Ever since the era of the Romantics, the western world has been rather obsessed with nature and its violence. Adventurers and writers alike – though, as we well know, these are often one in the same – chase the feeling of awe, the moment of being engulfed by a landscape that is at once both dangerous and beautiful. They call this feeling of vastness, this curious mixture of threat and promise that comes from something far greater than one’s self, the sublime.
While history does not count Jules Verne among the Romantics, like Mary Shelley and the rest, Verne was interested in the phenomenal greatness of the natural world. In Journey to the Center of the Earth, a work originally written in French and later translated into English, Verne describes a voyage of the imagination. Propelled by his own belief as to what lies under the earth’s crust, Verne takes his characters – and his readers – down into the depths of our universe. What they find there is nothing less than sublime.
However, this week we are more interested in where their journey began than where it ended. Professor von Hardwigg and his companions take the quickest route into the underground – through the Snæfellsjökull volcano in western Iceland. Just as von Hardwigg is bowled over by the beauty and majesty of the peak, writer Jacquelin Cangro is also awed by the snow-covered volcano, and though she never reaches the peak – or the center of the earth – Cangro is rewarded for her efforts with a glimpse into Verne’s inspiration.
Join us this week at Snæfellsjökull with our newest feature article, Journeying to the Wilderness of Iceland with Jules Verne. With a little help from the imagination, you can hike with Cangro up the side of a volcano – and with a little more effort, you can dive with Verne straight into the depths of the earth. Just don’t get lost.