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were the means, together with the surrounding redness of the atmosphere, of announcing to the inhabitants at a considerable distance the dreadful disaster.
Katlegiaa in the southern part of the island ejected a great torrent of water on the 17th of October, 1755, which inundated an extent of country fifteen miles long and twelve wide, sweeping away in its impetuous course numerous masses of ice, to which were attached pieces of rock of great size. Whilst the minds of the natives were occupied in the reflection of the dreadful consequences that were likely to ensue from this extraordinary phenomenon, as well as from the accompanying earthquake, a noise was heard like that of thunder, when immediately a rapid discharge of fire and water took place alternately from the mountain, attended by most frightful and horrible roarings, which continued, with but slight intermission, during the whole of the first day; at night the neighboring districts were illuminated by flames, and balls of fire were cast to a great height in the air, so that heaven and earth seemed to be equally in a state of conflagration. On the 19th the column of smoke appeared black in the day, but filled with balls and sparks of fire, which in the night cast a strong light over the whole of Myrdal Syssel, whilst the country situated to the eastward of that district was in darkness both day and night. All the syssels in that direction were covered with black sand and cinders, and loud subterraneous noises were heard even as far as Guldbringue and Kiosar Syssels (eighty or ninety miles distant) and ashes fell like rain in the Ferroe Islands, a distance of three hundred miles!
But the most dreadful volcanic eruption, which the annals of Iceland have yet recorded, took place so late as the year 1783. This was in the south-eastern part of the island, in the district, called Skaptefield's Syssel, and so tremendous was it, that I have been induced here to publish a translation of a very sensible pamphlet respecting it, printed by the Etatsroed Stephensen, who was an eye witness of the calamity; feeling that such an event ought to be recorded in the British language, and being persuaded that my readers will be obliged to me for here furnishing them with it. Without further apology, therefore, or preface, I proceed to say, that the original of the following Account of the Volcanic Eruption in Skaptefield's Syssel was published at Copenhagen, in the Danish language, in the year 1785, under the title of Kort Beskrivelse over den nye Vulcans Ildsprudning i Vester-Skaptefield's Syssel paa Island i aaret, 1783. * Its author, Mr. Magnus Stephensen, the present Etatsroed of Iceland, upon the intelligence of the eruption reaching Denmark, where he then was, received instructions from the king to proceed to Iceland, in company with Mr. Hans Christopher Diderich Victor de Levetzen, for the pur
. * I have, in the first edition of my Tour (p. 408), been led into an error in consequence of Mr. Pennant's stating, that his account of the eruption of Skaptefield's Syssel was translated from Mr. Stephensen's pamphlet, (See Introduction to Artie Zoology, p. ccexxi.), whereas I have since been informed that the original was the performance of S. M. Holme, upon the same subject. The title of the book is, Om Jordbranden paa island i aaret, 1783. It was published in Copenhagen, in 1784, and is noticed in a manner not very creditable in the course of Mr. Stephensen's account.
pose of seeing that such measures were put into effect as were deemed most expedient for the safety of the sufferers. Mr. Stephensen was besides more particularly charged with a commission to collect all possible information respecting the eruption, the phenomena with which it was attended, and its effects; to survey, himself, the various currents of lava, and, if possible, the source of the volcano, as well as to search for any mineral substances which were likely to be useful in the arts. Each of the gentlemen above mentioned, on his return to Copenhagen, delivered in an account of the observations made during the journies, which were submitted to his Danish Majesty, who was pleased not only to pay the whole expences of their tour, and allow them a considerable gratuity, but farther to grant to Mr. Stephensen the copyright of his publication.
Such is the substance of the author's Address to the Reader, which forms a sort of introduction to the work. The remaining part of the publication I have had translated with all possible fidelity (in part through the kindness of Mr. Jorgensen), and have given it, as nearly as possible, according to the literal sense and meaning of the author.
"Although no volcanic eruption in Iceland was ever attended with more lamentThe extent of the a^e consequences than that damage which took place in the year 1783, yet its immediate effects were not greater or more destructive than many of the former ones. For example, let us only consider what happened in the year 1300, and let us reflect on the long chain of events of which our annals give an account, during the whole of the 14th century, especially in the years 1341, 1350, 1357, 1360, and 1390 *, and on the damage sustained in
* See different annals in Legati Magrueani Bibl. in the Royal Observatory, especially in No. 246, among the folios, and No. 407, 411, 418, 421, 425, 427, and 428, among the quartos. See also Annalet Islandorum reg. among Langebock's Scriptores rerum Danic, medii cevi. Tom. m. p. 134 and 135-.