Scientific American Supplement, No. 508, September 26, 1885 online

. (page 1 of 10)
Online LibraryVariousScientific American Supplement, No. 508, September 26, 1885 → online text (page 1 of 10)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Josephine Paolucci and the
Online Distributed Proofreading Team at




Scientific American Supplement. Vol. XX., No. 508.

Scientific American established 1845

Scientific American Supplement, $5 a year.

Scientific American and Supplement, $7 a year.

* * * * *


I. CHEMISTRY AND METALLURGY. - The Cowles Electric Smelting
Process. 5 figures. 8113

On the Electrical Furnace and the Reduction of the Oxides of
Boron, Silicon, Aluminum, and other Metals by Carbon. - By

Chemical Action of Light. 8117

Eutexia. - Cryohydrates. - Eutectic salt alloys and metal
alloys. 8117

Chinoline. 8118

Method of Rapid Estimation of Urea. 1 figure. 8118

Assay of Earthenware Glaze. 8112

II. ENGINEERING AND MECHANICS. - Deep Shafts and Deep Mining. 8104

Sinking of the Quievrechain Working Shaft. - Numerous
figures. 8108

On the Elementary Principles of the Gas Engine. - An
interesting paper read before the Gas Institute by Mr.
DENNY LANE, of Cork, and discussion following. 8109

M. MEIZEL'S Reciprocating Exhauster. 8112

Automatic Siphon for Irrigation. 1 figure. 8113

III. ELECTRICITY, TELEGRAPHY, ETC. - Optical Telegraphy. -
Cryptography. - Preservation of Telegrams. - The projector in
optical telegraphy. - Use of balloons. 4 figures. 8114

A New Style of Submarine Telegraph. 4 figures. 8115

A New Circuit Cutter. 2 figures. 8115

New Micro Telephonic Apparatus. 5 figures. 8116

Messrs. Kapp and Crompton's Measuring Instruments.
5 figures. 8116

IV. GEOLOGY, ETC. - Permeability of Sand Rock. - By F.H. NEWELL. 8103

The Grotto of Gargas, in the Pyrenees. - Paleontological
remains found therein. 2 engravings. 8103

Remarkable Wells and Caverns in Yucatan. - By ALICE D. LE

V. NATURAL HISTORY. - The Cabbage Butterfly and the Peacock
Butterfly. 8105

VI. BOTANY AND HORTICULTURE. - The Bhotan Cypress (Cupressus
torulosa). - With engraving. 8106

The Pitcher Plant. 8106

What is a Plant? 8106

Camellias. - Culture of the same. 8106

Arisæma Fimbriatum. - Leaf, spathe, and floral details. - With
engraving. 8107

VII. MISCELLANEOUS. - Striking a Light with Bamboo. 8107

Experiments in Memory. 8107

* * * * *



Among oil producers, there has been much discussion as to whether the
sand rock in which petroleum occurs is of necessity fissured or is
still in its original unbroken condition.

The earliest and most natural theory, which for years was indisputed,
and is still given by some textbooks, was, that oil wells reached a
cavity filled with petroleum.

Within the past few years, however, the opinion has been gaining
ground that the oil is stored in the sandrock itself in the minute
spaces between the small grains of sand, not entirely filled by
cementing material, and that crevices holding and conducting oil are
rare, all fissures as a rule being confined to the upper fresh-water
bearing rocks of the well. Mr. Carll, in III. Pennsylvania Second
Geological Survey, has discussed this subject very fully, and has made
estimates of the quantity of oil that the sand rock can hold and
deliver into a well; also, T. Sterry Hunt, in his _Chemical and
Geological Essays_, has made deductions as to the petroleum contained
in the Niagara limestone that outcrops about Chicago.

While the experiments and conclusions of these geologists go to prove
that these rocks are capable of holding the oil, there are on record
no facts as to the phenomena of its flow, other than by capillarity,
through the rock. To obtain some data of the flow of liquids under
pressure through certain oil-bearing stones, series of tests on small
pieces were made. These tests were carried on during this spring, and
many results quite unlooked for were obtained. When crude oil,
kerosene, or water (river or distilled) was forced through the
specimens, the pressure being constant, the rate of flow was variable.
At first, the amount flowing through was large, then fell off rapidly,
and when the flow had diminished to about one-quarter of its original
rate, the decrease was very slight, but still continued as long as
measurements were made, in some cases for three weeks.

When using crude oil, this result was not surprising, for, as the oil
men say, crude oil "paraffines up" a rock, that is, clogs the minute
pores by depositing solid paraffine (?); but this so-called
paraffining took place, not only with crude oil, but with refined oil,
and even with distilled water.

The only explanation as yet is, that liquids flowing under pressure
through rock on which they exert little or no dissolving effect,
instead of washing out fine particles, tend to dislodge any minute
grains of the stone that may not be firmly held by cement, and these
block up extremely fine and crooked pores in which the fluid is

Several tests indicated that this blocking up was largely near the
surface into which the fluid was passing. When this surface was ground
off, even 1/50 of an inch, the flow increased immediately nearly to
the original rate.

Reversing the flow also had the effect of increasing the rate, even
above that of any time previous.

With the moderate pressures used - from 2" to 80" of mercury - the
results show that the rate of flow, other things being equal, is
directly proportional to the pressure.

The porosity of rock is not always a criterion of its permeability; a
very fine grained marble, containing about 0.6 per cent. cell space,
transmitted water and oil more freely than a shale that would hold 4
per cent. of its bulk of water.

If the above conclusions hold on a large scale as on the small, they
may aid in explaining the diminished flow of oil wells. Not only will
the flow lessen from reduced gas pressure, but the passages in the
rock become less able to allow the oil to flow through.

The increase in flow following the explosion of large shots in a sand
rock may be due not only to fissuring of the rock, but to temporary
reversal of the pressure, the force of the explosive tending to drive
the oil back for an instant.

The large shots now used (up to 200 quarts, or say 660 pounds of
nitroglycerine) must exert some influence of this kind, especially
when held down by 500± feet of liquid tamping. In the course of these
tests, it was noticed that fresh water has a more energetic
disintegrating action on the shales and clay than on salt water.

This may furnish a reason for the fact, noticed by the oil men, that
fresh water has a much more injurious effect than salt in clogging a
well. No oil-bearing sand rock is free from laminæ of shale, and when
fresh water gets down into the sand, the water must, as the
experiments show, rapidly break up the shale, setting free fine
particles, which soon are driven along into the minute interstices of
the sand rock, plastering it up and injuring the well. - _Engineering
and Mining Journal._

* * * * *


The grotto of Gargas is located in Mount Tibiran about three hundred
yards above the level of the valley, and about two miles southeast of
the village of Aventignan. Access to it is easy, since a road made by
Mr. Borderes in 1884 allows carriages to reach its entrance.

This grotto is one of the most beautiful in the Pyrenees, and presents
to the visitor a succession of vast halls with roofs that are curved
like a dome, or are in the form of an ogive, or are as flat as a
ceiling. It is easy to explore these halls, for the floor is covered
with a thick stalagmitic stratum, and is not irregular as in the
majority of large caves.


Upon entering through the iron gate at the mouth of the grotto, one
finds himself in Bear Hall, wherein a strange calcareous concretion
offers the form of the carnivorous animal after which the room is
named. This chamber is about 80 feet in width by 98 in length. We
first descend a slope formed of earth and debris mostly derived from
the outside. This slope, in which are cut several steps, rests upon a
hard, compact, and crystalline stalagmitic floor. Upon turning to the
right, we come to the Hall of Columns, the most beautiful of all. Here
the floor bristles with stalagmites, which in several places are
connected with the stalactites that depend from the ceiling. This room
is about 50 feet square. After this we reach the Hall of Crevices, 80
feet square, and this leads to the great Hall of Gargas, which is
about 328 feet in length by 80, 98, and 105 in width. In certain
places enormous fissures in the vault rise to a great height. Some of
these, shaped like great inverted funnels, are more than 60 yards in
length. The grotto terminates in the Creeping Hall. As its name
indicates, this part of the cave can only be traversed by lying flat
upon the belly. It gives access to the upper grotto through a narrow
and difficult passage that it would be possible to widen, and which
would then allow visitors to make their exit by traversing the
beautiful upper grotto, whose natural entrance is situated 150 yards
above the present one. This latter was blasted out about thirty years

Upon following the direction of the great crevices, we reach a small
chamber, wherein are found the Oubliettes of Gargas - a vertical well
65 feet feet in depth. The aperture that gives access to this strange
well (rendered important through the paleontological remains collected
in it) is no more than two feet in diameter. Such is the general
configuration of the grotto.

In 1865 Dr. Garrigou and Mr. De Chastaignier visited the grotto, and
were the first to make excavations therein. These latter allowed these
scientists to ascertain that the great chamber contained the remains
of a quaternary fauna, and, near the declivity, a deposit of the
reindeer age.

As soon as it was possible to obtain a permit from the Municipal
Council of Aventignan to do so, I began the work of excavation, and
the persistence with which I continued my explorations led me to
discover one of the most important deposits that we possess in the
chain of the Pyrenees. My first excavations in Bear Hall were made in
1873, and were particularly fruitful in an opening 29 feet long by 10
wide that terminates the hall, to the left. I have remarked that these
sorts of retreats in grottoes are generally rich in bones. Currents of
water rushing through the entrance to the grotto carry along the
bones - entire, broken, or gnawed - that lie upon the ground. These
remains are transported to the depths of the cave, and are often
stopped along the walls, and lie buried in the chambers in
argillaceous mud. Rounded flint stones are constantly associated with
the bones, and the latter are always in great disorder. The species
that I met with were as follows: the great cave bear, the little bear,
the hyena, the great cat, the rhinoceros, the ox, the horse, and the

The stalagmitic floor is 1½, 2, and 2¼ inches thick. The bones were
either scattered or accumulated at certain points. They were generally
broken, and often worn and rounded. They appeared to have been rolled
with violence by the waters. The clay that contained them was from 3
to 6 feet in thickness, and rested upon a stratum of water-worn
pebbles whose dimensions varied from the size of the fist to a grain
of sand. A thick layer of very hard, crystalline stalagmite covers the
Hall of Columns, and it was very difficult to excavate without
destroying this part of the grotto.

I found that there anciently existed several apertures that are now
sealed up, either by calcareous concretions or by earthy rubbish from
the mountain. One of these was situated in the vicinity of the present
mouth, and permitted of the access to Bear Hall of a host of carnivora
that found therein a vast and convenient place of shelter.

[Illustration: FIG. 2. - SKELETON OF THE CAVE HYENA.]

These excavations revealed to me at this entrance, at the bottom of
the declivity, a thick stratum of remains brought thither by primitive
man. This deposit, which was formed of black earth mixed with charcoal
and numerous remains of bones, calcined and broken longitudinally for
the most part, contained rudely worked flint stones. I collected a few
implements, one surface of which offered a clean fracture, while the
other represented the cutting edge. According to Mr. De Mortillet,
such instruments were not intended to have a handle. They were capable
of serving as paring knives and saws, but they were especially
designed for scraping bones and skins. The deposit was from 26 to 32
feet square and from 2 inches to 5 feet deep, and rested upon a bed of
broken stones above the stalagmite. The animals found in it were the
modern bear (rare), the aurochs, the ox, the horse, and the stag - the
last four in abundance.

At the extremity of the grotto there is a well with vertical sides
which is no less than 65 feet in depth. It is called the Gargas
Oubilettes. Its mouth is from 15 to 24 inches in diameter, and
scarcely gives passage to a man (Fig. 1). Mr. Borderes, in the hope of
discovering a new grotto, was the first to descend into this well,
which he did by means of a rope ladder, and collected a few bones that
were a revelation to me. Despite the great difficulty and danger of
excavating at this point, I proceeded, and found at the first blow of
the pick that there was here a deposit of the highest importance,
since all the bones that I met with were intact. The first thing
collected was an entire skull of the great cave bear, with its
maxillaries in place. From this moment I began a series of excavations
that lasted two years.

The descent is effected through a narrow vertical passage 6½ feet in
length. The cavity afterward imperceptibly widens, and, at a depth of
12 yards, reaches 6½ feet in diameter, and at 15 yards 10 feet.
Finally, in the widest part (at a depth of 62 feet) it measures about
16 feet (Fig. 1).

A glance at the section of the well, which I have drawn as accurately
as possible (not an easy thing to do when one is standing upon a rope
ladder), will give an idea of the form of this strange pocket formed
in the limestone of the mountain through the most complex dislocations
and erosions. Two lateral pockets attracted my attention because of
the enormous quantity of clay and bones that obstructed them. The
first, to the left, was about 15 feet from the orifice. When we had
entirely emptied it, we found that it communicated with the bottom of
the well by a narrow passage. An entire skeleton of the great cave
bear had stopped up this narrow passage, and of this, by the aid of a
small ladder, we gathered the greater part of the skeleton, the state
of preservation of which was remarkable.

The second pocket, which was almost completely filled with clay, and
situated a little lower than the other, likewise communicated with a
third cavity that reached the bottom of the well. The clay of these
different pockets contained so large a quantity of bones that we could
hardly use our picks, and the excavation had to be performed with very
short hooks, and often by hand. In this way I was enabled to remove
the bones without accident. The lower pocket was dug out first, and
with extreme care, the bones being hoisted out by means of a basket
attached to a rope. Three or four candles sufficed to give us light.
The air was heavy and very warm, and, after staying in it for two
hours, it was necessary to come to the surface to breathe. After
extracting the bones from the lower pocket, and when no more clay
remained, we successively dug out the upper ones and threw the earth
to the bottom of the well.

On the 20th of December, 1884, my excavating was finished. To-day the
Oubliettes of Gargas are obstructed with the clay that it was
impossible to carry elsewhere. The animals that I thus collected in
the well were the following: The great bear (in abundance), the little
bear (a variety of the preceding), the hyena, and the wolf. The
pockets contained nearly entire skeletons of these species. How had
the animals been able to penetrate this well? It is difficult to admit
that it was through the aperture that I have mentioned. I endeavored
to ascertain whether there was not another communication with the
Gargas grotto, and had the satisfaction of finding a fissure that
ended in the cave, and that probably was wider at the epoch at which
the place served as a lair for the bear and hyena.

Very old individuals and other adults, and very young animals, were
living in the grotto, and, being surprised, without power to save
themselves, by a sudden inundation, reached the bottom of the well
that we have described. The entire remains of these animals were
carried along by the water and deposited in the pockets in the rock.
Once buried in the argillaceous mud, the bones no longer underwent the
action of the running water, and their preservation was thence
secured. - _F. Regnault, in La Nature._

* * * * *


A correspondent of the New York _Sun_, writing from Virginia City,
Nevada, describes the progress of the work there on the Combination
shaft of the Comstock lode, the deepest vertical shaft in America, and
the second deepest in the world. It is being sunk by the Chollar
Potosi, Hale & Norcross, and Savage mining companies; hence its name
of the Combination shaft. This shaft has now reached a perpendicular
depth of a little over 3,100 feet. There is only one deeper vertical
shaft in the world - the Adalbent shaft of the silver-lead mines of
Przibram, Bohemia, which at last accounts had reached a depth of 3,280
feet. The attainment of that depth was made the occasion of a
festival, which continued three days, and was still further honored by
the striking off of commemorative medals of the value of a florin
each. There is no record of the beginning of work on this mine at
Przibram, although its written history goes back to 1527.

Twenty years ago very few mining shafts in the world had reached a
depth of 2,000 feet. The very deepest at that time was in a
metalliferous mine in Hanover, which had been carried down 2,900 feet;
but this was probably not a single perpendicular shaft. Two vertical
shafts near Gilly, in Belgium, are sunk to the depth of 2,847 feet. At
this point they are connected by a drift, from which an exploring
shaft or winze is sunk to a further depth of 666 feet, and from that
again was put down a bore hole 49 feet in depth, making the total
depth reached 3,562 feet. As the bore hole did not reach the seam of
coal sought for, they returned and resumed operations at the 2,847
level. In Europe it is thought worthy of particular note that there
are vertical shafts of the following depths:

Eimkert's shaft of the Luganer Coal Mining
Company, Saxony 2,653

Sampson shaft of the Oberhartz silver mine,
near St. Andreasberg, Hanover. 2,437

The hoisting shaft of the Rosebridge Colliery,
near Wigan, Lancashire, England. 2,458

Shaft of the coal mines of St. Luke, near
St. Chaumont, France. 2,253

Amelia shaft, Shemnitz, Hungary. 1,782

The No. 1 Camphausen shaft, near Fishbach,
in the department of the Saarbruck
Collieries, Prussia. 1,650

Now, taking the mines of the Comstock for a distance of over a
mile - from the Utah on the north to the Alto on the south - there is
hardly a mine that is not down over 2,500 feet, and most of the shafts
are deeper than those mentioned above; while the Union Consolidated
shaft has a vertical depth of 2,900 feet, and the Yellow Jacket a
depth of 3,030 feet. In his closing argument before the Congressional
Committee on Mines and Mining in 1872, Adolph Sutro of the Sutro
tunnel said: "The deepest hole dug by man since the world has existed
is only 2,700 feet deep, and it remains for the youngest nation on
earth to contribute more to science and geology by giving
opportunities of studying the formation of mineral veins at a greater
depth than has ever been accomplished by any other nation in the
world." Mr. Sutro was of the opinion that the completion of his tunnel
would enable our leading mining companies to reach a vertical depth of
5,000 feet.

This great depth has never yet been attained except in a bore hole or
artesian well. The deepest points to which the crust of the earth has
ever been penetrated have been by means of such borings in quest of
salt, coal, or water. A bore hole for salt at Probst Jesar, near
Lubtheen, for the Government of Mecklenberg-Schwerin, is down 3,315
feet, the size of which bore is twelve inches at the top and three
inches at the bottom. A bore hole was put down for the Prussian
Government to the depth of 4,183 feet. But in these bore holes the
United States leads the world, as there is one near St. Louis, Mo.,
that is 5,500 feet in depth. Here on the Comstock, in the Union
Consolidated mine, a depth of 3,300 feet has been attained, but not by
means of a single vertical shaft. The vertical depth of the shaft is
2,900 feet; the remainder of the depth has been attained by means of
winzes sunk from drifts. Several long drifts were run at this great
depth without difficulty as regards ventilation or heat.

The combination shaft is situated much further east (in which
direction the lode dips) than any other on the Comstock. It is 3,000
feet east of the point where the great vein crops out on the side of
Mount Davidson; 2,200 feet east of the old Chollar-Potosi shaft, 1,800
ft. east of the old Hale & Norcross (or Fair) shaft, and 2,000 ft.
east of the Savage shaft. Thus, it will be seen it is far out to the
front in the country toward which the vein is going. The shaft is sunk
in a very hard rock (andesite), every foot of which requires to be
blasted. The opening is about thirty feet in length by ten feet in
width. In timbering up this is divided into four different
compartments, some for the hoisting and some for the pumping
machinery, thus presenting the appearance at the top of four small
shafts set in a row. Over the shaft stand several large buildings, all
filled with ponderous machinery.

The Sutro drain tunnel (nearly four miles in length) connects with the
shaft at a depth of 1,600 ft., up to which point all the water
encountered below is pumped. The shaft was sunk to the depth of 2,200
ft. before more water was encountered than could be hoisted out in the
"skips" with the dirt. At the 2,200 level two Cornish pumps, each with
columns fifteen inches in diameter, were put in. At the 2,400 level
the same pumps were used. On this level a drift was run that connected
with the old Hale & Norcross and Savage shafts, producing a good
circulation of air both in the shaft and in the mines mentioned. At
this point, on account of the inflow from the mines consequent upon
connecting with them by means of the drift, they had more water than
the Cornish pumps could handle, and introduced the hydraulic pumps,
which pumps are run by the pressure of water from the surface through

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Online LibraryVariousScientific American Supplement, No. 508, September 26, 1885 → online text (page 1 of 10)