A Study of Recent Earthquakes
by Charles Davison
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- Transcriber's Note: Inconsistent hyphenation in the original document has been preserved. In the equations, superscripted characters are marked with ^'s, and subscripted characters are marked with _ (underscore) in front. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected. For a complete list, please see the end of this document. -

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London and Newcastle-on-Tyne: THE WALTER SCOTT PUBLISHING CO., LTD. 1905


The present volume differs from a text-book of seismology in giving brief, though detailed, accounts of individual earthquakes rather than a discussion of the phenomena and distribution of earthquakes in general. At the close of his Les Tremblements de Terre, Professor Fouqu has devoted a few chapters to some of the principal earthquakes between 1854 and 1887; and there are also the well-known chapters in Lyell's Principles of Geology dealing with earthquakes of a still earlier date. With these exceptions, there is no other work covering the same ground; and he who wishes to study any particular earthquake can only do so by reading long reports or series of papers written perhaps in several different languages. The object of this volume is to save him this trouble, and to present to him the facts that seem most worthy of his attention.

The chapter on the Japanese earthquake is reprinted, with a few slight additions, from a paper published in the Geographical Journal, and I am indebted to the editor, not only for the necessary permission, but also for his courtesy in furnishing me with clichs of the blocks which illustrated the original paper. The editor of Knowledge has also allowed me to use a paper which appeared four years ago as the foundation of the ninth chapter in this book.


BIRMINGHAM, January, 1905.

























1. Diagram to illustrate Simple Harmonic Motion 4

2. Isoseismal Lines of the Neapolitan Earthquake 9

3. Diagram to illustrate Wave-path and Angle of Emergence 12

4. Diagram to illustrate Mallet's Method of determining Position of Epicentre 14

5. Plan of Cathedral Church at Potenza 16

6. Fallen Gate-pillars near Saponara 17

7. Model to illustrate the Motion of an Earth-particle during an Earthquake 19

8. Plan of Directions of Fall of Overturned Stone-lamps at Tokio during the Earthquake of 1894 19

9. Meizoseismal Area of Neapolitan Earthquake 22

10. Distribution of Death-rate within Meizoseismal Area of Neapolitan Earthquake 24

11. Diagram to illustrate Mallet's Method of determining Depth of Seismic Focus 26

12. Vertical Section of Cathedral Church at Potenza 27

13. Diagram of Wave-paths at Seismic Vertical of Neapolitan Earthquake 29

14. Geological Sketch-map of Ischia 47

15. Isoseismal Lines of Ischian Earthquake of 1881 51

16. Isoseismal Lines of Ischian Earthquake of 1883 59

17. Diagram of Wave-paths at Seismic Vertical of Ischian Earthquake of 1883 62

18. Diagram showing connection between Depth of Focus and Rate of Decline in Intensity 68

19. Isoseismal Lines of Andalusian Earthquake according to Taramelli and Mercalli 79

20. Isoseismal Lines of Andalusian Earthquake according to Fouqu, etc. 81

21. Magnetograph Records of Andalusian Earthquake at Lisbon 83

22. Nature of Shock of Andalusian Earthquake 88

23. Diagram to illustrate Variation in Nature of Shock 89

24. Structure of Meizoseismal Area of Andalusian Earthquake 100

25. Isoseismal Lines of Charleston Earthquake 106

26. Curve of Intensity at Charleston 110

27. Flexure of Rails at Jedburgh 113

28. Epicentral Isoseismal Lines of Charleston Earthquake according to Sloan 118

29. Epicentral Isoseismal Lines of Charleston Earthquake according to Dutton 119

30. Planes of Oscillation of Stopped Pendulum Clocks at Charleston 121

31. Diagram to illustrate Dutton's Method of determining Depth of Seismic Focus 124

32. Diagram to explain Origin of Regions of Defective Intensity 136

33. Isoseismal Lines of Riviera Earthquake 144

34. Meizoseismal Area of Riviera Earthquake 148

35. Nature of Shock of Riviera Earthquake 152

36. Seismographic Record at Moncalieri 155

37. Distribution of Observatories at which Magnetographs were disturbed by Riviera Earthquake 158

38. Record of Tide-gauge at Nice 163

39. Record of Tide-gauge at Genoa 164

40. Distribution of Seismic Activity in the Riviera 172

41. Isoseismal Lines of Japanese Earthquake 178

42. Structure of Meizoseismal Area of Japanese Earthquake 180

43. Plan of Directions of Fall of Overturned Bodies at Nagoya 187

44. Map of Mean Directions of Shock and Isoseismal Lines in Central District of Japanese Earthquake 188

45. Meizoseismal Area of Japanese Earthquake 190

46. Fault-scarp near Fujitani 191

47. Fault-scarp at Midori 192

48. Displacement of Field-divisions by the Fault near Nishi-Katabira 193

49. Map of Swamp formed by Stoppage of River Toba by Fault-scarp 194

50. Shifting of Trees by Fault at Umhara 195

51. Daily Frequency of After-shocks at Gifu and Nagoya 196

52. Monthly Frequency of After-shocks at Gifu 197

53. Distribution of Preliminary Shocks in Space 202

54. Distribution of After-shocks in Space, Nov.-Dec. 1891 203

55. Distribution of After-shocks in Space, Jan.-Feb. 1892 204

56. Distribution of After-shocks in Space, March-April 1892 205

57. Distribution of After-shocks in Space, May-June 1892 206

58. Distribution of Audible After-shocks in Space, Nov. 1891-Dec. 1892 208

59. Map of Adjoining Regions in which Seismic Activity was affected by Japanese Earthquake 210

60. Isoseismal and Isacoustic Lines of Hereford Earthquake 216

61. Nature of Shock of Hereford Earthquake 222

62. Coseismal Lines of Hereford Earthquake 228

63. Map of Minor Shocks of Hereford Earthquake 239

64. Geology of Meizoseismal Area of Hereford Earthquake 241

65. Isoseismal Lines of Inverness Earthquake 248

66. Diagram to illustrate supposed Fault-displacement causing Inverness Earthquake 256

67. Map of Epicentres of After-shocks of Inverness Earthquake 258

68. Isoseismal Lines of Indian Earthquake 263

69. Section of Tombs in Cemetery at Cherrapunji 270

70. Time-curve of Indian Earthquake 278

71. Seismographic Record of Indian Earthquake at Rocca di Papa 282

72. Seismographic Record of Indian Earthquake at Edinburgh 283

73. Displacement of Alluvium at Foot of a Hill 287

74. Twisting of Monument at Chhatak 294

75. Epicentral Area of Indian Earthquake 303

76. Plan of Chedrang Fault 305

77. Re-triangulation of Khasi Hills 313

78. Diagram of Thrust-planes 318

79. Seismographic Record of Tokio Earthquake of 1894 329

80. Time-curves of Principal Epochs of Earthquake-waves of Distant Origin 338




I propose in this book to describe a few of the more important earthquakes that have occurred during the last half century. In judging of importance, the standard which I have adopted is not that of intensity only, but rather of the scientific value of the results that have been achieved by the study of the shocks. Even with this reservation, the number of earthquakes that might be included is considerable; and I have therefore selected those which seem to illustrate best the different methods of investigation employed by seismologists, or which are of special interest owing to the unusual character of their phenomena or to the light cast by them on the nature and origin of earthquakes in general.

Thus, the Neapolitan earthquake possesses interest from a historical point of view; it is the first earthquake in the study of which modern scientific methods were employed. The Ischian earthquakes are described as examples of those connected with volcanic action; the Andalusian earthquake is chiefly remarkable for the recognition of the unfelt earth-waves; that of Charleston for the detection of the double epicentre and the calculation of the velocity with which the vibrations travelled. In the Riviera earthquake are combined the principal features of the last two shocks with several phenomena of miscellaneous interest, especially those connected with its submarine foci. The Japanese earthquake is distinguished from others by its extraordinary fault-scarp and the very numerous shocks that followed it. The Hereford earthquake is a typical example of a twin earthquake, and provided many observations on the sound phenomena; while the Inverness earthquakes are important on account of their connection with the growth of a well-known fault. The great Indian earthquake owns few, if any, rivals within historical times, whether we consider the intensity of the disturbance or the diversity and interest of the phenomena displayed by it—the widespread changes in the earth's crust, both superficial and deep-seated, and the tracking of the unfelt pulsations completely round the globe.


Some terms are of such frequent use in describing earthquakes that it will be convenient to group them here for reference, others more rarely employed being introduced as they are required.

An earthquake is caused by a sudden displacement of the material which composes the earth's interior. The displacement gives rise to series of waves, which are propagated outwards in all directions, and which, when they reach the surface, produce the sensations known to us as those of an earthquake.

The region within which the displacement occurs is sometimes called the hypocentre, but more frequently the seismic focus or simply the focus. The portion of the earth's surface which is vertically above the seismic focus is called the epicentre. The focus and epicentre are often spoken of for convenience as if they were points, and they may then be regarded as the centres of the region and area in which the intensity was greatest. This is not quite accurate, but to attempt a more exact definition would at present be out of place.

An isoseismal line is a curve which passes through all points at which the intensity of the shock was the same. It is but rarely that the absolute intensity at any point of an isoseismal line can be ascertained, and only one example is given in this volume. As a rule, the intensity of a shock is determined by reference to the degrees of different arbitrary scales. These will be quoted when required.

In every strong earthquake there is a central district which differs in a marked manner from that outside in the far greater strength and complexity of the phenomena. As this district includes the epicentre, it is sometimes referred to as the epicentral area, but the term meizoseismal area is more appropriate, and will be employed accordingly.

The district over which an earthquake is perceptible to human beings without instrumental aid is its disturbed area. In like manner, that over which the earthquake-sound is heard is the sound-area.

A great earthquake never occurs alone. It is merely the most prominent member of a group of shocks of greater or less intensity, and is known as the principal shock or earthquake, while the others are called minor or accessory shocks, and fore-shocks or after-shocks according as they occur before or after the principal earthquake. When the sound only is heard, without an accompanying tremor being anywhere perceptible, it is more accurately called an earth-sound, but is frequently for convenience numbered among the minor shocks.

The movement of the ground during a vibration of the simplest character (known as simple harmonic motion) is represented in Fig. 1. The pointer of the recording seismograph is here supposed to oscillate along a line at right angles to AB, and the smoked paper or glass on which the record is made to travel to the left. The distance MP of the crest P of any wave from the line AB represents the amplitude of the vibration, the sum of the distances MP and NQ its range, and the length AB the period of the vibration. From the amplitude and period we can calculate, in the case of simple harmonic motion, both the maximum velocity and maximum acceleration of the vibrating particles of the ground.[1]

A few terms describing the nature of the shock are also in common use among Italians and Spaniards. An undulatory shock consists of one or several waves, the movement to and fro being along a nearly horizontal line; a subsultory shock of movements in a nearly vertical direction; while a vorticose shock consists of undulatory or subsultory movements crossing one another in different directions.


Earthquakes are grouped, according to their origin, into three classes. The first consists of slight local shocks, caused by the fall of rock in underground passages; the second of volcanic earthquakes, also local in character, but often of considerable intensity near the centre of the disturbed area; while in the third class we have tectonic earthquakes, or those directly connected with the shaping of the earth's crust, which vary in strength from the weakest perceptible tremor to the most destructive and widely felt shock. Of the earthquakes described in this volume, the Ischian earthquakes belong to the second class, and all the others to the third.

That tectonic earthquakes are closely connected with the formation of faults seems now established beyond doubt. They occur far from all traces of recent volcanic action. Their isoseismal lines are elongated in directions parallel to known faults, and this is sometimes the case in one and the same district with faults that occur at right angles to one another. Indeed, when several isoseismals are carefully drawn, it is possible from their form and relative position to predict the position of the originating fault.[2] The initial formation and further spreading of the rent may be the cause of a few earthquakes, but by far the larger number are due to the subsequent growth of the fault. The relative displacement of the rocks adjoining the fault, which may amount to thousands of feet, occasionally even to miles, is the result, not of one great movement, but of innumerable slips taking place in different parts of the fault and spread over vast ages of time. With every fault-slip, intense friction is suddenly brought into action by the rubbing of one mass of rock against the other; and, according to the modern view, it is this friction that gives rise to the earthquake waves.

In most earthquakes, the slip takes place at a considerable depth, perhaps not less than one or several miles, and the vertical slip is so small that it dies out before reaching the surface. But, in a few violent earthquakes, such as the Japanese and Indian earthquakes described in this volume, the slip is continued up to the surface and is left visible there as a small cliff or fault-scarp. In these cases, the sudden spring of the crust may increase and complicate the effects of the vibratory shock.


[1] If a is the amplitude of the vibration and T its period, the maximum velocity is 2*pi*a/T and the maximum acceleration 4*pi^2a/T^2

[2] See Chapter VIII., on the Hereford and Inverness earthquakes.



Half a century ago, seismology was in its infancy. On the Continent, Alexis Perrey of Dijon was compiling his earthquake catalogues with unfailing enthusiasm and industry. In 1846, Robert Mallet applied the laws of wave-motion in solids, as they were then known, to the phenomena of earthquakes; and his memoir on the Dynamics of Earthquakes[3] may be regarded as the foundation-stone of the new science. During the next twelve years he contributed his well-known Reports to the British Association,[4] and prepared a series of instructions for the observation and study of earthquake-shocks.[5] The latter, it is worth noting, contains an outline, but hardly more than an outline, of the methods of investigation which he developed and employed eight years afterwards in studying the Neapolitan earthquake.

The history of Mallet's preparation for his great work is somewhat strange. No one else at that time possessed so full a knowledge of earthquake phenomena. It was, however, a knowledge that had little, if any, foundation in actual experience; for, when he was awakened by the British earthquake of November 9th, 1852, he failed to recognise its seismic character. Although this shock disturbed an area of about 75,000 square miles and was felt in all four parts of the kingdom, the paucity of observations and the absence of durable records combined in preventing the successful application of his new modes of study.[6] Nevertheless, with confidence unshaken in their power, he awaited the occurrence of a more violent shock, but five years had to pass before his opportunity came towards the close of 1857.

So destructive was the Neapolitan earthquake of this year (Mallet ranks it third among European earthquakes in extent and severity), that nearly a week elapsed before any news of it reached the outer world. Without further loss of time, he applied for and obtained a grant of money from the Council of the Royal Society, and proceeded early in the following February to what was then the kingdom of Naples. Armed with letters of authority to different officials, he visited the chief towns and villages in the meizoseismal area; and, in spite of unfavourable weather and the difficulties of travelling in a country so recently devastated, he completed his examination in little more than two months. It was a task, surely, that would have baffled any but the most enthusiastic investigator or one unspurred by the feeling that he possessed the key to one of the most obscure of Nature's problems.

Mallet's confidence in the accuracy of his methods was almost unbounded. His great report was published four years later; but he seems to have regarded it almost as a text-book of "observational seismology" and the results of his Neapolitan work as mere illustrations. His successors, however, have transposed the order of importance, and rank his two large volumes as the model, if not the inspirer, of many of our more recent earthquake monographs.


The position of the meizoseismal area, to which Mallet devoted most of his time, is indicated by the small oval area marked 1 in Fig. 2, represented on a larger scale in Fig. 9. It is 40 miles long and 23 miles wide,[7] and contains 950 square miles. Within this area, the loss of life was great and most of the towns were absolutely prostrated.

The next isoseismal, No. 2, which is also shown more clearly in Fig. 9, bounds the area in which the loss of life was still great and many persons were wounded, while large portions of the towns within it were thrown down. Its length is 65 miles, width 47 miles, and area 2,240 square miles. The third isoseismal includes a district in which buildings were only occasionally thrown down, though none escaped some slight damage, and in which practically no loss of life occurred. This curve is 103 miles long, 82 miles wide, and includes 6,615 square miles. Lastly, the fourth isoseismal marks the boundary of the disturbed area, which is 250 miles long, 210 miles wide, and contains not more than 39,200 square miles; an amount that must be regarded as strangely small, and hardly justifying Mallet's estimate of the Neapolitan earthquake as the third among European earthquakes in extent as well as in seventy.


As regards destruction to life and property, however, the Neapolitan earthquake owns but few European rivals. Less favourable conditions for withstanding a great shock are seldom, indeed, to be found than those possessed by the medival towns and villages of the meizoseismal area. In buildings of every class, the walls are very thick and consist as a rule of a coarse, short-bedded, ill-laid rubble masonry, without thorough bonding and connected by mortar of slender cohesion. The floors are made of planks coated with a layer of concrete from six to eight inches thick, the whole weighing from sixty to a hundred pounds per square foot. Only a little less heavy are the roofs, which are covered with thick tiles secured, except at the ridges, by their own weight alone. Thus, for the most part, the walls, floors, and roofs are extremely massive, while the connections of all to themselves and to each other are loose and imperfect.

Again, the towns, for greater security from attacks in early times, are generally perched upon the summits and steep flanks of hills, especially of the lower spurs that skirt the great mountain ranges; and the rocking of the hill-sites, in Mallet's opinion, greatly aggravated the natural effects of the shock. The streets, moreover, are steep and narrow, sometimes only five feet, and not often more than fifteen feet, in width; and the houses, when shaken down, fell against one another and upon those beneath them. As Dolomieu said of the great earthquake in 1783, "the ground was shaken down like ashes or sand laid upon a table."

Of the total amount of damage, not even the roughest estimate can be made. The official returns are clearly, and no doubt purposely, deficient, and obstacles were placed in Mallet's way when he endeavoured to ascertain the numbers of persons killed and wounded. Taking only the towns into account, he calculated that, out of a total population of 207,000, the number of persons killed was 9,589, and of wounded 1,343.[8] A few towns were marked by an excessively high death-rate. Thus, at Montemurro, 5000 out of 7002 persons were killed and 500 wounded; at Saponara, 2000 out of 4010 were killed; and, at Polla, more than 2000 out of a population of less than 7000.


The principal objects of Mallet's investigation were to determine the position of the epicentre and the depth of the seismic focus. If, in Fig. 3, F represents the seismic focus (here, for convenience, supposed to be a point), the vertical line FE will cut the surface of the earth in the epicentre E.[9] The dotted lines represent circles drawn on the surface of the earth with E as centre and passing through the places P and Q.

When the impulse causing the earthquake takes place at the focus, two elastic waves spread outwards from it in all directions through the earth's crust. The first wave which reaches a point P consists of longitudinal vibrations, that is, the particle of rock at P moves in a closed curve with its longer axis in the direction FP. Mallet supposes this curve to be so elongated that it is practically a straight line coincident in direction with FP. In the second or transversal wave, the vibration of the particle at P takes place in a plane at right angles to FP. These vibrations Mallet, for his main purpose, neglects.

Returning to the longitudinal wave, Mallet calls the line FP the wave-path at P. The direction EP gives the azimuth of the wave-path, or its direction along the surface of the earth. The angle LPA, or EPF, he defines as the angle of emergence at the point P. If Q be farther from E than P, the angle EQF is less than the angle EPF, or the angle of emergence diminishes as the distance from the epicentre increases. At the epicentre, the angle of emergence is a right-angle; at a great distance from the epicentre, it is nearly zero.

Mallet argued that the direction of the wave-path FPA, or its equivalents, the horizontal direction EPL and the angle of emergence EPF, should be discoverable from the effects of the shock at P. The cracks in damaged buildings, he urged, would be at right angles to the wave-path FPA; overturned monuments or gate-pillars should fall along the line EPL, either towards or from the epicentre according to their conditions of support; loose or slightly attached bodies, such as the stone balls surmounting gate-pillars, should be projected nearly in the direction of the wave-path FPA, and their subsequent positions, supposing the balls not to have rolled, should give the horizontal direction EPL of the wave-path, and might, in some circumstances, determine the angle of emergence and the velocity with which they were projected. I shall return to details later on. For the present, it is clear that, in the destruction wrought by the earthquake, Mallet expected to find the materials most valuable for his purpose. Indeed, so obvious did this mode of examination appear to him, that he could not conceal his surprise at the blindness of his predecessors. They seem, he says, "to have been perfectly unconscious that in the fractured walls and overthrown objects scattered in all directions beneath their eyes, they had the most precious data for determining the velocities and directions of the shocks that produced them."


Mallet's Method of Determining the Position of the Epicentre.—In many cases the examination of a damaged building or of an overthrown body served more than one purpose, providing materials for ascertaining the depth of the seismic focus as well as the position of the epicentre. For the present, however, it will be convenient to consider alone the method by which the latter object was to be attained.

Nothing could be simpler than the principle of the method proposed. The horizontal direction PL of the wave-path at any place P (Fig. 4), when produced backwards, must pass through the epicentre E; and the intersection of the directions at two places, P and Q, must therefore give the position of the epicentre. In practice, it is of course impossible to determine the direction with very great accuracy, and Mallet therefore found it necessary to make several measurements in every place, and to visit all the more important towns within and near the meizoseismal area.

In a ruined town there are many objects from which the direction may be ascertained, the most important of all, according to Mallet, being fissures in walls that are fractured but not overthrown. He regarded such fissures, indeed, as "the sheet-anchor, as respects direction of wave-path, to the seismologist in the field," and at least three out of every four of his determinations of the direction were made by their means. If the buildings are detached and large, simple and symmetrical in form, well built and not too much injured, the fissures in the walls should, he argued, occur along lines at right angles to the wave-path, whether that path be parallel or inclined to the principal axis of the building. Cracks in the floors and ceilings should also be similarly directed, and provide evidence which Mallet regarded as only second in value to that given by the walls.

No building showed the different kinds of evidence on which Mallet relied as clearly as the cathedral church at Potenza, the plan of which is given in Fig. 5, and the vertical section along its axis in Fig. 12. This is a modern work, nearly 200 feet long, with its axis directed east and west. The walls are composed of fairly good rubble masonry and brick; and the arches in the nave and transepts, the semi-cylindrical roof and the central dome are made of brick. The fissures represented in both diagrams were drawn to scale by the cathedral architect before Mallet's arrival, and, as the work of an unbiassed observer, are of special value. Most of those in the roof, it will be seen, were transverse to the axial line of the church; but there were others parallel to this line, one in particular running right along the soffit of the nave and chancel. There were also numerous small fissures in the dome, due to local structural causes and therefore of varying direction, and a large portion of the dome slipped westward, leaving open fissures of seven to eight inches in width. The mean direction of the wave-path, as deduced from nine sets of fissures, none of which differs more than four degrees from the mean, is W. 2-1/2 S. and E. 2-1/2 N., which corresponds precisely with the direction of throw on the displaced portion of the dome. The great east and west fissures in the arch of the nave and chancel Mallet attributed to a second shock, of the existence of which there is ample evidence.

Next to fissures, Mallet made most use of overthrown objects, such as the two gate piers near Saponara, represented in Fig. 6. They were made of rubble ashlar masonry, three feet square and seven feet in height. Both were fractured clean off at the level of the ground, the mortar being poor, and fell in directions that were accurately parallel, indicating a wave-path towards S. 39-1/2E. A few observations were also made on projected stones, fissures in nearly level ground, and the swinging of lamps and chandeliers; but their value was small, except as corroboration of the more important evidence afforded by fissures in the walls and roofs of buildings.

Remarks on Mallets Method.—It would have been more difficult in Mallet's day than it is now, to offer objections to his method of determining the position of the epicentre. The focus, as he was well aware, could not be a point, and, at places near the epicentre (the very places where most of his observations were made), there must be rapid changes of direction due to the arrival of vibrations from different parts of the focus. He records the occurrence of the so-called vorticose shocks at several places, though he attributes them to another cause. Perhaps the best known example of such a shock is that which has been so well illustrated by the late Professor Sekiya's model of the motion of an earth-particle during the Japanese earthquake of January 15th, 1887. The motion in this case was so complicated that the model was, for simplicity, made in three parts, the first of which alone is represented in Fig. 7.[10] It is clear that in such an earthquake, Mallet's method would utterly fail in giving definite results.

While this shock was one of great complexity, another Japanese earthquake, that of June 20th, 1894, was unusually simple in character. The movement at Tokio consisted of one very prominent oscillation with a total range of 73 mm. or 2.9 inches in the direction S. 70 W.; the vibrations which preceded and followed it being comparatively small. Most, if not all, of the damage caused by the earthquake must have been due to this great oscillation; and yet the cylindrical stone-lamps so common in Japanese gardens were found by Professor Omori to have fallen in many different directions. Taking only those which had circular bases, twenty-nine were overthrown in directions between north and east, sixteen between east and south, eighty-one between south and west, and fourteen between west and north.[11] Fig. 8 represents Professor Omori's results graphically, the line drawn from O to any point being proportional to the number of lamps which fell in directions between 7-1/2 on either side of the line.

It will be seen from this figure that most of the stone lamps fell in directions between west and south-west, and it is remarkable that the mean direction of fall is S. 70 W.,[12] which is exactly the same as that of the great oscillation. Somewhat similar results were obtained by this able seismologist at different places affected by the great Japanese earthquake of 1891 (Figs. 43 and 44), and the study of the apparent directions observed during the Hereford earthquake of 1896 leads to the same conclusion.

It thus appears that an isolated observation may give a result very different from the true direction. Indeed, if we may judge from Professor Omori's measurements in 1894, the chance that a single direction may be within five degrees of the mean direction is about 1 in 9. But, on the other hand, it is equally clear from these and other observations that the mean of a large number of measurements will give a result that agrees very closely with the true direction.

One other point may be alluded to before leaving Professor Omori's interesting observations. It would seem, from the list that he gives, that he exercised no selection in his measurements, but continued measuring the direction of every fallen lamp indifferently until he had obtained sufficient records for his purpose. Now, if the number of fallen lamps at his disposal had been small, say 12 instead of 144, the mean observed direction would probably have differed from the direction given from the seismograph.[13] But, on the other hand, a preliminary survey without any actual measurements would have revealed at once the predominant direction of overthrow, and a fairly accurate result might have been obtained by neglecting discordant directions and taking the mean of those only which appeared to agree with the mentally determined average.

This, indeed, appears to have been the course followed, more or less unconsciously, by Mallet in his Neapolitan work. "When the observer," he says, "first enters upon one of those earthquake-shaken towns, he finds himself in the midst of utter confusion. The eye is bewildered by 'a city become an heap.' He wanders over masses of dislocated stone and mortar, with timbers half buried, prostrate, or standing stark up against the light, and is appalled by spectacles of desolation.... Houses seem to have been precipitated to the ground in every direction of azimuth. There seems no governing law, nor any indication of a prevailing direction of overturning force. It is only by first gaining some commanding point, whence a general view over the whole field of ruin can be had, and observing its places of greatest and least destruction, and then by patient examination, compass in hand, of many details of overthrow, house by house and street by street, analysing each detail and comparing the results, as to the direction of force, that must have produced each particular fall, with those previously observed and compared, that we at length perceive, once for all, that this apparent confusion is but superficial."

Mallet's Determination of the Epicentre.—Within the third isoseismal line Mallet made altogether 177 measurements of the direction of the wave-path at 78 places. These are plotted on his great map of the earthquake; but, owing to the small scale of Fig. 9, it is only possible to represent, by means of short lines, the mean or most trustworthy direction at each place.[14] Producing these directions backwards, he found that those at sixteen places passed within five hundred yards of a point which is practically coincident with the village of Caggiano; those at sixteen other places passed within one geographical mile (1.153 statute miles) of this point; the directions at sixteen more places within two and a half geographical miles; while those at twelve places passed through points not more than five geographical miles from Caggiano. As the direction of the shock at places near the epicentre must have been influenced by the mere size of the focus, this approximate coincidence is certainly remarkable, and there can be little doubt, I think, that the epicentre, or, at any rate, an epicentre must have been situated not far from the position assigned to it by Mallet's laborious observations.

Existence of Two Epicentres.—It is difficult, however, to realise that the impulse at the focus corresponding to Mallet's epicentre was the origin of all the destruction of life and property that occurred. The position of the epicentre close to the north-west boundary of the meizoseismal area, the extraordinary extension of that area towards the south-east, and especially the great loss of life at Montemurro and the adjoining towns, can hardly be accounted for in this manner. Mallet himself recognised that these facts required explanation, and he suggested that the situation and character of the towns were in part responsible for their ruin, and the physical structure of the country for the course of the isoseismal lines. But the comparative escape of places much nearer Caggiano, and the wide extent of the meizoseismal area, embracing many towns and villages of varied character and site and many different surface-features, point unmistakably to a different explanation.

One clue to the solution of the problem is afforded by the seismic death-rate of the damaged towns. From a table given by Mallet (vol. ii. pp. 162-163), we know the population before the earthquake of the different communes in the province of Basilicata, and the loss of life in each due to the shock; and from these figures we can find the percentage of deaths at nearly every place of importance. As will be seen from Fig. 10, it varies from seventy-one at Montemurro and fifty at Saponara down to less than one at all the places marked to which figures are not attached. There is thus a group of places, with its centre near Montemurro, where the loss of life far exceeded that in the surrounding country; and also a slightly less-marked group, with its centre near Polla, in the north-west of the meizoseismal area; while in the intermediate region the death-rate was invariably small. Too much stress should not be laid upon the exact figures, for there were no doubt local conditions that affected the death-roll. But it seems clear that one focus was situated not far from Montemurro; while the north-westerly group of places, combined with Mallet's observations on the direction, point to a second focus near Polla, about twenty-four miles to the north-west. It will be seen in a later section that the observations on the nature of the shock also imply the existence of a double focus.


Mallet's Method of Determining the Depth of the Focus.—In ascertaining the position of the epicentre, Mallet's work was remarkable only for the novelty of the method employed by him; but, in his attempt to calculate the depth of the seismic focus, he was breaking new ground. That the depth must be comparatively small had already been recognised, and was indeed obvious from the limited area disturbed by nearly every earthquake. No one, however, had tried to estimate the depth in miles; and it is impossible not to sympathise with Mallet while he accumulated his observations with feverish activity and subjected them to the first rough examination even if one cannot share his confidence that he had succeeded in measuring the depth "in miles and yards with the certainty that belongs to an ordinary geodetic operation."

The method employed by him for the purpose is no less simple theoretically than that used for locating the epicentre. If the position of the latter (E) is known, one accurate measurement of the angle of emergence EPF, at any other point P would be sufficient to fix the depth of some point within the focus F (Fig. 11). Here, again, Mallet relied chiefly on fissures in walls that were fractured but not overthrown. In detail, these fissures are nearly always jagged or serrated, for they tend to follow the lines of joints rather than break through the solid stone, though they sometimes traverse bricks and mortar alike. But the general course of the fissures, he urged, would be at right angles to the wave-path, and their inclination to the vertical should be equal to the angle of emergence.

In obtaining measurements of this angle, the buildings to be chosen are those of large size, with few windows or other apertures, and with walls made of brick or small short-bedded stones. The cathedral-church at Potenza perhaps satisfies these conditions more closely than any other structure examined by Mallet. The plan of the fissures in the walls and roof has been given in Fig. 5, and Fig. 12 represents the fissures In the vertical section along the axial line and looking north, as drawn by the cathedral architect. From these fissures Mallet calculated the mean angle of emergence at Potenza to be 23 7'. The distance of Potenza from Caggiano being seventeen miles, and the height of the former being 2,580 feet, the depth of the focus resulting from this observation alone would be 6-3/4 miles below the level of the sea.

Objection to Mallet's Method.—The weakest point in Mallet's method is probably his assumption that the wave-paths are straight lines extending outward from the focus. Even if the depth of the focus is not more than a few miles, the waves must traverse rocks of varying density and elasticity, and, at every bounding surface, they must undergo refraction. If the rocks are so constituted that the velocity of the earth-waves in them increases with the depth, then the wave-paths must be bent continually outwards from the vertical, so that the angle of emergence at the surface may be considerably less than it would have been with a constant velocity throughout. In this case, the actual depth will be greater, perhaps much greater, than the calculated depth. For instance, if the angle of emergence at Potenza were diminished only 5 by refraction, the calculated depth of the focus would be too small by 1-3/4 miles.

Mallet's Estimate of the Depth of the Focus.—Mallet measured the angle of emergence at twenty-six places, the mean angle (i.e. the mean of the greatest and least observed angles) varying from 72 at Vietri di Potenza and 70 at Pertosa, which are about two miles from the calculated epicentre, to 11-1/2 at Salerno, distant about 40 miles. Fig. 13 reproduces part of the diagram on which he plotted the mean angle of emergence at different places. The horizontal line represents the level of the sea, and the vertical line one passing through the epicentre and focus, called by Mallet the "seismic vertical." The lines on the left-hand side represent the commencing wave-paths (assumed straight) to the observing stations situated to the westward of the meridian through the epicentre, those on the right-hand side corresponding to places to the eastward of the same meridian. Small horizontal marks are added to indicate the depth in miles below the level of the sea.

It will be seen, from this diagram, that all the wave-paths start from the seismic vertical at depths between three and nine miles; but the points of departure are clustered thickly within a portion, the length of which is about 3-1/2 miles and the mean depth about 6-1/2 miles. So great was Mallet's confidence in these calculations that he assigns the diverging origin of the wave-paths to different points of the focus, and thus concludes that, while the mean depth of the focus was about 6-1/2 miles, its dimensions in a vertical direction did not exceed 3-1/2 miles.

How far Mallet's results should be accepted as correct, it is difficult to say in our ignorance of the constitution of the earth's interior. There can be no doubt that the focus was of considerable size, and that, in consequence, the wave-paths would diverge from different points of it. But that each wave-path should actually intersect the focus, and so enable its magnitude to be determined, would surely involve an approach to some law connecting the direction of a wave-path with the depth of its own origin, and no such law seems to be ascertainable. Nor can the limitation of these apparent origins between certain depths be held to argue that the focus, or any part of it, was equally confined, for the wave-paths would to a great extent be similarly refracted. I fear that the only conclusions that we can with safety draw from Mallet's admirable work are that his figures indicate the order of magnitude both of the vertical dimensions and of the mean depth of the focus.


It is not easy to form any precise image of the earthquake as it appeared to the terrified witnesses within the meizoseismal area. To minds unbalanced by the suddenness of the shock and by the crash of falling houses, actuated too by the intense need of safety, the mere succession of events must have presented but little interest. The interval of two months that elapsed between the occurrence of the earthquake and its investigation was also unfavourable to the collection of accurate accounts from a wonder-loving people. Only one feature, therefore, stands out clearly in the few records given by Mallet—namely, the division of the shock into two distinct parts.

In the central district, this division is perhaps less apparent than elsewhere. At Polla, for instance, which lies close to the north-west epicentre, the first warning was given by a rushing sound; almost instantly, and while it was yet heard, came a strong subsultory or up-and-down movement, succeeded after a few seconds, but without any interval, by an undulatory motion. At Potenza, which is not far from the same epicentre but a few miles outside the meizoseismal area, the separation was more pronounced. According to one observer, the first movement was from west to east; and, within a second or two afterwards, there was a less violent shock in a transverse direction, followed immediately by a shaking in all directions, called by the Italians vorticose. Naples lies sixty-nine miles from the north-west epicentre, and here more accurate observations could be made. Dr. Lardner, well known fifty years ago as a writer of scientific works, describes the first movement felt there as "a short, jarring, horizontal oscillation, that made all doors and windows rattle, and the floors and furniture creak. This ceased, and after an interval that seemed but a few seconds was renewed with greater violence, and, he thought, with a distinctly undulatory movement, 'like that in the cabin of a small vessel in a very short chopping sea.'"

In five other earthquakes studied in this volume, the separation of the shock into two parts was a well-marked phenomenon. In the Neapolitan earthquake, the separation was so distinct that Mallet took some pains to account for its origin. He regarded it in every case as due to the reflection or refraction of the earth-waves by underlying rocks, though he does not explain why the reflected or refracted wave should be more intense than that transmitted directly. I shall refer to the subject in greater detail when describing the Andalusian, Charleston, Riviera, and Hereford earthquakes. For the present, it may be sufficient to urge that the double shock cannot have been due to the separation of the original waves by underground reflection or refraction, for then the second part should have been generally the weaker; nor to the succession of longitudinal and transverse waves, for, in that case, every earthquake-shock should be duplicated. The only remaining supposition is that there was a second impulse occurring either in the same or in a different focus.

Which alternative should be adopted, the evidence on the nature of the shock is too scanty to determine. The defect is, however, supplemented by Mallet's observations on the direction of motion; for, at many places within and near the meizoseismal area, he met with the clearest signs of a double direction. Sometimes this was apparent to the senses of the observer; in other cases, damaged buildings presented two sets of fissures. At La Sala and near Padula, the first movement was roughly east and west, the second north and south. At Moliterno, there was evidence of a subordinate shock at right angles to the chief one; in the neighbourhood of Tramutola, its direction was from about E. 30 S. In these and other cases, Mallet saw the effects of earthquake-echoes; but the underground reflection of earth-waves would give rise to the second part of the shock, not the first as at La Sala and Padula. Moreover, the secondary directions, though they are seldom recorded accurately, point nearly to an epicentre not far from Montemurro. The observations on the nature and direction of the double shock thus confirm the conclusion, derived from the distribution of the seismic death-rate, that there were two detached foci, one near Polla and the other near Montemurro.

This seems to be the best explanation of the facts recorded by Mallet. There is, however, a possible difficulty that should not be overlooked—namely, the apparently slight influence of the Montemurro focus on the mean direction of the shock (Fig. 9). At a few places, of course, the mean direction passes through both epicentres; at some others, as we have seen, one of the two observed directions points towards the Montemurro epicentre. It is not impossible, also, that Mallet, after the first few days' work, may occasionally have quite unconsciously selected and measured those fissures from the maze presented to him which agreed most closely with his early impressions obtained from the neighbourhood of Polla. But, for places nearer Polla than Montemurro (and these form the majority of those visited by Mallet), the probable explanation of the difficulty is that the Montemurro focus was not so deep as the Polla focus. This, as will appear more fully in the next chapter, would account for the comparatively great intensity in the immediate neighbourhood of Montemurro and for its rapid decline outwards; and it receives some support from an isolated reference by Mallet to two angles of emergence at Padula, one of 25 from the north, and the other of 8 or 10 in the perpendicular walls.


The elements of the wave-motion, as mentioned in the introductory chapter, are four in number, namely, the period, amplitude, maximum velocity, and maximum acceleration. If any two of these are known for each vibration—and the first two are now given by every accurately constructed seismograph—the others can be determined if the vibrations follow the law of simple harmonic motion.[15]

Amplitude.—To ascertain the amplitude, Mallet had to rely chiefly on the fissures made in very inelastic walls. If the parts into which such a wall are fractured are free to move, and yet, being inelastic, obliged to remain in the farthest position to which they are carried by the wave, the distance traversed by the centre of gravity of one of the displaced parts should give a "rude approximate measure" of the horizontal amplitude of the earth-wave. At Certosa, near Padula, he thus found the amplitude to be about 4 inches, at Sarconi about 4-3/4 inches, and at Tramutola about 4-1/2 inches. From somewhat similar evidence, the amplitude at Polla appears to have been about 2-1/2 or 3 inches; and, from the oscillation of a suspended clock or watch on a rough wall, about 3-1/2 inches at La Sala and 1-3/4 inches at Barielle. With the exception of Barielle, these places lie nearly on a straight line passing through Mallet's epicentre, and he gives the following table, showing an increase in amplitude with the distance from the epicentre:—

Polla. La Sala. Certosa. Tramutola. Sarconi.

Distance in miles 4.0 13.4 19.0 23.8 30.8 Amplitude in inches 2-1/2 3-1/2 4 4-1/2 4-3/4

The existence of the Montemurro focus must, however, complicate any relation that may connect these two quantities.

Maximum Velocity.—The means at Mallet's disposal for determining the maximum velocity were more numerous than those available for the amplitude. From the dimensions of a fallen column of regular form we should be able, he remarks, to find an inferior limit to the value of the maximum velocity; while a superior limit at the same place may be obtained from some other regular solid which escaped being overthrown. If a loose body is projected by the shock at a place where the angle of emergence is known, the horizontal and vertical distances traversed by the centre of gravity will give the velocity of projection. Or, if two such bodies are projected at one place, the same measures for each will as a rule give both the angle of emergence and the velocity of projection. A third method depends on the fissuring of walls, supposing that we know the force per unit surface which, when suddenly applied, is just sufficient to produce fracture. Sometimes more than one method must be applied to the same object. The two gate-pillars near Saponara (illustrated in Fig. 6) for example required a horizontal velocity of 5.48 feet per second to fracture them, and an additional velocity of 5.14 feet per second to overthrow them.

The well-known seismologist, Professor Milne, urges very forcibly that measurements obtained from the projection or fall of columns are unreliable, for the earlier tremors might cause the columns to rock, and their overthrow need not therefore measure accurately the maximum velocity of the critical vibration.[16] There can be no doubt that Mallet was alive to this difficulty, though he may not have appreciated it at its full value. Thus, at the Certosa de St. Lorenzo, a monastery near Padula, a vase projected from the summit of a slender gate-pier implied a velocity of 21-3/4 feet per second; and the excess of about 8-1/4 feet per second above the velocity determined by other means is attributed by him to the oscillation of the pier itself. How far this source of error enters into other observations it is impossible to say; but it is worth noticing how closely the velocities obtained by different methods agree with one another. Thus, from projection only, we have velocities of 11.5 feet per second at the Certosa, 11.8 at Moliterno and Monticchio, 14.8 at Tramutola, and 9.8 feet per second at Sarconi; from overthrow alone, 11.0 feet per second at Viscolione, near Saponara, and 11.6 at Barielle; from overthrow and projection, 13.2 feet per second at Polla and 12.9 at Padula; from fracture and overthrow, 12.3 feet per second at Potenza and 15.6 at Saponara. The comparatively high values at Tramutola and Saponara, Mallet imagined might be due to the oscillation of the hills on which these towns are built. He therefore omits them in calculating the mean maximum velocity, which he finds to be twelve feet per second, a velocity less than that with which a man reaches the ground when he jumps off a table.

With the same omissions, Mallet gives the following table, showing a general decrease in the maximum velocity as the distance from his epicentre increases:—

Polla. Padula. Certosa. Moliterno. Viscolione. Sarconi.

Distance in miles 4.0 19.0 19.0 29.4 30.0 30.8

Max. vel. in ft. per sec. 13.2 12.9 11.5 11.8 11.0 9.8

On the north side of the epicentre we have:—

Potenza. Monticchio. Barielle.

Distance in miles 17.3 27.1 28.2 Max. vel. in ft. per sec. 12.3 11.8 11.6

It is not impossible that the high calculated velocities at Tramutola and Saponara were partly or entirely due to the impulse from the Montemurro focus.

If we take 4 inches for the amplitude of the largest variation, and 12 feet per second for the maximum velocity, and assume the motion to have been of a simple harmonic character, the period of a complete vibration would be less than one-fifth of a second.[17] Now, we know from seismographic records that this is roughly the period of the small tremors that form the commencement of an earthquake-shock, while the period of the largest vibrations may amount to as much as one or two seconds. We may therefore conclude either that the assumption of simple harmonic motion is incorrect, or that the maximum velocity is too great, or more probably perhaps that the amplitude is too small.[18]


Mallet was one of the first seismologists to realise the significance of the earthquake-sound; and he attended closely to the subject, though finding the sound even more elusive of precise observation than the shock.

The chief result obtained by him was the comparative smallness of the area over which the sound was heard. He estimates it at little more than 3,300 square miles, or about one-twelfth of that over which the shock was felt. It extends north and south from Melfi to Lagonegro, and east and west from Monte Peloso to Duchessa and Senerchia. The sound was thus confined to the region in which the shock attained its most destructive character.

Towards the north and south ends of the sound-area all observers described the sound as a low, grating, heavy, sighing rush, lasting from twenty to sixty seconds, some adding that it was also of a rumbling nature. Near the centre and the east and west boundaries, the sound was distinctly more rumbling; it was shorter in duration, and began and ended more abruptly.

The earthquake, Mallet remarks, "began everywhere with tremors; the sounds generally arrived at the same time; the apparent direction of movement of the tremulous oscillations appeared rapidly to change, and still more rapidly to increase in amplitude; then the great shove of the destructive shock arrived, in some places rather before, in some a little after, the moment of loudest sound, and it died away suddenly (i.e., with extreme rapidity) into tremors again, but differing in direction from that of the great shock itself."[19]

The earthquake-sound will be described more fully in the chapter dealing with the Hereford earthquake of 1896, in which it will be found that the phenomena recorded by Mallet are equally characteristic of the slighter shocks felt in this country.


In 1857 little was known about the velocity of earthquake-waves. Experiments had been made by Mallet himself in 1849 in the neighbourhood of Dublin. These gave 825 feet per second for the velocity in dense wet sand, 1,306 feet per second in discontinuous granite, and 1,665 feet per second in more solid granite.[20] The only earthquake for which the velocity had been calculated was the Rhenish earthquake of 1846, the value ascertained by Schmidt being 1,376 French feet, or 1,466 English feet, per second.

The accurate public measurement of time, which, as Mallet remarks, is one of the surest indications of advancing civilisation, was, however, unknown in the kingdom of Naples; and his attempt was therefore fettered by the rarity of precise estimates of the time of occurrence. Throughout the whole disturbed area only six good records could be obtained, and three of these (at Vietri di Potenza, Atella, and Naples) were derived from stopped clocks, witnesses of rather doubtful value. At Montefermo and Barielle the time was at once read from a watch, and at Melfi from an accurate pocket chronometer. The times given vary from 9h. 59m. 16s. P.M. (Naples mean time) at Vietri di Potenza to 10h. 7m. 44s. at Naples. Allowing for the supposed change of direction by refraction at the Monte St. Angelo range on the way to Naples, Mallet finds the mean surface velocity to be 787 feet per second. Omitting the Naples record, and taking account of the calculated depth of the focus, the mean velocity becomes 804 feet per second.


A great earthquake rarely, if ever, occurs without some preparation in the form of a marked increase of seismic activity. Perrey records several shocks during the two years 1856-57 that were felt at places as far apart as Naples, Melfi, and Cosenza. On December 7th, 1857, a slight shock, with a report from beneath like the explosion of a mine, was felt at Potenza. Then came the great earthquake on December 16th, at about 10 P.M.

This was followed by numerous after-shocks—how numerous it is impossible to say, for the records are of the scantiest description. For some hours the ground within the meizoseismal area is said to have trembled almost incessantly. At Potenza many slight shocks, both vertical and horizontal, were felt during the night, and for a month or more they were so frequent as to render enumeration difficult. Mallet's last record is dated March 23rd, 1858, when four slight shocks were felt at La Sala and Potenza, but occasional tremors were reported to him until May 1859.

The most important of all these after-shocks was one felt about an hour after the principal earthquake. Everywhere far less powerful, it was yet strong enough to shake down many buildings at Polla that had been shattered by the great shock. Towards the south at Moliterno, and towards the north at Oliveto and Barielle, it evidently attracted very little attention. So far as can be judged from the evidence given by Mallet, the disturbed area seems to have been approximately of the same form and dimensions as the meizoseismal area, and elongated in the same direction, but concentric with the north-west focus.

On the other hand, if we may rely on too brief evidence, several after-shocks recorded only at Montemurro, Saponara, Viggiano, or Lagonegro, were probably connected with the south-east or Montemurro focus.


Mallet's theories have suffered perhaps more than any other part of his work from the recent growth of our knowledge. From a historical point of view, some reference to his explanation of the origin of the Neapolitan earthquake seems desirable, and his own conscientious work demands it. On the other hand, his conclusions are, for the present at any rate, superseded, and it will therefore be sufficient to describe them briefly.

Most of the wave-paths, as we have seen, pass within three miles of a point almost coincident with the village of Caggiano. Of the remainder, six traverse a spot about two miles farther to the south-west, and three cross another about two miles farther to the north-east. Neglecting other points of intersection, but taking account of the observed emergences at Vietri di Potenza, Auletta, Polla, etc., Mallet infers that the horizontal section of the focus was a curve (indicated by the dotted line in Fig. 9) not less than ten miles in length, and passing from near Balvano on the north, close to Vietri di Potenza, Caggiano, and Pertosa, to a point about two and a half miles west of Polla. Again, he remarks, the observed emergences at places near the epicentre indicate that the vertical section of the seismic focus was either more or less curved, or more probably a surface inclined towards the south-east. He concludes, therefore, that the seismic focus was a curved fissure, 10 miles long and 3-1/2 miles in height, and with its centre at a depth of 6-1/2 miles below the level of the sea.

The production of this great fissure, accompanied, perhaps by the injection into it of steam at high pressure, was regarded by Mallet as the cause of the principal earthquake. He imagines that the rent would start at or near the central point of the focus and then extend rapidly outwards in all directions. In the initial stage, vibrations of very small amplitude would alone be transmitted, and these would give rise to the early sounds and tremors. As the rending proceeded, the vibrations would increase in strength up to a certain point when they produced the shock itself. After this, they would decrease; and, in the final stage, would give place to the small vibrations corresponding to the sounds and tremors that marked the close of the earthquake.

The rush of steam at high pressure into the focus Mallet does not seem to have considered essential, though he evidently regarded it as possible, indeed probable; and he suggests that it may have been in part the cause of the earthquake which occurred an hour later. Though feeling sceptical as to the existence of any general law of increase of underground temperature, he assumes it, for the sake of illustration, to be 1 F. for every 60 feet of descent. This would give a temperature of 339 F. at the upper limit of the focus, 643 F. at its central point, and 884 F. at its lower margin. If the focus were filled with steam at each of these temperatures, the corresponding pressures on its walls would be 8, 149, and 684 atmospheres, respectively. As the steam may be supposed to be admitted suddenly and to be unlimited in supply, Mallet infers that it might exist at the tension due to the highest of these temperatures, in which case it would be capable of lifting a column of limestone 8,550 feet in height (or about one-half the depth of the upper margin of the focus), and would exert a pressure on the walls of the focus of 4.58 tons per square inch, or of more than 640,528 millions of tons upon its whole surface.

So many pages have already been given to this interesting earthquake that I must sketch still more briefly my own view as to its origin. There were, I believe, two distinct foci with their centres about twenty-four miles apart along a north-west and south-east line, and it was to this arrangement that the elongation of the meizoseismal area was chiefly, though not entirely, due. The evidence is insufficient to determine whether the earthquake was caused by fault-slipping; it is in no way opposed to this view, but if the Neapolitan earthquake stood alone, we should hardly be justified in drawing any further inference. Relying, however, on knowledge obtained from the study of more recent shocks, it seems to me probable that the two foci formed parts of one fault with a general north-west and south-east direction. The slip causing the first part of the double shock apparently took place within the south-east focus, and was followed after a few seconds by one within the north-west focus, greater in amount as well as more deeply seated. In consequence of these displacements there were local increases of stress, causing numerous small slips within or near both principal foci; and, if we may judge from some slight shocks felt at La Sala, accompanied also by other minor slips in the intermediate region of the fault.


MALLET, R.—The Great Neapolitan Earthquake of 1857: The First Principles of Observational Seismology, etc. 2 vols 1862.


[3] Irish Acad. Trans., vol. xxi., 1848, pp. 51-105 (read Feb. 9, 1846).

[4] Brit. Assoc. Reports, 1850, pp. 1-87; 1851, pp. 272-330; 1852, pp. 1-176; 1853, pp. 117-212; 1854, pp. 1-326; 1858, pp. 1-136.

[5] A Manual of Scientific Enquiry, edited by Sir J.F.W. Herschel, 1849, pp. 196-223.

[6] Irish Acad. Trans., vol. xxii., 1855, pp. 397-410.

[7] The linear dimensions of the isoseismal lines are obtained by measurements from Mallet's maps. The areas are given by him in geographical square miles.

[8] Mallet, by some accident, omitted the losses at Polla and neighbouring towns from this estimate. Mercalli (Geologia d'Italia, pte. 3, p. 324) gives the number of killed as more than 12,300.

[9] Mallet does not make use of the term epicentre; he speaks of the line FE as the seismic vertical. The modern and accepted terms are used above

[10] Japan Seismol. Soc. Trans., vol. xi., 1887, pp. 175-177.

[11] Ital. Seismol. Soc. Boll., vol. ii., 1896, pp. 180-188.

[12] Professor Omori gives the mean direction as S. 71 W., but this was obtained from observation on lamps with square, as well as with circular bases.

[13] Twelve measurements chosen at random from Professor Omori's list gave a mean direction of S. 78 W.

[14] When the accuracy of all the observations seemed equally probable, he adopted the mean of the two extremes as the true direction.

[15] If a be the amplitude of a simple harmonic vibration, T its complete period, v its maximum velocity, and f its maximum acceleration, we have v=2*pi*a/T and f=4*pi^2*a/T^2

[16] Earthquakes and other Earth Movements, pp. 81-82.

[17] Obtained from the formula: T=2*pi*a/v=2*pi*x*(1/3)/12

[18] If we take the maximum velocity to be 12 feet per second, and the period to be one second, the amplitude would be about 11-1/2 inches.

[19] Vol. ii., p. 299. The punctuation of the original is not followed in the above extract.

[20] British Association Report, 1851, pp. 272-320.



Separated from Italy by a distance of not more than six miles, Ischia and the intermediate island of Procida strictly form part of the Phlegran Fields, the well-known volcanic district to the north of Naples. Ischia, the larger of the two islands, is six miles long from east to west, and five miles from north to south, and contains an area of twenty-six square miles. In 1881, the total population was 22,170, that of Casamicciola, the largest town, being 3,963.


The central feature of Ischia is the great crater of Epomeo (a, Fig. 14). On the south side, and partly also on the east, the crater-wall has been broken down and removed; the portion remaining is about 1-1/2 mile in diameter from east to west, and reaches a height of 2,600 feet above the sea-level. All the upper part of the mountain is composed of a pumiceous tufa, rich in sanidine and of a characteristic greenish colour. At two points, to the west near Forio and to the north between Lacco and Casamicciola, this tufa is seen reaching down to the sea; but, in all other parts, it is covered by streams of trachitic lava, by more recent tufas, or by a deposit of marly appearance, which is regarded by Fuchs as resulting from the decomposition of the Epomean tufa.

There are two distinct periods in the geological history of Ischia. The first, a submarine period, probably began with the dawn of the quaternary epoch, for all the marine fossils of the island belong to existing species. About this time, Epomeo seems to have originated in eruptions occurring in a sea at least 1,700 feet in depth—eruptions that preceded the formation of Monte Somma and were either contemporaneous or alternating with those that gave rise to the oldest trachitic tufas of the Phlegran Fields. The destruction of the south wall may have occurred much later through some great eruptive paroxysm, but more probably, as Professor Mercalli suggests, through early marine erosion and subsequent subaerial denudation. To the submarine period must also be assigned the formation of the trachitic masses which compose Monti Trippiti, Vetta, and Garofoli (b, c, d, Fig. 14), on the east side of Epomeo; and, in part only, those of Monte Campagnano and Monte Vezza (f, g).

At or near the close of the elevation, many violent eruptions occurred on the south-west of Epomeo, during which was formed the south-west corner of the island, including Monte Imperatore and Capo Sant' Angelo (h, i).

In the second or terrestrial period, when the island had practically attained its present altitude, the eruptive activity was almost confined to the eastern and northern flanks of Epomeo. At the beginning Monte Lo Toppo (j) was formed by a lateral eruption. In the north-west corner of the island, Monte Marecocco and Monte Zale (k and l) owe their origin to a gigantic flow of sanidinic trachite, issuing probably from the depression which now exists between them. Lastly, towards the north-east, are the recent lateral craters of Rotaro, Montagnone, Bagno, and Cremate (m, n, p, s), the first two being the most regular and best preserved in the island.


The earliest eruption of the historic, or rather human, period appears to have taken place from Montagnone, and probably also at about the same time from the secondary crater of Porto d'Ischia (u), about the beginning of the eleventh century B.C. The eruptions of Marecocco and Zale are referred to about B.C. 470; and those of Rotaro and Tabor (q) to between the years 400 and 352 B.C. Another eruption is said to have occurred in B.C. 89, but the site of it is unknown; and three others are recorded on doubtful authority about the years A.D. 79-81, 138-161, and 284-305. The last outburst of all took place after the series of earthquakes in 1302 from a new crater, that of Cremate (s), which opened on the north-east flank of Epomeo, and from which a stream of lava, called the Arso (t), flowed down rapidly and, after a course of two miles, reached the sea.

After the first eruptions to which it owed its origin, the central crater of Epomeo apparently remained inactive. All the later eruptions occurred either on the external flanks of the mountain or on radial fractures of the cone.[22] Trippiti, Lo Toppo, Montagnone and the Lago del Bagno (b, j, n, p) lie in one line, Vetta and Cremate (c, s) on another, and Garofoli and Vatoliere (d, e) on a third, all passing through a point near the town of Fontana, which occupies the centre of the old crater of Epomeo.

Professor Mercalli points out that the lateral eruptions of Epomeo differ in one respect from those of Etna and Vesuvius. In these volcanoes the lava ascends to a considerable height in the central chimney, and by its own weight rends open the flanks of the cone. In Epomeo, it appears to traverse lateral passages at some depth, perhaps far below the level of the sea, and to rend the mountain by means of the elastic force of the aqueous vapour, etc., which it contains. It will be seen how important is the bearing of this difference on the occurrence of the Ischian earthquakes.

The eruptions that have taken place during the last three thousand years agree in several particulars. They either occurred suddenly, or, at any rate, were not preceded by a stage of moderate Strombolian activity; they were always accompanied by violent earthquakes; and all succeeded intervals of long repose. As the eruption of 1302 happened after at least a thousand years of rest, the lapse of six more centuries does not justify us in concluding that Epomeo is at last extinct.

We seem, on the contrary, to be drawing near another epoch of activity. During the four and a half centuries that followed the eruption of 1302, we have no record of Ischian earthquakes.[23] Then, suddenly, on the night of July 28-29, 1762, Casamicciola was visited by sixty-two shocks, some of which were very strong and damaged buildings. On March 18th, 1796, another severe shock took place, but destructive only in the neighbourhood of Casamicciola, where seven persons were killed. On February 2nd, 1828, the area of damage, though concentric with the former, enlarged its boundaries; 30 persons were killed and 50 wounded. On March 6th, 1841, and during the night of August 15-16, 1867, further shocks injured houses at Casamicciola, but without causing any loss of life. Slight tremors occurred at various dates in 1874, 1875, 1879, and 1880, leading up to the disastrous earthquakes here described, those of March 4th, 1881, when 127 persons were killed, and July 28th, 1883, which resulted in the death of 2,313 persons and the wounding of many others.


The Ischian earthquakes have been fortunate in their investigators. In the spring of 1881, Dr. H.J. Johnston-Lavis, the chronicler for many years of Vesuvian phenomena, was residing in Naples. Impressed by a recent perusal of Mallet's report on the Neapolitan earthquake, and wishing to test the value of the methods explained in the last chapter, he crossed over to Ischia on March 5th; and to his unwearied inquiries extending over more than three weeks and lasting from thirteen to sixteen hours a day, we are indebted for most of what we know about the earthquake of 1881.

On March 4th, at 1.5 P.M., the great shock occurred abruptly, without any warning tremors. Its effects were aggravated by the faulty construction of the houses. The walls are of great thickness, loosely put together, and connected by mortar of the poorest quality. The chimneys and roofs also are massive, and the rafters are so slightly inserted in the walls that they were drawn out with the rocking of the houses. In such cases, the destruction was often so complete that no fissures were left available for measurement.


The isoseismal lines as drawn by Dr. Johnston-Lavis are represented by the curves in Fig. 15. The isoseismal marked 1 bounds the area of complete destruction; it is about 1 mile long from east to west, 2/3 of a mile broad, and contains an area of not more than half a square mile. The next isoseismal (2) marks the area of partial, but still serious, destruction; this is nearly 2 miles long from east to west, 1-1/4 miles broad, and 2 square miles in area. Within the isoseismal 3, buildings were more or less slightly damaged. The course of this curve is somewhat doubtful, but, as drawn, it is about 3 miles long, 2 miles wide, and 5 square miles in area.

Outside the last curve, the shock diminished rapidly in intensity. At Monte Tabor and Bagno, it was very slight; in the town of Ischia, only about half the people were conscious of any movement; and at Capella, a small village to the south, it was not felt at all. Again, the shock was perceptible, though only faintly, in the neighbourhood of Campagnano, at Serrara to the south of Epomeo, and at Panza near the south-west corner of the island. On the other hand, at Fontana, which occupies approximately the centre of the crater of Epomeo, there were evidences of a distinctly stronger shock. No house actually fell, and side walls were but little injured; but the roofs, which are of great weight, suffered considerable injury.

In the adjacent island of Procida, the shock was felt distinctly by many people, and by some, though slightly, at Monte di Procida, Misenum, and Bacoli, on the coast of Italy. No record whatever was given by the seismographs in the university of Naples and the observatory on Vesuvius. We have of course no means of estimating the exact size of the disturbed area, but in this respect, disastrous as the earthquake was in the neighbourhood of Casamicciola, it was clearly inferior to all but the very weakest earthquakes felt in the British Islands.


In determining the position of the epicentre, Mallet's method was closely followed. Fissures in buildings were used for the most part, in two out of every three cases; and occasional measurements were made from objects overthrown, projected, or shifted, and also from the personal experiences of observers. The attempt to apply the method was, however, fraught with difficulties. The heterogeneous structure of the island was no doubt responsible for many divergent azimuths; the irregularity of the buildings both in form and material and their variety of site furnished other sources of error; even the smallness of the area was a disadvantage in lessening the number of trustworthy records.

Measurements were made at 55 places altogether, but in most cases they were the results of isolated observations, not the means of several at each place. On this account, I have not reproduced in Fig. 15 the azimuths shown in Dr. Johnston-Lavis's map of the earthquake. A large number of them clearly converge towards an area lying to the west of Casamicciola; and, from their arrangement, Dr. Johnston-Lavis concludes, though the evidence does not seem to me quite strong enough for the purpose, that they emanated from a fracture running from a little west of north to a little east of south.

This conclusion is, however, justified by other evidence. In the centre of the injured district, Dr. Johnston-Lavis has traced a meizoseismal band, in which the shock must have been nearly or quite vertical. "The damage inflicted on buildings included within this band was," he says, "very characteristic of the nature of the shock; the walls having received but slight injury, whilst almost every floor and ceiling had been totally destroyed. In fact," he adds, "many houses would have required no other repairs than the replacing of the divisions between the different storeys." The shaded central area in Fig. 15 represents this band, passing in a nearly north and south direction from a point midway between Campo and the upper part of Lacco on the north, through the west part of Casamenella and Campo, to a point near Frasso on the south; the length of the band being thus about two-thirds of a mile.

If the central line of this band is produced towards the south, as indicated by the dotted line, it grazes the west side of Fontana, where, as we have seen, there was a second meizoseismal area, much smaller than the other and surrounded by a district in which houses were almost uninjured. That the shock in this town was vertical or nearly so, is shown by the nature of the damage (p. 52) and also by the testimony of the inhabitants. I will give Dr. Johnston-Lavis's explanation of this detached meizoseismal area when discussing the origin of the Ischian earthquakes; but the evidence seems to me to favour either the existence of two distinct foci or, more probably perhaps, the extension of the fissure to the south with an increased impulse beneath the centre of Epomeo.


At nine places, Dr. Johnston-Lavis was able to make measurements of the angle of emergence, in every case from fissures in buildings, and therefore liable to sources of error already referred to. On the other hand, owing to the small depth of the focus, there would probably be less general refraction of the wave-paths than in the Neapolitan earthquake. The depths indicated by these observations vary between about 615 and 2,885 feet, a difference that is no greater than might be expected, as the size of the focus was no doubt comparable with that of the district in which observations were made. The mean depth Dr. Johnston-Lavis finds to be about 1,700 feet, or a little less than one-third of a mile.


The limited depth of the focus is also evident from the nature of the shock. It was only within the actual meizoseismal band that the shock was subsultory or vertical throughout; at a short distance from the epicentre, the movement was both subsultory and undulatory; while near the third isoseismal, and in most of the region outside, the movement was entirely undulatory or lateral. An observer at Perrone (which lies 1-2/3 miles east of the epicentre) gives the following account of the shock:—"I was standing on my balcony (this faces Casamicciola) admiring the scene ... when I felt the house rock, feeling at the same time as if something was rolling along beneath the ground. This movement was accompanied by a sound like this, Boob, boob — boob — — boob — — — boob — — — — boob. Both noise and movement seemed to come from Casamicciola.... In a few seconds, in the distance over the town arose a terrific cloud of white dust, so that I imagined the town on fire.... I felt hardly any, if any, subsultory movement, but as I leant upon the balcony rails, I was alternately pressed against them and then drawn away."

At Fontana, however, the undulatory shock was replaced by a vertical one. This was the universal experience, though one or two persons felt a slight lateral movement immediately after. At Valle (near Barano) and Piejo, both places about a mile from Fontana, the vertical component was also perceptible.


The after-shocks were few and of slight intensity. Dr. Johnston-Lavis gives the following dates: March 7th, 12.5 A.M. and midday; March 11-12, 15-16, 17-18, 27 (?), April 5th and 6th, and July 18th, 8.30 P.M. The only shock of the series marked as strong occurred at midnight on March 15-16 at Casamicciola. The last of all, that of July 18th, consisted of a rumble and slight shock, and was most perceptible at Fango.


Undeterred by the experience of 1881 or by the warnings of seismologists, Casamicciola was rebuilt, only to suffer more complete disaster. On July 28th, 1883, at 9.25 P.M., occurred the most destructive earthquake of which we have any record in Ischia. The shock lasted about fifteen seconds, and before it was over clouds of dust were rising above the ruins of Casamicciola, Lacco, and Forio; 1,200 houses were destroyed, 2,313 persons were killed, nearly 1,800 in Casamicciola alone, and more than 800 seriously wounded. "No better idea," says Dr. Johnston-Lavis, "of the absolute destruction of buildings could be conceived than what was actually realised at Casamicciola and Campo. Looking, on the following Monday, over the field of destruction, I could discover (with few exceptions) the wall-stumps only remaining."

Dr. Johnston-Lavis again spent about three weeks in the island, examining the effects of the new shock with equal zeal and wider experience. His monograph is now our chief work of reference on Ischian earthquakes. Inquiries were also made by several Italian seismologists, among others by Professor M.S. de Rossi, the organiser of earthquake-studies in the peninsula; by Professor L. Palmieri, the founder of the Vesuvian observatory; and especially by Professor G. Mercalli, whose valuable memoir supplements the report of Dr. Johnston-Lavis in some important particulars.


The interval between July 18th, 1881, when the last shock of that year was felt, and July 28th, 1883, was one of almost complete quiescence. Early in March 1882, a few slight shocks were noticed at Casamicciola. On July 24th, 1883, a watch hanging from a nail in a wall was seen to swing at 6 A.M. and 9 A.M., and, on the same morning, at about 8.30, a slight shock, accompanied by a rumbling sound, was felt at Casamicciola. Again, on the 28th, about a quarter of an hour before the great shock, one observer at Casamicciola states that an underground noise was heard, and that some persons in consequence left their houses.

Many assertions have been made with regard to variations witnessed a day or two before the shock in the hot springs, such as an increase of flow or temperature and changes in their volume and purity. Fumaroles are alleged to have burst out with violence, and even flames to have been seen. The statements, though widely quoted, can hardly be said to rest on satisfactory evidence. On the other hand, Dr. Johnston-Lavis arrived in the island within twenty-four hours after the shock, and, before another day had elapsed, he had examined most of the places where the phenomena were said to have occurred, but could find no remarkable change nor any signs of such having taken place. It is also known, as he remarks, that the temperature of the Ischian springs and fumaroles sometimes varies considerably without any earthquake following, that of the water of Gurgitello occasionally changing by as much as 30 or 40. We may therefore, I think, conclude that, except for one or two shocks and underground noises too slight to cause general alarm, there were no decisive heralds of the great earthquake.


The curves in Fig. 16 represent the isoseismal lines as drawn by Dr. Johnston-Lavis. As in the earthquake of 1881, they bound respectively the areas of complete destruction, partial destruction and slight damage to buildings, the course of the outer line being to a great extent conjectural owing to the small extent of land traversed by it. The first isoseismal is about 2-1/2 miles long, 1-1/2 miles broad, and 3 square miles in area; the second about 4 miles long, 3-1/2 miles broad, and 11 square miles in area; and the third about 6-1/2 miles long, 6 miles broad, and 30 square miles in area. The curve drawn by Professor Mercalli (Fig. 14) coincides nearly with the second of these lines.

At Fontana, the damage exceeded that in the surrounding country, though the difference was of course less marked than on the previous occasion.

Outside Ischia, the shock was felt distinctly in all the island of Procida and in Vivara; on the mainland, by some as far as Pozzuoli and by several persons in Naples, which is twenty miles from Casamicciola. The seismograph at the university of this city registered two small shocks, the first at 9.10 P.M., and the second and stronger at 9.25 P.M.; and De Rossi states that at about 9.30 P.M. the seismographs at Ceccano, Velletri, and Rome recorded a shock consisting of very slow undulations. There are again no materials for estimating the size of the disturbed area, but there can be no doubt that it was much less than that of a moderately strong British earthquake.


Owing to the limited size of the disturbed area, time-observations, even had they been available, would not have sufficed to determine the position of the epicentre, and both Dr. Johnston-Lavis and Professor Mercalli therefore had recourse to Mallet's method, the former relying chiefly, as before, on fissures in damaged buildings, and the latter on the overthrow or displacement of columns and other objects.

Dr. Johnston-Lavis measured the azimuth of the wave-paths at sixty-five places, and at about one-third of these was able to make two or more observations. The azimuths converge towards the same region as in 1881, but the area covered by their intersections is larger. The meizoseismal band of maximum vertical destruction indicated by shading in Fig. 16 is also of the same form and slightly greater extent, reaching from the upper part of Lacco to a little south of Frasso, and being therefore nearly a mile in length. The centre of maximum impulse was in the same position as in 1881, or possibly a little more to the south.

Professor Mercalli's observations were made at forty-eight places, and in only six cases were they the same as those used by his predecessor. He also notices that most of the azimuths converge towards Casamenella, and intersect within an elongated area. This area runs in the same direction as Dr. Johnston-Lavis's meizoseismal band, but is less elongated, and situated a short distance farther to the south, though on the whole the agreement between the two areas is remarkably close.

There was again apparently a second epicentre at Fontana. In this town, according to Dr. Johnston-Lavis, there were two distinct types of damage. As in 1881, there was evidence of a vertical blow, the only one that absolutely ruined houses; but, in addition, there was another independent set of fissures, quite as widely distributed as the others, though evidently caused by a less violent movement. These indicated a wave-path with a low angle of emergence coming from between north and north-north-west, or almost exactly in the line of meizoseismal band. To the south of Fontana, however, there is a group of places, including Panza, Serrara, Barano, etc., where the azimuths diverged rather widely from the epicentre at Casamenella. These azimuths are twelve in number, and it is worthy of notice that they all intersected the crater of Epomeo, while half of them passed within a few hundred yards of Fontana.


Measurements of the angle of emergence were made by Dr. Johnston-Lavis at twenty-four places, and in every case from fissured walls. The greater part of the diagram on which his results are depicted is reproduced in Fig. 17. The horizontal line, as in Fig. 13, represents the level of the sea, the longer vertical line one passing through the epicentre, and the shorter another through Fontana. The short lines on the left of the former show the incipient wave-paths to places lying east of the epicentre; those on the right, with one exception, represent the wave-paths to places west of the same meridian. Small horizontal marks are inserted on the vertical lines to show the depth in tenths of a mile below the level of the sea.

The six angles of emergence that would give the greatest depth below the epicentre were all measured at places in the south of the island close to the line joining Panza and Barano, and it will be noticed that five of these apparent depths are much greater than those obtained from the other wave-paths. Excluding these observations, the remaining eighteen give depths ranging from about 450 to about 3,350 feet, and a mean depth of 1,730 feet,[24] or nearly one-third of a mile, that is, almost exactly the same as the mean depth found from the earthquake of 1881.

The six exceptional angles of emergence come from the district of divergent azimuths to the south of Epomeo. Three of the corresponding azimuths pass within one-quarter of a mile from the centre of Fontana, and none of the other three more than three-quarters of a mile from the same point. Though disbelieving in a subsidiary focus below this town, Dr. Johnston-Lavis has calculated its mean depth, supposing it to exist, and found it to be about 1,560 feet below the sea level, a result which is remarkably close to the calculated mean depth of the focus near Casamenella.


In the meizoseismal band, preliminary tremor and rumbling sound were alike absent. So sudden, indeed, was the onset of the earthquake, that the survivors generally found themselves beneath the ruins of their houses before they were conscious of any shock. The destruction, practically instantaneous, was wrought by four or five vertical blows, so powerful that, according to some observers, Casamicciola seemed to jump into the air. Then followed undulations, not noticed by all, that appeared to come from every direction. The shock lasted altogether fifteen seconds or more,[25] and was accompanied by a rumbling noise, in the midst of which were detonations as of thunder or of great blows given upon an empty barrel.

In the immediate neighbourhood of the meizoseismal area, at Perrone, Pennella, and Lower Lacco, the subsultory movement was still the more prominent; but, farther away, as at Panza, Testacchio, Barano, Ischia, and Bagno, the subsultory motion was followed by distinctly horizontal undulations, while outside the island of Ischia only slow undulatory movements were perceptible.


The dotted areas in Fig. 16 indicate the sites of the only landslips of importance that were precipitated by the earthquake of 1883. Two of these occurred on the north slope of Epomeo, and the third on the west flank of Monte Rotaro. The materials of the Epomean landslips had evidently been separated for some time by shallow fissures from the adjoining rock, for the surfaces of the fissures were discoloured by fumarolic action. Immediately after the earthquake a cloud of dust was seen to rise from the spots; the masses, already detached laterally, were merely set in motion by the shock; and they continued to slide down during the following days either through the action of the after-shocks or of the heavy rains that followed.

All over the island, however, fissures and minor landslips occurred. At two places on the north coast the steep cliffs of incoherent tufa were so much damaged that, according to Dr. Johnston-Lavis, "large quantities of their materials were thrown into the sea. The water then sorted out the pieces of pumice, which in many cases were of very large size, and were seen floating about in the neighbourhood for some days," giving rise to the supposition that a submarine eruption had taken place to the north of the island.


The after-shocks in 1883 were much more numerous than in 1881. Between 9.25 P.M. on July 28th and noon on August 3rd, twenty-one slight shocks were recorded at Casamicciola. At 2.15 P.M. on August 3rd, a violent shock occurred that caused further damage at Forio, and even at places so far from the epicentre as Fiaiano, Barano, and Fontana, and increased the displacements of the landslips on Epomeo. This shock was also registered at the observatory on Vesuvius.

After this the shocks became less frequent and slighter, twelve being felt at Casamicciola during the remainder of the year, and six in the first half of 1884. Several shocks and rumbling noises were also observed in other parts of the island. Among them may be mentioned noises heard at Fontana on August 12th and 15th, and a slight shock at the same place on August 17th; also on September 4th, at 10.30 and 10.40 A.M., slight shocks at Barano, Serrara, and Forio. On March 27th, 1884, at 2.7 P.M., another strong shock occurred; strongest at Serrara, where the shock was subsultory and accompanied by noise; and less strong, though still subsultory, at Ciglio, Panza, Forio, Fiaiano, and Casamicciola, and very slight at Ischia. The series seems to have ended during the following summer, with a slight shock at Casamicciola on July 21st, and a stronger one on July 23rd, felt from Casamicciola on the north to Serrara on the south.

Most of the after-shocks must have originated in the neighbourhood of Casamicciola, but it is worthy of notice that more than one centre was in action. Several were recorded at Ischia only. Others, as mentioned above, affected chiefly the south part of the island, and especially the small towns of Serrara and Fontana.


After the eruption of 1302, there succeeded a period of comparative repose in Ischia. The revival of activity dates from 1762, and, since that year, there have been four great earthquakes, namely, those of 1796, 1828, 1881, and 1883. In every respect but that of increasing intensity, these earthquakes were apparently identical; each, as Professor Mercalli says, was merely a replica on a different scale of those that preceded it. The principal features in which they resemble one another, and differ from the average tectonic earthquake, are the coincidence of the epicentres, the small depth of the foci, and the sudden onset of the principal shock.

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