Eldhraun: lit. Fire lava.
In June of 1783, the tiny village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur in south Iceland lay in the crosshairs of one of the most cataclysmic events in recorded history. A volcanic fissure opened up at Laki and the emetic fury produced a prodigious belching of lava and gas on a scale seldom observed. The consequences were felt on a global scale, from China and Japan to India to North Africa to Europe to North America. George Washington had something to say about it, as did Benjamin Franklin, then in Paris, and Gilbert White.
Iceland was devastated and around 25% of the population perished. In one poignant episode, cornered by the advancing lava, the terrified villagers, resigned to their fate, gathered in the local church where the pastor Jón Steingrímsson delivered his famous Eldmessa (“Fire Sermon”). The lava miraculously stopped short of the village.
Today, the vast lava field lies covered in moss that glows green after rain showers. Ring Road, the one and only route that loops around Iceland, cleaves through Eldhraun. Future posts will feature the Laki crater row.