This lava is of a pale grey colour, fusing into a black enamel; its fracture is rather earthy and concretionary; it contains olivine in small grains. The central parts of the mass are compact, or at most crenulated with a few minute cavities, and are often columnar. At Quail Island this structure was assumed in a striking manner; the lava in one part being divided into horizontal laminae, which became in another part split by vertical fissures into five-sided plates; and these again, being piled on each other, insensibly became soldered together, forming fine symmetrical columns. The lower surface of the lava is vesicular, but sometimes only to the thickness of a few inches; the upper surface, which is likewise vesicular, is divided into balls, frequently as much as three feet in diameter, made up of concentric layers. The mass is composed of more than one stream; its total thickness being, on an average, about eighty feet: the lower portion has certainly flowed beneath the sea, and probably likewise the upper portion. The chief part of this lava has flowed from the central districts, between the hills marked A, B, C, etc., in the woodcut- map. The surface of the country, near the coast, is level and barren; towards the interior, the land rises by successive terraces, of which four, when viewed from a distance, could be distinctly counted.


These recent lavas have proceeded from those scattered, conical, reddish- coloured hills, which rise abruptly from the plain-country near the coast. I ascended some of them, but will describe only one, namely, RED HILL, which may serve as a type of its class, and is remarkable in some especial respects. Its height is about six hundred feet; it is composed of bright red, highly scoriaceous rock of a basaltic nature; on one side of its summit there is a hollow, probably the last remnant of a crater. Several of the other hills of this class, judging from their external forms, are surmounted by much more perfect craters. When sailing along the coast, it was evident that a considerable body of lava had flowed from Red Hill, over a line of cliff about one hundred and twenty feet in height, into the sea: this line of cliff is continuous with that forming the coast, and bounding the plain on both sides of this hill; these streams, therefore, were erupted, after the formation of the coast-cliffs, from Red Hill, when it must have stood, as it now does, above the level of the sea. This conclusion accords with the highly scoriaceous condition of all the rock on it, appearing to be of subaerial formation: and this is important, as there are some beds of calcareous matter near its summit, which might, at a hasty glance, have been mistaken for a submarine deposit. These beds consist of white, earthy, carbonate of lime, extremely friable so as to be crushed with the least pressure; the most compact specimens not resisting the strength of the fingers. Some of the masses are as white as quicklime, and appear absolutely pure; but on examining them with a lens, minute particles of scoriae can always be seen, and I could find none which, when dissolved in acids, did not leave a residue of this nature. It is, moreover, difficult to find a particle of the lime which does not change colour under the blowpipe, most of them even becoming glazed. The scoriaceous fragments and the calcareous matter are associated in the most irregular manner, sometimes in obscure beds, but more generally as a confused breccia, the lime in some parts and the scoriae in others being most abundant. Sir H. De la Beche has been so kind as to have some of the purest specimens analysed, with a view to discover, considering their volcanic origin, whether they contained much magnesia; but only a small portion was found, such as is present in most limestones.

Fragments of the scoriae embedded in the calcareous mass, when broken, exhibit many of their cells lined and partly filled with a white, delicate, excessively fragile, moss-like, or rather conferva-like, reticulation of carbonate of lime.

Volcanic Islands Page 12

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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