In an analysis by Vauquelin of a specimen of obsidian from Hecla, which probably flowed as lava, the proportion of silica is nearly the same as in the nodular or concretionary obsidian from Mexico. It would be interesting to ascertain, whether the opaque interior portions and the superficial glassy coating contained the same proportional constituent parts: we know from M. Dufrenoy ("Memoires pour servir a une Descript. Geolog. de la France" tome 4 page 371.) that the exterior and interior parts of the same stream of lava sometimes differ considerably in their composition. Even should the whole body of the stream of obsidian turn out to be similarly composed with nodular obsidian, it would only be necessary, in accordance with the foregoing facts, to suppose that lava in these instances had been erupted with its ingredients mixed in the same proportion, as in the concretionary obsidian.


We have seen that, in several and widely distant countries, the strata alternating with beds of obsidian, are highly laminated. The nodules, also, both large and small, of the obsidian, are zoned with different shades of colour; and I have seen a specimen from Mexico in Mr. Stokes' collection, with its external surface weathered (MacCulloch states "Classification of Rocks" page 531 that the exposed surfaces of the pitchstone dikes in Arran are furrowed "with undulating lines, resembling certain varieties of marbled paper, and which evidently result from some corresponding difference of laminar structure.") into ridges and furrows, corresponding with the zones of different degrees of glassiness: Humboldt ("Personal Narrative" volume 1 page 222.), moreover, found on the Peak of Teneriffe, a stream of obsidian divided by very thin, alternating, layers of pumice. Many other lavas of the feldspathic series are laminated; thus, masses of common trachyte at Ascension are divided by fine earthy lines, along which the rock splits, separating thin layers of slightly different shades of colour; the greater number, also, of the embedded crystals of glassy feldspar are placed lengthways in the same direction. Mr. P. Scrope ("Geological Transactions" volume 2 second series page 195.) has described a remarkable columnar trachyte in the Panza Islands, which seems to have been injected into an overlying mass of trachytic conglomerate: it is striped with zones, often of extreme tenuity, of different textures and colours; the harder and darker zones appearing to contain a larger proportion of silica. In another part of the island, there are layers of pearlstone and pitchstone, which in many respects resemble those of Ascension. The zones in the columnar trachyte are generally contorted; they extend uninterruptedly for a great length in a vertical direction, and apparently parallel to the walls of the dike-like mass. Von Buch ("Description des Iles Canaries" page 184.) has described at Teneriffe, a stream of lava containing innumerable thin, plate-like crystals of feldspar, which are arranged like white threads, one behind the other, and which mostly follow the same direction. Dolomieu ("Voyage aux Isles de Lipari" pages 35 and 85.) also states, that the grey lavas of the modern cone of Vulcano, which have a vitreous texture, are streaked with parallel white lines: he further describes a solid pumice-stone which possesses a fissile structure, like that of certain micaceous schists. Phonolite, which I may observe is often, if not always, an injected rock, also, often has a fissile structure; this is generally due to the parallel position of the embedded crystals of feldspar, but sometimes, as at Fernando Noronha, seems to be nearly independent of their presence. (In this case, and in that of the fissile pumice-stone, the structure is very different from that in the foregoing cases, where the laminae consist of alternate layers of different composition or texture. In some sedimentary formations, however, which apparently are homogeneous and fissile, as in glossy clay-slate, there is reason to believe, according to D'Aubuisson, that the laminae are really due to excessively thin, alternating, layers of mica.) From these facts we see, that various rocks of the feldspathic series have either a laminated or fissile structure, and that it occurs both in masses which have injected into overlying strata, and in others which have flowed as streams of lava.

Volcanic Islands Page 39

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

Free Books in the public domain from the Classic Literature Library ©

Charles Darwin

All Pages of This Book