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The last time Eyjafjallajökull erupted: an account from 1822 5 May 2010

Posted by admin in Eyjafjöll, history of volcanology, Iceland, volcanoes.
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[From the Liverpool Mercury, 13 September 1822, p. 86.]

Eruption of the old volcano of Eyafjeld Jokkul in Iceland, in December 1821

The remarkable fall of the barometer which took place almost simultaneously throughout all Europe, in the month of December, 1821, and which in some cases was accompanied with an agitation of the magnetic needle, brought many persons to conjecture that some tremendous convulsion of nature must have visited some part of the globe. This conjecture has at last been verified by a volcanic eruption of the old volcano of Eyafjeld Jokkul, which has been in a quiet state since the year 1612.

This mountain, otherwise called Mount Hecla, is about 5666 feet in height. It is nearly equidistant from Kolla and Hecla, and is the southernmost of the chain where a dreadful eruption broke out about the middle of the last century.

On the 19th December, 1821, the eruption began. The crater was formed at the distance of five miles from the minister’s house at Holt, and discharged itself through the thick mass of ice that enveloped it, and which is never melted. The ice was dispersed in every direction, of which one mass, 18 feet high, and 60 feet in circumference, fell towards the north. A number of stones, of different sizes, rolled down the mountain, accompanied with a noise like thunder; and this was immediately followed by a discharge of an enormous and lofty column of flame, which illuminated the whole country, and allowed the people in Holt to read as perfectly within their houses at night as if it had been day. Ashes, stones, gravel, and heavy masses of rock, some of which weighed about 50 lbs, were thrown up, and one of these last was found at the distance of five miles from the crater. On the day immediately following the eruption, a great quantity of fine greyish-white powder of pumice was discharged, and carried about by the wind so as to fall like snow, through every opening. It exhaled a disagreeable smell of sulphur, brought on affections in the eyes, and occasioned diseases among the sheep in Vaster Eyafjeld and Oster Landoe.

On the 25th of December, a violent storm raged from the south, and by the united action of the wind and rain, the fields were cleaned of the sulphurous dust which had covered them. On the 26th and 27th of December, there was a heavy storm from the north-east, and the barometer, which had been gradually falling since the 18th December, when it was 29° 16, had reached, on the 26th December, its lowest point at 28° 49. It is a curious fact, however, that on the 8th of February, the barometer fell to 27° 25, a time when no earthquake was felt, and no apparent change had taken place in the eruption. On the 18th of February, the barometer, which had been at 29° 42 on the 11th fell to 27° 72. So late as the 23d of February, the Eyafjeld Jokkul emitted smoke greatly resembling the steam of boiling water; and some persons were of the opinion that the mountain had decreased, and was lower near the crater, as it evidently appeared to be when viewed in a direction from north to south.

It is stated that the water in the rivers that flow from the Jokkul and the surrounding mountains, had been considerably enlarged during the first day’s eruption. A constant rumbling noise was heard in the vicinity of the volcano, attended occasionally by a dreadful crash, as if the immense masses of stones and ice were on the eve of all being precipitated down the mountain.

Other two volcanoes to the east, in the mountains of Kolla and Oraefa Jokkul, are said to have broken out, but no certain information has been received on that subject.

The vessel which brought the account of the volcanic eruption to Copenhagen, left Iceland on the 7th of March and it is reported that the sailors, when at sea, again saw a violent fire in the direction of the volcano.

The Volcanism Blog


1. Mike - 6 May 2010

Wonderful stuff. Interesting to see the then current theories that volcanoes, earthquakes, storms and magnetism were all related to one another.

And despite being nine-months old by the time the story was printed and being based on third-hand reports, it’s noticeable how many facts (as they were understood) are in the article. When you compare it to modern journalism which is more intent on speculation and ‘how terrible was it for you?’ quotes, I think we come out the poorer.

2. dori sig - 7 May 2010

Added a video i took of the volcnao in march and eyjafjallajokull,before it erupted .


3. Max Bowman - 12 June 2010

Great piece – completely agree with Mike about the decline of journalism!

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