This section is from the book "Askja: Iceland's Largest Volcano", by W. G. Lock. Also available from Amazon: Askja: Iceland's Largest Volcano.
Beside the mountain in which Askja is situated, the Dijngjufjoll consist of a number of minor semi-detached peaks, extending to the northward from the eastern part of the northern front of the chief of these mountains, and another large mountain on the N.W. (hitherto unshown on any map) whose eastern face is, I should judge, about five miles in length from S.S.E. to N.N.W., quite detached from the others, an isolated peak standing between it and the chief mountain.
With all its faults, Mr. Watts' description of Askja was the only one presented to the English reader prior to August of the present year, when a paper descriptive of the volcano by the author was published by the Boyal Geographical Society; for, from the day Mr. Watts stood in its weird amphitheatre, until the author pushed across the deserts to it in the summer of 1878, it had remained unvisited, save by the Professor of Mineralogy at the Copenhagen University, Fr. John-strup. This scientist was sent by the Danish government in the summer of 1876 to ascertain the nature of the eruptions in the previous year. Upon his return, the Professor read a paper before the Danish Geographical Society descriptive of the volcano and its doings ; but of late years so little interest has been taken in the Icelandic volcanoes by English scientists, that not even a résumé of Professor Johnstrup's interesting and instructive paper ever appeared in England, much less a full translation. French scientists, however, had not so readily forgotten the volcano from which the previous year ashes had been scattered over the north of Europe, and a résumé of the Professor's paper appeared in a French scientific journal. Thus French geologists were enlightened, while their English contemporaries remained virtually in the dark as to the exact, position and magnitude of a volcano which, there is reason to believe, marks the focus of volcanic activity in Iceland, and which has certainly played no unimportant part in the construction of the island.
I would here beg leave to digress for a moment to make a few comments upon the works recently published on Iceland, and to observe what a contrast to the pluck and energy displayed by Mr. Watts, almost out of provisions after a hazardous journey, pushing on footsore and weary over a pathless fire-blasted wilderness to an unknown active volcano, was the utter want of these characteristics shown by Captain Burton and Mr. C. G. W. Lock, the author of ' The Home of the Eddas,' both of whom, incredible as it may seem, actually sojourned, as previously stated, within a two days' ride of Askja, and four hours' of the seat of volcanic disturbance in the Mijvatns Ňrtejě, without-as far as appears in their works-even visiting the latter place during the eruption. Mr. C. G. W. Lock and several others (I do not know whether Burton was of the number or not) certainly one day did set out for the Orseji, but this is how the excursion ended. Upon the way, it seems, they met Mr. Watts' guide Pall, from whom, Mi. C. G. W. Lock says (p. 11), 'we learnt that the nearest volcanic vent was still two hours' ride further into the desert, and that the eruption of molten matter had ceased, to be followed with clouds of smoke. . . . The majority voted against continuing the ride forward, and we accordingly turned our ponies' heads.' What a vacillating set! I would have gone on alone had I been of the party; and therefore it is pleasing to be able to disclaim relationship with one so wanting in firmness of purpose as the author of ' The Home of the Eddas' appears to be from this and other incidents; notably the abandoning of the ascent of Hekla after journeying to its very base. The day turned out stormy, so instead of waiting until the morrow he turned his back upon this famous mountain, and in his book the whole matter is abruptly dismissed in the following words, which savour very strongly of the feeling that actuated the fox to make his memorable comment upon the quality of certain grapes hanging far out of his reach (p. 63): ' We scarcely felt disposed to go to the top simply for the sake of saying we had been there, and every other inducement had disappeared'!-the 1845 crater and other ' inducements,' it is to be presumed, had taken wing. There was no hurry, for he tells us at the conclusion of the chapter : ' There followed a week of enforced idleness ' at Reykjavik, and yet our author 'had no intention of spending an hour in waiting for an eruption ' of the Gey sir upon the return journey from llelda, so that he failed to see a sight for which most tourists cheerfully wait three or four days.
"We could not expect an individual who thus naively describes his failures to carry out his undertakings, as if he thought it nothing remarkable to fail in whatever he attempts, and vacillancy a commendable characteristic, to accomplish much; and therefore it is not to be wondered at that he did not distinguish himself by exploring ' the unknown region to the south,' or cross the Oddcfahraun to Askja during his lengthy sojourn in Iceland. But we might have expected that he would have taken the trouble to ascertain, as his knowledge of geography appears to be so limited that he does not know the relative position on the Globe of the island about which he writes and the towns of Norway, and thus have saved the expose of his ignorance in the following absurd statement based upon the fact that two newspapers are printed in Akur'eyri:- ' Thus the Home of the Eddas may claim the honour of possessing the most northerly printing press in the whole wide world'! ! One thing is certain,' The Home of the Eddas' cannot claim the honour of possessing the most learned author in the whole wide world, for Tromso, N. Lat. 69° 38' (Akureyri, 65° 40'), I know from personal knowledge, had as far back as 1874 at least one newspaper printed there; and, as it is a town which even at that time had a population of 5,000, a High School (termed Latinskole as in Reykjavik), no less than three Banks, an excellent Museum, and other public buildings, it is surely of enough importance to warrant one in the belief that no one really an authority upon affairs Scandinavian could possibly be ignorant of its existence. However, I believe, Ham-merfest, N. Lat. 70° 40', claims ' the honour of possessing the most northerly printing press in the whole wide world.' I hope the information may prove useful to Mr. C. G. W. Lock, should his work reach a second edition; as also may a hint that it will be well in the future to abstain from penning such declamatory sentences upon other writers as the following, or he may again unwittingly plait a whip-lash for his own back : ' Ye gods, what a geographer and historian !'- ' Instances like these make one lean towards the practice ... of appending writers' signatures . . . that outsiders may judge of his capacity for the office, and know what value to attach to subsequent articles from one who has already shown signs of weakness.'