An eyewitness account of 1783:
“This past week, and the two prior to it, more poison fell from the sky than words can describe: ash, volcanic hairs, rain full of sulphur and saltpeter, all of it mixed with sand. The snouts, nostrils, and feet of livestock grazing or walking on the grass turned bright yellow and raw. All water went tepid and light blue in color and gravel slides turned gray. All the earth’s plants burned, withered and turned gray, one after another, as the fire increased and neared the settlements.” ~ Séra (Reverend) Jón Steingrímsson (1728-1791)
This quote is from the book, Fires of the Earth, a very interesting and unique eye-witness account by Séra Jón about the eight dreadful and terrifying months where over 130 volcanic fissures erupted. This horrible eight month period began 231 years ago today 08 Jun 1783 and ended 07 Feb 1784.
Our Icelandic ancestors survived one of the greatest natural disasters of all time. On that Sunday at 9 am, the Laki craters (Lakagígar) began erupting and this natural catastrophe severely threatened the lives of our ancestors. People throughout the world were affected by the eruptions but Iceland was hit the hardest. At the end of 1785, about one-fifth of Iceland’s population had died - mostly from starvation. The water and feed for the animals was ruined. About 80% of the sheep and 50% of the cattle and horses died from famine and poisoning. Séra Jón died seven years after the eruptions ceased at 63 years of age.
At the time of the eruptions, Iceland was under Danish rule. The Danish leaders suggested that everyone evacuate. The Icelanders would not hear of it and totally disregarded the Danish king´s offer.
You can discover your ancestors in the Icelandic Roots Genealogy Database and find out where they were living and how your family was affected by the eruptions. The website uses cutting edge software and the comprehensive site includes people of Icelandic descent from around the world, Photos, Histories, Documents, Links to Cemeteries, Maps, Research Assistance, and much more.