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neral failure of the crops of grass. Not, however, equally in all places; for the want was particularly experienced in the northern district, where, according to report, the united produce of several farms at Langanaes was not more than sufficient to feed a single cow. It is true that the number of horned cattle and sheep was already greatly decreased, previously to the eruption, a circumstance which was partly occasioned by a succession of bad years, and partly by the infection that had recently prevailed among the sheep, and had induced a necessity of destroying great numbers. But still the loss was most severely felt; for, in the autumn of 1783, the natives were obliged to kill more than a third, nay, in some parts, even the half, of their remaining stock of cattle, for want of fodder. What is farther remarkable is, that in the summer of 1783, the insects among pastures in many places swarmed the grass. ]iuje wmge(J insects, Gf a
species hitherto unknown in Iceland. These were of blue, red, yellow, and brown colors, and appeared nearly to resemble the earthfly. They were particularly troublesome to those employed in securing the hay, who were soon covered with their unwelcome guests. Many people have assured me that they even found numbers of them still living among the hay, in the depth of the ensuing severe winter; and, what is yet more extraordinary, that they left their quarters after a day or two of thaw or mild weather.
I have no reason to think that the thickness of the air had any apparent effect upon the grass in the late summer of 1784. The hazy atmosphere before described, which was occasioned by the smoke arising from the lava, was but seldom observed out of the district of Skaptefield, and the weather was likewise very mild and warm, from the latter part of the month of April till the end of July; yet still the growth of grass was almost every where indifferent, and the pastures occasionally frozen, especially where the soil was firm and level. Some hopes, however, are entertained, that, notwithstanding the very moderate crops of grass, a supply of fodder, however scanty, may be secured for the surviving cattle. The case is quite different in Siden and ^Pledallandet, and perhaps in the whole of the district of Western Skaptefield; for there, provided the continued rains have not altogether prevented the hay from being harvested, there is no fear of a similar scarcity; the grass having grown in the greatest luxuriance, nay, even in an almost incredible quantity, both in the Medallandet and in Siden, and likewise on the two most easterly and deserted farms of Nupstad and Raudaberg, in Fliotshverfet.
I am strongly inclined to believe that this extraordinary degree of fertility is chiefly ascribable to the ashes, which have been thrown out by the volcano, and have fallen in the vallies, serving them both as the means of protection to the herbage and as manure. The great and rapid growth of the forests around iEtna * has always been attributed to a similar cause, and it has likewise been remarked in Iceland that a luxuriant vegetation generally succeeds the eruptions of Hecla-J-. This, therefore, in* See Brydone's Letters through Sicily and Malta, p. 89-93. . .
f See Bishop Finsen's Account of Hecla, 1766, p. 3§l Vol. ii. a
duces the opinion that we must seek for the cause of the failure of the crops of grass all over the country, except in the places just mentioned, in the dreadfully severe frost * and cold of the preceding winter, when the earth was frozen to the depth of five or six feet; so that it was not entirely thawed in the beginning of the month of July, even in the neighborhood of the fire.
The loss sustained in this district by the destruction of the ground which used to produce the Sea Lyme-grass (Elymus arenarius) is the more deeply felt, since this plant has become an article of consequence among the inhabitants. The flour it yields is considered to be finer in quality and more nutritive than any which is imported \; so that, although the drying and preparing of
* In the winter of 1784, the thermometer upon Reaumur's scale varied from ten to twenty degrees of cold, and at Skalholt, Bishop Finsen once remarked Reaumur's thermometer at twenty-one degrees below the point of congelation. The excessive severity of that season continued till the end of the month of April.
f See Olafsen and Povelsen's Travels in Iceland. § 810. the grain are but imperfectly understood in this district, it was nevertheless in so general use, that little or no other corn was bought at the trading towns. There are, however, notwithstanding the general calamity, some few of these grounds still remaining uninjured, and these, so early as the latter end of the month of July last year, appeared in a most flourishing state; for the remark, already made as to grass in general, holds good also with the Elymus arenarius, that volcanic ashes are its best manure.
In the district of Western Skaptefield, and especially at Siden, the Hvannarot (the root of Angelica Archangelica), the Holltarot, or Hardasoe (the root of Silene acaulis), and the Gelldingarot (the root of Statice Armeria), have also been used by the inhabitants as common articles of food, particularly in the spring, or in seasons of scarcity. They are also not unacquainted with the means of preserving their stock of Angelica root, which they gather in the autumn, and secure during the winter, by burying it a sufficient depth in the earth to be out of the reach of the frost, or by laying