The winter of 1709 was the coldest in 500 years. All across Europe, from Scandinavia to northern Italy, and to the western coast of France, livestock died in their barns, fish froze in the rivers, millions of birds died, wild animals froze in the forests, the soil froze to the depth of 3 feet or more.
Trees exploded, chicken's combs froze and fell off, the Baltic Sea remained frozen solid until April, the lagoon in Venice froze (see image).
Wine froze in barrels, bread froze so hard it took an axe to cut it, public fires were lit to warm the poor, the winter wheat crop was destroyed, olive and fruit trees were killed, and by spring, more than a million people in Europe died of cold or starvation.
Climatologists are studying this time period to try to figure out just why that particular winter was so severe. They know the Little Ice Age was at its peak and the sun's output was at its lowest in millenia. During 1707 and 1708, dust from spectacular volcanic explosions at Mount Fuji, Santorini and Vesuvius probably depressed temperatures in both summer and winter. But all those factors still don't completely explain the winter Europe froze.