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Eruption of Mount Vesuvius, The Mirror Saturday, November 30, 1822.

Eruption of Mount Vesuvius 1822

One of the grandest, and at the same time the most awful spectacles in nature, is that of an active volcano, throwing out ashes, pumice stones, and cinders, and pouring forth a torrent of ignited lava, which, like a vast deluge of liquid fire, lays waste the country over which it runs, and buries all the works of human art. It is then that

'The fluid lake that works below Bitumen, sulphur, salt, and iron scum, Heives up its boiling tide. The lab'-ring mount
Is torn with agonizing throes. At once, Forth from its side disparted, blazing
pours A mighty river; burning in prone waves, That glimmer thro' the night, to yonder plain; Divided there, a hundred torrent streams,
Each ploughing up its bed, roll dreadful Oil, Resistless. Villages, and woods, and rocks, Fall flat before their sweep.'

Volcanoes, which are thus powerfully described by Mallet, are found in almost all parts of the world, but most commonly in the neighbourhood of the sea, and especially in small islands: for instance, in Italy, Sicily, Iceland, Japan, the Caribbee, Canary, and Cape Verd Islands, and the Azores. There are also numerous, volcanoes in Mexico and Peru, especially Pichincha and Cotopaxi. The subterraneous fires which are continually kept up in an open volcano, depend in general on sulphureous combination and decomposition, like the heating of a heap of wet pyrites, or the union of sulphur and iron-filings; but in other cases they approach more nearly to the nature of common fires. A mountain of coal has been burning in Siberia for almost a century, and must probably have undermined, in some degree, the neighbouring country. The two most remarkable volcanoes are those of Mount Etna and Mount Vesuvius. As the latter has recently been in a state of eruption, we have given an Engraving, which represents, as correctly as the subject is capable of, this extraordinary convulsion of Nature, This celebrated volcano, which has for so many ages attracted the attention of mankind, and the desolating eruptions of which have been so often and so fatally experienced, is distant, in an eastern direction, about seven miles from Naples. It rises, insulated upon a vast and well cultivated plain, presenting two summits on the same base; in which particular it resembles Mount Parnassus. One of these, La Somuia, is generally agreed to have been the Vesuvius of Strabo and the ancients; the other, having the greatest elevation, is the mouth of the volcano, which almost constantly emits smoke. Its height above the level of the sea is 3,900 feet, and it may be ascended by three different routes, which are very steep and difficult, from the conical form of the mountain, and the loose ashes which slip from under the feet; still from the distance it is not more than three Italian miles. The circumference of the platform on the top is 5,024 feet, or nearly a mile. Thence may be seen Portici, Capraea, Ischia, Pausilippo, and She whole coast of the Gulf of Naples, bordered with orange-trees: the prospect is that of Paradise seen from the infernal regions.

On approaching the mountain, its aspect does not convey any impression of terror, nor is it gloomy, being cultivated for more than two-thirds of its height, and having only its brown top barren. There all verdure ceases; yet when it appears covered with clouds, which sometimes encompass its middle only, this circumstance rather adds to, than detracts from, the magnificence of the spectacle. Upon the lava which the volcano long ago ejected, and which, like great furrows, extend into the plain, and to the sea, are built houses, villages, and towns. Gardens, vineyards, and cultivated fields surround them: but a sentiment of sorrow, blended with apprehensions about the future, arises, on the recollection, that beneath a soil so fruitful and so smiling, lie edifices, gardens, and whole towns, swallowed up. Portici rests upon Herculaneum; its environs upon Resina; and at a little distance is Pompeii, in the streets of which, after more than seventeen centuries of non-existence, the astonished traveller now walks. After a long interval of repose, in the first year of the reign of Titus (the 79th of the Christian era), the volcano suddenly broke out, ejecting thick clouds of ashes and pumice stones, beneath which Herculaneum, Stabia, and Pompeii, were completely buried. This eruption was fatal to the elder Pliny, the historian, who fell a victim to his humanity and love of science.

There have been thirty-nine eruptions of Mount Vesuvius recorded by historians; the last one makes the fortieth. Previous to the recent eruption, Vesuvius displayed all round the openings which it had made at different periods, and to which they gave the name of mouths. From those openings flowed the lava, the name given the torrents of liquified matter which rushed out of the bursting sides of the Mount.

Running from the summit, it spreads over the fields at the bottom, and to the sea. The matter, when cold, hardens to a stone. It is used to pave the streets of Naples, and in the erection of solid buildings. The depth of the Gulf, or boiling matter, from which arises a constant smoke, is calculated to be about 543 feet. It is common, at all times when it has rained much, to see torrents of water descend with a loud noise from Vesuvius; but those which descend during an eruption do the most damage.

These waters, stopped at the foot of the mountain by immense masses of cinders and sand, which form a sort of dyke, augment their force, and render the fall more impetuous. To these floods of water, shocks of earthquakes are added, which continue at intervals during a month together.

The new eruption commenced on the 20th of October, about twelve o'clock. A dreadful internal noise was heard throughout the neighbourhood; the lava began to appear, and soon flowed in a torrent about a mile broad. The next day a second body of lava, half a mile in breadth, issued forth, and covered the old lava on the side of Bosco-Tre-Case: a third and fourth stream soon afterwards burst forth. The following particulars of the progress of the eruption are from private letters : —

Naples, October 23.—You will have heard, my dear brother, before this reaches you, of the awfully grand eruption of Vesuvius. Nothing similar has been witnessed since 1794, when the town of Torre del Greco, situated at about four miles from the crater, was partly destroyed. During the evening of the 21st, a little smoke appeared, and distinct reports of artillery, as it seemed, proceeded from that part of the bay. Had the sky not been perfectly serene, one would have considered it to be thunder. Towards nine o'clock, however, a little (ire appeared at the old crater, and left us no longer in doubt about the cause of the intonations. At a few minutes past 11, it burst forth in all its fury, throwing out stones to a great height. In three hours afterwards, the lava rolled forth in two grand streams, one taking towards Resina, where the King's Villa, called La Favorita, is situated, and the other inclining in a more southerly direction to Torre del Annunziata. The torrent of lava which flows towards Resina has already covered 100 acres of ground. The showers of ashes darken the sky, and fall even in the streets of the capital. The stones which have fallen at Bosco-Tre-Case have accumulated to the height of five palms. The eruptions of stones are frequent, and the sounds which issue from the mountain are frightful. AH the people who lived near the volcano have fled. About 800 persons from the neighbouring villages have been received by order of the Police and Prefecture.

Oct. 25.—The fire seems to-day to be spent, but as the wind has changed to the south-east, or, as it is called, Sirocco, the smoke and ashes have come over Naples, and the mountain with Portici, and all along the bay, are invisible, while at mid-day, torches are almost necessary, and umbrellas absolutely so. The King's villa at Resina was yesterday stripped of its furniture, and I may say that the whole line of coast, from Portici to Castel-a-Mar, has been abandoned, unless we except the curious who flock in crowds to see what is passing. The eruption of cinders and smoke at this moment presents the appearance of a very thick and elevated black cone, which the wind blows towards Somma, Otta-jano, and Nola. The number of individuals who fled from these villages augmented considerably yesterday. Last night about 2000 of these unfortunate persons received pecuniary assistance,.

Oct. 26.—We expect that the eruption will soon entirely cease. The columns of cinders and smoke are decreasing, and the detonations are less frequent and loud than heretofore. Most of the people who had fled are returning to their homes. It rained copiously last night, which has had the effect of purifying the atmosphere, which before was filled with clouds of black ashes. The rain, too, has washed the plants, which have assumed their natural colour and appearance, which under our climate is, even at the end of autumn, so striking and agreeable. The summit of Vesuvius is visible, and it appears that the dreadful eruption which has taken place has torn away a part of the crest of the volcano.

Oct. 28.—The eruption is completely at an end; but violent explosions of cinders still continue. The inhabitants of the country have returned to their, homes. Portici and la Torre del Greco have suffered no other injury than what arises from their being in a great part covered with ashes and stones. A portion of the territory of Resina is covered with lava, but only where lava had formerly lain. The tower of the Annunciata has sustained injuries which it will not be easy either to estimate or repair. At Ottaiano the fire has consumed 50 acres of wood. These are all the details which have hitherto reached us.

The following additional particulars of this interesting event are contained in another private letter from Naples, dated October 29:—

Vesuvius is comparatively quiet, but it still throws out immense columns of smoke, and the lapillo and fine ashes continue to rain round the country according to the direction of the wind. Yesterday the wind blew over Naples, and it was a very rainy day. To my surprise, on going out, I found that the water which fell was of the colour of mud; indeed so thickly was it mixed with a shower of the fine volcanic ashes, that it has besmeared the houses and trees, and every thing exposed, in a most curious manner.

The first stream of lava thrown out at the west side of the crater, was about half a mile in breadth; it passed between the hermitage of San Salvatore and the ruins of a little country-house belonging to the King, and descended towards Resina. After having damaged a considerable deal of land, it stopped at a spot called Il Monte.

The second came out at the same time, and from the same mouth as the first; it was about two miles broad, and descended towards the village called Bosco di tre Case; but as it run over former lava, it did no injury.

The third proceeded from a mouth that opened during this eruption low down the sides of the volcano; it ran towards the place called 11 Monte, but it also flowing over old lava, did no injury. The second and third stopped nearly in the same place,
The fourth and last descended from an old mouth called Vulcano, on the south side; reaching Pedementina, it joined itself with a smaller stream of, lava; thence it ran on over old lava, as far as the hollow called Atrio del Cavallo. It seemed to menace La Torre del Greco.

It has been observed that the volcanic matter, not lava, thrown out by Vesuvius this time, taken in mass, is much more considerable than the lava itself.

The damage done by the eruption is not so considerable as the dreadful and menacing appearances of the mountain would have induced me to imagine. Portici and the Torre del Greco have suffered no other inconvenience than that arising from some sharp showers of lapillo and ashes. Resina has had about twenty moggia of land covered. A moggia is a Neapolitan measure, equivalent to about four-fifths of an English acre. From the Torre del Greco to the Torre del Annunziata, the road is now covered to the depth of two feet with lapillo and fine ashes. The Torre del Annunziata has suffered most; all its finely cultivated lands are covered with a very thick stratum of lapillo and ashes. Near Ottajano, about forty or fifty moggia of wood were consumed. Yesterday, this part suffered greatly from a deluge of warm water, mixed with ashes.

A great number of labourers, aided by Austrian and Neapolitan soldiers, are employed in clearing the roads. The heavy rains that are expected at this season will do much, but I fear that the country round the Torre del Annunziata will not be speedily restored to the industry of man.

The distance at which the fine ashes have fallen is astonishing; the master of an English vessel, which came in last Saturday, gathered them on the deck the Wednesday evening preceding, when he was off the Tuscan coast, at least two hundred miles from Naples.

 

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