In the spring of 1783, four thousand miles east of Alaska in Iceland, the earth cracked open and lava spewed out of a fissure some 20 miles long. This volcanic upheaval, known as the Laki eruption, exploded over and over in the following months. The Reverend Jon Stingrimsson was there and recorded the event in his book, Fires of Earth.

Around midmorn on Whitsun, June 8th 1783, in clear and calm weather, a black haze of sand appeared to the north of the mountains nearest the farms of the Sioa area. The cloud was so extensive that in a short time it had spread over the entire Sioa area and part of Fljoshverfi as well, and so thick that it caused darkness indoors and coated the earth so that tracks could be seen.

They began with the earth heaving upwards, with a great screaming noise of wind from its depths, then splitting asunder, ripping and tearing, as if a crazed animal were tearing something apart. Flames and fire soon stretched upwards from each of the afore-mentioned hillocks. Great slabs of rock and greenswards were cast up indescribably high into the air, backwards and forwards, with great crashes, flares of fire and spouts of sand, smoke and fumes. Oh, how fearsome it was to look upon such tokens and manifestations of God's wrath.

The Laki eruption, produced the second largest lava flow ever witnessed. Three cubic miles of liquid rock poured out of the volcano -- enough to build the Great Wall of China a dozen times over. More importantly, a hundred million tons of sulfur and toxic fluorine and chlorine gasses were emitted. Vegetation died and livestock perished. One quarter of the island's inhabitants died from starvation or poisoning. Some of Laki's gasses combined with water vapor in the air, forming a dense fog. The cloud was carried by high altitude winds around the world. It touched down first in Europe.

Thor Thordarson, an Icelandic volcanologist, says the sun started to be seen red-glowing, and its shine was very weak. For the last decade Thordarson, who presently works for an government agency in Australia, has been painstakingly documenting the local and global effects of the Laki eruption.

In some cases the fog was so dense [people] didn't see the sun at all. A lot of trees lost their leaves in an instant. It looked like fall. To a lot of people in Europe this was an indication something terrible was happening and doomsday was approaching.

That winter Europe, North America, and many other places in the northern hemisphere experienced record-breaking cold.

The straits between the Danish Islands could not be crossed by boats because of ice cover, the researcher says. You had one meter thick cover of snow in Denmark in late May, which is very unusual. You also had ice floes on the Mississippi river at New Orleans which is unique in that region.

Dendrochronologist Gordon Jacoby believes the 1783 Laki eruption also brought on the Kauwerak's year of two winters in Alaska.

Our hypothesis is that these are the same event. We have the cause and the effect. The eruption of the Laki volcano caused cooling and this particular area was so cold summer ended in early July, and thus it barred access to the usual food resources of people and so they died from [ůstarvation].

picture source: Volcano world