A Journey to the Interior of the Earth
My uncle shot a triumphant glance at me.
"Now for the crater!" he cried.
The crater of Snaefell resembled an inverted cone, the openingof which might be half a
league in diameter. Its depth appeared to be about two thousand feet. Imagine the aspect
of such a reservoir, brim full and running over with liquid fire amid the rolling thunder.
The bottom of the funnel was about 250 feet in circuit, so that the gentle slope allowed its
lower brim to be reached without much difficulty. Involuntarily I compared the whole
crater to an enormous erected mortar, and the comparison put me in a terrible fright.
"What madness," I thought, "to go down into a mortar, perhaps a loaded mortar, to be
shot up into the air at a moment's notice!"
But I did not try to back out of it. Hans with perfect coolness resumed the lead, and I
followed him without a word.
In order to facilitate the descent, Hans wound his way down the cone by a spiral path.
Our route lay amidst eruptive rocks, some of which, shaken out of their loosened beds,
rushed bounding down the abyss, and in their fall awoke echoes remarkable for their loud
and well-defined sharpness.
In certain parts of the cone there were glaciers. Here Hans advanced only with extreme
precaution, sounding his way with his iron-pointed pole, to discover any crevasses in it.
At particularly dubious passages we were obliged to connect ourselves with each other by
a long cord, in order that any man who missed his footing might be held up by his
companions. This solid formation was prudent, but did not remove all danger.
Yet, notwithstanding the difficulties of the descent, down steeps unknown to the guide,
the journey was accomplished without accidents, except the loss of a coil of rope, which
escaped from the hands of an Icelander, and took the shortest way to the bottom of the
abyss. At mid-day we arrived. I raised my head and saw straight above me the upper
aperture of the cone, framing a bit of sky of very small circumference, but almost
perfectly round. Just upon the edge appeared the snowy peak of Saris, standing out sharp
and clear against endless space.
At the bottom of the crater were three chimneys, through which, in its eruptions, Snaefell
had driven forth fire and lava from its central furnace. Each of these chimneys was a
hundred feet in diameter. They gaped before us right in our path. I had not the courage to
look down either of them. But Professor Liedenbrock had hastily surveyed all three; he
was panting, running from one to the other, gesticulating, and uttering incoherent
expressions. Hans and his comrades, seated upon loose lava rocks, looked at him with
asmuch wonder as they knew how to express, and perhaps taking him for an escaped