ICELAND, an island in the northernmost part of the Atlantic, on the confines of the Arctic ocean; in n. lat. 63' 23' to 66° 33', and w. long. 13° 22' to 24° 85, distant about 600 m. from Norway, and 250 from Greenland. 250 from the Faroe isles, and about 500 front the u. of Scotland. It belongs to the-kingdom of'Denmark. Its extent is about 39,207 sq.m. ; its extreme length from c. to w. is upwards of 300 m., its greatest breadth from n. to s. about 200. Its coasts, particularly on the n. and w., are very much broken by bays orliord.q. In some of the bays are numerous small islands. Iceland is in many respects one of the most interesting parts of the world. Its physical features are very remarkable, and not less so its history and the character of its inhabitants. It consists in great part of lofty mountains, many of which are active volcanoes; only certain level districts along the coasts, and a few dales, are habitable, or in any degree capable of cultivation, whilst even there scarcely a tree is to be seen, and the climate is unsuit able for grain. The interior of the island is almost entirely occupied with rugged tracts of naked lava and other volcanic products, vast ice-fields in many places con necting its high Mountain suniMits. amOng which are 'prodigious glabiers. in some instances descending even to the coast, they and the torrents which gosh from thcrit rendering communication between one inhabited spot and another very difficult and dangerous. Yet here has civilization been long established. anti the people, necessarily very poor, have cultivated:poetry and other depart tnents of literature w ith great success.
The highest mountain in the island is Ocrafa Jan!, which attains a height of 6,420 ft. above the level of the sea. It is situated on the s.e., and is connected with a vast mountain mass, of which several of the summits arc actit'ely volcanic, no less than :3.000 sq.m. being perpetually covered with ice and snow at an elevation varying from 3.00 to above 6,000 ft., whilst all underneath scents to be full of either active or smoldering Nll caaic fire. The most celebrated volcano is Ueda (q.v.). Krafla is perhaps the inoq noted of a great group of active volcanoes in the n. of the island. The eruptions of HeeIn have caused no little devastation, but still more terrible anti destructive have been those of Skapth „IOW and other volcanoes of the same mountain mass, which burst forth for the first time within the historic period in 1302. In repeated instances volcanic islets have been thrown up in the bays and near the coasts of Iceland, which have gen erally disappeared again within a short time. Connected with the volcanic fires are also hot springs in great number, sonic of which flow gently, and others, called geysers (q.v.), gush up at intervals and with ebullitions of great violence. Numerous hot springs may in many places lie seen sending up their steam in a single little valley, and the Icelanders are accustomed to avail themselves of them for the washing of clothes and other lair poses. The r at e r of some is merely lukewarm, whilst that of others is boiling: some are pure, and some sulphureons. They are subject to great CariationsAind appear and
dry up very suddenly. Earthquakes are frequent, and the island suficte'l very severely from this cause in 1755 and 1783. The winter is not generally more severe than that of Denmark, although more protracted, and it is rather the shortness of the summer and the insufficiency of summer heat, with the superabundance of moisture, than tit.: severity of the winter, is unfavorable to the growth of corn and plants of many other kinds. In the southern portions of Iceland the longest day lasts 20 hours; the shortest, 4 hours. In the northern districts the sun never sets for a whole week in midsummer, and in midwinter never rises above the horizon during an equally long period of time.
About 20,000 oxen, 30,000 horses, and 400,000 sheep constitute the chief part of the wealth of the inhabitants. The horses are small, but vigorous and active. They receive little attention from their owners, whose oxen require almost all the hay and other fodder they can store up for winter. Iceland ponies have now begun to be imported into Britain. Reindeer were introduced into Iceland by a public-spirited governor in 1770, and have become naturalized in the uuinhabited tracts of the interior, where, how ever, their presence is of little importance. Seals abound on the coasts, where sea-fowls are also extremely numerous, and their flesh, eggs, and feathers are much sought after. Swans and other anatidee frequent the lakes. The eider duck is plentiful on many parts of the coast, and its down is a principal article of commerce. Fish of many kinds are abundant on the coasts, salmon and trout in the rivers. The food of the people consists in great part of fish. The cod-fishery is extensively prosecute] by the French, from two to three hundred French vessels and about 7,000 seamen being employed in it, under the inunediate patronage of the French governnaint, which aims at tl:us training seamen for the navy. The salmon-ftshery of some of the rivers has begun to be prosecuted for the supply of the London market. The herring-fishery has not hitherto received special attention, hut vast shoals of herrings frequent the fiords. The most important agricultural operations are those of the hay-harvest. The seeds of the vielllr, or upright sea lyme grass (elymns arenarius), are gathered and used for making pottage and cakes, nod are much relished; bread made of imported grain being rather a luxury in the houses of the common people. Meal made of Iceland moss (q.v.) is used in a variety of ways, and the lichen is gathered in large quantities both for home use and for exportation. Potatoes, turnips, kale and cabbage, spinach, parsley, radishes, mustard, creases, etc., are produced in gardens. The mineral wealth of Iceland has only begun to be developed. In no part of the world is sulphur found in such abundance. Iron ore is also found. There is a peculiar kind of brown coal called surtarbrand (q.v.), which, along with driftwood, is much used for fuel on the northern and eastern coasts.