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Jon Steingrimsson: Diary of an Eruption

Self makes the acquaintance of Steingrimsson on p. 92 of How Iceland Changed the World. Indeed, she continues to find this “big history of a small island” by Egill Bjarnason (a graduate of UC Santa Cruz!) beguiling and captivating.

Jon published an autobiography called, simply, The Biography, “which is today considered a milestone description of one of the largest volcanic eruptions of modern times. This was the massive 1783 eruption that threw the Northern Hemisphere’s climate into chaos for years. Jon was so naive, sincere, and fatalistic that he stayed at his farm under the shadow of the spewing volcano from start to finish, while most others fled or died. He described what happened in honest diary entries, convinced in his heart that it was all because people of the area used tobacco and drank so heavily.”

When historians today say that the Laki eruption began on June 8, 1783, what they really mean is that in Jon Steingrimsson’s diary, June 8 is the day when “dust” first fell from the sky, as if someone were burning charcoal nearby. The following night, his bed shook from small earthquakes. Soon it was raining sand.

How Iceland Changed the World, pp. 92 – 93

Of course Jon survived! How else would we have known about his diary?

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

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