Lemúrinn: Crossing The Volcanic Wasteland With A Camera And Polished Shoes

Words by Helgi Hrafn Guðmundsson
Horace Dall (1901-1986) lived on a hill in Luton, England. He pointed telescopes towards the stars and photographed the planets of the outer region of the solar system. He was an optician and an innovator of scientific instruments.

But he was also interested in this planet and travelled all around the world with a camera. In the summer 1933, he made an impressive bicycle trip around Iceland. Travelling in Iceland was a different experience in the 1930s. Roads were bad and there was almost no infrastructure for tourists. A cyclist had to cross very difficult terrain practically everywhere, and especially in the mountainous regions.

Dall made a remarkable crossing of Sprengisandur on his three-speed Raleigh roadster. The photographer and cycler Ben Searle wrote about Dall's trip: "Sprengisandur is the virtually trackless volcanic and glacial wasteland of central Iceland and probably the bleakest area of Europe. Dall made the first crossing of the Sprengisandur wilderness by any wheeled vehicle."

As is evident, Dall was a gifted photographer and in his captions, written in the form of a travelogue on the backs of his photos, provide wonderful descriptions and impressions of this strange country.

The "road" to Reykholt goes through much wild and barren country.

I spent the fourth night in the wilderness on a ledge in sight of the river with the unpronounceable name (Skjálfandafljót) which runs into the Arctic.

The "road" to Reykholt goes through much wild and barren country.

I took this photo at the memorable moment when two white specks—unmistakably farmhouses—came into sight after topping a hill. Still 8 miles away and several bad rivers and gullies to cross, but I was in great spirits, and very touched at the success of my navigation across the wilderness.

The beautiful ponies have crossed an overgrown lava field and the crater is only 1/4 mile away.

The Two Icelanders whom I persuaded to get me across the Tungaá River are resting here a few moments on a small gravel plain under the northern slopes of Hekla. These were the last human beings I saw until reaching Myri farm in the north five days later.

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