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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]


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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]




THE next night was appointed for a visit to the bottom of
the crater, for we desired to traverse its floor and see the
“North Lake” (of fire) which lay two miles away, toward the
further wall. After dark half a dozen of us set out, with lanterns
and native guides, and climbed down a crazy, thousand-foot
pathway in a crevice fractured in the crater wall, and
reached the bottom in safety.

The irruption of the previous evening had spent its force
and the floor looked black and cold; but when we ran out upon
it we found it hot yet, to the feet, and it was likewise riven
with crevices which revealed the underlying fires gleaming
vindictively. A neighboring cauldron was threatening to overflow,
and this added to the dubiousness of the situation. So
the native guides refused to continue the venture, and then
every body deserted except a stranger named Marlette. He
said he had been in the crater a dozen times in daylight and
believed he could find his why through it at night. He thought
that a run of three hundred yards would carry us over the hottest
part of the floor and leave us our shoe-soles. His pluck
gave me back-bone. We took one lantern and instructed the
guides to hang the other to the roof of the look-out house to
serve as a beacon for us in case we got lost, and then the party
started back up the precipice and Marlette and I made our run.
We skipped over the hot floor and over the red crevices with
brisk dispatch and reached the cold lava safe but with pretty
warm feet. Then we took things leisurely and comfortably,


Page 539


[Description: 504EAF. Page 539. In-line image of a man being pulled out of the ground by another man with a latern.]
jumping tolerably wide and probably bottomless chasms, and
threading our way through picturesque lava upheavals with
considerable confidence. When we got fairly away from the
cauldrons of boiling fire, we seemed to be in a gloomy desert,
and a suffocatingly dark one, surrounded by dim walls that
seemed to tower to the sky. The only cheerful objects were
the glinting stars high overhead.

By and by Marlette shouted “Stop!” I never stopped
quicker in my life. I asked what the matter was. He said
we were out of the path. He said we must not try to go on
till we found it again, for we were surrounded with beds of
rotten lava through which we could easily break and plunge
down a thousand feet. I thought eight hundred would answer
for me, and was about to say so when Marlette partly proved
his statement by accidentally crushing through and disappearing
to his arm-pits. He got out and we hunted for the path with
the lantern. He said there was only one path and that it was
but vaguely defined. We could not find it. The lava surface
was all alike in the lantern light. But he was an ingenious
man. He said it was not the lantern that had informed him
that we were out of the path, but his feet. He had noticed a
crisp grinding of fine lava-needles under his feet, and some
instinct reminded him that in the path these were all worn
away. So he put the lantern behind him, and began to search
with his boots instead of his eyes. It was good sagacity. The


Page 540
first time his foot touched a surface that did not grind under
it he announced that the trail was found again; and after that
we kept up a sharp listening for the rasping sound and it always
warned us in time.

It was a long tramp, but an exciting one. We reached the
North Lake between ten and eleven o'clock, and sat down on
a huge overhanging lava-shelf, tired but satisfied. The spectacle
presented was worth coming double the distance to see.
Under us, and stretching away before us, was a heaving sea of
molten fire of seemingly limitless extent. The glare from it
was so blinding that it was some time before we could bear to
look upon it steadily. It was like gazing at the sun at noonday,
except that the glare was not quite so white. At unequal
distances all around the shores of the lake were nearly whitehot
chimneys or hollow drums of lava, four or five feet high,
and up through them were bursting gorgeous sprays of lava-gouts
and gem spangles, some white, some red and some golden
—a ceaseless bombardment, and one that fascinated the eye
with its unapproachable splendor. The more distant jets,
sparkling up through an intervening gossamer veil of vapor,


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seemed miles away; and the further the curving ranks of fiery
fountains receded, the more fairy-like and beautiful they

Now and then the surging bosom of the lake under our noses
would calm down ominously and seem to be gathering strength
for an enterprise; and then all of a sudden a red dome of lava
of the bulk of an ordinary dwelling would heave itself aloft
like an escaping balloon, then burst asunder, and out of its
heart would flit a pale-green film of vapor, and float upward
and vanish in the darkness—a released soul soaring homeward
from captivity with the damned, no doubt. The crashing
plunge of the ruined dome into the lake again would send a
world of seething billows lashing against the shores and shaking
the foundations of our perch. By and by, a loosened mass of
the hanging shelf we sat on tumbled into the lake, jarring the
surroundings like an earthquake and delivering a suggestion
that may have been intended for a hint, and may not. We did
not wait to see.

We got lost again on our way back, and were more than an
hour hunting for the path. We were where we could see the
beacon lantern at the look-out house at the time, but thought
it was a star and paid no attention to it. We reached the hotel
at two o'clock in the morning pretty well fagged out.

Kilauea never overflows its vast crater, but bursts a passage
for its lava through the mountain side when relief is necessary,
and then the destruction is fearful. About 1840 it rent its
overburdened stomach and sent a broad river of fire careering
down to the sea, which swept away forests, huts, plantations
and every thing else that lay in its path. The stream was five
miles broad,
in places, and two hundred feet deep, and the distance
it traveled was forty miles. It tore up and bore away
acre-patches of land on its bosom like rafts—rocks, trees and
all intact. At night the red glare was visible a hundred miles
at sea; and at a distance of forty miles fine print could be read
at midnight. The atmosphere was poisoned with sulphurous
vapors and choked with falling ashes, pumice stones and cinders;
countless columns of smoke rose up and blended together
in a tumbled canopy that hid the heavens and glowed with a


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[Description: 504EAF. Page 542. In-line image of a landscape containing volanoes, flowing lava, and the water.]
ruddy flush reflected from the fires below; here and there jets
of lava sprung hundreds of feet into the air and burst into rocket-sprays
that returned to earth in a crimson rain; and all the
while the laboring mountain shook with Nature's great palsy,
and voiced its distress in moanings and the muffled booming
of subterranean thunders.

Fishes were killed for twenty miles along the shore, where


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the lava entered the sea. The earthquakes caused some loss
of human life, and a prodigious tidal wave swept inland, carrying
every thing before it and drowning a number of natives.
The devastation consummated along the route traversed by the
river of lava was complete and incalculable. Only a Pompeii
and a Herculaneum were needed at the foot of Kilauea to make
the story of the irruption immortal.