A Journey to the Interior of the Earth HTML version
Snaefell At Last
Snaefell is 5,000 feet high. Its double cone forms the limit of a trachytic belt which stands
out distinctly in the mountain system of the island. From our starting point we could see
the two peaks boldly projected against the dark grey sky; I could see an enormous cap of
snow coming low down upon the giant's brow.
We walked in single file, headed by the hunter, who ascended by narrow tracks, where
two could not have gone abreast. There was therefore no room for conversation.
After we had passed the basaltic wall of the fiord of Stapi we passed over a vegetable
fibrous peat bog, left from the ancient vegetation of this peninsula. The vast quantity of
this unworked fuel would be sufficient to warm the whole population of Iceland for a
century; this vast turbary measured in certain ravines had in many places a depth of
seventy feet, and presented layers of carbonized remains of vegetation alternating with
thinner layers of tufaceous pumice.
As a true nephew of the Professor Liedenbrock, and in spite of my dismal prospects, I
could not help observing with interest the mineralogical curiosities which lay about me as
in a vast museum, and I constructed for myself a complete geological account of Iceland.
This most curious island has evidently been projected from the bottom of the sea at a
comparatively recent date. Possibly, it may still be subject to gradual elevation. If this is
the case, its origin may well be attributed to subterranean fires. Therefore, in this case,
the theory of Sir Humphry Davy, Saknussemm's document, and my uncle's theories
would all go off in smoke. This hypothesis led me to examine with more attention the
appearance of the surface, and I soon arrived at a conclusion as to the nature of the forces
which presided at its birth.
Iceland, which is entirely devoid of alluvial soil, is wholly composed of volcanic tufa,
that is to say, an agglomeration of porous rocks and stones. Before the volcanoes broke
out it consisted of trap rocks slowly upraised to the level of the sea by the action of
central forces. The internal fires had not yet forced their way through.
But at a later period a wide chasm formed diagonally from south-west to north-east,
through which was gradually forced out the trachyte which was to form a mountain
chain. No violence accompanied this change; the matter thrown out was in vast
quantities, and the liquid material oozing out from the abysses of the earth slowly spread
in extensive plains or in hillocky masses. To this period belong the felspar, syenites, and
But with the help of this outflow the thickness of the crust of the island increased
materially, and therefore also its powers of resistance. It may easily be conceived what
vast quantities of elastic gases, what masses of molten matter accumulated beneath its
solid surface whilst no exit was practicable after the cooling of the trachytic crust.