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and therefore the watch only on deck. For though the thunder was loud, and the lightening vivid, yet from the comparatively moderate state of the wind, no serious apprehensions were entertained: It was about the solemn and awful stillness of midnight, rendered still more awful than thick darkness, because heightened in dread by the frequent flashes of lightning, which made it indeed-" darkness visible." When an alarm that the ship was on fire, echoed from every part. In a fit of despair many ran to cut down the boats along-side, to escape; but orders were instantly given to the contrary, and obedience to them ensured by others of more presence of mind, and the affrighted parties obliged to assist in extinguishing the flame, or perish in the attempt. The danger was considerably increased by the exaggerations of fear, and the flames were said to be approaching the hatchway and magazine, which in part was literally true; no time was now to be lost, and some of those most collected and firm, rushed to the spot from whence the flames were said to issue, and with hammocks, blankets, &c.
smothered the dreadful danger; and all were providentially preserved.
Storm, tempest, and even shipwreck, itself, with all its dreadful danger, must sink in the comparison with the state of peril faintly described above. What gratitude then ought to be excited in the breast of every recipient of such wonderful mercies! but sad to reflect, little of this was felt, and few, very few ascriptions of heartfelt thanksgivings, were given to that benignant and sovereign Arbiter of the universe, who suggested, gave energy to, the means used, and caused them to be successful in saving upwards of one hundred persons by so great a deliverance.
The fire was discovered to have arisen from the negligence of a seaman leaving his candle burning, among the ropes in the cable-tier, the dangerous tendency of which, without a safe lanthorn, is alas! but too little regarded by the generality of seamen, and often but slightly attended to by those whose duty it is to inspect and report the
safety of the interior of the ship, especially during the night.
The Lipari islands were the next day seen, and we soon after approached the shores of these phenomenon. Volcano exhibits smoke as if rising from a large furnace.
Stromboli frequently vents itself with greater violence, and sometimes throws from its bosom, fire to such extent as to render an approach dangerous. Lipari, the capital, has many inhabitants; all the islands appear connected with volcanoes and produce sulphur and a variety of fine fruits.
What extraordinary scenes are here collected in the midst of the sea; that islands whose greatest circumference does not exceed a few miles, should form a release to such a mass of fire.
But on another view of the subject, may we not consider these awful appearances, evidently calculated to answer very important and beneficial purposes; for these erup
tions, being almost invariably found in countries subject to earthquakes; in some measure answer the purpose of chimnies to something within the earth, which if confined would burst in pieces.
But all these wonders are eclipsed by the magnitude and violence of the neighbour. ing Volcano of Mount Etna.
"Th' infuriate hill that shoots the pillar'd flame, "And rous'd within the subterranean world,
"Th' expanding earthquake, that resistless shakes
Aspiring cities from their solid base,
"And buries mountains in the flaming gulf."
This mountain, which during so many ages has continued to emit such a body of fire, and still burns unconsumed, is situated about twelve leagues from Messina, and within about six leagues of the sea. It is computed to be twenty leagues in circumference, and ten thousand feet in height, of a circular form, and its top like a sugar loaf, and in clear weather can be descried an hundred miles off.
At the top is a bason of burning sulphur, said to be four miles round, and the upper part or circle of this burning mountain, is covered with snow.
The lower parts are very fertile, producing the more substantial articles, as corn and vegetables; the middle is more woody, and abound with olive trees, chesnuts, grapes, and other fine fruits.
Its fiery eruptions have frequently occasioned dreadful destruction around, and have even reached the neighbouring continent. The greatest eruptions marked in history, are those of 1536, 1556, 1579, 1669, when fourteen towns and villages, are said to have been destroyed. In 1693, several towns and villages with 18,000 people were supposed to have perished.
But the last eruption which happened as recently as 1783, appears to have far exceeded all others. It extended its dreadful effects over a great part of the island, and on the opposite shore. It destroyed many