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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/595

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THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY.

 

MARCH, 1895.


 

THE BIRTH OF A SICILIAN VOLCANO.
By Prof. A. S. PACKARD.

OUR hope in planning a brief journey to Sicily was to ascend Mount Etna, which, as everybody knows, is the highest volcano in Europe, and whose history and appearance have been recorded from the days of Homer. Although we did not ascend to the very summit, we had the unexpected pleasure of tramping up the ash-cone of one of the many minor volcanoes or monticles which stud the flanks of the majestic mother volcano, who looks down from her serene heights upon a numerous progeny scattered about her skirts.

Monte Gemellaro is the youngest of the brood. It is situated four thousand six hundred and fifty feet above the Mediterranean, and the crater itself is four hundred and fifty feet in height above the side of the parent mountain.

This symmetrical, double-headed cone, too recently upheaved to have been much despoiled by rains and frosts, suddenly appeared after a few days' disturbance, and nearly each stage in its rapid development was studied by experienced observers, or at least in a more careful manner than any of its predecessors, since so much more attention than formerly is now paid to the study of volcanism.

In May, 1886, just three years previous to our visit, and within the short period of twelve days—days of fear and suspense to the inhabitants of the hamlets and villages below—the cone was formed by the upheaval of great masses of lava, ashes, and slag, accompanied with clouds of steam and deadly gases, the lava stream threatening Nicolosi, the highest town on the flanks of Etna, and which during the eruption of 1069 was leveled to the