“At the time of our visit there had been no news from it for a week; and as nothing was to be seen but a very faint bluish vapor hanging round its margin, the prospect was not encouraging. After more than an hour of very difficult climbing, we reached the lowest level of the crater, pretty nearly a mile across, presenting from above the appearance of a sea at rest; but on crossing it, we found it to be an expanse of waves and convolutions of ashy-colored lava, with huge cracks filled up with black iridescent rolls of lava only a few weeks old. Parts of it are very rough and ridgy, jammed together like field-ice, or compacted by rolls of lava, which may have swelled up from beneath; but the largest part of the area presents the appearance of huge coiled hawsers, the ropy formation of the lava rendering the illusion almost perfect. These are riven by deep cracks, which emit hot sulphurous vapors.
“As we ascended, the flow became hotter under our feet, as well as more porous and glistening. It was so hot that a shower of rain hissed as it fell upon it. The crust became increasingly insecure, and necessitated our walking in single file with the guide in front, to test the security of the footing. I fell through several times, and always into holes full of sulphurous steam so malignantly acid that my strong dogskin gloves were burned through as I raised myself on my hands.
“We had followed the lava-flow for thirty miles up to the crater’s brink, and now we had toiled over recent lava for three hours, and, by all calculations, were close to the pit; yet there was no smoke or sign of fire, and I felt sure that the volcano had died out for once for my special disappointment.
“Suddenly, just above and in front of us, gory drops were tossed in the air, and springing forwards, we stood on the brink of Hale-mau-mau, which was about thirty-five feet below us. I think we all screamed. I know we all wept; but we were speechless, for a new glory and terror had been added to the earth. It is the most unutterable of wonderful things. The words of common speech are quite useless. It is unimaginable, indescribable; a sight to remember forever; a sight which at once took possession of every faculty of sense and soul, removing one altogether out of the range of ordinary life. Here was the real ‘bottomless pit’, ‘the fire which is not quenched’, ‘the place of Hell’, ’the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone’, ‘the everlasting burnings’, ’the fiery sea whose waves are never weary’. Perhaps those Scripture phrases were suggested by the sight of some volcano in eruption. There were groanings, rumblings, and detonations; rushings, hissings, splashings, and the crashing sound of breakers on the coast; but it was the surging of fiery waves upon a fiery shore. But what can I write? Such words as jets, fountains, waves, spray, convey some idea of order and regularity, but here there are none.