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Alexander von Humboldt: „On the Volcanos of Guatemala“, in: ders., Sämtliche Schriften digital, herausgegeben von Oliver Lubrich und Thomas Nehrlich, Universität Bern 2021. URL: <> [abgerufen am 03.12.2023].

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Titel On the Volcanos of Guatemala
Jahr 1827
Ort London
in: The Philosophical Magazine or Annals of Chemistry, Mathematics, Astronomy, Natural History, and General Science 2:8 (August 1827), S. 117–122.
Sprache Englisch
Typografischer Befund Antiqua; Auszeichnung: Kursivierung; Fußnoten mit Asterisken; Schmuck: Initialen.
Textnummer Druckausgabe: IV.68
Dateiname: 1826-Ueber_den_neuesten-3
Seitenanzahl: 6
Zeichenanzahl: 15043

Weitere Fassungen
Ueber den neuesten Zustand des Freistaats von Centro-Amerika oder Guatemala (Stuttgart; Tübingen, 1826, Deutsch)
Over den tegenwoordigen Toestand van den vrijen Staat Centro-Amerika of Guatemala (Amsterdam, 1826, Niederländisch)
On the Volcanos of Guatemala (London, 1827, Englisch)
Gegenwärtiger Zustand der Republik Centro-Amerika oder Guatemala (Aarau, 1827, Deutsch)
État présent de la République de Centro America ou Guatemala. D’aprês des documens manuscrits (Paris, 1827, Französisch)
Нынѣшнее состоянiе Республики Центро-Американской или Гватемальской [Nyněšnee sostojanie Respubliki Centro-Amerikanskoj ili Gvatemal’skoj] (Sankt Petersburg, 1828, Russisch)

On the Volcanos of Guatemala. By M. de Humboldt. *

THE volcanos of Central America are ranged successivelybetween the mountains of Veragua, and Oaxada, latitude11° to 16°. The gneiss and mica slate of Veragua connectthem with the western chain of New Grenada; the graniticgneiss of Oaxada unites them to the Mexican ridge: this con-nection, however, is formed not by the volcanos themselves,but by the mountainous land which surrounds them. Duringmy voyage from Lima to Acapulco, I collected from the Spa-nish manuscript charts of John Morabda and other navigatorsvarious particulars, which throw light on the situation of theburning mountains of Guatemala with respect to the sea.Most of these volcanos are inserted by Bauza, with an accuracypeculiar to himself, in the Carta esferica del Mar de las An-tillas, 1805, and in the Carta esferica desde el Golfo Dulcehasta San Blas, 1822: yet Von Buch very properly remarks inhis classical work on the Canary Isles (1825, p. 406—409),that William Furnel, Dampier’s mate, discovered at the earlyperiod of his voyage almost all that we know of them atpresent.I shall pursue the series from S.E. to N.W., as they areplaced by Arago in the Annuaire du Bureau des Longitudes1824, according to the materials which have been impartedto me. Wherever my information does not correspondwith the charts, or these do not correspond with one an-other, I shall state their variations with exactness, that futurevoyagers may determine the geographic results arising fromthem. Many of the volcanos have several names, which varywith the variation of the Indian idioms, and are borrowed fromthose of the neighbouring places. Thus in New Spain, Po-pocatepetl and Iztaccí hunté, are called sometimes Volcanesde Puebla, sometimes Volcanes de Mexico; and from not under-standing this, two mountains may be turned into six. An-other source of error is, that in America the name of Vol-cano is not only applied to the mountains whose eruptionsextend beyond the age of history, but also to masses oftrachyte, which it is certain have never burnt, and are notconnected with the interior of the earth by permanent aper-
* The above article relating to the volcanos of Guatemala, or, as it isnow called, Central America, is extracted from a paper in a recent num-ber of the Hertha, by Alex. de Humboldt. The entire paper relates to thepresent condition of this free state; but the portion we have selected alonecomes within the scope of our Journal, and is sufficiently distinct from therest for separate publication.—Edit.
|118| tures. Southernmost stands the Volcan de Barua, lat. 8° 50′,in the interior of the country, seven miles N.E. of Golfo Dulce;it is called in the English maps Volcan de Varu, and placed,I believe incorrectly, far more to the east (under 84° 52′ westlong., and 8° 25′ lat.) in the province of Veragua. Next tothe Volcan de Barua comes the Volcan de Papagayo (lat.10° 10′), not on the mountain of Santa Catalina, but fiveleagues more to the north, scarcely more than 4\( \frac{3}{4} \) English milesfrom the coast.
East of the Volcan de Papagayo are three old burningmountains, near the south shore of the lake of Nicaragua; viz.the Volcan de Orosi, between Rio Zabales and Rio Terluga;the Volcan de Tenorio; and the Volcan del Rincon de laVieja,—the last of which is in lat. 10° 57′, and only 1° 35′ westof the mouth of the Rio San Juan in the Atlantic Ocean. Thegreat crater-lake of Nicaragua seems to me to have beenproduced by some phænomenon connected with this peculiareastern site of the Volcan de la Vieja.North of the city of Nicaragua, on the isthmus between theLake and the sea-coast, between 10° 30′ and 12° 30′ lat. someuncertainty still prevails in the synonomy of the volcanos.Juarros the historiographer of Guatemala, and Antonio de laCerda, Alcalde de la Ciudad de Granada, whose manuscriptmaps I possess, adduce merely; 1. Volcan Mombacho, on amountain a few leagues south-east of the city of Grenada;2. Volcan de Sapaloca, in the lake of Nicaragua, oppositeVolcan de Mombacho; 3. Volcan de Masaya, between Ciudadde Granada and Ciudad de Leon, near the little lake Masayawest of the Rio Tepetapa, which connects the Laguna de Leonor Managua with the Laguna de Nicaragua; 4. Volcan deMomotombo, at the north end of Laguna de Leon, rather tothe east of Ciudad de Leon. According to this nomenclature,the Volcan de Granada, of which Funnel and Dampier speak,describing it as being in the form of a beehive, is omitted in allthe Spanish sea-charts. From a passage in Gomara (Historiade las Indias, fol. 112), it may be concluded that Volcan de Ma-saya and Volcan de Granada, are synonymous. The chart ofthe Deposito Hydrografico mentions: 1. Volcan de Bombacho,probably the Mombacho of the ; 2. Volcande Granada, west of Ciudad de Granada; 3. Volcan de Leon,clearly from its situation the celebrated Volcan de Masaya,20′ south of Ciudad de Leon. I repeat that, in my opinion,the mountain which in the Spanish charts is called Volcande Granada, is either Volcan Bombacho, or Volcan Masaya,—for both lie in the neighbourhood (south and east) of Ciudadde Granada. Volcan Masaya, situated nearer the village of|119| Nindiri than the village of Masaya, was in the first ages of theconquest of the country the most active of all the burningmountains of Guatemala. “The Spaniards,” says Juarros,“called it Hell, el Infierno de Masaya.” Its crater was only fromtwenty to thirty paces in diameter, but the melted lava seethedand rolled in waves as high as towers; the light from it spreadvery far, as well as its frightful bellowings. At the distanceof twenty-five miles the flames of Masaya were visible. Thisvolcano peculiarly allured the monks of the 16th century, intheir thirst for gold. A Dominican, Blas de Iñena, as Go-mara relates, descended into the crater by a chain of 140 brazaslong, armed with an iron ladle; with the ladle he intended tohave taken up the gold in fusion (the fluid lava!); the ladlemelted, and the monk escaped with difficulty. The secondarycircumstances of this story are certainly fabulous; but it ismore than probable that Iñena ventured into the crater, andthat his unsuccessful enterprise induced the Dechan (dean) ofthe spiritual Chapter of Leon to obtain permission from theking to open the volcano of Masaya, and to collect the goldwhich was hidden in its interior. Juarros speaks of anothervolcano close to that of Masaya, the volcano of Nindiri orNidiri, which had a great eruption in 1775, when a stream oflava (rio de fuego) flowed into Laguna de Leon, or Managua,and destroyed a great many fish. From the situation of thevillage of Nindiri it may be supposed that this phænomenonwas an eruption from the side of the Masaya. In Teneriffealso I have often heard the Volcano de Chahorra spoken ofas if it was a different mountain from the Peak. It is verycommon in all volcanic countries for the volcanos, properly socalled, to be confounded with the sites of minor eruptions fromtheir own sides. In travelling from the Volcano de Masayaalong the Laguna of Tiscapa across Nagaroti to the city ofLeon, east of the city you see, at the north end of Lagunade Leon or de Managua, the lofty volcano of Momotombo;further down, between lat. 12° 20′ and 13° 15′, or between thecity of Leon and the Gulf of Amapala or Fonseca, appear thefour volcanos of Felica, the Viejo, Giletepe, and Guanacaure.The volcano of Felica is still active, like Mombacho and Mo-motombo: persons also who visited the harbour of Rialejolast year, saw the Volcano del Viejo smoking considerably.The volcano of Giletepe is named in the Spanish manuscriptcharts V. de Cosiguina, from the neighbouring Punta de Cosi-guina, as has been correctly conjectured by M. von Buch.West of the Gulf of Amapala rise, as it were from the samecavernous bed, the volcanos of San Miguel Bosotlan (Usulutan?),Tecapa, San Vincente or Sacatecoluca, San Salvador, Isalco,|120| Apaneca or Zonzonate, Pacaya, the Volcano de Agua, the twovolcanos de Fuego or Guatemala, Acatenango, Toliman, Atitlan,Tajamulco, Sunil, Suchiltepegues, Sopotitlan, the Hamilpas(properly two contiguous volcanos of this name), and Soconusco.Of these twenty burning mountains, those of San Miguel, SanVincente, Isalco, San Salvador, Pacaya, the Volcano de Fuegoor de Guatemala, Atitlan, and the Volcano de Sapotitlan, havehitherto been the most active. The volcano of Isalco hadgreat eruptions in April 1798, and from 1805 to 1807, whenthe flames often came in sight. It is particularly rich in am-monium *.The volcano of Pacaya lies three miles from the village ofAmatitlan, and consequently east of the Volcano de Agua.It is not so isolated as the latter, but is prolonged into a vastridge with three apparent summits. Streams of lava (whichthe inhabitants here as well as in Mexico call desert-land(mal pays)), pumice, scoriæ and sand, have laid waste the sur-rounding country. At the end of the sixteenth century (ac-cording to the Cronista Fuentes, tom. i. liv. 9. cap. 9.) thePacaya emitted day and night not only smoke but flames.The greatest and most celebrated eruptions of the volcano ofPacaya were those of 1565, 1651, 1664, 1668, 1671, 1677,and of the 11th of July 1775. The last eruption was notfrom the summit itself, but from one of the three lower lateralpeaks.The Volcan de Fuego, or as it is also called Volcan deGuatemala, is situated five miles west of the water-volcanoand two miles south-west of the city of Antigua Guatemala.It still at times evolves flame and smoke. Its greatest erup-tions since the arrival of the Spaniards were in 1581, 1586,1623, 1705, 1710, 1717, 1732, and 1737. It is in the shape ofa beautiful cone, near its top, however, disfigured by severalhills of scoriæ, the remains of lateral eruptions.The order of succession in which the extinguished volcanosarise south of Laguna de Atitlan, between Nueva Guatemalaand Zapotitlan, seems to me, as a fact in geological science, veryremarkable. They stand on two chasms east and west, andlook as if they had slidden; so that the more western row lies
* We believe that the theory of volcanos held by M. de Humboldt, is amodification of that proposed by Sir H. Davy, in which the phænomenathey present are ascribed to the decomposition of water by the metallicbases of the earths and alkalies existing in the earth. We presume, there-fore, that when he states the volcano here mentioned to be rich in am-monium, it is to be understood that it evolves a large quantity of muriateof ammonia, from which circumstance M. de Humboldt infers that ammo-nium, the supposed metallic base of ammonia, is abundant in its interior.E. W. B.
|121| four leagues more to the north. On the eastern chasm arethe volcanos of Pacaya, the Water-volcano, the two volcanosof Fuego, and the volcano of Acatenango; on the western,nearer the lake of Atitlan, are the volcanos of Toliman, Atit-lan, and Sunil, with several isolated mountains, the names ofwhich are unknown to me.
The Water-volcano (Volcan de Agua) is, in comparison withthe twenty-one partly extinguished and partly still burningvolcanos of Central America, one of the highest and most ce-lebrated. It lies twenty miles east of the great Laguna deAtitlan, between Antigua Guatemala and the populous villagesof Mixco Amatitan and San Christobal. As the altitudeof not a single mountain of the Guatemalan Andes has beenmeasured, I draw my opinion of its height merely from thecircumstance that the mountain often remains covered formany months together with rime, with ice, and perhaps evenwith snow. In so southern a latitude the height cannot beless than 11,000, nor above 15,000 English feet. Mountainswhich exceed the latter are real Nevados, that is, covered witheternal snow. Capt. Basil Hall estimates the two volcanos ofGuatemala at 14,331 and 14,562 feet, an admeasurement takenat the distance of forty leagues, and which cannot thereforebe much relied on. Pater Remesal, (Hist. de la Provincia deSan Vincente, liv. iv. cap. 5.) who plays with numbers in theold-fashioned way, asserts, that in 1615 the Water-volcano,as it is called, was still three leagues (leguas) high, althoughit lost its crown (coronilla), which was one league high, by theeruption of the 11th of September 1541, when Almolonga, orCiudad Vieja, was destroyed! The geognostic relations ofthis water-eruption are wholly unknown. Juarros relates,that neither burnt stones nor any traces of volcanic eruptionswere discoverable in the declivity of the mountain; perhapshowever ashes and lava are covered by the vegetation; per-haps not merely subterranean caverns have been filled forcenturies by rain-water which has flowed into them, but acrater-lake also may have existed in the summit itself.In the province of Quito, I have been told, that the volcanoof Imbabaru, which has been extinguished longest, near theVilla de Ibarra, from time to time (probably after earthquakes)casts forth water, slime, and fishes; thus much, however, iscertain, that the Volcano de Agua, which lies between theVolcano de Pacaya and the Volcano de Fuego, has the formof a blunted cone. Two-thirds of the slopes of this greatmountain-root, which is said to be eighteen leagues in diame-ter, are cultivated as a garden; further upwards arise majesticwoods, and on the top there still exists an elliptical cavern,|122| the diameter of which from N. to S. is 400 feet long. Thisis without doubt a crater (caldera); and Juarros, although hedenies that there are any traces of fire in the water-volcano,describes (tom. ii. p. 351) it himself exactly as several intelli-gent natives of Guatemala have described it to me.North of the group of the volcanos closely ranged betweenPacaya and Sunil, at the western extremity of the lake ofAtitlan, the heat-exhaling cavern of Central America seemsgradually to close. The volcano of Soconusco, of whichJuarros makes no mention (in Bauza’s chart, 15° 59′ lat., and95° 41′ long.), is the limit imposed to the series of volcaniceruptions on the western edge of the granitic-gneiss mountainof Oaxada: on the shore of the South Sea there is no volcanofor 220 leagues till you arrive at the Volcan de Colonia. Afterhaving named, in these pages, between the parallels of 8° 50′and 16°, in a direction from S. E. to N. W., five-and-thirtyconical mountains, which are considered on the spot as vol-canos, and of which fifteen have undoubtedly emitted smokeor flames within the last half century, I may safely repeat myassertion,—that in no part of the globe, not even in Chili, orthe Indian Archipelago and the Aleutes, is there so lasting acommunication by means of caverns between the interior ofthe earth and the atmosphere. Future travellers will ascer-tain which among the thirty-five so-called Volcanes de Centro-America are cones of trachyte, and which are real openburning mountains.