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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.
* I."Although no volcanic eruption in Iceland was ever attended with more lamentThe extent of the able 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 Magnceani 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 Annates Islandorum reg. among Langebock's Scriptores rerum Danic, medii act. Tom. nI. p. 134 and 135.
one morning, when Hecla burned in Bishop Gottsvin's time, about 1436 *. If sthese 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.
§ III, .
The commence- Towards the latter end of May
merit of the »
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