These fibres, examined under a lens of one-tenth of an inch focal distance, appear cylindrical; they are rather above one- thousandth of an inch in diameter; they are either simply branched, or more commonly united into an irregular mass of network, with the meshes of very unequal sizes and of unequal numbers of sides. Some of the fibres are thickly covered with extremely minute spicula, occasionally aggregated into little tuffs; and hence they have a hairy appearance. These spicula are of the same diameter throughout their length; they are easily detached, so that the object-glass of the microscope soon becomes scattered over with them. Within the cells of many fragments of the scoria, the lime exhibits this fibrous structure, but generally in a less perfect degree. These cells do not appear to be connected with one another. There can be no doubt, as will presently be shown, that the lime was erupted, mingled with the lava in its fluid state, and therefore I have thought it worth while to describe minutely this curious fibrous structure, of which I know nothing analogous. From the earthy condition of the fibres, this structure does not appear to be related to crystallisation.

Other fragments of the scoriaceous rock from this hill, when broken, are often seen marked with short and irregular white streaks, which are owing to a row of separate cells being partly, or quite, filled with white calcareous powder. This structure immediately reminded me of the appearance in badly kneaded dough, of balls and drawn-out streaks of flour, which have remained unmixed with the paste; and I cannot doubt that small masses of the lime, in the same manner remaining unmixed with the fluid lava, have been drawn out when the whole was in motion. I carefully examined, by trituration and solution in acids, pieces of the scoriae, taken from within half-an-inch of those cells which were filled with the calcareous powder, and they did not contain an atom of free lime. It is obvious that the lava and lime have on a large scale been very imperfectly mingled; and where small portions of the lime have been entangled within a piece of the viscid lava, the cause of their now occupying, in the form of a powder or of a fibrous reticulation, the vesicular cavities, is, I think, evidently due to the confined gases having most readily expanded at the points where the incoherent lime rendered the lava less adhesive.

A mile eastward of the town of Praya, there is a steep-sided gorge, about one hundred and fifty yards in width, cutting through the basaltic plain and underlying beds, but since filled up by a stream of more modern lava. This lava is dark grey, and in most parts compact and rudely columnar; but at a little distance from the coast, it includes in an irregular manner a brecciated mass of red scoriae mingled with a considerable quantity of white, friable, and in some parts, nearly pure earthy lime, like that on the summit of Red Hill. This lava, with its entangled lime, has certainly flowed in the form of a regular stream; and, judging from the shape of the gorge, towards which the drainage of the country (feeble though it now be) still is directed, and from the appearance of the bed of loose water-worn blocks with their interstices unfilled, like those in the bed of a torrent, on which the lava rests, we may conclude that the stream was of subaerial origin. I was unable to trace it to its source, but, from its direction, it seemed to have come from Signal Post Hill, distant one mile and a quarter, which, like Red Hill, has been a point of eruption subsequent to the elevation of the great basaltic plain. It accords with this view, that I found on Signal Post Hill, a mass of earthy, calcareous matter of the same nature, mingled with scoriae. I may here observe that part of the calcareous matter forming the horizontal sedimentary bed, especially the finer matter with which the embedded fragments of rock are whitewashed, has probably been derived from similar volcanic eruptions, as well as from triturated organic remains: the underlying, ancient, crystalline rocks, also, are associated with much carbonate of lime, filling amygdaloidal cavities, and forming irregular masses, the nature of which latter I was unable to understand.

Volcanic Islands Page 13

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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