Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

A LANDSLIP.

The months of January and February in the year 1774, were remarkable for great melting snows and vast gluts of rain ; so that by the end of the latter month, the land-springs, or lavants, began to prevail, and to be near as high as in the memorable winter of 1764. The beginning of March also went on in the same tenor ; when, in the night between the 8th and 9th of that month, a considerable part of the great woody hanger at Hawkley was torn from its place and fell down, leaving a high free-stone cliff naked and bare, and resembling the steep side of a chalk-pit. It appears that this huge fragment, being perhaps sapped and undermined by waters, foundered, and was ingulfed, going down in a perpendicular direction ; for a gate which stood in the field, on the top of the hill, after sinking with its posts for thirty or forty feet, remained in so true and upright a position as to open and shut with great exactness, just as in its first situation. Several oaks also are still standing, and in a state of vegetation, after taking the same desperate leap. That great part of this prodigious mass was absorbed in some gulf below, is plain also from the inclining ground at the bottom of the hill, which is free and unencumbered, but would have been buried in heaps of rubbish had the fragment parted and fallen forward.

About a hundred yards from the foot of this hanging coppice stood a cottage by the side of a lane ; and two hundred yards lower, on the other side of the lane, was a farmhouse, in which lived a labourer and his family ; and just by, a stout new barn. The cottage was inhabited by an old woman and her son, and his wife. These people in the evening, which was very dark and tempestuous, observed that the brick floors of their kitchens began to heave and part; and that the walls seemed to open, and the roofs to crack : but they all agree that no tremor of

the ground, indicating an earthquake, was ever felt ; only that the wind continued to make a most tremendous roaring in the woods and hangers. The miserable inhabitants, not daring to go to bed, remained in the utmost solicitude and confusion, expecting every moment to be buried under the ruins of their shattered edifices.

When daylight came, they were at leisure to contemplate the devastations of the night : they then found that a deep rift, or chasm, had opened under their houses, and torn them, as it were, in two; and that one end of the barn had suffered in a similar manner; that a pond near the cottage had undergone a strange reverse, becoming deep at the shallow end, and so vice versâ ; that many large oaks were removed out of their perpendicular, some thrown down, and some fallen into the heads of neighbouring trees ; and that a gate was thrust forward, with its hedge, full six feet, so as to require a new track to be made to it. From the foot of the cliff the general course of the ground, which is pasture, inclines in a moderate descent for half a mile, and is interspersed with some hillocks, which were rifted in every direction, as well towards the great woody hanger, as from it. In the first pasture the deep clefts began : and running across the lane, and under the buildings, made such vast shelves that the road was impassable for some time; and so over to an arable field on the other side, which was strangely torn and disordered. The second pasture field, being more soft and springy, was protruded forward without many fissures in the turf, which was raised in long ridges resembling graves, lying at right angles to the motion. At the bottom of this enelosure the soil and turf rose many feet against some oaks that obstructed their farther course, and terminated their awful commotion.

The perpendicular height of the precipice, in general, is twenty-three yards ; the length of the lapse, or slip, as seen from the fields below, one hundred and eighty-one ; and a partial fall, concealed in the coppice, extends seventy yards more : so that the total length of this fragment that fell was two hundred and fifty-one yards. About fifty acres of land suffered from this violent convulsion; two houses were utterly destroyed ; one end of a new barn was left in ruins, the walls being cracked through the very stones that composed them ; a hanging coppice was changed to a naked rock; and some grass grounds and an arable field so broken and rifted by the chasms as to be rendered, for a time, neither fit for the plough nor safe for pasturage, till considerable labour and expense had been bestowed in levelling the surface and filling in the gaping fissures.

GILBERT WHITE.

THE GEYSIRS.

SHORTLY after midnight 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.

Naturally enough, our first impulse on dismounting was to scamper off at once to the Great Geysir. As it lay at the farthest 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 consequently 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 composed of layers of incrusted silica, like the outside of an oyster, sloping gently down on all sides from the edge of the 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 forward at an early hour, under the chaperonage of a guide, he had arrived about two hours before us, and zing with a general's eye the key of the position, at once turned an idle babbling little Geysir into a camp-kettle, dug a bakehouse 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, had sat down quietly 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 chessboard (I was just beginning to get the best of the game) and flung off full speed toward 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 ourselves by going and tormenting the Strokr. Strokr—or the churnyou 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 boiling 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 awful passion,-tormented by the qualms of incipient sickness, 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 become by the discipline it has undergone, that even long after all foreign matter has been thrown off, it goes on retching 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 performance, 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 two 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 transparent depths you can see down into the mouth of a vast subaqueous cavern, which runs, Heaven knows where, in a horizontal direction beneath your feet. Its walls and cavities really looked as if they were built of the purest lapis 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.

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, therefore like pilgrims round some ancient shrine, we patiently kept

« AnteriorContinuar »