National Geographic : 1935 Jul
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE THE MALAU BIRD USES A NATURAL INCUBATOR This big-footed bush hen, a species of megapode, digs her way into the soft slopes left by old volcanic eruptions, and lays a big pinkish-brown egg underground. She buries it in sand as she retreats from the hole. The sun does the hatching in due time, and the young bird digs its way to the light of day and immediately flies to cover. The natives often find the scratching left by the mother and dig up the egg for food. They founded their village purposely on the side of the island most remote from Angaha, and their headman denounced with impassioned oratory the taxes imposed upon them by the High Chief. He called upon the gods to send a sign from heaven to de stroy all his people rather than permit them to submit to such oppression. Whatever the truth of these stories, cer tain it is that on June 24, 1853, the ground rifted and lava spouted up directly under the village headman's house. Such destruc tion of human life by a sudden lava flow is unusual in volcano annals, for lava is usu- ally so slow-moving that people have time to flee from it. There were earthquakes and rumblings, the crack extended itself north westward lengthwise of the village street, and the fiery slag spouted up and flowed down to the sea. Presumably the eruption was at night, for the headman and many of the na tives were trapped and burned, and the village was destroyed. I talked with an aged woman who recalled the frenzied flight of those inhabitants who escaped and the gossip about the village. She said that two-thirds of the population,possibly 60 or 70 people, were killed. When I visited the site of this village I found the lava flows covered with a moder ate growth of ironwood, somewhat resembling a pine forest with its small cones and long needles. Not a trace remains of the village green or native huts. There is a 50-foot double spatter cone of black lava at the place where the headman's house is said to have stood. From this hill all lava channels radiate to the south and west, passing into tunnels far down the flow in the direction of the seashore. On the uphill side the lava gives place abruptly to a luxuriant growth of coconuts and fertile plantation lands on the slope of the circular ridge. ERUPTION CAN BE PREDICTED BUT NOT FORECAST A study of the eruptions and the dates when they have occurred provides some basis for predicting, roughly, when future outbreaks may occur.