Let the Reverend Ebenezer Henderson, son of a Scottish farmhand, missionary and pioneering Icelandic explorer be your guide to Iceland. “Iceland; Or, the Journal of a Residence in that Island, during the years 1814 and 1815.”

The youngest son of an agricultural labourer,Henderson began his career in watchmaking and as a shoemaker’s apprentice. A series of random life events and situations would determine his life journey. In 1803 he joined thetheological seminary of an ex naval hero, religious writer and Scottish theologian named Robert Haldane. In 1805 he was selected to accompany the Rev. John Paterson on a missionary expedition to India. The East India Company at the time weren’t allowingmissionaries to travel on British ships to India. Henderson andPaterson went to Denmark to await the chance of a passage to the thenDanish port of Serampur in Wertern Bengal.

Ebenezer Henderson (1784-1858). Scottish minister amd missionary.

They never made it to India. Ever zealous & keen to spread their beliefs, the pair began preaching in Copenhagen and settled there. In 1806,Henderson became a pastor in the Danish city of Helsingør. For over a decade he travelled all over Scandinavia, distributing bibles as an agent for the British and Foreign Bible Society, visiting Lapland, Sweden and Germany.

Between 1814 & 1815 he visited a remote, isolated and unexplored place, unknown to the minds of most Europeans.Iceland.

In 1818 Henderson published a book on what he’d discovered; Iceland; Or, the Journal of a Residence in that Island, during the years 1814 and 1815.

“The records of his travels in Iceland” says EncyclopediaBritannica, “were valuable contributions to our knowledge of that island”.

Henderson’s subtitle to his Journal of a Residence, promised “observations on the natural phenomena, history, literature and antiquities of the island; and the religion, character, manners and customs of its inhabitants.”

Exhibition of Basalts near Hoskuldstad.

Henderson’s book took everyone by surprise. Other travellers, writers and explorers had been to Iceland before; Sir Joseph Banks of The Royal Society, the Swedish archbishop, Uno von Troil, Sir John Stanley, Sir George Mackenzie and others. “But” noted a reviewer from The Quarterly Review in July 1818, “the journeys and the observations of these gentlemen were confined to particular parts of the island, and nearly to the same parts. Dr. Henderson has gone far beyond them all. He has visited every corner of the island, and is the first, at least of our countrymen, to have crossed the central desert, skirted the northern and eastern coasts, and passed a winter among the natives”.

The reviewer from the Quarterly evidently met Henderson and was impressed, particularly with his impartiality. “Dr. Henderson,” he notes, “is besides a well-informed, sensible, pious man, little, if at all, tainted by those narrow minded prejudices and superstitions with which most of the missionaries are imbued.”

This preacher Henderson, the son of an agricultural labourer had surpassed the best and most famous men of science and of exploration of the era.

The wonderful plates inHenderson’sJournal of a Residence were engraved by various people from Henderson’s reference drawings.

Hot springs of Hveravellir.

Many of these springs throw up large columns of boiling water, accompanied by immense volumes of steam, to an almost incredible height into the atmosphere, and present to the eye of the traveller some of the grandest scenes to be met with on the face of the globe.”

View of Dyrafiord.

“The opinion that this island owes its formation to the operations of submarine volcanoes, is not only confirmed by analogical resonings deduced from the appearances presented by the island, which are confessedly of volcanic origin, but gains ground in proportion to the progress of a closer and more accurate investigation of the natural phenomena which every part of it exhibits to the view of the naturalist.”

Snæfellsjökull, as seen from the sea.

“In no quarter of the globe do we find crowded within the same extent of surface such a number of ignivomous mountains, so many boilng springs, or such tracts of lava, as here arrest the attention of the traveller.”

View of Holum.

“A little to the south of Holum lies a cottage, called Hof, the first place in the valley that was inhabited. I was shewn a huge stone, which was used as an altar, in the times of heathenism at this place, the name of which indicates its having been a place of sacrifice.”

View of Elldborg from the south.

“The general aspect of the country is the most rugged and dreary imaginable. On every side appear marks of confusion and devastation, or the tremendous sources of these evils in the yawning craters of huge and menacing volcanoes.”

Herdubreid as seen from Möðrudalur.
Icelandic dresses.
Icelandic female in her bridal dress.

“The general aspect of the country is the most rugged and dreary imaginable. On every side appear marks of confusion and devastation, or the tremendous sources of these evils in the yawning craters of huge and menacing volcanoes.”

Hay-making and view of the Almannagjá from Thinvalla.

“Their predominent character is that of unsuspecting frankness, pious contentment, and a steady liveliness of temperament, combined with a strength of intellect and acuteness of mind, seldom to be met with in other parts of the world.”

“Both at meeting and at parting, an affectionate kiss on the mouth, without distinction of rang, age, or sex, is the only mode of salutation known in Iceland, except sometimes in the immediate vicinity of the factories, where the common Icelander salutes a foreigner whom he regards as his superior, by placing his right hand on his mouth or left breast, and the making a deep bow.”

The Geysers, as seen July, 30 1814.

“At eleven we were again gratified with a most brilliant eruption.The jets were ten or twelve in number, and the water was carried to the height of at least sixty feet. Vast clouds of steam, which made their escape during the eruption, continued to roll and spread as they ascended, till they filled the whole of the horizon around us; and the sun, though shining in full spendour, was completely eclipsed; but the points of the jets, recieving his rays as they rose through the vapour, wore the most charming lustre, being white and glistening as snow.”

View of the coast near Stappen.
Jetting pool in the crater of Krabla.

“Nor is the mind of a spectator relieved from the disagreeable emotions arising from reflection on the subterraneous fires which are raging beneath him by which he is surrounded. These very masses, which naturally exude the most distant idea of heat, contain in their bosom the fuel of conflagration, and are frequently seen to emit smoke and flames, and pour down upon the plains immense floods of boiling mud and water, or red-hot torrents of devouring lava.”

Öræfa Jökull as seen from the base of Lolmagnupr.
Öræfa Jökull as seen from the Breidamark River.

Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.

Subscribe to Lost & Found
The very best things in life come FREE & so are we.