Page images

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.

§ IV.

The river Skaptaa The Skaptaa was formerly

disappears. a yery ]arge riyer that 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 astonishment of 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


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 jt is impossible to find

atmosphere i

on the 12th of language that will convey an

June. o e J 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 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.

§ VI.

The progress The stream of fire, though now qfthe tire. 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

« PreviousContinue »