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Then soothing reflections
Arise on the mind,
Of friends who were kind
And yet could decay,
Time withered away;
The soft cloud of whiteness,
The stars beaming through,
The deep sky of blue,
Through vales that are still,
Sigh lone o'er the hill,
ERUPTION OF THE VOLCANO OF KILAUEA.
On the 30th of May the people of Puna observed the appearance of smoke and fire in the interior, a mountainous and desolate region of that district. Thinking that the fire might be the burning of some jungle, they took little notice of it until the next day, Sabbath, when the meetings in the different villages were thrown into confusion by sudden and grand exhibitions of fire, on a scale so large and fearful as to leave them no room to doubt the cause of the phenomenon. The fire augmented during the day and night, but it did not seem to flow off rapidly in any direction.
All were in consternation, as it was expected that the molten flood would pour itself down from its height of four thousand feet, to the coast, and no one knew to what point it would flow, or what devastation would attend its fiery course. On Monday, June 1st, the stream began to flow off in a northeasterly direction, and on the following
Wednesday, at evening, the burning river reached the sea, having averaged about half a mile an hour in its progress. The rapidity of the flow was very unequal, being modified by the inequalities of the surface, over which the stream passed. Sometimes it is supposed to have moved five miles an hour, and at other times, owing to obstructions, making no apparent progress, except in filling up deep valleys, and in swelling over or breaking away hills and precipices.
But I will return to the source of the eruption. This is in a forest, and in the bottom of an ancient wooded crater, about four hundred feet deep, and probably eight miles east from Kilauea. The region being uninhabited and covered with a thicket, it was some time before the place was discovered, and up to this time, though several foreigners have attempted it, no one, except myself, has reached the spot. From Kilauea to this place the lava flows in a subterranean gallery, probably at the depth of a thousand feet, but its course can be distinctly traced all the way, by the rending of the crust of the earth into innumerable fissures, and by the emission of smoke, steam, and gases.
The eruption in this old crater is small, and from this place the stream disappears again for the distance of a mile or two, when the lava again gushed up and spread over an area of about fifty acres. Again it passes under ground for two or three miles, when it reappears in another old wooded crater, consuming the forest, and partly filling up the basin. Once more it disappears, and flowing in a subterranean channel, cracks and breaks the earth, opening fissures from six inches to ten or twelve feet in width, and sometimes splitting the trunk of a tree so exactly that its legs stand astride at the fissure.
At some places it is impossible to trace the subterranean stream, on account of the impenetrable thicket under which it passes. After flowing under ground several miles, perhaps six or eight, it again broke out like an overwhelming flood, and sweeping forest, hamlet, plantation, and every thing before it, rolled down with resistless energy to the sea, where,
leaping a precipice of forty or fifty feet, it poured itself in one vast cataract of fire into the deep below, with loud detonations, fearful hissings, and a thousand unearthly and indescribable sounds. Imagine to yourself a river of fused minerals, of the breadth and depth of Niagara, and of a deep gory red, falling, in one emblazoned sheet, one raging torrent, into the ocean ! The scene, as described by eye witnesses, was terribly sublime. Two mighty agencies in collision ! Two antagonist and gigantic forces in contact, and producing effects on a scale inconceivably grand !
The atmosphere in all directions was filled with ashes, spray, and gases; while the burning lava, as it fell into
, the water, was shivered into millions of minute particles, and being thrown back into the air, fell in showers of sand on all the surrounding country. The coast was extended into the sea for a quarter of a mile, and a pretty sand-beach and a new cape were formed. Three hills of scoria and sand were also formed in the sea, the lowest about two hundred and the highest about three hundred feet.
For three weeks this terrific river disgorged itself into the sea with little abatement. Multitudes of fishes were killed, and the waters of the ocean were heated for twenty miles along the coast. The breadth of the stream, where it fell into the sea, is about half a mile, but inland it varies from one to four or five miles in width, conforming itself, like a river, to the face of the country over which it flowed. Indeed, if you can imagine the Mississippi, converted into liquid fire, of the consistency of fused iron, and moving onward, sometimes rapidly, sometimes sluggishly; now widening into a sea, and anon rushing through a narrow defile, winding its way through mighty forests and ancient solitudes, you will get some idea of the spectacle now exhibited.
The depth of the stream will probably vary from ten to two hundred feet, according to the inequalities of the surface over which it passed. During the flow, night was converted into day. The light rose and spread like the morning upon the mountains, and its glare was seen on the opposite side of the island. It was also distinctly visible for more than one hundred miles at sea; and at the distance of forty miles, fine print could be read at midnight. The brilliancy of the light was like a blazing firmament, and the scene is said to have been one of unrivaled sublimity.
The whole course of the stream from Kilauea to the sea is about forty miles. Its mouth is about twentyfive miles from the Hilo station. The ground over which it flowed, descends at the rate of one hundred feet to the mile. The crust is now cooled, and may be traversed with care, though scalding steam, pungent gases, and smoke are still emitted in many places.
In pursuing my way for nearly two days over this mighty smouldering mass, I was more and more inpressed at every step with the wonderful scene. Hills had been. melted down like wax; ravines and deep valleys had been filled; and majestic forests had disappeared like feathers in the flames. In some places the molten stream parted and flowed in separate channels for a considerable distance, and then reuniting, formed islands of various sizes, from one to fifty acres,