The San Francisco calamity by earthquake and fire eBook

Charles W. Morris
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 432 pages of information about The San Francisco calamity by earthquake and fire.

Solid bodies are thrown into the air with enormous force and to proportionally great heights, those not projected vertically falling in consequence at considerable distances from the volcano.  A block weighing 200 tons is said to have been thrown nine miles by Cotopaxi; masses of rock weighing as much as twenty tons to have been ejected by Mount Ararat in 1840; and stones to have been hurled to a distance of thirty-six miles in other cases.  The solid matter thrown out by volcanoes consists of lapilli, scoriae, dust and bombs.

Though on the first formation of the volcano, masses of non-volcanic rock may be torn from the chimney or pipe of the mountain, only slightly fused externally owing to the bad conducting power of most rocks, and hurled to a distance; and though at the beginning of a subsequent eruption the solid plug of rock which has cooled at the bottom of the crater, or, in fact, any part of the volcano, may be similarly blown up, the bulk of the solid particles of which the volcano itself is composed is derived from the lake of lava or molten rock which seethes at the orifice.  Solid pieces rent from this fused mass and cast up by the explosive force of the steam with which the lava is saturated are known as lapilli.  Cooling rapidly so as to be glassy in texture externally, these often have time to become perfectly crystalline within.

Gases and steam escaping from other similar masses may leave them hollow, when they are termed bombs, or may pit their surfaces with irregular bubble-cavities, when they are called scoriae or scoriaceous.  Such masses whirling through the air in a plastic state often become more or less oblately spheroidal in form; but, as often, the explosive force of their contained vapors shatters them into fragments, producing quantities of the finest volcanic dust or sand.  This fine dust darkens the clouds overhanging the mountain, mixes with the condensed steam to fall as a black mud-rain, or lava di aqua (Italian, water lava), or is carried up to enormous heights, and then slowly diffused by upper currents of the atmosphere.  In the eruption of Vesuvius of A.D. 79, the air was dark as midnight for twelve or fifteen miles round; the city of Pompeii was buried beneath a deposit of dry scoriae, or ashes and dust, and Herculaneum beneath a layer of the mud-like lava di aqua, which on drying sets into a compact rock.  Rocks formed from these fragmentary volcanic materials are known as tuff.


It is entirely of these cindery fragments heaped up with marvellous rapidity round the orifice that the volcano itself is first formed.  It may, as in the case of Jorullo in Mexico in 1759, form a cone several hundred feet high in less than a day.  Such a cone may have a slope as steep as 30 or 40 degrees, its incline in all cases depending simply on the angle of repose of its materials; the inclination,

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The San Francisco calamity by earthquake and fire from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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