(FIGURE 14. SEGMENT OF A VERY SMALL ORIFICE OF ERUPTION, on the beach of Fresh-water Bay.)

One side of Fresh-water Bay, in James Island, is bounded by a promontory, which forms the last wreck of a great crater. On the beach of this promontory, a quadrant-shaped segment of a small subordinate point of eruption stands exposed. It consists of nine separate little streams of lava piled upon each other; and of an irregular pinnacle, about fifteen feet high, of reddish-brown, vesicular basalt, abounding with large crystals of glassy albite, and with fused augite. This pinnacle, and some adjoining paps of rock on the beach, represent the axis of the crater. The streams of lava can be followed up a little ravine, at right angles to the coast, for between ten and fifteen yards, where they are hidden by detritus: along the beach they are visible for nearly eighty yards, and I do not believe that they extend much further. The three lower streams are united to the pinnacle; and at the point of junction (as shown in Figure 14, a rude sketch made on the spot), they are slightly arched, as if in the act of flowing over the lip of the crater. The six upper streams no doubt were originally united to this same column before it was worn down by the sea. The lava of these streams is of similar composition with that of the pinnacle, excepting that the crystals of albite appear to be more comminuted, and the grains of fused augite are absent. Each stream is separated from the one above it by a few inches, or at most by one or two feet in thickness, of loose fragmentary scoriae, apparently derived from the abrasion of the streams in passing over each other. All these streams are very remarkable from their thinness. I carefully measured several of them; one was eight inches thick, but was firmly coated with three inches above, and three inches below, of red scoriaceous rock (which is the case with all the streams), making altogether a thickness of fourteen inches: this thickness was preserved quite uniformly along the entire length of the section. A second stream was only eight inches thick, including both the upper and lower scoriaceous surfaces. Until examining this section, I had not thought it possible that lava could have flowed in such uniformly thin sheets over a surface far from smooth. These little streams closely resemble in composition that great deluge of lava at Albemarle Island, which likewise must have possessed a high degree of fluidity.


In the lava and in the scoriae of this little crater, I found several fragments, which, from their angular form, their granular structure, their freedom from air-cells, their brittle and burnt condition, closely resembled those fragments of primary rocks which are occasionally ejected, as at Ascension, from volcanoes. These fragments consist of glassy albite, much mackled, and with very imperfect cleavages, mingled with semi-rounded grains, having tarnished, glossy surfaces, of a steel-blue mineral. The crystals of albite are coated by a red oxide of iron, appearing like a residual substance; and their cleavage-planes also are sometimes separated by excessively fine layers of this oxide, giving to the crystals the appearance of being ruled like a glass micrometer. There was no quartz. The steel-blue mineral, which is abundant in the pinnacle, but which disappears in the streams derived from the pinnacle, has a fused appearance, and rarely presents even a trace of cleavage; I obtained, however, one measurement, which proved that it was augite; and in one other fragment, which differed from the others, in being slightly cellular, and in gradually blending into the surrounding matrix the small grains of this mineral were tolerably well crystallised. Although there is so wide a difference in appearance between the lava of the little streams, and especially of their red scoriaceous crusts, and one of these angular ejected fragments, which at first sight might readily be mistaken for syenite, yet I believe that the lava has originated from the melting and movement of a mass of rock of absolutely similar composition with the fragments.

Volcanic Islands Page 61

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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