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Fires of the Earth: Lakagígar

Updated: Jan 31, 2023

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) IR#I71175

This quote is from the book, Fires of the Earth, a very interesting and unique eyewitness account by Séra Jón about the eight dreadful and terrifying months where over 130 volcanic fissures erupted. This horrible eight-month period began 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 were 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 more information about Séra Jón and how you are related to him, learn about your Icelandic ancestors, and discover where they were living during this disaster. Do you see many deaths in your family during this time? Did they move to other farms?

The Icelandic Roots Database uses cutting-edge software and unique reports and features created by the volunteer IT and Genealogy Teams. The comprehensive site includes people, places, documents, photos, and more about those of Icelandic descent from around the world and especially Iceland, Canada, and the USA. Learn more about all the benefits of becoming a supporting member HERE.

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