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The cloud had by this time become a thin, semi-transparent vapour,
At last every vestige of the vapour disappeared and left us in the full
* This beautiful phenomenon was entirely new to me, and I was almost afraid to record the fact. lest my readers might suppose the double halo a mere phantom of the imagination. I have met with nothing of the kind in the course of my reading. In conversation with a French gentleman, since my return to the United States, he read to me a paragraph, stating that one of his countrymen had witnessed a similar spectrum from the peak of a mountain in France. I believe it is of rare occurrence, as a very peculiar combination of circumstances is required for its exhibition.
and curling in wreaths round the projecting rocks. The guide stated that an unusual quantity was emitted on the day of our visit, owing to the prevalence of a southern wind.
It seems to be the general opinion, that the Volcano is in its old age, and that its combustible materials are nearly exhausted. So thought the inhabitants of Herculaneum and Pompeii, whose streets were paved with lava thrown out centuries before, and who were lulled into a fatal security by a temporary repose of the elements. Since that period not less than forty eruptions have taken place, covering all sides of the mountain with a mass of ruins, which would make a hill twice the size of the cone, and which prove that the torrents ejected must come from great depths in the earth. Incredible stories are told of the height to which the showers of fire and cinders are elevated, and of the distances to which they extend. Egypt, Syria, and Constantinople are said to have witnessed a rain of ashes during some of the eruptions, and the column is supposed to have ascended to the upper regions of the atmosphere, thirty or forty miles from the earth. Such tales are contrary to all the calculations of projectiles, and outrage belief. The last eruption occurred in 1822, when about eight hundred feet of the top of the hill was taken off. Torrents of lava, twenty feet in depth, rolled about half way down the mountain, in the direction of the villages lining the shore, the inhabitants of which were in a state of the utmost terror, expecting to realize the fate of Herculaneum and Pompeii. It rained ashes for several days in the streets of Naples, and the air was so thick as to render candles necessary at noon day. The indications of a convulsion by a long course of observation have been clearly ascertained. Immense volumes of smoke, of a darker complexion than usual, rise in the form of a wide spreading tree, the top of which reaches to heaven, and the column extending sometimes twenty miles in diameter. The waters of the bay retreat from the strand, as if absorbed into subterranean gulfs, to be emitted from the crater. A tremor is felt in the earth. These signs continue for a day or two, giving the populous district at the foot of the mountain warning of the impending calamity. In 1822 the people clung to their property, their little all, to the last, and the police were obliged to tear them away. Thieves, disguised in female attire, scized the opportunity of plundering amidst the scene of confusion.
I walked about one third of the way round the crater, and should have completed the circuit, had not another cloud dashed against the mountain and again involved us in mist. Two English ladies, now at Naples are making preparations to descend into the abyss, by means
of ropes fastened to the cliffs. Such an enterprise deserves little applause, since it is mere matter of heroism, and will probably not serve to extend the sphere of philosophical knowledge. The formation of the basin can be examined to as good advantage from the top as from the bottom. Having lingered something more than two hours on the top of the mountain, and examined its various aspects in the most satisfactory manner, we descended in a few minutes from the height, which it required a wearisome hour to climb. In the course of the jaunt, I picked up among the embers the sole of a pretty shoe, which looked as if it might have been thrown out by the volcano. Thinking that old Empedocles* might, according to his doctrine of transmigration, have been once more changed into a girl, and the proofs of his mortality again discovered in the fragments of a slipper, I added the relic to Salvadore's museum, although he did not seem to appreciate its value.
In recrossing the beds of lava, our guide relieved the tedium of the way by giving an account of the remarkable personages, whom he had conducted to the top of Vesuvius. Baron Humboldt has ascended four times, for the purpose of making philosophical experiments. All the Bonapartes save Napoleon, have been among the number of visitants. The Emperor of Austria, the late Princess Charlotte of England, and many of the sovereigns of Europe, have been carried up in sedans a species of cruelty, which, to a person of any feeling, must more than counterbalance the pleasure. Count Bergami, and the late Queen Caroline must not be forgotten in the enumeration of nobility. They went up together, and are said to have been enamoured of smothered flames. Tradition is silent, whether the cavalier put his shoulder to the sedan, or was himself carried in state.
On our return to Resina, we examined the museum of Salvadore, which contains mineralogical specimens of the whole region in the vicinity of Vesuvius. Cases containing full suites, are neatly put up, and kept for sale at reasonable prices. We had picked up for our selves some fine specimens in the vicinity of the crater; but a traveller, who is constantly on the wing, will soon learn the folly and impracticability of collecting mineralogical cabinets. I began several
* This philosopher and disciple of Pythagoras contended, that he had successively appeared on earth in the forms of a girl, a boy, a bird, a fish, and last of all Empedocles. He secretly threw himself into the crater of Etna, wishing to pass for a god; but an eruption ejected his sandal, and was the means of exposing his unfounded claims to divine honours.
times to make a collection of such as I deemed most curious; but after the parcels were kept in my trunk just long enough to wear out my clothes, they were in most cases throw away.
While breakfast was preparing, a cicerone conducted us through the ruins of Herculaneum, buried seventy feet beneath the villages of Resina and Portici. The entrance through long, dark, and intricate avenues, render the use of tapers necessary from the very threshold of the descent. Instead of the bright skies which once canopied the ancient city, its firmament is now composed of a solid bed of lava, and the rumbling of carriages is heard on the road above. The excavations are very circumscribed, and the ruins are too imperfectly developed to afford much interest. Treasures to an unknown extent yet remain to be opened, and as the surface is thickly covered with modern buildings, among which is the king's palace, ages may elapse before the whole will be explored. The ancient theatre is at present the only object which attracts the attention of the traveller. Its proportions, its benches, its entrances, and its ornaments, even to the red stucco upon the walls, are distinctly seen. The corridors are surrounded by a suite of apartments, which were probably the coffee-houses and lounges of the audience. It is said that the inhabitants were in the theatre, at the time it was overwhelmed-a supposition wholly improbable, since only a few skeletons have been found. The catastrophe does not seem to have been sudden. Pliny had time to sail from Cape Misenus to Stabiæ, a distance of twenty-five or thirty miles, after the eruption appeared, before these cities were destroyed. Ample time was therefore afforded for those who chose to make their
It is the received opinion, that half a dozen different torrents of lava, at distant periods, have rolled above Herculaneum, producing as many distinct strata. Indeed, it is wholly incredible, that a single eruption should emit a bed seventy or eighty feet in depth. As Herculaneum was overwhelmed by the same deluge as Pompeii, it becomes a question, why the former should be buried in solid masses of lava, while the latter was covered merely with ashes, cinders, and scoria. The fact may be explained by the supposition, that the streams of lava succeeded the first showers of other materials and melted them into solid masses. These primary layers seem to have formed a covering, to protect the remains of the city from the burning flood, which subsequently came down from the mountain, and annihilated every thing, with which it came in contact. It is a subject of regret to the traveller, that he has no opportunity of examining the stratification of Her
culaneum. All the excavations except that about the theatre have been filled up. This city was the second or third in size and importance in Campania, anterior to Rome in its foundation, and at the time of its destruction, the seat of wealth and luxury. But I will not dwell on this topic, having a long story of the same kind to tell of a sister city, overwhelmed by a common calamity, and much more fully laid open to observation.