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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/640

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revolving sticks. The silvery mass being heavy, settles at the bottom, and in two or three days the muddy water is drawn off. The amalgam, or pella, which has been formed, is now taken from the lavaderos to a sort of oven or depression in the ground, covered with a huge metallic hood termed a capellina. A fire is built around the capellina, and the mercury is separated by distillation in about four days. The block of silver which remains is transported to the nearest mint, and worked into coin or sold.

The volcanoes form one of the most interesting features of the country. Only four of them are active, but no eruption has taken place from either of these during the present century. Earthquakes are, however, common, and solfataras, fumaroles, and adjoining warm springs, indicate that these volcanoes are still in a semi-active state. According to Humboldt, they lie on the same great vent of the earth's crust, and approximately on the nineteenth parallel of latitude. Orizaba, which may be reached from Esperanza on the railway from Vera Cruz to Mexico, has been quiet since 1566, but was reported to be smoking in April, 1883. There is no hazardous climbing on the mountain,

PSM V24 D640 Popocatepetl.jpg
Fig. 3.—Popocatepetl.

but the ascent is exceedingly laborious on account of the steepness of the snow-clad cone. About five hours are required to reach the summit, but very few persons have thus far accomplished the task. The excursion to Popocatepetl starts from Amecameca, on the Morelos Railway, the road leading at first through fine wheat-fields watered by the melting snows of the great volcano. The path soon rises and