Fragments of scoria or pumice may be thrown hundreds or thousands of feet into the atmosphere, those that fall into the crater and are flung up again being gradually reduced in size by friction. Thus it is related by Mr. Poulett Scrope, who watched the Vesuvian eruption of 1822, which lasted for nearly a month, that during the earlier stages of the outburst fragments of enormous size were thrown out of the crater, but by constant re-ejection these were gradually reduced in size, till at last only the most impalpable dust issued from the vent. This dust filled the atmosphere, producing in the city of Naples “a darkness that might be felt.” So excessively finely divided was it, that it penetrated into all drawers, boxes, and the most closely fastened receptacles, filling them completely. The fragmentary materials ejected from volcanoes are often given the name of cinders or ashes. These, however, are terms of convenience only, and do not properly describe the volcanic material.
Sometimes the passages of steam through a mass of molten glass produces large quantities of a material resembling spun glass. Small particles of this glass are carried into the air and leave behind them thin, glassy filaments like a tail. At the volcano of Kilauea in Hawaii, this substance, as previously stated, is abundantly produced, and is known as ’Pele’s Hair’—Pele being the name of the goddess of the mountain. Birds’ nests are sometimes found composed of this beautiful material. In recent years an artificial substance similar to this Pele’s hair has been extensively manufactured by passing jets of steam through the molten slag of iron-furnaces; it resembles cotton-wool, but is made up of fine threads of glass, and is employed for the packing of boilers and other purposes.