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Hecla to induce them to prolong their stay, they descended on the west side by a deep ravine, which, commencing at the summit of the mountain and continuing to its very base, appears evidently to have been the bed of a current of lava, and was most probably formed at the time of the eruption of 1300; since the annals of the country relate that at that period Hecla was rent from the top to the bottom. This cavity has now only the appearance of a deep valley, but it is nevertheless certain, they say, that it was orignally open to the very centre of the volcano, but was choked up by the falling in of stones and rocks, which forced their way downwards on the cessation of the eruption, when the subterraneous fires ceased to lend the earth unnatural strength. Many large masses of rock thrown from the volcano still hang upon the edges of the ravine, where they were cast by the eruption; but far greater heaps of melted and burnt substances are met with at the bottom of this singular and immense chasm.—Thus much for the general and exterior conformation of Hecla. The effects of its subterraneous fires, mischievous as they have been, are small compared to those of other mountains; for which reason I shall proceed to a short description of two or three that have been the most remarkable in this respect.
Krabla, in the north-eastern part of the island, vomited forth great rivers of burning and melted matter between the years 1724 and 1730, one of which was four miles and a half in width and nine in length; it flowed into the adjoining lake, Myvatn, where it continued to burn like oil for many days, filling the lake, drying up its waters, and destroying the whole of the fish. Another torrent overflowed the presbytery of Reyk- elid, which it so completely buried as not to have left a vestige of the place. These floods of fire are called by the natives Stenaa (stoneflood), and afforded, during the day, a blue flame, resembling that of sulphur; but the smoke, which arose from all parts, in a great measure hindered it from being seen. During the night the whole extent of the horizon was illuminated, and the higher regions of the atmosphere became red. Balls of fire were hurled from the stenaa as well as from the burning mountain, and 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.