve of his last fatal expedition against 
our own Harold of England that the shrine of St. Olave was 
opened by the king, who, having clipped the hair and nails 
of the dead saint (most probably as relics, efficacious for the 
protection of himself and followers), then locked the shrine, 
and threw the keys into the Nid. Its secrets from that day 
were respected until the profane hands of Lutheran Danes 
carried it bodily away, with all the gold and silver chalices, 
and jewelled pyxes, which, by kingly gifts and piratical offer- 
ings, had accumulated for centuries in its treasury. 

He must have been a fine, resolute fellow, that Harald 
the Stern, although, in spite of much church-building and a 
certain amount of Pagan-persecuting, his character did not 
in any way emulate that of his saintly brother. The early 
part of his history reads like a fairy tale, and is a favourite 
subject for Scald songs ; more especially his romantic adven- 
tures in the East, 

' Well worthy of the golden prime 
Of good Haroun Alraschid ; " 


where Saracens flee like chaff upon the wind before him, 
and impregnable Sicilian castles fall into his power by 
impossible feats of arms, or incredible stratagems. A Greek 
empress, " the mature Zoe," as Gibbon calls her, falls in 
love with him, and her husband, Constantine Monomachus, 
puts him in prison ; but Saint Olaf still protects his mau- 
vais sujet of a brother, and inspires " a lady of distinction " 
with the successful idea of helping Harald out of his inac- 
cessible tower by the prosaic expedient of a ladder of ropes. 
A boom, however, across the harbour's mouth still prevents 
the escape of his vessel. The Sea-king is not to be so 
easily baffled. Moving all his ballast, arms, and men, into 
the afterpart of the ship, until her stem slants up out of the 
sea, he rows straight at the iron chain. The ship leaps 
almost half-way over. The weight being then immediately 
transferred to the fore-part, she slips down into the water 
on the other side, having topped the fence like an Irish 
hunter. A second galley breaks her back in the attempt. 
After some questionable acts of vengeance on the Greek 
court, Harald and his bold Vaeringers go fighting and plun- 
dering their way through the Bosphorus and Black Sea back 
to Novogorod, where the first part of the romance termi- 
nates, as it should, by his marriage with the object of his 
secret attachment, Elisof, the daughter of the Russian king. 

Hardrada's story darkens towards the end, as most of the 
tales of that stirring time are apt to do. His death on 
English ground is so striking, that you must have patience 
with one other short Saga ; it will give you the battle of 
Stanford Bridge from the Norse point of view. 

The expedition against Harold of England commences 
ill ; dreams and omens affright the fleet ; one man dreams 
he sees a raven sitting on the stern of each vessel ; another 
sees the fair English coast ; 

" But glancing shields 
Hide the green fields ; " 

and other fearful phenomena mar the beautiful vision. 
Harald himself dreams that he is back again at Nidaros, 


and that his brother Olaf meets him with a prophecy of ruin 
and death. The bold Norsemen are not to be daunted by 
these auguries, and their first successes on the English coast 
seem to justify their persistence. But on a certain beautiful 
Monday in September (A.D. 1066, according to the Saxon 
Chronicle), part of his army being encamped at Stanford 
Bridge, "Hardrada, having taken breakfast, ordered the 
trumpets to sound for going on shore ; " but he left half his 
force behind, to guard the ships : and his men, anticipating 
no resistance from the castle, which had already surrendered, 
"went on shore (the weather being hot), with only their 
helmets, shields, and spears, and girt with swords ; some 
had bows and arrows, and all were very merry." On 
nearing the castle, they see " a cloud of dust as from horses' 
feet, and under it shining shields and bright armour." 
English Harold's army is before them. Hardrada sends back 
to his ship for succour, and sets up his banner, "Land 
Ravager," undismayed by the inequality of his force, and 
their comparatively unarmed condition. The men on each 
side are drawn up in battle array, and the two kings in 
presence; each gazes eagerly to discover his noble foe 
among the multitude. Harald Hardrada's black horse 
stumbles and falls ; " the King got up in haste, and said, 
4 A fall is lucky for a traveller.' " 

The English King said to the Northmen who were with 
him, " Do you know the stout man who fell from his horse, 
with the blue kirtle, and beautiful helmet ? " 

" That is the Norwegian King," said they. 

English Harold replied, "A great man, and of stately 
appearance is he ; but I think his luck has left him." 

And now twenty gallant English knights ride out of thek 
ranks to parley with the Northmen. One advances beyond 
the rest and asks if Earl Toste, the brother of English 
Harold (who has banded with his enemy against him), is 
with the army. 

The Earl himself proudly answers, "It is not to be denied 
that you will find him here." 


The Saxon says, "Thy brother, Harold, sends his salu- 
tation, and offers thee the third part of his kingdom, if thou 
wilt be reconciled and submit to him." 

The Earl replies, at the suggestion of the Norse King, 
" What will my brother the King give to Harald Hardrada 
for his trouble ? " 

"He will give him," says the Knight, "seven feet of 
English ground, or as much more as he may be taller than 
other men" 

" Then," says the Earl, "let the English King, my brother, 
make ready for battle, for it never shall be said that Earl 
Toste broke faith with his friends when they came with him 
to fight west here in England." 

When the knights rode off, King Harald Hardrada asked 
the Earl, " Who was the man who spoke so well ? " 

The Earl replied, " That knight was Harold of England." 

The stern Norwegian King regrets that his enemy had 
escaped from his hands, owing to his ignorance of this fact ; 
but even in his first burst of disappointment, the noble 
Norse nature speaks in generous admiration of his foe, say- 
ing to the people about him, " That was but a little man, 
yet he sat firmly in his stirrups." 

The fierce, but unequal combat is soon at an end, and 
when tardy succour arrives from the ships, Harald Hardrada 
is lying on his face, with the deadly arrow in his throat, 
never to see Nidaros again. Seven feet of English earth, 
and no more, has the strong arm and fiery spirit conquered. 

But enough of these gallant fellows ; I must carry you off 
to a much pleasanter scene of action. After a very agree- 
able dinner with Mr. K , who has been most kind to us, 

we adjourned to the ball. The room was large and well 
lighted plenty of pretty faces adorned it ; the floor was 
smooth, and the scrape of the fiddles had a festive accent 

so extremely inspiriting, that I besought Mr. K to 

present me to one of the fair personages whose tiny feet 
were already tapping the floor with impatience at their own 


I was led up in due form to a very pretty lady, and heard 
my own name, followed by a singular sound purporting to be 
that of my charming partner, Madame Hghelghghagllaghem. 
For the pronunciation of this polysyllabic cognomen, I can 
only give you a few plain instructions ; commence it with a 
slight cough, continue with a gurgling in the throat, and 
finish with the first convulsive movement of a sneeze, 
imparting to the whole operation a delicate nasal twang. 
If the result is not something approaching to the sound 
required, you must relinquish all hope of achieving it, as I 
did. Luckily, my business was to dance, and not to apostro- 
phize the lady ; and accordingly, when the waltz struck up, 
I hastened to claim, in the dumbest show, the honour of her 
hand. Although my dancing qualifications have rather 
rusted during the last two or three years, I remembered that 
the time was not so very far distant when even the fair 

Mad elle - E had graciously pronounced me to be a very 

tolerable waltzer, " for an Englishman," and I led my 
partner to the circle already formed with the " air capable " 
which the object of such praise is entitled to assume. 
There was a certain languid rhythm in the air they were 
playing which rather offended my ears, but I suspected 
nothing until, observing the few couples who had already 
descended into the arena, I became aware that they were 
twirling about with all the antiquated grace of " la valse d 
trots temps.'" Of course my partner would be no exception 
to the general rule ! nobody had ever danced anything else 
at Throndhjem from the days of Odin downwards ; and I 
had never so much as attempted it. What was to be done ? 
I could not explain the state of the case to Madame 
Hghelghghagllaghem ; she could not understand English, 
nor I speak Norse. My brain reeled with anxiety to find 
some solution of the difficulty, or some excuse for rushing 
from her presence. What if I were taken with a sudden 
bleeding at the nose, or had an apoplectic fit on the spot ? 
Either case would necessitate my being carried decently out, 
and consigned to oblivion, which would have been a com- 


fort under the circumstances. There was nothing for it but 
the courage of despair ; so, casting reflection to the winds, 
and my arm round her waist, I suddenly whisked her off her 
legs, and dashed madly down the room, " a deux temps." 
At the first perception that something unusual was going on, 
she gave such an eldritch scream, that the whole society 
suddenly came to a standstill. I thought it best to assume 
an aspect of innocent composure and conscious rectitude ; 
which had its effect, for though the lady began with a cer- 
tain degree of hysterical animation to describe her wrongs, 
she finished with a hearty laugh, in which the company 
cordially joined, and I delicately chimed in. For the rest 
of the dance she seemed to resign herself to her fate, and 
floated through space, under my guidance, with all the 
abandon of Francesca di Rimini, in Scheffer's famous picture. 

The Crown Prince is a tall, fine-looking person ; he was 
very gracious, and asked many questions about my voyage. 

At night there was a general illumination, to which the 
" Foam" contributed some blue lights. 

We got under way early this morning, and without a 
pilot as we had entered made our way out to sea again. 
I left Throndhjem with regret, not for its own sake, for in 
spite of balls and illuminations I should think the pleasures 
of a stay there would not be deliriously exciting ; but this 
whole district is so intimately associated in my mind with all 
the brilliant episodes of ancient Norwegian History, that I 
feel as if I were taking leave of all those noble Haralds, and 
Olafs, and Hacons, among whom I have been living in such 
pleasant intimacy for some time past. 

While we are dropping down the coast, I may as well 
employ the time in giving you a rapid sketch of the com- 
mencement of this fine Norse people, though the story 
" remonte jusqda la nuit des temps" and has something of 
the vague magnificence of your own M'Donnell genealogy, 
ending a long list of great potentates, with "somebody, 
who was the son of somebody else, who was the son of 
Scotha, who was the daughter of Pharaoh ! " 


In bygone ages, beyond the Scythian plains and the fens 
of the Tanai's, in that land of the morning, to which neither 
Grecian letters nor Roman arms had ever penetrated, there 
was a great city called Asgaard. Of its founder, of its his- 
tory, we know nothing ; but looming through the mists of 
antiquity we can discern an heroic figure, whose superior 
attainments won for him the lordship of his own generation, 
and divine honours from those that succeeded. Whether 
moved by an irresistible impulse, or impelled by more 
powerful neighbours, it is impossible to say ; but certain it 
is that at some period, not perhaps very long before the 
Christian era, under the guidance of this personage, a 
sun-nurtured people moved across the face of Europe, in a 
north-westerly direction, and after leaving settlements along 
the southern shores of the Baltic, finally established them- 
selves in the forests and valleys of what has come to be 
called the Scandinavian Peninsula, That children of the 
South should have sought out so inclement a habitation 
may excite surprise ; but it must always be remembered that 
they were, probably, a comparatively scanty congregation, 
and that the unoccupied valleys of Norway and Sweden, 
teeming with fish and game, and rich in iron, were a prefer- 
able region to lands only to be colonised after they had been 

Thus, under the leadership of Odin and his twelve Pala- 
dins, to whom a grateful posterity afterwards conceded 
thrones in the halls of their chief's Valhalla, the new 
emigrants spread themselves along the margin of the out- 
ocean, and round about the gloomy fiords, and up and down 
the deep valleys that fall away at right angles from the back- 
bone, or keel, as the seafaring population soon learnt to call 
the flat, snow-capped ridge that runs down the centre of 

Amid the rude but not ungenial influences of its bracing 
climate, was gradually fostered that gallant race which was 
destined to give an imperial dynasty to Russia, a nobility to 
England, and conquerors to every sea-board in Europe. 


Upon the occupation of their new home, the ascendency 
of that mysterious hero, under whose auspices the settlement 
was conducted, appears to have remained more firmly estab- 
lished than ever, not only over the mass of the people, but 
also over the twelve subordinate chiefs who accompanied 
him ; there never seems to have been the slightest attempt 
to question his authority, and, though afterwards themselves 
elevated into an order of celestial beings, every tradition 
which has descended is careful to maintain his human and 
divine supremacy. Through the obscurity, the exaggera- 
tion, and the ridiculous fables, with which his real existence 
has been overloaded, we can still see that this man evidently 
possessed a genius as superior to his contemporaries, as has 
ever given to any child of man the ascendency over his 
generation. In the simple language of the old chronicler, 
we are told, "that his countenance was so beautiful that, 
when sitting among his friends, the spirits of all were 
exhilarated by it ; that when he spoke, all were persuaded ; 
that when he went forth to meet his enemies, none could 
withstand him." Though subsequently made a god by the 
superstitious people he had benefited, his death seems to 
have been noble and religious. He summoned his friends 
around his pillow, intimated a belief in the immortality of 
his soul, and his hope that hereafter they should meet again 
in Paradise. " Then," we are told, " began the belief in 
Odin, and their calling upon him." 

On the settlement of the country, the land was divided 
and subdivided into lots some as small as fifty acres and 
each proprietor held his share as their descendants do to 
this day by udal right ; that is, not as a fief of the Crown, 
or of any superior lord, but in absolute, inalienable posses- 
sion, by the same udal right as the kings wore their crowns, 
to be transmitted, under the same title, to their descendants 
unto all generations. 

These landed proprietors were called the Bonders, and 
formed the chief strength of the realm. It was they, their 
friends and servants, or thralls, who onstituted the army. 


Without their consent the king could do nothing. On stated 
occasions they met together, in solemn assembly, or Thing, 
{i.e. Parliament,) as it was called, for the transaction of 
public business, the administration of justice, the allotment 
of the scatt, or taxes. 

Without a solemn induction at the Ore or Great Thing, 
even the most legitimately-descended sovereign could not 
mount the throne, and to that august assembly an appeal 
might ever lie against his authority. 

To these Things, and to the Norse invasion that im- 
planted them, and not to the Wittenagemotts of the 
Latinised Saxons, must be referred the existence of those 
Parliaments which are the boast of Englishmen. 

Noiselessly and gradually did a belief in liberty, and an 
unconquerable love of independence, grow up among that 
simple people. No feudal despots oppressed the unpro- 
tected, for all were noble and udal born; no standing 
armies enabled the Crown to set popular opinion at defiance, 
for the swords of the Bonders sufficed to guard the realm ; 
no military barons usurped an illegitimate authority, for the 
nature of the soil forbade the erection of feudal fortresses. 
Over the rest of Europe despotism rose up rank under the 
tutelage of a corrupt religion ; while, year after year, amid 
the savage scenery of its Scandinavian nursery, that great 
race was maturing whose genial heartiness was destined to 
invigorate the sickly civilization of the Saxon with inexhaust- 
ible energy, and preserve to the world, even in the nineteenth 
century, one glorious example of a free European people. 



Copenhagen, Sept. I2th, 1856. 

OUR adventures since the date of my last letter have not 
been of an exciting character. We had fine weather and 
prosperous winds down the coast, and stayed a day at 
Christiansund, and another at Bergen. But though the 
novelty of the cruise had ceased since our arrival in lower 
latitudes, there was always a certain raciness and oddity in 
the incidents of our coasting voyage ; such as waking in 
the morning, and finding the schooner brought up under the 
lee of a wooden house, or riding out a foul wind with your 
hawser rove through an iron ring in the sheer side of a 
mountain, which took from the comparative flatness of 
daily life on board. 

Perhaps the queerest incident was a visit paid us at 
Christiansund. As I was walking the deck I saw a boat 
coming off, with a gentleman on board ; she was soon along- 
side the schooner, and as I was gazing down on this indi- 
vidual, and wondering what he wanted, I saw him suddenly 
lift his feet lightly over the gunwale and plunge them into 
the water, boots and all. After cooling his heels in this 
way for a minute or so, he laid hold of the side ropes and 
gracefully swung himself on deck. Upon this, Sigurdr, who 
always acted interpreter on such occasions, advanced to- 
wards him, and a colloquy followed, which terminated rather 
abruptly in Sigurdr walking aft, and the web-footed stranger 
ducking down into his boat again. It was not till some 
hours later that the indignant Sigurdr explained the mean- 
ing of the visit. Although not a naval character, this- 


gentleman certainly came into the category of men " who 
do business in great waters," his business being to negotiate 
a loan ; in short, to ask me to lend him ioo/. There must 
have been something very innocent and confiding in " the 
cut of our jib " to encourage his boarding us on such an 
errand ; or perhaps it was the old marauding, toll-taking 
spirit coming out strong in him : the politer influences 
of the nineteenth century toning down the ancient Viking 
into a sort of a cross between Paul Jones and Jeremy 
Diddler. The seas which his ancestors once swept with 
their galleys, he now sweeps with his telescope, and with as 
keen an eye to the main chance as any of his predecessors 
displayed. The feet-washing ceremony was evidently a 
propitiatory homage to the purity of my quarter-deck. 

Bergen, with its pale-faced houses grouped on the brink 
of the fiord, like invalids at a German Spa, though pic- 
turesque in its way, with a cathedral of its own, and plenty of 
churches, looked rather tame and spiritless after the warmer 
colouring of Throndhjem; moreover it wanted novelty to 
me, as I called in there two years ago on my return from 
the Baltic. It was on that occasion that I became possessed 
of my ever-to-be-lamented infant Walrus. 

No one, personally unacquainted with that " most deli- 
cate monster," can have any idea of his attaching qualities. 
I own that his figure was not strictly symmetrical, that he 
had a roll in his gait, suggestive of heavy seas, that he 
would not have looked well in your boudoir ; but he never 
seemed out of place on my quarter-deck, and every man on 
board loved him as a brother. With what a languid grace 
he would wallow and roll in the water, when we chucked 
him overboard ; and paddle and splash, and make himself 
thoroughly cool and comfortable, and then come and " beg 
to be taken up," like a fat baby, and allow the rope to be 
slipped round his extensive waist, and come up sleek and 
dripping among us again with a contented grunt, as much 
as to say, "Well, after all, there's no place like home /" 
How he would compose himself to placid slumber in every 



possible inconvenient place, with his head on the binnacle 
(especially when careful steering was a matter of moment), 
or across the companion entrance, or the cabin skylight, or 
on the shaggy back of "Sailor," the Newfoundland, who 
positively abhorred him. But how touching it was to see 
him waddle up and down the deck after Mr. Wyse, whom 
he evidently regarded in a maternal point of view begging 
for milk with the most expressive snorts and grunts, and 
embarrassing my good-natured master by demonstrative 
appeals to his fostering offices ! 

I shall never forget Mr. VVyse's countenance that day in 
Ullapool Bay, when he tried to command his feelings suffi- 
ciently to acquaint me with the creature's death, which he 
announced in this graphic sentence, " Ah, my Lord ! the 
poor thing ! toes up at last ! " 

Bergen is not as neat and orderly in its architectural 
arrangements as Drontheim ; a great part of the city is a 
confused network of narrow streets and alleys, much resem- 
bling, I should think, its early inconveniences, in the days 
of Olaf Kyrre. This close and stifling system of street 
building must have ensured fatal odds against the chances 
of life in some of those world-devastating plagues that 
characterised past ages. Bergen was, in fact, nearly depopu- 
lated by that terrible pestilence which, in 1349, ravaged 
the North of Europe, and whose memory is still preserved 
under the name of " The Black Death." 

I have been tempted to enclose you a sort of ballad, 
which was composed while looking on the very scene of 
this disastrous event ; its only merit consists in its local 
inspiration, and in its conveying a true relation of the 
manner in which the plague entered the doomed city. 


WHAT can ail the Bergen Burghers 

That they leave their stoups of wine? 
Flinging up the hill like jagers, 
A*, the hour they're wont to dine ! 


See, the shifting groups are fringing 

Rock and ridge with gay attire, 
Bright as Northern streamers tinging 

Peak and crag with fitful fire ! 


Towards the cliff their steps are bending, 

Westward turns their eager gaze, 
Whence a stately ship ascending, 

Slowly cleaves the golden haze. 
Landward floats the apparition 

" Is it, can it be the same ? " 
Frantic cries of recognition 

Shout a long-lost vessel's name " 

Years ago had she departed 

Castled poop and gilded stern ; 
Weeping women, broken-hearted, 

Long had waited her return. 
When the midnight sun wheeled downwards, 

But to kiss the ocean's verge 
When the noonday sun, a moment 

Peeped above the Wintry surge, 

Childless mothers, orphaned daughters, 

From the seaward-facing crag, 
Vainly searched the vacant waters 

For that unreturning flag ! 
But, suspense and tears are ended, 

Lo ! it floats upon the breeze ! 
Ne'er from eager hearts ascended 

Thankful prayers as warm as these. 

See the good ship proudly rounding 

That last point that blocks the view ; 
" Strange ! no answering cheer resounding 

From the long home-parted crew ! " 
Past the harbour's stony gateway, 

Onwards borne by sucking tides, 
Tho' the light wind faileth straightway 

Into port she safely glides. 



Swift, as by good angels carried, 
Right and left the news has spread. 

Wives long widowed yet scarce married- 
Brides that never hoped to wed, 

From a hundred pathways meeting 
Crowd along the narrow quay, 

Maddened by the hope of meeting 
Those long counted cast away. 

Soon a crowd of small boats flutter 

O'er the intervening space, 
Bearing hearts too full to utter 

Thoughts that flush the eager face ! 
See young Eric foremost gaining 

(For a father's love athirst !) 
Every nerve and muscle straining, 

But to touch the dear hand first. 

In the ship's green shadow rocking 

Lies his little boat at last : 
Wherefore is the warm heart knocking 

At his side, so loud and fast ? 
"What strange aspect is she wearing, 

Vessel once so taut and trim ? 
Shout ! my heart has lost its daring ; 

Comrades, search ! my eyes are dim. " 

Sad the search, and fearful finding ! 

On the deck lay parched and dry 
Men who in some burning, blinding 

Clime had laid them down to die ! 
Hands prayer-clenched that would not sever, 

Eyes that stared against the sun, 
Sights that haunt the soul for ever, 

Poisoning life till life is done ! 


Strength from fear doth Eric gather, 

Wide the cabin door he threw 
Lo ! the face of his dead father, 

Stern and still, confronts his view ! 


Stately as in life he bore him, 

Seated motionless and grand ; 
On the blotted page before him 

Lingers still the livid hand ! 


What sad entry was he making, 

When the death-stroke fell at last ? 
" Is it then God's will, in taking 

All, that I am left the last ? 
I have closed the cabin doorway, 

That I may not see them die : 
Would our bones might rest in Norway, 

'Neath our own cool Northern sky ! " 

Then the ghastly log-book told them 

How in some accursed clime, 
Where the breathless land-swell rolled them, 

For an endless age of time 
Sudden broke the plague among them, 

'Neath that sullen Tropic sun ; 
As if fiery scorpions stung them 

Died they raving, one by one ! 

Told the vain and painful striving, 

By shot-weighted shrouds to hide 
(Last fond care), from those surviving, 

What good comrade last had died ; 
Yet the ghastly things kept showing, 

Waist deep in the unquiet grave 
To each other gravely bowing 

On the slow swing of the wave ! 


Eric's boat is near the landing 

From that dark ship bring they aught? 
In the stern sheets one is standing, 

Though their eyes perceive him not ; 
But a curdling horror creepeth 

Thro' their veins, with icy darts, 
And each hurried oar-stroke keepeth 

Time with their o'er-labouring hearts ! 


Heavy seems their boat returning, 

Weighted with a world of care ! 
Oh, ye blind ones none discerning 

What the spectral freight ye bear. 
Glad they hear the sea-beach grating 

Harsh beneath the small boat's stem 
Forth they leap, for no man waiting 

But the Black Death lands with them. 

Viewless soundless stalks the spectre 

Thro' the city chill and pale, 
Which like bride, this morn, had decked her 

For the advent of that sail. 
Oft by Bergen women, mourning, 

Shall the dismal tale be told, 
Of that, lost ship home returning, 

With " THE BLACK DEATH " in her hold ! 

I would gladly dwell on the pleasures of my second visit 
to Christiansund, which has a charm of its own, independent 
of its interest as the spot from whence we really " start for 
home." But though strange lands, and unknown or indiffe- 
rent people, are legitimate subjects for travellers' tales, our 
friends and their pleasant homes are not; so I shall keep all 
I have to say of gratitude to our excellent and hospitable 
Consul, Mr. Morch, and of admiration for his charming wife, 
until I can tell you vivci voce how much I wish that you 
also knew them. 

And now, though fairly off from Norway, and on our 
homeward way, it was a tedious business what with fogs, 
calms, and headwinds working towards Copenhagen. We 
rounded the Scaw in a thick mist, saw the remains of four 
ships that had run aground upon it, and were nearly run into 
ourselves by a clumsy msrchantman, whom we had the re- 
lief of being able to abuse in our native vernacular, and the 
most racy sea-slang. 

Those five last days were certainly the only tedious period 
of the whole cruise. I suppose there is something magnetic 


in the soil of one's own country, which may account for that 
impatient desire to see it again, which always grows, as the 
distance from it diminishes ; if so, London clay, and its 
superstratum of foul, greasy, gas-discoloured mud began 
about this time to exercise a tender influence upon me, 
which has been increasing every hour since : it is just pos- 
sible that the thoughts of seeing you again may have some 
share in the matter. 

Somebody (I think Fuller) says somewhere, that " every 
one with whom you converse, and every place wherein you 
tarry awhile, giveth somewhat to you, and taketh somewhat 
away, either for evil or for good ; " a startling consideration 
for circumnavigators, and such like restless spirits; but a 
comfortable thought, in some respects, for voyagers to Polar 
regions, as (except seals and bears) few things could suffer 
evil from us there ; though for our own parts, there were 
solemn and wholesome influences enough "to be taken 
away " from those icy solitudes, if one were but ready and 
willing to " stow " them. 

To-morrow I leave Copenhagen, and my good Sigurdr, 
whose companionship has been a constant source of enjoy- 
ment, both to Fitz and myself, during the whole voyage ; I 
trust that I leave with him a friendly remembrance of our too 
short connexion, and pleasant thoughts of the strange places 
and things we have seen together ; as I take away with me 
a most affectionate memory of his frank and kindly nature, 
his ready sympathy, and his imperturbable good humour. 
From the day on which I shipped him an entire stranger 
until this eve of our separation as friends, through scenes 
of occasional discomfort, and circumstances which might 
sometimes have tried both temper and spirits shut up as 
we were for four months in the necessarily close commu- 
nion of life on board a vessel of eighty tons, there has 
never been the shadow of a cloud between us ; henceforth, 
the words " an Icelander " can convey no cold or ungenial 
associations to my ears, and however much my imagination 
has hitherto delighted in the past history of that singular 


island, its Present will always claim a deeper and warmer 
interest from me, for Sigurdr's sake. 

To-morrow Fitz and I start for Hamburg, and very soon 
after at least as soon as railroad and steamer can bring me 
I look for the joy of seeing your face again. 

By the time this reaches Portsmouth, the " Foam " will 
have perfomed a voyage of six thousand miles. 

I have had a most happy time of it, but I fear my amuse- 
ment will have cost you many a weary hour of anxiety and 


January, 1897. 



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