WELL SAID, OLD MOLE! CANST THOU WORK I' THE GROUND SO FAST?
By the next day we had forgotten all our sufferings. At first, I was
wondering that I was no longer thirsty, and I was for asking for the
reason. The answer came in the murmuring of the stream at my feet.
We breakfasted, and drank of this excellent chalybeate water. I felt
wonderfully stronger, and quite decided upon pushing on. Why should
not so firmly convinced a man as my uncle, furnished with so
industrious a guide as Hans, and accompanied by so determined a
nephew as myself, go on to final success? Such were the magnificent
plans which struggled for mastery within me. If it had been proposed
to me to return to the summit of Snaefell, I should have indignantly
Most fortunately, all we had to do was to descend.
"Let us start!" I cried, awakening by my shouts the echoes of the
vaulted hollows of the earth.
On Thursday, at 8 a.m., we started afresh. The granite tunnel winding
from side to side, earned us past unexpected turns, and
seemed almost to form a labyrinth; but, on the whole, its direction
seemed to be south-easterly. My uncle never ceased to consult his
compass, to keep account of the ground gone over.
The gallery dipped down a very little way from the horizontal,
scarcely more than two inches in a fathom, and the stream ran gently
murmuring at our feet. I compared it to a friendly genius guiding us
underground, and caressed with my hand the soft naiad, whose
comforting voice accompanied our steps. With my reviving spirits
these mythological notions seemed to come unbidden.
As for my uncle, he was beginning to storm against the horizontal
road. He loved nothing better than a vertical path; but this way
seemed indefinitely prolonged, and instead of sliding along the
hypothenuse as we were now doing, he would willingly have dropped
down the terrestrial radius. But there was no help for it, and as
long as we were approaching the centre at all we felt that we must
From time to time, a steeper path appeared; our naiad then began to
tumble before us with a hoarser murmur, and we went down with her to
a greater depth.
On the whole, that day and the next we made considerable way
horizontally, very little vertically.
On Friday evening, the 10th of July, according to our calculations,
we were thirty leagues south-east of Rejkiavik, and at a depth of two
leagues and a half.
At our feet there now opened a frightful abyss. My uncle, however,
was not to be daunted, and he clapped his hands at the steepness of
"This will take us a long way," he cried, "and without much
difficulty; for the projections in the rock form quite a staircase."
The ropes were so fastened by Hans as to guard against accident, and
the descent commenced. I can hardly call it perilous, for I was
beginning to be familiar with this kind of exercise.
This well, or abyss, was a narrow cleft in the mass of the granite,
called by geologists a 'fault,' and caused by the unequal cooling of
the globe of the earth. If it had at one time been a passage for
eruptive matter thrown out by Snaefell, I still could not understand
why no trace was left of its passage. We kept going down a kind of
winding staircase, which seemed almost to have been made by the hand
Every quarter of an hour we were obliged to halt, to take a little
necessary repose and restore the action of our limbs. We then sat
down upon a fragment of rock, and we talked as we ate and drank from
Of course, down this fault the Hansbach fell in a cascade, and lost
some of its volume; but there was enough and to spare to slake our
thirst. Besides, when the incline became more gentle, it would of
course resume its peaceable course. At this moment it reminded me of
my worthy uncle, in his frequent fits of impatience and anger, while
below it ran with the calmness of the Icelandic hunter.
On the 6th and 7th of July we kept following the spiral curves of
this singular well, penetrating in actual distance no more than two
leagues; but being carried to a depth of five leagues below the level
of the sea. But on the 8th, about noon, the fault took, towards the
south-east, a much gentler slope, one of about forty-five degrees.
Then the road became monotonously easy. It could not be otherwise,
for there was no landscape to vary the stages of our journey.
On Wednesday, the 15th, we were seven leagues underground, and had
travelled fifty leagues away from Snaefell. Although we were tired,
our health was perfect, and the medicine chest had not yet had
occasion to be opened.
My uncle noted every hour the indications of the compass, the
chronometer, the aneroid, and the thermometer the very same which he
has published in his scientific report of our journey. It was
therefore not difficult to know exactly our whereabouts. When he told
me that we had gone fifty leagues horizontally, I could not repress
an exclamation of astonishment, at the thought that we had now long
left Iceland behind us.
"What is the matter?" he cried.
"I was reflecting that if your calculations are correct we are no
longer under Iceland."
"Do you think so?"
"I am not mistaken," I said, and examining the map, I added, "We have
passed Cape Portland, and those fifty leagues bring us under the wide
expanse of ocean."
"Under the sea," my uncle repeated, rubbing his hands with delight.
"Can it be?" I said. "Is the ocean spread above our heads?"
"Of course, Axel. What can be more natural? At Newcastle are there
not coal mines extending far under the sea?"
It was all very well for the Professor to call this so simple, but I
could not feel quite easy at the thought that the boundless ocean was
rolling over my head. And yet it really mattered very little whether
it was the plains and mountains that covered our heads, or the
Atlantic waves, as long as we were arched over by solid granite. And,
besides, I was getting used to this idea; for the tunnel, now running
straight, now winding as capriciously in its inclines as in its
turnings, but constantly preserving its south-easterly direction, and
always running deeper, was gradually carrying us to very great depths
Four days later, Saturday, the 18th of July, in the evening, we
arrived at a kind of vast grotto; and here my uncle paid Hans his
weekly wages, and it was settled that the next day, Sunday, should be
a day of rest.