We Observe an Ancient Cataract of Lava, and Irregular Vaulted Avenue…

Being sufficiently recovered to proceed on the journey, we left Keokoa about eight o’clock on the morning of the 24th. After travelling half a mile, a singular appearance of the lava, at a small distance from the shore, attracted our attention, and, on examination, presented a curious phenomenon. It consisted of a covered avenue of considerable extent, from fifty to sixty feet in height, formed by the flowing of the lava, in some recent eruption, over the edge of a perpendicular pile of ancient volcanic rocks, from sixty to seventy feet high. It appeared as if, at first, it had flowed over in one vast sheet, but had afterwards fallen more slowly, and in detached semifluid masses. These, cooling as they fell, had hardened and formed a pile, which, by continued augmentation from above, had ultimately reached the top, and united with the liquid lava there. It was evident that the lava had still continued to flow, along the outside of the arch thus formed, into the plain below, as we observed, in several places, the courses of unbroken streams, from the top of the cliff to the bed of smooth lava, that covered the beach for several miles. The space at the bottom between the ancient rocks and more recently formed lava, was from six to twelve feet. On one side the lava rose, perpendicular and smooth, shewing distinctly the different and variously coloured masses of ancient lava of which it was composed; some of a bright scarlet, others brown and purple. The whole pile appeared to have undergone since its formation the effects of violent heat. The cracks and hollows, horizontally between the different strata, or obliquely through them, were filled with lava of a florid red colour, and much less porous than the general mass. This last kind of lava must have been brought to a state of most perfect liquefaction, as it had filled up every crevice that was more than half an inch wide. It appeared highly glazed, and in some places we could discover small round pebples, from the size of a hazel-nut to that of a hen’s egg, of the same colour, and having the same vitreous covering, yet seeming to have remained solid, while the liquid lava, with which they were mixed, had been forced by subterranean fire into all the fissures of the ancient rock. The pile on the other side, formed by the dripping of the liquid lava from the upper edge of the rocks, presented a striking contrast, but not a less interesting sight. It was generally of a dark purple or jet black colour, glittering in the rays of the sun, as if glazed over with a beautiful vitreous varnish. (Ellis)

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 (These are excerpts from a book by William Ellis that has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain. A public domain book is one that was never subject to copyright or whose legal copyright term has expired.)


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