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its extreme horrors were confined to the district of West Skaptefield, beyond which it was attended with less melancholy consequences. Many of the unfortunate inhabitants, who resided in the vicinity of the place of eruption, and who could not procure either medicine or assistance, were starved to death; from an utter incapability of swallowing during the prevalence of the disorder any portion of food, even if they could obtain it, which was not often the case. On the farm of Nupstad, in the Fliotshverfet, which was the only one of all that remained inhabited, till the spring of 1784, the distemper attacked every individual among the inhabitants, not leaving a single person in health to assist and comfort the sick with the necessarv attendance. Report goes even so far as to state, that several persons had been lying dead in their houses for a considerable time, before any intelligence of their decease could reach Siden, the nearest station; and that the information was at length conveyed by some travellers from the east country, who accidently stopped at Nupstad, and there VOL II. R
heard from the few survivors of the distressing situation of the district. Both there, and at Horgsland, and, indeed, at some other places, it was necessary to burn the bodies upon the spot; since there were no horses left, and but few persons who were able to convey the deceased to the church. I ought indeed to add, that the circumstance of the earth being frozen to a considerable depth, as well during the winter as the spring of 1784, made a measure of this kind the more indispensible; the few that were free from disease being so enfeebled by hunger, that they had by no means strength sufficient to break up the indurated ground, and open graves for so great a number of bodies as now required interment. As often, therefore, as burial was at all resorted to, six, seven, eight, and even ten bodies were placed in one grave, and, for the sake of sparing exertions that they were little able to encounter, this was frequently so shallow as barely to allow a covering of earth above tbe lid of the coffin. That the air, from such a mode of interment, must soon become corrupted and dangerous for the human race, especially in the summer season, is a fact that speaks for itself.
It is necessary for me here to remark, that the disorder principally attacked those who had previously suffered from want and hunger, and who had protracted a miserable existence by eating the flesh of such animals (not even excepting horses) as had died of the same distemper *, and by having recourse to boiled skins and other most unwholesome and indigestible food. From respect to my readers I forbear to enumerate a variety of other things, which, as articles of food, were in an equal or greater degree nauseous and disgusting, and which, were I to detail them, would serve to show what shocking expedients the extreme cravings of appetite will drive men to have recourse to, and how that it is possible to convert almost every thing to food.
* I have been assured, in the district of Skaptefield, that the flesh and milk of sick animals had a remarkably unpleasant taste, and that, in particular, the milk was of an unusually dark and yellow color.
Some of the inhabitants, during the whole course of the winter, had not the least morsel of any kind of fresh or wholesome victuals, nor were they able to procure any other beverage than the water, which had been corrupted by the mixture of ashes and sulphur-dust. It was not all, however, even in this case, who died, but some recovered after having, in the course of the following summer, had a fresh supply of cows, and some provisions conveyed to them from the sea-coast, and after the pastures once more afforded them their wonted supply, being again covered with good grass and herbage, among which last were the various kinds of sorrel (Rumex Acetosa and other species) and the dandelion (Leontodon Taraxacum), of which the natives made spoon-meat.
In my endeavors to ascertain the nature and origin of this distemper, I have not relied solely on my own judgment, but have solicited information on the subject from my valuable friend, our learned Professor, Kratzenstein, who deduces it from the same causes, and classes it with the same disorders, as Professor Callisen, to whose goodness I am indebted for the following remarks:
"The epidemic distemper, which broke out in Iceland in the vicinity of the volcanic eruption, appears to me, from all its attendant symptoms, to be entirely of a scorbutic and putrid nature, and exactly corresponding with the appearances which I have observed to accompany the highest degree of scurvy in cold climates. It undoubtedly owes its origin to bad provisions and water, and to the deprivations to which the unhappy inhabitants of the district were subjected. It is therefore most natural to suppose, and experience confirm the supposition, that no other remedy or relief could be found for these wretched people but a meliorated diet of fresh vegetables and fresh animal food."
General con- The volcanic eruption having fences. thus been productive of devastation and sickness, both among man and beast, a great famine and unexampled mi'