1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Flysch

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FLYSCH, in geology, a remarkable formation, composed mainly of sandstones, soft marls and sandy shales found extending from S.W. Switzerland eastward along the northern Alpine zone to the Vienna basin, whence it may be followed round the northern flanks of the Carpathians into the Balkan peninsula. It is represented in the Pyrenees, the Apennines, the Caucasus and extends into Asia; similar flysch-like deposits are related to the Himalayas as the European formations are to the Alps. The Flysch is not of the same age in every place; thus in the western parts of Switzerland the oldest portions probably belong to the Eocene period, but the principal development is of Oligocene age; as it is traced eastward we find in the east Alps that it descends into the upper Cretaceous, and in the Vienna region and the Carpathians it contains intercalations which clearly indicate a lower Cretaceous horizon for the lower parts. It appears indeed that this type of formation was in progress of deposition at one point or another in the regions enumerated above from Jurassic to late Tertiary times. The absence of fossils from enormous thicknesses of Flysch makes the correlation with other formations difficult; often the only indications of organisms are the abundant markings supposed to represent Algae (Chondrites, &c.), which have given rise to the term “Hieroglyphic-sandstone.” The most noteworthy exceptions are perhaps the Oligocene fish-bed of Glarus, the Eocene nummulitic beds in Calabria, and the Aptychus beds of Waidhofen. Local phases of the Flysch have received special names; it is the “Vienna” or “Carpathian” sandstone of those regions; the “macigno” (a soft sandstone with calcareous cement) of the Maritime Alps and Apennines; the “scagliose” (scaly clays) and “alberese” (limestones) of the same places are portions of this formation. The gris de Menton, the gris d'Annot of the Basses Alps, and the gris d'Embrun of Chaillot appear in Switzerland as the gris de Taveyannaz. At several places the upper layers of the Flysch are iron-stained, as in the region of Léman and at the foot of the Dent du Midi; it is then styled the “Red-Flysch.” Lenticular intercalations of gabbro, diabase, &c., occur in the Flysch in Calabria on the Pyrenees. Large exotic blocks of granite, gneiss and other crystalline rocks in coarse conglomerates are found near Vienna, near Sonthofen in Bavaria, near Lake Thun (Wild Flysch) and at other points, which have been variously regarded as indications of glaciation or of coastal conditions.