“I have a letter written by one long since dead, who had at least powers of description of no common order, telling how, when he tried to go out of his house upon the east coast, he could not find the trees on his own lawn save by feeling for their stems. He stood amazed not only in utter darkness, but in utter silence; for the trade-wind had fallen dead, the everlasting roar of the surf was gone, and the only noise was the crashing of branches, snapped by the weight of the clammy dust. He went in again, and waited. About one o’clock the veil began to lift; a lurid sunlight stared in from the horizon, but all was black overhead. Gradually the dust drifted away; the island saw the sun once more, and saw itself inches deep in black, and in this case fertilizing, dust. The trade-wind blew suddenly once more out of the clear east, and the surf roared again along the shore.
“Meanwhile a heavy earthquake-wave had struck part at least of the shores of Barbados. The gentleman on the east coast, going out, found traces of the sea, and boats and logs washed up some ten to twenty feet above high-tide mark; a convulsion which seemed to have gone unmarked during the general dismay.
“One man at least, an old friend of John Hunter, Sir Joseph Banks and others their compeers, was above the dismay, and the superstitious panic which accompanied it. Finding it still dark when he rose to dress, he opened (so the story used to run) his window; found it stick, and felt upon the sill a coat of soft powder. ’The volcano in St. Vincent has broken out at last,’ said the wise man, ‘and this is the dust of it.’ So he quieted his household and his negroes, lighted his candles, and went to his scientific books, in that delight, mingled with an awe not the less deep, because it is rational and self-possessed, with which he, like the other men of science, looked at the wonders of this wondrous world.”
Submarine Volcanoes and their Work of Island Building.
In November, 1867, a volcano suddenly began to show signs of activity beneath the deep sea of the Pacific Ocean. There are some islands nearly two thousands miles to the east of Australia called the Navigator’s Group, in which there had been no history of an eruption, nor had such an event been handed down by tradition. Most of the islands in the Pacific Ocean are old volcanoes, or are made up of rocks cast forth from extinct burning mountains. They rise up like peaks through the great depths of the ocean, and the top, which just appears above the sea-level, is generally encircled by a growth of coral. Hence they are termed coral islands. These islands every now and then rise higher than the sea-level, owing to some deep upheaving force, and then the coral is lifted up above the water, and become a solid rock. But occasionally the reverse of this takes place, and the islands begin to sink into the sea, owing to a force which causes the base of the submarine mountain to become depressed. Sometimes they disappear. All this shows that some great disturbing forces are in action at the bottom of the sea, and just within the earth’s crust, and that they are of a volcanic nature.