I judge of this latter circumstance from finding on its inland flank the last remains of three small points of eruption. These points are composed of glossy scoriae, cemented by crystalline calcareous spar, exactly like the great submarine calcareous deposit, where the heated lava has rolled over it: their demolished state can, I think, be explained only by the denuding action of the waves of the sea. I was guided to the first orifice by observing a sheet of lava, about two hundred yards square, with steepish sides, superimposed on the basaltic plain with no adjoining hillock, whence it could have been erupted; and the only trace of a crater which I was able to discover, consisted of some inclined beds of scoriae at one of its corners. At the distance of fifty yards from a second level-topped patch of lava, but of much smaller size, I found an irregular circular group of masses of cemented, scoriaceous breccia, about six feet in height, which doubtless had once formed the point of eruption. The third orifice is now marked only by an irregular circle of cemented scoriae, about four yards in diameter, and rising in its highest point scarcely three feet above the level of the plain, the surface of which, close all round, exhibits its usual appearance: here we have a horizontal basal section of a volcanic spiracle, which, together with all its ejected matter, has been almost totally obliterated.

The stream of lava, which fills the narrow gorge eastward of the town of Praya, judging from its course, seems, as before remarked, to have come from Signal Post Hill, and to have flowed over the plain, after its elevation (The sides of this gorge, where the upper basaltic stratum is intersected, are almost perpendicular. The lava, which has since filled it up, is attached to these sides, almost as firmly as a dike is to its walls. In most cases, where a stream of lava has flowed down a valley, it is bounded on each side by loose scoriaceous masses.): the same observation applies to a stream (possibly part of the same one) capping the sea cliffs, a little eastward of the gorge. When I endeavoured to follow these streams over the stony level plain, which is almost destitute of soil and vegetation, I was much surprised to find, that although composed of hard basaltic matter, and not having been exposed to marine denudation, all distant traces of them soon became utterly lost. But I have since observed at the Galapagos Archipelago, that it is often impossible to follow even great deluges of quite recent lava across older streams, except by the size of the bushes growing on them, or by the comparative states of glossiness of their surfaces,--characters which a short lapse of time would be sufficient quite to obscure. I may remark, that in a level country, with a dry climate, and with the wind blowing always in one direction (as at the Cape de Verde Archipelago), the effects of atmospheric degradation are probably much greater than would at first be expected; for soil in this case accumulates only in a few protected hollows, and being blown in one direction, it is always travelling towards the sea in the form of the finest dust, leaving the surface of the rocks bare, and exposed to the full effects of renewed meteoric action.


These hills are laid down by eye, and marked as A, B, C, etc., in Map 1. They are related in mineralogical composition, and are probably directly continuous with the lowest rocks exposed on the coast. These hills, viewed from a distance, appear as if they had once formed part of an irregular tableland, and from their corresponding structure and composition this probably has been the case. They have flat, slightly inclined summits, and are, on an average, about six hundred feet in height; they present their steepest slope towards the interior of the island, from which point they radiate outwards, and are separated from each other by broad and deep valleys, through which the great streams of lava, forming the coast-plains, have descended.

Volcanic Islands Page 15

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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