ICELAND. An island in the north Atlan tic Ocean, on the border of the Arctic Circle, 200 miles east of Greenland. It is an autono mous dependency of Denmark. Its volcanoes, earthquakes and geysers, its lava deserts and glacial snowfields make it an almost impossible land for human occupancy.
Area and Iceland is situ ated between 22' and 24° 35' west longitude and extends from 63° 12' to 66° 33' north lati tude. Approximately 300 miles from east to west and 200 from north to south, its area is about 40,450 square miles. Its coast line of 3,700 miles is deeply and irregularly indented by fiords, those of the northwestern peninsula be ing especially numerous. Three-fourths of the area is on the main island; the remaining por tion is that of the northwest peninsula, which barely escapes being an island, as the connect ing isthmus is only a few miles wide. This peninsula is largely mountain masses, with an average elevation of 2,000 feet. The main island is a series of volcanic tablelands, high and ir ranging from 1,500 to 3,000 feet above the sea. Overlaid here by extensive lava-beds and there by vast neves, or snow-fields, these plateaus present great areas of barrenness devoid of vegetation and are also broken up by ridges, fissures and spurs. More than one-eighth of Iceland is covered by lava-beds and another eighth by neves or glaciers. The only areas suitable for human habitation and industry are the bordering lowlands of the ocean and fiords, with the adjacent fertile valleys. Among the many mountains the highest are Ormf a, 6,424 feet, and Hecla, 5,108 feet. Lakes are numer ous though of small size, the largest being Thingvalla and Thors, each less than 30 miles in area. The so-called crater lakes, especially those to the west of Vatna, are subject to sud den and violent displacements through volcanic action. Pasturage for herds and arable lands are almost entirely confined to valleys near the fiords.
Climate.— Iceland's climate is typically in sular — equable and humid, with cool summers and warm winters. The following data com piled from observations of many years at Styk kisholm, 65° N., closely represent all of the
island. The monthly averages of temperature, number of rainy days and amount of rainfall are: January, 50°, 20, and 2.76 inches; Febru ary, 27°, 18, 2.48; March, 27°, 18, 1.93; April, 16, 1.22; May, 40°, 15, 1.38 June, 16, 1.57; July, 50°, 13, 1.34; August, 49°; 14, 1.54; September, 18, 2.99; October, 38°, 19, 2.76; November, 33°, 18, 2.28; December, 28°, 20, 2.32. The coast temperatures differ slightly from those given, but on the central tableland vary from two to six degrees warmer in summer, and that much colder in winter. The annual rainfall of the southeastern shores averages 46 inches or more, while that of Grimsey Island, off the north coast, falls to 15 inches.
Fauna and The woods are repre sented only by birch, mountain ash and willow, all stunted; trees more than 20 feet high are rare. The floral species number 435 and pertain to the Arctic flora of Europe. Indigenous ani mals are the blue and white foxes, visiting polar bears and mice. Wild reindeer are from the herds introduced in the 1&h century. Of the 100 birds, the majority are aquatic. The most valued is the eider duck, for the down with which it lines its nest.
Volcanoes.— The physical features and material prosperity of Iceland have been largely dominated by its volcanoes, whether active or quiescent. During inactive periods the drifting ashes and cinders often destroy the fertility of fields and the pastoral ranges. From the erup tions have come vast masses of lava, which have transformed by their unbroken sheets thousand of square miles of cultivated valleys into desolate deserts. The fearful devastation wrought by eruptions has scarcely been cur passed elsewhere. In two centuries (1625-1860) Katla has been active 13 times, once sending its ashes to Norway. On occasion the lava streams from this volcano melted enormous masses of neve, causing violent floods which through its debris changed many farms into barren wastes. As late as 1875 Askja sent forth great rivers of lava from its crater of 34 square miles.