2S6 Route 33. MOUNT .ETNA. Crater.
below which to the S. the snow-receptacles are situated. To the
north this ridge descends perpendicularly to a depth of 2—3000 ft.
to the Val di Bove, round which the traveller proceeds by the
Piano del Lago after a short but precipitous portion of the ascent.
As the Casa Inglese is approached the mules begin to show signs
of fatigue and impatience to reach their destination. This house,
almost indispensable to the climber of .Etna, was erected by order
of several English officers at the beginning of the present century
during the occupation of Sicily. After an existence of 50 years
the hut had suffered considerably from the pressure of the snow
and was repaired in 1862 on the occasion of the visit of the
crown-prince Humbert of Italy. From Nicolosi thus far 6—7 hrs.
After having reposed here and partaken of some refreshment, the
traveller commences the ascent of the crater, the most arduous
portion of the expedition. The height appears inconsiderable, but
nearly 1200 ft. have still to be ascended. The walking on the
ashes, yielding at every step, on the lower part of the cone,
which, as is the case with most craters, rises at an angle of 45°,
is somewhat laborious. About midway the firm rock is reached and
the ascent becomes easier.
In s/i hr. the verge of the Crater, the form of which under¬
goes constant alteration, is attained. At one time it consists of
a single profound abyss, 2—3 M. in circumference, at another it
is divided by a barrier into two parts, one of which only emits
smoke. The summit itself is usually altered by every eruption.
This was in 1861 on the E. side, in 1864 on the W., and even
the ancients expressed their belief that the crater sank to some
extent after every eruption. After a short pause the highest
peak is easily ascended, as the surface is soft. From this spot
the sunrise, a spectacle of indescribable grandeur, should be wit¬
nessed. The summit is illuminated by the morning twilight whilst
all below is enveloped in profound obscurity. The sun still re¬
poses in the sea, which occasionally presents the appearance of
a lofty bank of clouds, the horizon being considerably more ele¬
vated than the spectator is prepared for. For some time purple
clouds have indicated the point where the sun is about to appear.
Suddenly a ray of light flits across the surface of the water, gra¬
dually changing to a golden streak and a convex lens, the lower
part of which shimmers in an intense purple. The beaming disk
then slowly emerges. The mountains of Calabria still cast their
long shadows on the sea; the summit of .Etna alone is illumi¬
nated. The light gradually descends to the lower portions of the
mountain and the shadow which the vast pyramid casts over the
island to the W. increases. The outlines of the cone and its
summit are distinctly recognised, forming a colossal isosceles
triangle on the surface of the island. After 1/4 nr- the sublime