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of the building. It is usual in making the ascent later in the year, to ride thus far, which renders the excursion much less fatiguing.
Beyond the Casa Inglese, though the dark mass of the cone lay right before me, and apparently quite near, yet the slopes of snow continued to rise up, one after another as if by magic. Again and again, as we attained for a few minutes the luxury of some rough ashes to walk upon, did I inquire of my guide, whether there was any more snow ? and again and again did he reply, “Si, Signor, c'è un altro poco più avanti"-until I fairly thought myself and the mountain bewitched. We had now attained an altitude approaching 10,000 feet above Catania, and I began to experience the effect of the rarefaction of the air. I felt no distressing symptoms whatever in the chest; but a violent throbbing in the head came on, yet without pain. As soon as I ceased walking, it became, as it were, distinctly audible, like a loud and regular hammering at ten or twelve yards distance; but after I had rested a few seconds, it entirely subsided. And in this way I proceeded slowly, until the snow was indeed all past, and the base of the cone, on which snow did not lie, was fairly attained.
My companions, who had started from the place where we had left our mules, at a pace which I could not keep up with, had by this time left me considerably behind; but not so far as to prevent the two guides, one of whom remained with me, from calling to one another. My guide was here hailed by the foremost, to say
that one of my companions was tired, and had sat down to wait for us to come up with him. However, after waiting a little while, as I afterwards learnt, he went on; and we did not rejoin him until we reached the summit.
We now began to ascend the cone by a circuitous route, over hard and very steep volcanic rock covered with loose stones of all sizes. Here I got many falls, and once slid several yards down the side of the mountain, but recovered myself without injury. On comparing notes afterwards, I found that my companions, who were ahead of me, had all had falls about this part of the ascent. The day now began to break; and, among other remarkable volcanic features, we distinguished, far beneath us, the stream of lava which broke out in the lower part of the mountain, and so nearly overwhelmed the town of Bronte, last December. Soon afterwards, at twenty minutes before five o'clock, I found, to my infinite satisfaction, that I had attained the edge of the crater ; along which, but still with a considerable ascent, amidst thick driving sulphureous vapours, we continued to walk, to the highest point of the mountain. Here I rejoined my companions, two of whom, with their guide, were settling themselves to sleep in the warm ashes. I walked on, along a narrow ledge, composed of very frail materials, to the furthest accessible point; where, before me, I saw the disk of the rising sun, and beneath, Taormina, Messina, with the volcanic islands, and among them, Stromboli, in the distance; together with the whole line of coast, and the expanse of sea : whilst close on my right, enormous volumes of smoke, now illuminated with splendid sun-light effects, and now tinged with the fires of the crater beneath, rolled furiously away to the leeward : whilst on the left I saw another part of the crater irregularly divided into fearful valleys and hollows, issuing from which I heard continued explosions as of artillery ; each explosion being succeeded by the harsh clatter of the fragments that had been hurled upwards, as they fell back upon the rocks. Even when on the spot, it is not an easy matter to obtain a distinct idea of the summit of Etna. The smoke and vapours shut out a great part of the view, and the faculties are bewildered with witnessing violence and confusion not usually connected with the operations of Nature. The real character of the weather was perfectly calm and serene; but even under the most favourable circumstances in this region of terror every thi
partakes of the character of furnace and storm; and at this elevation, aided, in all probability, by the operation of the volcano itself, the air drew away pretty strongly from the north, with a piercing effect of cold that was hardly to be resisted. We stood on a frail narrow ledge; and three several times we felt shocks of earthquake. The prevailing idea upon the summit of Etna is, “How dreadful is this place !"
We soon all reassembled, and got together out of the wind just below the edge of the outer slope of the cone, supporting ourselves by thrusting our heels into the loose ashes, the warmth of which we found inexpressibly grateful.
I have already described the sensations I experienced during the ascent. Another of the party suffered greatly with pain in the chest: and another, when on the summit, vomited; but he would not allow that it was owing to any thing but to the stench of the sulphureous vapours.
At Catania, I had protested against making the ascent at night; but I was outvoted; and I now think that, on the whole, for local and other reasons, we did right to ascend at night. Besides, we had observed that at about ten in the forenoon, a cloud generally settled for the day on the summit; making it advisable to reach it very early in the morning. However, the day we fixed upon for our expedition was fine throughout; but not so the day before, nor the day after.
As I had anticipated, notwithstanding the fineness of the weather, the sight of the sunrise, like all sunrises seen from mountain tops, proved a failure. I had heard much of the general magnificence of the spectacle, as well as of the extraordinary effect of the projection of the dark shadow of the cone of the mountain over the face of the country; but I saw nothing connected with these particulars the least worthy of remark. During the ascent, however, in the night, the circumstances attending the view of the sidereal heavens far exceeded my expectations. The splendour of the constellations outshone any thing of the kind I had ever before witnessed, or even imagined. The Milky Way lost its uncertain nebulous character, and put on the appearance of luminous, well-defined
and I do not assert it as a fact, but I verily believe that by its light, and the general light of the stars, I saw my own shadow on the snow. It was in deed a glorious spectacle! As Etna has no lofty mountains near it, the stellar horizon had the appearance of being far below us: we had in fact more than an entire hemisphere to gaze upon : and I saw some fine stars rise from, and others set within, the black abyss beneath us. The rising of the planet Jupiter early in the morning, was in this respect a very beautiful phenomenon. saw also in the course the night two faint flashes of lightning in the cloud