A Journey to the Interior of the Earth
Therefore a time would come when the elastic and explosive forces of the imprisoned
gases would upheave this ponderous cover and drive out for themselves openings through
tall chimneys. Hence then the volcano would distend and lift up the crust, and then burst
through a crater suddenly formed at the summit or thinnest part of the volcano.
To the eruption succeeded other volcanic phenomena. Through the outlets now made first
escaped the ejected basalt of which the plain we had just left presented such marvellous
specimens. We were moving over grey rocks of dense and massive formation, which in
cooling had formed into hexagonal prisms. Everywhere around us we saw truncated
cones, formerly so many fiery mouths.
After the exhaustion of the basalt, the volcano, the power of which grew by the extinction
of the lesser craters, supplied an egress to lava, ashes, and scoriae, of which I could see
lengthened screes streaming down the sides of the mountain like flowing hair.
Such was the succession of phenomena which produced Iceland, all arising from the
action of internal fire; and to suppose that the mass within did not still exist in a state of
liquid incandescence was absurd; and nothing could surpass the absurdity of fancying
that it was possible to reach the earth's centre.
So I felt a little comforted as we advanced to the assault of Snaefell.
The way was growing more and more arduous, the ascent steeper and steeper; the loose
fragments of rock trembled beneath us, and the utmost care was needed to avoid
Hans went on as quietly as if he were on level ground; sometimes he disappeared
altogether behind the huge blocks, then a shrill whistle would direct us on our way to
him. Sometimes he would halt, pick up a few bits of stone, build them up into a
recognisable form, and thus made landmarks to guide us in our way back. A very wise
precaution in itself, but, as things turned out, quite useless.
Three hours' fatiguing march had only brought us to the base of the mountain. There
Hans bid us come to a halt, and a hasty breakfast was served out. My uncle swallowed
two mouthfuls at a time to get on faster. But, whether he liked it or not, this was a rest as
well as a breakfast hour and he had to wait till it pleased our guide to move on, which
came to pass in an hour. The three Icelanders, just as taciturn as their comrade the hunted,
never spoke, and ate their breakfasts in silence.
We were now beginning to scale the steep sides of Snaefell. Its snowy summit, by an
optical illusion not unfrequent in mountains, seemed close to us, and yet how many
weary hours it took to reach it! The stones, adhering by no soil or fibrous roots of
vegetation, rolled away from under our feet, and rushed down the precipice below with
the swiftness of an avalanche.