The veins vary much, and suddenly, from the tenth of an inch to one inch in thickness; they often thin out, not only on their edges, but in their central parts, thus leaving round, irregular apertures; their surfaces are rugged. They are inclined at every possible angle with the horizon, or are horizontal; they are generally curvilinear, and often interbranch one with another. From their hardness they withstand weathering, and projecting two or three feet above the ground, they occasionally extend some yards in length; these plate-like veins, when struck, emit a sound, almost like that of a drum, and they may be distinctly seen to vibrate; their fragments, which are strewed on the ground, clatter like pieces of iron when knocked against each other. They often assume the most singular forms; I saw a pedestal of the earthy trachyte, covered by a hemispherical portion of a vein, like a great umbrella, sufficiently large to shelter two persons. I have never met with, or seen described, any veins like these; but in form they resemble the ferruginous seams, due to some process of segregation, occurring not uncommonly in sandstones,--for instance, in the New Red sandstone of England. Numerous veins of jasper and of siliceous sinter, occurring on the summit of this same hill, show that there has been some abundant source of silica, and as these plate-like veins differ from the trachyte only in their greater hardness, brittleness, and less easy fusibility, it appears probable that their origin is due to the segregation or infiltration of siliceous matter, in the same manner as happens with the oxides of iron in many sedimentary rocks.


The siliceous sinter is either quite white, of little specific gravity, and with a somewhat pearly fracture, passing into pinkish pearl quartz; or it is yellowish white, with a harsh fracture, and it then contains an earthy powder in small cavities. Both varieties occur, either in large irregular masses in the altered trachyte, or in seams included in broad, vertical, tortuous, irregular veins of a compact, harsh stone of a dull red colour, appearing like a sandstone. This stone, however, is only altered trachyte; and a nearly similar variety, but often honeycombed, sometimes adheres to the projecting plate-like veins, described in the last paragraph. The jasper is of an ochre yellow or red colour; it occurs in large irregular masses, and sometimes in veins, both in the altered trachyte and in an associated mass of scoriaceous basalt. The cells of the scoriaceous basalt are lined or filled with fine, concentric layers of chalcedony, coated and studded with bright-red oxide of iron. In this rock, especially in the rather more compact parts, irregular angular patches of the red jasper are included, the edges of which insensibly blend into the surrounding mass; other patches occur having an intermediate character between perfect jasper and the ferruginous, decomposed, basaltic base. In these patches, and likewise in the large vein-like masses of jasper, there occur little rounded cavities, of exactly the same size and form with the air-cells, which in the scoriaceous basalt are filled and lined with layers of chalcedony. Small fragments of the jasper, examined under the microscope, seem to resemble the chalcedony with its colouring matter not separated into layers, but mingled in the siliceous paste, together with some impurities. I can understand these facts,--namely, the blending of the jasper into the semi-decomposed basalt,--its occurrence in angular patches, which clearly do not occupy pre-existing hollows in the rock,--and its containing little vesicles filled with chalcedony, like those in the scoriaceous lava,--only on the supposition that a fluid, probably the same fluid which deposited the chalcedony in the air-cells, removed in those parts where there were no cavities, the ingredients of the basaltic rock, and left in their place silica and iron, and thus produced the jasper. In some specimens of silicified wood, I have observed, that in the same manner as in the basalt, the solid parts were converted into a dark-coloured homogeneous stone, whereas the cavities formed by the larger sap-vessels (which may be compared with the air-vesicles in the basaltic lava) and other irregular hollows, apparently produced by decay, were filled with concentric layers of chalcedony; in this case, there can be little doubt that the same fluid deposited the homogeneous base and the chalcedonic layers.

Volcanic Islands Page 29

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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