RECENT ATMOSPHERIC DISTURBANCES
The year 1924 is very appropriate as the point of an inquiry into these causes, for world weather in the northern temperate and sub-tropical
belts of latitude had been extremely eccentric since the beginning of September, 1923, cold, wet, marked by violent gales and atmospheric
disturbances, and with a summer notably deficient in settled weather, warmth and sunshine. The position in the British Isles was such that
the crops had in most parts been a failure and farmers found themselves in a precarious financial position in consequence.
To understand the weather of 1924 it is advisable to revert first to September, 1923, when at noon, September 1st, occurred the Tokio
earthquake which synchronised with cold and wet weather, although prior to that it had been normal. Perhaps it would be permissible to go
so far back as the Chile earthquake of November, 1922, a very disastrous series of shocks, accompanied by a tidal wave 180 feet high, which
picked up big sailing ships and in some instances hurled them inland a quarter of a mile. In the British Isles the wet weather was by some
experts attributed to the presence of the largest sunspot since March of that year. It may be more justly credited (or debited!) to the Chile
earthquake, for these events, as will be shown, cause a considerable disturbance to the atmosphere and take some time to enable
conditions to resume the normal.
A succession of earthquakes results in continued depressions, although so far as the British Isles are concerned the affected localities must
be considered. The Gulf Stream, which acts as a centre of distribution for atmospheric disturbances, collects these, and with the prevailing
south-west winds, brings these depressions across the Atlantic to the British shores; but the system is spread wider than the Atlantic alone,
and British farmers cannot remain indifferent to earthquakes in the Cordilleras any more than in Japan, for the British Isles as the dumping
ground of much of the after-effects, is like old Eolus, who kept the winds in a cave on his island.
In addition to the Chile earthquake other major atmospheric disturbances have to be noted. Some time about August, 1922, a new volcanic
island made its appearance suddenly off Saigon, in French Cochin-China. In July, 1923, the master of the steamship Jacox reported it to the
hydrographer's office in Washington. It was dark in colour, with steep cliffs, about 100 feet in height, and between two and three miles in
length. The sea (said Reuter's report) was washing away loose material and repeated explosions were heard at intervals of about a minute,
causing huge waves. In March, 1924, the crater was reported to be active. It is certain that a new island of such magnitude could not have
been created without exerting considerable atmospheric effects over a wide region.
A comparatively minor occurrence was the Amalfi "landslip," so called, at the end of March, 1924. It covered a narrow track but its
destruction was marked, for several villages above Amalfi perched on the mountain side were said to have been destroyed, and one village
was partially buried under an enormous rock, while the famous terrace of the Cappucini Convento Hotel at Amalfi was swept away.
Furthermore, this "landslip" occurred suddenly, was accompanied by a tidal wave which devastated the coast over a length of a quarter of a
mile, and Stromboli, to the south, burst into eruption. It caused considerable damage to property, and over 100 lives were lost, mainly by
being struck by rocks.
GLAMORGAN "TORNADO" COMPARED WITH AMALFI "LANDSLIP"
It is evident that a landslide would not account for such incidents as a tidal wave and a volcano bursting into eruption, and later reports
attributed the catastrophe to an earthquake, for violent atmospheric disturbance, tremendous rain, an air vacuum, and volcanic activity are
all associated with the phenomenon of an earthquake. This Amalfi affair bears a close resemblance to what is known as the Glamorgan
Tornado of November 1st, 1913. This "Tornado" was vividly described by a correspondent of the Daily Telegraph, as caused by "a terrifying
blue ball of flame." Mr. Clement Edwards, then Member of Parliament for East Glamorgan, notified the following features which marked its
(a) Nowhere was its track more than 200 yards wide.
(b) Nothing within that area escaped damage.
(c) Persons saw a "ball of flame shooting as though from a gun or rolling with a terrible swiftness."
(d) It was accompanied by a great tempest and fire.
(e) Also a waterspout or cloudburst which swamped the area and prevented the villages in its course from being consumed by flames. Over
200 houses were destroyed and thousands were considerably damaged.
(g) Its "weird and uncanny freaks" caused roofs to be torn off buildings, a corrugated iron garage was lifted bodily from one field and thrown
violently into another, heavy furniture and fences were picked up by the gale and carried long distances, hay-ricks were carried through the
air for over a mile and big trees were uprooted and moved considerable distances.
(h) The tornado coincided with a serious colliery explosion in the region which caused the death of many miners.
In their general features these two events, the Amalfi landslide and the Glamorgan tornado correspond. The tremendous gale over a narrow
track, the cloudburst, the suddenness, reveal the same outward effects. If the Stromboli eruption were related to the Amalfi affair there is
reason to believe that certain destructive gases were a feature of the phenomenon and were attracted to the volcano. There is no such
visible conductor in the nevertheless ancient volcanic area of South Wales, but such gases were probably the cause of the colliery
explosion. I shall return to this question in due course in relation to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. All that need be remarked in
passing is that meteorologists were quite unable to produce any cogent reasons for either the Amalfi landslide or the Glamorgan tornado.
AREAS ELEVATED BY EARTHQUAKES
A good many references have been made in the preceding pages to earthquakes in relation to volcanic eruptions. Eruptions of any
magnitude are invariably preceded by earthquakes of considerable violence and are more or less prolonged, and, as was also mentioned, on
these occasions the atmosphere beforehand assumes an airless void, sultriness, and pressure, and the barometer falls ominously. The
earthquake in its movement invariably pursues a direction from the north towards the south, and gives a sensation of a heaving or elevation
of the ground in a series of vertical shocks. The antiquated idea that these shocks are caused by the forcible elevation of solid rocks by
violent expansion of the lava flow beneath is inadmissible, because sometimes these shocks occur without any volcano being in the vicinity
at all. The other idea that they are caused by a shrinking of the earth's crust is also based on the hypothesis of an inner nucleus gradually
cooling, and is equally fallacious, for on such a reasoning the earth should be shrinking in size and gradually all parts should fall in, neither of
which give the slightest evidence of existing.
The earth's circumference is well known, and if this shrinking theory is worth anything we should be bound to find in the course of centuries
some slight reduction, and we should discover areas suddenly collapsing enormous depths under the land level. The contrary appears to be
the case. The earth is not shrinking, but is slowly and surely expanding. The earth's orbit is now 365.25 days, and even that odd quarter
represents an accretion of materia during the historic period. The earth, in short, is slowly receding from the sun in accordance with the law
of gravity because of its added weight.
It is a usual occurrence on the other hand to discover earthquake areas elevated instead of depressed. Scrope mentions the Leeward Isles,
Caracas and Venezuela, whose earthquakes are observed not only to produce numerous fissures or rents through the existing rocks, but to
"elevate them perceptibly, at each successive shock, above their previous level."
Along very elevated heights of volcanic and seismic activity, as the Cordilleras, surveys show an increase in size rather than a decrease in
spite of the erosion of the weather. This is probably accounted for by accretions as on the occasion of a severe earthquake in Lima in 1746,
when no less than four volcanoes burst into eruption in one night, or as in the Chile earthquake of 1822, which was felt along the line of the
Cordilleras for nearly 1,000 miles. All such occasions as are taken by the vulcanises to confirm their belief of the rupture of the solid
overlying strata of the earth's crust by subterranean expansion, the production of a fissure and hence an earthquake, so that we must always
expect earthquakes to occur in the vicinity of volcanoes, are refuted by the fact that they do not always have any appreciable effect on an
adjoining volcano, and not infrequently occur where no volcanoes exist.
EARTHQUAKES NOT ORIGINATED BY ERUPTIONS
As to the first, we have the recent outstanding example of the Tokio earthquake of September 1st, 1923, when Fujiyama, in the near vicinity,
was unaffected, and yet should, by such reasoning, have burst into paroxysmal activity. No more dangerous earthquake centre in the world
exists probably to-day than the area about Mt. Etna, which again and again has been shaken by prodigious earthquakes causing enormous
loss of life and damage to property. In such disturbances, not once but many times, Messina and Reggio to the north, and Catania to the
south, have been shaken to their foundations without a volcanic eruption, or, if one at all, as a latent and tardy effort which soon dispersed.
Such an occasion arose in the famous earthquake of December 29th, 1908, when no less than 200,000 people were killed in Messina.
The night was heavy and oppressive, when a few moments before 4.20 a.m. overhead rumblings were heard, and a brilliant stream of light
was seen from Messina on the Calabrian side of the Straits, that is a little towards the north-east. The first shock lasted several seconds,
crushed flat thousands of houses on both sides of the Strait, orange groves were destroyed, the trees were rooted up or crushed flat, and a
considerable area along this direction was flooded. In Messina, the town, which I visited shortly after, looked as though it had sustained a
tremendous bombardment. Houses and churches of solid stone were thrown down, scarcely a roof remained, and to add to the distress a
tidal wave drew the sea away from the shores and quay and returning at an enormous height picked up shipping like toy boats, dashed some
ships against the big, solid buildings on the quay, and carried others right over them into back parts of the town.
This event not only occasioned a tidal wave, but was accompanied by tremendous rain. Stromboli—not Etna—burst into slight eruption, and
that is all! On this occasion, as reported, the meteor was seen coming from the Calabrian direction, and it did not throw Etna into eruption
because it fell short, in the sea, whence arose the tidal wave. This earthquake, compared with that of Tokio, or the smaller event of Amalfi,
presents identical phenomena. The explanation of the Messina earthquake is that a meteor, attracted to Etna, plunged in the sea north of the
Straits and caused the quakes, tidal wave, and resultant loss of life and damage along a definite meridian of north to south.
87B. As to the second, earthquakes occur within the longitudes Spitzbergen–Japan not infrequently without any volcano within the immediate
region. One needs look no further afield than to the British Isles, where over 200 earthquakes have been recorded since 1881, although
minor ones, and of these four-fifths have taken place along the West coast, say 30 west of Greenwich, from Caithness to Devon. The volcanic
centre in this area seems to be about the Brecon Beacons and the Mendip Hills, where in Bath, Bristol, and Wells hot springs testify to
ancient activity, and at Sedge-mere a solfatara. The Charlestown earthquake is also an event far removed from a volcano, for the nearest is
over 600 miles away. The Lisbon earthquake of November 1st, 1755, is another. It was preceded by the usual phenomena. The first warning
was so great an oppressiveness that people could scarcely breathe, and this was followed by a rumbling like distant thunder.
The resultant shock threw down most of the city, then one of the finest in Europe, day was turned into black night owing to the thickness of
the dust and the meteoric dust, and portions of the sea coast collapsed and fell into the sea. At the first threat of disaster thousands of panic-
stricken persons rushed down to the new Lisbon Quay, built of marble, and others seized boats and rowed out into the Tagus, when suddenly
quay, boats and people disappeared, a yawning bottomless chasm being left in their place. The Tagus, after forming a great waterspout 6o
feet in height, returned and filled the cavity, while a big tidal wave flung itself upon the shores and extended as far as Kinsale Harbour, in
Ireland, where it flowed into the market-place and flung fishing boats inland.
A feature of this catastrophe was that although some 60,000 perished on or near the quay or in boats, not a trace was afterwards found of a
single body, boat, oar, or hat, while soundings of the chasm where formerly stood the New Marble Quay could not be plumbed by a line
reaching to 400 fathoms (2,400 feet). It was mentioned previously (17) that this meteor impact coincided with the eruption of Kattlagia in
Iceland, along the same meridian, and the demolishment of a town or village in the Atlas Mountains, the explanation offered of the latter
being that an earthquake caused the earth to leap into the air, formed two mountains, and these fell on the town and buried it.
These two cases cited, of Messina, almost in the jaws of Mt. Etna, and Lisbon, far removed from any volcano, testify, as every other example
produced, that while volcanic eruptions and earthquakes are part of the phenomena of meteoric falls, an eruption does not cause an
earthquake (save a minor tremor), and an earthquake does not cause an eruption. A volcano attracts a meteor, and this heavenly body, on its
near approach to earth, acts like a magnet upon that portion of the earth it rapidly traverses overhead, and hence occasions those vertical
waves which rise and fall during the passage of the body and subsequent lesser shocks as the earth readjusts itself to the new conditions.
THE EARTH'S DEPENDENCE UPON VOLCANOES
The functions of a volcano are by no means confined to the actual eruption and gestatory periods, important though these be. Without
volcanoes the earth would become an utter waste, with no life, no atmosphere, no waters or oceans. Such has become the fate of the moon,
a planet consisting of enormous extinct volcanoes, but without atmosphere or oceans. A little reflection must show that the air we breathe
requires frequent renovation, and to suppose that the oxygen we breathe to-day is the same air as existed moons ago is on the face of it
absurd. Newton and others who considered this point opined that the tails of comets (cometary gases) drifted into our atmosphere and
replenished it. This is possibly true, but we do not need to seek further than the penetration of meteors which it is proved bring with them
gases, such as hydrogen, nitrogen, as well as others of a combustible nature. It is in this manner also that the seas and lakes and rivers are
maintained, for, again, it would be impossible to assert that the same drops of water have survived, even in various vicissitudes, throughout
all the ages.
Indeed, we have in the sun a potential force at work absorbing the watery molecules, whose radiation doubtless consumes millions of gallons
in the course of a year. The accepted idea, namely, that the sun by radiation forms clouds of water drawn into the sky, which fall again as rain,
seems to be a perversion of the facts due to a total ignorance of the factors that cause the water and the air. The incidence of any
earthquake, eruption, or hurricane denotes plainly enough that new and violent currents of air have been projected into our system, and
great quantities of water.
Copyright RESONANCE BookWorks with The Estate of Comyns Beaumont 2012
COMETS, METEORS, EXTREME WEATHER