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Skaptaa. This river every where ran through deep vallies and between lofty cliffs, which were in many parts from four to five hundred or even six hundred feet high; yet the fire-stream not only filled up these cavities, but actually overflowed a considerable tract of land on both sides. It#is only in a few places that there are still to be seen above the lava some of the tops of the highest mountains that formerly enclosed the Skaptaa.
The state of the it is impossible to find
onljunelh°f language that will convey an adequate idea of the horrible circumstances that accompanied the first eruption, and made this day peculiarly dreadful.—A dark and dismal bank arising in the north-west and pouring forth ashes, sand, brimstone, and the hard greyish substance before alluded to.—An intolerably stinking and suffocating smoke, concealing the face of the sun and absorbing its brilliant and beneficent rays.—Seldom could this luminary be perceived through the thick and sulphureous steam, and when it now and then became
visible it had the appearance of a globe of a gloomy and blood-red color.—Constant shocks of earthquakes, innumerable firespouts in the north, a dreadful foaming stream of fire rushing down into the Skaptaa, indescribable sounds in the air, heavy subterraneous thunders, noises from the mountains and continued lightnings, filled every breast with the greatest terror, and led the poor inhabitants to expect every moment that heaven and earth would be annihilated. Nor is this to be wondered at; for none of the wretched people could tell how soon they and their property might become the prey to such powerful and visible means of destruction.
The progress The stream of fire, though now of the fire. runnmg with incredible fury, for the most part, along the channel of the Skaptaa, nevertheless, here and there extended itself over the old lava-tracts on the sides of the river. Great cracklings and noises were heard, when many pieces of red-hot lava fell together into holes in the rivers, where the water had been previously evaporated by the fire. The current of lava had in a single day, before the evening of the 12th, proceeded as far as the farm Aa, in Sida, where it overflowed houses, enclosures, pasture-lands, and carried every thing away before it. It had also in another direction done much damage to the farm Buland, and destroyed Svartanup and Litlanes. On the western side the fire had already extended itself as far as the farms Svinadal and Hvaam, where much injury had been sustained. The same was the case with Skaptardal, on the eastern side.:
According to all appearances it might reasonably have been expected that the immense masses of lava, rushing down like melted metal from out the Skaptaa, with such prodigious force and velocity, would at once have over-run Medalland, which lay just beneath, and consequently have done infinite mischief; but at this very place the fire was arrested in its progress, on the succeeding day. A lake, formerly situated in a place between Skaptardal and Aa, but now in part filled up with sand from the Skaptaa, swallowed up a vast quantity of lava that, for several successive days, poured down with a horrid noise. The fire-stream was consequently very much diminished, but when the great lake was at length filled, and when the lava, by continual supplies from its principal source, had risen to a considerable height in the valley between Skaptartunga and Aa, then the stream extended itself much farther over the lowlands. Frightful noises and sounds that caused the whole place to tremble, strong claps of thunder and constant lightnings, prevented the inhabitants from taking any rest between the 14th and 15th of June. The burning lava was seen at that time to overflow the farm Nes, in Skaptartunga, together with the whole of the adjacent country, and, among other places, several that were well wooded between this farm and Skalarstapi, in Sida. Another arm proceeded eastward from this place, passing by the farms Skal and Holt, where it stopped several days; but during that period burned the wood-lands called Brandeland, belonging to Kirkebai-cloister.
On the 13th previous, several persons had endeavored to go up into the mountains in order to discover the real source of the fire, and the extent of the mischief that had ensued from it in the district; but the thick smoke issuing from the lava made their attempt quite impracticable. Nothing could be seen but the stream that had filled up the Skaptaa, together with innumerable firespouts, which rose out of the river, close by Ulfarsdal and a long way towards the north.
The fire-stream. During the ensuing three days, till the 18th of June, the fire spread itself slowly towards the south and southwest, from Skal over the old lava-tracts. It penetrated the innermost and most concealed crevices, by which means the old lava was as it were lifted up from its original bed; and formed into a number of hills. It did not, however, suffer itself to be so removed without a strange whistling kind of noise, caused by the fire forcing the air from the subterraneous caves through the cracks and narrow openings. Sand and earth were only slightly scorched by the fire, and it had but little effect upon the grey-stone (graasteen); but, on the contrary, it pene