From the points of structure in the central ridge, now enumerated,--namely, from the convergence towards it of the beds of the upper series,--from the lavas there becoming highly cellular,--from the flat ledge, extending along its inner and precipitous side, like that within some still active craters,--from the parapet-like wall on its summit,--and lastly, from its peculiar curvature, unlike that of any common line of elevation, I cannot doubt that this curved ridge forms the last remnant of a great crater. In endeavouring, however, to trace its former outline, one is soon baffled; its western extremity gradually slopes down, and, branching into other ridges, extends to the sea-coast; the eastern end is more curved, but it is only a little better defined. Some appearances lead me to suppose that the southern wall of the crater joined the present ridge near Nest Lodge; in this case the crater must have been nearly three miles long, and about a mile and a half in breadth. Had the denudation of the ridge and the decomposition of its constituent rocks proceeded a few steps further, and had this ridge, like several other parts of the island, been broken up by great dikes and masses of injected matter, we should in vain have endeavoured to discover its true nature. Even now we have seen that at Flagstaff Hill the lower extremity and most distant portion of one sheet of the erupted matter has been upheaved to as great a height as the crater down which it flowed, and probably even to a greater height. It is interesting thus to trace the steps by which the structure of a volcanic district becomes obscured, and finally obliterated: so near to this last stage is St. Helena, that I believe no one has hitherto suspected that the central ridge or axis of the island is the last wreck of the crater, whence the most modern volcanic streams were poured forth.

The great hollow space or valley southward of the central curved ridge, across which the half of the crater must once have extended, is formed of bare, water-worn hillocks and ridges of red, yellow, and brown rocks, mingled together in chaos-like confusion, interlaced by dikes, and without any regular stratification. The chief part consists of red decomposing scoriae, associated with various kinds of tuff and yellow argillaceous beds, full of broken crystals, those of augite being particularly large. Here and there masses of highly cellular and amygdaloidal lavas protrude. From one of the ridges in the midst of the valley, a conical precipitous hill, called Lot, boldly stands up, and forms a most singular and conspicuous object. It is composed of phonolite, divided in one part into great curved laminae, in another, into angular concretionary balls, and in a third part into outwardly radiating columns. At its base the strata of lava, tuff, and scoriae, dip away on all sides (Abich in his "Views of Vesuvius" plate 6 has shown the manner in which beds, under nearly similar circumstances, are tilted up. The upper beds are more turned up than the lower; and he accounts for this, by showing that the lava insinuates itself horizontally between the lower beds.); the uncovered portion is 197 feet in height (This height is given by Mr. Seale in his Geognosy of the island. The height of the summit above the level of the sea is said to be 1,444 feet.), and its horizontal section gives an oval figure. The phonolite is of a greenish-grey colour, and is full of minute acicular crystals of feldspar; in most parts it has a conchoidal fracture, and is sonorous, yet it is crenulated with minute air-cavities. In a S.W. direction from Lot, there are some other remarkable columnar pinnacles, but of a less regular shape, namely, Lot's Wife, and the Asses' Ears, composed of allied kinds of rock. From their flattened shape, and their relative position to each other, they are evidently connected on the same line of fissure. It is, moreover, remarkable that this same N.E. and S.W. line, joining Lot and Lot's Wife, if prolonged would intersect Flagstaff Hill, which, as before stated, is crossed by numerous dikes running in this direction, and which has a disturbed structure, rendering it probable that a great body of once fluid rock lies injected beneath it.

Volcanic Islands Page 48

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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