Mud Volcanoes of Imperial County, California
From: The History of Imperial County, California
Edited by: F. C. Farr
Published by: Elms and Franks
Berkeley, CA 1918

THE MUD VOLCANOES
BY GAREY HAMLIN

THERE is probably nothing quite so actively real to be found in California today as the numerous little mounds on the verge of the Salton Sea. which are in a state of continual eruption. In reality, they are miniature volcanoes, which, like warts on a cucumber, prominently dot the earth's surface at the southern end of the lake. They vary in height, ranging from one to ten feet, and in formation may be likened to Vesuvius itself - crater, escaping gases, steam and all.

From the lip of the crater a brown sulphurous slime runs down the hot rugged sides, while within there is a steady rumbling, and at minute intervals a discharge of hot mud is shot from twenty five to seventy five feet into the air. The roar may be heard many miles. They are on what was a few months ago the bottom of the Salton Sea, and are 270 feet below sea level. It is only with great difficulty that they can be approached, owing to the fact that the land has not yet dried sufficient for traffic.

Although the historic mud pots were perhaps discovered eons ago, it has been but recently that certain intrepid parties have had courage enough to venture to the brink of these fiery kettles of steaming clay for the purpose of photographing volcanoes, so to speak, in their native haunts.

There is probably nothing quite so actively real to be found in California today, or elsewhere in the United States, for that matter. The volcanoes were well known to the early residents of the Valley. With the pouring of the water of the Colorado River into the Salton Sink, these volcanoes were covered with water and finally subsided. During the last year their activity has been resumed and they have proven an extraordinary sight.

Incidentally, they are going to saddle these obsteperous volcanoes and make them useful to man. By adopting the plan used at Laradello, Tuscany, by which live steam from subterranean depths is used to operate turbines and generate electricity, water may yet be conducted to additional hundreds of thousands of acres of land in the Imperial Valley.

Experts show that, with the use of cheap and abundant electricity, water may be pumped to new high line canals, far above the present system. It is entirely possible that, by use of powerful pumps and a comparatively short pipe line, many square miles of land on both sides of Salton Sea may be irrigated.

The feasibility of the plan of using steam compressed below the earth's surface has been demonstrated to be practical. In the Italian plant, operated with steam from a distance of five hundred feet below the surface in the geyser district, power is obtained to generate electricity that moves the wheels of industry over a wide countryside. By sinking a casing in the heart of one of these volcanoes, to a depth of a few hundred feet, it will be entirely possible to uncover sufficient live steam at high pressure to operate a turbine of the same kind used in the big plant in Italy.

The possibilities of such a plant are almost limitless and the experiments will be watched with interest. Should they prove successful, it is highly probable that efforts will be undertaken to utilize the vast area of live hot springs and geysers at Volcano Lake, twenty five miles south of Calexico.


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