One of the most infamous events in Icelandic history is the Tyrkjaránið (The Turkish Raid) of 1627. Although it‘s commonly associated with modern-day Turkey, the raiders in question were in reality from Algiers, part of the Ottoman empire. We reached out to historian Bragi Þorgrímur Ólafsson to gain insight on those days of horror.
“In 1627, a fleet of 12 pirate ships left Algiers, with four of them heading to Iceland. On the 20th of June, one made landfall at Grindavík, taking 12 Icelanders and three Danes prisoner, along with two Danish vessels. Three days later, the same ship sailed towards Bessastaðir. The locals prepared for a conflict, fortifying Bessastaðir with cannons.
“However, the ship never made it there as it stranded for a few days and then sailed back to Algiers.
Two ships from the convoy then attacked the eastern fjords on the 4th of July, taking 100 Icelanders and 12-13 Danes prisoner before finally making their way to Vestmannaeyjar, now with the third ship in their convoy. They made landfall on July 16th, killing 30-40 people, looting, and taking 242 people prisoner. These people were eventually sold as slaves in Algiers.
“Ten years later, 27 of them made their way back to Iceland after authorities paid a ransom for their release gathered by taxation and donations. One of them, the Reverend Ólafur Egilsson, wrote a book about his experience, which was recently translated into English. For the next 300 years after the attack, Icelanders often referred to the Turkish Raid as a testament to the poor state of the country’s defence and were alarmed when any unknown ship approached.”
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