Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 71.djvu/49

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43
THE GREAT JAPANESE VOLCANO ASO

and sulphur vapor and reverberating with explosive roars. This little crater has an oblong shape and is at a rough estimate 900 feet across and 2,000 feet long. Its rim is very uneven, being much higher on the north and east than on the other sides. It is divided into five compartments or vents, each separated from the other by a wall of mud, 100 feet or more high. The two already mentioned are the deepest and the only active ones, and occasionally, when the vapor column diminishes, one can look to the bottom of the northern vent and see the burning sulphur that plasters the lower walls and floor. The bottom is a round flat disc of cracked mud looking like the dried bottom of a pond, and there is no appearance of a hole or conduit descending to greater depths. The other of the two active crater holes is deeper and pours forth more steam. Its bottom can not be seen from any point upon the rim. The yellow sulphur fumes fill the air and become almost unbearable at times when the wind shifts the cloud a little towards one. We were able to follow the edge the whole way round the crater, a distance of about one and one half miles, but the going was difficult on account of the extremely slippery mud that forms the outer sides, which slope sharply away from the precipice on the interior. This soft, fine mud, both outside and inside the crater, is furrowed by rain and given a curious appearance. The other three vents, besides the two already mentioned, lie to the south along the axis of the crater. They are steep-walled, but not so deep as the other ones. They have flat bottoms of cracked mud, though in one the floor at the time of our visit was occupied by a shallow pool of water.

The view from points near the edge of the crater embraces a large part of the northern basin through a gap in the encircling heights on the north. But on all the other sides the rolling summit region is pretty well enclosed and looks a little as if it might have been at one time ages ago the site of a crateral basin much larger than the present active one.

At length the late hour and our extreme thirst after a warm day without water on these dry mountains drove us down from the heights. At the rest house by the temples we obtained a reviving drink of cold spring water, and on the bench where we sat to drink it we left all the change in our possession, which was a total of ten coins, amounting to nine tenths of a cent.

During the memory of man the crater on top of the Aso range has been active, and successive severe eruptions have again and again blown out ashes, cinders and bombs that have darkened the sky for many miles around and covered up the fields, have sent streams of mud mingled with hot water flooding down the mountain sides and over the plain, and caused terrifying noises and shakings of the ground. At such times crops and trees have been blighted and killed by the falling ash or by the heat and vapors, and the streams have been so