The course which these streams have followed from their craters, can often be followed by the eye. The town of Angra is overlooked by a crateriform hill (Mount Brazil), entirely built of thin strata of fine-grained, harsh, brown-coloured tuff. The upper beds are seen to overlap the basaltic streams on which the town stands. This hill is almost identical in structure and composition with numerous crateriformed hills in the Galapagos Archipelago.


In the central part of the island there is a spot, where steam is constantly issuing in jets from the bottom of a small ravine-like hollow, which has no exit, and which abuts against a range of trachytic mountains. The steam is emitted from several irregular fissures: it is scentless, soon blackens iron, and is of much too high temperature to be endured by the hand. The manner in which the solid trachyte is changed on the borders of these orifices is curious: first, the base becomes earthy, with red freckles evidently due to the oxidation of particles of iron; then it becomes soft; and lastly, even the crystals of glassy feldspar yield to the dissolving agent. After the mass is converted into clay, the oxide of iron seems to be entirely removed from some parts, which are left perfectly white, whilst in other neighbouring parts, which are of the brightest red colour, it seems to be deposited in greater quantity; some other masses are marbled with two distinct colours. Portions of the white clay, now that they are dry, cannot be distinguished by the eye from the finest prepared chalk; and when placed between the teeth they feel equally soft-grained; the inhabitants use this substance for white-washing their houses. The cause of the iron being dissolved in one part, and close by being again deposited, is obscure; but the fact has been observed in several other places. (Spallanzani, Dolomieu, and Hoffman have described similar cases in the Italian volcanic islands. Dolomieu says the iron at the Panza Islands is redeposited in the form of veins (page 86 "Memoire sur les Isles Ponces"). These authors likewise believe that the steam deposits silica: it is now experimentally known that vapour of a high temperature is able to dissolve silica.) In some half-decayed specimens, I found small, globular aggregations of yellow hyalite, resembling gum-arabic, which no doubt had been deposited by the steam.

As there is no escape for the rain-water, which trickles down the sides of the ravine-like hollow, whence the steam issues, it must all percolate downwards through the fissures at its bottom. Some of the inhabitants informed me that it was on record that flames (some luminous appearance?) had originally proceeded from these cracks, and that the flames had been succeeded by the steam; but I was not able to ascertain how long this was ago, or anything certain on the subject. When viewing the spot, I imagined that the injection of a large mass of rock. like the cone of phonolite at Fernando Noronha, in a semi-fluid state, by arching the surface might have caused a wedge-shaped hollow with cracks at the bottom, and that the rain- water percolating to the neighbourhood of the heated mass, would during many succeeding years be driven back in the form of steam.


I visited only a part of the north-western side of this island, and this part is entirely composed of volcanic rocks. Near the coast there are several varieties of basalt, some abounding with large crystals of augite and tarnished olivine, others compact and earthy,--some slightly vesicular, and others occasionally amygdaloidal. These rocks are generally much decomposed, and to my surprise, I found in several sections that it was impossible to distinguish, even approximately, the line of separation between the decayed lava and the alternating beds of tuff. Since the specimens have become dry, it is rather more easy to distinguish the decomposed igneous rocks from the sedimentary tuffs. This gradation in character between rocks having such widely different origins, may I think be explained by the yielding under pressure of the softened sides of the vesicular cavities, which in many volcanic rocks occupy a large proportion of their bulk.

Volcanic Islands Page 19

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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