« PreviousContinue »
the lake. The intervals of its appearance on the surface of the water are uncertain; several years, in general, passing away between its departure and return. Equally uncertain, also, is the period of its remaining visible when it does appear. Sometimes this mimic island will continue floating for months together, while at other times it will disappear at the end of two or three weeks. The average period, however, of its return, for the last half century, may be stated to be once in every four years; and it has generally been visible at the close
arm summer. “And now, my dear children, I must explain to you the reason of its rising and falling. For a long time this phenomenon presented a difficulty which no one could solve in a satisfactory manner. At length, however, it was believed that the elevation to the surface of this floating island was caused by the generation of a species of gas, formed within its substance from the decomposition of the vegetable matter of which it was partly composed. The gas being essentially lighter than the water, and produced in large quantities during a hot season, was supposed to occasion the ascent of the mass of earth and vegetable mould, as a balloon is raised in the air by its inflation with a similar elastic fluid. As long, therefore, as the gas remains unevaporated, the island floats; but as soon as the escape of a sufficient quantity has taken place, so as to destroy the equilibrium, the island, by its specific gravity, again sinks to the bottom of the lake.
“ This hypothesis has been completely confirmed,” continued Mr. Gracelove," and all doubt on the subject set at rest by Professor Sedgwick, who states in a note, addressed to Mr. Allison of Penrith, that a compound of carbonic acid, and carburetted hydrogen gas, is the cause of its rising. It appears that in 1824, the learned professor filled a wine bottle with this
gas from a hole which he bored in the centre of the island.
The consequence of the operation was, that it settled down eight inches even during the time he remained upon it. So well authenticated and scientific an experiment, evidenced by such a rapid and indeed visible result, decides for ever this interesting question.
“But the records of history give many accounts of Aoating islands, in other parts of the world ; and as some of these are recorded by classical authors, you, my dear Edmund," observed his father, “ who are just come from your studies, should be able to give us some account of them.” “ I think," said his son, after a little reflection,
a little reflection, " that Pliny has written something on the subject, but I cannot precisely state, at this moment, what it is.”
“ You are quite right, my dear boy,” exclaimed the gratified parent, “in your recollection of one of the authors; for Pliny tells us of a large island that floated about on the lake Cutilia, in the country of Reatinum, in Italy, in every direction in which the wind propelled it. Seneca speaks, also, of similar floating islands in the same country; while on the lakes of Mexico, during the conquest of that country by Cortez, they were seen in remarkable numbers, and were capable of being removed, by boatmen, from one side to another, when in a state of war and attacked by their enemies; a circumstance highly advantageous to their owners, inasmuch as they were highly cultivated, and very productive in fruits and vegetables."
The party had now reached the object of their research; and immediately landing on the island, the three eldest children, with the curiosity and simplicity natural to their age, at once turned their attention to discover the mysterious hole whence the professor had extracted his magic bottle of gas. That the operation of depressing the island in so great a degree, and in so short a space of time, must have left some exterior tokens
to admire and wonder at, they had no doubt whatever ; and the juveniles were no little disappointed, after a critical examination, and making the entire circuit of the floating mass, to find no signs of the professor's labours.
Why, papa,” cried Jasper, with an air of surprise, “ I can't find a hole large enough to put my finger into ; whatever has become of it?"
“My dear boy,” replied bis amused father, recollect that since the experiment was made the island has been slumbering for several years at the bottom of the lake. And even supposing the hole to have been wide, as well as deep, the additional matter settling upon it during that period must have filled it up long ago. But the fact is, my dear Jasper, that in order to make the experiment effectual, it was necessary that the hole should be so small in its orifice as only to admit the mouth of the bottle; otherwise the gas would have escaped without filling the vessel, and would consequently have prevented its being ascertained how many inches of depression would be caused by the withdrawal of a bottle full of the fluid. It is, therefore, very possible that had you come on the very day following the operation, you might not have been able to detect the place.”
The young gentleman, along with his wondering brother and sisters, appeared to comprehend the reason thus explained, though by no means satisfied with the disappointment of his expectations. After expressing a wish that he also had an empty bottle, in which, on trying a similar experiment, he could cork up a full measure of this wondrous fluid ; and after traversing and re-traversing the whole of this fairy ground, with undefinable thoughts and surmises, our delighted tourists finally left the island to sink again according to the laws of its destiny. They now rowed away to the mainland, distant, as before mentioned, about one hundred and fifty yards, in order to pass the remainder of the day in seeing sights on terra firma.
The first of these to which they directed their steps was “ Barrow Cascade ;" a pretty waterfall, not far distant from the place where they landed, and situated on the grounds of Mr. Pocklington, from whose delightful residence an excellent view is obtained of the lake.
The superior pretensions, however, of the waterfall of Lowdore, in the immediate vicinity of the former, attracted more particularly their regards. Secluded within a wild glen, the water rushes along, over huge fragments of stone, through a deep chasm, hemmed closely in by lofty perpendicular rocks, from the fissures of which spring up trees and shrubs of various tints and forms; till, dashing from ledge to ledge, the cascade is precipitated to a depth of nearly one hundred and fifty feet from the level whence it commenced to fall. Here the stream is lost, being swallowed up in a deep abyss, from which, through a subterraneous passage, it at length finds its way into the lake. It must be allowed that, after a copious fall of rain, this waterfall forms one of the most beautiful auxiliaries to the lake scenery.
But the sun had now, for some hours, passed the meridian; and as the juveniles were particularly anxious to include within the day's excursion the sight of the celebrated enormous rock called the “ Bowder Stone,” they descended from the elevated position within the glen, where they had beheld the mountain torrent, and proceeded along the road to the picturesque village of Grange. It is situated at the entrance of the magnificent valley of Borrowdale, on the west bank of the Derwent. The approach to this romantic vale presents, at this place, all the gigantic features of a mountain pass. Huge precipices, crags, and towering rocks, here exhibit to the admiring spectator a most extraordinary assemblage of
stupendous objects, thrown together in the wildest irregularity imaginable, and contracting the passage within so narrow a compass as to leave little more than space for the channel of the Derwent. The impressive grandeur of this wilderness of overhanging cliff and rock, disposed in a thousand fantastic shapes, and rugged pinnacles, and frowning with an almost supernatural desolation, as if from the effect of an earthquake, requires the testimony of the eye in order to realize the startling vision. Castle Crag, which lies at the entrance of this sublime valley, seems at a distance to block up all further
On a nearer approach, however, a passage is discovered, which, opening on the left hand, conducts to the edge of a precipice, whereon reposes the gigantic Bowder Stone, about a mile from the village of Grange. This enormous mass has been evidently hurled from the neighbouring mountains, for its immense size precludes the possibility of its having been placed there by human efforts, either as a Druidical altar, or for any other purpose.
The form of this prodigious rock is said to resemble a ship, stranded and dismasted. It presents an irregular shape, characterised by various angular points and edges, upon one of which it rests, as a vessel upon her keel. A soft carpet of heath covers its surface, from whence is beheld an extremely interesting view of Borrowdale and its mysterious forms. The position of this singular object is most remarkable in another point of view, namely, that in consequence of its being balanced on a kind of central edge, the two under sides of it are elevated considerably from the ground, so that persons from opposite quarters may creep down to the line of support, within this rather frightful cavity, and shake hands underneath it.
After the junior members of the party had surveyed the ponderous object with all the admiring wonder of youth, and