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Mr. Quirk, because Tittlebat Titmouse had, from being a beggar, suddenly become the owner of ten thousand a year, was induced to believe that the red, green, blue, and purple colors of his hair, produced by his brisk application of the various hair-dyes, with which he so suddenly surprised his acquaintances, might have been caused by the change of his pecuniary condition.
The several works lately published on these subjects contain inuch valuable scientific information, and, if read as we do "Gulliver's Travels" will furnish knowledge as well as amusement. Science, in her sphere, gives us an amount of knowledge that cannot be overestimated, but it has utterly failed to explain the origin of life, the connection of mind and matter, or the manner in which they act on each other.
LECTURE BEFORE THE PHILOSOPHICAL SOCIETY OF WASHINGTON, JANUARY, 1877.
By Hon. T. L. CLINGMAN.
On the 15th day of June, 1876, there fell in the western part of North Carolina from forty to sixty water spouts as they are popularly termed. The manner of their fall and the facts connected with it are of such a character, that I think the phenomena ought to be brought to the attention of the scientific world. I will, therefore, so state them as probably to make them fairly understood by such persons as take an interest in the subject:
The area of territory on which they fell is embraced in the southern portions of the counties of Macon and Jackson, in North Carolina, and the adjoining parts of South Carolina and Georgia. The greater portion of this territory consists of an elevated plateau of an altitude of more than three thousand feet above the level of the sea. It is traversed irregularly by several ridges of mountains of considerable height, and has occasionally to be seen detached peaks, the highest of which rises above four thousand (4,000) feet. One of the ledges is the Blue Ridge, which divides the waters running into the Atlantic from those flowing into the Mississippi. The course of this chain along the plateau is very nearly east and west.
The distance from the spot where the most westerly of the water spouts fell, to that of the most easterly of them, near the border of Transylvania county, cannot be less than thirty miles in a direct line, while from the position of the most northerly to that of the most southerly, the distance must be fully twenty miles. In other words, the water spouts fell irregularly over an area of thirty miles in length by twenty miles in breadth.
On the day of this fall there was rain over a large area, embracing the western portion of North Carolina, and territory in the adjoining States. There was in some localities thunder and lightning, but not an unusual amount, nor was it remarkable for wind. In fact, in the immediate vicinity of some of the water falls, it was described as being a still, wet day.
I will now describe, particularly, one of those "spouts" or water falls. Mr. Horatio Conley lives about twelve miles south, and rather east of the town of Franklin, in Macon county. His house stands on the west side of the Tessantee, a stream of several yards in width, and probably fifty yards from the stream. In the afternoon of this day, June 15th, 1876, during the rain, which had been falling steadily for the greater part of the day, he was surprised to see the stream suddenly rise much higher than he had ever seen it at any previous time. This rise was in part produced by the falling, two miles above him, of two smaller water spouts of which he then knew nothing. Though the banks of the stream were high, yet the water rose above them and extended into his yard, and alarmed him for the safety of his house. The stream, however, rapidly subsided into its channel, but was still much swollen. On the opposite side of the creek, and immediately in front of his house, there is a ravine along which there flows a little branch that comes down at right angles to the Tessantee. While he and his wife were in the piazza of their house, next to the creek, their attention was arrested by a remarkable appearance up this ravine distant perhaps one hundred and fifty yards from them. They saw a large mass of water and timber, heavy trees floating on the top, which appeared ten or fifteen feet high, moving rapidly towards them, as if it might sweep directly across the Tessantee and overwhelm them. Fortunately, however, sixty or seventy yards beyond the creek the ground became comparatively level, and the water expanded itself, became thus shallower, and leaving many of the trees strewn for a hundred yards along the ground, entered the creek with a moderate current. The Tessantee, however, was again so full as to overflow its banks, and large trees were carried down it, and left at intervals for a mile or more. This sudden rise was caused by the water spout which I am now about to describe. It appeared at Mr. Conley's at half-after three o'clock in the afternoon.
At a distance of two and a half miles to the eastward of Mr. Conley's there is a ridge known as the Fishhawk Mountain. It extends in a direction nearly north and south, and is probably more than thirtyfive hundred feet in altitude above the sea, but it can scarcely exceed four thousand feet. Within two or three hundred feet of the crest of its ridge two of these water spouts fell, but on opposite sides. I will describe that which struck on its western side, and flowed down towards Mr. Conley's house. After ascending with considerable difficulty, chiefly on horseback, but making the upper part of the journey on foot, I reached the spot where it fell. The ground was quite steep, the surface ascending at the rate of twenty five degrees, probably. There was a circular opening in the ground about twelve or fifteen feet deep in the centre. It had the figure of almost an exact semi-circle
on the upper side, and then extended down the mountain, presenting the figure caused by two parallel lines from each of its sides. Across the circle it was seventy-five feet wide, and for some distance down it maintained about the same width. In the centre of the circle, for forty or fifty feet in extent, the rock at the bottom was naked and clean, but around the outer edges of the rim or opening, for ten or fifteen feet, there was much earth lying. This lay five or six feet below the solid ground around it.
The solid surface around the opening presented a very regular circular form, from which had been torn with great force the loose earth below. The roots had been all broken squarely off, and the earth removed so that the descent was perpendicular for several feet down to the loose earth. The whole depression looked as though it might have been produced by the sudden fall, with great force, of a column of water forty or fifty feet in diameter, which not only cut its way down to the solid rock, but also tore loose a mass of surrounding earth on which it did not fall directly. That the column of water was not as large as the entire opening was evident from another circumstance. At the upper part of the opening lay a log somewhat decayed and scorched by previous fires. The lower end of this log extended several feet over the opening, showing that the water had not struck it, but had merely torn away the earth under it. The upper part of the opening seemed to form almost a perfect circle, descending perpendicularly like a wall for several feet in depth.
Outside of this opening there seemed to have been no disturbance whatever on the surface of the ground. On the contrary, the old leaves of the previous year lay within two or three inches of the break, and little fragments of decaying limbs, half burnt, of only the weight of an ounce or two were undisturbed just at the edges of the break. But inside of the depression, and all along its channel, everything down to the solid rock below had been swept away by the torrent in its course. Hundreds of trees, many of them three feet in diameter and an hundred feet in height, were carried along. So were all the loose rocks, some of them boulders of several tons in weight. There was a clean, broad furrow for more than two miles down to Mr. Conley's.
Not far from where the spout fell, the ground assumed the form of a narrow ravine, with steep sides, along which the current took its way. Its course was nearly a direct one, but there were some slight bends which caused, in places, trees to be left where they chanced to be thrown up on one of the banks. Most of the trees had been torn up by the roots, but occasionally a solid oak, three feet in diameter, was seen to have been broken squarely off. All their limbs were gone, and not a tree did I see that had not been stripped completely of its bark in in its rough journey downward. The current, as it descended, must have lost much of its velocity by reason of the constant obstacles it encountered from the trees and rocks, and from the gradually diminishing steepness of its path. It all along, however, retained sufficient momentum to carry not only the trees, but all detached boulders, and left the solid rocky strata very clean behind it.
I sought to ascertain, as nearly as possible, what was the probable mass or volume of water present. This could be approximated within reasonable limits. At the distance of one hundred and fifty yards below the place of the fall, there stood on either side of the current two trees, which had, from their being protected somewhat by solid rock, been left standing, the main force of the current having passed between them. These two were seventy-five feet apart. On the northern one the line of the muddy water was visible to the height of twenty feet, while on the southern one it rose to sixteen feet. A tree on the north side, scarcely ten feet in the rear of the first named tree, was marked only ten feet high, while a fourth, on the south side, seven or eight feet in the rear only of the nearer one to the current, was untouched by the water. In the middle of the current the ground was laid bare to the depth of at least ten feet below the surface on which the trees stood, so that the depth of the current, from the highest water-mark down to the bottom of the channel, was as much as thirty feet. But from the fact that the water had been much higher on the two trees, nearest the centre, than it was on those a little in the rear; and these first named trees were seventy-five feet apart, it was evident that the water in the centre had been still higher, probably high enough to increase the depth in the centre to forty feet or more. In other words, the stream there presented the appearance of a somewhat flattened, cylindrical mass. This was due to the fact that in addition to the immense impulse it had received from its fall against the slanting ground, from which it had bounded as it shot down the mountain, it was at the same time descending not less than twenty or thirty degrees along the steep ground. It thus moved forward so rapidly that it had not time to expand and become level. Fifty yards lower down, or two hundred yards from the spot of the fall, this current was ninety feet wide and apparently about thirty feet deep.
Two miles lower down, where it was first noticed by Mr. Conley and his wife, and near the termination of the ravine, where it reached the more expanded and level ground, it was fully sixty yards wide, and in the centre, where I could see the driftwood left on a solid, upright rock, it was ten or twelve feet deep. I estimated that its whole volume then would be equal to a current forty yards wide and six feet deep, all the way across. In other words, a plane, cutting the current perpendicularly, and at right angles, would show a surface of eighty square yards.
To determine the whole mass of the water, it was necessary to know how far up the ravine the current extended. Mr. Conley said he thought the current required fifteen minutes to run by. His wife said it did not seem so long to her. She thought it might have been running at its full height as long a time as it would have been necessary to enable her to walk a couple of hundred yards at her usual rate of walking, probably three or four minutes. The descent of the ground at the termination of the ravine, was perhaps as much as two hundred feet to the mile, and certainly not less than one hundred feet. The French Broad river, in Buncombe, has an average fall of eighteen feet to the mile for some distance. I have observed that when there was a
freshet, the drift wood, at a portion of the stream less rapid than this average, would be carried along at the speed of four or five miles to the hour. As the descent of the ground, at the termination of the ravine opposite Conley's, was more than ten times as great, it is not probable that the current of rushing water moved less than ten miles per hour, or as fast as the speed of a cantering horse. This would be equal to one mile in six minutes. In a single minute, therefore, the current would flow nearly three hundred yards. If, then, we assume, instead of the estimate of Mrs. Conly, that it was running three or four minutes, that it was flowing only a single minute, then we have a mass of water three hundred yards long, and forty yards wide, with a depth of two yards. Hence this mass would contain twenty-four thousand cubic yards of water. From my observations, at several points above, I think it quite probable that there was this much, and unquestionably there must have been more than ten thousand cubic yards.
We are next to consider the interesting question as to how such a quantity of water was precipitated near the top of the Fishhawk Mountain, at the place where it fell. Of course it could not have fallen gradually as water descends from a cascade, because in that event it must have flowed away gradually, and would not have risen so high on the trees on the steep mountain side, nor could it have moved with such a force as to tear up the largest trees and carry them along with great masses of heavy rock. Such an effect would not have been produced even if it had not moved much faster than it was doing when seen two miles below at Conley's. All around the upper edge of the opening the roots of the trees were broken off abruptly, and the earth burst away perpendicularly down in such a manner as it could not have been done by a streain of water falling as we see it at a cascade. Everything indicated that there had been a sudden and violent shock, such as the fall of a large mass of water, precipitated from a great height, might have caused. In the centre of the opening fifteen feet of solid earth had been removed so as to expose the rock at the bottom, and this had been done so suddenly and violently that for a circle of seventy-five feet the earth in mass had been torn away leaving an upright, compact, perpendicular wall standing. If we think of this water as falling in a solid mass its force may be compared with that of a fifteen-inch cast-iron shot which, with the charge used for the monitor guns, striking perpendicularly, would scarely have penetrated the earth down to the rock. And yet the height to which it rose immediately below would indicate that it came down in one. immense mass.
If the column were thirty feet in diameter it would have been three hundred yards, or nine hundred feet in height, to enable it to contain as much as twenty-four thousand cubic yards. Even if we reduce the estimate to the lesser amount of ten thousand cubic yards only, still the column must have been more than three hundred feet in height, and if it had only this length and fell from a moving cloud, instead of falling in one place, it, partaking of the motion of the cloud, should have been rather strewn along the ground.