Quoy, in the voyage of Freycinet. As far as my limited means of observation went, I found them perfectly correct. (M. Lesson, in his account of this island, in the "Voyage of the 'Coquille'," seems to follow M. Bailly's views.) The mountains on the N.W. side of the island, which I examined, namely, La Pouce, Peter Botts, Corps de Garde, Les Mamelles, and apparently another farther southward, have precisely the external shape and stratification described by M. Bailly. They form about a quarter of his girdle of ramparts. Although these mountains now stand quite detached, being separated from each other by breaches, even several miles in width, through which deluges of lava have flowed from the interior of the island; nevertheless, seeing their close general similarity, one must feel convinced that they originally formed parts of one continuous mass. Judging from the beautiful map of the Mauritius, published by the Admiralty from a French MS., there is a range of mountains (M. Bamboo) on the opposite side of the island, which correspond in height, relative position, and external form, with those just described. Whether the girdle was ever complete may well be doubted; but from M. Bailly's statements, and my own observations, it may be safely concluded that mountains with precipitous inland flanks, and composed of strata dipping outwards, once extended round a considerable portion of the circumference of the island. The ring appears to have been oval and of vast size; its shorter axis, measured across from the inner sides of the mountains near Port Louis and those near Grand Port, being no less than thirteen geographical miles in length. M. Bailly boldly supposes that this enormous gulf, which has since been filled up to a great extent by streams of modern lava, was formed by the sinking in of the whole upper part of one great volcano.

It is singular in how many respects those portions of St. Jago and of Mauritius which I visited agree in their geological history. At both islands, mountains of similar external form, stratification, and (at least in their upper beds) composition, follow in a curved chain the coast-line. These mountains in each case appear originally to have formed parts of one continuous mass. The basaltic strata of which they are composed, from their compact and crystalline structure, seem, when contrasted with the neighbouring basaltic streams of subaerial formation, to have flowed beneath the pressure of the sea, and to have been subsequently elevated. We may suppose that the wide breaches between the mountains were in both cases worn by the waves, during their gradual elevation--of which process, within recent times, there is abundant evidence on the coast-land of both islands. At both, vast streams of more recent basaltic lavas have flowed from the interior of the island, round and between the ancient basaltic hills; at both, moreover, recent cones of eruption are scattered around the circumference of the island; but at neither have eruptions taken place within the period of history. As remarked in the last chapter, it is probable that these ancient basaltic mountains, which resemble (at least in many respects) the basal and disturbed remnants of two gigantic volcanoes, owe their present form, structure, and position, to the action of similar causes.


This small island is situated in the Atlantic Ocean, nearly one degree north of the equator, and 540 miles distant from South America, in 29 degrees 15 minutes west longitude. Its highest point is scarcely fifty feet above the level of the sea; its outline is irregular, and its entire circumference barely three-quarters of a mile. This little point of rock rises abruptly out of the ocean; and, except on its western side, soundings were not obtained, even at the short distance of a quarter of a mile from its shore. It is not of volcanic origin; and this circumstance, which is the most remarkable point in its history (as will hereafter be referred to), properly ought to exclude it from the present volume.

Volcanic Islands Page 22

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Charles Darwin

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