In this same great valley there are several other conical masses of injected rock (one, I observed, was composed of compact greenstone), some of which are not connected, as far as is apparent, with any line of dike; whilst others are obviously thus connected. Of these dikes, three or four great lines stretch across the valley in a N.E. and S.W. direction, parallel to that one connecting the Asses' Ears, Lot's Wife, and probably Lot. The number of these masses of injected rock is a remarkable feature in the geology of St. Helena. Besides those just mentioned, and the hypothetical one beneath Flagstaff Hill, there is Little Stony-top and others, as I have reason to believe, at the Man-and-Horse, and at High Hill. Most of these masses, if not all of them, have been injected subsequently to the last volcanic eruptions from the central crater. The formation of conical bosses of rock on lines of fissure, the walls of which are in most cases parallel, may probably be attributed to inequalities in the tension, causing small transverse fissures, and at these points of intersection the edges of the strata would naturally yield, and be easily turned upwards. Finally, I may remark, that hills of phonolite everywhere are apt to assume singular and even grotesque shapes, like that of Lot (D'Aubuisson in his "Traite de Geognosie" tome 2 page 540 particularly remarks that this is the case.): the peak at Fernando Noronha offers an instance; at St. Jago, however, the cones of phonolite, though tapering, have a regular form. Supposing, as seems probable, that all such hillocks or obelisks have originally been injected, whilst liquified, into a mould formed by yielding strata, as certainly has been the case with Lot, how are we to account for the frequent abruptness and singularity of their outlines, compared with similarly injected masses of greenstone and basalt? Can it be due to a less perfect degree of fluidity, which is generally supposed to be characteristic of the allied trachytic lavas?


Soft calcareous sandstone occurs in extensive, though thin, superficial beds, both on the northern and southern shores of the island. It consists of very minute, equal-sized, rounded particles of shells, and other organic bodies, which partially retain their yellow, brown, and pink colours, and occasionally, though very rarely, present an obscure trace of their original external forms. I in vain endeavoured to find a single unrolled fragment of a shell. The colour of the particles is the most obvious character by which their origin can be recognised, the tints being affected (and an odour produced) by a moderate heat, in the same manner as in fresh shells. The particles are cemented together, and are mingled with some earthy matter: the purest masses, according to Beatson, contain 70 per cent of carbonate of lime. The beds, varying in thickness from two or three feet to fifteen feet, coat the surface of the ground; they generally lie on that side of the valley which is protected from the wind, and they occur at the height of several hundred feet above the level of the sea. Their position is the same which sand, if now drifted by the trade-wind, would occupy; and no doubt they thus originated, which explains the equal size and minuteness of the particles, and likewise the entire absence of whole shells, or even of moderately-sized fragments. It is remarkable that at the present day there are no shelly beaches on any part of the coast, whence calcareous dust could be drifted and winnowed; we must, therefore, look back to a former period when before the land was worn into the present great precipices, a shelving coast, like that of Ascension, was favourable to the accumulation of shelly detritus. Some of the beds of this limestone are between six hundred and seven hundred feet above the sea; but part of this height may possibly be due to an elevation of the land, subsequent to the accumulation of the calcareous sand.

The percolation of rain-water has consolidated parts of these beds into a solid rock, and has formed masses of dark brown, stalagmitic limestone.

Volcanic Islands Page 49

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Charles Darwin

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