ICELAND

   (71), a volcanic island larger by a third than Scotland, lying just S. of the polar circle, between Greenland and Norway, distant 250 m. from the former and 500 from the latter; consists of a plateau 2000 ft. high, sometimes sloping to the sea, sometimes ending in sheer precipices, from which rise numerous snow-clad volcanoes, some, like Hecla, still active. "A wild land of barrenness and lava," Carlyle characterises it, "swallowed up many months of the year in black tempests, yet with a wild gleaming beauty in summer time, towering up there stern and grim, with its snow jokuls and roaring geysers, and horrid volcanic chasms, like the waste chaotic battlefield of frost and fire." The interior comprises lava and sand tracts, and ice-fields, but outside these are river valleys and lake districts affording pasturage, and arable land capable of producing root crops. The climate is changeable, mild for the latitude, but somewhat colder than Scotland. There are few trees, and these small; cranberries grow among the heather, and Iceland moss is a plentiful article of food. The island exports sheep and ponies; the fisheries are important, including cod, seals, and whales; sulphur and coal are found; the hot springs are famous, especially the Great Geyser, near Hecla. Discovered by Irishmen and colonised by Norwegians in the 9th century, Iceland passed over to the Danes in 1388, who granted it home rule in 1893. The religion has been Protestant since 1550; its elementary education is excellent. Reykjavik (3) is the capital; two towns have 500 inhabitants each; the rest of the population is scattered in isolated farms; stock-raising and fishing are the principal industries, and the manufacture of homespun for their own use.

The Nuttall Encyclopaedia. . 1907.

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