From Iceland — How to Survive Móðuharðindin

How to Survive Móðuharðindin

Published August 1, 2008

How to Survive Móðuharðindin

On June 8, 1783, a volcanic explosion began in volcano Lakagígar in south Iceland, accompanied with earthquakes and noxious gases. The eruption continued until 1785 and is still considered one of the greatest volcanic eruptions in the world. The whole catastrophe that followed was named Móðuharðindin (The Mist Hardship). The ash and poisonous gases blocked out the sun, killed crops and suffocated both people and cattle, wiping out a fifth of the population and 75% of the country’s livestock. It has even been speculated that Móðuharðindin may have indirectly sparked the French Revolution by causing crop failure on the continent.
    If a natural disaster of this magnitude happened today it would make air-travel to and from the island impossible for the better part of a decade and escaping the country by sea would also be practically impossible. Suffice it to say if such a catastrophe were to occur again, you’d be a lot better off knowing how best to react.

Be prepared. In the event of a natural disaster you might have to abandon your home at a moment’s notice. Having some kind of “escape-kit” (containing food and supplies) ready can make the evacuation a lot less traumatizing.

Waste not, want not. Keep in mind that if you’re lucky enough to survive the initial eruption and quakes, the after effects of the disaster will last for more than a decade. Uncontaminated food and water will be hard to come by and will be more valuable than ever before.

Try to find refuge near the ocean. Not only will the withering of crops and livestock make fish an invaluable food resource but if by luck a rescue possibility does present its self, you’ll be more likely to see it on the horizon than hidden in a cave.

Beware of poisonous gases. Invisible and in many cases odourless, the danger may not always be obvious. Dead plants and animals are good indications that something is amiss.

Don’t give up. Dying under these circumstances is very easy and becomes 10 times more so if you lose hope.

If a disaster comparable to Móðuharðindin were to repeat itself it would be necessary to keep these points in mind, although the key ingredient to survival however would be sheer luck. 

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