442-443

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Reports of Committee on Foreign Relations 1789-1901 Volume 6 pp442-443 300dpi scan (VERY LARGE!)

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twentieth part of those amounts. The islands being situated within the trade-wind belt, the wind blows constantly from the east and northeast during the greater part of the year, and is only subject to brief interruptions during midwinter. Violent storms occur only in the winter time, and these, coming once or twice a year from the southwest, are known as konas, which means in the native language the southwest. During a stay of six months on the islands I only heard a single peal of thunder.

These islands are all of volcanic origin. They are composed of basaltic lavas, and no other rocks are found there excepting a few consolidated coral sands, which are remnants of old sea-beaches, upheaved from 50 to 200 feet. In the two westerly islands the volcanic activity has long been extinct. Most of the ancient craters have been obliterated, and the volcanic piles built up during the periods of activity have been greatly ravaged and wasted by subsequent erosion. Next to the plateaus and canyon country of the Rocky Mountain region, it would be difficult to find anywhere more impressive and suggestive examples of the wasting and slow destruction of the land than those presented by these islands. We find there grand illustrations of the two methods by which the general process of erosion accomplishes its work. First, is the action of the rains, followed by the decomposition of the massive rocks and their conversion into soil, and also the action of running water and decay of the rock masses, resulting in the formation of ravines and mountain gorges of imposing grandeur; secondly, we find the slow but incessant inroads made by the waves of the ocean upon a seacoast, gradually wearing back the cliffs and slowly paring away the rocky shore, until, after the lapse of thousands of years, the sea has eaten its way several miles into the land. Thus we have on the one hand striking examples of one way in which mountains are built, and we have on the other hand equally striking examples of the ways in which those mountains are destroyed.

Travelers in the lofty volcanic islands of the Pacific have frequently noted with some surprise the singularly sharp, angular, abrupt features of their mountain scenery. It is very impressive in the Fijis and Samoa, in the Ladrone, Caroline, and Society groups. But none of them rival in wildness and grandeur the still loftier islands of Hawaii. Gorges little inferior to Yosemite in magnitude are rather numerous. But in a certain sharpness of detail and animation in the sculpture they are unique. The island of Kauai and the western portion of the island of Maui consist of old volcanic piles as high as Mount Washington, and much broader and longer. They are literally sawed to pieces by many immense canyon-like gorges, which cut them to their foundations. Over all is spread a mantle of tropical vegetation in comparison with which the richest verdure of our temperate zone is but the garb of poverty. Whoever reads Shakspeare's Tempest and visits the Bermudas will be disenchanted from some of the most pleasing illusions of the play. But, if Shakspeare could have known the eastern shores of Maui or Hawaii and made them the scenes of his play, it would have had, if possible, another claim to immortality.

This wealth of verdure and splendor of scenery usually occur upon the windward sides of the islands, for upon those sides is found the cause which produces them. This cause is the copious rainfall brought by the perpetual trade winds. Nothing can be more pleasing to the lover of beautiful scenery than a ride along the windward coasts of Maui and Hawaii. The land terminates in cliffs, varying from 200 to 500 feet in height, plunging down almost vertically into the Pacific.

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The long heavy swell, driven for thousands of miles before the trade wind, breaks with great force against these iron walls. The surface above slopes upward towards the mountainous interior, at first with a gentle acclivity, which becomes steeper inland, and at length precipitous. This plat formis gashed at short intervals by true canyons, which head far up the mountain slopes, and open seaward in the great terminal wall. A mile or two inland from the brink of the cliff-bound shore is a forest so dense that it can be penetrated only by hewing a way through it or following a path already hewn. To describe the glories of this tropical vegetation is impossible. Only those who have beheld it can conceive of its splendor and luxurance. Yet there is one unrivaled feature of the island vegetation which has no parallel elsewhere than in the Pacific and Austral islands, and which may be mentioned. This is the ferns. There are more than 300 species of them in the Hawaiian Islands, and the most conspicuous are tree ferns which grow in amazing abundance and sumptuousness. They often cover the sides of the ravines, forming a thicket which is quite impenetrable, and become a mantle of green velvet so deep, rich, and exquisitely patterned that it makes an imperial robe seem ridiculous.

But there are contrasts. There are portions of the islands where the features have at first sight no more in common with those just spoken of than if they belonged to another planet. The beautiful or grand scenery is found in those parts where the volcanic activity has long been dormant. The contrasted portions are those where the volcanoes are still in action, or have recently put out their fires.

The southern half of the great island of Hawaii is covered with the two grandest volcanoes in the world—Mauna Loa and Kilauea. The great central pile is Mauna Loa, which is certainly the monarch of modern volcanoes. Its name signifies the Great Mountain. No other in the world approaches it in the vastness of its mass or in the magnitude of its eruptive activity. There are many volcanic peaks higher in air, but these are planted upon elevated platforms of stratified rock, where they appear as mere cones, of greater or less size. Regarding the platforms on which they stand as their true bases, the cones themselves and the lavas which have emanated from them never approach the magnitude of Mauna Loa. Aetna, and all its adjuncts are immeasurably inferior; while Shasta, Hood, and Ranier, if melted down and run together into one pile, would still fall much below the volume of the island volcano. In the greatness of its eruptions, Mauna Loa is also without a rival. Some of the volcanoes of Iceland have been known to disgorge at a single outbreak volumes of lava quite equal to them. But in that island such extravasations are infrequent, and a century has now elapsed since any such have been emitted. The eruptions of Mauna Loa are all of great volume and occur irregularly, with an average interval of about eight years. Any one of its moderate eruptions represents more lava than Vesuvius has outpoured since the last days of Pompeii. The great flow of 1855 would nearly have built Vesuvius, and those of 1859 and 1881 were not greatly inferior.

The Hawaiian volcanoes are in some respects abnormal. The most distinctive of their characteristics is the quiet and undemonstrative method of their eruptions. Rarely are these portentous events attended by any of that explosive action which is manifested by all other volcanoes. In only one or two instances within the historic period have they been accompanied by earthquakes and subterraneous rumblings. The vast jets of steam blown miles high, hurling cinders and lapilli far and wide and filling the heavens with vapor, dust, and ashes, have never


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