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BIRTH, GROWTH AND DEATH OF ISLANDS.
Imprison'd fires in the close dungeons pent,
HAT great mystery of the Atlantic Ocean, sunken
Atlantis, has formed the theme of tongue and pen
for ages. Veiled in tradition and romance, little has been ventured in the way of a truthful explanation, of the fate of the great island and her people.
Yet in plain view, and without the garb of fiction, we have the birth and death of islands in almost constant operation in the Pacific, as well as in other parts of the globe. In this connection, I quote from a recent publication:
Geographers complain that soon there will be no more worlds for them to conquer, and the Danes have ever since the loss of the Duchies, looked forward with doleful forebodings to the time when their country will be still further shorn of its fair proportions. Nature is, however, bountiful, and now, by throwing up a new island off the shores of Iceland, it has added
in an appreciable degree to the territories of King Christian, and to the regions which still await the exploration of the traveler. It is true, the new land is only a volcanic cone, and as it was the result of subterranean fire, may, like so many of its predecessors, born of the throes of mother earth, sink again into the ocean from which it sprang.
At various times, especially after some severe disturbance of Hekla, similar islands have shown themselves above the waves, but generally, with the exception of Nyoe, which was thrown up last century, have been worn away by the action of the surf, before geologists could accurately examine the volcanic scoriae and ashes of which they were composed. In 1811 Captain Tillard, of H. M. S. Sabrina, witnessed such an islet arise during a volcanic outburst in the Azores, and proudly named it after his ship. But when he returned a few weeks later, to survey and annex his acquisition, not a trace of Sabrina Island was visible. The sea had reclaimed it. In the volcanic region of the Mediterranean several similar births of land have been recorded by ancient and modern writers. But the most notorious of them was Graham Island, which arose in the year 1831, some thirty miles off the southwest coast of Sicily. For a few weeks much ink was shed over it, and at one time it was feared that gunpowder would be burnt in the assertion of the angry claims which were made for the wretched 2,300 yards of ^Etnaic cinders. The names of Sciacca, Julia, Hotham, Graham and Corrao were suggestively given to it by the fiery mariners who cruised around it, ready to land and hoist their countries flags the moment the scoriae cooled. But before Europe was embroiled in war about it, Graham Island vanished, and so settled the dispute in its own simple way.
After the destruction of Krakatoa by the great Javan earthquake of 1883, twenty-one new islands appeared in the Sunda Straits, and only last year, one hitherto unknown, rose above the sea off the shores of Alaska.
In all these cases, volcanic action has been the ostensible cause of the formation of these specks in the ocean, But in 1871 Captains Luzen and Mack discovered to the north of Nova Zembla, a group of islets just above the sea, on the very spot where, in 1854, William Barrant had found soundings. On the two largest, which were named Brown and Hellwalld's Islands, tropical fruits were picked up, tossed hither by the northern extension of the Gulf Stream. Hence the group was named the Gulf Stream Islands, and as the land in this portion of the Polar basin is undergoing a slow secular elevation, just as in other places it is sinking, in the course of a century or two the Arctic navigator may find in that direction something worthy of a flag and an entry on his chart.
From the latest date at hand, the islands formed in the Straits of Sunda, alluded to in the above article, have disappeared in the sea, and smooth navigable waters roll above their tombs.
VOLCANIC AND EARTHQUAKE LORE.
A small island lying off the northeast coast of Sumbawa, named Gunong Api, must here be mentioned, because it contains a volcano, and forms a part of that "belt of fire" to which we have adverted as one of the most remarkable physical features of the Indian Archipelago.
It is recorded that the inhabitants of Java, when the eruption began (on the above island), mistook the explosion for discharges of artillery, and at Jayokarta, a distance of 480 miles, a force of soldiers was hastily dispatched to the relief of a neighboring port that was supposed to have been attacked by an enemy. At Surabaya, gun-boats were ordered off to the relief of ships which were defending themselves, it was thought, against pirates in the Madura Strait; while at two places on the coast, boats put off to the assistance of supposed ships in distress. For five days these reports continued, and on the fifth the sky over the eastern part of Java grew dark with ashy showers, so that the sea was invisible. According to Mr. Crawford, the sky at Surabaya did not become as clear for several months, as it usually is in the southeast monsoons.
Eastward, the din of the explosions reached the island of Ternate, near Gilolo, a distance of 720 geographical miles, and so distinctly was it heard that "the resident sent out a boat to look for the ship which was supposed to have been firing signals." Westward, it was heard at Moko-moko, near Bencoolen, or 970 geographical miles.
Dr. Junghuhn thinks that within a circle described by a radius of 210 miles, the average depth of the ashes was at least two feet, a circumstance which will enable the reader to form some idea of the tremendous character of the eruption. The mountain, in fact, must have ejected several times its own mass, and yet no subsidence has been observed in the adjoining area, and apparently the only change is, that during the outbreak, Tamboro lost two-thirds of its previous height.
The Rajah of Sangir, a village about fourteen miles southeast of the volcano, was an eye-witness of the eruption, and thus describes it:
About 7 p. M., on the 1oth of April (1815), three distinct columns of flame burst forth near the summit of the mountain, all of them apparently within the verge of the crater: and after ascending, separately, to a very great height, united their tops in the air in a troubled, confused manner. In a short time the whole mountain next to Sangir appeared like a mass of liquid fire, extending itself in every direction. The fire and columns of flame continued to rage with unabated fury until the darkness, caused by the quantity of falling matter, obscured it about 8 P. M. Stones at this time' fell very thick at Sangir, some of them as large as a man's two fists, but generally not exceeding the size of walnuts.
Between 9 and 10 P. M. showers of ashes began to fall, and soon afterwards a violent whirlwind ensued, which overthrew nearly every house in the village of Sangir, carrying along with it, their lighter portions and thatched roofs. In that part of the district of Sangir, adjoining the volcano, its effects were much more severe; it tore up by the roots the largest trees, and whirling them in the air, dashed them around in the wildest confusion, along with men, houses, cattle, and whatever else came within the range of its fury. The sea rose nearly twelve feet higher than it had ever been known before, and completely destroyed the only small spots of rice lands in Sangir, sweeping away houses and everything within its reach.
The captain of a ship dispatched from Macassar, to the scene of this awful phenomenon, stated, that as he approached the coast, he passed through great.