A Journey to the Interior of the Earth
But Arctics Can Be Inhospitable, Too
Stapi is a village consisting of about thirty huts, built of lava, at the south side of the base
of the volcano. It extends along the inner edge of a small fiord, inclosed between basaltic
walls of the strangest construction.
Basalt is a brownish rock of igneous origin. It assumes regular forms, the arrangement of
which is often very surprising. Here nature had done her work geometrically, with square
and compass and plummet. Everywhere else her art consists alone in throwing down huge
masses together in disorder. You see cones imperfectly formed, irregular pyramids, with
a fantastic disarrangement of lines; but here, as if to exhibit an example of regularity,
though in advance of the very earliest architects, she has created a severely simple order
of architecture, never surpassed either by the splendours of Babylon or the wonders of
I had heard of the Giant's Causeway in Ireland, and Fingal's Cave in Staffa, one of the
Hebrides; but I had never yet seen a basaltic formation.
At Stapi I beheld this phenomenon in all its beauty.
The wall that confined the fiord, like all the coast of the peninsula, was composed of a
series of vertical columns thirty feet high. These straight shafts, of fair proportions,
supported an architrave of horizontal slabs, the overhanging portion of which formed a
semi-arch over the sea. At. intervals, under this natural shelter, there spread out vaulted
entrances in beautiful curves, into which the waves came dashing with foam and spray. A
few shafts of basalt, torn from their hold by the fury of tempests, lay along the soil like
remains of an ancient temple, in ruins for ever fresh, and over which centuries passed
without leaving a trace of age upon them.
This was our last stage upon the earth. Hans had exhibited great intelligence, and it gave
me some little comfort to think then that he was not going to leave us.
On arriving at the door of the rector's house, which was not different from the others, I
saw a man shoeing a horse, hammer in hand, and with a leathern apron on.
"SAELIVERTU," said the hunter.
"GOD DAG," said the blacksmith in good Danish.
"KYRKOHERDE," said Hans, turning round to my uncle.
"The rector," repeated the Professor. "It seems, Axel, that this good man is the rector."
Our guide in the meanwhile was making the 'kyrkoherde' aware of the position of things;
when the latter, suspending his labours for a moment, uttered a sound no doubt