Julio Maximo de Oliveira Pimentel Villa Maior.

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the volcano, I introduce (see Plate XII) a view of the crater of
Kilauea from its north side, as it appeared in December, 1840,*
when it had, as a consequence of the eruption about six months
before, a lower pit, and a "black ledge," besides the great
southern lake of lavas, Halema'uma'u, all well defined. The
artist of the expedition, Mr. J. Drayton, has, with the aid of his
camera lucida, brought out well the features of the scene.
The more distant wall is about 14,000 feet from the near side,
and this is not far from the idea the view conveys, quite as
nearly so as ii appears to be in tde actual scene. But one or
two points of geological importance have been overlooked
which should be mentioned to forestall wrong inferences ; one
is, the omission of the stratification of the wall, which is a
marked feature ; and another is the giving a slight concavity
to the floor of the crater in the northern or near part, which
was not a fact The small jets of vapor over the bottom arise,
with a single exception, from fissures or cavern-like openings;
and such escapes of vapor are greatly multiplied by a rain.
The exception was that of a lava-lake, about 200 feet in diam-
eter, named Judd's Lake in the " Narrative,'' which was the

* Oopied from the plate facing page 125, in the 4th vohime of Wilkes's
Narrative. •


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488 J. D. Dana — History of the Chcmges m Kilauea,

larger of two small lakes that were active in November, at the
time of my visit.

1. Before the Eruptcon of 1823. — The condition of
Kilauea prior to the eruption of 1828 is known only from
statements in the "Journal of the Deputation of the Mission"
(Itt), or the "Narrative'* (K), and in a letter of Rev. Joseph

1. "The south end of Kilauea." Sketched by W. Ellis.

Goodrich (Via), both made after the visit of August 23, and
based on evidence, seen by each of the party, that a high-level

.y i

2. " The southwest end of Kilauea." W. EUis, del.

mark existed in a " black ledge," as it was then called, running
like a terrace-plain around the interior, some hundreds of feet
above the bottom. "It was evident," says the Journal, *' that


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e/. D. D(ma — Histoi^y of the Changes in Kilauea. 439

the crater had been recently filled with lavas ap to the black
ledffe;" and Mr. Goodrich remarks that ^*the black ledge was
made by the crater^s being filled to that level" (Via). This
conclusion was evidently derived from the features of the
ledge ; for this was the first visit of foreigners. Still they may
have had a hint from the islanders, one of whom in 1826, told
the Bev. Mr. Bishop that *^ after rising a little higher the lava
would discharge itself toward the sea as formerly by an under-
ground way.** I introduce here (fig. 1) an outline copy of the
plate in the Journal (\a\ and also (fig. 2) of that in the Narra-
tive (16), both reduced. They corroborate one another in all
the main points, though having difterences due either to cor-
rections in England, or to changes suggested by Mr. Ellis. The
black ledge borders the lower pit around, as in 1840, but is
very narrow.

The eruption probably took place between the preceding
months of March and June. At Ponahoboa ii;i Kapapala, they
saw (la, J). 117) a large sunken area, 50 feet deep, fissured in
all directions, besides steaming chasms, and ejections of fresh
lavci, which they were told by the natives of the place were
made by Pele two moons before; and by natives of Keara-
komo, five moons before (p. 151). It is added : " Perhaps the
body of the lava that had filled Kilauea up to the black ledge "
" had been drawn off by this subterranean channel."*

2. After the Eruption of 1823. a. Size of tfie Orater. —
The discharge, wherever it took place, was followed in the
crater by a down plunge of part of the floor, giving Kilauea its
lower pit and " black ledge." The depth of the lower pit was
estimated by the Mission party at 300 or 400 feet; and the total
depth of the crater, 700 to 800, making the former nearly or
quite half the latter. Mr. Goodrich, who was at the crater with
the party, and three times afterward before April, 1825, esti-
mated the whole depth at over 1000 feet, and that of the lower
pit at 500 (Via), the latter again half the former.

Lieut. Maiden, E. N., of the Blonde (V, p. 184) made a map
of the crater (of which the following is a copy reduced one-
third),t and measured the height of the high northwest wall
above the black ledge. He states, in a note to Lord Byron's
work, that he obtained by triangulation, 8209 feet for the dis-
tance across from the " Hut," the place of encampment, to the

♦ It i8 a favoring fact that Mr. David Douglas in January, 1834, had informa-
tion from the natives that in 1822 there was a great discharge in the Kapapala
direction (1X6, p. 170). The same region was fissured and had its small ejections
of lava at the eruption of Kilauea in 1868, and probably a large outflow off the

f This copy has the lettering of the original, excepting the title, which is ** A
plan of the Volcano Pell in the island of Owhyhee, by Lieut. Maiden, R.N., 1825 ;"
also the east half of Kilauea Iki is omitted.


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440 J, D. Dana — History of the Gham^es in KUaniea,

highest part of the western wall, a point numbered 7 on his
map, which is, in all probability, Kamohoalii of Mr. Dodge's
map (Plate II of this volume), and 5° 55' for the angle sub-
tended by the wall between its summit and the black ledge ;
and that be thus made the height of the wall, 932 feet. There
is here a slip, for the data give 851 in place of 932. The most
recent survey makes that distance 8750 feet, using which


2 Englith miles.

ooDStaDt^ smoke

■'by oomp»M

U Crater ia tctioa Lord Byron and ^^

partyjrent to. *

•i^.^A,8ulphur crater. Strawberries in abtiudanoe v

3i Craier broke out Jiine 29.
4. BrilliMutly at work night of 29th.

6. Lnrgeat crater, emitting flame and

6.. ▲ deep fiaauro.

7. Decpcat and most precipitous part
of Volcano.

8. Place whore Lord Byron do8oend>
ed from the Black Ledge to the bottom.

number in the calculation we get 907 for the height of the
wall. It is therefore probable that 900 feet is not far from

Lieut. Maiden estimated the depth of the lower pit at 400
feet (and Dampier's sketch bey oni accords with this); but he
saw it only from above (illness preventing his descent), and
more than two years after the eruption. The observers of
August, 1823, and Rev. Mr. Stewart in 1825, made it nearly
or quite half of the total depth (giving for the total 1700 or
1800), and this is assumed by Mr. Goodrich in his later letters.

All accounts and pictures, together with Lieut. Maiden's map,
make the black ledge narrow. The plates from Ellis's sketch
in the "Journal" and "Narrative" (p. 438) make the eastern
side of it the broader; but the part shown is really the south-


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e/. D, Dana — History of the Changes in Kilauea. 441

eastern, toward the sulphur banks ; and there Bev. E. Loomis,
in June, 1824, found it by measurement to be "nearly fif-
teen rods " wide.* Lord Byron, on his descent into the pit,
went from the northeast to the northwest side, and says:
the width (referring probably lo the north side) varies from
four or five feet to upwards of twenty. The annexed sketch.

4. Kilauea. Drawn by R. Dampier.

which is a copy (reduced one-third) of the plate by E. Dampier,
making the frontispiece to Lord Byron's " Voyage " (V), has
the ledge very narrow.f It is not quite certain what part of the
crater the view represents. Mts. Iioa and Kea are in the

* Memoir of Wm. T. Brigham, p. 407.

t The plate in Ellia's Polynesian Researches makes the breadth about the Fame
on the two sides, as the following outline copy (reduced a sixth) shows ; but, as


PttlDtod by E. Howaid.

5. The Volcano of Kilauea, in Hawaii.

Sketchedby W. EIIU.

has been explained (p. 436) it has little value as to details. In the relative
depths, however, of the lower pit and upper portion it agrees better with the
several descriptious than the other plates.


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442 J. D. Dana — History of the Cha/nges in Kilauea,

distance and the chief seat of fires is to the left, and by com-
paring with Lieat Maiden's n)ap and Drayton's plates the
position required for such a view can be ascertained. Rev. C-
S. Stewart describes the ledge as in some places manv rods,
in others a few feet wide. Mr. Goodrich (Via), after having
measured the whole length of one side, remarks that '^ it is like
a stair, although it is half a mile wide some part of the way " —
which part he does not say.

On the 22d of December, 1824, Mr, Goodrich (Via), with
Mr. Chamberlain (VIII), measured the circumference of Kilauea
at the top with a line^ and made it 7^ miles; which is the
length it has on Mr. Dodge's map, the scale of which is 500
feet to the inch. They measured the crater also on the black
ledge, going half way around it and estimating for the rest,
and obtained, as the result, 5^ miles for the circumference of
the lower pit, which I find to be probably nearly right.

b. Condition of the crater after the eruption, — The ** Journal'*
(la) says, on page 131, ^^ the southwest and northern parts of
the crater were one vast flood of liquid fire, in a state of terrific
ebullition." " Fifty-one craters, of varied form and size, rose
like so many conical islands, from the surface of the burning
lake. Twenty-two constantly emitted columns of gray smoke
or pyramids of brilliant fl,ame [lava-jets ?], and many of them
at the same time vomited from their ignited mouths streams of
florid lava which rolled in blazing torrents down their black,
indented sides into the boiling mass below." In a*night scene,
p. 136, '* the agitated mass of liquid lava, like a flood of metal,
raged with tumultuous whirl," and " at frequent intervals shot
up, with loudest detonations, spherical masses of fusing lava or
bright ignited stones "*

Descending to the black ledge (Journal, p. 144) they " entered
several small craters," "bearing marks of verv recent fusion,"
"and many which from the top had appeared insignificant as
mole-hills " proved to be " 12 or 20 feet high." They also col-
lected the " hair of Pele," and afterwards found it seven miles
south of the crater, '* where it had been wafted by the winds."

* The plate in the " Journal " of the " south end " represents *• one " oontinuous
area of lavas in '* tumultuous whirl," in accord with the text, and that in the
*' Narrative" is similar, but with more extravagant whirls, for they are hundreds
of feet in diameter, and even the black ledge is covered by them. The engrayer
has apparently tried to conform to the description. In the plate of the Polynesian
Researches, the liquid surface is confined to the great Soulii Lake, and a separate
large area (or two of them), and nothing of the '* tumultuous whirl" is represented,
althoui^h the expression remains in the text (p. 245). It seems probable from the
description that the party saw only " one " g^eat lake, that of the South end, and
that great overflowings sent streams far northward. The height of the throw of
stones (»ee plates) is evidently an exaggeration, as it is inoonsisCent with the con-
dition of " ebullition " at the time, and with all that has been said of Kilauea
since. The text says " shot up," but does not say how high.


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J. D. Dana — History of the Changes in KUauea. 443

Mr. Ellis argues from the " conical islands '^ (K, p. 226, and
II, iv, p. 237) that the boiling caldron of melted lava " was
comparatively shallow," implying that the cones stood on the
solid bottom of the lake. He also noticed that the walls of
Kilauea were ** composed of different strata of ancient lava."

On page 144, the Journal (la), after describing long, covered,
tunnel-like chambers occupying the emptied interiors of lava
streams, the upper surface rippled, the roof " hung with red
and brown stalactitic lava," and ** the bottom one continued
glassy stream," says that they followed one such covered way
^* to the edge of the precipice that bounds the great crater, and
looked over the fearful steep down which the fiery cascade had
rushed, the fall ** several hundred feet." The plate in the
"Journal "(p. 488) represents rudely such a stream descend-
ing the west wall (like that of 1832, on the opposite side of the
crater); but it is strangely (perhaps because badly drawn)
omitted from the plate in the ** Narrative."

Mr. Goodrich's letter on April, 1825 (VI<i), does not dis-
tinguish the events of his tirst tour visits. He observes that in
February, 1825, he counted twelve places where the lava was
red hot, and three or four where it was "spouting up lava 30
or 40 feet "; and mentions the escape of vapors in many
places, making "a tremendous roaring." On December 22,

1824, a crater opened in the bottom where the lavas boiled like
a fountain, with jets 40 to 50 feet high, and flowed off 50 or 60

Lord Byron's " Voyage " states (p. 184) that on June 30th,

1825, ^' fifty cones of various height appeared below," at least
" one-half of these in activity" ; and Mr. R. Dam pier's sketch
represents such a scene. Lieut. Maiden's map makes the cones
fewer and very broad, unlike the descriptions; crater No. 5
(p. 440) is probably Halema'uma'u, for the distance from the
hut is right for it, and if so the part "concealed by smoke"
was of much less extent than was supposed by the party.

Rev. C. S. Stewart, who was with tne party from the Blonde,
makes the same statement (III) as to the number of ^'conical
craters," and the position of the great seat of action in the south-
west He describes (p. 298) the black ledge as covered with tor-
tuous streams of shining lava bearing " incontestible evidence
of once having been the level of the fiery flood," and adds that
" a subduction of lava " had " sunk the abyss many hundreds of
feet to its present depth." A cone on the bottom, visited by
the party, spoken of as " one of the largest," ** whose laborious
action " had attracted attention during the night (p. 304 and
No. 1 on the map), was judged to be 150 feet high *'a huge,
irregularly shapen, inverted funnel of lava, covered with clefts
and orifices, from which bodies of steam escaped with deafen-


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444 J. D, Dana — History of the Changes in Kilavsa,

ing explosions, while pale flames, ashes, stones and lava were
propelled with equal force and noise from its ragged yawning
mouth.'' The following night, crater No. 8 (Maiden's map)
became suddenly eruptive, and a lake of fire (No. 4?), perhaps
two miles in circumference, opened in the more distant part.

Mr. Bishop, after a visit, Jan. 3, 1826, reported (YII) a simi-
lar condition of the crater ; and also the filling up of the lower
pit since August, 1828, of 400 feet — probably on the view that
the original depth was 900 feet.

It will be observed that the above citations from Mr. Ellis
and other early writers on Kilauea contain no mention of
*' blowing cones/' except what is implied in the general de-
scriptions. This is true of other later reports, including that of
Captain Wilkes, who saw no cone in action. Further, it ao-
pears that the blowing described was done partly by the small
cones, and partly by openings or oven-shaped places over the
floor of the crater, as implied in the statement of Mr. Ghoodrich
(p. 443), just as was true in 1886. They blow violently because
tney are small, or have relatively small apertures, so that the
imprisoned vapors, on bursting the envelope of liquid or semi-
liquid lava, go out with a rush and a roar. The only heights
of ejections of lava mentioned are 30 to 40 and 50 feet ; and
the heights of cones 12, 20, and, for " one of the largest cones,"
150 feet ; which are common facts of later time down to the

The close correspondence between the heights and character
of ejections given in the earlier accounts, and those of recent
years, is interesting as proving long-continued uniformity as to
kind and quality of work even to the blowholes. The activity
was however greater and more general than has been witnessed
for many years. There are exaggerations,* but they are mostly
confined to the pictures, and to some of the general descrip-
tions. The estimates made were usually below the truth, from
honest caution.

Further, Mr. Ellis guards the reader, as has been shown,
against the inference, from the island-like position of the cones
in the region of liquid lavas, that they were floating-cones.f

^ It is obvious that the high-shooting cone in the plate of Bllis^s PolTnesiaa
Researches (II), blowing to a neight of 700 or 800 feet (measuring it by the
height of the upper wall), is the artisi^s fancy sketch, as suggested on page 436.
It is wholly UD-Kilauean and fundamentally out of place. The earlier plate from
Mr. Kllis's sketch in the ' Journal * (I), also exaggerates, but only a third as much
except over the South Lake.

f On page 111 of Captain Button's Report, the author presents the case differ-
ently, as follows. — "The earlier visitors to Kilauea whose accounts of it are now
accessible speak of a phenomenon which did not exist at the time of my visit. I
refer here to what has been termed ' blowing cones ' within the lake. Ellis, in
his account of Kilauea in 1823, described them as 'conical inverted funnels'
rising to heights varying from twenty to forty, or even fifty feet above the surface


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J, D. Dana — History of the Changes in Kila^ea. 445

c. Progress in ike filling of the lower pit, — As early as February,
1826, Mr. Goodrich stated, in view of the overflows he had ob-
served, and the making of a " mound " over 60 feet high in six
weeks, that the pit had begun to fill up (Via) ; and in his letter
of October 25, 1828, (Vli) he made the pit to have diminished
in depth since August, 1823, by 300 or 400 feet. A year later,
Oct 25, 1829, Mr. Stewart (Vl) described the lavas as still 200
feet below the level of the black ledge — which implies a filling
of 400 feet, if the depth in 1823 was 600 feet, and of -600 if 800
feet deep. He states that although the crater was comparative-
ly quiet, the bottom was crossed by a chain of lava-lakes, one
of them a mile wide, throwing up masses of lava 15 to 20 feet;
and that there were also six cones in action in the lower pit
and one on the black ledge. Here again the height of the
ejections mentioned is small. In October, 1830, the black ledge
was still distinct (XIV, p. 387.)

8. Before the eruption op 1832. — ^Before the eruption of
1832, as Mr. Goodrich states, after a visit to Kilauea " about the
1st of Septemb.er " of that year (VIrf), " the crater had been filled
up to the black ledge and about fifty feet above, about 900 feet
in the whole since I first visited it, and it had now again sunk
down to nearly the same depth as at first (in 1823), leaving as
usual a boiling caldron at the south end." The precise time of
the discharge and down-plunge is not stated. He addR, " The
earthquake of January last had rent in twain the walls of the
crater on the east side, from the top to the bottom, producing
seams from a few inches to several yards in width, from which
the region around was deluged with lava." ** The chasms
passed within a few yards of where Mr. Stewart, Lord Byron,
myself and others had slept," " so that the very spot where I
have lain quietly many times is entirely overrun with lava."
^ee map, p. 440). This outflow is stated by Mr. David
Douglas (1X6) to have occurred in June, 1832. We may con-
clude, therefore, that the time of eruption was probably in
January, but perhaps in June of 1832 ; certainly before Sep-
tember 1832, the time of Mr. Goodrich's visit.

4. After the eruption. — a. Size of the crater after the erup-
lion. — As to the new depth of the lower pit, we have first Mr.

of the lake, with opeDings at the top from which jets of vapor and sometimes
spouts of lava were thrown out. As many as fifty were seen at one time within
the great lava lake then existing, and most of them were simultaneously active.
The same phenomenon was described in 1825 by parties from H. B. M. frigate
Blonde. They were also observed by Wilkes iu 1841, and have frequently been
seen within the last ten or fifteen years by many other visitors. They appear to
have been composed of solidified but very hot lava. None of them were perma-
nent, but after a short period of activity they were either melted down, or shifted
their positions. Ultimately, no doubt, they were remelted. That they shifted
their positions is fully attested by many observers. Most probably they were
masses of solidified lava floating like berg^ in the lake."


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446 e/. D. Dana — History of the Changes in Kilauea.

Goodrich's statement above cited, " the same depth as at first,"
and the additional remark that the filling amounted to '* about
900 feet"; which statement would make the depth of the lower
pit after the eruption of 1832 nearly 900 feet, and of the crater
from top to bottom 1750 feet This estimate of the original
depth accords with his view in 1825 that the upper and lower
walls were of nearly equal height, and that Lieut. Malden'i
measurement was therefore good for both. There is no pub-
lished account furnishing data for correcting this estimate.

By letter from Mr. W". D. Alexander, Surveyor General of
the Hawaiian Islands, dated March 2, 1887, I learn that his
father, Rev. Wm. 0. Alexander (who arrived at the Sand-
wich Islands in 1882) visited the crater on the 12th of
January, 1833, four months after Mr. Goodrich's visit, and
in his private diary gives the depth of the crater as 2000
feet This tends to confirm Mr. Goodrich's numbers, although
only a rough estimate. He says nothing of any black ledge,
except of that at the bottom of the 2,000 feet ; and this leads
to the inference that the ledge was quite narrow, -as in 1823.

On the 22nd of January, 1884, Mr. David Douglas, of Scot-
land (XI), made careful barometric measurements of the crater,
(all the details of which, with the calculation, are given in his
letter to Captain Sabine, 1X6). He obtained for the depth to
the black ledge, on the highest northwest side, 715 feet ; and
to the bottom of the lower pit, 1,077 feet, (mean of two calcu-
lations). This makes the depth of the lower piti at that date
362 feet ; in addition to which he says that there were 48 feet
more to the surface of the liauid lavas.

We thus know that the down-plunge was a fact ; and using
as evidence only the measurements of Mr. Douglas, and noting
that they were made at least a year and a half after the eruption,
it was larger both as to depth and breadth than that of 1840.
Hence the eruption of 1832 — instead of being ** a very small
one, only remarkable from the fact that the fissure from which
it emanated opens at a level of more than 400 feet above the
present lava-lakes" with, "so far as known," "no sympathy"
" within the lavas of Kilauea "* — was one of Kilauea s greatest,
although not registered, so far as known, in any outside stream
of lava.

6. Condition after the eruption. — Mr. Goodrich describes the
Great Lake at the south end as " 60 or 80 rods long, and 20 or
80 rods wide," about 20 feet below the brim ; " the whole mass
of liquid and semi-fluid lava was boiling, foaming and dashing
its fiery bellows against the rocky shore ; the mass was in
motion, running from north to south, at the rate of two or

* Report of Captain Dutton, p. 124, referring to the eruption near Lord Bjron's


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J. D, Dana — History of the Cha/nges in KUavsa, 447

three miles an hour, boiling up as a spring at one end and run-
ning to the other." Mr. Alexander, while in the crater four
months later, found this lake, '* the principal furnace, not in
lively action," and ascended, much disappointed; but by the
time he had reached the summit, '*the grand crater commenced
forious action, spouting with a roaring sound, streams of melted
lava far into the air." The next day lie went again to the bot-
tom, and direct to the great boiling caldron two and a half
miles distant," and found it " 8000 feet long and 1000 feet
wide, tossing its fiery surges 40 or 50 feet into the air." He
went to the brink of the lake, but left it on account of the
fumes, and three minutes afterward the spot was covered with

Online LibraryJulio Maximo de Oliveira Pimentel Villa MaiorThe American journal of science → online text (page 50 of 58)