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  • Writer's pictureEinar Páll Svavarsson

Básendar, once a prosperous village,destroyed in a matter of hours

Updated: Apr 5, 2023

Básendar Reykjanes Peninsula
Básendar Reykjanes Peninsula

Básendar, also refered to as Bátsendar in annals, was an ancient fishing and trading village. Located a short distance from the town of Sandgerði, it was one of the Danish monopolistic trade ports and covered the whole southern shore of the Reykjanes Peninsula. During the 15th and 16th centuries Básendar used to be a prosperous village serving English and Dutch ships. But, all that nonsense came to and end when the Danes decided to monopolise the port in the late 16th century.

Básendar is located at Reykjanes Peninsula on the map of Iceland
Básendar is located at Reykjanes Peninsula on the map of Iceland

Nobody suspected how doomed this village was. In a matter of hours on 9th January 1799, it was completely destroyed in a storm surge. The terrifying storm was quite unexpected. With the sea flooding the whole area, the cottages were fast filling with murky seawater. The only means of excape was through the roofs. The residents had to run for their lives, barefoot and in their nightwear. They lost their homes, their livelihood and all their belongings.

Miraculously though, only one old woman lost her life.

Básendar were not the only area devastated by the storm. All along the south coast of Iceland, ships tied to their moorings were broken to pieces, churches were blown of their foundations, farmsteads were rendered inhabitable, and harbours were ruined. But, Básendar, the village playing a central role in Iceland’s commerce and trade for three centuries, was the only community completely destroyed.

The area was never inhabited again, but today the ruins are a stark reminder of the busy life lead in this quiet fishing village serving as a kind of international port. The cottage foundations, the staples for tying down the merchant vessels, the remnants of fishermens huts are all there. So are the moorings and the sheeppens, the Cairns and the rock layed walls, as well as, the communal well.


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