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it in dry sand, from which they take a part as it is wanted for use, and eat it with butter. The other kinds of roots are generally dug up in the spring, and, as soon as freed from the soil, are eaten either raw, or boiled in water with a little milk. In the summer season a quantity of the Lichen islandicus (called in the Icelandic language, Fiallagros), is likewise collected from the rocks for winter use: but immediately after the bursting out of the fire, in the year 1783, this plant, so important to the inhabitants, was, together with those before mentioned, which grew in great abundance in Sidumannna-afrett, buried under an immense covering of volcanic ashes, and coarse sand. Even to the present day the natives have to regret, in all parts of the country, that this Lichen, so valuable to the farmer, has not yet recovered itself.
§ XXXII. Effect on animals. In consequence of the deficiency in the pastures, and particularly, of the poisoned state of the herbage, a great mortality naturally ensued among the cattle. In the district of1 West Skaptefield, where the fields were entirely covered with the infectious sand, ashes, and sulphur, mixed into a pasty consistency by the heavy rains; where the showers of red-hot stones and pumice had totally destroyed the face of vegetation; where a stinking and suffocating smoke, accompanied by tempests, continual lightnings, thunder, and noises in the air, heavy subterraneous reports and dreadful shocks of earthquakes, obscured the atmosphere; where a terrific stream of fire, a melted mass of lava, had urged its impetuous course; in short, where all the most fearful phaenomena in nature had concentrated themselves, as it were, in one spot, it was common to see the animals running about the pastures as if in a state of madness; and I am credibly informed, that many of them, unable to find food, or even shelter to defend themselves from the surrounding horrors, in a fit of desperation, plunged into the fire. The cows were in many instances secured and fed in stalls, but the sheep and horses were dispersed in such a manner, that scarcely half of the original number could again be collected. All the quadrupeds of the island had thriven wonderfully, and gained strength, during the mild winter and beautiful spring of 1783, but this did not prevent them from dying off in considerable numbers, during the week or fortnight immediately subsequent to the eruption, with inflammatory diseases caused by the poisonous quality of the food. Such was particularly the case with the sheep, of which, in the district of Skaptefield, it was remarked that, whereas in Iceland they generally walk facing the wind, they now regularly turned away from it; naturally anxious to avoid the strong sulphureous smell, which the infected breezes brought along with them. As the cold, too, at a distance from the fire, was unusually piercing, they instinctively approached the current of lava, by which many of them were overwhelmed and destroyed, in spite of all the exertions that were made to save them. Nor was the situation of the cows and horses much better; for, although the disease was to them not equally fatal, yet they became excessively lean, and, even in the best season of the year, the cows gave scarcely any milk. It was the same beyond the West Skaptefield district, and, indeed, nearly throughout the the whole island. It was still farther remarked in different parts of Iceland, during the summer of 1783, that the sheep, in direct opposition to the experience of the inhabitants, and to the supposed natural propensity of the animals themselves, avoided the dry elevated places, and even the heaths and commons, which most abounded in rich grass; and, as soon as they were driven up to the heights, snuffed at the earth and searched among the grass, but without tasting it: then immediately turning round, ran to the morasses and wet places. The cause of this I attribute to the circumstance of the ashes and sulphureous dust having had a more permanent influence upon the elevated pasturage, than upon the herbage in moist and low situations, where a proportion of the ashes and sand must have sunk into the water, and where, besides, the grass, when rain fell, must have been much purified and refreshed. It may possibly be objected to this, that the rain would naturally also produce the same beneficial effects in the higher grounds; but it is on the other hand to be remarked that the grass and herbage on heaths and commons, where ■
sheep principally delight to go, is small and short. Consequently, as often as a heavy rain fell upon the ashes and sulphureous dust here collected, these were converted into a kind of paste which could not penetrate the soil; so that all vegetation was covered with it: whereas, in the morasses, this paste was gradually dissolved in the watery soil, and, as the grass in such situations generally rises to a considerable height, the mixture of ashes only affected the lower part of it. This I therefore consider to be the cause why the sheep, during the summer of 1783, uniformly sought the moist places; and it may farther be added, that they there in some degree found a shelter from the penetrating cold and frequent tempests, which are much more prevalent in the hilly country than down in the vallies.
In addition to the inflammatory disease just mentioned as so fatal to the sheep: so early as the commencement of autumn, 1783, when they were collected from the hills, several of them were found to be attacked with a distemper hitherto unknown to the natives. The poor animals could neither