The Earth From the Air
Lakagigar Volcano Chain, Iceland
Lakagigar, in southern Iceland, still bears the scars of one of the most violent volcanic eruptions in recorded history. In 1783 two eruptive fissures, a total of 15 miles (25km) long, opened up on both sides of Lake volcano, vomiting 4 cubic miles (15km3) of molten rock that engulfed 225 square miles (580 km2) of land, the largest lava flow in human memory. A cloud of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and ash spread over the entire island and contaminated grazing land and surface waters. Three quarters of the livestock was annihilated, and after a second eruption in 1785, a terrible famine decimated a quarter of the population (more than 10,000 people). The fissures of Lakegigar, crowned by 115 volcanic craters, are today closed up, and the streams of lava are covered by a thick carpet of moss. Iceland has more than 200 active volcanoes and has produced one-third of all discharges of lava occurring around the world in the course of the last 500 years.