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The Daily Volcano Quote: volcanoes are part of the universal order 7 May 2009

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Volcanoes form no exception to the principles of universal order. They may appear to be physical flaws, and to assume the character of accidents. The devastation which they have produced lead men to regard them very naturally as evils. But two things are certain. They arrive from the operation of natural causes which, however secret, hidden, and difficult of discovery, science may approach with a firm conviction that they are within its domain. And they subserve important and beneficent ends, some of which are already well understood.

John Kennedy, Volcanoes: Their History, Phenomena, and Causes (London: Religious Tract Society, 1852), pp. 7-8.

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The Daily Volcano Quote: the causes of eruptions (1693) 6 May 2009

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The Reason of these Fires is the Abundance of SULPHUR and BRIMSTONE, contain’d in the bosome of the Hill; which is blown by the Wind, driving it in at the Chaps of the Earth, as by a pair of Bellows … Now, whether these Eruptions are caused by actual Subterraneous Fires, lighting upon Combustible Matter; Or by Fire struck out of falling and breaking Stones, whose Sparks meet with Nitro-Sulphureous or other inflammable Substance heap’d together in the Bowels of the Earth, and by the Expansive violence of the Fire forc’d to take more room, and so bursting out with the impetuousity we see; may not be unworthy of a Philosopher’s Speculation.

Sir Thomas Blount, A Natural History: Containing Many not Common Observations: Extracted out of the best Modern Writers (London, 1693), pp. 398-9. More on Blount’s Natural History here.

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The Daily Volcano Quote: an extinct volcano not a safe neighbour 5 May 2009

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We likewise forget, in these cool districts of the earth, that we are not quite beyond the hazard of subterranean fire. There are numberless extinct volcanoes in both Britain and France; there are some on the banks of the Rhine; indeed, they are thick-sown everywhere. Now an extinct volcano is not quite so safe a neighbour as many may suppose. Vesuvius was an extinct volcano from time immemorial till the year 63, when it suddenly broke out again, and soon after destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum; since which time it has never again subsided into entire inactivity. Suppose Arthur’s Seat, which is ‘within a mile of Edinburgh town’ were to recommence business in like manner, we should like to know at how many years’ purchase house property in that beautiful New Town would be selling next day. Yet what is there about an old volcano there more than an old volcano in Italy, to give assurance that its means of annoyance and destruction are extinguished?

‘A possible event — dangers of our planet’, The National Magazine, November 1854, p. 435.

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The Daily Volcano Quote: volcanic risks remote, not certain 4 May 2009

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Persons unaccustomed to volcanic regions frequently express astonishment at what they call the foolhardiness of those who inhabit such localities. But the risk is less than is supposed. Such districts enjoy a remarkable immunity from epidemics, and even from the ordinary diseases which shorten human life, so that it is doubtful whether, on the average, the chances of a protracted existence are not greater there than in most other places. Besides, the peril of living near a volcano is remote, not certain; and each generation, as well as individual, indulge the hope of exemption from the threatened danger. To put an every-day illustration, there is as much risk in railroad-travelling as in cultivating fields on the flank of a volcano; yet there are but few who decline a journey from fear of the cars.

‘Eruptions of Vesuvius’, The Friend, vol. XXVIII (1855), p. 410.

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The Daily Volcano Quote: volcanically induced climate change 30 April 2009

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Where archaeologists and palaeoenvironmentalists have proposed the eruption of a distant volcano as the cause of cultural change or environmental stress, they have frequently invoked volcanically generated climate change as the mechanism. However, volcanically induced climate change has been shown to be on a relatively minor scale and no eruption of the past 3000 years has reduced hemispheric temperature by more than 1°C, which is within normal fluctuation and hardly of itself likely to bring about long-lasting cultural or environmental change. In historical times, where poor weather has been coincident with volcanic eruptions and demonstrated social and environmental stress, pre-existing social, cultural, economic, environmental and climatic trends have been in evidence and it is the combination of these that is significant, not the remote influence of a distant volcanic eruption. Where these cannot be identified in the archaeological record, volcanogenic climate change is a theoretical tool which must be used with caution.

John Grattan, Mark Brayshay & Ruud T. E. Schüttenhelm, ‘”The end is nigh”? Social and environmental responses to volcanic gas pollution’, in Robin Torrence & John Grattan (eds.), Natural Disasters and Cultural Change (London: Routledge, 2002), p. 88.

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The Daily Volcano Quote: Vancouver gets Mount Hood’s height wrong 29 April 2009

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When the English explorer, Vancouver, who gave Mt. Hood its name, first saw the mountain, he estimated its height to be at least 25,000 feet, and thought it was perhaps the highest summit in the world. Barometric and other measurements, however, made by the United States Coast Survey and by the Fortieth Parallel Survey, have shown that Vancouver’s estimate was more than twice the actual height. In spite of the corrections that prosaic measurements have imposed upon the fancy of distant observers, Mt. Hood, if not the most lofty, is, yet, in the eyes of its admirers, one of the most beautiful of mountains.

Israel C. Russell, Volcanoes of North America (London: Macmillan, 1897), pp. 237-8. The summit of Mount Hood is 3426 metres (11240 feet) above sea level.

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The Daily Volcano Quote: Empedocles on Etna 27 April 2009

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… And thou, fiery world,
That sapp’st the vitals of this terrible mount
Upon whose charr’d and quaking crust I stand,
Thou, too, brimmest with life! — the sea of cloud
That heaves its white and billowy vapours up
To moat this isle of ashes from the world,
Lives! — and that other fainter sea, far down,
O’er whose lit floor a road of moonbeams leads
To Etna’s Liparëan sister-fires
And the long dusky line of Italy —
That mild and luminous floor of waters lives,
With held-in joy swelling its heart!

Matthew Arnold, Empedocles on Etna (1852), Act II.

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The Daily Volcano Quote: Moses and the volcano-god 24 April 2009

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Jahve [i.e. Yahweh] was certainly a volcano-god. As we know, however, Egypt has no volcanoes and the mountains of the Sinai peninsula have never been volcanic; on the other hand, volcanoes which may have been active up to a late period are found along the western border of Arabia. One of these mountains must have been the Sinai-Horeb which was believed to be Jahve’s abode.

Sigmund Freud, Moses and Monotheism (1939; New York: Vintage, 1967), p. 39.

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The Daily Volcano Quote: religion and perceptions of volcanic risk 23 April 2009

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… it appears that people living on Etna take part in what might best be described as ‘parallel practices’, where actions to encourage the miraculous take place at the same time as more ‘rationally’ grounded protective measures such as evacuation. Religious practice does not seem to obstruct other types of protective behaviour but [is] simply one of the protective behaviours used by people before, during and after volcanic emergencies.

David K. Chester, Angus M. Duncan & Christopher J. L. Dibben, ‘The importance of religion in shaping volcanic risk perception in Italy, with special reference to Vesuvius and Etna’, Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, no. 172 (2008), p. 225.

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The Daily Volcano Quote: Pompeii built to last 22 April 2009

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Pompeii had wine, grain, wool, metalwork, olive oil, an air of thrusting prosperity, and ten smart watchtowers set in vigorous city walls.

‘A place that intends to last!’ One of my sharper remarks.

All right; I do know what happened at Pompeii — but this was eight years before Mount Vesuvius exploded. Any student of natural science who did notice that their local mountain was shaped like a volcano deduced it was extinct. Meanwhile, the Pompeian playboys believed in art, Isis, Campanian gladiators, and ready cash to purchase gorgeous women; few of the flashy bastards were great readers of natural science.

Lindsay Davies, Shadows in Bronze (London: Arrow, 1992), p. 105.

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