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No. 14.-ERUPTION OF THE SKAPTAR VOLCANO IN
ICELAND. 66 ABOUT a month previous to the commencement of the eruption, a submarine volcano burst forth at the distance of nearly seventy miles, in a south-west direction from Cape Revkianess in Guldbringe Syssel, and ejected such an immense quantity of pumice, that the surface of the ocean was covered with it to the distance of one hundred and fifty miles, and the spring ships were considerably impeded in their course.
“ The Skaptár volcano, so called from the river of the same name, down which the greater part of the lava was poured, is situated close to the eastern boundary of West Skaftafells Syssel, about thirtytwo British miles, due north of Kyrkiubæ Abbey, and near the contiguous sources of the rivers Tûnâ, skaptâ, and Hverfistliot. It lies principally in the valley called Varmârdal, and consists of about twenty red conical hills, stretching in nearly a direct line, from E. N. W. to W.S. W. which have served as so many furnaces, from which the melted matter has been discharged into the yalley. From these craters the lava has flowed, which inundated the low countries through the channel of the Skaptâ. What flowed down the Hverfişfliot; has its source from some other craters situated further to the north-east, but which are evidently connected with the former hills, and would, in all probability, have poured their contents down Varmârdal, had it not been completely filled with the lava, which had already been emptied into it.
From the 1st to the 8th of June, 1783, the inhabitants of West Skaftafells Syssel were alarmed by repeated shocks of an earthquake, which, as they daily increased in violence, left no reason to doubt that some volcanic explosion was about to take place. Pitching tents in the open fields, they deserted their houses; and awaited, in awful suspense, the issue of these terrifying prognostics. On the morning of the 8th, a prodigious cloud of dense smoke darkened the atmosphere, and was observed to be continually augmented
by fresh columns arising from behind the low hills, along the southern hase of which, the farms, constituting the parish of Sida, are situated. A strong south wind prevented the cloud from advancing over the farms; but the heath, or common, lying between them and the volcano, was completely covered with ashes, pumice, and brimstone. The extreme degree to which the earth in the vicinity of the volcano was heated, melted an immense quantity of ice, and caused a great overflow in all the rivers originating in that quarter. * Upon the 10th, the flames first became visible. Vast fire-spouts were seen rushing up amid the volumes of smoke, and the torrent of lava that was thrown up, flowing in a south-west direction, through the valley called Ulfarsdal, till it reached the river Skaptâ, when a violent contention between the two opposite elements ensued, attended with the escape of an amazing quantity of steam; but the fiery current ultimately prevailed, and, forcing itself across the channel of the river, completely dried it up in less than twenty-four hours; so that, on the 11th, the Skaptâ could be crossed in the low country on foot, at those places where it was only possible before to pass in bouts. The cause of its desiccation soon became apparent; for the lava, having collected in the channel which lies between high rocks, and is in many places from four hundred to six hundred feet in depth, and two hundred in breadth, not only filled it up to the brink, but overflowed the adjacent fields to a considerable extent; and pursuing the course of the river with great velocity, the dreadful torrent of red-hot melted matter approached and laid waste the farms on both sides. In the mean time, the thunder, lightning, and subterraneous concussions were continued with
ttle or no intermission; and besides the crackling of the rocks and earth which the lava burned in its progress, the ears of the inhabitants were stunned by the tremendous roar of the volcano, which resembled that of a large caldron in the most violent state of ebullition, or the noise of a number of massy bellows, blowing with full power in the same furnace.
« The torrents that continued to be poured down
proceeded slowly over the tract of ancient lava, to the . south, and south-west of Skål, which underwent a fresh fusion, and was heaved up to a considerable elevation. It also rushed into the subterraneous caverns ; and during its progress under ground, it threw up the crust, either to the side, or to a great height in the air. In such places as it proceeded below a thick indurated crust, where there was no vent for the steam, the surface was burst in pieces, and thrown up with the utmost violence and noise to the height of one hundred and eighty feet. ,“ On the 18th another dreadful ejection of liquid and red-hot lava proceeded from the volcano, which now entirely covered the rocks that had towered above the former floods, during their progress through the channel of the Skaptâ, and flowed down with amazing velocity and force over the masses that were cooling, so that the one stream was literally heaped above the other. Masses of flaming rock were seen swimming in the lava. The water that had been dammed up on both sides of its course was thrown into a violent state of ebullition, and overflowing its boundaries, it did great damage to the grounds of Svinadal and Hvammur, which farms had already been attached by the edge of the lava, as also to the underwood of Skaptârdal on the east.
Continuing its progress the following day, the lava divided into two streams, one of which fowed with the same velocity as the day before due south, along the river Melquise into Medelland; while the other took an easterly direction over the parish of Sida, burning the traet about Skalarstapa, and running with inconceivable force from thence to Skalarfial, by which it was prevented from spreading further north. But rising on the hill, it rolled up the soil before it, and approached within 120 feet of the church and houses of Skal, and over-ran the whole tract between that place and Hollt. As Skâl had now escaped the fury of two successive floods of lava, sanguine hopes were entertained of its safety; but a great quantity of rain having fallen on the 21st, and swelled the water already dammed up in the valley, the church, the parsonage, and out-houses, were completely over
flowed; and the whole tract was observed the following morning to be covered with water in a state of violent ebullition.
While these awful devastations were going forward in the divisions of Skaptártunga, Medalland, Landbrot, and Sida, the only inconveniences felt by the inhabitants of Fliotshverfi were the destruction of vegetation by the showers of red-hot stones and ashes which fell upon it, and impregnation of the atmos
here and water with mephitic substances. They had, indeed, twice been enveloped in almost total darkness, especially on the 28th of June, when it was so thick, that it was scarcely possible at noon to distinguish a sheet of white paper, held up at the window, from the blackness of the wall on either side; but they flattered themselves in the hope that the lava would soon all be ejected, and at all events that it would continue to flow in the direction it had originally taken. However, on the 3d of August, they were alarmed by a quantity of smoke, which they observed arising out of the river HvertisAiot; and as the heat, which was also found to be in the water, daily increased, till at last the river was totally dried up, they concluded that the same destruction was about to be poured down upon them which had overwhelmed the parishes to the west.
66 Nor were their apprehensions without foundation; for the floods of lava having entirely choaked up the Skaptâ, and all the low channels to the west and north of the volcano, it was forced to assume a new course, and running in a south-east direction between Mount Blængur and Hverfisfliot, it was discharged at length into ihat river, which occasioned vast volumes of steam and smoke to arise in that quarter, attended with dreadful noises and lightnings. The burning flood now ran down the empty channel, and filling it to the brink, overflowed the low grounds on both sides; and, by the eveuing of the 9th, it had not only reached the outlet into the open and level country, but in the course of a few hours had spread itself to the distance of nearly six miles across the plain, and stopped up the road between Fliotshverfi and Sida. The volcano still continuing to send forth fresh sup
plies of lava, the red-hot flood spread itself wider and wider, and in its progress destroyed the farms of Eystradal and Thverârdal, the houses, meadows, and neighbouring grounds of which are so completely covered, that the spot where they lay is no longer vi. sible. It also did considerable iujory to the farms Selieland and Thverâ, and obliged their inhabitants, as well as the whole parish of Kálfafell, to fee for their safety; yet the above-mentioned were the only houses it burned. Though this branch ceased to extend over the low country after the end of Argust, quantities of fresh lava continued still to be brown
p out of the volcano, and a new cruption is said to have taken place so late as the month of February, 1784, during the greater part of which year columns of smoke were observed to ascend from many parts in the lava; and it had not quite cooled for ricarly two years after the eruptions were over.
66 With respect to the dimensions of the lava, its utmost length from the volcano, along the channel of the Skaptâ down to Hnausar, in Medalland, is about fifty miles, and its greatest breadth in the low country between twelve and fifteen miles; the Hverfisfiot branch may be about forty miles in length, and seven at its utmost breadth. Its height in the level country does not exceed 100 feet; but in some parts of the Skaptâ channel it is not less than 600 feet high.”
TO THE EDITOR OF THE POCKET MAGAZIN F. SIR-I shall make no apology for addressing you, since it is impossible that you can be unacquainted with me, and since I may with truth say, you are obliged to me for the establishment and prosperity of your present undertaking.
I am, sir, a great personage, and although my influence is now on the decline, I am descended from a long line of ancestors, and can trace my family in an , uninterrupted succession from the beginning of time. When I add to this, that I have had, for a certain period, the bestowang of all benefits, and the infliction of all sufferings; and that neither prayers nor wishes, neither power nor gold, could ever prevail