traces of shells; and sometimes skeletal remains of whales and walruses, as well as ancient driftwood, have been discovered at tolerable distances from the present coast. The ancient shore-lines occur at two different altitudes. Along the higher, 230 to 266 ft. above the existing sea-level, shells have been found which are characteristic of high Arctic latitudes and no longer exist in Iceland; whereas on the lower shore-line, 100 to 130 ft., the shells belong to species which occur amongst the coast fauna of the present day.
The geysers and other hot springs are due to the same causes as the active volcanoes, and the earthquakes are probably manifestations of the same forces. A feature of special interest to geologists in the present conditions of the island is the great power of the wind both as a transporting and denuding agent. The rock sculpture isoften very similar to that of a tropical desert.
Climate.—Considering its high latitude and situation, Iceland has a relatively mild climate. The meteorological conditions vary greatly, however, in different parts of the island. In the south and east the weather is generally changeable, stormy and moist; whilst on the north the rainfall is less. The climate of the interior tableland approximates to the continental type and is often extremely cold. The mean annual temperature is 37.2° F. in Stykkishólmr on Breiðifjörðr, 38.5° at Eyrārbakki in the south of Iceland, 41° at Vestmannæyjar, 36° at Akureyri in the north, 36.7° on Berufjörðr in the east, and 30.6° at Mödrudalr on the central tableland. The range is great not only from year to year, but also from month to month. For instance, at Stykkishólmr the highest annual mean for March was 39.7°, and the lowest 8°, during a period of thirty-eight years. Iceland lies contiguous to that part of the north Atlantic in which the shifting areas of low pressure prevail, so that storms are frequent and the barometer is seldom firm. The barometric pressure at sea-level in the south-west of Iceland during the period 1878-1900 varied between 30.8 and 27.1 in. The climate of the coasts is relatively mild in summer, but tolerably cold in winter. The winter means of the north and east coasts average 31.7° and 31.3° F. respectively; the summer means, 42.8° and 44.6°; and the means of the year, 33.1° and 35.6°. The winter means of the south and west coasts average 32° and 31.7° respectively; the summer means, 48.2° and 50°; the annual means, 37.4° and 39.2°. The rainfall on the south and east coasts is considerable, e.g. at Vestmannæyjar, 49.4 in. in the year; at Berufjörðr, 43.6 in. On the west coast it is less, e.g. 24.3 in. at Stykkishólmr; but least of all on the north coast, being only 14.6 in. on the island of Grimsey, which lies off that coast. Mist is commonly prevalent on the east coast; at Berufjörðr there is mist on no fewer than 212 days in the year. The south and west coasts are washed by the Gulf Stream, and the north coast by an Arctic current, which frequently brings with it a quantity of drift-ice, and thus exercises a considerable effect upon the climate of the island; sometimes it blocks the north coast in the summer months. On the whole, during the 19th century, the north coast was free from ice on an average of one year in every four or five. The clearness of the atmosphere has been frequently remarked. Thunderstorms occur mostly in winter.
European type, and is tolerably uniform throughout the island, the differences even on the tableland being slight. At present 435 species of phanerogams and vascular cryptogams are known; the lower orders have been little investigated. The grasses are of the greatest importance to the inhabitants, for upon them they are dependent for the keep of their live stock. Heather covers large tracts, and also affords pasture for sheep. The development of forest trees is insignificant. Birch woods exist in a good many places, especially in the warmer valleys; but the trees are very short, scarcely attaining more than 3 to 10 ft. in height. In a few places, however, they reach 13 to 20 ft. and occasionally more. A few mountain ash or rowan trees (Sorbus aucuparia) are found singly here and there, and attain to 30 ft. in height. Willows are also pretty general, the highest in growth being Salix phyllicifolia, 7 to 10 ft. The wild flora of Iceland is small and delicate, with bright bloom, the heaths being especially admired. Wild crowberries and bilberries are the only fruit found in the island.
Fauna.—The Icelandic fauna is of a sub-Arctic type. But while the species are few, the individuals are often numerous. The land mammals are very poorly represented; and it is doubtful whether any species is indigenous. The polar bear is an occasional visitant, being brought to the coast by the Greenland drift-ice. Foxes are common, both the white and the blue occurring; mice and the brown rat have been introduced, though one variety of mouse is possibly indigenous. Reindeer were introduced in 1770. The marine mammalia are numerous. The walrus is now seldom seen, although in prehistoric times it was common. There are numerous species of seals; and the seas abound in whales. Of birds there are over 100 species, more than one-half being aquatic. In the interior the whistling swan is common, and numerous varieties of ducks are found in the lakes. The eider duck, which breeds on the islands of Breiðifjörðr, is a source of livelihood to the inhabitants, as are also the many kinds of sea-fowl which breed on the sea-cliffs. Iceland possesses neither reptiles nor batrachians. The fish fauna is abundant in individuals, some sixty-eight species being found off the coasts. The cod fisheries are amongst the most important in the world. Large quantities of herring, plaice and halibut are also taken. Many of the rivers abound in salmon, and trout are plentiful in thelakes and streams.
Population and Towns.—The census of 1890 gave a total population of 70,927, and this number had increased by 1901 to 78,489. The increase during the 19th century was 27,000, while at least 15,600 Icelanders emigrated to America, chiefly to Manitoba, from 1872 to the close of the century. The largest town is Reykjavik on Faxaflói, with 6700 inhabitants, the capital of the island, and the place of residence of the governor-general and the bishop. Here the Althing meets; and here, further, are the principal public institutions of the island (library, schools, &c.). The town possesses a statue to Thorvaldsen, the famous sculptor, who was of Icelandic descent. The remaining towns include Isafjörðr (pop. 1000) on the north-west peninsula, Akureyri (1000) on the north and Seydisfjörðr (800) in the east.
Industries.—The principal occupation of the Icelanders is cattle-breeding, and more particularly sheep-breeding, although the fishing industries have come rapidly to the front in modern times. In 1850, 82% of the population were dependent upon cattle-breeding and 7% upon fishing; in 1890 the numbers were 64% and 18% respectively. The culture of grain is not practised in Iceland; all bread-stuffs are imported. In ancient times barley was grown in some places, but it never paid for the cost of cultivation. Cattle-breeding has declined in importance, while the number of sheep has increased. Formerly gardening was of no importance, but considerable progress has been made in this branch in modern times, as also in the cultivation of potatoes and turnips. Fruit-trees will not thrive; but black and red currants and rhubarb are grown, the last-named doing excellently. Iceland possesses four agricultural schools, one agricultural society, and small agricultural associations in nearly every district. The fisheries give employment to about 12,000 people. For the most part the fishing is carried on from open boats, notwithstanding the dangers of so stormy a coast. But larger decked vessels have come into increasing use. In summer the waters are visited by a great number of foreign fishermen, inclusive of about 300 fishing-boats from French ports, as well as by fishing-boats from the Færoes and Norway, and steam trawlers from England. Excellent profit is made in certain parts of the island from the herring fishery; this is especially the case on the east coast. There are marine insurance societies and a school of navigation at Reykjavik. The export of fish and fish products has greatly increased. In 1849 to 1855 the annual average exported was 1480 tons; whereas at the close of the century (in 1899) it amounted to 11,339 tons and 68,079 barrels of oil, valued at £276,596.
Commerce.—From the first colonization of the island down to the 14th century the trade was in the hands of native Icelanders and Norsemen; in the 15th century it was chiefly in the hands of the English, in the 16th of Germans from the Hanse towns. From 1602 to 1786 commerce was a monopoly of the Danish government; in the latter year it was declared free to all Danish subjects and in 1854 free to all nations. Since 1874, when Iceland obtained her own administration, commerce has increased considerably. Thus the total value of the imports and exports together in 1849 did not exceed £170,000; while in 1891-1895 the imports averaged £356,000 and the exports £340,000. In
- See Th. Thoroddsen, “Explorations in Iceland during the years 1881-1898,” Geographical Journal, vol. xiii. (1899), pp. 251-274, 480-513, with map.