“The length of volcanic conduits can only be conjectured, but, judging from the approximately known rate of increase of heat with depth (on an average one degree Fahrenheit for each sixty feet), and the temperature at which volcanic rocks melt (from 2,300 to 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit, when not under pressure), they must seemingly have a depth of at least twenty miles. There are other factors to be considered, but in general terms it is safe to assume that the conduits of volcanoes are irregular openings, many miles in depth, which furnish passageways for molten rock (lava) from the highly-heated sub-crust portion of the earth to its surface. . . .”
“During eruptions of the quiet type, the lava comes to the surface in a highly liquid condition—that is, it is thoroughly fused, and flows with almost the freedom of water. It spreads widely, even on a nearly level plain, and may form a comparatively thin sheet several hundred square miles in area, as has been observed in Iceland and Hawaii. On the Snake River plains, in Southern Idaho, there are sheets of once molten rock which were poured out in the manner just stated, some four hundred square miles in area and not over seventy-five feet in average thickness. When an eruption of highly liquid lava occurs in a mountainous region, the molten rock may cascade down deep slopes and flow through narrow valleys for fifty miles or more before becoming chilled sufficiently to arrest its progress. Instances are abundant where quiet eruptions have occurred in the midst of a plain, and built up ‘lava cones,’ or low mounds, with immensely expanded bases. Illustrations are furnished in Southern Idaho, in which the cones formed are only three hundred or four hundred feet high, but have a breadth at the base of eight or ten miles. In the class of eruption illustrated by these examples, there is an absence of fragmental material, such as explosive volcanoes hurl into the air, and a person may stand within a few yards of a rushing stream of molten rock, or examine closely the opening from which it is being poured out, without danger or serious inconvenience.
“The quiet volcanic eruptions are attended by the escape of steam or gases from the molten rock, but the lava being in a highly liquid state, the steam and gases dissolved in it escape quietly and without explosions. If, however, the molten rock is less completely fluid, or in a viscous condition, the vapors and gases contained in it find difficulty in escaping, and may be retained until, becoming concentrated in large volume, they break their way to the surface, producing violent explosions. Volcanoes in which the lava extruded is viscous, and the escape of steam and gases is retarded until the pent-up energy bursts all bounds, are of the explosive, type. One characteristic example is Vesuvius.