The fairy tales of science/Pluto's Kingdom

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"Pluto's Kingdom"

Pluto's Kingdom.


"Down to the inmost core of this our mother Earth,
To the sad realm of shades, where Pluto sits enthroned,
In gloomy majesty, grim King of Death;
And Phlegethontic rills roll waves of lurid fire—
There will I lead, an thou wilt follow me."

Klopstock.


They were brethren three, sons of Old Time, who shared among them the dominion of the world. Jupiter, the eldest of them, assumed the supreme rule of heaven and earth; to Neptune was given the empire of the sea; Pluto had assigned to his sway the interior of the earth—the realm of death.

The name of Pluto is taken from a Greek word signifying wealth, and was therefore most appropriately given to the master of all the hidden treasures of the earth. The Latins called the king of the infernum, Dis—i.e., Dives, the wealthy.

The gate to the dominions of Pluto was guarded by the many-headed dog Cerberus.[1] To get there you had to pass the famous River Styx, or the sad river. Over this you were ferried by Charon, the son of Hell and Night, for the small consideration of an obolus,[2] which the ancients, for this reason, used to put in the mouths of the dead. But woe unto those shadows whose bodies had had no burial: for a hundred years had they to wander by the side of the river, before they could hope to induce the grim ferryman to carry them over. And grim he was, this ferryman, and far from prepossessing, if the portrait drawn of him by Virgil may be considered a correct likeness:—a frightfully ugly old man, with glaring eyes and a bushy, matted beard; a dirty, dark-coloured mantle, fastened with a knot, hanging down from his left shoulder. The River Styx, or the Stygian Lake, as it was also called, encircled hell in a sevenfold embrace. There dwelt a marvellous power in the name, to which even the highest divinities were subject. If any of the gods swore falsely by it, a hundred years' exile from heaven, with loss for that time of all the rights, privileges, and other appurtenances belonging to divinity, punished the perjurer. Four other rivers, besides Styx, flowed through the sad realms of Death—the Acheron, the Cocytus, the Phlegeton, and the Lethe. The Phlegeton was a lake of liquid fire; whoever drank of the waters of Lethe forgot all that was past. According to the doctrine of the transmigration of souls taught by Pythagoras[3] in the sixth century B.C., the souls of the departed were made to drink the waters of Lethe, when quitting the infernal regions to return to the surface of the earth to animate new bodies there.

Pluto, the supreme lord and ruler over this subterranean realm, sat here enthroned in gloomy majesty, on a seat of ebony, a crown of the same wood encircling his "portentous brow," and a two-pronged sceptre in his right hand. On voyages of inspection through his dominions, he rode in a chariot of dark hue, drawn by four jet-black steeds. No temples nor altars were ever raised to him by man; no hymns ever chanted in his praise; and strange enough, from some tacit understanding among the learned of all nations, evidently dictated by some universal mysterious intuitive sense of the "fitness of things," the starry heavens are, even to the present day, left without a representative of his name. Yet was he acknowledged to be a powerful god, and trembling man would not dare to withhold from him the propitiatory sacrifice: the blood of black rams, spilt in a pit, was the peace-offering presented to him.

Pluto’s lord high-treasurer and secretary of state for the financial department was Plutus, the God of Wealth, son of Jasius and Ceres. We find that the ancient Greeks imputed to this god blindness and folly, which in fact would appear to have been the chief qualifications that recommended him for his high office. He was depicted lame in his approach, winged in his departure. Among the other high officers of state in Pluto’s court, figured more especially the three fatal sistersClotho, who held the spindle, and drew the thread of man’s life; Lachesis, who spun it; and Atropos, who cut it asunder with her relentless scissors; the three infernal judges—Minos, the lord chief-justice of hell, the son of Jupiter and Europa, whilom king and lawgiver of the Cretans; and his two assistant-judges, Æacus, the son of Jupiter and Ægina;[4] and Rhadamanthus, also a Cretan lawgiver. These three presided over the great interminable commission of oyer and terminer, and everlasting universal jail-delivery, held in the infernum. Before their dread tribunal had to appear all the shades of the departed; no appeal from their decrees! Instant execution attended their sentences. The officials upon whom devolved the execution of the judgments given by this model Star-chamber, were presided over by three most unamiable females, holding lighted torches in their hands, and with a fanciful arrangement of snakes dangling round their heads, in lieu of hair—Alecto, the never resting; Megæra, the type of envy; Tisiphone, the avenger of blood.

The empire of the dead was divided into two parts—Tartarus, or hell proper, and Elysium, or the Elysean fields.

Tartarus was the place of punishment assigned to the criminals condemned by the dark tribunal. Here might be seen the Titans and the Giants who had dared to “war ’gainst heaven’s king;” here Salmoneus of Elis, who had impiously attempted to imitate Jupiter’s thunder by rattling his torch-lighted chariot over a bridge of brass; here the robber Sisyphus, condemned to the eternal fruitless labour of rolling an immense stone to the top of a high mountain, which it has hardly reached when it rolls down again; here Tityus, the giant offspring of Earth, who had been so ill-advised as to compete with Jupiter for the possession of Latona, but was straightways cast down into hell by the indignant god. Here he covered nine acres of land, as he lay stretched on the ground, with vultures on both sides devouring his entrails, which kept on growing afresh as fast as they were eaten away; here Ixion, tied with serpents to an eternally turning wheel, for having dared to aspire to the favours of Juno; here Tantalus, condemned eternally to stand in water to the chin, and with an abundance of pleasant fruit just at his lips, without the power of even once satisfying his hunger or quenching his thirst—a fearful punishment indeed, yet well deserved, for that he, to test the divinity of the gods, had killed his own son Pelops, and set the limbs before them, baked in a pie; here the forty-nine daughters of Danaus, who, obedient to their father’s behest, had slain their husbands on the wedding night. Hypermnestra alone, of the fifty daughters of the king, had spared her husband Lynceus, and she alone was therefore exempt from the punishment decreed to her sisters, who were condemned to eternally and incessantly pour water into a tub full of holes.

Elysium, on the other hand, the placid abode of peace and contentment, was assigned for the habitation of the souls of good and virtuous men, the doers of heroic deeds, and those who had rendered important services to humanity. Here the spirits of the blessed wandered in serene happiness, under a sunny and star-spangled sky, in a pure atmosphere, over ever-blooming fields, and through ever-green laurel groves, continuing those pursuits and occupations in which they had delighted most in their terrestrial career.[5]

Now, however so nice this pleasant little retreat, and “fit for a goddess,” it would appear that none of these ladies could be persuaded by Pluto to share his throne. Finding the honour of his alliance everywhere “declined, with thanks,” he took at last the desperate step of carrying off to his subterranean realm Proserpine, the daughter of his brother Jupiter, and his sister Ceres. The bereaved mother lighted torches on Mount Ætna, and incessantly, both by day and night, sought for her daughter all over the world, but in vain. Informed at last of the whereabout of her daughter by the nymph Arethusa, she descended to the infernum to claim the restitution of her child, as she decidedly objected to brimstone matches. But Proserpine, won over, most likely, to Pluto by the splendour of his throne, showed no great eagerness to comply with mamma’s peremptory request to instantly “come out of that;” and poor Ceres was obliged, as a last resource, to appeal to the justice and power of Jupiter. He decreed that Proserpine should return to heaven, provided she had tasted nothing in hell; but, unfortunately, one of those busybodies who are always poking their noses into other people’s affairs, one Ascalaphus, son of Acheron and Orphne, stood forward as witness on Pluto’s behalf, deposing that he had seen the lady eating seven pomegranate seeds, as she walked in Pluto’s orchard. Whereupon, all hope of a return being gone, the angry mother touched the luckless Ascalaphus with her magic wand, and enriched the tribe of owls by a new species. It would, however, appear that Jupiter, afterwards yielding to the deep grief and the incessant lamentations of his sister, granted that her daughter should only live six months in the year with her husband below, and the other six months with the gods above.

Such as we have here endeavoured to sketch it in a few rapid outlines, was the kingdom of Pluto in the ideal conception of the ancient Greeks, that nation of poets. To us, alack and alas for the poetry of the thing—to us, the sons of a hard, stern, matter-of-fact age, a very different image presents itself. We still make use of the name, indeed, but the god, with all that pertained unto him, has departed for ever and ever more. Our “Pluto’s Kingdom ” is the mass of liquid fire that constitutes the inner kernel of the earth. To us, he is the Great Fire-King, and he and his realm are one.

It is now an almost universally received notion, by astronomers as well as by geologists, that this globe of ours, as indeed all other planetary bodies, once existed in a gaseous form, and was subsequently, by chemical combination of the gases constituting it, and consequent evolution of heat, gradually condensed into a glowing, fusing mass, which being whirled round in space, ultimately assumed, under the conjoint action of gravity and the rotatory projecting impulse inherent in it, its present state and orange-shaped form, the surface or “crust” gradually cooling and hardening in process of time.

If you wish to form some intelligible conception of the state and condition of the earth, you need simply go to a foundry, and watch the cooling of a cannon-ball heated to redness; as it cools you see the surface becoming gradually covered with pellicles, or flakes of oxide of iron, whilst a touch will speedily convince you that the heat beneath the surface continues still unabated; and it is only after a certain time, when the process of cooling has extended to the inner part, that you may take up the ball without burning your fingers. Now proceed a little further; take up a mass of cinder, or scoria, that has cooled, and break it to pieces—you will find that the inside shows streaks and veins of different materials, and presents many cavities or holes, called by foundrymen “honeycomb.” Reflect now that these cavities were formed in the cinder while yet in the red-hot state, either by air or by gases. Think that at the bottom of these cavities there once was floating a small drop of melted matter. Now bring your imagination into play, and let that cinder represent the earth; the cavities subterranean caverns of many hundred square miles, and the melted drop an immense lake of liquid fire, burning, boiling, heaving to the top, enlarging the cavern, melting away parts of the crust nearest to it, or swelling it up until it cracks, and forms crevices and fissures for the escape of smoke, flames, and fused matter. Here you have, also, at once, an intelligible theory of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

It has been demonstrated by numerous observations made in mines, and by Artesian wells in various countries, that the temperature of the earth rapidly increases with the depth, but that the rate of augmentation is different at different places—in the Northumberland coal-pits, for instance, one degree Fahrenheit for every 44 feet in descent; in the lead-mines of Saxony, one degree for every 65 feet; in the copper-mines of Knockmahon, county of Waterford, one degree for every 82 feet; in the Dolcoath mine, in Cornwall, one degree for every 78 feet. Assuming the average increase of temperature to be one degree of Fahrenheit for every 60 feet of depth, and the rate of increase to remain constant, at a depth of 60,000 feet below the surface of the earth the temperature must stand at 1000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is that of low red-heat. But as the temperature will increase with the depth in an augmenting ratio, Leonhard assumes that the temperature of a low red-heat would be attained already at a depth of 35,000 feet, or double the height of Cotopaxi, the most remarkable of the Peruvian volcanoes. Descending still lower, to depths varying from 80 to 160 miles below the surface, the temperature would be found at that depth to exceed 12,000 degrees Fahrenheit—a heat sufficient to melt most of the known rocks. But considering that the dense fluid portions of the earth are most probably much better conductors of heat than the crust, it may safely be assumed that this high temperature is acquired at a still less depth. Were we to proceed down to the very centre of the earth, we should there find, supposing a regular rate of progression in the increase of temperature, a heat exceeding 3500 degrees of Wedgewood’s pyrometer, or something like 450,000 degrees Fahrenheit! The solid crust of the earth is generally supposed to be only from 60 to 100 miles thick; and it is probably even much less; that the thickness is very unequal is shown by the variation of temperature, which cannot be attributed solely to different degrees of conductibility in different parts. The process of cooling from the crust downwards is, of course, still going on, but, as has been demonstrated by Fourier, at a less rate than was formerly the case. According to the same authority, it will require 30,000 years to reduce the increase of temperature on descending into the interior of the earth from its present rate of one degree Fahrenheit for every 60 feet in descent, to one-half degree. Some geological chemists have calculated from the known laws of radiation of heat, that it would take 200,000,000 years to cool the earth to its centre!

Another point to consider is the density of the earth. The density of the crust lies between 2·7 and 2·9; but we know, from most careful and accurate pendulum experiments, that the average density of the bulk of the earth is about 5·5. It is quite evident, therefore, that the ponderable matter of the interior must be very much denser than that of the crust. The generally received notion is that, assuming the radius of the earth to measure 4000 miles in round numbers, and dividing it into ten equal parts of 400 miles each, the density of the materials severally constituting the ten divisions increases in an arithmetical progression by about 1·5 for each part, which, taking the density of the first annular space of 400 miles at 2·7, gives for the second 4·2, for the third 5·7, and so on, the density of the central portion being about 16·2.

In Cordier’s purely thermometrical theory as to the nature and mode of action of the great elevating force that has at successive periods raised and broken the earth’s crust, lifting up various igneous or plutonic rocks, and forcing them into the cracks and fissures, the central nucleus of the earth is considered in the light of an immense sea of molten mineral matter. As the solid crust continues to contract as its temperature decreases in a greater ratio than the central mass, and the velocity of rotation increases as the diameter of the globe shortens, a tendency will necessarily be induced to additional divergence from the spherical form, and the fluid matter within will accordingly press against the contracting crust, and thus produce volcanic eruptions.

M. Cordier has calculated that a contraction of 1/12350 of an inch in the mean radius of the earth would be sufficient to force out the matter of a volcanic eruption. And a most wise arrangement of the Supreme Intelligence it is, which has left open to King Pluto these ready means of forcing an outlet; and man ought to feel rather thankful when he beholds the flaming head of the Fire King towering above the crater of some volcano. Earthquakes surely are much more terrible and destructive than volcanic eruptions.

A volcano may be defined as a perpendicular tunnel in the earth’s crust, through which heated matter from below is thrown up to the surface. The matter thrown up may be in the form of lava, scoriæ, ashes, mud, &c. The tunnel or fissure is generally called the chimney, vent, or chasm of the volcano. The upper part of the chimney is called the crater; it always presents the form of an inverted cone, or the shape of a funnel with the broad part upward. A distinction is made between so-called craters of eruption and craters of elevation.

Craters of eruption are formed by the boiling streams of lava, the floods of hot mud, or tuf, and the showers of ashes and cinders gathering or falling around the mouth of the vent or chimney of a volcano. In proportion to the continuance of the eruption, and its repetition, successive beds of volcanic products will accumulate round the mouth, and form themselves into the shape of a sugar-loaf or cone.

Craters of elevation, on the other hand, are formed by the matter of the volcanic eruption lifting the horizontal strata in which the crater is formed, until the beds snap, and rest in highly inclined planes about the mouth of the fissure.

It occurs also occasionally that both kinds of craters are found in one mountain.

The lava in a crater may be burning and boiling for years, without either an eruption of scoriæ or an overflow of lava taking place; a multitude of small conical vents are formed, however, in such cases, which rise out of the cooled surface of the melted lava, and incessantly emit volumes of smoke and sulphurous vapour. A vent of this kind is called in Europe a Fumerole or Moffet, and in Mexico a Hornito, or small oven. Other vents also are produced occasionally on the walls of the crater, or on the sides of the mountain, by the jets of scoriæ thrown up accumulating in falling round the mouth of the vent.

The number of volcanoes is very great, more than 300 of them being known to exist in the world at the present time, of which 24 are in Europe, 11 in Africa, 46 in Asia, 114 in America, and 108 in Oceania. Most of the islands of the Pacific, and many isles of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, are also volcanic, or else composed of volcanic rocks.

The most ancient volcanoes known are Mount Vesuvius in Italy, Mount Ætna in Sicily, and Stromboli, one of the Lipari Islands, near Sicily. Stromboli is always burning, which has gained it the name of "the great lighthouse of the Mediterranean."

Mount Vesuvius gave its first notice of action in A.D. 73, when it did much injury to houses and villages upon its flanks. From 73 to 79 there were several small shocks, and in August of the latter year occurred that awful eruption of ashes which destroyed the cities of Herculaneum, Pompeii, and Strabiæ, and caused the death of the elder Pliny. From 79 to 1036, six other eruptions of ashes, sand, and shattered fragments of lava took place; in the latter year occurred the first authentic overflow of lava, which was repeated in 1049 and 1138. After this the mountain rested for one hundred and sixty-eight years. Another great eruption then took place in 1306, and a slight one in 1500, followed by another repose, which lasted till 1631, when a fearful eruption took place, blowing up into the air the forest of brushwood that covered the sides of the mountain, and the luxuriant grassy plain at the bottom. Passing over several other eruptions of the mountain, we come to the one in October, 1822, which lasted nearly a month, and was attended by a series of loud detonations and explosions. Between 1800 and 1822, the vast crater formed in 1631 was gradually getting filled up with lava, cinders, and ashes, the bottom presenting a rugged, rocky plain, covered with scattered blocks of lava and heaps of cinders. In this eruption of October, 1822, the force from below broke up this aggregation of lava blocks at the bottom, and hurled them all into the air, leaving behind a tremendous chasm, above three miles long, and three-fourths of a mile across. The depth of this chasm was at first about 2000 feet, but as the walls of the crater continued to fall in, it became eventually reduced to less than half that depth. Previous to this eruption, the summit of the cone round the crater had been 4200 feet high; after the eruption its elevation was found to be reduced to 3400 feet. Another eruption took place in 1833, and even as late as 1857 and 1858 has Mount Vesuvius given uncomfortably convincing indications that it continues as much "alive" as ever.

Mount Ætna, in Sicily, rises 10,874 feet above the level of the sea, of which the lower or bottom part, to the extent of some three thousand feet, consists of calcareous beds, associated with lavas and clays; the remaining 7000 or 8000 feet have been formed by successive eruptions from the volcano. The upper 1100 feet consist of the cone of the crater, which rises from an irregular plain, about nine miles in its circumference. The great crater in the summit of this cone is perpetually emitting sulphureous vapours.

One of the most remarkable volcanoes is that of Kilauea, in the Sandwich Islands, which burns continually, and whose crater contains a sea of red-hot melted lava, sometimes several miles in diameter.

The loftiest volcanoes known are those of Orizaba in Mexico, and Antisana and Aconagua in South America, which are from three to five miles in height.

Mount Jorutto, in Mexico, affords a curious illustration of volcanic action combined with extensive elevation. This vast mountain rises in the great plain of Malpays, which up to June, 1759, was never suspected to be the site of a volcano, although the basaltic hills of the neighbourhood clearly indicate that the district had at some very early period been the theatre of volcanic eruptions, which had filled up the original valleys.

In the month of June, 1759, hollow murmurings began to be heard, speedily attended by earthquakes, which followed each other in rapid succession up to the month of September. The surface-soil at last swelled up like a large bladder, three or four miles square; it finally burst open in various parts, flames issuing forth through the fissures, and burning fragments of rocks being thrown up high into the air. Six conical vents were thus formed in different parts of the area, of which the lowest was 800 feet high. Besides these, thousands of small cones or bosses arose, which cracking subsequently emitted aqueous and sulphureous vapours. These bosses are called in the country Hornitos, or small ovens.

Towards the close of the month of September, the vast mountain Jorullo was pushed up bodily in a few days, by the subterranean force, to an elevation of 1682 feet above what had been a plain up to the preceding month of June. The crater of Jorullo threw out immense streams of basaltic lava, which continued to flow till February, 1760, after which the district resumed its former stability, though it still remained far too hot to be habitable. In 1780, twenty years after the outburst, the heat of the hornitos was still so great that a cigar could readily be lighted by plunging it two or three inches into one of the lateral cracks. When Humboldt visited Jorullo in 1803, forty-three years after the eruption, he found around the base of the great cone a mass of matter, of convex form, about 500 feet high, near the cone, but sloping gradually as it receded from it; this mass, which covered to the extent of four square miles, was then still in a heated state. And twenty-two years later, in 1825, Mr. Bullock found the cones still smoking.

Previous to the outburst, two purling streams had watered the plain of Malpays, the Cutimbo, and the San Pedro. These two rivers ran into the crater, and lost themselves below at the eastern limit of the plain, but reappeared afterwards on the western limit as hot springs.

Among the productions of volcanoes, emitted or ejected through their craters and vents, may be enumerated various gases—such as hydrochloric acid gas, carbonic acid, hydrosulphuric acid, and gases formed by the several combinations of sulphur with oxygen; aqueous vapour, lava, minerals, cinders, stones, sand, water, mud, and ashes—which latter probably consist simply of pulverized lava.

The quantity of ashes discharged by volcanoes must be immense. During an eruption of Mount Cosiguiana, a volcano in the Gulf of Fonseca, on the shores of the Pacific, ashes fell as far as Truxillo, on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico; also on board a ship at the time some 1200 miles westward of the volcano; and four days after the eruption, at Kingston, in Jamaica, 700 miles eastward from it, having travelled there by an upper current of west wind, at the rate of 170 miles a day. For about thirty miles to the south of this volcano, ashes covered the ground three yards and a half deep; and thousands of cattle, wild animals, and birds, perished under them.

One of the most curious productions of a volcano is mud. The aqueous vapour emitted by the crater being condensed by the cold atmosphere, heavy rains are produced, which, falling upon the volcanic dust on the sides of the mountain, form a current of mud, generally called aqueous lava, which is more dreaded by those dwelling in the vicinity of a volcano than a stream of melted lava. But, after all, as this muddy stream is not actually ejected from the crater, but simply formed on the surface of volcanoes by the action of water upon the erupted matter, the term "mud volcano" is not exactly applicable in such cases.

However, in some volcanic districts mud is occasionally found to ooze from the ground, and there are also, in different parts of the globe, real mud volcanoes, as for instance, the mud volcano of Jokmali, on the peninsula of Abscheron, in the Caspian Sea; that of Damak, in the province of Samarang, in the island of Java; the Salses of Girgenti in Sicily, and Sassueto in Northern Italy, &c., &c.

One of the most remarkable of this class is the one described by Humboldt. This is situated at Turbaco, near Carthagena, in New Grenada, South America. It consists of some fifteen or twenty cones from nineteen to twenty-five feet high, and measuring round the base from seventy-eight to eighty-five feet each. These cones, or Volcancitos, as they are called in the language of the country, have a hollow on the top, measuring from fifteen to thirty inches in diameter, and filled in the driest seasons with muddy water, through which air-bubbles are constantly escaping: the temperature of the water is not higher than that of the surrounding atmosphere.

Earthquakes are intimately connected with volcanoes; they often precede volcanic eruptions, and arise from the same cause—viz., from the movement of matter in the interior of the earth; only that their action is much more formidable and destructive, and the changes produced by them in the globe are much more varied and extensive. Landslips on the sides of mountains are most frequently attributable to them; they give rise to the formation of new lakes, and cause old ones to disappear; islands are swallowed up by them, and new ones arise in the sea as by magic; parts of continents subside and sink, and others are elevated; the relative positions of sea and land are changed, and rivers quit their former courses and ancient beds, seeking other channels and forming new beds.

The action or movement of earthquakes is threefold—vertical, horizontal, and gyratory or circular.

The vertical movement proceeds from below upwards, and may be likened to the explosion of a mine in a stone quarry. It produces cracks and fissures in the earth's crust. In many instances, the earth opens and closes rapidly; in others, portions of the crust slip down into the chasm, and disappear for ever. It was by a vertical earthquake movement that the city of Messina, in Sicily, was destroyed in the year 1783. These vertical movements are felt even at sea. Thus, for instance, during the celebrated earthquake at Lisbon, in 1755, many ships at considerable distances from the actual focus of the movement, were violently shaken, the concussion in one ship far out in the Atlantic being so great, that the men were tossed up into the air a foot and a half perpendicularly from the deck.

In the horizontal movement, the shock is propagated in a linear direction, producing undulations in the surface of the earth, bearing some resemblance to the waves of the sea, and the sight of which, curious enough, causes a swimming in the head, like sea-sickness.

These undulatory shocks in a linear direction must of course be understood to move in waves of great breadth as well as length. The horizontal earthquake movement which visited Syria in 1837, was felt in a line five hundred miles long, by ninety miles wide.

In accordance with a general law in mechanics, the undulations of horizontal earthquake movements finish by cracking the superficial soil and strata of the earth's crust. In the earthquake which, in 1811, convulsed the district of New Madrid, South Carolina, the surface earth between New Madrid and Little Prairie rose in great undulations to a considerable height, till the earth waves burst, when volumes of water and sand, and masses of pit-coal, were hurled up through the crevices high into the air; large lakes of twenty miles in extent were on this occasion formed in the course of a single hour, whilst some of the ancient lakes of the district were drained and completely dried up. As a general rule, horizontal shocks proceeding onward unresisted, are not considered to be very dangerous. The most terrible horizontal earthquakes are those where the shocks, proceeding from two different foci of action, happen to cross each other. A town standing on the ground at the point of intersection of the two waves has little chance indeed of escaping the crash and crush produced by their meeting.

In the circular or gyratory movement, the earthquake action moves in a circuit, sometimes very extensive, in other, but rare instances, of very small compass; in the latter case, the movement proves generally most dangerous and destructive, of which the earthquakes at Quito, in 1797, and in Calabria, in 1783, afford convincing illustrations. In cases of this description it has happened that solid walls have changed their place, with the masonry perfectly undisturbed; rows of trees straight and parallel have been inflected; and, more remarkable still, entire fields, with different sorts of grain growing in them, have exchanged places and crops! Humboldt tells us that at Riobamba, South America, destroyed by the terrific convulsion of 1797, he was shown a place among the ruins where the whole furniture of one house had been carried bodily by the movement of the earthquake under the roof of another.

As an illustration of a circular movement upon an immense scale, may be instanced the famous earthquake which destroyed Lisbon in November, 1755, and afforded the great Pombal the opportunity of erecting those solid wooden-framed stone buildings that have so gloriously withstood later shocks, even up to periods so recent as November, 1855, and November, 1858. The shock in this instance was felt in many parts of Europe, and on the north coast of Africa, as well as in North America and the West Indies.

As has already been intimated, earthquakes are generally attended with more or less extensive elevation or subsidence of land. We will give here a few instances in illustration.

In the earthquake which visited Jamaica in 1692, several large storehouses in the harbour of Port Royal subsided to a depth of between twenty-four and forty-eight feet under water, apparently without disturbing the masonry, as the buildings remained standing, with the tops of the chimneys erect above the water. A large tract of land around the town, about 1000 acres in extent, subsided in less than a minute, and was covered over by the waters of the sea.

The fearful shock which destroyed Lima, in Peru, in 1746, submerged the entire coast near Callao, converting it into a bay of the sea.

In the great earthquake of 1755, the new quay, at Lisbon, then recently built of massive and solid marble, on which a vast number of people had collected for safety, sank suddenly down with its living load, and not one of the bodies ever rose to the surface again; and, more extraordinary still, a number of boats and ships lying at anchor a little distance off the quay, went suddenly down with the body of water beneath them as into a whirlpool, and not a fragment of the wrecks was ever after seen; upon sounding the spot afterwards, it was ascertained to be some 600 feet deep.

Before the earthquake which visited Messina in 1783, the ground along the port of that city was perfectly level; after the shock it was found to slope considerably towards the sea, the latter itself getting deeper and deeper as the distance from the shore increased—an indication that the sloping of the coast continued far under the water, and that accordingly the bottom of the sea must have sunk as well as the shore.

During the same earthquake, many houses in the streets of the town of Terra Nova, in Calabria, were raised above their usual level, others sank down in the ground. Near the town was a circular tower of solid masonry; part of this tower remained undestroyed, but one side of it was lifted up by the action of the earthquake much above the other, the foundations of the upraised portion being laid bare to the view; though, strange to say, the divided walls were found to adhere throughout as firmly to each other, and to fit as closely, as if they had been so constructed on purpose, and cemented together from the beginning.

Towards the close of last century a remarkable subsidence took place in North America, just above the falls of the Columbia River. In 1807, American travellers found here a forest of pines under water, standing erect in the body of the river.

The most extensive elevation of land by earthquake is that which took place in 1822, on the coast of Chili, South America, in which an area of about 100,000 square miles, was raised three, four, six, and seven feet above the former level.

In 1819, a great subsidence of land took place at the mouth of the river Indus, in Hindostan, the bed of the river sinking eighteen feet; the sea rushing into the mouth of the Indus, in a few hours converted a tract of land of some 2000 square miles area, into an inland sea. To the north-west of the subsided district, and running in a parallel direction with it, one of the level plains about this region, some fifty miles in length from east to west, and about sixteen miles wide from north to south, was uniformly raised ten feet above the level of the delta.

We will now dismiss this part of the subject with a mere passing allusion to the well known changes of level of the celebrated temple of Puzzuoli, near Naples; the rising and sinking of the land in Scandinavia; and submarine forests on the shores of England, France, North America, &c.; and will conclude this chapter with a few brief remarks about submarine volcanoes and extinct volcanoes.

The subterranean fires, the source and cause of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, act also on the beds which form the bottom of the sea. When the vents formed by volcanic action lie beneath the waters of the ocean, they are called "submarine volcanoes." The existence and action of submarine volcanoes, long suspected and conjectured, has since the beginning of this century been clearly proved, by the formation of new islands above the waters of the ocean.

The first well-ascertained instance of the elevation of a new island by a submarine eruption, occurred in 1811, near St. Michael, in the Azores. Various eruptions had at different times taken place in the neighbourhood. During the latter half of 1810, several minor shocks had been felt; but on the 31st of January and 1st of February, 1811, the convulsion reached the highest point, when sulphureous vapours were seen to rise out of the sea, about two miles from the coast, and spread in all directions; jets of flame attended the rising of these vapours, which was speedily followed by columns of volcanic ashes, and other erupted materials; in about eight days this eruption terminated, when it was found that the bottom of the sea, previously from 300 to 500 feet deep in this spot, had been lifted up nearly to a level with the surface of the water. About four months after, on the 13th of June, 1811, another eruption took place about two miles and a half from the scene of the former, which reached its greatest violence on the 17th of June, columns of ashes and smoke being whirled up many hundred feet high above the sea. At the close of the eruption an island became visible, which gradually rose to a height of three hundred feet above the sea. Captain Tillard, of the Sabrina, visited the island, which he found rather too hot to walk on, and gave it the name of his vessel. It presented at one end a conical hill, and at the other a deep crater, which sent forth jets of flames, though it was under water at full tide. The continued eruptions of hot stones, sand, and ashes, from the crater, raised the conical hill at the one side of the island eventually six hundred feet above the sea. However, in the last days of February, 1812, the entire island sank into the sea, and disappeared without leaving a vestige behind.

In July, 1818, violent spoutings and jettings of steam and water were observed at a spot some thirty miles to the south-west of Sicily, where the sea was known to be 600 feet deep. On the 18th of the month a small island made its appearance, with a burning crater in the centre of it, ejecting ashes, cinders, and thick volumes of smoke, and covering the sea around with floating cinders, and shoals of dead fishes.

The new island rose gradually to an elevation of nearly 200 feet above the sea; it measured about three miles round at the base. The crater, in its centre, constituted a basin 600 feet in diameter, full of dingy red water, boiling.

After having continued above the sea for nearly three months, the island, now generally known in the books by the name of "Graham Island" sank gradually back into the sea; towards the end of October it was again nearly on a level with the surface of the water; it disappeared eventually altogether, leaving behind, however, a most dangerous reef of hard volcanic rock, just eleven feet under water, encompassed by shoals, consisting of cinders and sand.

Another volcanic island rose on the coast of Iceland, during the tremendous eruption of Skaptaar Jokul, in 1783. This island also, which was called Nyöe, sank afterwards down again into the sea.

Some of these volcanic islands are of a more permanent character ; as, for instance, the island of New Kaineni, near Santorin, in the Grecian Archipelago, which was raised up by a submarine volcanic eruption in 1707, and continues to the present day above water.

There are many mountains whose summits and depressions, though now covered with herbage, and, in some instances, the sites of villages and cities, bear a close resemblance to the cones and craters of active volcanoes; and whose constituent rocks are decidedly volcanic. Geologists apply to such mountains the term "extinct volcanoes" which, however, is intended to signify simply that no eruption has taken place from them for ages; but by no means implies that they will never be active again. Mount Vesuvius, which at some geological era had clearly been an active volcano, had slumbered for ages in a state of apparent extinction, when the terrible eruption that buried Herculaneum and Pompeii under a sea of volcanic ashes, revealed once more the true nature of the mountain.

In certain localities are found vents which emit only gaseous exhalations and aqueous vapour. Such vents or solfataras, as they are usually called, are properly looked upon in the light of half-extinct volcanoes, which may at any time suddenly burst forth again with all the terrific violence of true volcanic eruptions.

Extinct volcanoes are found not only in volcanic regions, but also in places presenting, with the exception of hot wells and mineral springs, no traces of volcanic activity within historical periods.

Among extinct volcanoes those of central France have attracted most attention. In the districts of Auvergne, Velay, and the Vivarais, there are seen several hundred volcano-shaped conical hills, with more or less perfectly-formed craters on their tops. These conical hills are called in the language of the country "Puys" which means mountain peaks. They are all of them dome-shaped, varying in height from 500 feet to 2800 feet above the level of the plain from which they rise in an irregular chain, thirty miles in length and two miles in breadth; the plain itself, some forty-five miles long and twenty miles wide, is 1200 feet above the level of the sea.

All the cones are formed of volcanic materials, such as lava, sand, and cinders; and in many of them are found well-defined craters. The highest of these is called "Puy de Dome" It is 4000 feet above the level of the sea; it is composed entirely of volcanic materials, and has a regular crater, measuring fifteen hundred feet round, and three hundred feet deep.

On the top of another of these remarkable cones, called the "Puy de Pariou," there is a very deep extinct crater, a mile round, which is now closed in, and covered with turf and grass. From the lower part of this conical hill a stream of lava has issued, which lies there now, rugged and black, covering the plain with volcanic cinders to the depth of about twenty feet.

Similar extinct volcanoes are found in the south of Sicily, the neighbourhood of Naples, Hungary, the lower provinces of the Rhine, and the north of Spain.

In England, Scotland, and Ireland, although no such specimens of extinct volcanoes, in the form of hills with cones and craters, are found, yet rocks of volcanic origin abound; and there can be no doubt but that the remarkable basaltic rocks of Staffa and the Giant's Causeway are the productions of an extinct volcano.

The absence of cones and craters, and of streams of cooled lava issuing from the bases of the basaltic hills of the British Isles, is owing simply to the circumstance that the eruptions of these volcanoes, in the period of their activity, took place under the bed of the ocean.


  1. Three heads only and three necks are generally given to this marvellous beast; Hesiod, however, the second father of most of those creatures of the imagination, yclept the gods of Greece, gives Cerberus fifty heads; whilst Horace, more bountiful still, supplies him with a hundred of these useful appendages.
  2. An Athenian coin, worth about five farthings of our money.
  3. Pythagoras travelled through Egypt, Central Asia, and Hindostan in search of knowledge. On his return he opened a school of philosophy in Lower Italy, about the time of Servius Tullius or of Tarquinius Superbus. He believed in the transmigration of souls, and affirmed that he could distinctly remember several previous existences of his own. His scholars yielded him the most implicit faith, and thought it sufficient to reply to a controverting argument, "himself has said it."
  4. The bestowal of the highest and most important “offices of state” upon the sons and nearest relatives of the chief gods, affords a curious illustration of how thoroughly the ancients had moulded their gods upon the model of human nature, and made them in their own image. Thus we find two out of three judgeships of hell given to sons of Jupiter—tout comme chez nous.
  5. Swedenborg, the great Scandinavian dreamer and seer, in his account of the “other world,” tells a similar tale respecting the pursuits and occupations of the spirits of the departed.