The concretions contain a small proportion of carbonate of lime: a fragment placed under the blowpipe decrepitates, then whitens and fuses into a blebby enamel, but does not become caustic. The surrounding ashes do not contain any carbonate of lime; hence the concretions have probably been formed, as is so often the case, by the aggregation of this substance. I have not met with any account of similar concretions; and considering their great toughness and compactness, their occurrence in a bed, which probably has been subjected only to atmospheric moisture, is remarkable.


On several of the sea-beaches, there are immense accumulations of small, well-rounded particles of shells and corals, of white, yellowish, and pink colours, interspersed with a few volcanic particles. At the depth of a few feet, these are found cemented together into stone, of which the softer varieties are used for building; there are other varieties, both coarse and fine-grained, too hard for this purpose: and I saw one mass divided into even layers half an inch in thickness, which were so compact that when struck with a hammer they rang like flint. It is believed by the inhabitants, that the particles become united in the course of a single year. The union is effected by calcareous matter; and in the most compact varieties, each rounded particle of shell and volcanic rock can be distinctly seen to be enveloped in a husk of pellucid carbonate of lime. Extremely few perfect shells are embedded in these agglutinated masses; and I have examined even a large fragment under a microscope, without being able to discover the least vestige of striae or other marks of external form: this shows how long each particle must have been rolled about, before its turn came to be embedded and cemented. (The eggs of the turtle being buried by the parent, sometimes become enclosed in the solid rock. Mr. Lyell has given a figure ("Principles of Geology" book 3 chapter 17) of some eggs, containing the bones of young turtles, found thus entombed.) One of the most compact varieties, when placed in acid, was entirely dissolved, with the exception of some flocculent animal matter; its specific gravity was 2.63. The specific gravity of ordinary limestone varies from 2.6 to 2.75; pure Carrara marble was found by Sir H. De la Beche to be 2.7. ("Researches in Theoretical Geology" page 12.) It is remarkable that these rocks of Ascension, formed close to the surface, should be nearly as compact as marble, which has undergone the action of heat and pressure in the plutonic regions.

The great accumulation of loose calcareous particles, lying on the beach near the Settlement, commences in the month of October, moving towards the S.W., which, as I was informed by Lieutenant Evans, is caused by a change in the prevailing direction of the currents. At this period the tidal rocks, at the S.W. end of the beach, where the calcareous sand is accumulating, and round which the currents sweep, become gradually coated with a calcareous incrustation, half an inch in thickness. It is quite white, compact, with some parts slightly spathose, and is firmly attached to the rock. After a short time it gradually disappears, being either redissolved, when the water is less charged with lime, or more probably is mechanically abraded. Lieutenant Evans has observed these facts, during the six years he has resided at Ascension. The incrustation varies in thickness in different years: in 1831 it was unusually thick. When I was there in July, there was no remnant of the incrustation; but on a point of basalt, from which the quarrymen had lately removed a mass of the calcareous freestone, the incrustation was perfectly preserved. Considering the position of the tidal-rocks, and the period at which they become coated, there can be no doubt that the movement and disturbance of the vast accumulation of calcareous particles, many of them being partially agglutinated together, cause the waves of the sea to be so highly charged with carbonate of lime, that they deposit it on the first objects against which they impinge.

Volcanic Islands Page 31

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