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The San Francisco call. (San Francisco [Calif.]) 1895-1913, June 01, 1902, Image 6

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" "But •' eruptions sometimes come In
series. Then, too, - it may be that the
two volcanoes which are Btill ' more or
less active, Souf riere and V Mont Pelee,
work .somewhat as "Mount Vesuvius and
Mount Etna have been known to work,
the one Inactive while the other emits
more or lesa violently. \
"Speaking only from what I have read
of the recent eruption in Martinique, and
from what we know geologically and his
torically of the region, I am of the opin
ion that inasmuch as there was , more
than. one eruption, it appearing that there
was also one on St. Vincent, there will
be no Immediate successive eruption.- The
tendency . will be to subside, now that
some n relief has been afforded the vol
cr.nic forces beneath the surface.
•*™N EALLY, there is absolutely no
f J telling what the volcanoes may
r"Y do," said Henry Shaler •Williams.
X \ Silliman professor of geology in
X Yale University. "They are not
well understood by any one, for the
laws upon which they operate are' riot
well known. There are certain signs by
which experts can tell within a compara
tively short time what some of them are
likely to do;. but in the instance of some
other volcanoes they may break forth
without any warning , at all.
"The modern scientific theory of the
emission of lava Is simply that the tre
mendous pressure upon the rocks, down a
few miles, Is so great that despite the in
tense heat they are kept not quite mol
ten, almost solid, perhaps. •
"When the explosion takes place, reliev
ing the 'pressure, It happens oftentimes
that the rocks turn from : their solidified
state to a melttn condition. Man spoke of
"Out In our own Yellowstone] Park the
geysers are instances of this steam gen
eration. The volcanoes there have not
been active for thousands of years, but
the earth has not cooled very far down
yet, and the steaming water that spouts
out and up is in the nature of its action
volcanic. In Mexico not very long ago
there was one volcano, long inactive,
upon which the rocks were still so hot
that one could light a cigar by touching
the end of it to the. stone.
"A volcanic eruption is, on a grand
scale, an explosion caused by the gener
ation of steam in the great boiler under
the surface. I am of the opinion that
there were some great crevices in the
vicinity of the island of Martinique,
through which water either percolated
for many years or by the subsiding of
the sea a great inrush of water took
place. The fact that the sea is said - to
have sunk a number of feet there would
seem to indicate that there Is a . very
great crack or crevice somewhere, and
that the water that rushed in was great
in volume. That produced a generation
of steam* which found vent through the
craters of the two volcanoes.
VULCANOLOGISTS" of to-day are
as much at a loss to define the
volcano as were the geologists and
astronomers of the days of Dar
"Vulcanlty" Js as much a stupendous
mystery to the Christian students and
observers now hurrying to the scene of
tho unparalleled disaster at Martinique as
was the new coined word of heathen ori
gin to the Latin survivors who gazed in
awe upon the ruins of Pompeii. Similar
were the conditions; similar the ignor
ance of the spectator.
Among the first and best equipped of
epecial students to leave for St. Pierre
was Dr. E. O. Hovey, curator of the de
partment of geology In the American
Museum of Natural History. I found
him rushing to make ready for his de
parture the next day on the Government
relief ship Dixie.
There was only time for him to speak
in a general way of the previous Investi
gations of leading geologists. He was
mindful mostly of the large opportunity
opening to him for personal observation,
but be outlined certain salient results of
the studies of such men as Professors
Dana, Russell, Judd, Bonney and • Hill,
the last named having prepared a mono
graph on volcanic conditions In the West
Indies. From Dr. Hovey's suggestions
and other sources this sketch of the
known facts about volcanoes has been
carefully compiled.
The number of great habitual volcanic
vents upon the globe Is estimated at be
tween three hundred and three hundred
and fifty. There is but one on the whole
continent of Europe, Vesuvius, though
elsewhere in the Mediterranean there are
Bix— Stromboli and Vulcano, in the Li
parl Islands; Etna, in Sicily; Grahams
Island, a submarine volcano off the
Sicilian coast, and Santorlus and Nisyros,
In the Aegean Sea. The African conti
nent Is known to contain ten active vol
canoes, four on the west and six on the
east coast, and there are about ten
others on neighboring Islands. In Asia,
there are twenty-four active volcanoes,
but no less than twelve of these are situ
ated on the peninsula of Kamchatka.
There are no volcanoes in Australia.
The American continent contains ¦ m'or«
than the countries of the Old World
twenty In North America, twenty-five In
Central America and thirty-seven In
South America. Thus, taken altogether,
there are about 117 volcanoes on the great
continents and nearly twice as many on
the Islands scattered over the several
These volcanoes usually assume in their
distribution, a linear arrangement, and
nearly all of them have been thrown up
along three well-marked bands ' and the
branches ; proceeding from them. ,
The whole eastern coast ) of both the
Americas was thought to: be entirely free
from volcanoes of anything like recent
date, and, just as Professor Judd a few
years ago complacently asserted, "as a
matter of fact, the actual amount ''of
damage to life and property which is af
fected by volcanic eruptions is small,"
so Professor Benney declared that the
whole western border of the I Atlantic is
destitute of volcanic activity, "were 'Jit
not for the long island chain of the Les-;
ser Antilles which' separates that' ocean
from the Caribbean Sea."
R. T. Hill made a special study of
conditions in ¦ the Windward Islands. It
had been well known that many of the
West 'Indian Islands are of limestone,
chiefly coraline; that some contain crys
talline rocks, while jj others are volcanic.
Quite recently it was noted that seven
craters still gave signs of life by emit
ting steam and that tho curving line of
volcanic vents occurred on a. submarine
plateau between . the 'deep basin of the
Central Atlantic and -that of : the Carib
bean Sea. The activity of the Souf riere
o~ Bt Vincent was remarked' years ago.
the red hot mud that poured down tha
mountain. When that matter comes to
the cooler air at the surface, especially
if there is water with it, it is broken up
into fine particles by atmospheric influ
ences, and falls for great distances in
the form of what people descilbe as ashes.
They are not ashes, however, but par
ticles of lava.
"As to whether there will be sympa
thetic action of volcanoes in other parts of
the world, I rather doubt that. I think
the easement is local, as was the disturb
ance, and that there will be no effect at
any great distances. The thunder and
lightning which accompanied, or followed,
the eruption in Martinique were due to the
fact that tho tension of the electric forces
in the air was disturbed. The disturb
ances in the center of the earth being very
great and having an upward tendency in
relieving, there follow great changes in
the configuration of the territories. Great
masses of rocks slide and the earth opens.
That is an earthquake effect. It is pos
sible that those effects are felt at great
"Volcanoes are peculiar 1 in their action.
We really know but very little about
them. Scientists collect all the data pos- ,
sible and study them carefully, but un
fortunately it is not possible to study ;
them in action with safety. You know,
down at the bottom of the rich Comstock
lode, thf^atmosphere is still so hot that it ,
costs more to cool the air than the gold i
is worth when mined, and volcanoes have
not been active in our country for a loss
Martinique last week and the still greater
eruption of Krakatoa, in the Straits of
Sunda, southeast of Asia, in 1883. So great
was the eruption of Krakatoa that vt
filled the atmosphere of the whole world
with minute volcanic dust, which for
months produced the crimson glow of
sunrise and sunset, so noticeable even In
this country. At that time a wave was
produced in the sea which overwhelmed
many cities on the neighboring coast and
was recognizable around all the conti
nents. '
While the volcanic activity of the Wind
ward Islands appears to be dying out.
still all these mentioned as having cones
are liable to reawakening activity, . but
less- so than those at the extreme north
ern end of the chain. The tension on the
earth's crust having been somewhat re-
lleved by the eruptions at Martinique and
St. Vincent, early activity would not b«
Wherever there are chains of cones,
with one occasionally active, there is al
ways danger of other cones bursting Into
eruption, and most dangerous of all are
those peaks which have been quiescent so
long that their dangerous character has
been forgotten. ;•-*¦'
Some of the earthquakes of these isl-.
ands arise directly from the volcanic
activity of the inner chain. They come
from the slipping of the earth's crust,
such as that at Charleston, far removed
from volcanoes. There is no reason : to
suppose, however, that our Atlantic bor
der should be permanently free from
earthquakes any more than the coast of
It must not be supposed that the
whole of the Windward chain was born
o» volcanoes such as we see, in the ele
vated peaks of to-day. In fact, the
foundations of all are of very great age,
although they were carved out by trie
atmosphere and the rains from older vol
canic materials, but so ancient as not to
be the ancestors of the modern cones.
Indeed, the southern part of Martinique,
greater volcanoes* Many of these are, fre
quently in a state of activity. Thus we
find Orizaba, a cone rising to a height of
about 10,000 feet above the ancient Mexi
can plateau, which itself is 8000 feet above
the level of the sea. Colima, only a short
distance south of Mexico City, is fre
quently in eruption. ¦ ¦¦•¦'
In Guatemala, Santa Maria, which gave
rise to the terrible destruction on April
18, began to be active last November, and
is now said to be more active than any
volcano known in America since Spanish
•occupation. While that is near the Mexi
can frontier, Chingo, on the Salvador bor
der, is also in a state of general activity.
Never So Many Eruptions as Now.
Again in Alaska another, volcano is in
eruption. . f
• So many widespread Eruptions in__the
northern continent have never been
known in the historic period. ¦'¦
Some twenty-five miles south of Guate
mala City is the old site of the city itself,
one of the most magnificent spots in the
world and having a most delightful cli
mate. Nestled in a beautiful valley among
the mountains lies the city of Antigua.
From one side rises the regular solitary
volcanic cone of Agua, while a little fur
ther away, on the other side, Is the vol
cano of Fuegoand its companion.
¦ Fuego ia said to be always ¦ hot. ¦„, The
crater of Agua' was filled with water
when in the middle of the sixteenth cen
tury it burst 'and overwhelmed the orig
inal site by a flood and buried It in vol
canic , ashes. The- city was moved three
miles farther away. and grew to be one of
great magnificence. In 1781 an earthquake
leveled it, leaving the ruins: of seventy
six churches alone, some of great mag
nificence. Then the city ' was moved to
its present site, twenty-five miles away
over the mountains. •
' - Iceland and the Hawaiian Islands are
examples of isolated cones rising out of
the* deep oceanic abysses. At' recurring
places along the whole Andes there is a
successions of great volcanoes, oft general
ly greater magnitude than in the north
ern hemisphere. ¦ "'.;¦' ¦ • '
While there have .been -many great
earthquakes recorded, still - there nave
been only two eruptions . vividly before us
equal to that of- ancient Vesuvius, and
both of these within our memory— that of
tween the two continents, such, for in
stance, as the small elephant found in
Guadeloupe; other animals in Anguilla as
large as Virginia deer and the "remains of
extinct animals reached even the region
of Philadelphia from South America by
way of this bridge in the early pleisto
cene period.
During this period of high elevation the
deep canyons were formed upon the sur
face, which cut up the continent now
forming the Windward Island region into
a number of hills and valleys, which,
upon the subsequent subsidence, left only
the isolated chain of islands which we
calif the Windward group; but the sub
sidence reduced even these islands to a
smaller area than we now find, owins
to the subsequent rise in the land, which
enlarged their area, but the drowning of
the Island land just mentioned, and which
occurred in the middle of the pleistocene
period, after the early glacial epoch, ex
terminated the animals of the islands,
which have not since been repopulated,
as such could not migrate thither frpm
either continent owing to the broad in
tervening straits.
Represent the Sunken Continent.
In a general way, the Windward Isl
ands represent the sunken continent.
Central America and Mexico illustrate the
earth's movements accompanied by vol
canic activity of the western region
which has been raised into high plateaus
while the eastern region had been sink
ing. Thus in that region we can see a
repetition of the features discovered by
the soundings about the Windward Isl
These two great lines of volcanic activ
ity, situated thousands of miles apart,
have no connection with each other what
ever, and the coincidence of stupendous
activity occurring in the two localities
only goes to show that terrestrial move
ments are now In progress along both
margins of the continents. These move
ments are along lines of weakness. In
the first place, great heat is developed
by the great friction. In the second
place, these weak lines facilitate the es
cape of the molten matter which may
arise, either through a friction of the
earth's crust of from the cisterns of
lava beneath.
While the volcanic . eruptions are more
Bv Dr. I. \Y. Spencer, author of "Reconstruction of the An
tillean Continent/' "Geological and Physical Development
of the Windward Islands, Cuba, Jamaica. Etc./' "The Du
ration of the Niagara Falls'' and "History of the Great
Dr. Spencer, accompanied by Mrs. Spencer, has just reached Washington, aft
er a winter spent in ilexico and Guatemala, where the earthquakes and volcanic
eruptions, recently reported, occurred, and indeed, one of the hotels where they
stayed is among the buildings destroyed. Five years ago they spent the winter hi
the" Windward Islands and were at Martinique, being for two days at St. Pierre.
The investigations which called Dr. Spencer to Central America included a
study of the stupendous changes of level of land and sea in recent geological
times and the object in visiting Central America was for the .study of the physical
features of that region in comparison with the submarine features of the Wind
ward Island::, eo vividly presented to the public at the present moment.
*-« ye ANY years ago in my mvesuga
/\ /I tions of the origin of our great
I Y I lakes ix - vras fo un d tnat lne con "
V * I tinent stood at "least 3000 feet
JL higher than at the present time
during the ages when the great> lakes'
valleys were being carved out by the
rains, rills and rivers. These investiga
tions revealed the occurrence of deep,
i iverlike valleys extending seaward across
the submerged margin of the continent.
Carrying the investigations further south
to the coast of Florida and the Bahama
Islands and Cuba, it was found that these
submerged valleys form the continental
rivers, barrancas and canyons, such as
are seen at the Grand Canyon of the
Colorado, in Arizona, in Mexico and Cen
tial America. Such valleys originate In
high plateaus of 6000 to 10,000 feet alti
tude and extend down to low level plains
and the sea.
As these valleys extend down to the
floor of the Gulf of Mexico and the Carib
bean Sea they become evidence that the
West Indian Islands once stood as high
as these riverlike valleys are now sub
merged beneath the sea. Thus the Inves
tigation showed that the Windward Isl
ands and the Bahamas and, indeed, the
whole eastern part of the American con
tinent stood once at more than two miles
above the present altitude. Herein, as
we shall see, lie the causes of the volcanic
disturbances resulting In such great dis
Gulf of Mexico Brained Into Pacific.
At the time North and South America
were bridged together by way of the
Windward Islands Mexico and Central
America were low and the valley of what
Is now the Gulf of Mexico was drained
into the Pacific Ocean across Mexico by
way of the Tehuantepec isthmus, and the
valley of the Caribbean Sea discharged
Its waters into the Pacific Ocean. Then
the Windward Islands formed the back
bone of the now submerged continent.
While this continent existed long before
the historical period, yet from the stand
point of the geologist it was very recent,
so that In the early glacial period North
and South America were connected and
stood at an altitude of two miles or more.
During the changes of level of laud and
sea, which occupied a long period, there
were many migrations of animals be-
Continuing In this chai^are; St. Vin
cent, St. Lucia, Martinique,' Dominica,
the mountainous- portions of 'Guadeloupe,
Nevis and the island > of 'St. Kitts,'* be
yond which the chain" "becomes broken
down into the numerous virgin islands
rising up out of . a -shallow sea. Fiom
Granada, in the Grenadines,- to St. Kitts,
there is a repetition of volcanic cones
rising to heights { of 4000 or 5000 feet.
Eastward of this chain wo 'find Barba
does, some sunken banks east of Mar
tinique, Grande Terre. or the great'lime
stone plains of Guadeloupe, parts. .'of.-
Antigua, Barbuda, St. Martin and An
guilla. The chain ends in Sombrero, the
lonely lighthouse to the West Indies; but
again begins in the Bahamas, the re
mains of great coastal plains like those
along our Atlantic, which escaped the
destruction of the West Indian region
when it stood at the elevation formerly
mentioned. This outward chain is no
where volcanic, but it is liable to earth
quake action, and throughout these isl
ands great damage is periodically pro
A Chain of Volcanoes.
Returning now to the Windward Isl
ands proper, we fira^a '"-double.' chains of
islands extending 6rom ; ' i ri(jar, the. coast
of South Americ&Vjtp.'Hhe ' St. -.Martin,
group, and thence *fcivlrigihg-, around- );ip.
Porto Rico, Hay ti: arid Cubd, bn- 'one
siae and the Baharhas on, the "other un
til they almost join our Southern States.
Indeed, they would do so were not the ;
old river valleys completely submerged.
Ti:e inner chain of these islands begins
with the Grenadines, near the coast of
South America, a vast number of small
islands rising above a submarine plateau
now less than 200 feet below the sea. .
or less restricted in the area of action
and to the distance occupied by the
chains of cones, the earth movements are
very much more widely felt in the form
of earthquakes. Indeed slipping tif
even one inch In the rocks at considerable
depth may produce a . very. r damaging,
earthquake over hundreds- of. ;rnifes?'6f ex-'
tent, and the vclean^,^c.tivity: - ;c'(impJir^d
with the earthquake^sh^Ks^ggLv*^ •6rilj'\a.
very limited evidenefcVof;; the great *eai"tli
movements in progress, which are very
St;' .Vincent Isle of Calamity.
. Tlie;isiand''of St. Vincent is. one of the
most ¦beautiful . of the group, but at thu
sanie'tlin^ is /one of the most calamitous.
Three -?.'or : four" : years ago a hurricane
swept'- 6 ver"' it, when every tree is said to
have been broken^ off. buildings destroyed
and even the-: ¦ insects; swept .from the
land,- and howj^e -find another destruc
tion scarcely inferior to, that of £> century
ago. . •
In the island of Martinique we find the
northern side of Mont Pelee gently de
scending in the form of sloping plains to
the sea, with here and there a baby vol
cano. On the western side .of , the moun
tain the descent is; comparatively steep,
and we flniT v a high; elevated terrace just
back of tbe town ipf; St/ Pierre, which lay
on. a narrow ledge! between the, terrace
.arid theVsea. This terrace, however, i*
bisected by the valley of the mountain
torrent, which made an excellent path
way for. the lava and the volcanic mud
•which overwhelmed the city. In thesa
volcanic eruptions the great danger is
not so much from the streams of lava as
fiom the streams of mud formed by the
condensing steam and hot ashes blown ott
the top of the mountain by the explo
sions of vapor produced by the infiltration
of waters into the molten lava itself.
The greater West Indian islands have
scarcely any traces of volcanic eruptions
except in ancient times. .
Whole sheets of igneous matter occur
along the eastern sicies of our North and
South American mountains, still there are
no remains of volcanic cones in Eastern
America except a few in the vicinity of
Montreal, which is built upon the flanks
of an ancient volcano;
The changes of level upon the Pacific
coast of North and South America have
been much more stupendous in later
times than those on the eastern side, and
conseauentlv we find many more and
mpVt' of St. 'Lucia. St; Vincent and ; the ¦;-.
foundations of. Dominica belong/; to the 1
aii&ant formation, bu' the volcanic, tones ¦
mentioned had their .¦birth'ri^.lon^. ago g
th,aji about ;the beginning /'ejf.-v. the* , : early,-:
.¦Brikciftl* period. • -:':>¦ A:-; 3$ /' , : Y ¦ • : : -..V
.irSiWe ilif historic' period" sqjne of,. the isl- ,.
.atidg : r bate!' -never 1 been?-^n^ activity.. ;;'al- : -.
¦tiibugh.^tfte • cpnes;rand <^m^eTs ,'are . Cp|K&
. pl'ete^ncn . as St. ' Kitt^;a^.^eviaj>Mai}>~i;.
;' : -£r^ipU]>%5 )iave^)4eenV,"fe^»^ae*^r^Ath.fci:);
,Hntiuiira3ns- of ' G'ua'tfeloup'4,/butv:T believte
'ncne'-VMs" occurred there since the earlier
parfiSeithe' nineteenth century. Dominica
ha:ctff£tfght' : eruption ab>u^. lSSti.'Bu-jtf'Mar
tiniqui£*U-q.s - supposed. %6' ti$\, quiescent un
til itheirr^&ni' indications,)^ f£w months
:^in^^^^elghb 9 r; St?,yince|it, erupted :
i'n;tfSi2iaBctfdiirkened the, sun far a period ;
qi;elgh'ti ; rthree~days,at Baibadoes, a hun-.
died rqil$5 away, when the Svh^Je surface'
pt : ythat' : .island. was covered '"with the
ashes'^Vvv.Y ' ' l-r. ¦ ""'¦¦.'¦.'. './'

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