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natural, surface vent or fissure usually in a mountainous form
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A volcano is a rupture in the crust of a planetary-mass object, such as Earth, that allows hot lava, volcanic ash, and gases to escape from a magma chamber below the surface.


  • The fire at Lipara, Xenophanes says, ceased once for sixteen years, and came back in the seventeenth. And he says that the lavastream from Aetna is neither of the nature of fire, nor is it continuous, but it appears at intervals of many years.
    • Aristotle, De mirac. oscult. 38; 833 a 16. Quoted in Arthur Fairbanks (ed. And trans.), The First Philosophers of Greece (1898), 79.
  • Our earth is very old, an old warrior that has lived through many battles. Nevertheless, the face of it is still changing, and science sees no certain limit of time for its stately evolution. Our solid earth, apparently so stable, inert, and finished, is changing, mobile, and still evolving. Its major quakings are largely the echoes of that divine far-off event, the building of our noble mountains. The lava floods and intriguing volcanoes tell us of the plasticity, mobility, of the deep interior of the globe. The slow coming and going of ancient shallow seas on the continental plateaus tell us of the rhythmic distortion of the deep interior-deep-seated flow and changes of volume. Mountain chains prove the earth's solid crust itself to be mobile in high degree. And the secret of it all—the secret of the earthquake, the secret of the “temple of fire,” the secret of the ocean basin, the secret of the highland—is in the heart of the earth, forever invisible to human eyes.
  • A map of the moon... should be in every geological lecture room; for no where can we have a more complete or more magnificent illustration of volcanic operations. Our sublimest volcanoes would rank among the smaller lunar eminences; and our Etnas are but spitting furnaces.
    • James Dwight Dana, On the Volcanoes of the Moon, American Journal of Science, 1846, 2 (2nd Series), 347.
  • A bewildering assortment of (mostly microscopic) life-forms has been found thriving in what were once thought to be uninhabitable regions of our planet. These hardy creatures have turned up in deep, hot underground rocks, around scalding volcanic vents at the bottom of the ocean, in the desiccated, super-cold Dry Valleys of Antarctica, in places of high acid, alkaline, and salt content, and below many meters of polar ice. ... Some deep-dwelling, heat-loving microbes, genetic studies suggest, are among the oldest species known, hinting that not only can life thrive indefinitely in what appear to us totally alien environments, it may actually originate in such places.
    • David Darling, In Life Everywhere: the Maverick Science of Astrobiology (2002), xi.
  • Each volcano is an independent machine—nay, each vent and monticule is for the time being engaged in its own peculiar business, cooking as it were its special dish, which in due time is to be separately served. We have instances of vents within hailing distance of each other pouring out totally different kinds of lava, neither sympathizing with the other in any discernible manner nor influencing other in any appreciable degree.
  • [On the volcano.] And many a fire there burns beneath the ground.
    • Empedocles, fragment 52. In The Fragments of Empedocles, translated by William Ellery Leonard, (1908), 35.
  • Looking back across the long cycles of change through which the land has been shaped into its present form, let us realise that these geographical revolutions are not events wholly of the dim past, but that they are still in progress. So slow and measured has been their march, that even from the earliest times of human history they seem hardly to have advanced at all. But none the less are they surely and steadily transpiring around us. In the fall of rain and the flow of rivers, in the bubble of springs and the silence of frost, in the quiet creep of glaciers and the tumultuous rush of ocean waves, in the tremor of the earthquake and the outburst of the volcano, we may recognise the same play of terrestrial forces by which the framework of the continents has been step by step evolved.
    • Sir Archibald Geikie, Lecture at the Evening Meeting, Royal Geographical Society (24 Mar 1879), Discussion on Geographical Evolution, in Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society and Monthly Record (1879), New Monthly Series, 1, 443.
  • [T]here are depths of thousands of miles which are hidden from our inquiry. The only tidings we have from those unfathomable regions are by means of volcanoes, those burning mountains that seem to discharge their materials from the lowest abysses of the earth.
    • Oliver Goldsmith, in History of the Earth and Animated Nature (1774, 1847), Vol. 1, 92.
  • A volcano may be considered as a cannon of immense size.
    • Oliver Goldsmith, n Goldsmith’s Miscellaneous Works (1841), 90.
  • If I was to establish a system, it would be, that Mountains are produced by Volcanoes, and not Volcanoes by Mountains.
    • Sir William Hamilton, Observations on Mount Vesuvius, Mount Etna, and other Volcanoes (1774), 52.
  • May not subterraneous fire be considered as the great plough (if I may be allowed the expression) which Nature makes use of to turn up the bowels of the earth?
  • Most of these Mountains and Inland places whereon these kind of Petrify’d Bodies and Shells are found at present, or have been heretofore, were formerly under the Water, and that either by the descending of the Waters to another part of the Earth by the alteration of the Centre of Gravity of the whole bulk, or rather by the Eruption of some kind of Subterraneous Fires or Earthquakes, great quantities of Earth have been deserted by the Water and laid bare and dry.
    • Robert Hooke, Lectures and Discourses of Earthquakes (1668). In The Posthumous Works of Robert Hooke, containing his Cutlerian Lectures and other Discourses read at the Meetings of the Illustrious Royal Society (1705), 320-1.
  • By death the moon was gathered in Long ago, ah long ago;
    Yet still the silver corpse must spin
    And with another's light must glow.
    Her frozen mountains must forget
    Their primal hot volcanic breath,
    Doomed to revolve for ages yet,
    Void amphitheatres of death.
    And all about the cosmic sky,
    The black that lies beyond our blue,
    Dead stars innumerable lie,
    And stars of red and angry hue
    Not dead but doomed to die.
  • Sir Julian Huxley, Cosmic Death (1923), in The Captive Shrew and Other Poems of a Biologist (1932), 30.
  • The real difficulty about vulcanism is not to see how it can start, but how it can stop.
  • An ebbing tide of fire, the evil powers
    In fear and anger here are paramount,
    Rending the bosom of the fertile earth,
    And spreading desolation. Black as night,
    And terrible, as if the grave had sent
    Its own dark atmosphere to upper air,
    The heavy vapours rise ; from out the smoke
    Break the red volumes of the central flame,
    And lava floods and burning showers descend,
    Parching the soil to barrenness.
  • Etna presents us not merely with an image of the power of subterranean heat, but a record also of the vast period of time during which that power has been exerted. A majestic mountain has been produced by volcanic action, yet the time of which the volcanic forms the register, however vast, is found by the geologist to be of inconsiderable amount, even in the modern annals of the earth's history. In like manner, the Falls of Niagara teach us not merely to appreciate the power of moving water, but furnish us at the same time with data for estimating the enormous lapse of ages during which that force has operated. A deep and long ravine has been excavated, and the river has required ages to accomplish the task, yet the same region affords evidence that the sum of these ages is as nothing, and as the work of yesterday, when compared to the antecedent periods, of which there are monuments in the same district.
  • Seeing therefore the variety of Motion which we find in the World is always decreasing, there is a necessity of conserving and recruiting it by active Principles, such as are the cause of Gravity, by which Planets and Comets keep their Motions in their Orbs, and Bodies acquire great Motion in falling; and the cause of Fermentation, by which the Heart and Blood of Animals are kept in perpetual Motion and Heat; the inward Parts of the Earth are constantly warm'd, and in some places grow very hot; Bodies burn and shine, Mountains take fire, the Caverns of the Earth are blown up, and the Sun continues violently hot and lucid, and warms all things by his Light. For we meet with very little Motion in the World, besides what is owing to these active Principles.
  • Volcanic action is essentially paroxysmal; yet Mr. Lyell will admit no greater paroxysms than we ourselves have witnessed—no periods of feverish spasmodic energy, during which the very framework of nature has been convulsed and torn asunder. The utmost movements that he allows are a slight quivering of her muscular integuments.
    • Adam Sedgwick, Address to the Geological Society, delivered on the Evening of the 18th of February 1831, Proceedings of the Geological Society (1834), 1, 307.
  • The forces which displace continents are the same as those which produce great fold-mountain ranges. Continental drift, faults and compressions, earthquakes, volcanicity, transgression cycles and polar wandering are undoubtedly connected causally on a grand scale. Their common intensification in certain periods of the earth’s history shows this to be true. However, what is cause and what effect, only the future will unveil.
    • Alfred L. Wegener in The Origins of Continents and Oceans (4th ed. 1929), trans. John Biram (1966), 179.
  • Populations of bacteria live in the spumes of volcanic thermal vents on the ocean floor, multiplying in water above the boiling point. And far beneath Earth's surface, to a depth of 2 miles (3.2 km) or more, dwell the SLIMES (subsurface lithoautotrophic microbial ecosystems), unique assemblages of bacteria and fungi that occupy pores in the interlocking mineral grains of igneous rock and derive their energy from inorganic chemicals. The SLIMES are independent of the world above, so even if all of it were burned to a cinder, they would carry on and, given enough time, probably evolve new life-forms able to re-enter the world of air and sunlight.
  • It's tempting to go to the throat of the volcano to get the data, because if you do you're a hero ... It's a battle between your mind and your emotions. If your emotions win out, you can get yourself in a lot of trouble.
    • Ken Wohletz, quoted by Ron Russell in 'Column One: In pursuit of Deadly Volcanoes', Los Angeles Times (25 Jun 1991), an article about for three scientists that had died in a volcano eruption.

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