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ACCOUNT OF HECLA,
There is scarcely a part of this great island but bears the most striking marks of the effects of subterraneous fires, though the more dreadful eruptions of later years have been confined to its southern and eastern quarters. Not only in the loftiest mountains, but even in the plains and vallies, the remains of extinguished craters arrest the attention of the traveller, and the tracts of lava which he frequently meets with are so extensive, that it not uncommonly happens that an Icelandic summer's day, however considerable its length, does not allow sufficient time to traverse one of them in its greatest extent. Among the numerous volcanoes, Hecla, from the frequency of its fires, from its vicinity to the most populous part of the island, and from its situation that renders it visible to ships sailing to Greenland and North America, has been by far the most celebrated among foreign countries; nor does it seem to have been considered of less importance at home, having attracted to such a degree the notice of the native historians, that its several eruptions, subsequently to the colonization of the island (for it is supposed that many had taken place previously), have been inserted in the chronicles of the country. Upon this subject, however, the different annalists are far from being agreed, some, according to Povelsen and Olafsen, who speak only of the principal ones, mentioning no more than eleven, and others only sixteen; while these authors say that, after the most attentive researches, they can speak with confidence to twenty-two, without reckoning several, which, though enumerated by other writers, they regard as uncertain, thinking that the same eruption may have been counted more than once, from its having lasted above a year, or its having begun in winter and ceased the following spring; and also without including the less important discharges, that have not issued from the volcano itself, but from some of the hillocks or beds of lava about it; though these in reality have a right to be included, as having originated from Hecla, whose fire passing through subterraneous channels has found vent in different places. Leaving this question undecided, I confine myself to Arngrim Jonas, who, in his Brevis Commentarius de Islandia *, relates the first to have taken
* This account does not exactly agree with that given by Von Trail, who mentions eruptions of Hecla, in 1374, 1390, and 1436.—The dates of the eruptions of /Etna and Vesuvius have also been recorded, and, in the uncertainty of their periods, resemble what I find respecting Hecla.—They are as follows:
Mount /Etna.—before the christian ara, four ;—in the years 3325, 3538, 3554, 3843.—After Christ twentyseven—1175, 1285, 1321, 1323, 1329, 1408, 1530, 1536, 1537, 1540, 1545, 1545, 1554, 1556, 1566, 1579, 1614, 1634, 1636, 1643, 1669, 1682, 1689, 1692, 1747, 1755, 1766.
Mount Vesuvius;—after Christ—79, 203, 472, 512, 685, 993, 1036, 1043, 1048, 1136, 1506, 153S, (the place A. D. 1104; and to have been succeeded by others in theyears 1137,1222,1300,1341, 1362, and 1389, after which the mountain is said to have remained quiet till 1538, and then again for the space of eighty-one years, when, in 1619, fresh matter was vomited forth; and also in 1636, 1693, and 1766; the latter eruption lasting, without intermission, from the 15th of April till the 7th of September. Flames, but unattended with lava, appeared in 1771 and 1772j since which period to the latter end of the year, 1810, neither fire nor smoke has been perceived.
Having already, in my journal (vol. i. page 194) stated the circumstances which prevented me from reaching Hecla, it is necessarily out of my power to give an account of the state of the mountain from my own actual observation; but, if I may be allowed to judge from the information I received in the neighborhood, I had less reason than might be imagined to regret my
eruption at Puzzole), 1631, 1660, 1682, 1694, 1701 1704, 1712, 1717, 1730, 1737, 1751, 1754, 1760, 1766, 1767,1770, 1771.—Sir William Hamilton's Campi Phlegrcei, p. 51.
disappointment; the covering of snow, that in many seasons entirely envelopes the summit, having lain particularly thick during the summer of 1809, and so completely concealed every thing that might be looked upon as remarkable, that the prosecution of my journey would but have added to my fatigue without a chance of the success I wished for. Sir Joseph Banks, however, and his party, were more fortunate, and an account of their expedition has been published by Von Troil, whose remarks on Hecla are so familiar to the English reader, that the mountain may be considered as well known. At the same time, as it is one of those things that are reckoned most wonderful in Iceland, I am unwilling to pass it in silence, but shall endeavor, by means of extracts from the less generally known publication of Povelsen and Olafsen, aided by some notes made from Sir Joseph Banks' manuscripts, to compensate for what I have not in my power to relate in my own journal.
Our Icelandic travellers, on their excursion to Hecla, stopped at the village of Selsund situated in the vicinity of the moun