Massachusetts May 17, 2018
Take A Look Back At Massachusetts’ Year Without A Summer
Sometimes it can feel as if winter drags on forever in Massachusetts, but most people don’t know that there was actually a year when summer never came. In fact, 1816 is known as the “Year Without a Summer” or “The Starvation Year.” Living in Massachusetts during this period was absolutely surreal. Here’s what happened:
On April 5, 1815, the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history took place halfway around the world in Indonesia.
Mt. Tambora begun to rumble and spew dark clouds years earlier before finally cracking open on April 5. The sound of the explosion was heard as far as 1,600 miles away and ash fell up to 810 miles from the volcano. The explosion killed 100,000 people.
Though the Mt. Tambora eruption was far from Massachusetts, it turned life upside down in the Bay State.
The ash and sulphur dioxide cloud and was so massive and far-reaching that it literally changed the Earth’s climate.
This caused crop failure across Massachusetts, as parts of the state were were crusted in frost throughout May.
On June 6, snow blanketed Boston streets. July and August saw near-freezing temperature lows and extreme cold snaps.
Fruits and vegetables froze on the vine in the middle of July. Sheep that had already been shorn were wrapped in their own wool to help them survive the summer.
Food became extremely expensive and many Massachusetts natives fled south to warmer climes. Fishing in Western Massachusetts lakes and ponds became impossible due to inch-thick layers of ice in June.
There are reports of farmers in Central Massachusetts abandoning their crops all together and foraging for wild nettles and hedgehogs in the woods in order to feed their families.
However, it wasn’t all bad news. Particulates and moisture from the eruption lingered over Massachusetts for months, causing absolutely brilliant sunsets of a kind that may not have been seen since.
And over in Europe, the cold summer weather led to Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley, Lord Byron, and John Polidiri holing up together in a lake house and holding a writing contest. Mary Shelley wrote what eventually became the classic novel
The cooling effect lasted for several years in Massachusetts. Thankfully, by 1820 the weather had finally returned back to normal.
The next time you moan about a winter that seems to drag on forever, remember the Year Without a Summer and count your blessings.
Thankfully, most experts agree that an eruption like the 1815 disaster won’t happen again within our lifetimes. For more weird Bay State history, check out
this Massachusetts insane asylum with a dark and evil history.