( Originally Published 1881 )
The Justedal Glaciers: Vast Snow-fields.-The Justedal Valley and Church.—The Nygaard Glacier. —Faaberg. —Dirty Farm-houses. —Not Prepossessing. —Bed Sheets.—A S eter.—Appearance of Lodal's Glacier.—A Superb Icecavern.—March of a Glacier.— A Glacier a River of Ice.—Motion of a Glacier.—Moraines. —The Stegeholt Glacier.
THIS field of snow, the largest in Scandinavia, covers a continuous tract of over eighty-two English square miles, its depth in many places reaching 1000 feet. It comprises the area bounded on the north by the Nord fjord, on the south by the Sogne, on the east by the Justedal valley, and on the west by the Sondfjord. Its lower part is entirely fringed by glaciers, which flow in every direction. The glacier, in the Fjaerland fjord are three miles inland ; the extremity of the Boyum being about 400, and the Suphelle 160 feet above the sea. The backbone or rocky ridge of this mass of snow has an average height of 5000 feet, the highest point, lying between Stryn and Justedal valley (Lodalskaupos peak), reaching a height of 6410 feet in the eastern and 6110 in the southern part.
At the head of the Gaupne fjord, on the Lyster, is the valley of the Justedal, which derives its name from the great glacier which overtops its mountains. At the entrance is the hamlet of Roneid, with a comfortable inn, where horses can be procured. A narrow road, used as a bridle-path, and passable with a cariole for a distance of six or seven miles, leads to the end of the valley. Ahout fourteen miles from Roneid stands the plain parish church of the valley, surrounded by a rough stone wall, and the humble church-yard with only a few wood en crosses. The adjacent parsonage has a small garden and a few patches of barley and potatoes, and may be said to be the only clean and comfortable place in the vicinity.
A few miles farther on is the Berset glacier, the first in the valley, and near it is the poor hamlet of Nygaard. From the deep-blue cavern at the base of this glacier flowed with great force a dirty stream into the valley, and close to the icy edge was a parallel line of boulders, stones, and sand, left be-hind by the retiring mass. Beyond this were several other transverse ridges, formed by similar deposits, showing that the glacier is fast retiring. Two or three little streams had worn channels in the ice, and water was trickling all along the sides.
After a pony ride of twenty-eight miles I came to Faaberg, the last hamlet of the valley, containing several well-stocked farms, and surrounded by verdant fields and meadows. The hills were clad with birches to a considerable height, while the upper part of the plateau was crowned with snow and fringed with ice. The comforts were very few, the houses uncleanly, and the fare very poor for those not accustomed to "rough it."
Fleas were abundant, as in a great many other districts of Norway, and here proved quite a plague. Most of the females were at the sæter, so that at the farm where I stayed the daughter of a neighbor came and prepared my meals, consisting every day of bread, butter, cheese, eggs, and milk. I was honored with a cotton table-cloth, which had been used before, as a large egg-spot of the size of my hand was unpleasantly apparent. That this table-cloth was used at night as a sheet on my bed over the hay was certain, as the large egg spot was there ; in the morning this sheet did duty once more as a table-cloth, and continued to fulfil the requirements of the table and the bed alternately till my departure. This hamlet was one of the few places where I found the prices exorbitant, even to extortion. To these people every tourist of foreign birth is a mine of gold for them to work.
From Faaberg the path was extremely rugged. The cease-less noise of the rushing river, formed chiefly by the glaciers of Bjornesteg, Lodal, and Stegeholt, at times was so great as to drown the voice.
Above the Bjornesteg glacier was a sæter with numerous small houses, and numbers of women and children were in charge of the sheep and the goats. The people were kind-hearted, and insisted on my taking a draught of milk before leaving. Winding our way for awhile through meadows and woods, we saw in the distance, at the end of the valley, Stegebolt and Lodals glaciers; the summit of the peak is 6410 feet above the sea. At the end of that wild valley was the usual moraine, with rounded stones, pebbles, and sand, left by the retiring glaciers. The streams from them divide and meet again ; the current was very strong, and the water so dirty that our horses were almost afraid to cross. One would naturally think, not knowing the laws which govern the movement of a glacier, that a stream created by the melting of pure ice could only produce the clearest water; on the contrary, the very nature of a glacier prevents any other sort of stream, as has al-ready been shown. In June, and even in the beginning of July, these streams are unfordable. The Lodal glacier was covered with dirt, stones, and débris from. the mountain-side. Its cavern was by far the finest and longest that I had seen, being about twenty-five feet wide ; from it a turbid river rushed with great force. The beauty of this cavern cannot be adequately, described—the blue color of the ice gradually became deeper, finally merging into an intense inky-blue. Owing to the great pressure, every air-bubble had been expelled, and the whole mass was clear and transparent ; the cavern, appeared like a tunnel cut through a mountain of sapphire. Unfortunately, I could not explore it, on account of the great depth and velocity of the water, as it ran between two stone ridges, split by the ice. The retiring glacier had uncovered part of a spur or hïll of gneiss, which had obstructed its march, and which was split into several enormous parts, which were still in con-tact with each other. A considerable number of boulders were resting on the frozen mass, some supported on pillars of ice, which were prevented from melting by the protecting shade of the stones. In places the glacier was white, not from snow, but in consequence of the cracking of its surface and the numerous air-cells. It was easy to see that the Lodal had formerly been much lower down the valley, and that the transverse glaciers we had met on the way were once its lateral branches, the whole forming a single vast frozen river; reaching the sea, retiring, advancing, and again retiring. Thus the ice ground deeper and deeper into the rocks; the same marks were visible, left by that which had retired the year before. I heard a rumbling sound, and had hardly raised my eyes when a huge stone from the glacier rolled within a few feet of me, and I had hardly seated myself the second time when I saw another stone roll down, carrying with it in its flight several lesser ones.
A glacier is not an immovable mass, closely attached to the mountains, but a body slowly impelled forward by the immense pressure of the upper portions. On its way the mass slides down, grinding its rocky bed, thus deepening and enlarging its channel day by day; its silent power, overcoming all obstacles, carries with it whatever has been buried in the icy stream, such as stones that have fallen from the mountain-sides, earth, and sand, which combine to render the water turbid, and to form the moraines. It has the character of a stream; it is a moving river of ice, fed from the Snebraeer, or perpetual snow-fields above, modifying or creating its channel, eroding valleys, often covering vast areas—an agent of great destructive power.
The motion of a glacier, being due largely to expansion from the consequences of its melting, is slower at night than during the day, and in winter than in summer; the movement is greater in the middle than on the sides, where it is held in check by friction, and also more sluggish at the bottom than at the top. A glacier will accommodate itself to the sinuosities and unevenness of its bed, expanding or contracting like the waters of a river, and will precipitate itself over a ledge, making a cascade of ice : these I have seen in almost every glacier of Norway. The ice is often broken transversely, the moraines are engulfed in the crevasses and lost. The main glacial stream starts with a moraine on each side ; long dark bands raised above the ice are formed by the stones and earth which have fallen down the side of the mountain, in the same manner as the heaps of stones and débris we find at the bases of mountains, and in many ravines and valleys. These lateral, or marginal, moraines vary in height, according to the amount of the deposits massed together, and to the time of their formation; they range from a few feet to twenty feet in height, but never much more, for there is no time for accumulation ; the material is collected as the ice moves downward, and the motion of the Norwegian glacier may be a few hundred feet a year. These moraines stand in regular ridges, and are slowly and surely carried to the end of the glacier; their origin, by the materials, can often be traced back for great distances. As the frozen river moves onward, it is joined by others, all uniting in one solid mass ; the moraines meet side by side, and remain distinct on the journey down. The number of these moraines indicates how many branch streams have united with the main trunk. Sometimes a glacier is compelled to make its way through a narrow defile; then the mass of ice contracts, and becomes deeper, and a grinding process takes place on the sides and at the base with immense force; many valleys with perpendicular walls have been formed in this manner.
Not far from Lodal is the very interesting glacier of Stegeholt, reached by again fording the Lodal River. The end of this glacier is narrow, and the ice comes through a contracted gorge, choked with large stones, which prevented me from seeing the terminal cavern. A bridge could easily have been built over the stream, but in those districts there is no one to undertake such a work, and no one to guide you over the ice.
On the left bank, to a certain height, birch-trees were abundant, and there was a dense growth of grass and weeds within a few. yards of the ice. Here, also, I saw evidence that the ice had much diminished that year. Numerous large boulders, forming longitudinal moraines, were stranded along its sides. The crevasses indicated a powerful strain; through the cracks, which crossed the whole breadth of the glacier, you could see the deep-blue color, growing darker and darker with the increasing depth.
We have now given a description of retiring glaciers. Further on we will speak of those which advance with an irresistible power.