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primary natural disposition of things,” giving, as his opinion, and a right good opinion too, if he did not insist upon diving with it to the centre of the earth, that the air was softened by "warm exhalations, and vapours, and mists from the sea, but whether these arise from warm springs at the bottom of the sea, continually boiling by means of its central fires, or, if this be denied, whether this ebullition be the effect of lesser subterraneous volcanoes, resembling the mountainous ones on the surface of the earth, it would not be pertinent here to determine.”
Polar navigation has given us so clear an insight into the power and extent of frost, that we believe we may almost, with a grave face, communicate the Bishop's illustrations without impeachment of his veracity; premising, that the only experiments, corroborative of the facts, were performed on boiling water poured through a cullender from the main-top of one of the discovery-ships, when the thermometer was at a very low temperature, which fell on the deck in ice resembling shot. “ The usual degree of cold, especially in January and February, may be sufficiently conceived from hence, that the largest rivers, with their roaring cataracts, are arrested in their course by frost, and the very spittle is no sooner out of the mouth than it is congealed, and rolls along the ground like hail. A further instance of the extreme cold, not unworthy of notice, especially as it raises the astonishment of foreigners (well it may) is, that no sooner has a horse dropped his excrements on the ice, than the balls of horse-dung move and leap on the ground !” Such is the Bishop's fact, which, we think, may be nearer the truth than his philosophy. “ The cause,” he adds, .“ of this, being the sudden change from heat to cold, which occasions a violent conflict, when the sharp and dense air penetrates forcibly into the lighter, and expels it.” As a further proof of the effects of cold on human life, the melancholy fate of a corps of about 8,000 Swedes is recorded. Their progress was arrested by an intense frost on the high ridge of the Tyndal Mountain, on the borders, where they were found soon after, by a company of Norwegian sledgemen, frozen to
“some sitting, some lying, and some in a posture of prayer.” Count Segur's narrative of Napoleon's retreat from Moscow forbids us, for a moment, to doubt of the possibility of such an event; and yet, continues our pious author, such is “ the economy of the Almighty towards his creatures, in wisdom, goodness, and harmony,” that he may venture to affirm, “ that were the Norwegians tempted by any thing to change countries with the Italians, the winter's cold would not be the motive to the exchange, for this is the last of their complaints.” And, certainly, they can have no cause for
making it a ground of grievance, since the Bishop proceeds to assure us, that we are all quite wrong in supposing that cold air and cold bodies are in any direct ratio with each other. Since it is even
“ the cold air that occasions warmth in the bodies of men, its compressive force rendering the body more firm and compact, and fortifying it against external injuries; and thus the natural warmth is, by the closeness of the pores, repelled towards the inner vital parts, and more particularly concentrated in the stomach, so that the Northern people are known to digest smoked flesh, dried fish, and other food hard of digestion, better than any other nations.” If this be true, these happy people must be in a delicious state of glowing heat when there must be a general chattering of teeth throughout the rest of the world within the arctic, under a temperature of 50 degrees below zero. Indeed, such are the comfortable and delightful feelings of these people, in consequence of their “ most pure and kindly air,” that in the middle of the country the inhabitants “ have hardly an idea of sickness, unless it be hereditary, or contracted by intemperance;” nay more, it is actually reported, though the Bishop very properly “ declines warranting the truth of it,” that in the vale of Guldbrand “ there are persons of such an extreme age, that, from a lassitude of longer life, they get themselves removed elsewhere, in order to die the sooner.”
It is curious to observe the similarity of expedients adopted by the natives of similarly situated countries. Thus, we are told, that " when the snow is not off the ground early enough in the spring for the husbandmen to begin the work of that season, they spread over the snow a rich kind of black mould, which, in a few hours, entirely dissolves it.” In the vale of Chamouni, and, probably, other secluded vallies of Switzerland, the farmers produce the same effect by throwing a coat of ashes, or dark soil, over their snow-clad fields.
In his account of the avalanches, or snee skreeds, we find a fact alluded to, which, had it rested on the authority of Bishop Pontoppidan alone, would, as a matter of course, have been considered as a traveller's tale, namely, that in cases where whole villages have been destroyed, by the incredible violence of the wind driving on the masses of snow, houses have been seen to fall some seconds before the snow reached them.” In corroboration, however, of this, we recollect the report of an eye-witness to the fall of an avalanche from the heights of the Col de Ferret, the effects of which we beheld a few weeks subsequent to the disaster. Our reporter pointed out the spot on the other side of the torrent and valley which separated him from the scene of desolation, on which a peasant stood motionless and awe-struck with the impending ruin about to over
whelm him; when, a few moments before the descending masses reached the place, the wretched man was observed to be carried off his legs and whirled upwards in the air, as if lifted by an invisible power. In another moment, he was buried amidst fragments of rock and snow, which still, and probably for ever will
, cover his remains. We feel the less scruple or alarm in thus vouching for the truth of the Bishop's account, from the support we are able to communicate from the authorities respecting the sudden and violent winds accompanying the fall of avalanches.
We refer our readers to the Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, vol. iii., p. 274, for an interesting account of the Glacier of the Weigshorn, on the village of Randa, wherein it is stated, that at the instant the snow and ice struck the inferior mass of the glacier, the pastor of the village, the sacristan, and some other persons, observed a light which almost instantly disappeared, and left every thing enveloped in the darkest night'; and that a frightful hurricane, occasioned by the pressure of the air, immediately succeeded, and, in an instant, produced the most tremendous devastation.
CHAP. 2. Of the Soils and Mountains of Norway.
In discussing which, the Bishop, like many wise men of modern days, finds himself a little bewildered by the contending principles of the Huttonian and Wernerian theories ; with an evident leaning in favor of primordial liquefactions within and without the crust of our globe, and properly struck with the extreme inconvenience and distress that must have been experienced by “ Noah and his family,” in the ark, had the waters of the deluge been boiling under the effect of central fires. He naturally asks, by what means this liquefaction was wrought at that time, and then endeavours to satisfy himself by a new hypothesis, suited to the case of Noah, and all other parties concerned, viz. that this boiling, or “coction, was not all at once, but affected only a certain part of the globe, and certain tracts of its surface." Then follows his enunciation of the various stratifications of rocks and mountains; in the process of which, he mentions, on the authority of one of the miners, whom he had himself examined, that “snakes, muscles, and other such things,” are sometimes met with in the middle of blocks of marble; and that when this happens, their discovery " is usually followed by such a violent stench, as overpowers the workmen, unless they immediately turn aside from it;" which last circumstance he imputes to the long confinement of the air. Now, with respect to the “violent stench,” we beg leave to decline having any thing to say to it; but, as far as relates to imbedded living subjects, we know not that we
can safely deny that the Bishop has a strong semblance of truth on his side. Perhaps, two tangible and well-attested instances will answer our purpose.
In the first place, in 1822, a specimen of a toad, which was taken alive from the centre of a mass of solid stone, was sent to the College Museum, at Edinburgh; and, in 1818, at the depth of 150 yards, at Fenton's Colliery, near Wakefield, in a solid seam of coal, a lizard was discovered, five inches in length, which, for about ten minutes, continued brisk and lively, and then drooped and died; for a full account of which, see the Philosophical Magazine, vol. Ixii., p. 377.
Before taking leave of his mountains, the Bishop begs to mention "something further to the praise of the great Creator;” inclining “the people of Norway to be gratefully contented with the habitation which God has assigned them;" and therefore, forthwith, he tells of houses “standing so high, and on the edge of such steep precipices, that ladders are fixed to climb up to them, so that when a priest is sent for, who is unpractised in the road, he risks his life, and chiefly in winter, when it is slippery. In such places a corpse must be let down with ropes, or be brought on men's backs, before it is laid in the coffin.” Under this head of inconveniences he also reckons “the very difficult roads, extremely so to the day labourers, but particularly to travellers, who cannot, without terror, pass several places even in the king's road, over the sides of steep and craggy mountains, and on ways which are either shored up, or suspended by iron bolts fastened in the mountains; and though not above the breadth of a foot path, without any rails on the side, as indeed it is impossible to fix any." These, in addition to the sudden risings of rivers, to be crossed by ruinous bridges, together with that evil resulting from the mountains, in the shape of “ lynxes, foxes, bears, and wolves," appear to us pot exactly the points we should have selected for the laudable and pious purpose above mentioned. We allude, indeed, to these frightful roads and passes for a different purpose, that of referring our readers to one of the most extraordi. nary abodes of men, probably in the whole world--the pass of the Vetties Giel, in Bergen Stift, in Norway, described by the Rev. U. F. Borgesen, and read before the Wernerian Society, 31st May, 1823 ;* an abode which, from the danger and difficulty of the way, no clergyman, or other official person, had ever visited; to which not even the oldest peasant of the nearest district had ever ventured ; in short, an abode, the very ap
* For an account of it, see Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, vol. ix., p. 299.
proach to which, even on paper, horrifies the senses, far surpassing any of the supposed exaggerated perils described by the Bishop; and an introduction to which, we are confident, the curious reader, who may not have before heard of it, will thank us for affording him. Let him judge for himself ; “ You are now in the Giel-traveller, God be with you !"
We shall say no more, than prepare him for the pilgrims he may meet on his fearful way. “ The dead body was set astride on a horse, the legs are tied under the horse's belly, a bag of hay well fastened round the horse's shoulders, to which the body leans forward, and is made fast; and in this manner rides the dead man over the mountains to his everlasting' resting place.—A fearful horseman!”
As an appropriate corollary to this account, we shall close our remarks on this chapter, by refuting an assertion of the Bishop's, though, unluckily, it, at the same time, interferes with his illustration and explanation of a passage in the Scriptures, viz. the death of Judas, “who, falling headlong, burst asunder in the midst;" the necessary consequence, as the Bishop would intimate, when men or beasts fall from any considerable height, “ the air pressing with such force against the bodies thus falling, that they are not only suffocated and deprived of life long before they reach the ground, but their bellies burst, and their entrails immediately gush out.” Our comment upon which is, that in the fatal ascent of Messrs. Pilatre de Rozier and Romaine, in 1784, who were precipitated from a height of three quarters of a mile, neither of the bodies were in the state described by the Bishop; and that Mr. Romaine was alive, and could articulate for a short time after he reached the ground.
CHAP. 3. Of the Waters. He must have travelled to very little purpose, indeed, who has not, in the course of his peregrinations, heard of (aye, and seen too) ponds, fountains, and lakes, which, on the undoubted authority of every man, woman, and child in the vicinity, were of unfathomable depth; it would, therefore, be most unreasonable to suppose that so persevering an investigator as our author should not have been equally successful. Accordingly, such is the character we find given of the sea in divers parts of Norway, with this explanatory cause annexed : “ Concerning the depth of the sea, in some places no bottom can be found, as in Floge Creek, a Norway mile from Drontheim, where, after measuring it with a line of a thousand fathoms, the search proved fruitless; so that unquestionably the bottom of the sea has an opening or communication with” a certain “immeasurable abyss."