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one morning, when Hecla burned in Bishop Gottsvin's time, about 1436*. If kthese be compared with the mischief done in 1783, the difference will appear quite evident: yet it is seriously to be lamented that the damage should reach one of the finest and most beautiful parts of the country, formerly supporting a number of people, who are now reduced to a state of misery and ruin. However, praise be to God, the injury is not nearly so extensive as many erroneous reports have led people to believe.
The state of the & delightful spring succeeded
weather in the ° 1 °
spring of 1783. an unusually mild winter in Iceland, in the year, 1783. Clear, calm, and warm weather, with sunshine, were only interrupted by soft breezes from the south, mingled with abundant showers of rain. The pastures were at an early period seen dressed in a green and luxuriant vegetation, and, in the month of May, adorned with many herbs and flowers in their freshest
* See No. 213 folio, and 407 quarto, in Leg, Magn, Bibl.
vigour. The greatest benefit was anticipated from the cattle, which had become sleek and strong after so mild a winter and spring, and every one rejoiced at the prospect of a fruitful summer and an abundant harvest. But all these happy illusions fled with the month of May.
The commence- Towards the latter end of May
ment of the 'J
Eruption. a bluish and light Smoke, or fog, was seen floating along the surface of the earth,and attracted the notice of several wellinformed people: yet no one had the smallest idea of the approaching evil till strong earthquakes were perceived and felt over the whole of Skaptefield's Syssel on the 1st of June. These became daily more terrible, especially during the mornings and evenings, and at last on the 8th of June, the first day of Whitsuntide, they announced the most violent commotions in the bowels of the earth.
At eight in the morning the weather was still fine and clear, but towards nine a dark and black bank of smoke arose in the north, and at length extended itself over the district called Sida. This bank could not at first be seen from the farm-houses that were pleasantly situated at the foot of a lofty and closely-connected range of mountains, stretching for the most part from east to west, nor could the inhabitants distinguish it till it was quite near, and immediately over Sida, but several persons who were proceeding from the district Landbrot, situated a little to the south of the place just mentioned, to Kirkebai-cloister church, observed a great number of pillars of smoke arise from among the wild mountains in the north, and in a little time gather themselves together and form the large black bank. On the nearer approach of this, Sida became involved in darkness, and, when the bank was perpendicularly over it, an immense quantity of sand and ashes, much resembling those of burned coals, fell upon the ground, covering it to the thickness of an inch. Intermixed with these substances was one of a grey, shining, and hard nature, which will hereafter be more fully described. A southern wind prevented the farther progress of the bank on this and the following day, but earthquakes, with heavy peals of thunder, together with subterraneous noises and cracklings, continually increased; so that during the whole day, and long after the close of it, such noises were heard as might be compared to the roaring of a number of cataracts all meeting in the same place, or something similar to a large kettle boiling over impetuously.
On the 10th of June several fire-spouts were distinctly seen, for the first time, rising from among the mountains towards the north. The black bank became more lofty every day, while earthquakes, peals of thunder, and strange sounds increased.
The river Skaptaa The Skaptaa was formerly
disappears. & yery. ]arge river tha(. flowe(J
between Skaptartunga and Sida, and for the most part ran parallel with the latter, which was also divided by this river from the districts Landbrot, Medalland, and Skaptartunga. It took its rise from Sida or SkaptarJokelen, an ice-mountain, situated about nine leagues north of Sida. The stream was very rapid, and the river in many places passable only in boats. In the spring of 1783, a vast quantity of fetid water, mixed with gravel or dust, was observed running down the Skaptaa, which was greatly swollen on the 9th and 10th of June, when, to the astonishmenHof every one, it totally disappeared, and was so dried up in less than twenty-four hours, that people walked across with ease in such places as were formerly crossed by travellers with difficulty in boats. There is, however, still to be observed a small running stream; but it only arises from a number of little brooks which, proceeding from the sides of the mountains, discharge their waters into the bed of the Skaptaa. These waters, in Iceland called Berg-vand (to distinguish them from the thick and milky Jokel-vand, of which the Skaptaa and all other rivers deriving their source from ice-mountains consist), were quite clear and pellucid. So remarkable a phaenomenon as the drying up of the Skaptaa, was fully accounted for on the ensuing day, the 12th of June, when a dreadful firestream came pouring down with the greatest impetuosity, like a foaming sea, into the Vol. iI. K