“Now, suppose an earthquake takes place in Japan, it originates a series of vibrations through our globe. We must here distinguish between the rocks—I might almost say the comparatively pliant rocks—which form the earth’s crust, and those which form the intensely rigid core of the interior of our globe. The vibrations which carry the tidings of the earthquake spread through the rocks on the surface, from the centre of the disturbance, in gradually enlarging circles. We may liken the spread of these vibrations to the ripples in a pool of water which diverge from the spot where a raindrop has fallen. The vibrations transmitted by the rocks on the surface, or on the floor of the ocean, will carry the message all over the earth. As these rocks are flexible, at all events by comparison with the earth’s interior, the vibrations will be correspondingly large, and will travel with vigor over land and under sea. In due time they reach, say the Isle of Wight, where they set the pencil of the seismometer at work. But there are different ways round the earth from Japan to the Isle of Wight, the most direct route being across Asia and Europe; the other route across the Pacific, America, and the Atlantic. The vibrations will travel by both routes, and the former is the shorter of the two.”
Some brief repetition may not here be amiss as to the products of volcanic action, of which so much has been said in the preceding pages, especially as many of the terms are to some extent technical in character. The most abundant of these substances is steam or water-gas, which, as we have seen, issues in prodigious quantities during every eruption. But with the steam a great number of other volatile materials frequently make their appearance. Though we have named a number of these at the beginning of this chapter, it will not be out of order to repeat them here. The chief among these are the acid gases known as hydrochloric acid, sulphurous acid, sulphuretted hydrogen, carbonic acid, and boracic acid; and with these acid gases there issue hydrogen, nitrogen ammonia, the volatile metals arsenic, antimony, and mercury, and some other substances. These volatile substances react upon one another, and many new compounds are thus formed. By the action of sulphurous acid and sulphuretted hydrogen on each other, the sulphur so common in volcanic districts is separated and deposited. The hydrochloric acid acts very energetically on the rocks around the vents, uniting with the iron in them to form the yellow ferric-chloride, which often coats the rocks round the vent and is usually mistaken by casual observers for sulphur.