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100 Years Ago: April 1924


This is the 111th entry in my brief reviews of National Geographic Magazines on their Centennial.



The first article in this month’s issue is entitled “The Story and Legends of the Pontine Marshes*” and was written by Don Gelasio Caetani, Italian Ambassador to the United States.  It has the internal subheading: “After Many Centuries of Fruitless Effort, Italy Is to Inaugurate a Gigantic Enterprise to Drain the Fertile Region Southeast of Rome.”  The article contains eighteen black-and-white photographs, of which seven are full-page in size.  [* A lecture delivered before the National Geographic Society in Washington, D. C., January 24, 1924.  The manuscript had been revised by Prince Caetani for publication in the National Geographic Magazine.]

Pontine Marshes were a generally little-known region, quite close to Rome.  That strange corner of Italy had been the abode of the author’s family for almost a thousand years and a large part of the land had belonged to them uninterrupted since the year 1297.  The well-known Appian Road led to the Pontine Marshes.  The road was famous for its endless rows of old Roman funeral monuments that lined it on both sides.  The Via Appia, built by Appius Claudius about 300 years B. C., started from Porta San Sebastiano, the southern gate of Rome, and led toward Naples.  For the first 65 mile it ran straight, until it reached the town of Terracina, where it passed under the cliff of Monte Sant’ Angelo that overhung the sea.  The Romans had to chisel off part of the rock to make space for the roadbed.  After passing that point it made a first bend and then went straight to Naples.  When one left the Eternal City on that classic road, one passe at first along a wonderful array of old Roman sepulchral monuments; then one climbed up the Alban Hills, extinct volcanoes of prehistoric times; and then one gradually descended upon a great plain, some 30 miles from Rome, known to history as the Pontine Marshes.  On the left, as one traveled toward Terracina, were the olive-covered Lepine Mountains.  To the right was the Tyrrhenian Sea, along the border of which ran a large sand dune covered by a wonderful oak forest some 30 miles in length.  Between the dunes and the sea was a series of lagoons.  At the extreme end a solitary mountain rose, to all appearances from the sea.  It was Mount Circeo, the cornerstone of the Pontine Marshes.  That mount was an island in bygone ages, as geologist had proved, and Homer, eight centuries before Christ, spoke of it in the “Odyssey” as an island.  Circeo was the scene of the legendary encounter between Odysseus and Circe, the sorceress.  The hero of the Siege of Troy landed with his men on that rocky island.  Circe turned some of the men into pigs.  Protected by Hermes, Odysseus forced Circe, at knifepoint, to free them.

On the north side of the mountain, the people still showed a large grotto which was said to have been the haunt of the tricky goddess.  The large quadrangle formed by the foothills of the Alban volcanoes, by the Lepine Mountains, by the wooded sand dunes of the coast, and by Mount Circeo, measuring some 150,000 acres of extraordinarily fertile land, was known to history as the Pontine Marshes.  The water, hemmed in on all sides, could not flow out.  In the winter, the mountain streams poured their foaming, muddy torrents upon that lowland, flooding thousands of acres.  The rich mud slowly settled, coating the fields with a silt which was the finest of fertilizers.  Then the waters gradually flowed out through narrow channels until, in summer, only the lowest portion of the land remained in swampy condition.  A dense, luxuriant growth of water plants sprung up with the approach of the warmer season.  Toward the month of July, the treacherous Anopheles mosquito rose out of the marshes.  Mosquitoes, infected with malaria, transmitted the disease to heathy individuals.  Malaria was not deadly but its repeated attacks could weakened the human body so that frequently fatal illnesses took hold of the fever-stricken body.  The inundations in winter and the malaria in summer had driven the population out of the plain; but the unparalleled fertility of the soil enticed some people back to defy the disease.  The lowlands of Argo Pontino were deserted; there were no cities or villages, but some lonely hamlets and, scattered here and there, farm buildings, in which only a few people lived in summer.  Many centuries ago, most the inhabitants fled to the mountains, built their towns on some steep hills, and from those vantage points made dashes into the plain to work the fields and tend the cattle.  Such a place was ancient Cori, founded by the Trojan Dardanos.  A little farther on rose Norma, on the very edge of a cliff 600 feet high, as ancient, if not more so, than Rome itself.

At the foot of Norma was the abandoned medieval town of Ninfa, covered with ivy and brambles.  A little farther along the range was Sermoneta, with the thirteenth century castle of the Caetani, towering on a high mountain spur and dominating the vast plain.  Then followed Sezze, Piperno, and other towns.  Those were the inhabited places in 1924; but in olden times the whole land was densely populated and highly productive.  Twenty-three towns were supposed to have existed, where in 1924, one saw not a trace of a single building.  The most famous of those cities which had disappeared was Pometia.  We did not even know exactly where Pometia was located.  Of Tiberia, a town that grew up around one of the villas of Tiberius, only a single piece of concrete foundation was left.  San Donato, a prosperous community that rose on the sand dunes near the sea, had completely disappeared.  The author’s mother made excavations on the spot and was fortunate enough to find the tomb of Camenius who died toward the middle of the of the fourth century A. D.  In 1924, where the villa of Camenius rose, the fishermen dried their nets.  The lagoons were wonderful fishing grounds that had supplied Rome for two thousand years.  There was no natural communication between the lagoons and the sea.  When those lakes swelled, during the rainy season, the fishermen cut a small ditch across the dune, and the waters, rushing out to the sea, in a few hours had widened to a broad river.  The fish tasted that lukewarm, brackish water and swam by the millions into the lagoon, where they were caught.  That locality was also a wonderful shooting resort.  There, the ducks came from the sea, seeking shelter and food in that maze of ponds and canals distributed throughout the dense growth of reeds.  The complete disappearance of the old cities of the Pontine Marshes was not difficult to explain.  The whole zone was formed of clay, sand, and gravel, but no stones.  Every abandoned building became a quarry for the construction of new buildings.

At the time of the Roman Republic, in the fourth and fifth century B. C., the Pontine region was free of waters, healthful and densely populated.  Then, a little before 300 B. C. something happened.  The natural outlet of the waters in the depression between the city of Terracina and Mount Circeo was obstructed, probably though some seismic movement; a raising of the ground by a few feet was quite sufficient to stop the outflow of the waters.  In that way the great plain of Pometia became hemmed in on all sides by higher lands and converted into a large basin, into which the waters naturally converged from everywhere, but from which they could not flow except through the narrow channels dug near Terracina to connect the marshes to the sea.  The ground became water-soaked.  The great Appian Road began to sink in places and had to be raised by Trajan and other Roman emperors.  During the eighth century it went completely under water and the road from Rome to Naples had to be shifted to the foothills, passing near Ninfa and Sermoneta.  From that time to the present the region became the playground of unruly waves.  In winter large tracts of land were submerged under the yellow waters.  In spring the waters subsided and the fields were covered with grass and flowers, where the sheep and cattle of Roman Campagna found ideal pasturage.  For 2,200 years the rulers and the people of Rome had vainly tried to drain the marshes.  The first serious attempt was made by the Consul Cornelius Cethegus, about 185 B.C.  Julius Caesar made vast plans, but was assassinated (44 B. C.).  Nerva and Trajan worked at restoring the Appian Road that was sinking.  The Romans of the first centuries (A. D.) dug the Rio Martino, across the dunes to drain the marshes.  However, all those works proved ineffectual.  The conditions of the Pontine lands became worse and worse.  Each group strove to divert the waters from their own property to their neighbors.’  Lawsuits were instituted and wars broke out.

The author’s family, as lords of Sermoneta, were involved in a lawsuit with the neighboring town of Sezza which lasted 560 years, the longest lawsuit in Italian history.  It started about 1230 and ended about 1790, with the draining of the marshes by Pius VI.  The stronghold of Sermoneta was the powerful castle of Caetani.  Perched on top of a rocky mountain, strongly fortified with towers, creneled walls, and drawbridges, it could safely defy any enemy.  Pope Alexander VI confiscated it from the author’s family, and gave the Caetani estate to his son, Cesare Borgia, the Duke of Valentinois.  Alexander gave the castle itself to his daughter, the famous Lucrezia Borgia, who became the first Duchess of Sermoneta.  When Alexander had completed the improvements and fortifications of the castle, the Duke took it away from his sister saying that a woman could not hold it.  The author could not count how many popes tried and failed to drain the marshes.  At last, in 1777, Pope Pius VI accomplished the most successful work on record.  He dug a large canal along the Appian Road and regulated the flow of waters by a network of canals.  A large part of the land was drained and the Appian Road of the centuries emerged again from the waters.  But even that great effort only partly improved conditions.  One of the principal difficulties in controlling the waters was caused by the aquatic plants that grew in the canals.  They became so dense that the ditches were completely choked.  The most effective means of combatting that menace was to employee buffalo – an African species, which were suppose to have been brought over by Hannibal about 200 B. C.  Those animals bred wonderfully in the marshes.  They were driven into the canals, where they swam around uprooting the plants with their hooves.  When not used for that purpose, they were employed hauling heavy loads.

New Italy intended to tackle the problem of draining the marshes that had baffled each succeeding generation for more than two thousand years.  The Government was approaching it with all the means and technical knowledge of modern times and will accomplish the work.  The ancient canal of Rio Martino would be opened again, the mountain streams would be tamed by building a reservoir at the foot of the mountains, and large pumping stations were to be erected to drain the swampy land.  The project will cost upward of three hundred million lire.  Meanwhile the derelict region was hopefully waiting.  There, lied romantic Ninfa, one of the most conspicuous victims of malaria.  The deserted street winding between the houses and the towers and churches in ruins told the tale of a population that fled to the mountains to escape death.  The city walls withstood many attacks had crumbled beneath the onslaught of the elements.  The only building that was still habitable was the municipal hall, which the author had transformed into his private dwelling.  Romantic Ninfa had created a charming legend which symbolized malaria.  Once, there was a king who was lord of the Pontine Marshes.  He had a beautiful daughter, Ninfa.  His land was swamped by water and infested with malaria.  Two kings came to woo the beautiful Ninfa; they were King Moor and King Martino.  The father said he would give his daughter to whomever could drain his lands.  Martino called all his men to dig the Rio Martino, while Moor did nothing but court the princess.  Ninfa loved the hardworking Martino, but when he was almost finished the canal, Moor used a magic wand to force the waters to the south.  Reluctantly, the King gave his daughter to Moor.  She fled in despair and leapt off a tower into the water, but she did not die.  She lived in the depths, only to rise at sunset showing herself to weary young men returning home.  The men that stopped to look at her, instantly withered and grew old.  The legend of Ninfa was the legend of malaria.



The second item listed on this month’s cover is entitled “Italy, Land of History and Romance” and has no byline.  It is not an article, but a set of sixteen full-page duotones, pages 375 through 390.  Duotones, formerly known as photogravures are photos transferred to paper using acid-etched metal plates.  The deeper the etch, the darker the transfer.

The following is a list of caption headings for the sixteen duotones:

  • “The Colossal Statue Erected to Saint Carlo Borromeo at Arona, on Lake Maggiore”
  • “Venetian Trading Boats Crossing the Lagoon from Malamocco to Venice”
  • “Arco and Its Castle”
  • “Peasant Children of the Strona Valley, Northern Italy”
  • “”Taking the Waters” at the Village Fountain”
  • “San Giulio, a Beauty Spot of Northern Italy”
  • “The Angel of Milan”
  • “The Castle Toblino, on Lake Toblino, Northern Italy”
  • “The Harbor of Riva, on Lake Garda”
  • “Mount Calvary, Overlooking Castelrotto”
  • “A Rough Sea at Bordighera, on the Italian Riviera”
  • “Palermo, Metropolis of Sicily, Photographed from the Late Dirigible “Roma””
  • “Rome: A View of St. Peter’s from the Air. The Vatican and the Papal Gardens are to Be Seen in the Right Background”
  • Pisa Seen from an Airplane”
  • “Vesuvius in Eruption”
  • “The Ancient Chapel and Mausoleum of the Gonzagas, Near Bellagio, Overlooking Lake Como”



The second article in this month’s issue is entitled “Ancient Carthage in the Light of Modern Excavation” and was written by Count Byron Khun de Prorok.  The article contains twenty-seven black-and-white photographs, of which seven are full-page in size.  The article also contains a sketch map of the site of Carthage on page 394 with an inset of the region that includes the Pontine Marshes and is referenced by the first article as well as this one.

Sketch Map courtesy of Philip Riviere

Few sites of antiquity had a more illustrious history than the peninsula on which lied the accumulated ruins of the dead cities of Carthage.  Phoenicians, Berbers, Numidians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantine crusaders, and, lastly, Arabs had left their traces, and, in 1924, in the strata of thirty centuries lied the mute evidence of long racial warfare and the dethronement of past splendors.  There, where peace reigned over the marble dust, was a natural beauty and grandeur equal to any of the famous scenes along the Mediterranean shore, and the panorama viewed from Cape Carthage explained Queen Dido’s selection of the site, in the ninth century B. C., for the first Punic city of Carthage.  From the summit of the ancient hill called Byrsa was unfolded the landscape which was once the scene of the great tragedy of the Mediterranean.  To the east lied the Gulf of Tunis.  On the bank rose the twin summits of the sacred mountain of the Carthaginians, the Bon-Kornein.  To the south lied the city of Tunis.  The picturesque village of Sidi-bou-Said crowned the northern promontory of Cape Carthage.  Its history was made still more eloquent by the resurrection of its buried ruins.  The excavation of Carthage was difficult because of the great topographical changes that had taken place since Punic days.  The Medjerda River was responsible for much of that change.  Its alluvial deposits had encroached upon a large part of the peninsula, covering a portion of the land.  The Arabs called those marshes Bahar el Azrag, meaning “the Blue Sea.”  From movies taken by airplane, it was evident that there were vast submarine walls at Cape Kamart, to the northwest of the peninsula.  It was hoped excavation at that point would shed light as to the site of the Punic Ports, where the mighty merchant fleets of the Canaanites plied to and fro.  (As may be remembered, the Phoenician, whose Roman name was “Punicus,” was a native of Canaan, in the lowlands of Palestine, prior to the invasion of the Jews.)

It was said that 220 galleys could be anchored at one time in the harbor.  The sea had risen three and one-half yards since Roman days, and there were many ruins underwater in the gulf and at La Marsa, north of the rebuilt city.  Another obstacle in the way of excavation at Carthage was the alluvial deposits in the hollows between the hills.  There had been an accumulation of earth, sand, and debris at a rate of a yard a century.  At Carthage it was singularly impressive to find traces of so many different peoples, and in that respect no other spot in the world disclosed so grippingly the war tragedy of the human race.  The question of when the Egyptians may have occupied that territory took laborious and prolonged research, since Cambe, the city of the Sidonians, was founded by them six centuries before Dido settled there with her fugitive Phoenicians, prior to 800 B. C.  Cambe was merely a ruin at that time, and history afforded nothing beyond the fact of its existence and origin.  Sidon had been the principal Phoenician seaport; so, the Carthaginian people held their section of what was, in 1924, Tunis as far back as their African history had been revealed.  Under the Barcas family Carthage was a great center of wealth and commerce, with a population estimated between 700,000 and 1,000,000.  The buildings of Carthage prior to its destruction by the Romans, in 146 B. C., were in some cases seven stories high.  From the accounts of Cato the Elder, the implacable foe of the city, whose “Delenda est Carthago” was unforgettable, the construction of the city must have been of admirable soundness.  The utter devastation and obliteration of Carthage which for centuries following the Punic wars were thought to have taken place had been recently contradicted by exploration.  Over the ruins long untouched dirt and sand had drifted, but mercifully preserving innumerable objects of art which escaped destruction.

Twenty, forty, and sixty feet below the surface had been unearthed the vestiges of the Byzantine, Roman, and Phoenician occupations.  In that work had been engaged the explorers Gauckler, Merlin, and Poinsset, but the most notable efforts had been those of Pere Delattre, who had labored over the ruins for fifty years.  He had discovered four of the earliest Christian basilicas, Roman and Punic necropolises, an amphitheater, and many priceless relics. During his long career, he had explored only one-tenth of Roman and Christian Carthage.  The author’s expedition had lasted four years and proved well worth the effort.  Remains previously located by Delattre had been completely excavated.  He continued the work of the late Jules Renault’s excavations, penetrating several strata, and came across Arab tombs, a Christian chapel, Roman cisterns, Byzantine relics, mosaic floors, and beneath them Punic tombs of 700 B. C.  All the earth dug up at Carthage was carted away and passed through sieves.  That way many coins, crystals, emeralds, beads, etc. had been recovered.  The recently discovered Temple of Tanit was where human sacrifices were made.  Hundreds of urns were found containing the bones of children who had been burned alive.  The altars unearthed at the lowest level were undoubtedly of Egyptian origin.  Silver tablets engraved with sphinxes and amulets representing the eye of Osiris and covered with Egyptian Hieroglyphics demonstrated the one-time influence and probable presence of the race.  The votive tablets the author had discovered were invariably inscribed with the names of the gods and person making the offering.  The shocking ceremony of human sacrifice was especially resorted to when Carthage was in great danger from her enemies.  Hundreds of children of the noblest families were offered up to placate the rage of the hideous god, Baal.  Fascinating results of a different character were found in his excavations north of the Acropolis on the Hill of Juno.

Above the surface of poppy fields appeared a mound of bricks.  The author’s team set to work and disclosed the roof of a Roman palace; then seven perfect mosaic floors of the first Roman period.  There were hundreds of broken stones bearing inscriptions, fragments of statues, and a complete collection of African lamps from 100 to 300 A. D.  Of special significance was the discovery beneath the mosaic floors of a Punic ruin, which led them thirty yards under the hillside and established that the Carthage of old had not been totally obliterated.  Some of the ruins on the Hill of Juno were probably the remains of the baths of Gargilius, where the council of 565 bishops met in 411 A. D. to determine whether Christianity was to remain Catholic or become Donatist.  In a vaulted chamber nearby, which might have been the boudoir of a Carthaginian lady, were found perfume bottles, bracelets of gold, ivory hairpins, bronze mirrors, nail scissors, ivory eyebrow sticks, and much iridescent glass.  In the Roman cisterns were revealed new wonders – an early Christian basilica, with tombs of martyrs and Christian inscriptions, many fine Byzantine relics, and seven statues of the Virgin Mary in terra cotta.  Twelve basilicas had been located, though only three had been properly excavated.  The basilicas of St. Cyprian and Damous el-Karita were two of the purist examples of Christian sanctuaries known.  Hundreds of tombs of martyrs lied between the author’s former headquarters and the amphitheater to the north of the city.  An inspection of the coffin frequently revealed three nails, indicating that the victim had been crucified.  On the heights of Cape Carthage had been excavated ancient Punic tombs which, had escaped the Roman conflagration, buried thirty feet in solid rock.  Mummies had been found, beside which had been placed jewels, trinkets, inscriptions, and sacred images.  In four months, they found 5,000 coins in gold, silver, and bronze, and Roman remains, including pottery, frescoes, bracelets, jewels, rings, and lamps.

Vandal armor and strange lamps recalled the inroads of the merciless followers of Genseric and Hunneric.  The Museum of Carthage rivaled in interest any of the world’s great repositories for relics of the ancients.  A pair of spectacles of the third century B. C., found in a Punic tomb, a terracotta figurine of an organ, pots of rouge and face powder, bronze razors and milk bottles found in the tombs of Carthaginian children, were also in the museum.  The author’s historical, topographical, and archeological search indicated that the old Punic city did not occupy the site of Roman Carthage.  Near Cape Kamart and the Sokra marshes he discovered six ancient towers which might have served as watchtowers or lighthouses for the port.  Strangely, they all appeared to face inward, toward the marshes, rather than seaward.  Below their outlines the author discovered the remains of a great wall, traceable intermittently for a mile and a half.  Continued examination might prove that it formed a part of the quays and landing stages of the great ports.  It was of very ancient and massive construction.  In the neighborhood were a succession of deeply sunken wells.  Those were at a depth of fifty feet, and, upon descending into several of them, the author observed that the sightly moving waters hinted at the existence of an undergrown stream.  The wells were not marked on any of the published maps of the peninsula.  Roman Carthage possessed no fresh-water wells – a fact which necessitated the construction, at vast expense, one of the greatest aqueducts ever built by the Romans.  The location of Punic Carthage, as indicated by the writings of Virgil, was plainly the hillside of Cape Kamart, which rose directly from the walls and ports.

The first attempt to photograph submarine ruins was recently made by the late Prince de Walbeck, who was killed last June [1923] on his way back from Carthage.  His airplane photographs were a unique documentation in archeology, and were superior to any observations which could have been made at the surface of the water.  They brought to view constructions submerged thirty feet and one hundred yards from shore.  The photos were taken at a height of 1,000 feet, and, also at 400 feet, following the line of the ancient wall.  One was able to study the topography of the peninsula to excellent advantage.  The bed of the Medjerda was clearly visible and the wall of Theodosius could be partly seen.  Even the Roman allotments were defined.  That airplane photography established the fact that there had been a port at La Marsa.  The construction perceived underwater was of vast dimensions and zigzagged from Cape Carthage to Cape Kamart.  Off the coast of Mahdia, more than a hundred miles south of Carthage, was observed by airplane a sunken galley 120 feet below the surface of the water.  The author had obtained permission to continue the work of recovering from the galley the specimens of Greek art, some of which were removed prior to the war.  In Bardo Museum of Tunis had been placed magnificent marbles and bronzes taken from the treasure ship, where they had reposed since 100 B. C.  The Gulf of Tunis was further explored by the author in the expectation of locating some of the 500 ships which met their fate during the Punic wars.  One of Genseric’s booty ships was known to have sunk in the gulf after the Vandals sacked Rome in 453 A. D.  In continuance of that work the airplane would play an important part.  Further evidence that Punic Carthage did not lie beneath Roman Carthage was a discovery on part of the Pere Delatte northwest of the Hill of Bordj el-Djedid, where a large quantity of Punic incense burners of about 400 B. C. were unearthed.  This was two miles from the site commonly considered by historians.

The only Punic statue found thus far was beneath the garden of Lavigerie building at La Marsa, three and a half miles from the Carthage of 1924.  No land had more wonderous or more beautiful Christian ruins than North Africa.  From Shershel, in Algeria, to Carthage, in Tunisia, the pilgrim followed the sacred way of the routes of the basilicas.  Few, indeed, knew the importance of the African ruins, which were the oldest remains of Christian edifices in the world.  If one wished to see what the first Christian churches were like it was not to Rome one should go, but to Africa.  They did not exist any longer in Rome, for they had all been destroyed or built over; but at Carthage and Tebessa one could see the largest basilicas in the world.  Two hundred and fifty basilicas, churches, and chapels had been discovered and partly explored.  Some of the most wonderful catacombs and cemeteries of the first centuries of Christianity were to be found at Sousse and at Tipasa, with its basilica dedicated to St. Salsa, one of the most celebrated African martyrs.  Tebessa contained the largest early Christian ruin on earth.  Souk Ahras was the home of St. Augustine.  More ruins were found in Hippo.  But it was Carthage that had the most history, and martyrs – St Louis of France, St. Cyprian, St. Perpetua, and St. Felicitas.  The author’s explorations convinced him as to the error which had persisted for centuries regarding the location of Punic Carthage.  His progress was due to a few records of ancient historians, the Arab documentation of the Middle Ages, a study of geographical changes, and his excavations of the last five years.  Through all the desolation of the surroundings and amid the debris that blanketed the entire peninsula, the voices of Hannibal, Scipio, St. Augustine, St. Louis, St. Cyprian, and other mighty spirits seemed to summon the modern world to the task of discovery and enlightenment.


At the bottom of the last page of the second article, page 423, the is a notice boldly entitled “IMPORTANT NOTICE TO MEMBERS.”  The text reads: “Those authorized to secure detailed information and photographs in the name of the National Geographic Society and its Magazine are supplied with official credentials in the form of letters specifying the object in view.  Upon presentation of such identification, the fullest co-operation is respectfully requested.  This notice to members is necessary, unfortunately, because of the fraudulent operations of persons claiming official connection with The Society or the Magazine.  All membership fees should be made payable to the National Geographic Society.”


The fourth item listed on the cover of this month’s issue is entitled “Tunisia, Where Sea and Desert Meet” and has Gervais Courtellemont in the byline.  It is not an article but a set of “16 Autochromes,” the “SIXTEEN ILLUSTRATIONS IN FULL COLOR” advertised on the cover and embedded within the second article.  Mr. Courtellemont is the photographers.  These autochromes are true color photographs.  Each one is a half-page in size, taking up eight pages.  These pages are Plates, numbered from I to VIII in Roman numerals and representing pages 415 to 422 in the magazine.

A list of caption titles of the sixteen autochromes with their plate numbers is as follows:

  • “The Poet Recites His Lay” – I
  • “Children of the Oasis of Tozeur” – I
  • “A Pottery Merchant Waiting for Customers” – II
  • “Tunisian Women at Home” – II
  • “A Favored Daughter of the Harem” – III
  • “Drying Wheat After It Has Been Washed” – III
  • “The Souks, or Covered Shops, of Tunis” – IV
  • “The Hat and Leather Shop of a Tunisian Merchant” – IV
  • “The Canopied Bed of a Tunisian Interior” – V
  • “A Desert Beauty” – V
  • “Telling the Family’s Fortune: Tunis” – VI
  • “A Street in a Native Quarter of Tunis” – VI
  • “A Bedouin Girl of Southern Tunisia” – VII
  • “A Jewish Family of Tunis” – VII
  • “The City Door of Susa, on the Tunisian Coast” – VIII
  • “A Tunisian Country Woman” – VIII



The third article in this month’s issue is entitled “Keeping House in Majorca” and was written by Phoebe Binney Harden.  The article contains eighteen black-and-white photographs, of which four are full-page in size.  One of those full-page photos serves as the frontispiece for the article.  The article also contains a small sketch map of Majorca on page 431.

Sketch Map courtesy of Philip Riviere

“Ceylon is only forty miles from heaven,” said the enthusiast, as the author and her family sat on the deck of a steamer bound for the Far East.  It was then that the uncommunicative man, who had lived there, looked up and quietly asked, “Why the forty miles?”  That was the way the author felt about Majorca after her first trip – and in fact have felt so ever since.  Why the Balearic Islands should be so little known to the modern tourist was a mystery, albeit a pleasant one.  Even in the times of the Bible, the strength and valor of the “Balearic slinger” were well known.  Fortunately, his warlike character seemed to have evaporated with time, leaving a country whose tranquility was untouched either by modern hurry and bustle or the equally hurrying and bustling modern tourist.  It was the author’s instinct to keep it all as secret as possible.  When Palma, the capital, was within overnight distance from Barcelona and but little more from Marseille, it was painfully easy to overrun the place and so spoil that seemingly unique spot.  The author’s family discovered it quite by chance themselves.  With the help of guidebooks, they had been traveling all over Europe searching for just such a spot.  Then, a friend assured them that the only place to go was Majorca.  Mary Stuart Boyd had a house in Deya, one of the small villages of about 800 inhabitants, where she said they could stay.  It worried them not at all that none of them spoke a word of Spanish, and even less when they saw their little stone house, overlooking the blue waters of the Mediterranean, with olive terraces leading to pine-covered bluff beyond.  What did it matter if the trip to their daily swim was half a mile down and seemed five miles back?  The clear warm water, surrounded by adventurous-looking rocks and caves, made the best swimming they had ever experienced.  The terraces, with their twisted olive trees, planted by Moors over a thousand years ago, looked like an illustration from “Peter Pan.”  They picked figs and oranges freely with no thought of irate owners.

In the little rose- and honeysuckle-filled garden, with its flagstone paths covered by a grape arbor, they used to sit and have their meals from a great stone table where the monks ground their corn.  That garden alone seemed compensation enough for the whole journey, to say nothing of the cold, clear spring, around which was a rough bench where the monks sat for rest and recreation.  They were in Deya de Majorca a week when they decided to have a house of their own.  They began housekeeping with difficulties.  Using phrase books, they worked out Spanish sentences, only to find out the inhabitants only spoke Majorcan, a dialect Spanish student could not understand.  The local doctor spoke some French, but he was very busy.  Twice a day he was summoned and came to serve as translator.  They were promised acetylene for their lamps, but never received it.  The gas they used did not work.  The natives all used picturesque small, open, oil-burning lamps, like those of the early Christians.  They even tried them; there was nothing like surrounding one’s self with “local color.”  But they literally smoked them out of house and home, and they finally resorted to homegrown lamps and candles.  What they would have done those first weeks without the unfailing courtesy and patience of their fast-forming circle of friends and neighbors, the author did not know.  All their marketing had to be done by signs.  Eggs were a comparatively easy order.  One could always indicate the shape of an egg with the fingers.  Fruit was more difficult.  The little village store was the meeting place for the men.  Everyone would leave his card game or glass of aniseed and gathered in a circle while the family made their signs and motions.  Eventually, they got their order filled.  Conversations were strenuous, with dictionaries, phrase books, and wild gesticulations.  Occasionally, the performer was greeted with peals of laughter.

On one occasion, the boy of the party went to Soller.  With pride he related how he had ordered four meat pies to be sent the next day.  The next day, to their surprise, twenty-two meat pies were delivered.  For days they fed meat pies to the family, the servant, all her friends and relations, and finally the pigs.  On their first Sunday in Majorca, they were surprised and not a little mystified at the apparent change in character of the male population.  They had arrived toward the end of the week, and a more murderous-looking set of individuals it would be hard to imaging.  But on that day, when they went to the village, everyone seemed to have acquired benign characteristics.  Then they discovered the cause.  Saturday night the entire male population was shaved, almost en masse, at the barber shop.  It was curious how dark, heavy beards would alter an expression.  The barber was the leader of the band, the bootmaker, and the veterinarian of the village.  For the dance of the year, a platform was erected on one side of the open-air plaza.  Under decoration of flowers and gaudy tissue paper the band sat.  The band was composed of everyone who could blow a trumpet or eat a drum, ranging in age from seven to seventy.  Around the plaza, on improvised benches and kitchen chair, sat the populace in their “best,” under more decorations and many lanterns.  The plaza was the only flat space in the village, which was built on the steep side of a ravine, beside a gurgling stream.  In addition to old defense towers and ancient ruins of a castle on the side of a mountain, the village itself strongly reflected the influence of the Moors, who were driven out in 1232.  There were still paintings on the houses done by the Moors before their spectacular exit, when they were conquered by James I of Aragon.  A historical beauty spot of the island was one of the two mammoth caves were 800 Moorish refugees lived for two weeks while besieged by the Spaniards.

The most lasting reminders of the Moorish menace were the old defense towers, built to warn and protect the Majorcans from the piratical raids of the Moors after their eviction.  Those still stood in their commanding positions.  The author’s house was built with one of the old towers.  The loopholes in the four-foot walls no longer served as casements for bowmen, instead they were of convenience as shelves for toothpaste and such articles.  The lookout tower was unnecessary, but a more charming sleeping porch was hard to imagine, with its view of a semicircle of vividly colored mountains on one side and a deep gorge leading to the sea on the other.  The World War touched Majorca only slightly, although the native complained of high prices.  The German submarines profited by the prices and came often for supplies.  The family saw two during the first of their Majorca stays.  Some of the pro-German sentiment there was probably directly traceable to the former Archduke of Austria, who owned eight big houses and the greater portion of the northern part of the island.  It was difficult to imagine how he obtained the land.  In that part of the island, it was almost impossible to buy ground, for every plot was handed down from generation to generation and rented out in small holdings.  At the Archduke’s death his estate was inherited by the children of his secretary, a native of Deya, so the land had once more come back to its own.  The Archduke was popular in Majorca.  On his first trip to the island, he was walking along the road when a peasant had an accident with his loaded mule cart.  The peasant called to the stranger to help repair the breakdown.  When finished, the peasant gave the stranger a coin worth 2 cents.  The Archduke thanked the peasant saying he would keep the coin, since it was the first money he ever earned.  The village still told the joke, and the peasant, even in 1924, was made to feel embarrassed.

The supplying of the submarines was handled by a small society of men in Soller, about four miles northeast of Deya.  All the natural facilities aided them.  For miles the coast was rocky, wild, and filled with caves – exactly the kind of caves for storybook smugglers.  Real smugglers still existed.  Each night the carabineros (police) started for their all-night vigils along the coast.  They were paid scandalously low wages and were bribed easily.  Past their house went a little donkey path to a cove on the sea.  Sometimes, in the dead of night, one could hear the trampling of many shod feet as they passed.  On one occasion they probably needed rope, for the smugglers stole their donkey’s reins.  The author longed to see them, but the nights were dark and the shadows deep, and one could only hear – never see.  The officers of the law were most diligent in prosecuting any other type of malefactor; but in Deya crimes were few and far between.  In 25 years only two people had occupied the little jail: one a man came from another village and got drunk; and the other a woman of ill repute.  Recently, a workman from another village stole a pair of shoes.  The whole of Deya was upset for two days; the man was pursued for miles and finally caught.  Deya was almost unconvincingly free from vice.  There was practically no drunkenness.  Though there was no one very rich, there was no great poverty, and everyone lent a hand to the families of the wandering carabineros, whose pay was small and, as was usual the world over, whose families were large.  There was no servant class.  The girl who worked for them in that capacity for all of 20 cents a day was a relative of the mayor.  But no one needed servants in Deya.  Everyone was busy, and for the women the actual housework was simple.  There were no carpets on the stone floors.  The walls and ceilings were whitewashed, for everything was scrupulously clean, though unsanitary.  Next to the well-scrubbed and whitewashed kitchen, there was the invariable pigsty.

The pig played a dual role in Majorcan villages.  He was the general scavenger, and later could be killed and made into the sausages that were hung on strings beside the dried tomatoes and peppers in the attic as a supply for the winter.  The killing of the family pig was one of the big events of the year.  The relatives, family, and friends gathered and all helped to covert the erstwhile companion into forms practical for winter food.  The meals were simple; for breakfast, coffee with bread and oil; luncheon, sopa, a dish of vegetables fried in oil, to which water was added, and finally the fluid soaked up with slices of their saltless brown bread; for supper, again sopa.  Often, there was sopa three times a day, accompanied by a dish of home-cured olives.  The olive oil was of home production.  Under the house was one of the great olive presses.  The bread was baked in great community ovens.  Olive branches were put in and burned until the oven was hot, then the coals were raked out, and after three prayers were said and the sign of the cross made, the bread and various fancy pies were put in.  Meals were eaten in the low-ceilinged, whitewashed kitchens.  Usually, there was a second windowless enclosure with a low roof, where the family gathered around an open pan of burning charcoal during winter.  There were practically no wood-burning stoves; all the cooking and heating was done with open charcoal fires.  The family had a little oven built next to the open burner, on the tiles.  But, then, they were very modern.  They also had running hot water.  All the water had to be carried up and put in a cistern before it would run down.  That was a mere detail.  They also had the only piano in the village.  The piano and the running water were the chief causes of their excessive popularity in the early days.  Sunday was a great day for visiting; also, it was the time for walking up and down the road in groups.  The system of chaperonage was very strict.  The girls never went out alone, nor after dark.

The household linen was lovely.  One was sure of good sheets, nearly always embroidered or with open work, and a carefully made mattress, even in the little boarding houses.  In Majorca it was an exceedingly bad housekeeper who did not have her mattress made over, whipped, and aired in the sun at least once a year.  Most of the work was done out of doors – raising vegetables on some bit of land some distance from the house, tending the orange or lemon crop, picking up olives, etc.  At sunset, the quaint figures, with their donkeys and goats, wended their way home from the day’s work laden with bright-colored fruits and vegetables, or carrying great bundles of olive branches for fuel; the women wearing full, bright-red petticoats, the outside skirt drawn up around the hip for protection.  On the heads of the older women are silk handkerchiefs; on the younger sheer white caps as headdresses, the hair being worn in one long braid down the back.  Around Christmas time, to the family goat, donkey, and pig was added the family turkey.  In Palma, where there were real sidewalks, the family turkey was tied with a string to the front door, but at least once a day it was taken for a walk with the end of the string still tied to its leg.  At any rate, the fortunate individual seemed to get his money’s worth from the turkey before it was led to slaughter.  Books could be written on Palma, Alcudia, and on Valldemosa where George Sand and Chopin spent many happy days.  Despite George Sand’s comment to the contrary, a more simple, kindly, frugal people would be hard to imagine.  In 1924, Deya de Majorca was almost unbelievably ideal, as it lied surrounded by futurist-colored mountains, overlooking the blue of the Mediterranean.  In those days of strenuous effort, it was a haven of tranquil beauty surrounded by people of kindly simplicity.



The fourth and final article in this month’s issue is entitled “Sakurajima, Japan’s Greatest Volcanic Eruption” and was written by T. A. Jagger, Director, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.  It has the internal subtitle: “A Convulsion of Nature Whose Ravages Were Minimized by Scientific Knowledge, Compared with the Terror and Destruction of the Recent Tokyo Earthquake.”  The article contains thirty-two black-and-white photographs, of which ten are full-page in size.  It also contains a sketch map of lower Japan with an inset of Sakurajima on page 449.

Sketch Map courtesy of Philip Riviere

Two of the great convulsions of the earth’s surface in the history of mankind had occurred in Japan during the present [1924] generation.  The earthquake of last September took 400,000 lives and wiped-out billions of dollars’ worth of property; the Sakurajima volcanic eruption of 1914 (the greatest in the annals of the Island Empire) resulted in the loss of only 35 lives and some millions of dollars in property.  Scientific investigation was, in large measure, to be credited with the relatively few casualties in the latter instance, for it was through the prediction of the imminence of the outbreak that the inhabitants of a populous district were enabled to flee from the wrath about to come.  In Tokyo, on the other hand, the earthquake and succeeding flames caught the great Japanese metropolis of two million people and its adjacent seaport unawares and unprepared.  It was through the study of premonitory earthquakes in their relation to volcanic outbreaks that the Sakurajima eruption was predicted; conversely, it was hoped that, in time, through exhaustive study of volcanic activities, earthquakes might be predicted with accuracy.  The phenomena of the Sakurajima eruption, therefore, were proving of transcendental importance to the scientific world, and the measures which were taken to safeguard life at that time were being eagerly studied anew.  The volcano of Sakurajima, shaped much like Vesuvius, rose to a height of 3,506 feet, directly opposite the city of Kagoshima, in Kagoshima Bay – a tongue of water extending into the southern end of Kyushu.  Prior to the eruption of 1914, eighteen villages, with 22,000 farmers and fisherfolk nestled on the shores of that small volcanic island, which nearly filled the bay between Kagoshima and the Osumi promontory.  The channel between the volcano and the city was two and a half miles wide, with a depth of 70 fathoms, while that on the Osumi side was only one-third of a mile wide, with a depth of more than 50 fathoms.

Kagoshima, the thriving capital city of the province, with a population of 70,000, was the center of Satsuma pottery manufacture and of a fertile farming region, producing tobacco, citrus fruit, and sugar cane.  Men of science had long known what laid in store for Kagoshima.  Experience had taught observers that when “Swarms” of earthquakes began in the vicinity of an active volcano, the underground dragon was writhing and preparing to make trouble.  In 1909 and 1910, two writers published warnings that Sakurajima was likely to erupt explosively after violent premonitory earthquakes.  For three years prior to the 1914, volcanic eruptions had occurred in all parts of Japan.  The observatory in Kagoshima had recorded 91 earthquakes in 1913, as compared to an average of 34 quakes annually.  At Yoshino, to the north of Kagoshima, springs suddenly ceased to flow in the autumn of 1913, and a pond and several wells in the city went dry.  Violent eruptions began in 1913, not at Sakurajima, but at Kirishima volcano, thirty miles north of Kagoshima, where there were three outbursts, the last two being on November 8 and December 9.  As January 9, 1914 approached, the people near Kirishima grew apprehensive, but the volcano remained quiet.   On Sakurajima, however, earthquakes began to occur in swarms.  Three strong shocks were felt on the afternoon of January 10, followed in the evening by two more.  The next morning there were three strong shocks, accompanied by rumblings, before sunrise.  The earthquakes became increasingly alarming.  Ten strong shocks were counted during January 11, and scores of earthquakes were being registered at the observatory on the cliff west of Kagoshima, five per hour in the morning, eleven per hour around noon, and twenty per hour in the evening, with a maximum of twenty-eight between 8 and 9 p, m.  There was a lull in the quaking after midnight, but on January 12, there were twenty shocks per hour between 3 and 11 a. m.

The number of earthquakes felt in the city indicated that from 6 p. m. until midnight, January 11, shocks were felt approximately every twenty minutes; from midnight to 3 a. m. of January 12 every ten minutes; and thereafter, until 5 a. m., every five minutes.  Then came a respite from shocks for about three hours.  Four hundred and seventeen earthquakes were recorded at Kagoshima between 4 a. m. January 11 and 10 a. m. January 12, after which the main eruption began.  Counting the shocks of January 10, which began about 1 p. m., there was forewarning for forty-five hours prior to the explosion.  Those warnings were heeded.  Every available sampan sped back and forth across the channel all day Sunday, January 11, moving the native off the island.  By Monday the army, navy, government departments, railways, and steamship lines were all helping.  Sunday afternoon, about 2 o’clock, white smoke was seen rising from the middle of the volcano.  The Monday period of seismic activity was terminated and relieved by the volcanic outbreak of 10 o’clock.  The climax came at 10:05, when, in the middle of the side of the mountain facing Kagoshima, a swelling balloon of Black smoke rose majestically from the ground where, an hour before, were orange orchards, terraced fields of sugar cane, and gardens of radishes.  The jets of smoke from the western vent of the volcano shot up obliquely, then straightened to a vertical column, and rose 30,000 feet into the sky, first club-shape, then like a lily.  Finally, the top bent majestically eastward.  The upper clouds of dust were caught by some countercurrents of wind, which strewed the powder all over central Japan.  Ten minutes after the first outbreak a similar column rose from the eastern flank of the volcano, but it was dwarfed by the towering western shaft with which it eventually merged.  With occasional lulls, but with ever increasing violence, the booming concussions of the eruption grew more and more terrible.

Flashes of lightning danced through the great billows of smoke and dust, and in the lower portion of the great, black column, upward streaming rocks, bombs, sand, and smoke, curled as high as the mountain itself, could be seen from time to time.  In addition, there were spurts of large, glowing blocks, which left curving trails of vapor in their path.  At night, those red-hot missiles could be seen to darken as they passed the crest of their curved courses, and gradually they were blotted out by the darkness.  The fall of ash on the city of Kagoshima began an hour and ten minutes after the eruption, and continued intermittently until the following evening.  At 5 o’clock in the afternoon, the eruption waxed in fury.  Heavy earthquakes were felt on the southeast coast of Sakurajima Island.  The maximum height of ejected material was reached an hour later.  The crisis, which resulted in the only loss of life during the disaster, occurred at 6:29, when a terrific earthquake threw down walls and buildings at Kagoshima, dislodged boulders from cliffs, and disrupted railway and telegraph services.  10-foot tidal waves damaged small boats in the harbor.  Thirty-five persons were crushed to death. And 112 were injured.  The lava flows from the volcano had begun and the gas explosions had relieved the underearth of millions of tons of matter, so that that earthquake was probably the evidence of a deep movement, or settling, that had begun along the great chain of Ryu-Kyu volcanoes, extending from Kyushu to Taiwan in a string of islets 900 miles to the southwest.  Simultaneously with the big quake a sudden lava glow was observed on the smoke coming from the volcano.  That continued for some time.  The air concussions reached a maximum at midnight on January 12.  It seemed probable that the big earthquake of Monday evening was the climax of strains in the crust, and that the midnight detonations were the climax of explosions in the lava column that had been released.  The glow was probably due to the spouting lava.

The outbreak of January 12 was followed by months of intense activity.  The lava overflowed new craters, poured into the sea, and created new islands.  Ther was a short lull on the morning of the 13th, but a 4:09 p. m. there was a starling earth shock, and about that time, lava flows emerged from the slopes of Sakurajima nearest Kagoshima.  The lava moved rapidly the first few hours and then settled down to a glacial flow.  The lava crystallized into rough sprouts and tumbled fragments, like the AA lava of Hawaiian folklore.  [See: “The Hawaiian Islands,” February 1924, National Geographic Magazine.]  Similar lava was vomited from eastern vents, which were still in full blast when the author arrived on the scene, in February.  Explosions hurled up “bread crust” bombs of semi-molten stuff at the fountainheads of the flows.  The steep lava fronts, 15 feet high, caved in and sent up avalanche clouds, with tumbling fragments as big as a house.  The climax of luminosity, accompanied by terrible concussions, occurred on the evening of the 13th.  Skyrockets of scoria shot from the crater in all directions.  Over the mountain hung a huge black cloud of ash in which lightning was zigzagging in long, whit streaks.  Suddenly, at 8:15 p. m., a tremendous force sent a fountain of fire more than 6,000 feet into the air.  Then that brilliant column fell, and from that incredible height tumbled like a vast Niagara of fire in wide streams on the island and into the water.  Lava streams rushed into ravines, filling them, solidifying, and piling up fields of enormous dimensions.  When at its height, the tumbling cone spread fire in the remaining forest and villages.  The entire western coastline was ablaze.  The “rapids of raining ash” obliterated the village of Hakamagoshi with bombs and gravel, and threw down the trees in lines.  That was the moment of extreme danger for Kagoshima, for the incandescent blast was straight toward the city, scarcely two miles away, but its force was spent over the channel.

If the entire eruption had concentrated about the western crater, Kagoshima would have been destroyed; but the outcome was happy for the city, in that explosive activity in the western craters ceased after January 20; and the activity was concentrated at the easter craters, which continued exploding into the summer months.  Immense patches of pumice floated on the bay, at first in such masses as to impede boats.  The lava pushed out to promontories and tongue submerged by the sea.  As the wind was mostly eastward, the heavy ashfall accumulated deepest in sparsely inhabited Osumi country.  The western lava flow was more than three miles long, and varied from less than a mile near the source to two miles in the region of the former shore line.  The more voluminous east lava flow came from three pairs of craters, each pair consisting of an explosion hole above and a lava outlet below.  All three were in action in February when the author saw them.  The flows divided into lobes at their lower ends.  One of them buried Seto and filled the strait which separated the island from the Osumi mainland.  The moment when Sakurajima Island became a peninsula occurred on the afternoon of February 1, when the last pools of boiling salt water were obliterated by tumbling slag, which began to pile up against the steep Osumi shore.  Twice thereafter, the road along the shore had to be moved higher as the lava buried it.  During the month that lava rose to 300 feet above sea level, where before there had been water 200 feet deep.  On February 19, the author tested the sea water for temperature.  Near the Osumi lobe, it was 135 degrees F.  There were big explosions at the eastern craters, reaching a maximum March 11 and 12.  The brightly incandescent explosions reach a height of 10,000 feet, and blowholes of paroxysmal gas puffed almost continuously on the flowing lava at terrific pressure.

The remarkable record of lifesaving in the Sakurajima eruption was partly due to good luck, but also to the instinct of the people, to the wisdom of the government, and to scientific societies. Army, navy, and police officers took control; steamship companies, newspapermen, and high school boys organized rescue expeditions to the island, carrying away every living soul they could find.  People camped on temple grounds and in cemeteries, and 5,000 destitutes were accommodated in schools, temples, and public buildings.  Then came the earthquake and consternation reigned.  January 13 was a day of general exodus.  There were no looters.  Officials remained at their posts, but the population fled.  The general in charge of an army detachment that was bound for the Ryu-Kyu Island diverted his transports to rescue work.  The young men’s clubs of outlying towns received the refugees, suppressed profiteering, and systematically provided lodgings.  On January 14 Dr. Omori arrived, brought two new seismographs, and posted an official bulletin to the effect that the worst was over; so that thereafter the population straggled back into the city and the shops and hotels were opened.  The behavior of the volcano confirmed his dictum.  Railway connections were broken for one day only and telegraph connections for a few days. 

Relief funds poured in from all over the world.  The government authorities took an inventory of the damage and immediate needs.  The foreign relief money went to purchase permanent homes for the desolated Sakurajima fugitives on the nearby island of Tanegashima.  Fifteen thousand people had dwelt within the death zone of the volcano.  Seven out of eighteen towns on the island were destroyed.  Fifteen lives were lost by the earthquake in Kagoshima city and twenty others elsewhere.  Ninety-five thousand people moved across country and were cared for by spontaneous hospitality.  The ash fall varied in depth from 70 inches near the volcano to a thin film 30 miles away.  On the second day (13th) it fell on Osaka, 350 miles to the northeast, and on the third day in Tokyo 600 miles to the northeast.  More than 4,000 acres of hard lava, above sea level, poured out in the first two months; 2,148 buildings were burned and 400 collapsed.  The damage was estimated at $19,000,000, the number of people transferred to new homes was 28,096, the relief fund amounted to $2,500,000, and 18,446 destitutes were being provided for in February.  Careful measurements showed that a place on the mountain, which was an old survey station, had been heaved up 24 feet, and that a place in the bottom of the bay to the north had subsided 10 feet.  The actual mountain was swollen by the lava inside, but the land all around for 75 miles had subsided, owing to the great volume of lava withdrawn.  Similar heaving occurred in north Japan in 1910, when Usu volcano erupted, without however emitting any lava.  Such heaving and shoving of great blocks of the earth’s crust were common in earthquakes, and in the San Francisco disaster the sideways movement between two adjacent pieces of ground was as much as fifteen feet. A great earthquake in Alaska in 1899 lifted the rocky shore line more than forty feet, as reported by a National Geographic Society expedition which was sent to measure it.

The appalling cataclysm which had recently stricken Japan, destroying most of Yokohama and two-thirds of Tokyo was occasioned by sudden big movements about the volcanic rift in the bottom of the sea a few miles southeast of Fujiyama.  The bottom of Sagami Bay sank 900 feet, as if a submarine crater had caved in.  With those colossal changes in the sea bottom, the shore lines were lifted or lowered by from one to nine feet only, showing an overall tilting.  Those relatively small figures for the shore line indicated a difference in material composing the sea bottom and the shore line.  On the other hand, the upheaval of eastern Japan for 100 miles outward from the volcanic center was probably due to some swelling action of the lava under the earth’s crust.  That lava failed to escape, just as in the case of Usu Volcano, and elevation of the land was the result.  Those movements of swelling and tilting had been studied at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, under the U. S. Weather Bureau.  This was a very hopeful line of research, as earthquakes were often accompanied by sudden tilts, tipping away from some point on the surface.  That suggested that such a center of tilt might become the center for sudden breakage or volcanic explosion.  Contrasting the Sakurajima eruption with what happened at the Tokyo earthquake, the indications were that, in the former, there was an accumulated upward pressure.  The shore line of Kagoshima Bay was rising for several years.  Near Tokyo, on the other hand, the land was sinking and the sea encroaching.  When the earthquake happened, the whole region was shoved up vertically several feet.  At Kagoshima Bay, when the Sakurajima eruption came and quantities of lava poured out from underground, the whole shore line of the bay round about, which had been rising for twenty years, suddenly subsided several feet.

The difference in the two phenomena accompanying the two events, was that a volcanic eruption was a relief by outpouring of volcanic matter which had for years been pressing upward, whereas, a great earthquake may be a sudden upward pressure over a considerable area due to some expansion of volcanic matter underground which had previously been subsiding or contracting.  Dr. Omori’s tables of earthquake frequency at Tokyo for the last twenty years showed that there had been a steady dwindling in numbers each year.  It was only a question of time, and of making additional observations at several volcanoes, for science to learn more about earthquake prediction than anyone dreamed of twenty years prior.  The late honored Professor Omori was a martyr to science in the Tokyo earthquake.  He devoted all the later years of his life to studying the relation of earthquakes to active volcanoes in Japan.  He found that volcanoes were the keys to the earthquake problem.  He almost reached the point of unlocking the mystery.  All honor to his memory, and may science take up the key where he laid it down.


At the bottom of the last page of the last article in this issue (Page 470) there is a notice regarding change of address.  If a member wanted the magazine to be mailed somewhere else, the Society needed a month’s notice in advance, starting on the first of the month.  If a member wanted the June issue redirected, the Society needed to know by May first.



Tom Wilson

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