"The common belief is that water enters the rocks during the crystallization period, and that these rocks, through the natural action of rivers and streams, become deposited in the bottom of the ocean. Here they lie for many ages, becoming buried deeper and deeper under masses of like sediment, which are constantly being washed down upon them from above. This process is called the blanketing process.
"When the first layer has reached a depth of a few thousand feet the rocks which contain the water of crystallization are subjected to a terrific heat. This heat generates steam, which is held in a state of frightful tension in its rocky prison.
"It is at these moments that volcanic eruptions occur. They result from wrinkling in the outer crust of the earth's surface—wrinklings caused by the constant shrinking of the earth itself and by the contraction of the outer surface as it settles on the plastic center underneath. Fissures are caused by these foldings, and as these fissures reach down into the earth the pressure is removed from the rocks and the compressed steam in them and it explodes with tremendous force.
"The rocks containing the water are blown into dust, which sometimes is carried so high as to escape the power of the earth's attraction and float by itself through space. After the explosions have occurred lava pours forth. This is merely melted rock which overflows like water from a boiling kettle. But the explosion always precedes the flow, and one will notice that there is always an outpouring of dust before the lava comes."
Professor W. J. McGee, of the Smithsonian Institution at Washington, says: "It may be that a violent earthquake tremor came after the volcanic eruption, but it does not necessarily follow that the two travel together. Oftentimes we hear of earth tremors with no apparent accompaniment. This was true of the Charleston earthquake in 1886. Earthquakes are caused by mysterious disturbances in the interior of the earth. The most commonly accepted belief is that massive rock beds away down in the earth, at a depth of twelve miles or more, become disturbed from one cause or another, with the result that the disturbance is felt on the earth's surface, sometimes severely, sometimes faintly.
"Probably the most violent earthquake in history occurred about ten years ago at Krakatoa. The explosion could be heard for more than one thousand miles, and the earth's tremors were felt for thousands of miles. The air was filled with particles of earth for months afterward. The air-waves following the explosion are believed to have passed two and one-half times around the globe. The face of the land and sea in the vicinity of the eruption was completely changed."
Dr. E. Otis Hovey, professor in the Museum of Natural History, New York, offers the following explanation of the Martinique disaster:
"A majority of volcanic eruptions are similar in cause and effect to a boiler explosion. It is now the accepted belief that sudden introduction of cold water on the great molten mass acts as would the pouring of water into a red hot boiler. It causes a great volume of steam, which must have an outlet. You can readily see how water could get into the crater, located as this one was—on an island, and not far from the coast. The volcanic chains crossed at that point. Such crossing would cause a tension of the crust of the earth, which might cause great fissures. If water were to search out those fissures and reach the great molten mass below it is not hard to imagine what the result would be. There are two classes of volcanoes—those which have explosive eruptions, like Vesuvius and Krakatoa, and this latest one, and those of no explosive nature, like Mauna Loa and Kilauea, in Hawaii, which boil up and flow over. It is the explosive eruption which brings widespread destruction, and it is astonishing to learn of the tremendous power one of those eruptions unleashes."
Professor John Milne, of London, the highest authority in the world on volcanic explosions, classifies eruptions into two grades: Those that build up very slowly. Those that destroy most rapidly.
"The latter are the most dangerous to human life and the physical face of a country. Eruptions that build up mountains are periodical wellings over of molten lava, comparatively harmless. But in this building up, which may cover a period of centuries, natural volcanic vents are closed up and gases and blazing fires accumulate beneath that must eventually find the air. Sooner or later they must burst forth, and then the terrific disasters of the second class take place. It is the same cause that makes a boiler burst."
Professor Milne was asked after Krakatoa's performance:
"Is it likely that there are volcanoes in the world at present that have been quiet for a long time but will one day or another blow their heads off?"
"It is almost certain there are."
"Some in Europe?"
"Many in Europe."
"Some in the United States?"
Mount Pelee of Martinique has verified the eminent authority's word.
Professor Angelo Heilprin, of Philadelphia, the eminent geologist and authority on volcanology, declares there is danger that all the West Indian reef islands will collapse and sink into the sea from the effects of the volcanic disturbances now in progress. More than that, he says, the Nicaraguan canal route is in danger because it is in the eruption zone.
"In my opinion the volcano eruptions are not the only things to be feared," he continued. "It is altogether likely that the volcanic disturbance now going on may result in the collapse of the islands whose peaks spring into activity. The constant eruptions of rock, lava, and ashes, you must know, mean that a hole, as it were, is being made in the bosom of the earth. When this hole reaches a great size, that which is above will be without support, and then subsidence must follow. The volcanoes of Martinique and St. Vincent, and of the neighboring islands of the Caribbean, are situated in a region of extreme weakness of the earth's crust, which has its parallel in the Mediterranean basin on the opposite side of the Atlantic. This American region of weakness extends westward from the Lesser Antilles across the Gulf of Mexico into Mexico proper, where are located some of the loftiest volcanoes of the globe, Popocatepetl and Orizaba, both now in somnolent condition, and including the more westerly volcano of Colima, which has been almost continuously in eruption for ten years.
"This same region of weakness includes nearly the whole of Central America. Volcanoes in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Guatemala have been repeatedly active, some almost to the present time, many with destructive effect, and it should be no surprise to have some of them burst out with the same vigor and intensity as Mount Pelee or the Soufriere."
The National Geographic Society sent three geographers to make a special study of the eruptions in Martinique and St. Vincent: Professor Robert T. Hill of the United States Geological Survey; Professor Israel C. Russell of Ann Arbor, Mich., and C. E. Borchgrevink, the noted Antarctic explorer.
Professor Hovey, after a careful examination of the desolated areas in Martinique and St. Vincent, related important scientific phases of the great eruptions. Speaking first of the work of his companions and himself in St. Vincent, he said:
"Collection of data concerning the eruption of La Soufriere was immediately begun. The history of the eruption is practically that of the disturbance of 1851. Earthquakes occurred here about a year ago, and have occurred at intervals at various places in the West Indies and adjacent regions ever since. At least one resident of Kingstown—F. W. Griffiths—several months ago predicted that La Soufriere would soon break out.
"Finally, on the day of the great eruption, a vast column of volcanic dust, cinders, blocks of lava and asphyxiating gases rose thousands of feet into the air, spreading in all directions. A large portion of this, having reached the upper current, was carried eastward. This, falling, was again divided, and the cinders and deadly gases were swept by the lower winds back upon the eastward side of the mountain. The wrecked houses show this, the windows on the side toward the crater being unaffected, while those on the farther side were wrecked by the back draught up the mountain.
"There was no wind on the morning of the great outburst, a fact which facilitated the devastation of the country. The hot, asphyxiating gases rolled out of the crater, and many were scorched and suffocated. Hot mud falling from the cloud above stuck to the flesh of the unfortunate victims, causing bad wounds. Great blocks of stone were thrown out of the eastern side of the crater, which could be distinctly seen at a distance of four miles."
Concerning the eruption of Mount Pelee, Mr. Hovey said: "An increase in the temperature of the lake in the old crater of Pelee was observed by visiting geologists as much as two years ago, while hot springs had long been known to exist near the western base of the mountain and four miles north of St. Pierre. The residents of Martinique, however, all considered the volcano extinct in spite of the eruption fifty-one years ago. The ground around the crater of Pelee was reported in 1901 to consist of hot mud, showing that the increase of temperature observed eighteen months earlier had continued.
"Soon after the middle of April, this year, manifestations of renewed activity were more pronounced. Ashes began to fall in St. Pierre and heavy detonations were heard. The houses of the city shook frequently, suffocating gases filled the air at intervals, and the warning phenomena increased until they became very alarming.
"The Guerin sugar factory, on Riviere Blanche, was overwhelmed on May 5 by a stream of liquid mud, which rushed down the west slope of the mountain with fearful rapidity. The pretty lake which occupied the crater of 1851, on the southwest slope of the cone, about a mile from the extreme summit and a thousand feet below it, had disappeared, and a new crater had formed on its site, spreading death and destruction on all sides. Three days later the eruption took place and devastated the city of St. Pierre, wiping out the inhabitants and changing a garden spot to a desert.
"A vast column of steam and ashes rose to a height of four miles above the sea, as measured by the French artillerymen at Fort de France. After this eruption the mountain quieted somewhat, but burst forth again at 5:15 o'clock on the morning of May 20. This explosion was more violent than that which destroyed St. Pierre.
"On this occasion the volume of steam and ashes rose to a height of seven miles, according to measurements made by Lieutenant McCormick. An examination of the stones which fell at Fort de France showed them to be of a variety of lava called hornblende and andesite. They were bits of the old lava forming a part of the cone. There was no pumice shown to me, but the dust and lapilli all seemed to be composed of comminuted old rock.
"It is evident that the tornado of suffocating gas which wrecked the buildings asphyxiated the people, then started fire, completing the ruin. This accords with the statement which has been made that asphyxiation of the inhabitants preceded the burning of the city. The gas being sulphureted hydrogen, was ignited by lightning or the fires in the city. The same tornado drove the ships in the roadstead to the bottom of the sea or burned them before they could escape.
"Mud was formed in two ways—by the mixture in the atmosphere of dust and condensed steam and by cloudbursts on the upper dust-covered slopes of the cone washing down vast quantities of fine light dust. No flow of lava apparently has attended the eruption as yet, the purely explosive eruptions thus far bringing no molten matter to the surface. The great emission of suffocating gas and the streams of mud are among the new features which Pelee has added to the scientific knowledge of volcanoes."
Professor Hill was the first man who set foot in the area of craters, fissures, and fumaroles, and, because of his high position as a scientist, his story was valuable. He reported as follows:
"There were three well marked zones: First, a center of annihilation, in which all life, vegetable and animal, was utterly destroyed—the greater northern part of St. Pierre was in this zone; second, a zone of singeing, blistering flame, which also was fatal to all life, killing all men and animals, burning the leaves on the trees, and scorching, but not utterly destroying, the trees themselves; third, a large outer, nondestructive zone of ashes, wherein some vegetation was injured.
"The focus of annihilation was the new crater midway between the sea and the peak of Mount Pelee where now exists a new area of active volcanism, with hundreds of fumaroles or miniature volcanoes. The new crater is now vomiting black, hot mud, which is falling into the sea. Both craters, the old and the new, are active.
"The destruction of St. Pierre was due to the new crater. The explosion had great superficial force, acting in radial directions, as is evidenced by the dismounting and carrying for yards the guns in the battery on the hill south of St. Pierre and the statue of the Virgin in the same locality, and also by the condition of the ruined houses in St. Pierre. According to the testimony of some persons there was an accompanying flame. Others think the incandescent cinders and the force of their ejection were sufficient to cause the destruction. This must be investigated. I am now following the nature of this."
Professor Hill started on Monday, May 26, to visit the vicinity of Mount Pelee, and returned to Fort de France Wednesday morning, nearly exhausted. Professor Hill was near the ruins of St. Pierre on Monday night during the series of explosions from Mount Pelee, and was able to describe the volcanic eruption from close observation. Speaking personally of his expedition he said: "My attempt to examine the crater of Mount Pelee has been futile. I succeeded, however, in getting close to Morne Rouge. At seven o'clock on Monday night I witnessed, from a point near the ruins of St. Pierre, a frightful explosion from Mount Pelee and noted the accompanying phenomena. While these eruptions continue, no sane man should attempt to ascend to the crater of the volcano. Following the salvos of detonations from the mountain, gigantic mushroom-shaped columns of smoke and cinders ascended into the clear, starlit sky, and then spread in a vast black sheet to the south and directly over my head. Through this sheet, which extended a distance of ten miles from the crater, vivid and awful lightning-like bolts flashed with alarming frequency. They followed distinct paths of ignition, but were different from lightning in that the bolts were horizontal and not perpendicular. This is indisputable evidence of the explosive oxidation of the gases after they left the crater. This is a most important observation and explains in part the awful catastrophe. This phenomenon is entirely new in volcanic history.
"I took many photographs, but do not hesitate to acknowledge that I was terrified. But I was not the only person so frightened. Two newspaper correspondents, who were close to Morne Rouge some hours before me, became scared, ran three miles down the mountain, and hastened into Fort de France. The people on the north end of the island are terrified and are fleeing with their cattle and effects. I spent Tuesday night in a house at Deux Choux with a crowd of 200 frightened refugees.
"Nearly all the phenomena of these volcanic outbreaks are new to science, and many of them have not yet been explained. The volcano is still intensely active, and I cannot make any predictions as to what it will do."
TERRIBLE VOLCANIC DISASTERS OF THE PAST.
BY TRUMBULL WHITE.
Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the Other Cities of the Plain—The Bible Account a Graphic Description of the Event—Ancient Writers Tell of Earthquakes and Volcanoes of Antiquity—Discovery of Buried Cities of which no Records Remain—Formation of the Dead Sea—The Valley of the Jordan and Its Physical Characteristics.
In the history of earthquakes, nothing is more remarkable than the extreme fewness of those recorded before the beginning of the Christian era, in comparison with those that have been registered since that time. This may be partly accounted for by the fact that before the birth of Christ, there was but a small portion of the habitable surface of the globe known to those who were capable of handing down a record of natural events. The vast increase in the number of earthquakes in recent times is, therefore, undoubtedly due to the enlargement of our knowledge of the earth's surface, and to the greater freedom of communication now subsisting among mankind.
Earthquakes might have been as frequent throughout the entire globe in ancient times as now; but the writers of the Bible, and the historians of Greece and Rome might have known nothing of their occurrence. Even at the present time, an earthquake might happen in Central Africa, or in Central Asia, of which we would never hear, and the recollection of which might die out among the natives in a few generations. In countries, too, which are thinly inhabited, and where there are no large cities to be overthrown, even great earthquakes might happen almost unheeded. The few inhabitants might be awe-struck at the time; but should they sustain no personal harm, the violence of the commotion and the intensity of their terror would soon fade from their memories.
Dr. Daubeny, in his work on volcanoes, cites an example of this complete oblivion, even when the event must have occurred not far from the ancient center of civilization. The town of Lessa, between Rome and Naples, and not far from Gaeta, stands on an eminence composed of volcanic rocks. In digging the foundations for a house at this place some years ago, there were discovered, many feet beneath the present surface, a chamber with antique frescoes and the remains of an amphitheater. Yet there is not only no existing account of the destruction of a town on this site, but not even a tradition of any volcanic eruption in the neighborhood.
The earthquake which destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah is not only the oldest on record, but one of the most remarkable. It was accompanied by a volcanic eruption, it upheaved a district of several hundred square leagues, and caused the subsidence of a tract of land not less extensive, altering the whole water system and the levels of the soil. The south of Palestine contained a splendid valley dotted with forests and flourishing cities. This was the valley of Siddim, in which reigned the confederate sovereigns of Sodom, Gomorrah, Adniah, Zeboiim and Zoar. They had joined forces to resist the king of the Elamites, and they had just lost the decisive battle of the campaign when the catastrophe which destroyed the five cities and spread desolation in the flourishing valley took place. As the sun arose, the ground trembled and opened, red-hot stones and burning cinders, which fell like a storm of fire upon the surrounding country, being emitted from the yawning chasm.
In a few words, the Bible relates the dread event:
"And when the morning arose, the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here, lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city.
"And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters, the Lord being merciful unto him, and they brought him forth and set him without the city.
"And it came to pass, when they had brought them forth abroad, that he said, Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain lest thou be consumed.
"And Lot said unto them, Oh, not so, my Lord, behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast shewed unto me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die. Behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one: Oh, let me escape thither, (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live.
"And he said unto him, See, I have accepted thee concerning this thing also, that I will not overthrow this city, for which thou hast spoken. Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do anything until thou be come thither.
"Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar. The sun was risen upon the earth when Lot entered into Zoar.
"Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven. And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.
"But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.
"And Abraham got up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the Lord, and he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and lo, the smoke of the city went up as the smoke of a furnace."
Nothing could be more succinct or terse than this description of the catastrophe. This was a sudden volcanic eruption like that which destroyed in one night the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. At the time of the convulsion in Palestine while clouds of ashes were emitted from the yawning abyss and fell in fiery showers upon the ground, a vast tract of country, comprising the five cities and some land to the south of them, was violently shaken and overturned.
Of the valleys watered by the Jordan, that of Siddim was the largest and the most populous. All the southern part of this valley, with its woods, its cultivated fields, and its broad river, was upheaved. While upon the other side the plain subsided, and for a distance of a hundred leagues was transformed into a vast cavern of unknown depth. Upon that day the waters of the Jordan, suddenly arrested by the upheaval of the soil lower down the stream, must have flowed rapidly back toward their source, again to flow not less impetuously along their accustomed incline, and to fall into the abyss created by the subsidence of the valley and the break-up of the bed of the stream.
When, after the disaster, the inhabitants of neighboring regions came to visit the scene of it, they found the whole aspect of the district altered. The valley of Siddim had ceased to exist, and an immense sheet of water covered the space which it once occupied. Beyond this vast reservoir, to the south, the Jordan, which formerly fertilized the country as far as the Red Sea, had also disappeared. The whole country was covered with lava, ashes and salt; all the cultivated fields, the hamlets and villages, had been involved in the cataclysm.
The record of this great catastrophe is preserved not only by Scripture, but by the living and spoken traditions of the East, all the legends of Syria, as well as ancient historians like Tacitus and Strabo, relating how Lake Asphaltite was formed during the terrible shock and how opulent cities were swallowed up in the abyss or destroyed by fire from out of the earth.
But even if popular traditions had been forgotten, and if the writings of ancient authors had been lost, the very aspect of the country would suffice to show that it had suffered from some terrible subterranean convulsion. As it was upon the morrow of the catastrophe itself, so it has remained with its calcined rocks, its blocks of salt, its masses of black lava, its rough ravines, its sulphurous springs, its boiling waters, its bituminous marshes, its riven mountains, and its vast Lake Asphaltite, which is the Dead Sea.
This sea, the depth of which has never been sounded, evokes by its origin and its mysterious aspect, the dolorous image of death. Situated about 690 feet below the level of the ocean, in the depression of the soil caused by the earthquake, its waters extend over an area of a hundred square leagues to the foot of the salt mountains and basaltic rocks which encircle it. One can detect no trace of vegetation or animal life; not a sound is heard upon its shores, impregnated with salt and bitumen; the birds avoid flying over its dreary surface from which emanate deadly effluvia, and nothing can exist in its bitter, salt, oily, and heavy waters. Not a breeze ever stirs the surface of this silent sea, nothing moves therein save the thick load of asphalt which now and again rises from the bottom to the surface and floats lazily on to the desolate strand.
The Jordan has remained what it was in ancient times, the blessed stream, the vivifying artery of Palestine. Taking their source in the spotless snows and pure springs of Mount Hermon, its waters have retained the azure hues of the sky and the clearness of crystal. Before the catastrophe, the Jordan, after having traversed and fertilized Palestine, found its way into the Gulf of Arabia, but now, as upon the morrow of the shock which broke up its bed, its waters are lost in the somber abyss of the Dead Sea.
The Bible mentions an earthquake in Palestine in the reign of Ahab, and one in the reign of Uzziah, which rent the temple. The latter was an event so great that the chroniclers of the time used it in dating occurrences, and Amos speaks of what happened "two years before the earthquake."
The same convulsions of nature are mentioned many other times in the Bible, in connection with prophecy, revelation and the crucifixion.
Nearly all writings about earthquakes prior to the last century tended to cultivate superstitious notions respecting them. Even Pliny, Herodotus, Livy, and the other classic writers, were quite ignorant of the true causes, and mythology entered into their speculations. In later times the investigation has become a science. The Chinese were pioneers in this direction, having appointed an Imperial Commission in A.D. 136 to inquire into the subject. It is to be doubted, however, if what they reported would be considered as of much scientific value to-day.
By this time it is estimated that in the libraries of the world are more than 2,000 works treating of earth-motions. The phenomena are taken quite out of the realm of superstition. By means of delicate instruments of various kinds, called seismometers, the direction of earth-movements can be traced, and their force gauged, while by means of a simple magnet with a metal piece attached to it, an earthquake can be foretold. These instruments tell us that scarcely a day passes without an earthquake in some portion of the globe. The internal causes of these manifestations are ever active, whatever the causes may be.
VESUVIUS AND THE DESTRUCTION OF POMPEII.
BY TRUMBULL WHITE.
Most Famous Volcanic Eruption in History—Roman Cities Overwhelmed—Scenes of Horror Described by Pliny, the Great Classic Writer, an Eye-Witness of the Disaster—Buried in Ashes and Lava—The Stricken Towns Preserved for Centuries and Excavated in Modern Times as a Wonderful Museum of the Life of 1800 Years Ago.
Mount Vesuvius, the world-famed volcano of southern Italy, seen as it is from every part of the city of Naples and its neighborhood, forms the most prominent feature of that portion of the frightful and romantic Campanian coast. For many centuries it has been an object of the greatest interest, and certainly not the least of the many attractions of one of the most notable cities of Europe. Naples, with its bay constitutes as grand a panorama as any to be seen in the world. The mountain is a link in the historical chain which binds us to the past, which takes us back to the days of the Roman Empire. Before the days of Titus it seems to have been unknown as a volcano, and its summit is supposed to have been crowned by a temple of Jupiter.
In the year 25 A.D., Strabo, an eminent historian of the time, wrote: "About these places rises Vesuvius, well cultivated and inhabited all round, except at its top, which is for the most part level, and entirely barren, ashy to the view, displaying cavernous hollows in cineritious rocks, which look as if they had been eaten by fire; so that we may suppose this spot to have been a volcano formerly, with burning craters, now extinguished for want of fuel."
Though Strabo was a great historian, it is evident that he was not a prophet. The subsequent history of Vesuvius has shown that at varying periods the mountain has burst forth in great eruptive activity.
Herculaneum was a city of great antiquity, its origin being ascribed by Greek tradition to Hercules, the celebrated hero of the mythological age of Greece; but it is not certain that it was actually founded by a Greek colony, though in the time of Sulla, who lived a hundred years before Christ, it was a municipal and fortified town. Situated on an elevated ground between two rivers, its position could not but be considered important, its port Retina being one of the best on the coast of Campania. Many villas of great splendor were owned in the neighborhood by Roman patricians; Servilia, the mother of Brutus, and the favorite mistress of Julius Caesar, resided here on an estate which he had given to her.
Pompeii, too, was a very ancient city, and was probably founded by a Grecian colony; for what is considered its oldest building, a Greek temple, from its similarity to the Praestum temples, fixes the date of construction with some certainty at about 650 B.C. This temple, by common consent, is stated to have been dedicated to Hercules, who, according to Solonus, landed at this spot with a procession of oxen.
The situation of Pompeii possessed many local advantages. Upon the verge of the sea, at the mouth of the Sarno, with a fertile plain behind, like many an ancient Italian town, it united the conveniences of commerce with the security of a military station. According to Strabo, Pompeii was first occupied by the Oscans, subsequently by the Tyrrhenians and Pelasgians, and afterwards by the Samnites, in whose hands it continued until it came into the possession of the Romans. The delightful position of the city, the genial climate of the locality, and its many attractions, caused it to become a favorite retreat of the wealthier Romans, who purchased estates in the neighborhood; Cicero, among others, having a villa there.
In A.D. 63, during the reign of Nero, an earthquake overthrew a considerable portion of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Scarcely had the inhabitants in some measure recovered from their alarm, and begun to rebuild their shattered edifices, when a still more terrible catastrophe occurred, and the first recorded eruption of Vesuvius, on the 23d of August, A.D. 79, completed the ruin of the two cities.
Of this event we fortunately possess a singularly graphic description by one who was not only an eye-witness, but well qualified to observe and record its phenomena—Pliny, the Younger, whose narrative is contained in two letters addressed to the historian Tacitus. These letters run as follows:
"Your request," he writes, "that I would send you an account of my uncle's death, in order to transmit a more exact relation of it to posterity, merits my acknowledgements; for should the calamity be celebrated by your pen, its memory, I feel assured, will be rendered imperishable. He was at that time, with the fleet under his command, at Misenum. On the 24th of August, about one in the afternoon, my mother desired him to observe a cloud which seemed of unusual shape and dimensions. He had just returned from taking the benefit of the sun, and after a cold water bath and a slight repast, had retired to his study. He immediately arose, and proceeded to a rising ground, from whence he might more distinctly mark this very uncommon appearance.
"At that distance it could not be clearly perceived from what mountain the cloud issued, but it was afterward ascertained to proceed from Mount Vesuvius. I cannot better describe its figure than by comparing it to that of a pine tree, for it shot up to a great height like a trunk, and extended itself at the top into a kind of branches; occasioned, I imagine, either by a sudden gust of air that impelled if, the force of which decreased as it advanced upward, or by the expansion of the cloud itself, when pressed back again by its own weight. Sometimes it appeared bright, and sometimes dark and spotted, as it became more or less impregnated with earth and cinders. This extraordinary phenomenon excited my uncle's philosophical curiosity to inquire into it more closely. He ordered a light vessel to be got ready for him, and invited me to accompany him if I pleased. I replied that I would rather continue my studies.
"As he was leaving the house, a note was brought to him from Rectina, the wife of Bassus, who was in the utmost alarm at the imminent peril which threatened her; for her villa being situated at the foot of Mount Vesuvius, the only mode of escape was by the sea. She earnestly entreated him, therefore, to hasten to her assistance. He accordingly changed his first design, and what he began out of curiosity, now continued out of heroism. Ordering the galleys to put to sea, he went on board, with an intention of assisting not only Rectina, but several others, for the villas are very numerous along that beautiful shore. Hastening to the very place which other people were abandoning in terror, he steered directly toward the point of danger, and with so much composure of mind that he was able to make and to dictate his observations on the changes and aspects of that dreadful scene.
"He was now so nigh the mountain that the cinders, which grew thicker and hotter the nearer he approached, fell into the vessel, together with pumice-stones and black pieces of burning rock; and now the sudden ebb of the sea, and vast fragments rolling from the mountain, obstructed their nearer approach to the shore. Pausing to consider whether he should turn back again, to which he was advised by his pilot, he exclaimed, 'Fortune befriends the brave: carry me to Pomponianus.'
"Pomponianus was then at Stabiae, separated by a gulf which the sea, after several windings, forms upon the shore. He had already sent his baggage on board; for though not at that time in actual danger, yet being within prospect of it, he was determined, if it drew nearer, to put to sea as soon as the wind should change. The wind was favorable, however, for carrying my uncle to Pomponianus, whom he found in the greatest consternation. He embraced him tenderly, encouraging and counselling him to keep up his spirits; and still better to dissipate his alarm, he ordered, with an air of unconcern, the baths to be got ready. After having bathed, he sat down to supper with great cheerfulness, or, what was equally courageous, with all the semblance of it.
"Meanwhile, the eruption from Mount Vesuvius broke forth in several places with great violence, and the darkness of the night contributed to render it still more visible and dreadful. But my uncle, to soothe the anxieties of his friend, declared it was only the burning of the villages, which the country people had abandoned to the flames. After this, he retired to rest; and it is certain he was so little discomposed as to fall into a deep sleep; for being somewhat corpulent, and breathing hard, those who attended without actually heard him snore.
"The court which led to his apartment being nearly filled with stones and ashes, it would have been impossible for him, had he continued there longer, to have made his way out; it was thought proper, therefore, to awaken him. He got up and joined Pomponianus and the rest of his company who were not unconcerned enough to think of going to bed. They consulted together which course would be the more prudent: to trust to the houses, which now shook from side to side with frequent and violent concussions; or to escape to the open country, where the calcined stones and cinders fell in such quantities, as notwithstanding their lightness, to threaten destruction. In this dilemma they decided on the open country, as offering the greater chance of safety; a resolution which, while the rest of the company hastily adopted it through their fears, my uncle embraced only after cool and deliberate consideration. Then they went forth, having pillows tied upon their heads with napkins; and this was their sole defence against the storm of stones that fell around them.
"It was now day everywhere else, but there a deeper darkness prevailed than in the obscurest night, though it was in some degree dissipated by torches and lights of various kinds. They thought proper to go down further upon the shore, to ascertain whether they might safely put out to sea; but found the waves still extremely high and boisterous. There my uncle, having drunk a draught or two of cold water, flung himself down upon a cloth which was spread for him, when immediately the flames and their precursor, a strong stench of sulphur, dispersed the rest of the company, and compelled him to rise. He raised himself with the assistance of two of the servants, but instantly fell down dead; suffocated, I imagine by some gross and noxious vapor. As soon as it was light again, which was not until the third day after this melancholy accident, his body was found entire, and free from any sign of violence, exactly in the same posture that he fell, so that he looked more like one asleep than dead."
In a second letter to Tacitus, Pliny in relating his own experiences, says:
"Day was rapidly breaking, but the light was exceedingly faint and languid; the buildings all around us tottered; and though we stood upon open ground, yet, as the area was narrow and confined, we could not remain without certain and formidable peril, and we therefore resolved to quit the town. The people followed us in a panic of alarm, and, as to a mind distracted with terror every suggestion seems more prudent than its own, pressed in great crowds about us in our way out.
"As soon as we had reached a convenient distance from the houses, we stood still, in the midst of a perilous and most dreadful scene. The chariots which we had ordered to be drawn out oscillated so violently, though upon level ground, that we could not keep them steady, even by supporting them with large stones. The sea seemed to roll back upon itself, and to be driven from its strands by the earth's convulsive throes; it is certain, at least, that the shore was considerably enlarged, and that several marine animals were left upon it. On the other side, a black and terrible cloud, bursting with an igneous serpentine vapor, darted out a long train of fire, resembling, but much larger than the flashes of lightning.
"Soon after the black cloud seemed to descend and enshroud the whole ocean; as, in truth, it entirely concealed the island of Caprea and the headland of Misenum. The ashes now began to fall upon us, though in no considerable quantity. Turning my head, I perceived behind us a dense smoke, which came rolling in our track like a torrent. I proposed, while there was yet some light, to diverge from the highroad, lest my mother should be crushed to death in the dark by the crowd that followed us. Scarcely had we stepped aside when darkness overspread us; not the darkness of a cloudy night, or when there is no moon, but that of a chamber which is close shut, with all the lights extinct.
"And then nothing could be heard but the shrieks of women, the cries of children, and the exclamations of men. Some called aloud for their little ones, others for their parents, others for their husbands, being only able to distinguish persons by their voices; this man lamented his own fate, that man the fate of his family; not a few wished to die out of very fear of death; many lifted their hands to the gods; but most imagined the last eternal night was come, which should destroy the world and the gods together.
"At length, a glimmer of light appeared, which we imagined to be rather the foretoken of an approaching burst of flames, as in truth it was, than the return of day. The fire, however, having fallen at a distance from us, we were again immersed in dense darkness, and a heavy shower of ashes fell upon us, which we were compelled at times to shake off—otherwise we should have been crushed and buried in the heap.
"After a while, this dreadful darkness gradually disappeared like a cloud of smoke; the actual day returned, and with it the sun, though very faintly, and as when an eclipse is coming on. Every object that presented itself to our eyes (which were extremely weakened) seemed changed, being covered with a crust of white ashes, like a deep layer of snow. We returned to Misenum, where we refreshed ourselves as well as we could, and passed an anxious night between hope and fear, though, indeed, with a much larger share of the latter; for the earthquake still continued, while several excited individuals ran up and down, augmenting their own and their friends' calamities by terrible predictions."
The graphic accounts of Pliny the Younger have been confirmed in every respect by scientific examination of the buried cities. The eruption was terrible in all its circumstances—the rolling mud, the cloud of darkness, the flashes of electric fire, the shaking earth—but yet more terrible in its novelty of character and the seemingly wide range of its influence. These combined causes would appear to have exercised a fatal effect on the Pompeians, and but for them nearly all might have escaped. Thus, the amphitheatre was crowded when the catastrophe occurred, but only two or three skeletons have been found in it, which probably were those of gladiators already killed or wounded. The bold, the prompt, and the energetic saved themselves by immediate flight; those who lingered through love or avarice, supine indifference, or palsying fear, perished.
Many sought refuge in the lower rooms or underground cellars of their houses, but there the steaming mud pursued and overtook them. Had it been otherwise, they must have died of hunger or suffocation, as all avenues of egress were absolutely blocked up.
It is impossible to exaggerate the horrors of the last day of the doomed city. The rumbling of the earth beneath; the dense obscurity and murky shadow of the heaven above; the long, heavy roll of the convulsed sea; the strident noise of the vapors and gases escaping from the mountain-crater; the shifting electric lights, crimson, emerald green, lurid yellow, azure, blood red, which at intervals relieved the blackness, only to make it ghastlier than before; the hot, hissing showers which descended like a rain of fire; the clash and clang of meeting rocks and riven stones; the burning houses and flaming vineyards; the hurrying fugitives, with wan faces and straining eyeballs, calling on those they loved to follow them; the ashes, and cinders, and boiling mud, driving through the darkened streets, and pouring into the public places; above all, that fine, impalpable, but choking dust which entered everywhere, penetrating even to the lowest cellar, and against which human skill could devise no effectual protection; all these things must have combined into a whole of such unusual and such awful terror that the imagination cannot adequately realize it. The stoutest heart was appalled; the best-balanced mind lost its composure. The stern Roman soldier stood rigidly at his post, content to die if discipline required it, but even his iron nerves quailed at the death and destruction around him. Many lost their reason, and wandered through the city, gibbering and shrieking lunatics. And none, we may be sure, who survived the peril, ever forgot the sights and scenes they had witnessed on that day of doom.
Three days and nights were thus endured with all the anguish of suspense and uncertainty. On the fourth day the darkness, by degrees, began to clear away. The day appeared, the sun shining forth; but all nature seemed changed. Buried beneath the lava lay temple and circus, the tribunal, the shrine, the frescoed wall, the bright mosaic floor; but there was neither life nor motion in either city of the dead, though the sea which once bore their argosies still shimmered in the sunshine, and the mountain which accomplished their destruction still breathed forth smoke and fire.
The scene was changed; all was over; smoke and vapor and showers had ceased, and Vesuvius had returned to its normal slumber. Pompeii and Herculaneum were no more. In their place was a desolated plain, with no monuments visible, no house to be seen—nothing but a great surface of white ashes, which hardened and petrified, and finally disintegrated into soil upon which, years after, might be seen the fruitful vine, the waving corn, and wild flowers in all their loveliness and beauty, hiding the hideous tragedy of a bygone age.
It was about the middle of the eighteenth century that systematic excavations in the ashes that covered Pompeii began. Since that time the work has been slow, though continuous, and great progress has been made in disinterring the buried city. To-day it is a municipal museum of the Roman Empire as it was 1,800 years ago. The architecture is almost unmarred; the colors of decorated tiles on the walls are still bright; the wheel marks are fresh looking; the picture of domestic life as it was is complete, except for the people who were destroyed or driven from the city. No other place in all the world so completely portrays that period of the past to us as does Pompeii, overwhelmed by Vesuvius, hidden for centuries, and now once more in view to the world to-day.
MOUNT AETNA AND THE SICILIAN HORRORS.
BY TRUMBULL WHITE.
A Volcano with a Record of Twenty-five Centuries—Seventy-eight Recorded Eruptions—Three Hundred Thousand Inhabitants Dwelling on the Slopes of the Mountain and in the Valleys at its Base—Stories of Earthquake Shock and Lava Flows—Tales of Destruction—Described by Ancient and Modern Writers and Eye-Witnesses.
Mount AEtna, one of the most celebrated volcanoes in the world, is situated on the eastern sea-board of Sicily. The ancient poets often alluded to it, and by some it was feigned to be the prison of the giant Euceladus or Typhon, by others the forge of Hephaestus. The flames proceeded from the breath of Euceladus, the thunderous noises of the mountain were his groans, and when he turned upon his side, earthquakes shook the island. Pindar in his first Pythian ode for Hiero of AEtna, winner in the chariot race in 474 B.C., exclaims:—He (Typhon) is fast bound by a pillar of the sky, even by snowy AEtna, nursing the whole year's length her dazzling snow. Whereout pure springs of unapproachable fire are vomited from the inmost depth: in the daytime the lava streams pour forth a lurid rush of smoke, but in the darkness a red rolling flame sweepeth rocks with uproar to the wide, deep sea. AEschylus (525-456 B.C.) speaks also of the "mighty Typhon." Thucydides (471-402 B.C.) alludes in the last lines of his third book to three early eruptions of the mountain. Many other early writers speak of AEtna, among them Theocritus, Virgil, Ovid, Livy, Seneca, Lucan, Strabo, and Lucilius Junior. While the poets on the one hand had invested AEtna with various supernatural attributes, and had made it the prison of a chained giant, and the workshop of a god, Lucretius and others endeavored to show that the eruptions and other phenomena of the mountain could be explained by the ordinary operations of nature.
If we pass to more modern times we find mention of AEtna by Dante, Petrarch, Cardinal Bembo, and other middle age writers. In 1541 Fazello wrote a brief history of the mountain, and described an ascent. In 1591 Antonio Filoteo, who was born on AEtna, published a work in Venice, in which he describes an eruption which he witnessed in 1536. He asserts that the mountain was then, as now, divided into three "regions"—the first very arid, rugged, uneven, and full of broken rocks; the second covered with forests; and the third cultivated in the ordinary manner.
The great eruption of 1669 was described at length by the naturalist Borelli in the year of its occurrence, and a brief account of it was given by the Earl of Winchelsea, English ambassador at Constantinople, who was returning home by way of the Straits of Messina at the time. As the eruption of 1669 was the most considerable one of modern times, it attracted a great deal of attention, and was described by several eye-witnesses.
The height of AEtna has been often determined. The earlier writers had very exaggerated notions on the subject, and a height of three and even four miles has been assigned. It must be borne in mind that the cone of a volcano is liable to variations in height at different periods, and a diminution of more than three hundred feet has occurred during the course of a single eruption of AEtna, owing to the falling of the cone of cinders into the crater. During the last sixty years, however, the height of the mountain has been practically constant at ten thousand eight hundred and seventy-four feet.
There are two cities, Catania and Aci Reale, and sixty-three towns or villages on Mount AEtna. It is far more thickly populated than any other part of Sicily or Italy. No less than 300,000 people live on the mountain.
A remarkable feature of AEtna is the large number of minor cones which are scattered over its sides. They look small in comparison with the great mass of the mountain, but in reality some of them are of large dimensions.
The best period for making the ascent of AEtna is between June and September, after the melting of the winter snows, and before the falling of the autumnal rains. In winter there are frequently nine or ten miles of snow stretching from the summit downward, the paths are obliterated, and the guides sometimes refuse to accompany travelers. Moreover, violent storms often rage in the upper regions of the mountain, and the wind acquires a force which it is difficult to withstand, and is at the same time piercingly cold.
A list of the eruptions of AEtna from the earliest times has been given by several writers. The first eruption within the historical period probably happened in the seventh century B.C.; the second occurred in the time of Pythagoras. The third eruption, which was in 477 B.C., is mentioned by Thucydides, and it must have been the same eruption to which Pindar and AEschylus allude. An eruption mentioned by Thucydides happened in the year 426 B.C. An outburst of lava took place from Monte di Moja, the most northerly of the minor cones of AEtna, in 396 B.C., and following the course of the river Acesines, now the Alcantara, entered the sea near the site of the Greek colony of Naxos (now Capo di Schiso). We have no record of any further eruption for 256 years, till the year 140 B.C. Six years later an eruption occurred, and the same authorities mention an eruption in the year 126 B.C. Four years later Katana was nearly destroyed by a new eruption. Another, of which we possess no details, occurred during the civil war between Caesar and Pompey, 49 B.C. Livy speaks of an earthquake which took place in 43 B.C., shortly before the death of Caesar, which it was believed to portend. In 38 B.C. and 32 B.C. eruptions took place.
The next eruption of which we hear is that mentioned by Suetonius in his life of Caligula. This was in 40 A.D. An eruption occurred in 72 A.D., after which AEtna was quiescent for nearly two centuries, but in the year 253, in the reign of the Emperor Decius, a violent eruption lasting nine days is recorded. According to Carrera and Photius, an eruption occurred in the year 420. We now find no further record for nearly four hundred years. Geoffrey of Viterbo states that there was an eruption in 812, when Charlemagne was in Messina. After another long interval, in this case of more than three centuries and a half, the mountain again showed activity. In February, 1169, one of the most disastrous eruptions on record took place. A violent earthquake, which was felt as far as Reggio, destroyed Catania in the course of a few minutes, burying fifteen thousand people beneath the ruins. It was the vigil of the feast of St. Agatha, and the cathedral of Catania was crowded with people, who were all buried beneath the ruins, together with the bishops and forty-four Benedictine monks. The side of the cone of the great crater toward Taormina fell into the crater.
There was a great eruption from the eastern side of the mountain in 1181. Lava descended in the same vicinity in 1285. In 1329 Speziale was in Catania, and witnessed a very violent eruption, of which he has left us an account. On the evening of June 28th, about the hour of vespers, AEtna was strongly convulsed, terrible noises were emitted, and flames issued from the south side of the mountain. A new crater, Monte Lepre, opened above the rock of Musarra, and emitted large quantities of dense black smoke. Soon after a torrent of lava poured from the crater, and red-hot masses of rock were projected into the air. Four years after the last eruption it is recorded by Silvaggio that a fresh outburst took place. A manuscript preserved in the archives of the cathedral of Catania mentions an eruption which took place on August 6, 1371, which caused the destruction of numerous olive groves near the city. An eruption which lasted for twelve days commenced in November, 1408. A violent earthquake in 1444 caused the cone of the mountain to fall into the great crater. An eruption of short duration, of which we have no details, occurred in 1447; and after this AEtna was quiescent for eighty-nine years.
Cardinal Bembo and Fazello mention an eruption which took place toward the close of the fifteenth century. In March, 1536, a quantity of lava issued from the great crater, and several new apertures opened near the summit of the mountain and emitted lava.
A year later, in May, 1537, a fresh outburst occurred. A number of new mouths were opened on the south slope near La Fontanelle, and a quantity of lava burst forth which flowed in the direction of Catania, destroying a part of Nicolosi, and St. Antonio. In four days the lava ran fifteen miles. The cone of the great crater suddenly fell in, so as to become level with the Piano del Lago. The height of the mountain was thus diminished by 320 feet. Three new craters opened in November, 1566, on the northeast slope of the mountain. In 1579, 1603, 1607, 1610, 1614, and 1619, unimportant eruptions occurred. In February, 1633, Nicolosi was partly destroyed by a violent earthquake, and in the following December, earthquakes became frequent around the mountain.
In 1646 a new mouth opened on the northeast side, and five years later several new mouths opened on the west side of the mountain and poured out vast volumes of lava which threatened to overwhelm Bronte. We have a more detailed account of the eruption of 1669 than any previous one. It was observed by many men of different nations, and there are a number of narratives regarding it. The eruption was in every respect one of the most terrible on record. On March 8th, the sun was obscured and a whirlwind blew over the face of the mountain; at the same time earthquakes were felt, and they continued to increase in violence for three days, at the end of which Nicolosi was converted into a heap of ruins.
On the morning of the 11th a fissure nearly twelve miles in length opened in the side of the mountain, and extended from the Piano di St. Leo to Monte Frumento, a mile from the summit. The fissure was only six feet wide, but it seemed to be of unknown depth, and a bright light proceeded from it. Six mouths opened in a line with the principal fissure, and discharged vast volumes of smoke, accompanied by low bellowing, which could be heard forty miles off. Toward the close of the day a crater opened about a mile below the others, and ejected red-hot stones to a considerable distance, and afterward sand and ashes, which covered the country for a distance of sixty miles.
The new crater soon vomited forth a torrent of lava, which presented a front of two miles. It encircled Monpilieri, and afterward flowed toward Belpasso, a town of 8,000 inhabitants, which was speedily destroyed. Seven mouths of fire opened around the new crater, and in three days united with it, forming one large crater 800 feet in diameter. The torrent of lava had continued to flow, and it destroyed the town of Mascalucia on March 23d. On the same day the crater cast up great quantities of sand, ashes, and scoriae, and formed above itself the great double coned hill called Monti Rossi, from the red color of the ashes of which it is mainly composed. On the 25th very violent earthquakes occurred, and the cone of the great central crater was shaken down into the crater for the fifth time since the beginning of the first century A.D. The original current of lava had divided into three streams, one of which destroyed San Pietro, the second Camporotondo, and the third the lands about Mascalucia, and afterward the village of Misterbianco. Fourteen villages were afterward swept out of existence, and the lava made its way toward Catania. At Albanello, two miles from the city, it undermined a hill covered with corn fields, and carried it forward a considerable distance; a vineyard was also seen floating on its fiery surface.
When the lava reached the walls of Catania, it accumulated without progression until it rose to the top of the wall, sixty feet in height, and it then fell over in a fiery cascade and overwhelmed a part of the city. Another portion of the same stream threw down 120 feet of the wall and carried death and destruction in its course. On April 23d the lava reached the sea, which it entered as a stream 1800 feet broad and forty feet deep. On reaching the sea the water, of course, began to boil violently, and clouds of steam arose, carrying with them particles of scoriae. The volume of lava emitted during this eruption amounted to many millions of cubic feet. Fewara considers that the length of the stream was at least fifteen miles, while its average width was between two and three miles, so that it covered at least forty square miles of surface.
For a few years after this terrible eruption AEtna was quiescent, but in 1682 a new mouth opened on the east side of the mountain, and lava issued from it and rushed down the precipices of the Val del Bue. Early in January, 1693, clouds of black smoke poured from the great crater, and loud noises resembling the discharge of artillery, were heard. A violent earthquake followed, and Catania was shaken to the ground, burying 18,000 of its inhabitants. It is said that in all fifty cities and towns were destroyed in Sicily, together with approximately 100,000 inhabitants.
The following year witnessed another eruption, but no serious disaster resulted. In March, 1702, three mouths opened in the Contrada del Trifaglietto, near the head of the Val del Bue. In 1723, 1732, 1735, 1744, and 1747, slight eruptions occurred. Early in the year 1775 AEtna began to show signs of disturbance; a great column of black smoke issued from the crater, from which forked lightning was frequently emitted. Loud detonations were heard and two streams of lava issued from the crater. A new mouth opened near Rocca di Musarra in the Val del Bue, four miles from the summit, and a quantity of lava was ejected from it. An extraordinary flood of water descended from Val del Bue, carrying all before it, and strewing its path with large blocks. Recupero estimated the volume of water at 16,000,000 cubic feet, probably a greater amount than could be furnished by the sudden melting of all the winter's snow on the mountain. It formed a channel two miles broad, and in some places thirty-four feet deep, and it flowed at the rate of a mile in a minute and a half during the first twelve miles of its course. The flood was probably produced by the melting not only of the winter's snow, but also of older layers of ice, which were suddenly liquified by the permeation of hot steam and lava, and which had been previously preserved from melting by a deposit of sand and ashes, as in the case of the ancient glacier found near the summit of the mountain in 1828.
In November, 1758, a smart shock of earthquake caused the cone of the great crater to fall in, but no eruption followed. In 1759, 1763, 1766, and 1780, eruptions were noted, and on May 18, 1780, a fissure opened on the southwest side of the mountain and extended from the base of the great crater for seven miles, terminating in a new mouth from which a stream of lava emanated. This encountered the cone of Palmintelli in its course, and separated into two branches, each of which was about 4,000 feet wide. Other mouths opened later in the year, and emitted larger quantities of lava, while in 1781 and 1787 there were slight eruptions. Five years later a fresh outbreak occurred; earthquakes were prevalent, and vast volumes of smoke were carried out to sea, seeming to form a gigantic bridge between Sicily and Africa. A torrent of lava flowed toward Aderno, and a second flowed into the Val del Bue as far as Zuccolaro. A pit called La Cisterna, forty feet in diameter, opened in the Piano del Lago near the great cone, and ejected smoke and masses of old lava saturated with water. Several mouths opened below the crater, and the country round about Zaffarana was desolated.
In 1797, 1798, 1799, 1800, 1802, 1805, and 1808 slight eruptions occurred. In March, 1809, no less than twenty-one mouths of fire opened between the summit of the mountain and Castiglione, and two years afterward more than thirty mouths opened in a line running eastward from the summit for five miles. They ejected jets of fire, accompanied by much smoke. In 1819 five new mouths of fire opened near the scene of the eruption of 1811; three of these united into one large crater, and poured forth a quantity of lava into the Val del Bue. The lava flowed until it reached a nearly perpendicular precipice at the head of the valley of Calanna, over which it fell in a cascade, and being hardened by its descent, it was forced against the sides of the tufaceous rock at the bottom, so as to produce an extraordinary amount of abrasion, accompanied by clouds of dust worn off by the friction. Mr. Scrope observed that the lava flowed at the rate of about three feet an hour nine months after its emission.
Eruptions occurred in 1831, 1832, 1838, and 1842. Near the end of the following year, fifteen mouths of fire opened near the crater of 1832, at a height of 7,000 feet above the sea. They began by discharging scoriae and sand, and afterward lava, which divided into three streams, the two outer of which soon came to a standstill, while the central stream continued to flow at the rapid rate of 180 feet a minute, the descent being an angle of 25 deg. The heat at a distance of 120 feet from the current was 90 deg. F. A new crater opened just above Bronte, and discharged lava which threatened the town, but it fortunately encountered Monte Vittoria, and was diverted into another course. While a number of the inhabitants of Bronte were watching the progress of the lava, the front of the stream was suddenly blown out as by an explosion of gunpowder. In an instant red-hot masses were hurled in every direction, and a cloud of vapor enveloped everything. Thirty-six persons were killed on the spot, and twenty survived but a few hours.
A very violent eruption, which lasted more than nine months, commenced on the 26th of August, 1852. It was first witnessed by a party of six English tourists, who were ascending the mountain from Nicolosi in order to witness the sun rise from the summit. As they approached the Casa Inglesi the crater commenced to give forth ashes and flames of fire. In a narrow defile they were met by a violent hurricane, which overthrew both the mules and the riders, and forced them toward the precipices of Val del Bue. They sheltered themselves beneath some masses of lava, when suddenly an earthquake shook the mountain, and the mules fled in terror. They returned on foot toward daylight to Nicolosi, fortunately without having sustained injury. In the course of the night many rifts opened in that part of Val del Bue called the Balzo di Trifaglietto, and a great fissure opened at the base of Giannicola Grande, and a crater was thrown up, from which for seventeen days showers of sand and scoriae were ejected.
During the next day a quantity of lava flowed down into the Val del Bue, branching off so that one stream flowed to the foot of Mount Finocchio, while the other flowed to Mount Calanna. The eruption continued with abated violence during the early months of 1853, and did not fully cease until May 27th. The entire mass of lava ejected is estimated to be equal to an area six miles long by two miles broad, with an average depth of about twelve feet.
In October, 1864, frequent shocks of earthquake were felt by the dwellers on AEtna. In January, 1865, clouds of smoke were emitted by the great crater, and roaring sounds were heard. On the night of the 30th a violent shock was felt on the northeast side of the mountain, and a mouth opened below Monte Frumento, from which lava was ejected. It flowed at the rate of about a mile a day, and ultimately divided into two streams. By March 10th the new mouths of fire had increased to seven in number, and they were all situated along a line stretching down from the summit. The three upper craters gave forth loud detonations three or four times a minute. Since 1865, there have been occasional eruptions, but none of great duration, nor has there been any loss of life in consequence.
It will be seen from the foregoing account that there is a great similarity in the general character of the eruptions of AEtna. Earthquakes presage the outburst; loud explosions are heard; rifts open in the sides of the mountain; smoke, sand, ashes, and scoriae are discharged; the action localizes itself in one or more craters; cinders are thrown out and accumulate around the crater in a conical form; ultimately lava rises through the new cone, frequently breaking down one side of it where there is least resistance, and flowing over the surrounding country. Out of the seventy-eight eruptions mentioned above, a comparatively small number have been of extreme violence, while many of them have been of a slight and harmless character.
Italy does not contain a more beautiful or fertile province than Calabria, the celebrated region which the ancients called Magna Grecia, where once flourished Crotona, Tarentum, Sybaris, and so many other prosperous cities. Situated between the volcanoes of Vesuvius and AEtna, Calabria has always been much exposed to the destructive influence of earthquakes, but the most terrible shock ever felt in the province was that of February 5, 1783. The ground was agitated in all directions, swelling like the waves of the ocean. Nothing could withstand such shocks, and not a building upon the surface remained erect. The beautiful city of Messina, the commercial metropolis of Sicily, was reduced to a heap of ruins.
Upon March 4, a fresh shock, almost as violent as the first, completed the work of destruction. The number of persons who perished in Calabria and Sicily during these two earthquakes is estimated at 80,000 and 320 of the 365 towns and villages which Calabria contained were destroyed. The greater number of those who lost their lives were buried amid the ruins of the houses, but many perished in fires that were kindled in most of the towns, particularly in Oppido, where the flames were fed by great magazines of oil. Not a few, especially among the peasantry dwelling in the country, were suddenly engulfed in fissures. Many who were only half buried in the ruins, and who might have been saved had there been help at hand, were left to die a lingering death from cold and hunger. Four Augustine monks at Terranova perished thus miserably. Having taken refuge in a vaulted sacristy, they were entombed in it alive by the masses of rubbish, and lingered for four days, during which their cries for help could be heard, till death put an end to their sufferings.
Of still more thrilling interest was the case of the Marchioness Spadara. Having fainted at the moment of the first great shock, she was lifted by her husband, who, bearing her in his arms, hurried with her to the harbor. Here, on recovering her senses, she observed that her infant boy had been left behind. Taking advantage of a moment when her husband was too much occupied to notice her, she darted off, and, running back to her house, which was still standing, she snatched her babe from his cradle. Rushing with him in her arms toward the staircase, she found the stair had fallen, barring all further progress in that direction. She fled from room to room, chased by the falling materials, and at length reached a balcony as her last refuge. Holding up her infant, she implored the few passers-by for help; but they all, intent on securing their own safety, turned a deaf ear to her cries. Meanwhile her mansion had caught fire, and ere long the balcony, with the devoted lady still grasping her darling, was hurled into the devouring flames.
A few cases are recorded of devotion similar to that of this heroic woman, but happily attended by more fortunate results. In the great majority of instances, however, the instinct of self-preservation triumphed over every other feeling, rendering the wretched people callous to the dangers and sufferings of others. Still worse was the conduct of the half savage peasantry. They hastened into the towns like vultures to their prey. Instead of helping the sufferers, they ransacked the smoking ruins for plunder, robbed the persons of the dead, and of those entangled alive among the rubbish. They robbed the very injured who would have paid them handsomely for rescuing them. At Polistena, a gentleman had been buried head downward beneath the ruins of his house, and when his servant saw what had happened he actually stole the silver buckles off his shoes, while his legs were in the air, and made off with them. The unfortunate gentleman, however, managed to rescue himself from his perilous position.
Several cases occurred of persons being rescued alive from the ruins after a lapse of three, four, and even five days, and one on the seventh day after interment. Those who were thus rescued all declared that their direst sufferings were from thirst.
LISBON EARTHQUAKE SCOURGED.
BY TRUMBULL WHITE.
Sixty Thousand Lives Lost in a Few Moments—An Opulent and Populous Capital Destroyed—Graphic Account by an English Merchant Who Resided in the Stricken City—Tidal Waves Drown Thousands in the City Streets—Ships Engulfed in the Harbor—Criminals Rob and Burn—Terrible Desolation and Suffering.
More than once in its history has Lisbon, the beautiful capital of Portugal, on the Tagus river, been devastated by earthquakes and tidal waves. Greatest of all these was the appalling disaster of 1755, when in a few minutes thousands upon thousands of the inhabitants were killed or drowned. An English merchant, Mr. Davy, who resided in the ill-fated city at that time, and was an eye-witness of the whole catastrophe, survived the event and wrote to a London friend the following account of it. The narrative reproduced herewith brings the details before the reader with a force and simplicity which leaves no doubt of the exact truth. Mr. Davy wrote as follows:
"On the morning of November 1st I was seated in my apartment, just finishing a letter, when the papers and the table I was writing on began to tremble with a gentle motion, which rather surprised me, as I could not perceive a breath of wind stirring. Whilst I was reflecting with myself what this could be owing to, but without having the least apprehension of the real cause, the whole house began to shake from the very foundation, and a frightful noise came from underground, resembling the hollow, distant rumbling of thunder.
"Upon this I threw down my pen, and started upon my feet, remaining a moment in suspense, whether I should stay in the apartment or run into the street, as the danger in both places seemed equal. In a moment I was stunned with a most horrid crash, as if every edifice in the city had tumbled down at once. The house I was in shook with such violence that the upper stories immediately fell, and though my apartment, which was on the first floor, did not then share the same fate, yet everything was thrown out of its place in such a manner that it was with no small difficulty I kept my feet, and expected nothing less than to be soon crushed to death, as the walls continued rocking to and fro, opening in several places; large stones falling down on every side from the cracks, and the ends of most of the rafters starting out from the roofs.
"To add to this terrifying scene, the sky in a moment became so gloomy that I could now distinguish no particular object; it was an Egyptian darkness indeed, such as might be felt.
"As soon as the gloom began to disperse and the violence of the shock seemed pretty much abated, the first object I perceived in the room was a woman sitting on the floor with an infant in her arms, all covered with dust, pale and trembling. I asked her how she got hither, but her consternation was so great that she could give me no account of her escape. I suppose that when the tremor first began, she ran out of her own house, and finding herself in such imminent danger from the falling stones, retired into the door of mine, which was almost contiguous to hers, for shelter, and when the shock increased, which filled the door with dust and rubbish, she ran upstairs into my apartment. The poor creature asked me, in the utmost agony, if I did not think the world was at an end; at the same time she complained of being choked, and begged me to procure her some water. Upon this I went to a closet where I kept a large jar of water, but found it broken to pieces. I told her she must not now think of quenching her thirst, but saving her life, as the house was just falling on our heads, and if a second shock came, would certainly bury us both.
"I hurried down stairs, the woman with me, holding by my arm, and made directly to that end of the street which opens to the Tagus. Finding the passage this way entirely blocked up with the fallen houses to the height of their second stories, I turned back to the other end which led to the main street, and there helped the woman over a vast heap of ruins, with no small hazard to my own life; just as we were going into this street, as there was one part that I could not well climb over without the assistance of my hands as well as feet, I desired her to let go her hold, which she did, remaining two or three feet behind me, at which instant there fell a vast stone from a tottering wall, and crushed both her and the child in pieces. So dismal a spectacle at any other time would have affected me in the highest degree, but the dread I was in of sharing the same fate myself, and the many instances of the same kind which presented themselves all around, were too shocking to make me dwell a moment on this single object.
"I now had a long, narrow street to pass, with the houses on each side four or five stories high, all very old, the greater part already thrown down, or continually falling, and threatening the passengers with inevitable death at every step, numbers of whom lay killed before me, or what I thought far more deplorable, so bruised and wounded that they could not stir to help themselves. For my own part, as destruction appeared to me unavoidable, I only wished I might be made an end of at once, and not have my limbs broken, in which case I could expect nothing else but to be left upon the spot, lingering in misery, like those poor unhappy wretches, without receiving the least succor from any person.
"As self-preservation, however, is the first law of nature, these sad thoughts did not so far prevail as to make me totally despair. I proceeded on as fast as I conveniently could, though with the utmost caution, and having at length got clear of this horrid passage, I found myself safe and unhurt in the large open space before St. Paul's church, which had been thrown down a few minutes before, and buried a great part of the congregation. Here I stood for some time, considering what I should do, and not thinking myself safe in this situation, I came to the resolution of climbing over the ruins of the west end of the church, in order to get to the river's side, that I might be removed as far as possible from the tottering houses, in case of a second shock.
"This, with some difficulty, I accomplished, and here I found a prodigious concourse of people of both sexes, and of all ranks and conditions. There were several priests who had run from the altars in their sacerdotal vestments; ladies half dressed, and some without shoes; all these, whom their mutual dangers had here assembled as to a place of safety, were on their knees at prayer, with the terrors of death in their countenances.
"In the midst of these devotions the second great shock came on, little less violent than the first, and completed the ruin of those buildings which had been already much shattered. The consternation now became so universal, that the shrieks and cries of the frightened people could be distinctly heard from the top of St. Catherine's hill, a considerable distance off, whither a vast number of the populace had likewise retreated. At the same time we could hear the fall of the parish church there, whereby many persons were killed on the spot, and others mortally wounded. On a sudden I heard a general outcry, 'The sea is coming in, we are lost!' Turning my eyes toward the river, which at this place is nearly four miles broad, I could perceive it heaving and swelling in a most unaccountable manner, as no wind was stirring. In an instant there appeared, at some small distance, a large body of water, rising as it were like a mountain. It came on foaming and roaring, and rushed toward the shore with such impetuosity, that we all immediately ran for our lives, as fast as possible; many were actually swept away, and the rest were above their waists in water, at a good distance from the bank.
"For my own part, I had the narrowest escape, and should certainly have been lost, had I not grasped a large beam that lay on the ground, till the water returned to its channel, which it did with equal rapidity. As there now appeared at least as much danger from the sea as the land, and I scarce knew whither to retire for shelter, I took a sudden resolution of returning, with my clothes all dripping, to the area of St. Paul's. Here I stood some time, and observed the ships tumbling and tossing about as in a violent storm. Some had broken their cables and were carried to the other side of the Tagus; others were whirled around with incredible swiftness; several large boats were turned keel upward; and all this without any wind, which seemed the more astonishing.
"It was at the time of which I am now writing, that the fine new quay, built entirely of rough marble, at an immense expense, was entirely swallowed up, with all the people on it, who had fled thither for safety, and had reason to think themselves out of danger in such a place. At the same time a great number of boats and small vessels, anchored near it, all likewise full of people, who had retired thither for the same purpose, were all swallowed up, as in a whirlpool, and never more appeared.
"This last dreadful incident I did not see with my own eyes, as it passed three or four stone-throws from the spot where I then was, but I had the account as here given from several masters of ships, who were anchored within two or three hundred yards of the quay, and saw the whole catastrophe. One of them in particular informed me that when the second shock came on, he could perceive the whole city waving backwards and forwards, like the sea when the wind first begins to rise; that the agitation of the earth was so great, even under the river, that it threw up his large anchor from the mooring, which swam, as he termed it, on the surface of the water; that immediately upon this extraordinary concussion, the river rose at once nearly twenty feet, and in a moment subsided; at which instant he saw the quay, with the whole concourse of people upon it, sink down, and at the same time everyone of the boats and vessels that were near it were drawn into the cavity, which he supposes instantly closed upon them, inasmuch as not the least sign of a wreck was ever seen afterwards.
"I had not been long in the area of St. Paul's, when I felt the third shock, which though somewhat less violent than the two former, the sea rushed in again and retired with the same rapidity, and I remained up to my knees in water, though I had gotten upon a small eminence at some distance from the river, with the ruins of several intervening houses to break its force. At this time I took notice the waters retired so impetuously, that some vessels were left quite dry, which rode in seven-fathom water. The river thus continued alternately rushing on and retiring several times, in such sort that it was justly dreaded Lisbon would now meet the same fate which a few years ago had befallen the city of Lima. The master of a vessel which arrived here just after the first of November assured me that he felt the shock above forty leagues at sea so sensibly that he really concluded that he had struck upon a rock, till he threw out the lead and could find no bottom; nor could he possibly guess at the cause till the melancholy sight of this desolate city left him no room to doubt it.
"I was now in such a situation that I knew not which way to turn; I was faint from the constant fatigue I had undergone, and I had not yet broken my fast. Yet this had not so much effect on me as the anxiety I was under for a particular friend, who lodged at the top of a very high house in the heart of the city, and being a stranger to the language, could not but be in the utmost danger. I determined to go and learn, if possible, what had become of him. I proceeded, with some hazard, to the large space before the convent of Corpo Santo, which had been thrown down, and buried a great number of people. Passing through the new square of the palace, I found it full of coaches, chariots, chaises, horses and mules, deserted by their drivers and attendants, and left to starve.
"From this square the way led to my friend's lodgings through a long, steep and narrow street. The new scenes of horror I met with here exceed all description; nothing could be heard but sighs and groans. I did not meet with a soul in the passage who was not bewailing the loss of his nearest relations and dearest friends. I could hardly take a single step without treading on the dead or dying. In some places lay coaches, with their masters, horses and riders almost crushed in pieces; here, mothers with infants in their arms; there, ladies richly dressed, priests, friars, gentlemen, mechanics, either in the same condition or just expiring; some had their backs broken, others great stones on their breasts; some lay almost buried in the rubbish, and crying out in vain for succor, were left to perish with the rest.
"At length I arrived at the spot opposite to the house where my friend, for whom I was so anxious, resided; and finding this as well as the other contiguous buildings thrown down, I gave him up for lost, and thought only of saving my own life.
"In less than an hour I reached a public house, kept by a Mr. Morley, near the English burying-ground, about a half a mile from the city, where I found a great number of my countrymen in the same wretched circumstances as myself.
"Perhaps you may think the present doleful subject here concluded; but the horrors of the day are sufficient to fill a volume. As soon as it grew dark, another scene presented itself, little less shocking than those already described. The whole city appeared in a blaze, which was so bright that I could easily see to read by it. It may be said without exaggeration that it was on fire in at least a hundred different places at once, and thus continued burning for six days together, without intermission, or without the least attempt being made to stop its progress.
"It went on consuming everything the earthquake had spared, and the people were so dejected and terrified that few or none had courage enough to venture down to save any part of their substance. I could never learn that this terrible fire was owing to any subterraneous eruption, as some reported, but to three causes, which all concurring at the same time, will naturally account for the prodigious havoc it made. The first of November being All Saint's Day, a high festival among the Portuguese, every altar in every church and chapel, some of which have more than twenty, was illuminated with a number of wax tapers and lamps, as customary; these setting fire to the curtains and timber work that fell with the shock, the conflagration soon spread to the neighboring houses, and being there joined with the fires in the kitchen chimneys, increased to such a degree, that it might easily have destroyed the whole city, though no other cause had concurred, especially as it met with no interruption.
"But what would appear almost incredible to you, were the fact less notorious and public, is, that a gang of hardened villains, who had escaped from prison when the wall fell, were busily employed in setting fire to those buildings, which stood some chance of escaping the general destruction. I cannot conceive what could have induced them to this hellish work, except to add to the horror and confusion, that they might, by this means, have the better opportunity of plundering with security. But there was no necessity for taking this trouble, as they might certainly have done their business without it, since the whole city was so deserted before night, that I believe not a soul remained in it, except those execrable villains, and others of the same stamp. It is possible some of them might have had other motives besides robbing, as one in particular being apprehended—they say he was a Moor, condemned to the galleys—confessed at the gallows that he had set fire to the King's palace with his own hand; at the same time glorying in the action, and declaring with his last breath, that he hoped to have burnt all the royal family.
"The whole number of persons that perished, including those who were burnt or afterwards crushed to death whilst digging in the ruins, is supposed, on the lowest calculation, to amount to more than sixty thousand; and though the damage in other respects cannot be computed, yet you may form some idea of it, when I assure you that this extensive and opulent city is now nothing but a vast heap of ruins; that the rich and poor are at present upon a level; some thousands of families which but the day before had been in easy circumstances, being now scattered about in the fields, wanting every convenience of life, and finding none able to relieve them.
"In order that you may partly realize the prodigious havoc that has been made, I will mention one more instance among the many that have come under my notice. There was a high arched passage, like one of our old city gates, fronting the west door of the ancient cathedral; on the left hand was the famous church of St. Antonio, and on the right, some private houses several stories high. The whole area surrounded by all these buildings did not much exceed one of our small courts in London. At the first shock, numbers of people who were then passing under the arch, fled into the middle of this area for shelter; those in the two churches, as many as could possibly get out, did the same. At this instant, the arched gateway, with the fronts of the two churches and contiguous buildings, all inclined one toward another with the sudden violence of the shock, fell down and buried every soul as they were standing here crowded together."
The portion of the earth's surface convulsed by this earthquake is estimated by Humboldt to have been four times greater than the whole extent of Europe. The shocks were felt not only over the Spanish peninsula, but in Morocco and Algeria they were nearly as violent. At a place about twenty-four miles from the city of Morocco, a great fissure opened in the earth, and the entire village, with all its inhabitants, upward of 8,000 in number, were precipitated into the gulf, which immediately closed over its prey.
The earthquake was also felt as far to the westward as the West Indian islands of Antigua, Barbados, and Martinique, where the tide, which usually rises about two feet, was suddenly elevated above twenty feet, the water being at the same time as black as ink. Toward the northwest the shock was perceptible as far as Canada, whose great lakes were all disturbed. Toward the east it extended to the Alps, to Thuringia, and to Toeplitz, where the hot springs were first dried up, and soon after overflowed with ochreous water. In Scotland the waters both of Loch Lomond and Loch Ness rose and fell repeatedly. Toward the northeast, the shock was sensibly felt throughout the flat country of northern Germany, in Sweden, and along the shores of the Baltic.
At sea, 140 miles to the southward of Lisbon, the ship Denia was strained as if she had struck on a rock; the seams of the deck opened, and the compass was upset. On board another ship, 120 miles to the westward of Cape St. Vincent, the shock was so violent as to toss the men up perpendicularly from the deck. The great sea wave rose along the whole southern and western coasts of Portugal and Spain; and at Cadiz it is said to have risen to a height of sixty feet. At Tangier, on the northern coast of Africa, the tide rose and fell eighteen times in rapid succession. At Funchal in Madeira, where the usual ebb and flow of the tide is seven feet, it being half tide at the time, the great wave rolled in, and at once raised the level of the water fifteen feet above high water mark. This immense tide, rushing into the city, caused great damage, and several other parts of the island were similarly flooded. The tide was also suddenly raised on the southern coast of Ireland; the
JAPAN AND ITS DISASTROUS EARTHQUAKES AND VOLCANOES.
BY TRUMBULL WHITE.
The Island Empire Subject to Convulsions of Nature—Legends of Ancient Disturbances—Famous Volcano of Fuji-yama Formed in One Night—More Than One Hundred Volcanoes in Japan—Two Hundred and Thirty-two Eruptions Recorded—Devastation of Thriving Towns and Busy Cities—The Capital a Sufferer—Scenes of Desolation after the Most Recent Great Earthquakes.
Japan may be considered the home of the volcano and the earthquake. Few months pass there without one or more earth shocks of considerable force, besides numerous lighter ones of too slight a nature to be worthy of remark. Japanese histories furnish many records of these phenomena.
There is an ancient legend of a great earthquake in 286 B.C., when Mount Fuji rose from the bottom of the sea in a single night. This is the highest and most famous mountain of the country. It rises more than 12,000 feet above the water level, and is in shape like a cone; the crater is 500 feet deep. It is regarded by the natives as a sacred mountain, and large numbers of pilgrims make the ascent to the summit at the commencement of the summer. The apex is shaped somewhat like an eight-petaled lotus flower, and offers from three to five peaks to view from different directions. Though now apparently extinct, it was in former times an active volcano, and the histories of the country mention several very disastrous eruptions. Japanese poets never weary in celebrating the praises of Fuji-san, or Fuji-yama, as it is variously called, and its conical form is one of the most familiar in Japanese painting and decorative art.
As Japan has not yet been scientifically explored throughout, and, moreover, as there is considerable difficulty in defining the kind of mountain to be regarded as a volcano, it is impossible to give an absolute statement as to the number of volcanoes in the country. If under the term volcano be included all mountains which have been in a state of eruption within the historical period, those which have a true volcanic form, together with those that still exhibit on their flanks matter ejected from a crater, we may conclude that there are at least 100 such mountains in the Japanese empire. Of this number about forty-eight are still active.
Altogether about 232 eruptions have been recorded, and of these the greater number took place in the southern districts. This may perhaps be accounted for by the fact that Japanese civilization advanced from the south. In consequence of this, records were made of various phenomena in the south when the northern regions were still unknown and unexplored.
The most famous of the active volcanoes is Asama-yama in Shinano. The earliest eruption of this mountain of which record now exists seems to have been in 1650. After that it was only feebly active for 133 years, when there occurred a very severe eruption in 1783. Even as late as 1870 there was a considerable emission of volcanic matter, at which time also violent shocks of earthquake were felt at Yokohama. The crater is very deep, with irregular rocky walls of a sulphur character, from apertures in which fumes are constantly sent forth.
Probably the earliest authentic instance of an earthquake in Japan is that which is said to have occurred in 416 A.D., when the imperial palace at Kioto was thrown to the ground. Again, in 599, the buildings throughout the province of Yamato were all destroyed, and special prayers were ordered to be offered up to the deity of earthquakes. In 679 a tremendous shock caused many fissures to open in the provinces of Chikuzen and Chikugo, in Kiushiu; the largest of these chasms was over four miles in length and about twenty feet in width. In 829 the northern province of Dewa was visited in a similar manner; the castle of Akita was overthrown, deep rifts were formed in the ground in every direction, and the Akita river was dried up.
To descend to more recent instances, in 1702 the lofty walls of the outside and inside moats of the castle of Yeddo were destroyed, tidal waves broke along the coast in the vicinity, and the road leading through the famous pass of Hakone, in the hills to the east of Fuji-yama was closed up by the alteration in the surface of the earth. A period of unusual activity was between the years 1780 and 1800, a time when there was great activity elsewhere on the globe. It was during this period that Mount Unsen was blown up, and from 27,000 to 53,000 persons (according to different accounts) perished; that many islands were formed in the Satsuma sea; that Sakura-jima threw out so much pumice material that it was possible to walk a distance of twenty-three miles upon the floating debris in the sea; and that Asama ejected so many blocks of stone—one of which is said to have been forty-two feet in diameter—and a lava-stream sixty-eight kilometres in length.
In 1854 an earthquake destroyed the town of Shimoda, in the province of Idzu, and a Russian frigate, lying in the harbor at the time, was so severely damaged by the waves caused by the shock that she had to be abandoned. In 1855 came a great earthquake which was felt most severely at Yedo, though its destructive power extended for some distance to the west along the line of the Tokaido. It is stated that on this occasion there were in all 14,241 dwelling houses and 1,649 fire proof store houses overturned in the city, and a destructive fire which raged at the same time further increased the loss of life and property.
What was possibly the gravest disaster of its class in this land of volcanoes, since the terrible eruptions which came in the twenty years ending in 1800, occurred in the Bandai-san region in northern Japan, on July 15, 1888. At about eight o'clock in the morning of that day, almost in the twinkling of an eye, Little Bandai-san was blown into the air, and wiped out of the map of Japan. A few moments later its debris had buried or devastated the surrounding country for miles, and a dozen or more of upland hamlets had been overwhelmed in the earthen deluge, or wrecked by other phenomena attending the outburst. Several hundreds of people had met with sudden and terrible death; scores of others had been injured; and the long roll of disaster included the destruction of horses and cattle, damming up of rivers, and laying waste of large tracts of rice-land and mulberry groves.
A small party was organized in Tokio to visit the scene. As the travelers approached the mountain, they were told that twenty miles in a straight line from Bandai-san no noise or earthquake was experienced on the 15th, but mist and gloom prevailed for about seven hours, the result of a shower of impalpable blue-gray ash, which fell to a depth of half an inch, and greatly puzzled the inhabitants. An ascent of about 3,000 feet was made to the back of the newly formed crater, so as to obtain a clear view of it and of the country which had been overwhelmed. Only on nearing the end of the ascent was the party again brought face to face with signs of the explosion. Here, besides the rain of fine, gray, ashen mud which had fallen on and still covered the ground and all vegetation, they came upon a number of freshly opened pits, evidently in some way the work of the volcano. Ascending the last steep rise to the ridge behind Little Bandai-san, signs of the great disaster grew in number and intensity.