(A specimen of basaltic lava, with a few small broken crystals of albite, given me by one of the officers, is perhaps worthy of description. It consists of cylindrical ramifications, some of which are only the twentieth of an inch in diameter, and are drawn out into the sharpest points. The mass has not been formed like a stalactite, for the points terminate both upwards and downwards. Globules, only the fortieth of an inch in diameter, have dropped from some of the points, and adhere to the adjoining branches. The lava is vesicular, but the vesicles never reach the surface of the branches, which are smooth and glossy. As it is generally supposed that vesicles are always elongated in the direction of the movement of the fluid mass, I may observe, that in these cylindrical branches, which vary from a quarter to only the twentieth of an inch in diameter, every air-cell is spherical.)


About a mile southward of Banks' Cove, there is a fine elliptic crater, about five hundred feet in depth, and three-quarters of a mile in diameter. Its bottom is occupied by a lake of brine, out of which some little crateriform hills of tuff rise. The lower beds are formed of compact tuff, appearing like a subaqueous deposit; whilst the upper beds, round the entire circumference, consist of a harsh, friable tuff, of little specific gravity, but often containing fragments of rock in layers. This upper tuff contains numerous pisolitic balls, about the size of small bullets, which differ from the surrounding matter, only in being slightly harder and finer grained. The beds dip away very regularly on all sides, at angles varying, as I found by measurement, from twenty-five to thirty degrees. The external surface of the crater slopes at a nearly similar inclination, and is formed by slightly convex ribs, like those on the shell of a pecten or scallop, which become broader as they extend from the mouth of the crater to its base. These ribs are generally from eight to twenty feet in breadth, but sometimes they are as much as forty feet broad; and they resemble old, plastered, much flattened vaults, with the plaster scaling off in plates: they are separated from each other by gullies, deepened by alluvial action. At their upper and narrow ends, near the mouth of the crater, these ribs often consist of real hollow passages, like, but rather smaller than, those often formed by the cooling of the crust of a lava-stream, whilst the inner parts have flowed onward;--of which structure I saw many examples at Chatham Island. There can be no doubt but that these hollow ribs or vaults have been formed in a similar manner, namely, by the setting or hardening of a superficial crust on streams of mud, which have flowed down from the upper part of the crater. In another part of this same crater, I saw open concave gutters between one and two feet wide, which appear to have been formed by the hardening of the lower surface of a mud stream, instead of, as in the former case, of the upper surface. From these facts I think it is certain that the tuff must have flowed as mud. (This conclusion is of some interest, because M. Dufrenoy "Mem. pour servir" tome 4 page 274, has argued from strata of tuff, apparently of similar composition with that here described, being inclined at angles between 18 degrees and 20 degrees, that Monte Nuevo and some other craters of Southern Italy have been formed by upheaval. From the facts given above, of the vaulted character of the separate rills, and from the tuff not extending in horizontal sheets round these crateriform hills, no one will suppose that the strata have here been produced by elevation; and yet we see that their inclination is above 20 degrees, and often as much as 30 degrees. The consolidated strata also, of the internal talus, as will be immediately seen, dips at an angle of above 30 degrees.) This mud may have been formed either within the crater, or from ashes deposited on its upper parts, and afterwards washed down by torrents of rain. The former method, in most of the cases, appears the more probable one; at James Island, however, some beds of the friable kind of tuff extend so continuously over an uneven surface, that probably they were formed by the falling of showers of ashes.

Volcanic Islands Page 59

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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