An event of somewhat the same kind, but on an infinitely smaller scale, appears to have taken place, according to Abich ("Views of Vesuvius" plates 1 and 9), within the great crater of Vesuvius, where a platform on one side of a fissure was raised in mass twenty feet, whilst on the other side, a train of small volcanoes burst forth in eruption.) The conjecture is that, during the slow elevation of a volcanic district or island, in the centre of which one or more orifices continue open, and thus relieve the subterranean forces, the borders are elevated more than the central area; and that the portions thus upraised do not slope gently into the central, less elevated area, as does the calcareous stratum under the cone at St. Jago, and as does a large part of the circumference of Iceland, but that they are separated from it by curved faults. (It appears, from information communicated to me in the most obliging manner by M. E. Robert, that the circumferential parts of Iceland, which are composed of ancient basaltic strata alternating with tuff, dip inland, thus forming a gigantic saucer. M. Robert found that this was the case, with a few and quite local exceptions, for a space of coast several hundred miles in length. I find this statement corroborated, as far as regards one place, by Mackenzie in his "Travels" page 377, and in another place by some MS. notes kindly lent me by Dr. Holland. The coast is deeply indented by creeks, at the head of which the land is generally low. M. Robert informs me, that the inwardly dipping strata appear to extend as far as this line, and that their inclination usually corresponds with the slope of the surface, from the high coast-mountains to the low land at the head of these creeks. In the section described by Sir G. Mackenzie, the dip is 120. The interior parts of the island chiefly consist, as far as is known, of recently erupted matter. The great size, however, of Iceland, equalling the bulkiest part of England, ought perhaps to exclude it from the class of islands we have been considering; but I cannot avoid suspecting that if the coast-mountains, instead of gently sloping into the less elevated central area, had been separated from it by irregularly curved faults, the strata would have been tilted seaward, and a "Crater of elevation," like that of St. Jago or that of Mauritius, but of much vaster dimensions, would have been formed. I will only further remark, that the frequent occurrence of extensive lakes at the foot of large volcanoes, and the frequent association of volcanic and fresh-water strata, seem to indicate that the areas around volcanoes are apt to be depressed beneath the level of the adjoining country, either from having been less elevated, or from the effects of subsidence.) We might expect, from what we see along ordinary faults, that the strata on the upraised side, already dipping outwards from their original formation as lava-streams, would be tilted from the line of fault, and thus have their inclination increased. According to this hypothesis, which I am tempted to extend only to some few cases, it is not probable that the ring would ever be formed quite perfect; and from the elevation being slow, the upraised portions would generally be exposed to much denudation, and hence the ring become broken; we might also expect to find occasional inequalities in the dip of the upraised masses, as is the case at St. Jago. By this hypothesis the elevation of the districts in mass, and the flowing of deluges of lava from the central platforms, are likewise connected together. On this view the marginal basaltic mountains of the three foregoing islands might still be considered as forming "Craters of elevation;" the kind of elevation implied having been slow, and the central hollow or platform having been formed, not by the arching of the surface, but simply by that part having been upraised to a less height.


Chatham Island. Craters composed of a peculiar kind of tuff. Small basaltic craters, with hollows at their bases. Albemarle Island; fluid lavas, their composition. Craters of tuff; inclination of their exterior diverging strata, and structure of their interior converging strata. James Island, segment of a small basaltic crater; fluidity and composition of its lava-streams, and of its ejected fragments. Concluding remarks on the craters of tuff, and on the breached condition of their southern sides. Mineralogical composition of the rocks of the archipelago. Elevation of the land. Direction of the fissures of eruption.

Volcanic Islands Page 54

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Charles Darwin

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