Island on Fire: The Extraordinary Story of a Forgotten Volcano That Changed the World

Island on Fire: The Extraordinary Story of a Forgotten Volcano That Changed the World

by Alexandra Witze, Jeff Kanipe


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Can a single explosion change the course of history? An eruption at the end of the 18th century led to years of climate change while igniting famine, disease, even perhaps revolution. Laki is one of Iceland’s most fearsome volcanoes.

Laki is Iceland’s largest volcano. Its eruption in 1783 is one of history’s great, untold natural disasters. Spewing out sun-blocking ash and then a poisonous fog for eight long months, the effects of the eruption lingered across the world for years. It caused the deaths of people as far away as the Nile and created catastrophic conditions throughout Europe.

Island on Fire is the story not only of a single eruption but the people whose lives it changed, the dawn of modern volcanology, as well as the history—and potential—of other super-volcanoes like Laki around the world. And perhaps most pertinently, in the wake of the eruption of another Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajökull, which closed European air space in 2010, acclaimed science writers Witze and Kanipe look at what might transpire should Laki erupt again in our lifetime.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781605989587
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Publication date: 02/01/2016
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 487,302
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Alexandra Witze is an award-winning science journalist and correspondent for the journal Nature. Her reporting has taken her from the North Pole
(to report on climate change) to the jungles of Guatemala (to cover
Maya archaeology) to China's quake-ravaged Sichuan province. Island on
Fire is her first book and she lives in Boulder, CO.

Jeff Kanipe is an experienced science writer and the author of a number of books on astronomy including Chasing Hubble’s Shadows (Hill &
Wang, 2006) and The Cosmic Connection (Prometheus, 2008). He has an asteroid (84447 Jeffkanipe) named after him.

Table of Contents

Foreword to the American Edition 3

Preface: Heimaey, 1973 7

1 Laki Erupts: June 1783 15

2 Land of Ice and Fire: The volcanoes of Iceland 35

3 Supervolcanoes: The world's hotspots 61

4 Fire, Famine and Death: The poisoning of Iceland 86

5 Horrible Phenomena: Europe's 'year of wonders' 107

6 The Big Chill: Laki's global fallout 125

7 Laki Today: Life in the mountain's shadow 146

8 Death by Volcano: The many ways eruptions can kill 163

9 The Next Big Bang: How worried should we be? 185

Epilogue: Return to Heimaey 203

Endnotes 205

Photo Credits 214

Acknowledgements 217

Index 219

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