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

  • Básendar, once a prosperous village, was destroyed in a matter of hours.

Básendar at Reykjanes Peninsula in Iceland, once a small, prosperous hamlet, was destroyed in a matter of hours. Básendar, also referred to as Bátsendar in annals, was an old fishing and trading post. Located a short distance from the town of Sandgerði, it was one of the ports for the Danish Trade Monopoly and covered the whole southern shore of the Reykjanes Peninsula. During the 15th and 16th centuries, Básendar was a prosperous place serving English and Dutch ships. But, all that came to and ended when the Danes decided to monopolize trading in the late 16th century.

The storm that destroyed the small hamlet

In a matter of hours on 9th January 1799, the small hamlet was destroyed in a storm surge.  Nobody suspected how doomed this village was.  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 escape 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.

You can still view the ruins

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 from their foundations, farmsteads were rendered inhabitable, and harbors were ruined. But, Básendar, the hamlet playing a central role in Iceland’s commerce and trade for three centuries, was the only community 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's vessels, the remnants of fishermen's huts are all there. Also, the moorings and the sheep pens, the Cairns and the rock layer walls, as well as, the common well.

Access to Básendar is relatively easy.  You need to drive to Road Nr. 45 Stafnesvegur at the Reykjanes Peninsula. From there you take a turn on Road Nr. 4187 to the cluster of small old farms Stafnes.  Here you park the car and walk the few hundred meters south towards the ruins.