1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Geology
GEOLOGY (from Gr. γῆ, the earth, and λόγος, science), the science which investigates the physical history of the earth. Its object is to trace the structural progress of our planet from the earliest beginnings of its separate existence, through its various stages of growth, down to the present condition of things. It seeks to determine the manner in which the evolution of the earth’s great surface features has been effected. It unravels the complicated processes by which each continent has been built up. It follows, even into detail, the varied sculpture of mountain and valley, crag and ravine. Nor does it confine itself merely to changes in the inorganic world. Geology shows that the present races of plants and animals are the descendants of other and very different races which once peopled the earth. It teaches that there has been a progressive development of the inhabitants, as well as one of the globe on which they have dwelt; that each successive period in the earth’s history, since the introduction of living things, has been marked by characteristic types of the animal and vegetable kingdoms; and that, however imperfectly the remains of these organisms have been preserved or may be deciphered, materials exist for a history of life upon the planet. The geographical distribution of existing faunas and floras is often made clear and intelligible by geological evidence; and in the same way light is thrown upon some of the remoter phases in the history of man himself. A subject so comprehensive as this must require a wide and varied basis of evidence. It is one of the characteristics of geology to gather evidence from sources which at first sight seem far removed from its scope, and to seek aid from almost every other leading branch of science. Thus, in dealing with the earliest conditions of the planet, the geologist must fully avail himself of the labours of the astronomer. Whatever is ascertainable by telescope, spectroscope or chemical analysis, regarding the constitution of other heavenly bodies, has a geological bearing. The experiments of the physicist, undertaken to determine conditions of matter and of energy, may sometimes be taken as the starting-points of geological investigation. The work of the chemical laboratory forms the foundation of a vast and increasing mass of geological inquiry. To the botanist, the zoologist, even to the unscientific, if observant, traveller by land or sea, the geologist turns for information and assistance.
But while thus culling freely from the dominions of other sciences, geology claims as its peculiar territory the rocky framework of the globe. In the materials composing that framework, their composition and arrangement, the processes of their formation, the changes which they have undergone, and the terrestrial revolutions to which they bear witness, lie the main data of geological history. It is the task of the geologist to group these elements in such a way that they may be made to yield up their evidence as to the march of events in the evolution of the planet. He finds that they have in large measure arranged themselves in chronological sequence,—the oldest lying at the bottom and the newest at the top. Relics of an ancient sea-floor are overlain by traces of a vanished land-surface; these are in turn covered by the deposits of a former lake, above which once more appear proofs of the return of the sea. Among these rocky records lie the lavas and ashes of long-extinct volcanoes. The ripple left upon the shore, the cracks formed by the sun’s heat upon the muddy bottom of a dried-up pool, the very imprint of the drops of a passing rainshower, have all been accurately preserved, and yield their evidence as to geographical conditions often widely different from those which exist where such markings are now found.
But it is mainly by the remains of plants and animals imbedded in the rocks that the geologist is guided in unravelling the chronological succession of geological changes. He has found that a certain order of appearance characterizes these organic remains, that each great group of rocks is marked by its own special types of life, and that these types can be recognized, and the rocks in which they occur can be correlated even in distant countries, and where no other means of comparison would be possible. At one moment he has to deal with the bones of some large mammal scattered through a deposit of superficial gravel, at another time with the minute foraminifers and ostracods of an upraised sea-bottom. Corals and crinoids crowded and crushed into a massive limestone where they lived and died, ferns and terrestrial plants matted together into a bed of coal where they originally grew, the scattered shells of a submarine sand-bank, the snails and lizards which lived and died within a hollow-tree, the insects which have been imprisoned within the exuding resin of old forests, the footprints of birds and quadrupeds, the trails of worms left upon former shores—these, and innumerable other pieces of evidence, enable the geologist to realize in some measure what the faunas and floras of successive periods have been, and what geographical changes the site of every land has undergone.
It is evident that to deal successfully with these varied materials, a considerable acquaintance with different branches of science is needful. Especially necessary is a tolerably wide knowledge of the processes now at work in changing the surface of the earth, and of at least those forms of plant and animal life whose remains are apt to be preserved in geological deposits, or which in their structure and habitat enable us to realize what their forerunners were. It has often been insisted that the present is the key to the past; and in a wide sense this assertion is eminently true. Only in proportion as we understand the present, where everything is open on all sides to the fullest investigation, can we expect to decipher the past, where so much is obscure, imperfectly preserved or not preserved at all. A study of the existing economy of nature ought thus to be the foundation of the geologist’s training.
While, however, the present condition of things is thus employed, we must obviously be on our guard against the danger of unconsciously assuming that the phase of nature’s operations which we now witness has been the same in all past time, that geological changes have always or generally taken place in former ages in the manner and on the scale which we behold to-day, and that at the present time all the great geological processes, which have produced changes in the past eras of the earth’s history, are still existent and active. As a working hypothesis we may suppose that the nature of geological processes has remained constant from the beginning; but we cannot postulate that the action of these processes has never varied in energy. The few centuries wherein man has been observing nature obviously form much too brief an interval by which to measure the intensity of geological action in all past time. For aught we can tell the present is an era of quietude and slow change, compared with some of the eras which have preceded it. Nor perhaps can we be quite sure that, when we have explored every geological process now in progress, we have exhausted all the causes of change which, even in comparatively recent times, have been at work.
In dealing with the geological record, as the accessible solid part of the globe is called, we cannot too vividly realize that at the best it forms but an imperfect chronicle. Geological history cannot be compiled from a full and continuous series of documents. From the very nature of its origin the record is necessarily fragmentary, and it has been further mutilated and obscured by the revolutions of successive ages. And even where the chronicle of events is continuous, it is of very unequal value in different places. In one case, for example, it may present us with an unbroken succession of deposits many thousands of feet in thickness, from which, however, only a few meagre facts as to geological history can be gleaned. In another instance it brings before us, within the compass of a few yards, the evidence of a most varied and complicated series of changes in physical geography, as well as an abundant and interesting suite of organic remains. These and other characteristics of the geological record become more apparent and intelligible as we proceed in the study of the science.
Classification.—For systematic treatment the subject may be conveniently arranged in the following parts:—
1. The Historical Development of Geological Science.—Here a brief outline will be given of the gradual growth of geological conceptions from the days of the Greeks and Romans down to modern times, tracing the separate progress of the more important branches of inquiry and noting some of the stages which in each case have led up to the present condition of the science.
2. The Cosmical Aspects of Geology.—This section embraces the evidence supplied by astronomy and physics regarding the form and motions of the earth, the composition of the planets and sun, and the probable history of the solar system. The subjects dealt with under this head are chiefly treated in separate articles.
3. Geognosy.—An inquiry into the materials of the earth’s substance. This division, which deals with the parts of the earth, its envelopes of air and water, its solid crust and the probable condition of its interior, especially treats of the more important minerals of the crust, and the chief rocks of which that crust is built up. Geognosy thus lays a foundation of knowledge regarding the nature of the materials constituting the mass of the globe, and prepares the way for an investigation of the processes by which these materials are produced and altered.
4. Dynamical Geology studies the nature and working of the various geological processes whereby the rocks of the earth’s crust are formed and metamorphosed, and by which changes are effected upon the distribution of sea and land, and upon the forms of terrestrial surfaces. Such an inquiry necessitates a careful examination of the existing geological economy of nature, and forms a fitting introduction to an inquiry into the geological changes of former periods.
5. Geotectonic or Structural Geology has for its object the architecture of the earth’s crust. It embraces an inquiry into the manner in which the various materials composing this crust have been arranged. It shows that some have been formed in beds or strata of sediment on the floor of the sea, that others have been built up by the slow aggregation of organic forms, that others have been poured out in a molten condition or in showers of loose dust from subterranean sources. It further reveals that, though originally laid down in almost horizontal beds, the rocks have subsequently been crumpled, contorted and dislocated, that they have been incessantly worn down, and have often been depressed and buried beneath later accumulations.
6. Palaeontological Geology.—This branch of the subject, starting from the evidence supplied by the organic forms which are found preserved in the crust of the earth, includes such questions as the relations between extinct and living types, the laws which appear to have governed the distribution of life in time and in space, the relative importance of different genera of animals in geological inquiry, the nature and use of the evidence from organic remains regarding former conditions of physical geography. Some of these problems belong also to zoology and botany, and are more fully discussed in the articles Palaeontology and Palaeobotany.
7. Stratigraphical Geology.—This section might be called geological history. It works out the chronological succession of the great formations of the earth’s crust, and endeavours to trace the sequence of events of which they contain the record. More particularly, it determines the order of succession of the various plants and animals which in past time have peopled the earth, and thus ascertains what has been the grand march of life upon this planet.
8. Physiographical Geology, proceeding from the basis of fact laid down by stratigraphical geology regarding former geographical changes, embraces an inquiry into the origin and history of the features of the earth’s surface—continental ridges and ocean basins, plains, valleys and mountains. It explains the causes on which local differences of scenery depend, and shows under what very different circumstances, and at what widely separated intervals, the hills and mountains, even of a single country, have been produced.
Most of the detail embraced in these several sections is relegated to separate articles, to which references are here inserted. The following pages thus deal mainly with the general principles and historical development of the science:—
Part I.—Historical Development
Geological Ideas among the Greeks and Romans.—Many geological phenomena present themselves in so striking a form that they could hardly fail to impress the imagination of the earliest and rudest races of mankind. Such incidents as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, destructive storms on land and sea, disastrous floods and landslips suddenly strewing valleys with ruin, must have awakened the terror of those who witnessed them. Prominent features of landscape, such as mountain-chains with their snows, clouds and thunderstorms, dark river-chasms that seem purposely cleft open in order to give passage to the torrents that rush through them, crags with their impressive array of pinnacles and recesses must have appealed of old, as they still do, to the awe and wonder of those who for the first time behold them. Again, banks of sea-shells in far inland districts would, in course of time, arrest the attention of the more intelligent and reflective observers, and raise in their minds some kind of surmise as to how such shells could ever have come there. These and other conspicuous geological problems found their earliest solution in legends and myths, wherein the more striking terrestrial features and the elemental forces of nature were represented to be the manifestation of the power of unseen supernatural beings.
The basin of the Mediterranean Sea was especially well adapted, from its physical conditions, to be the birth-place of such fables. It is a region frequently shaken by earthquakes, and contains two distinct centres of volcanic activity, one in the Aegean Sea and one in Italy. It is bounded on the north by a long succession of lofty snow-capped mountain-ranges, whence copious rivers, often swollen by heavy rains or melted snows, carry the drainage into the sea. On the south it boasts the Nile, once so full of mystery; likewise wide tracts of arid desert with their dreaded dust storms. The Mediterranean itself, though an inland sea, is subject to gales, which, on exposed coasts, raise breakers quite large enough to give a vivid impression of the power of ocean waves. The countries that surround this great sheet of water display in many places widely-spread deposits full of sea shells, like those that still live in the neighbouring bays and gulfs. Such a region was not only well fitted to supply subjects for mythology, but also to furnish, on every side, materials which, in their interest and suggestiveness, would appeal to the reason of observant men.
It was natural, therefore, that the early philosophers of Greece should have noted some of these geological features, and should have sought for other explanations of them than those to be found in the popular myths. The opinions entertained in antiquity on these subjects may be conveniently grouped under two heads: (1) Geological processes now in operation, and (2) geological changes in the past.
1. Contemporary Processes.—The geological processes of the present time are partly at work underground and partly on the surface of the earth. The former, from their frequently disastrous character, received much attention from Greek and Roman authors. Aristotle, in his Meteorics, cites the Earthquakes and volcanoes.speculations of several of his predecessors which he rejects in favour of his own opinion to the effect that earthquakes are due to the generation of wind within the earth, under the influence of the warmth of the sun and the internal heat. Wind, being the lightest and most rapidly moving body, is the cause of motion in other bodies, and fire, united with wind, becomes flame, which is endowed with great rapidity of motion. Aristotle looked upon earthquakes and volcanic eruptions as closely connected with each other, the discharge of hot materials to the surface being the result of a severe earthquake, when finally the wind rushes out with violence, and sometimes buries the surrounding country under sparks and cinders, as had happened at Lipari. These crude conceptions of the nature of volcanic action, and the cause of earthquakes, continued to prevail for many centuries. They are repeated by Lucretius, who, however, following Anaximenes, includes as one of the causes of earthquakes the fall of mountainous masses of rock undermined by time, and the consequent propagation of gigantic tremors far and wide through the earth. Strabo, having travelled through the volcanic districts of Italy, was able to recognize that Vesuvius had once been an active volcano, although no eruption had taken place from it within human memory. He continued to hold the belief that volcanic energy arose from the movement of subterranean wind. He believed that the district around the Strait of Messina, which had formerly suffered from destructive earthquakes, was seldom visited by them after the volcanic vents of that region had been opened, so as to provide an escape for the subterranean fire, wind, water and burning masses. He cites in his Geography a number of examples of widespread as well as local sinkings of land, and alludes also to the uprise of the sea-bottom. He likewise regards some islands as having been thrown up by volcanic agency, and others as torn from the mainland by such convulsions as earthquakes.
The most detailed account of earthquake phenomena which has come down to us from antiquity is that of Seneca in his Quaestiones Naturales. This philosopher had been much interested in the accounts given him by survivors and witnesses of the earthquake which convulsed the district of Naples in February A.D. 63. He distinguished several distinct movements of the ground: 1st, the up and down motion (succussio); 2nd, the oscillatory motion (inclinatio); and probably a third, that of trembling or vibration. While admitting that some earthquakes may arise from the collapse of the walls of subterranean cavities, he adhered to the old idea, held by the most numerous and important previous writers, that these commotions are caused mainly by the movements of wind imprisoned within the earth. As to the origin of volcanic outbursts he supposed that the subterranean wind in struggling for an outlet, and whirling through the chasms and passages, meets with great store of sulphur and other combustible substances, which by mere friction are set on fire. The elder Pliny reiterates the commonly accepted opinion as to the efficacy of wind underground. In discussing the phenomena of earthquakes he remarks that towns with many culverts and houses with cellars suffer less than others, and that at Naples those houses are most shaken which stand on hard ground. It thus appears that with regard to subterranean geological operations, no advance was made during the time of the Greeks and Romans as to the theoretical explanation of these phenomena; but a considerable body of facts was collected, especially as to the effects of earthquakes and the occurrence of volcanic eruptions.
The superficial processes of geology, being much less striking than those of subterranean energy, naturally attracted less attention in antiquity. The operations of rivers, however, which so intimately affect a human population, were watched with more or less care. Herodotus, struck by the amount of Action of rivers. alluvial silt brought down annually by the Nile and spread over the flat inundated land, inferred that “Egypt is the gift of the river.” Aristotle, in discussing some of the features of rivers, displays considerable acquaintance with the various drainage-systems on the north side of the Mediterranean basin. He refers to the mountains as condensers of the atmospheric moisture, and shows that the largest rivers rise among the loftiest high grounds. He shows how sensibly the alluvial deposits carried down to the sea increase the breadth of the land, and cites some parts of the shores of the Black Sea, where, in sixty years, the rivers had brought down such a quantity of material that the vessels then in use required to be of much smaller draught than previously, the water shallowing so much that the marshy ground would, in course of time, become dry land. Strabo supplies further interesting information as to the work of rivers in making their alluvial plains and in pushing their deltas seaward. He remarks that these deltas are prevented from advancing farther outward by the ebb and flow of the tides.
2. Past Processes.—The abundant well-preserved marine shells exposed among the upraised Tertiary and post-Tertiary deposits in the countries bordering the Mediterranean are not infrequently alluded to in Greek and Latin literature. Xenophanes of Colophon (614 B.C.) noticed the occurrence Occurrences of fossils. of shells and other marine productions inland among the mountains, and inferred from them that the land had risen out of the sea. A similar conclusion was drawn by Xanthus the Lydian (464 B.C.) from shells like scallops and cockles, which were found far from the sea in Armenia and Lower Phrygia. Herodotus, Eratosthenes, Strato and Strabo noted the vast quantities of fossil shells in different parts of Egypt, together with beds of salt, as evidence that the sea had once spread over the country. But by far the most philosophical opinions on the past mutations of the earth’s surface are those expressed by Aristotle in the treatise already cited. Reviewing the evidence of these changes, he recognized that the sea now covers tracts that were once dry land, and that land will one day reappear where there is now sea. These alternations are to be regarded as following each other in a certain order and periodicity. But they are apt to escape our notice because they require successive periods of time, which, compared with our brief existence, are of enormous duration, and because they are brought about so imperceptibly that we fail to detect them in progress. In a celebrated passage in his Metamorphoses, Ovid puts into the mouth of the philosopher Pythagoras an account of what was probably regarded as the Pythagorean view of the subject in the Augustan age. It affirms the interchange of land and sea, the erosion of valleys by descending rivers, the washing down of mountains into the sea, the disappearance of the rivers and the submergence of land by earthquake movements, the separation of some islands from, and the union of others with, the mainland, the uprise of hills by volcanic action, the rise and extinction of burning mountains. There was a time before Etna began to glow, and the time is coming when the mountain will cease to burn.
From this brief sketch it will be seen that while the ancients had accumulated a good deal of information regarding the occurrence of geological changes, their interpretations of the phenomena were to a considerable extent mere fanciful speculation. They had acquired only a most imperfect conception of the nature and operation of the geological processes; and though many writers realized that the surface of the earth has not always been, and will not always remain, as it is now, they had no glimpse of the vast succession of changes of that surface which have been revealed by geology. They built hypotheses on the slenderest basis of fact, and did not realize the necessity of testing or verifying them.
Progress of Geological Conceptions in the Middle Ages.—During the centuries that succeeded the fall of the Western empire little progress was made in natural science. The schoolmen in the monasteries and other seminaries were content to take their science from the literature of Greece and Rome. The Arabs, however, not only collected and translated that literature, but in some departments made original observations themselves. To one of the most illustrious of their number, Avicenna, the translator of Aristotle, a treatise has been ascribed, in which singularly modern ideas are expressed regarding mountains, some of which are there stated to have been produced by an uplifting of the ground, while others have been left prominent, owing to the wearing away of the softer rocks around them. In either case, it is confessed that the process would demand long tracts of time for its completion.
After the revival of learning the ancient problem presented by fossil shells imbedded in the rocks of the interior of many countries received renewed attention. But the conditions for its solution were no longer what they had been in the days of the philosophers of antiquity. Men were not now free to adopt and teach any doctrine they pleased on the subject. The Christian church had meanwhile arisen to power all over Europe, and adjudged as heretics all who ventured to impugn any of her dogmas. She taught that the land and the sea had been separated on the third day of creation, before the appearance of any animal life, which was not created until the fifth day. To assert that the dry land is made up in great part of rocks that were formed in the sea, and are crowded with the remains of animals, was plainly to impugn the veracity of the Bible. Again, it had come to be the orthodox belief that only somewhere about 6000 years had elapsed since the time of Adam and Eve. If any thoughtful observer, impressed with the overwhelming force of the evidence that the fossiliferous formations of the earth’s crust must have taken long periods of time for their accumulation, ventured to give public expression to his conviction, he ran considerable risk of being proceeded against as a heretic. It was needful, therefore, to find some explanation of the facts of nature, which would not run counter to the ecclesiastical system of the day. Various such interpretations were proposed, doubtless in an honest endeavour at reconciliation. Three of these deserve special notice: (1) Many able observers and diligent collectors of fossils persuaded themselves that these objects never belonged to organisms of any kind, but should be regarded as mere “freaks of nature,” having no more connexion with any once living creature than the frost patterns on a window. They were styled “formed” or “figured” stones, “lapides sui generis,” and were asserted to be due to some inorganic imitative process within the earth or to the influence of the stars. (2) Observers who could not resist the evidence of their senses that the fossil shells once belonged to living animals, and who, at the same time, felt the necessity of accounting for the presence of marine organisms in the rocks of which the dry land is largely built up, sought a way out of the difficulty by invoking the Deluge of Noah. Here was a catastrophe which, they said, extended over the whole globe, and by which the entire dry land was submerged even up to the tops of the high hills. True, it only lasted one hundred and fifty days, but so little were the facts then appreciated that no difficulty seems to have been generally felt in crowding the accumulation of the thousands of feet of fossiliferous formations into that brief space of time. (3) Some more intelligent men in Italy, recognizing that these interpretations could not be upheld, fell back upon the idea that the rocks in which fossil shells are imbedded might have been heaped up by repeated and vigorous eruptions from volcanic centres. Certain modern eruptions in the Aegean Sea and in the Bay of Naples had drawn attention to the rapidity with which hills of considerable size could be piled around an active crater. It was argued that if Monte Nuovo near Naples could have been accumulated to a height of nearly 500 ft. in two days, there seemed to be no reason against believing that, during the time of the Flood, and in the course of the centuries that have elapsed since that event, the whole of the fossiliferous rocks might have been deposited. Unfortunately for this hypothesis it ignored the fact that these rocks do not consist of volcanic materials.
So long as the fundamental question remained in dispute as to the true character and history of the stratified portion of the earth’s crust containing organic remains, geology as a science could not begin its existence. The diluvialists (those who relied on the hypothesis of the Flood) held the field during the 16th, 17th and a great part of the 18th century. They were looked on as the champions of orthodoxy; and, on that account, they doubtless wielded much more influence than would have been gained by them from the force of their arguments. Yet during those ages there were not wanting occasional observers who did good service in combating the prevalent misconceptions, and in preparing the way for the ultimate triumph of truth. It was more especially in Italy, where many of the more striking phenomena of geology are conspicuously displayed, that the early pioneers of the science arose, and that for several generations the most marked progress was made towards placing the investigations of the past history of the earth upon a basis of careful observation and scientific deduction.Leonardo da Vinci; Fracastorio; Falloppio. One of the first of these leaders was Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519), who, besides his achievements in painting, sculpture, architecture and engineering, contributed some notable observations regarding the great problem of the origin of fossil shells. He ridiculed the notion that these objects could have been formed by the influence of the stars, and maintained that they had once belonged to living organisms, and therefore that what is now land was formerly covered by the sea. Girolamo Fracastorio (1483–1553) claimed that the shells could never have been left by the Flood, which was a mere temporary inundation, but that they proved the mountains, in which they occur, to have been successively uplifted out of the sea. On the other hand, even an accomplished anatomist like Gabriello Falloppio (1523–1562) found it easier to believe that the bones of elephants, teeth of sharks, shells and other fossils were mere earthy inorganic concretions, than that the waters of Noah’s Flood could ever nave reached as far as Italy.
By much the most important member of this early band of Italian writers was undoubtedly Nicolas Steno (1631–1687), who, though born in Copenhagen, ultimately settled in Florence. Having made a European reputation as an anatomist, his attention was drawn to geological problems by findingNicolas Steno. that the rocks of the north of Italy contained what appeared to be sharks’ teeth closely resembling those of a dog-fish, of which he had published the anatomy. Cautiously at first, for fear of offending orthodox opinions, but afterwards more boldly, he proclaimed his conviction that those objects had once been part of living animals, and that they threw light on some of the past history of the earth. He published in 1669 a small tract, De solido intra solidum naturaliter contento, in which he developed the ideas he had formed of this history from an attentive study of the rocks. He showed that the stratified formations of the hills and valleys consist of such materials as would be laid down in the form of sediment in turbid water; that where they contain marine productions this water is proved to have been the sea; that diversities in their composition point to commingling of currents, carrying different kinds of sediment of which the heaviest would first sink to the bottom. He made original and important observations on stratification, and laid down some of the fundamental axioms in stratigraphy. He reasoned that as the original position of strata was approximately horizontal, when they are found to be steeply inclined or vertical, or bent into arches, they have been disrupted by subterranean exhalations, or by the falling in of the roofs of underground cavernous spaces. It is to this alteration of the original position of the strata that the inequalities of the earth’s surface, such as mountains, are to be ascribed, though some have been formed by the outburst of fire, ashes and stones from inside the earth. Another effect of the dislocation has been to provide fissures, which serve as outlets for springs. Steno’s anatomical training peculiarly fitted him for dealing authoritatively with the question of the nature and origin of the fossils contained in the rocks. He had no hesitation in affirming that, even if no shells had ever been found living in the sea, the internal structure of these fossils would demonstrate that they once formed parts of living animals. And not only shells, but teeth, bones and skeletons of many kinds of fishes had been quarried out of the rocks, while some of the strata had skulls, horns and teeth of land-animals. Illustrating his general principles by a sketch of what he supposed to have been the past history of Tuscany, he added a series of diagrams which show how clearly he had conceived the essential elements of stratigraphy. He thought he could perceive the records of six successive phases in the evolution of the framework of that country, and was inclined to believe that a similar chronological sequence would be found all over the world. He anticipated the objections that would be brought against his views on account of the insuperable difficulty in granting the length of time that would be required for all the geographical vicissitudes which his interpretation required. He thought that many of the fossils must be as old as the time of the general deluge, but he was careful not to indulge in any speculation as to the antiquity of the earth.
To the Italian school, as especially typified in Steno, must be assigned the honour of having thus begun to lay firmly and truly the first foundation stones of the modern science of geology. The same school included Antonio Vallisneri (1661–1730), who surpassed his predecessors in his widerLazzaro Moro. and more exact knowledge of the fossiliferous rocks that form the backbone of the Italian peninsula, which he contended were formed during a wide and prolonged submergence of the region, altogether different from the brief deluge of Noah. There was likewise Lazzaro Moro (1687–1740), who did good service against the diluvialists, but the fundamental feature of his system of nature lay in the preponderant part which, unaware of the great difference between volcanic materials and ordinary sediment, he assigned to volcanic action in the production of the sedimentary rocks of the earth’s crust. He supposed that in the beginning the globe was completely surrounded with water, beneath which the solid earth lay as a smooth ball. On the third day of creation, however, vast fires were kindled inside the globe, whereby the smooth surface of stone was broken up, and portions of it, appearing above the water, formed the earliest land. From that time onward, volcanic eruptions succeeded each other, not only on the emerged land, but on the sea-floor, over which the ejected material spread in an ever augmenting thickness of sedimentary strata. In this way Moro carried the history of the stratified rocks beyond the time of the Flood back to the Creation, which was supposed to have been some 1600 years earlier; and he brought it down to the present day, when fresh sedimentary deposits are continually accumulating. He thus incurred no censure from the ecclesiastical guardians of the faith, and he succeeded in attracting increased public attention to the problems of geology. The influence of his teaching, however, was subsequently in great part due to the Carmelite friar Generelli, who published an eloquent exposition of Moro’s views.
The Cosmogonists and Theories of the Earth.—While in Italy substantial progress was made in collecting information regarding the fossiliferous formations of that country, and in forming conclusions concerning them based upon more or less accurate observations, the tendency to mere fanciful speculation, which could not be wholly repressed in any country, reached a remarkable extravagance in England. In proportion as materials were yet lacking from which to construct a history of the evolution of our planet in accordance with the teaching of the church, imagination supplied the place of ascertained fact, and there appeared during the last twenty years of the 18th century a group of English cosmogonists, who, by the sensational character of their speculations, aroused general attention both in Britain and on the continent. It may be doubted, however, whether the effect of their writings was not to hinder the advance of true science by diverting men from the observation of nature into barren controversy over unrealities. It is not needful here to do more than mention the names of Thomas Burnet, whose Sacred Theory of the Earth appeared in 1681, and William Whiston, whose New Theory of the Earth was published in 1696. Hardly less fanciful than these writers, though his practical acquaintance with rocks and fossils was infinitely greater, was John Woodward, whose Essay towards a Natural History of the Earth dates from 1695. More important as a contribution to science was the catalogue of the large collection of fossils, which he had made from the rocks of England and which he bequeathed to the university of Cambridge. This catalogue appeared in 1728–1729 with the title of An attempt towards a Natural History of the Fossils of England.
A striking contrast to these cosmogonists is furnished by another group, which arose in France and Germany, and gave to the world the first rational ideas concerning the probable primeval evolution of our globe. The earliest of these pioneers was the illustrious philosopher René Descartes (1596–1650). He propoundedDescartes. a scheme of cosmical development in which he represented the earth, like the other planets, to have been originally a mass of glowing material like the sun, and to have gradually cooled on the outside, while still retaining an incandescent, self-luminous nucleus. Yet with this noble conception, which modern science has accepted, Descartes could not shake himself free from the time-honoured error in regard to the origin of volcanic action. He thought that certain exhalations within the earth condense into oil, which, when in violent motion, enters into the subterranean cavities, where it passes into a kind of smoke. This smoke is from time to time ignited by a spark of fire and, pressing violently against its containing walls, gives rise to earthquakes. If the flame breaks through to the surface at the top of a mountain, it may escape with enormous energy, hurling forth much earth mingled with sulphur or bitumen, and thus producing a volcano. The mountain might burn for a long time until at last its store of fuel in the shape of sulphur or bitumen would be exhausted. Not only did the philosopher refrain from availing himself of the high internal temperature of the globe as the source of volcanic energy, he even did not make use of it as the cause of the ignition of his supposed internal fuel, but speculated on the kindling of the subterranean fires by the spirits or gases setting fire to the exhalations, or by the fall of masses of rock and the sparks produced by their friction or percussion.
The ideas of Descartes regarding planetary evolution were enlarged and made more definite by Wilhelm Gottfried Leibnitz (1646–1716), whose teaching has largely influenced all subsequent speculation on the subject. In his great tract, the Protogaea (published in 1749, thirty-three years after his death), he traced the probable passage of our earth from an original condition of incandescent vapour into that of a smooth molten globe,Leibnitz. which, by continuous cooling, acquired an external solid crust and rugose surface. He thought that the more ancient rocks, such as granite and gneiss, might be portions of the earliest outer crust; and that as the external solidification advanced, immense subterranean cavities were left which were filled with air and water. By the collapse of the roofs of these caverns, valleys might be originated at the surface, while the solid intervening walls would remain in place and form mountains. By the disruption of the crust, enormous bodies of water were launched over the surface of the earth, which swept vast quantities of sediment together, and thus gave rise to sedimentary deposits. After many vicissitudes of this kind, the terrestrial forces calmed down, and a more stable condition of things was established.
An important feature in the cosmogony of Leibnitz is the prominent place which he assigned to organic remains in the stratified rocks of the crust. Ridiculing the foolish attempts to account for the presence of these objects by calling them “sports of nature,” he showed that they are to be regarded as historical monuments; and he adduced a number of instances wherein successive platforms of strata, containing organic remains, bear witness to a series of advances and retreats of the sea. He recognized that some of the fossils appeared to have nothing like them in the living world of to-day, but some analogous forms might yet be found, he thought, in still unexplored parts of the earth; and even if no living representatives should ever be discovered, many types of animals might have undergone transformation during the great changes which had affected the surface of the earth. In spite of his clear realization of the vast store of potential energy residing within the highly heated interior of the earth, Leibnitz continued to regard volcanic action as due to the combustion of inflammable substances enclosed within the terrestrial crust, such as stone-coal, naphtha and sulphur.
Appealing to a much wider public than Descartes or Leibnitz, and basing his speculations on a wider acquaintance with the organic and inorganic realms of nature, G. L. L. de Buffon (1707–1788) was undoubtedly one of the most influential forces that in Europe guided the growth of geological ideas during theBuffon. 18th century. He published in 1749 a Theory of the Earth, in which he adopted views similar to those of Descartes and Leibnitz as to planetary evolution; but though he realized the importance of fossils as records of former conditions of the earth’s surface, he accounted for them by supposing that they had been deposited from a universal ocean, a large part of which had subsequently been engulfed into caverns in the interior of the globe. Thirty years later, after having laboured with skill and enthusiasm in all branches of natural history, he published another work, his famous Époques de la nature (1778), which is specially remarkable as the first attempt to deal with the history of the earth in a chronological manner, and to compute, on a basis of experiment, the antiquity of the several stages of this history. His experiments were made with globes of cast iron, and could not have yielded results of any value for his purpose; but in so far as his calculations were not mere random guesses but had some kind of foundation on experiment, they deserve respectful recognition. He divided the history of our earth into six periods of unequal duration, the whole comprising a period of some 70,000 or 75,000 years. He supposed that the stage of incandescence, before the globe had consolidated to the centre, lasted 2936 years, and that about 35,000 years elapsed before the surface had cooled sufficiently to be touched, and therefore to be capable of supporting living things. Terrestrial animal life, however, was not introduced until 55,000 or 60,000 years after the beginning of the world or about 15,000 years before our time. Looking into the future, he foresaw that, by continued refrigeration, our globe will eventually become colder than ice, and this fair face of nature, with its manifold varieties of plant and animal life, will perish after having existed for 132,000 years.
Buffon’s conception of the operation of the geological agents did not become broader or more accurate in the interval between the appearance of his two treatises. He still continued to believe in the lowering of the ocean by subsidence into vast subterranean cavities, with a consequent emergence of land. He still looked on volcanoes as due to the burning of “pyritous and combustible stones,” though he now called in the co-operation of electricity. He calculated that the first volcanoes could not arise until some 50,000 years after the beginning of the world, by which time a sufficient extent of dense vegetation had been buried in the earth to supply them with fuel. He appears to have had but an imperfect acquaintance with the literature of his own time. At least there can be little doubt that had he availed himself of the labours of his own countryman, Jean Etienne Guettard (1715–1786), of Giovanni Arduíno (1714–1795) in Italy, and of Johann Gottlob Lehmann (d. 1767) and George Christian Füchsel (1722–1773) in Germany, he would have been able to give to his “epochs” a more definite succession of events and a greater correspondence with the facts of nature.
Among the writers of the 18th century, who formed philosophical conceptions of the system of processes by which the life of our earth as a habitable globe is carried on, a foremost place must be assigned to James Hutton (1726–1797). Educated for the medical profession, he studied at Edinburgh and at Paris, and took his doctor’s degree James Hutton. at Leiden. But having inherited a small landed property in Berwickshire, he took to agriculture, and after putting his land into excellent order, let his farm and betook himself to Edinburgh, there to gratify the scientific tastes which he had developed early in life. He had been more especially led to study minerals and rocks, and to meditate on the problems which they suggest as to the constitution and history of the earth. His journeys in Britain and on the continent of Europe had furnished him with material for reflection; and he had gradually evolved a system or theory in which all the scattered facts could be arranged so as to show their mutual dependence and their place in the orderly mechanism of the world. He used to discuss his views with one or two of his friends, but refrained from publishing them to the world until, on the foundation of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, he communicated an outline of his doctrine to that learned body in 1785. Some years later he expanded this first essay into a larger work in two volumes, which were published in 1795 with the title of Theory of the Earth, with Proofs and Illustrations.
Hutton’s teaching has exercised a profound influence on modern geology. This influence, however, has arisen less from his own writings than from the account of his doctrines given by his friend John Playfair in the classic work entitled Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory, published in 1802.John Playfair. Hutton wrote in so prolix and obscure a style as rather to repel than attract readers. Playfair, on the other hand, expressed himself in such clear and graceful language as to command general attention, and to gain wide acceptance for his master’s views. Unlike the older cosmogonists, Hutton refrained from trying to explain the origin of things, and from speculations as to what might possibly have been the early history of our globe. He determined from the outset to interpret the past by what can be seen to be the present order of nature; and he refused to admit the operation of causes which cannot be shown to be part of the actual terrestrial system. Like other observers who had preceded him, he recognized in the various rocks composing the dry land evidence of former geographical conditions very different from those which now prevail. He saw that the vast majority of rocks consist of hardened sediments and must have been deposited in the sea. He could distinguish among them an older or Primary series, and a younger or Secondary series; and did not dispute the existence of a Tertiary series claimed by Peter Simon Pallas (1741–1811). He believed that these various aqueous accumulations had been consolidated by subterranean heat, that the oldest and lowest rocks had suffered most from this action, that into these more deep-seated masses subsequent veins and larger bodies of molten matter were injected from below, and thus that what was originally loose detritus eventually became changed in such crystalline schists as are now found in mountain-chains. In the course of these terrestrial revolutions sedimentary strata, originally more or less nearly horizontal, have been pushed upward, dislocated, crumpled, placed on end, and even elevated to form ranges of lofty mountains. Hutton looked upon these disturbances as due to the expansive power of subterranean heat; but he did not attempt to sketch the mechanism of the process, and he expressly declined to offer any conjecture as to how the land so elevated remains in that position. He thought that the interior of our planet may “be a fluid mass, melted, but unchanged by the action of heat”; and, far from connecting volcanoes with the combustion of inflammable substances, as had been the prevalent belief for so many centuries, he looked upon them as a beneficent provision of “spiracles to the subterranean furnace, in order to prevent the unnecessary elevation of land and fatal effects of earthquakes.”
A distinguishing feature of the Huttonian philosophy is to be seen in the breadth of its conceptions regarding the geological operations continually in progress on the surface of the globe. Hutton saw that the land is undergoing a ceaseless process of degradation, through the influence of the air, frost, rain, rivers and the sea, and that in course of time, if no countervailing agency should intervene, the whole of the dry land will be washed away into the sea. But he also perceived that this universal erosion is not everywhere carried on at the same rate; that it is specially active along the channels of torrents and rivers, and that, owing to this difference these channels are gradually deepened and widened, until the complicated valley-system of a country is carved out. He recognized that the detritus worn away from the land must be spread out over the floor of the sea, so as to form there strata similar to those that compose most of the dry land. As he could detect in the structure of land convincing evidence that former sea floors had been elevated to form the continents and islands of to-day, he could look forward to future ages, when the same subterranean agency which had raised up the present land would again be employed to uplift the bed of the existing ocean, thus to renew the surface of our earth as a habitable globe, and to start a fresh cycle of erosion and deposition.
Though Hutton was not unaware that organic remains abound in many of the stratified rocks, he left them out of consideration in the elaboration of his theory. It was otherwise with one of his French contemporaries, the illustrious J. B. Lamarck (1744–1829), who, after having attained great eminence asLamarck. a botanist, turned to zoology when he was nearly fifty years of age, and before long rose to even greater distinction in that department of science. His share in the classification and description of the mollusca and in founding invertebrate palaeontology, his theory of organic evolution and his philosophical treatment of many biological questions have been tardily recognized, but his contributions to geology have been less generally acknowledged. When he accepted the “professorship of zoology; of insects, of worms and of microscopic animals” at the Museum of Natural History, Paris, in 1793, he at once entered with characteristic ardour and capacity into the new field of research then opened to him. In dealing with the mollusca he considered not merely the living but also the extinct forms, especially the abundant, varied and well-preserved genera and species furnished by the Tertiary deposits of the Paris basin, of which he published descriptions and plates that proved of essential service in the stratigraphical work of Cuvier and Alexandre Brongniart (1770–1847). His labours among these relics of ancient seas and lakes led him to ponder over the past history of the globe, and as he was seldom dilatory in making known the opinions he had formed, he communicated some of his conclusions to the National Institute in 1799. These, including a further elaboration of his views, he published in 1802 in a small volume entitled Hydrogéologie.
This treatise, though it did not reach a second edition and has never been reprinted, deserves an honourable place in geological literature. Its object, the author states, was to present some important and novel considerations, which he thought should form the basis of a true theory of the earth. He entirely agreed with the doctrine of the subaerial degradation of the land and the erosion of valleys by running water. Not even Playfair could have stated this doctrine more emphatically, and it is worthy of notice that Playfair’s Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory appeared in the same year with Lamarck’s book. The French naturalist, however, carried his conclusions so far as to take no account of any great movements of the terrestrial crust, which might have produced or modified the main physical features of the surface of the globe. He thought that all mountains, except such as were thrown up by volcanic agency or local accidents, have been cut out of plains, the original surfaces of which are indicated by the crests and summits of these elevations.
Lamarck, in reflecting upon the wide diffusion of fossil shells and the great height above the sea at which they are found, conceived the extraordinary idea that the ocean basin has been scoured out by the sea, and that, by an impulse communicated to the waters through the influence chiefly of the moon, the sea is slowly eating away the eastern margins of the continents, and throwing up detritus on their western coasts, and is thus gradually shifting its basin round the globe. He would not admit the operation of cataclysms; but insisted as strongly as Hutton on the continuity of natural processes, and on the necessity of explaining former changes of the earth’s surface by causes which can still be seen to be in operation. As might be anticipated from his previous studies, he brought living things and their remains into the forefront of his theory of the earth. He looked upon fossils as one of the chief means of comprehending the revolutions which the surface of the earth has undergone; and in his little volume he again and again dwells on the vast antiquity to which these revolutions bear witness. He acutely argues, from the condition of fossil shells, that they must have lived and died where their remains are now found.
In the last part of his treatise Lamarck advances some peculiar opinions in physics and chemistry, which he had broached eighteen years before, but which had met with no acceptance among the scientific men of his time. He believed that the tendency of all compound substances is to decay, and thereby to be resolved into their component constituents. Yet he saw that the visible crust of the earth consists almost wholly of compound bodies. He therefore set himself to solve the problem thus presented. Perceiving that the biological action of living organisms is constantly forming combinations of matter, which would never have otherwise come into existence, he proceeded to draw the extraordinary conclusion that the action of plant and animal life (the Pouvoir de la vie) upon the inorganic world is so universal and so potent, that the rocks and minerals which form the outer part of the earth’s crust are all, without exception, the result of the operations of once living bodies. Though this sweeping deduction must be allowed to detract from the value of Lamarck’s work, there can be no doubt that he realized, more fully than any one had done before him, the efficacy of plants and animals as agents of geological change.
The last notable contributor to the cosmological literature of geology was another illustrious Frenchman, the comparative anatomist Cuvier (1769–1832). He was contemporary with Lamarck, but of a very different type of mind. The brilliance of his speculations, and the charm with which he expounded Cuvier. them, early gained for him a prominent place in the society of Paris. He too was drawn by his zoological studies to investigate fossil organic remains, and to consider the former conditions of the earth’s surface, of which they are memorials. It was among the vertebrate organisms of the Paris basin that he found his chief material, and from them that he prepared the memoirs which led to him being regarded as the founder of vertebrate palaeontology. But beyond their biological interest, they awakened in him a keen desire to ascertain the character and sequence of the geographical revolutions to which they bear witness. He approached the subject from an opposite and less philosophical point of view than that of Lamarck, coming to it with certain preconceived notions, which affected all his subsequent writings. While Lamarck was by instinct an evolutionist, who sought to trace in the history of the past the operation of the same natural processes as are still at work, Cuvier, on the other hand, was a catastrophist, who invoked a succession of vast cataclysms to account for the interruptions in the continuity of the geological record.
In a preliminary Discourse prefixed to his Recherches sur les ossemens fossiles (1821) Cuvier gave an outline of what he conceived to have been the past history of our globe, so far as he had been able to comprehend it from his investigations of the Tertiary formations of France. He believed that in that history evidence can be recognized of the occurrence of many sudden and disastrous revolutions, which, to judge from their effects on the animal life of the time, must have exceeded in violence anything we can conceive at the present day, and must have been brought about by other agencies than those which are now in operation. Yet, in spite of these catastrophes, he saw that there has been an upward progress in the animal forms inhabiting the globe, until the series ended in the advent of man. He could not, however, find any evidence that one species has been developed from another, for in that case there should have been traces of intermediate forms among the stratified formations, where he affirmed that they had never been found. A prominent position in the Discourse is given to a strenuous argument to disprove the alleged antiquity of some nations, and to show that the last great catastrophe occurred not more than some 5000 or 6000 years ago. Cuvier thus linked himself with those who in previous generations had contended for the efficacy of the Deluge. But his researches among fossil animals had given him a far wider outlook into the geological past, and had opened up to him a succession of deeply interesting problems in the history of life upon the earth, which, though he had not himself material for their solution, he could foresee would be cleared up in the future.
Gradual Shaping of Geology into a Distinct Branch of Science.—It will be seen from the foregoing historical sketch that it was only after the lapse of long centuries, and from the labours of many successive generations of observers and writers, that what we now know as the science of geology came to be recognized as a distinct department of natural knowledge, founded upon careful and extended study of the structure of the earth, and upon observation of the natural processes, which are now at work in changing the earth’s surface. The term “geology,” descriptive of this branch of the investigation of nature, was not proposed until the last quarter of the 18th century by Jean André De Luc (1727–1817) and Horace Benedict De Saussure (1740–1749). But the science was then in a markedly half-formed condition, theoretical speculation still in large part supplying the place of deductions from a detailed examination of actual fact. In 1807 a few enterprising spirits founded the Geological Society of London for the special purpose of counteracting the prevalent tendency and confining their intention “to investigate the mineral structure of the earth.” The cosmogonists and framers of Theories of the Earth were succeeded by other schools of thought. The Catastrophists saw in the composition of the crust of the earth distinct evidence that the forces of nature were once much more stupendous in their operation than they now are, and that they had from time to time devastated the earth’s surface; extirpating the races of plants and animals, and preparing the ground for new creations of organized life. Then came the Uniformitarians, who, pushing the doctrines of Hutton to an extreme which he did not propose, saw no evidence that the activity of the various geological causes has ever seriously differed from what it is at present. They were inclined to disbelieve that the stratified formations of the earth’s crust furnish conclusive evidence of a gradual progression, from simple types of life in the oldest strata to the most highly developed forms in the youngest; and saw no reason why remains of the higher vertebrates should not be met with among the Palaeozoic formations. Sir Charles Lyell (1797–1875) was the great leader of this school. His admirably clear and philosophical presentations of geological facts which, with unwearied industry, he collected from the writings of observers in all parts of the world, impressed his views upon the whole English-speaking world, and gave to geological science a coherence and interest which largely accelerated its progress. In his later years, however, he frankly accepted the views of Darwin in regard to the progressive character of the geological record.
The youngest of the schools of geological thought is that of the Evolutionists. Pointing to the whole body of evidence from inorganic and organic nature, they maintain that the history of our planet has been one of continual and unbroken development from the earliest cosmical beginnings down to the present time, and that the crust of the earth contains an abundant, though incomplete, record of the successive stages through which the plant and animal kingdoms have reached their existing organization. The publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species in 1859, in which evolution was made the key to the history of the animal and vegetable kingdoms, produced an extraordinary revolution in geological opinion. The older schools of thought rapidly died out, and evolution became the recognized creed of geologists all over the world.
Development of Opinion regarding Igneous Rocks.—So long as the idea prevailed that volcanoes are caused by the combustion of inflammable substances underground, there could be no rational conception of volcanic action and its products. Even so late as the middle of the 18th century, as above remarked, such a good observer as Lazzaro Moro drew so little distinction between volcanic and other rocks that he could believe the fossiliferous formations to have been mainly formed of materials ejected from eruptive vents. After his time the notion continued to prevail that all the rocks which form the dry land were laid down under water. Even streams of lava, which were seen to flow from an active crater, were regarded only as portions of sedimentary or other rocks, which had been melted by the fervent heat of the burning inflammable materials that had been kindled underground. In spite of the speculations of Descartes and Leibnitz, it was not yet generally comprehended that there exists beneath the terrestrial crust a molten magma, which, from time to time, has been injected into that crust, and has pierced through it, so as to escape at the surface with all the energy of an active volcano. What we now recognize to be memorials of these former injections and propulsions were all confounded with the rocks of unquestionably aqueous origin. The last great teacher by whom these antiquated doctrines were formulated into a system and promulgated to the world was Abraham Gottlob Werner (1749–1815),Werner. the most illustrious German mineralogist and geognost of the second half of the 18th century. While still under twenty-six years of age, he was appointed teacher of mining and mineralogy at the Mining Academy of Freiberg in Saxony—a post which he continued to fill up to the end of his life. Possessed of great enthusiasm for his subject, clear, methodical and eloquent in his exposition of it, he soon drew around him men from all parts of the world, who repaired to study under the great oracle of what he called geognosy (Gr. γῆ, the earth, γνῶσις, knowledge) or earth-knowledge. Reviving doctrines that had been current long before his time, he taught that the globe was once completely surrounded with an ocean, from which the rocks of the earth’s crust were deposited as chemical precipitates, in a certain definite order over the whole planet. Among these “universal formations” of aqueous origin were included many rocks, which have long been recognized to have been once molten, and to have risen from below into the upper parts of the terrestrial crust. Werner, following the old tradition, looked upon volcanoes as modern features in the history of the planet, which could not have come into existence until a sufficient amount of vegetation had been buried to furnish fuel for their maintenance. Hence he attached but little importance to them, and did not include in his system of rocks any division of volcanic or igneous materials. From the predominant part assigned by him to the sea in the accumulation of the materials of the visible part of the earth, Werner and his school were known as “Neptunists.”
But many years before the Saxon professor began to teach, clear evidence had been produced from central France that basalt, one of the rocks claimed by him as a chemical precipitate and a universal formation, is a lava which has been poured out in a molten state at various widely separated periodsOrigin of basalt. of time and at many different places. So far back as 1752 J. E. Guettard (1715–1786) had shown that the basaltic rocks of Auvergne are true lavas, which have flowed out in streams from groups of once active cones. Eleven years later the observation was confirmed and greatly extended by Nicholas Desmarest (1725–1815), who, during a long course of years, worked out and mapped the complicated volcanic records of that interesting region, and demonstrated to all who were willing impartially to examine the evidence the true volcanic nature of basalt. These views found acceptance from some observers, but they were vehemently opposed by the followers of Werner, who, by the force of his genius, made his theoretical conceptions predominate all over Europe. The controversy as to the origin of basalt was waged with great vigour during the later decades of the 18th century. Desmarest took no part in it. He had accumulated such conclusive proof of the correctness of his deductions, and had so fully expounded the clearness of the evidence in their favour furnished by the region of Auvergne, that, when any one came to consult him on the subject, he contented himself with giving the advice to “go and see.” While the debate was in progress on the continent, the subject was approached from a new and independent point of view by Hutton in Scotland. This illustrious philosopher, as already stated, realized the importance of the internal heat of the globe in consolidating the sedimentary rocks, and believed that molten material from the earth’s interior has been protruded from below into the overlying crust. Some of the material thus injected could be recognized, he thought, in granite and in the various dark massive rocks which, known in Scotland under the name of “whinstone,” were afterwards called “Trap,” and are now grouped under various names, such as basalt, dolerite and diorite. So important a share did Hutton thus assign to the internal heat in the geological evolution of the planet, that he and those who adopted the same opinions were styled “Plutonists,” or, especially where they concerned themselves with the volcanic origin of basalt, “Vulcanists.” The geological world was thus divided into two hostile camps, that of the Neptunists or Wernerians, and that of the Plutonists, Vulcanists or Huttonians.
After many years of futile controversy the first serious weakening of the position of the dominant Neptunist school arose from the defection of some of the most prominent of Werner’s pupils. In particular Jean François D’Aubuisson de Voisins (1769–1819), who had written a treatise on the aqueous origin of the basalts of Saxony, went afterwards to Auvergne, where he was speedily a convert to the views expounded by Desmarest as to the volcanic nature of basalt. Having thus to relinquish one of the fundamental articles of the Freiberg faith, he was subsequently led to modify his adherence to others until, as he himself confessed, his views came almost wholly to agree with those of Hutton. Not less complete, and even more important, was the conversion of the great Leopold von Buch (1774–1853). He, too, was trained by Werner himself, and proved to be the most illustrious pupil of the Saxon professor. Full of admiration for the Neptunism in which he had been reared, he, in his earliest separate work, maintained the aqueous origin of basalt, and contrasted the wide field opened up to the spirit of observation by his master’s teaching with the narrower outlook offered by “the volcanic theory.” But a little further acquaintance with the facts of nature led Von Buch also to abandon his earlier prepossessions. It was a personal visit to the volcanic region of Auvergne that first opened his eyes, and led him to recant what he had believed and written about basalt. But the abandonment of so essential a portion of the Wernerian creed prepared the way for further relinquishments. When a few years later he went to Norway and found to his astonishment that granite, which he had been taught to regard as the oldest chemical precipitate from the universal ocean, could there be seen to have broken through and metamorphosed fossiliferous limestones, and to have sent veins into them, his faith in Werner’s order of the succession of the rocks in the earth’s crust received a further momentous shock. While one after another of the Freiberg doctrines crumbled away before him, he was now able to interrogate nature on a wider field than the narrow limits of Saxony, and he was thus gradually led to embrace the tenets of the opposite school. His commanding position, as the most accomplished geologist on the continent, gave great importance to his recantation of the Neptunist creed. His defection indeed was the severest blow that this creed had yet sustained. It may be said to have rung the knell of Wernerianism, which thereafter rapidly declined in influence, while Plutonism came steadily to the front, where it has ever since remained.
Although Desmarest had traced in Auvergne a long succession of volcanic eruptions, of which the oldest went back to a remote period of time, and although he had shown that this succession, coupled with the records of contemporaneous denudation, might be used in defining epochs of geological history, it was not until many years after his day that volcanic action came to be recognized as a normal part of the mechanism of our globe, which had been in operation from the remotest past, and which had left numerous records among the rocks of the terrestrial crust. During the progress of the controversy between the two great opposing factions in the later portion of the 18th and the first three decades of the 19th century, those who espoused the Vulcanist cause were intent on proving that certain rocks, which are intercalated among the stratified formations and which were claimed by the Neptunists as obviously formed by water, are nevertheless of truly igneous origin. These observers fixed their eyes on the evidence that the material of such rocks, instead of having been deposited from aqueous solution, had once been actually molten, and had in that condition been thrust between the strata, had enveloped portions of them, and had indurated or otherwise altered them. They spoke of these masses as “unerupted lavas”; and undoubtedly in innumerable instances they were right. But their zeal to establish an intrusive origin led them to overlook the proofs that some intercalated sheets of igneous material had not been injected into the strata, but had been poured out at the surface as truly volcanic discharges, and therefore belonged to the ancient periods represented by the strata between which they are interposed. It may readily be supposed that any proofs of the contemporaneous intercalation of such sheets would be eagerly seized upon by the Neptunists in favour of their aqueous theory. The influence of the ancient belief that “burning mountains” could only rise from the combustion of subterranean inflammable materials extended even into the ranks of the Vulcanists, so far at least as to lead to a general acquiescence in the assumption that volcanoes appeared to belong to a late phase in the history of the planet. It was not until after considerable progress had been made in determining the palaeontological distinctions and order of succession of the stratified formations of the earth’s crust that it became possible to trace among these formations a succession of volcanic episodes which were contemporaneous with them. In no part of the world has an ampler record of such episodes been preserved than in the British Isles. It was natural, therefore, that the subject should there receive most attention. As far back as 1820 Ami Boué (1794–1881) showed that the Old Red Sandstone of Scotland includes a great series of volcanic rocks, and that other rocks of volcanic origin are associated with the Carboniferous formations. H. T. de la Beche (1796–1855) afterwards traced proofs of contemporaneous eruptions among the Devonian rocks of the south-west of England. Adam Sedgwick (1785–1873) showed, first in the Lake District, and afterwards in North Wales, the presence of abundant volcanic sheets among the oldest divisions of the Palaeozoic series; while Roderick Impey Murchison (1792–1871) made similar discoveries among the Lower Silurian rocks. From the time of these pioneers the volcanic history of the country has been worked out by many observers until it is now known with a fulness as yet unattained in any other region.
Growth of Opinion regarding Earthquakes.—We have seen how crude were the conceptions of the ancients regarding the causes of volcanic action, and that they connected volcanoes and earthquakes as results of the commotion of wind imprisoned within subterranean caverns and passages. One of the earliest treatises, in which the phenomena of terrestrial movements were discussed in the spirit of modern science, was the posthumous collection of papers by Robert Hooke (1635–1703), entitled Lectures and Discourses of Earthquakes and Subterranean Eruptions, where the probable agency of earthquakes in upheaving and depressing land is fully considered, but without any definite pronouncement as to the author’s conception of its origin. Hooke still associated earthquakes with volcanic action, and connected both with what he called “the general congregation of sulphurous subterraneous vapours.” He conceived that some kind of “fermentation” takes place within the earth, and that the materials which catch fire and give rise to eruptions or earthquakes are analogous to those that constitute gunpowder. The first essay wherein earthquakes are treated from the modern point of view as the results of a shock that sends waves through the crust of the earth was written by the Rev. John Michell, and communicated to the Royal Society in the year 1760. Still under the old misconception that volcanoes are due to the combustion of inflammable materials, which he thought might be set on fire by the spontaneous combustion of pyritous strata, he supposed that, by the sudden access of large bodies of water to these subterranean fires, vapour is produced in such quantity and with such force as to give rise to the shock. From the centre of origin of this shock waves, he thought, are propagated through the earth, which are largest at the start and gradually diminish as they travel outwards. By drawing lines at different places in the direction of the track of these waves, he believed that the place of common intersection of these lines would be nearly the centre of the disturbance. In this way he showed that the great Lisbon earthquake of 1755 had its focus under the Atlantic, somewhere between the latitudes of Lisbon and Oporto, and he estimated that the depth at which it originated could not be much less than 1 m., and probably did not exceed 3 m. Michell, however, misconceived the character of the waves which he described, seeing that he believed them to be due to the actual propagation of the vapour itself underneath the surface of the earth. A century had almost passed after the date of his essay before modern scientific methods of observation and the use of recording instruments began to be applied to the study of earthquake phenomena. In 1846 Robert Mallet (1810–1881) published an important paper “On the Dynamics of Earthquakes” in the Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy. From that time onward he continued to devote his energies to the investigation, studying the effects of the Calabrian earthquake of 1857, experimenting on the transmission of waves of shock through various materials, caused by exploding charges of gunpowder, and collecting all the information to be obtained on the subject. His writings, and especially his work in two volumes on The First Principles of Observational Seismology, must be regarded as having laid the foundations of this branch of modern geology (see Earthquake; Seismometer).
History of the Evolution of Stratigraphical Geology.—Men had long been familiar with the evidence that the present dry land once lay under the sea, before they began to realize that the rocks, of which the land consists, contain a record of many alternations of land and sea, and relics of a long succession of plants and animals from early and simple types up to the manifold and complex forms of to-day. In countries where coal-mining had been prosecuted for generations, it had been recognized that the rocks consist of strata superposed on each other in a definite order, which was found to extend over the whole of a district. As far back as 1719 John Strachey drew attention to this fact in a communication published in the Philosophical Transactions. John Michell (1760), in the paper on earthquakes already cited, showed that he had acquired a clear understanding of the order of succession among stratified formations, and perceived that to disturbances of the terrestrial crust must be ascribed the fact that the lower or older and more inclined strata form the mountains, while the younger and more horizontal strata are spread over the plains.
In Italy G. Arduíno (1713–1795) classified the rocks in the north of the peninsula as Primitive, Secondary, Tertiary and Volcanic. A similar threefold order was announced for the Harz and Erzgebirge by J. G. Lehmann in 1756. He recognized in that region an ancient series of rocks in inclined or vertical strata, which rise to the tops of the hills and descend to an unknown depth into the interior. These masses, he thought, were contemporaneous with the making of the world. Next came the Flötzgebirge, consisting of younger sediments, disposed in flat or gently inclined sheets which overlie the first and more disturbed series, and are full of petrified remains of plants and animals. Lastly he included the mountains which have from time to time been formed by local accidents. Still more advanced were the conceptions of G. C. Füchsel, who in the year 1762 published in Latin A History of the Earth and the Sea, based on a History of the Mountains of Thuringia; and in 1773, in German, a Sketch of the most Ancient History of the Earth and Man. In these works he described the stratigraphical relations and general characters of the various geological formations in his little principality; and taking them as indicative of a general order of succession, he traced what he believed to have been a series of revolutions through which the earth has passed. In interpreting this geological history, he laid great stress on the evidence of the fossils contained in the rocks. He recognized that the various formations differ from each other in their enclosed organic remains, and that from these differences the existence of former sea-bottoms and land surfaces can be determined.
The labours of these pioneers paved the way for the advent of Werner. Though the system evolved by this teacher claimed to discard theory and to be established on a basis of observed facts, it rested on a succession of hypotheses, for which no better foundation could be shown than the belief of their author in their validity. Starting from the extremely limited stratigraphical range displayed in the geological structure of Saxony, he took it as a type for the rest of the globe, persuading himself and impressing upon his followers that the rocks of that small kingdom were to be taken as examples of his “universal formations.” The oldest portion of the series, classed by him as “Primitive,” consisted of rocks which he maintained had been deposited from chemical solution. Yet they included granite, gneiss, basalt, porphyry and serpentine, which, even in his own day, were by many observers correctly regarded as of igneous origin. A later group of rocks, to which he gave the name of “Transition,” comprised, in his belief, partly chemical, partly mechanical sediments, and contained the earliest fossil organic remains. A third group, for which he reserved Lehmann’s name “Flötz,” was made up chiefly of mechanical detritus, while youngest of all came the “Alluvial” series of loams, clays, sands, gravels and peat. It was by the gradual subsidence of the ocean that, as he believed, the general mass of the dry land emerged, the first-formed rocks being left standing up, sometimes on end, to form the mountains, while those of later date, less steeply inclined, occupied successively lower levels down to the flat alluvial accumulations of the plains. Neither Werner, nor any of his followers, ventured to account for what became of the water as the sea-level subsided, though, in despite of their antipathy to anything like speculation, they could not help suggesting, as an answer to the cogent arguments of their opponents, that “one of the celestial bodies which sometimes approach near to the earth may have been able to withdraw a portion of our atmosphere and of our ocean.” Nor was any attempt made to explain the extraordinary nature of the supposed chemical precipitates of the universal ocean. The progress of inquiry even in Werner’s lifetime disproved some of the fundamental portions of his system. Many of the chemical precipitates were shown to be masses that had been erupted in a molten state from below. His order of succession was found not to hold good; and though he tried to readjust his sequence and to introduce into it modifications to suit new facts, its inherent artificiality led to its speedy decline after his death. It must be conceded, however, that the stress which he laid upon the fact that the rocks of the earth’s crust were deposited in a definite order had an important influence in directing attention to this subject, and in preparing the way for a more natural system, based not on mere mineralogical characters, but having regard to the organic remains, which were now being gathered in ever-increasing numbers and variety from stratified formations of many different ages and from all parts of the globe.
It was in France and in England that the foundations of stratigraphy, based upon a knowledge of organic remains, were first successfully laid. Abbé J. L. Giraud-Soulavie (1752–1813), in his Histoire naturelle de la France méridionale, which appeared in seven volumes, subdivided the limestones of Vivarais into five ages, each marked by a distinct assemblage of shells. In the lowest strata, representing the first age, none of the fossils were believed by him to have any living representatives, and he called these rocks “Primordial.” In the next group a mingling of living with extinct forms was observable. The third age was marked by the presence of shells of still existing species. The strata of the fourth series were characterized by carbonaceous shales or slates, containing remains of primordial vegetation, and perhaps equivalents of the first three calcareous series. The fifth age was marked by recent deposits containing remains of terrestrial vegetation and of land animals. It is remarkable that these sagacious conclusions should have been formed and published at a time when the geologists of the Continent were engaged in the controversy about the origin of basalt, or in disputes about the character and stratigraphical position of the supposed universal formations, and when the interest and importance of fossil organic remains still remained unrecognized by the vast majority of the combatants.
The rocks of the Paris basin display so clearly an orderly arrangement, and are so distinguished for the variety and perfect preservation of their enclosed organic remains, that they could not fail to attract the early notice of observers. J. É. Guettard, G. F. Rouelle (1703–1770), N. Desmarest, A. L. Lavoisier (1743–1794) and others made observations in this interesting district. But it was reserved for Cuvier (1769–1832) and A. Brongniart (1770–1847) to work out the detailed succession of the Tertiary formations, and to show how each of these is characterized by its own peculiar assemblage of organic remains. The later progress of investigation has slightly corrected and greatly amplified the tabular arrangement established by these authors in 1808, but the broad outlines of the Tertiary stratigraphy of the Paris basin remain still as Cuvier and Brongniart left them. The most important subsequent change in the classification of the Tertiary formations was made by Sir Charles Lyell, who, conceiving in 1828 the idea of a classification of these rocks by reference to their relative proportions of living and extinct species of shells, established, in collaboration with G. P. Deshayes, the now universally accepted divisions Eocene, Miocene and Pliocene.
Long before Cuvier and Brongniart published an account of their researches, another observer had been at work among the Secondary formations of the west of England, and had independently discovered that the component members of these formations were each distinguished by a peculiar group of organic remains; and that this distinction could be used to discriminate them over all the region through which he had traced them. The remarkable man who arrived at this far-reaching generalization was William Smith (1769–1839), a land surveyor who, in the prosecution of his professional business, found opportunities of traversing a great part of England, and of putting his deductions to the test. As the result of these journeys he accumulated materials enough to enable him to produce a geological map of the country, on which the distribution and succession of the rocks were for the first time delineated. Smith’s labours laid the foundation of stratigraphical geology in England and he was styled even in his lifetime the “Father of English geology.” From his day onward the significance of fossil organic remains gained rapidly increasing recognition. Thus in England the outlines traced by him among the Secondary and Tertiary formations were admirably filled in by Thomas Webster (1773–1844); while the Cretaceous series was worked out in still greater detail in the classic memoirs of William Henry Fitton (1780–1861).
There was one stratigraphical domain, however, into which William Smith did not enter. He traced his sequence of rocks down into the Coal Measures, but contented himself with only a vague reference to what lay underneath that formation. Though some of these underlying rocks had in various countries yielded abundant fossils, they had generally suffered so much from terrestrial disturbances, and their order of succession was consequently often so much obscured throughout western Europe, that they remained but little known for many years after the stratigraphy of the Secondary and Tertiary series had been established. At last in 1831 Murchison began to attack this terra incognita on the borders of South Wales, working into it from the Old Red Sandstone, the stratigraphical position of which was well known. In a few years he succeeded in demonstrating the existence of a succession of formations, each distinguished by its own peculiar assemblage of organic remains which were distinct from those in any of the overlying strata. To these formations he gave the name of Silurian (q.v.). From the key which his researches supplied, it was possible to recognize in other countries the same order of formations and the same sequence of fossils, so that, in the course of a few years, representatives of the Silurian system were found far and wide over the globe. While Murchison was thus engaged, Sedgwick devoted himself to the more difficult task of unravelling the complicated structure of North Wales. He eventually made out the order of the several formations there, with their vast intercalations of volcanic material. He named them the Cambrian system (q.v.), and found them to contain fossils, which, however, lay for some time unexamined by him. He at first believed, as Murchison also did, that his rocks were all older than any part of the Silurian series. It was eventually discovered that a portion of them was equivalent to the lower part of that series. The oldest of Sedgwick’s groups, containing distinctive fossils, retain the name Cambrian, and are of high interest, as they enclose the remains of the earliest faunas which are yet well known. Sedgwick and Murchison rendered yet another signal service to stratigraphical geology by establishing, in 1839, on a basis of palaeontological evidence supplied by W. Lonsdale, the independence of the Devonian system (q.v.).
For many years the rocks below the oldest fossiliferous deposits received comparatively little attention. They were vaguely described as the “crystalline schists” and were often referred to as parts of the primeval crust in which no chronology was to be looked for. W. E. Logan (1798–1875) led the way, in Canada, by establishing there several vast series of rocks, partly of crystalline schists and gneisses (Laurentian) and partly of slates and conglomerates (Huronian). Later observers, both in Canada and the United States, have greatly increased our knowledge of these rocks, and have shown their structure to be much more complex than was at first supposed (see Archean System).
During the latter half of the 19th century the most important development of stratigraphical geology was the detailed working out and application of the principle of zonal classification to the fossiliferous formations—that is, the determination of the sequence and distribution of organic remains in these formations, and the arrangement of the strata into zones, each of which is distinguished by a peculiar assemblage of fossil species (see under Part VI.). The zones are usually named after one especially characteristic species. This system of classification was begun in Germany with reference to the members of the Jurassic system (q.v.) by A. Oppel (1856–1858) and F. A. von Quenstedt (1858), and it has since been extended through the other Mesozoic formations. It has even been found to be applicable to the Palaeozoic rocks, which are now subdivided into palaeontological zones. In the Silurian system, for example, the graptolites have been shown by C. Lapworth to furnish a useful basis for zonal subdivisions. The lowest fossiliferous horizon in the Cambrian rocks of Europe and North America is known as the Olenellus zone, from the prominence in it of that genus of trilobite.
Another conspicuous feature in the progress of stratigraphy during the second half of the 19th century was displayed by the rise and rapid development of what is known as Glacial geology. The various deposits of “drift” spread over northern Europe, and the boulders scattered across the surface of the plains had long attracted notice, and had even found a place in popular legend and superstition. When men began to examine them with a view to ascertain their origin, they were naturally regarded as evidences of the Noachian deluge. The first observer who drew attention to the smoothed and striated surfaces of rock that underlie the Drifts was Hutton’s friend, Sir James Hall, who studied them in the lowlands of Scotland and referred them to the action of great debacles of water, which, in the course of some ancient terrestrial convulsion, had been launched across the face of the country. Playfair, however, pointed out that the most potent geological agents for the transportation of large blocks of stone are the glaciers. But no one was then bold enough to connect the travelled boulders with glaciers on the plains of Germany and of Britain. Yet the transporting agency of ice was invoked in explanation of their diffusion. It came to be the prevalent belief among the geologists of the first half of the 19th century, that the fall of temperature, indicated by the gradual increase in the number of northern species of shells in the English Crag deposits, reached its climax during the time of the Drift, and that much of the north and centre of Europe was then submerged beneath a sea, across which floating icebergs and floes transported the materials of the Drift and dropped the scattered boulders. As the phenomena are well developed around the Alps, it was necessary to suppose that the submergence involved the lowlands of the Continent up to the foot of that mountain chain—a geographical change so stupendous as to demand much more evidence than was adduced in its support. At last Louis Agassiz (1807–1873), who had varied his palaeontological studies at Neuchâtel by excursions into the Alps, was so much struck by the proofs of the former far greater extension of the Swiss glaciers, that he pursued the investigation and satisfied himself that the ice had formerly extended from the Alpine valleys right across the great plain of Switzerland, and had transported huge boulders from the central mountains to the flanks of the Jura. In the year 1840 he visited Britain and soon found evidence of similar conditions there. He showed that it was not by submergence in a sea cumbered with floating ice, but by the former presence of vast glaciers or sheets of ice that the Drift and erratic blocks had been distributed. The idea thus propounded by him did not at once command complete approval, though traces of ancient glaciers in Scotland and Wales were soon detected by native geologists, particularly by W. Buckland, Lyell, J. D. Forbes and Charles Maclaren. Robert Chambers (1802–1871) did good service in gathering additional evidence from Scotland and Norway in favour of Agassiz’s views, which steadily gained adherents until, after some quarter of a century, they were adopted by the great majority of geologists in Britain, and subsequently in other countries. Since that time the literature of geology has been swollen by a vast number of contributions in which the history of the Glacial period, and its records both in the Old and New World, have been fully discussed.
Rise and Progress of Palaeontological Geology.—As this branch of the science deals with the evidence furnished by fossil organic remains as to former geographical conditions, it early attracted observers who, in the superficial beds of marine shells found at some distance from the coast, saw proofs of the former submergence of the land under the sea. But the occurrence of fossils embedded in the heart of the solid rocks of the mountains offered much greater difficulties of explanation, and further progress was consequently slow. Especially baneful was the belief that these objects were mere sports of nature, and had no connexion with any once living organisms. So long as the true organic origin of the fossil plants and animals contained in the rocks was in dispute, it was hardly possible that much advance could be made in their systematic study, or in the geological deductions to be drawn from them. One good result of the controversy, however, was to be seen in the large collections of these “formed stones” that were gathered together in the cabinets and museums of the 17th and 18th centuries. The accumulation and comparison of these objects naturally led to the production of treatises in which they were described and not unfrequently illustrated by good engravings. Switzerland was more particularly noted for the number and merit of its works of this kind, such as that of K. N. Lang (Historia lapidum figuratorum Helvetiae, 1708) and those of Johann Jacob Scheuchzer (1672–1733). In England, also, illustrated treatises were published both by men who looked on fossils as mere freaks of nature, and by those who regarded them as proofs of Noah’s flood. Of the former type were the works of Martin Lister (1638–1712) and Robert Plot (Natural History of Oxfordshire, 1677). The Celtic scholar Edward Llwyd (1660–1709) wrote a Latin treatise containing good plates of a thousand fossils in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, and J. Woodward, in 1728–1729, published his Natural History of the Fossils of England, already mentioned, wherein he described his own extensive collection, which he bequeathed to the University of Cambridge, where it is still carefully preserved. The most voluminous and important of all these works, however, appeared at a later date at Nuremberg. It was begun by G. W. Knorr (1705–1761), who himself engraved for it a series of plates, which for beauty and accuracy have seldom been surpassed. After his death the work was continued by J. E. I. Walch (1725–1778), and ultimately consisted of four massive folio volumes and nearly 300 plates under the title of Lapides diluvii universalis testes. Although the authors supposed their fossils to be relics of Noah’s flood, their work must be acknowledged to mark a distinct onward stage in the palaeontological department of geology.
It was in France that palaeontological geology began to be cultivated in a scientific spirit. The potter Bernard Palissy, as far back as 1580, had dwelt on the importance of fossil shells as monuments of revolutions of the earth’s surface; but the observer who first undertook the detailed study of the subject was Jean Etienne Guettard, who began in 1751 to publish his descriptions of fossils in the form of memoirs presented to the Academy of Sciences of Paris. To him they were not only of deep interest as monuments of former types of existence, but they had an especial value as records of the changes which the country had undergone from sea to land and from land to sea. More especially noteworthy was a monograph by him which appeared in 1765 bearing the title “On the accidents that have befallen Fossil Shells compared with those which are found to happen to shells now living in the Sea.” In this treatise he showed that the fossils have been encrusted with barnacles and serpulae, have been bored into by other organisms, and have often been rounded or broken before final entombment; and he inferred that these fossils must have lived and died on the sea-floor under similar conditions to those which obtain on the sea-floor to-day. His argument was the most triumphant that had ever been brought against the doctrine of lusus naturae, and that of the efficacy of Noah’s flood—doctrines which still held their ground in Guettard’s day. When Soulavie, Cuvier and Brongniart in France, and William Smith in England, showed that the rock formations of the earth’s crust could be arranged in chronological order, and could be recognized far and wide by means of their enclosed organic remains, the vast significance of these remains in geological research was speedily realized, and palaeontological geology at once entered on a new and enlarged phase of development. But apart from their value as chronological monuments, and as witnesses of former conditions of geography, fossils presented in themselves a wide field of investigation as types of life that had formerly existed, but had now passed away. It was in France that this subject first took definite shape as an important branch of science. The mollusca of the Tertiary deposits of the Paris basin became, in the hands of Lamarck, the basis on which invertebrate palaeontology was founded. The same series of strata furnished to Cuvier the remains of extinct land animals, of which, by critical study of their fragmentary bones and skeletons, he worked out restorations that may be looked on as the starting-point of vertebrate palaeontology. These brilliant researches, rousing widespread interest in such studies, showed how great a flood of light could be thrown on the past history of the earth and its inhabitants. But the full significance of these extinct types of life could not be understood so long as the doctrine of the immutability of species, so strenuously upheld by Cuvier, maintained its sway among naturalists. Lamarck, as far back as the year 1800, had begun to propound his theory of evolution and the transformation of species; but his views, strongly opposed by Cuvier and the great body of naturalists of the day, fell into neglect. Not until after the publication in 1859 of the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin were the barriers of old prejudice in this matter finally broken down. The possibility of tracing the ancestry of living forms back into the remotest ages was then perceived; the time-honoured fiction that the stratified formations record a series of catastrophes and re-creations was finally dissipated; and the earth’s crust was seen to contain a noble, though imperfect, record of the grand evolution of organic types of which our planet has been the theatre.
Development of Petrographical Geology.—Theophrastus, the favourite pupil of Aristotle, wrote a treatise On Stones, which has come down to our own day, and may be regarded as the earliest work on petrography. At a subsequent period Pliny, in his Natural History, collected all that was known in his day regarding the occurrence and uses of minerals and rocks. But neither of these works is of great scientific importance, though containing much interesting information. Minerals from their beauty and value attracted notice before much attention was paid to rocks, and their study gave rise to the science of mineralogy long before geology came into existence. When rocks began to be more particularly scrutinized, it was chiefly from the side of their usefulness for building and other economic purposes. The occurrence of marine shells in many of them had early attracted attention to them. But their varieties of composition and origin did not become the subject of serious study until after Linnaeus and J. G. Wallerius in the 18th century had made a beginning. The first important contribution to this department of the science was that of Werner, who in 1786 published a classification and description of rocks in which he arranged them in two divisions, simple and compound, and further distinguished them by various external characters and by their relative age. The publication of this scheme may be said to mark the beginning of scientific petrography. Werner’s system, however, had the serious defect that the chronological order in which he grouped the rocks, and the hypothesis by which he accounted for them as chemical precipitates from the original ocean, were both alike contrary to nature. It was hardly possible indeed that much progress could be made in this branch of geology until chemistry and mineralogy had made greater advances; and especially until it was possible to ascertain the intimate chemical and mineralogical composition, and the minute structure of rocks. The study, however, continued to be pursued in Germany, where the influence of Werner’s enthusiasm still led men to enter the petrographical rather than the palaeontological domain. The resources of modern chemistry were pressed into the service, and analyses were made and multiplied to such a degree that it seemed as if the ultimate chemical constitution of every type of rock had now been thoroughly revealed. The condition of the science in the middle of the 19th century was well shown by J. L. A. Roth, who in 1861 collected about 1000 trustworthy analyses which up to that time had been made. But though the chemical elements of the rocks had been fairly well determined, the manner in which they were combined in the compound rocks could for the most part be only more or less plausibly conjectured. As far back as 1831 an account was published of a process devised by William Nicol of Edinburgh, whereby sections of fossil wood could be cut, mounted on glass, and reduced to such a degree of transparency as to be easily examined under a microscope. Henry Sorby, of Sheffield, having seen Nicol’s preparations, perceived how admirably adapted the process was for the study of the minute structure and composition of rocks. In 1858 he published in the Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society a paper “On the Microscopical Structure of Crystals.” This essay led to a complete revolution of petrographical methods and gave a vast impetus to the study of rocks. Petrology entered upon a new and wider field of investigation. Not only were the mineralogical constituents of the rocks detected, but minute structures were revealed which shed new light on the origin and history of these mineral masses, and opened up new paths in theoretical geology. In the hands of H. Vogelsang, F. Zirkel, H. Rosenbusch, and a host of other workers in all civilized countries, the literature of this department of the science has grown to a remarkable extent. Armed with the powerful aid of modern optical instruments, geologists are now able with far more prospect of success to resume the experiments begun a century before by de Saussure and Hall. G. A. Daubrée, C. Friedel, E. Sarasin, F. Fouqué and A. Michel Lévy in France, C. Doelter y Cisterich and E. Hussak of Gratz, J. Morozewicz of Warsaw and others, have greatly advanced our knowledge by their synthetical analyses, and there is every reason to hope that further advances will be made in this field of research.
Rise of Physiographical Geology.—Until stratigraphical geology had advanced so far as to show of what a vast succession of rocks the crust of the earth is built up, by what a long and complicated series of revolutions these rocks have come to assume their present positions, and how enormous has been the lapse of time which all these changes represent, it was not possible to make a scientific study of the surface features of our globe. From ancient times it had been known that many parts of the land had once been under the sea; but down even to the beginning of the 19th century the vaguest conceptions continued to prevail as to the operations concerned in the submergence and elevation of land, and as to the processes whereby the present outlines of terrestrial topography were determined. We have seen, for instance, that according to the teaching of Werner the oldest rocks were first precipitated from solution in the universal ocean to form the mountains, that the vertical position of their strata was original, that as the waters subsided successive formations were deposited and laid bare, and that finally the superfluous portion of the ocean was whisked away into space by some unexplained co-operation of another planetary body. Desmarest, in his investigation of the volcanic history of Auvergne, was the first observer to perceive by what a long process of sculpture the present configuration of the land has been brought about. He showed conclusively that the valleys have been carved out by the streams that flow in them, and that while they have sunk deeper and deeper into the framework of the land, the spaces of ground between them have been left as intervening ridges and hills. De Saussure learnt a similar lesson from his studies of the Alps, and Hutton and Playfair made it a cardinal feature in their theory of the earth. Nevertheless the idea encountered so much opposition that it made but little way until after the middle of the 19th century. Geologists preferred to believe in convulsions of nature, whereby valleys were opened and mountains were upheaved. That the main features of the land, such as the great mountain-chains, had been produced by gigantic plication of the terrestrial crust was now generally admitted, and also that minor fractures and folds had probably initiated many of the valleys. But those who realized most vividly the momentous results achieved by ages of subaerial denudation perceived that, as Hutton showed, even without the aid of underground agency, the mere flow of water in streams across a mass of land must in course of time carve out just such a system of valleys as may anywhere be seen. It was J. B. Jukes who, in 1862, first revived the Huttonian doctrine, and showed how completely it explained the drainage-lines in the south of Ireland. Other writers followed in quick succession until, in a few years, the doctrine came to be widely recognized as one of the established principles of modern geology. Much help was derived from the admirable illustrations of land-sculpture and river-erosion supplied from the Western Territories and States of the American Union.
Another branch of physiographical geology which could only come into existence after most of the other departments of the science had made large progress, deals with the evolution of the framework of each country and of the several continents and oceans of the globe. It is now possible, with more or less confidence, to trace backward the history of every terrestrial area, to see how sea and land have there succeeded each other, how rivers and lakes have come and gone, how the crust of the earth has been ridged up at widely separated intervals, each movement determining some line of mountains or plains, how the boundaries of the oceans have shifted again and again in the past, and thus how, after so prolonged a series of revolutions, the present topography of each country, and of the globe as a whole, has been produced. In the prosecution of this subject maps have been constructed to show what is conjectured to have been the distribution of sea and land during the various geological periods in different parts of the world, and thus to indicate the successive stages through which the architecture of the land has been gradually evolved. The most noteworthy contribution to this department of the science is the Antlitz der Erde of Professor Suess of Vienna. This important and suggestive work has been translated into French and English.
Part II.—Cosmical Aspects
Before geology had attained to the position of an inductive science, it was customary to begin investigations into the history of the earth by propounding or adopting some more or less fanciful hypothesis in explanation of the origin of our planet, or even of the universe. Such preliminary notions were looked upon as essential to a right understanding of the manner in which the materials of the globe had been put together. One of the distinguishing features of Hutton’s Theory of the Earth consisted in his protest that it is no part of the province of geology to discuss the origin of things. He taught that in the materials from which geological evidence is to be compiled there can be found “no traces of a beginning, no prospect of an end.” In England, mainly to the influence of the school which he founded, and to the subsequent rise of the Geological Society of London, which resolved to collect facts instead of fighting over hypotheses, is due the disappearance of the crude and unscientific cosmologies by which the writings of the earlier geologists were distinguished.
But there can now be little doubt that in the reaction against those visionary and often grotesque speculations, geologists were carried too far in an opposite direction. In allowing themselves to believe that geology had nothing to do with questions of cosmogony, they gradually grew up in the conviction that such questions could never be other than mere speculation, interesting or amusing as a theme for the employment of the fancy, but hardly coming within the domain of sober and inductive science. Nor would they soon have been awakened out of this belief by anything in their own science. It is still true that in the data with which they are accustomed to deal, as comprising the sum of geological evidence, there can be found no trace of a beginning, though the evidence furnished by the terrestrial crust shows a general evolution of organic forms from some starting-point which cannot be seen. The oldest rocks which have been discovered on any part of the globe have probably been derived from other rocks older than themselves. Geology by itself has not yet revealed, and is little likely ever to reveal, a trace of the first solid crust of our globe. If, then, geological history is to be compiled from direct evidence furnished by the rocks of the earth, it cannot begin at the beginning of things, but must be content to date its first chapter from the earliest period of which any record has been preserved among the rocks.
Nevertheless, though geology in its usual restricted sense has been, and must ever be, unable to reveal the earliest history of our planet, it no longer ignores, as mere speculation, what is attempted in this subject by its sister sciences. Astronomy, physics and chemistry have in late years all contributed to cast light on the earlier stages of the earth’s existence, previous to the beginning of what is commonly regarded as geological history. But whatever extends our knowledge of the former conditions of our globe may be legitimately claimed as part of the domain of geology. If this branch of inquiry, therefore, is to continue worthy of its name as the science of the earth, it must take cognizance of these recent contributions from other sciences. It must no longer be content to begin its annals with the records of the oldest rocks, but must endeavour to grope its way through the ages which preceded the formation of any rocks. Thanks to the results achieved with the telescope, the spectroscope and the chemical laboratory, the story of these earliest ages of our earth is every year becoming more definite and intelligible.
Up to the present time no definite light has been thrown by physics on the origin and earliest condition of our globe. The famous nebular theory (q.v.) of Kant and Laplace sketched the supposed evolution of the solar system from a gaseous nebula, slowly rotating round a more condensed central portion of its mass, which eventually became the sun. As a consequence of increased rapidity of rotation resulting from cooling and contraction, the nebula acquired a more and more lenticular form, until at last it threw off from its equatorial protuberance a ring of matter. Subsequently the same process was repeated, and other similar rings successively separated from the parent mass. Each ring went through a corresponding series of changes until it ultimately became a planet, with or without one or more attendant satellites. The intimate relationship of our earth to the sun and the other planets was, in this way, shown. But there are some serious physical difficulties in the way of the acceptance of the nebular hypothesis. Another explanation is given by the meteoritic hypothesis, according to which, out of the swarms of meteorites with which the regions of space are crowded, the sun and planets have been formed by gradual accretion.
According to these theoretical views we should expect to find a general uniformity of composition in the constituent matter of the solar system. For many years the only available evidence on this point was derived from the meteorites (q.v.) which so constantly fall from outer space upon the surface of the earth. These bodies were found to consist of elements, all of which had been recognized as entering into the constitution of the earth. But the discoveries of spectroscopic research have made known a far more widely serviceable method of investigation, which can be applied even to the luminous stars and nebulae that lie far beyond the bounds of the solar system. By this method information has been obtained regarding the constitution of the sun, and many of our terrestrial metals, such as iron, nickel and magnesium, have been ascertained to exist in the form of incandescent vapour in the solar atmosphere. The present condition of the sun probably represents one of the phases through which stars and planets pass in their progress towards becoming cool and dark bodies in space. If our globe was at first, like its parent sun, an incandescent mass of probably gaseous matter, occupying much more space than it now fills, we can conceive that it has ever since been cooling and contracting until it has reached its present form and dimensions, and that it still retains a high internal temperature. Its oblately spheroidal form is such as would be assumed by a rotating mass of matter in the transition from a vaporous and self-luminous or liquid condition to one of cool and dark solidity. But it has been claimed that even a solid spherical globe might develop, under the influence of protracted rotation, such a shape as the earth at present possesses.
The observed increase of temperature downwards in our planet has hitherto been generally accepted as a relic and proof of an original high temperature and mobility of substance. Recently, however, the validity of this proof has been challenged on the ground that the ascertained amount of radium in the rocks of the outer crust is more than sufficient to account for the observed downward increase of temperature. Too little, however, is known of the history and properties of what is called radium to afford a satisfactory ground on which to discard what has been, and still remains, the prevalent belief on this subject.
An important epoch in the geological history of the earth was marked by the separation of the moon from its mass (see Tide). Whether the severance arose from the rupture of a surrounding ring or the gradual condensation of matter in such a ring, or from the ejection of a single mass of matter from the rapidly rotating planet, it has been shown that our satellite was only a few thousand miles from the earth’s surface, since when it has retreated to its present distance of 240,000 m. Hence the influence of the moon’s attraction, and all the geological effects to which it gives rise, attained their maximum far back in the development of the globe, and have been slowly diminishing throughout geological history.
The sun by virtue of its vast size has not yet passed out of the condition of glowing gas, and still continues to radiate heat beyond the farthest planet of the solar system. The earth, however, being so small a body in comparison, would cool down much more quickly. Underneath its hot atmosphere a crust would conceivably begin to form over its molten surface, though the interior might still possess a high temperature and, owing to the feeble conducting power of rocks, would remain intensely hot for a protracted series of ages.
Full information regarding the form and size of the earth, and its relations to the other planetary members of the solar system, will be found in the articles Planet and Solar System. For the purposes of geological inquiry the reader will bear in mind that the equatorial diameter of our globe is estimated to be about 7925 m., and the polar diameter about 7899 m.; the difference between these two sums representing the amount of flattening at the poles (about 261 m.). The planet has been compared in shape to an orange, but it resembles an orange which has been somewhat squeezed, for its equatorial circumference is not a regular circle but an ellipse, of which the major axis lies in long. 8° 15′ W.—on a meridian which cuts the north-west corner of America, passing through Portugal and Ireland, and the north-east corner of Asia in the opposite hemisphere.
The rotation of the earth on its axis exerts an important influence on the movements of the atmosphere, and thereby affects the geological operations connected with these movements. The influence of rotation is most marked in the great aerial circulation between the poles and the equator. Currents of air, which set out in a meridional direction from high latitudes towards the equator, come from regions where the velocity due to rotation is small to where it is greater, and they consequently fall behind. Thus, in the northern hemisphere a north wind, as it moves away from its northern source of origin, is gradually deflected more and more towards the west and becomes a north-east current; while in the opposite hemisphere a wind making from high southern latitudes towards the equator becomes, from the same cause, a south-east current. Where, on the other hand, the air moves from the equatorial to the polar regions its higher velocity of rotation carries it eastward, so that on the south side of the equator it becomes a north-west current and on the north side a south-west current. It is to this cause that the easting and westing of the great atmospheric currents are to be attributed, as is familiarly exemplified in the trade winds.
The atmospheric circulation thus deflected influences the circulation of the ocean. The winds which persistently blow from the north-east on the north side of the equator, and from the south-east on the south side, drive the superficial waters onwards, and give rise to converging oceanic currents which unite to form the great westerly equatorial current.
A more direct effect of terrestrial rotation has been claimed in the case of rivers which flow in a meridional direction. It has been asserted that those, which in the northern hemisphere flow from north to south, like the Volga, by continually passing into regions where the velocity of rotation is increasingly greater, are thrown more against their western than their eastern banks, while those whose general course is in an opposite direction, like the Irtisch and Yenesei, press more upon their eastern sides. There cannot be any doubt that the tendency of the streams must be in the directions indicated. But when the comparatively slow current and constantly meandering course of most rivers are taken into consideration, it may be doubted whether the influence of rotation is of much practical account so far as river-erosion is concerned.
One of the cosmical relations of our planet which has been more especially prominent in geological speculations relates to the position of the earth’s axis of rotation. Abundant evidence has now been obtained to prove that at a comparatively late geological period a rich flora, resembling that of warm climates at the present day, existed in high latitudes even within less than 9° of the north pole, where, with an extremely low temperature and darkness lasting for half of the year, no such vegetation could possibly now exist. It has accordingly been maintained by many geologists that the axis of rotation must have shifted, and that when the remarkable Arctic assemblage of fossil plants lived the region of their growth must have lain in latitudes much nearer to the equator of the time.
The possibility of any serious displacement of the rotational axis since a very early period in the earth’s history has been strenuously denied by astronomers, and their arguments have been generally, but somewhat reluctantly, accepted by geologists, who find themselves confronted with a problem which has hitherto seemed insoluble. That the axis is not rigidly stable, however, has been postulated by some physicists, and has now been demonstrated by actual observation and measurement. It is admitted that by the movement of large bodies of water the air over the surface of the globe, and more particularly by the accumulation of vast masses of snow and ice in different regions, the position of the axis might be to some extent shifted; more serious effects might follow from widespread upheavals or depressions of the surface of the lithosphere. On the assumption of the extreme rigidity of the earth’s interior, however, the general result of mathematical calculation is to negative the supposition that in any of these ways within the period represented by what is known as the “geological record,” that is, since the time of the oldest known sedimentary formations, the rotational axis has ever been so seriously displaced as to account for such stupendous geological events as the spread of a luxuriant vegetation far up into polar latitudes. If, however, the inside of the globe possesses a great plasticity than has been allowed, the shifting of the axis might not be impossible, even to such an extent as would satisfy the geological requirements. This question is one on which the last word has not been said, and regarding which judgment must remain in suspense.
In recent years fresh information bearing on the minor devagations of the pole has been obtained from a series of several thousand careful observations made in Europe and North America. It has thus been ascertained that the pole wanders with a curiously irregular but somewhat spiral movement, within an amplitude of between 40 and 50 ft., and completes its erratic circuit in about 428 days. It was not supposed that its movement had any geological interest, but Dr John Milne has recently pointed out that the times of sharpest curvature in the path of the pole coincide with the occurrence of large earthquakes, and has suggested that, although it can hardly be assumed that this coincidence shows any direct connexion between earthquake frequency and changes in the position of the earth’s axis, both effects may not improbably arise from the same redistribution of surface material by ocean currents and meteorological causes.
If for any reason the earth’s centre of gravity were sensibly displaced, momentous geological changes would necessarily ensue. That the centre of gravity does not coincide with the centre of figure of the globe, but lies to the south of it, has long been known. This greater aggregation of dense material in the southern hemisphere probably dates from the early ages of the earth’s consolidation, and it is difficult to believe that any readjustment of the distribution of this material in the earth’s interior is now possible. But certain rearrangements of the hydrosphere on the surface of the globe may, from time to time, cause a shifting of the centre of gravity, which will affect the level of the ocean. The accumulation of enormous masses of ice around the pole will give rise to such a displacement, and will thus increase the body of oceanic water in the glaciated hemisphere. Various calculations have been made of the effect of the transference of the ice-cap from one pole to the other, a revolution which may possibly have occurred more than once in the past history of the globe. James Croll estimated that if the mass of ice in the southern hemisphere be assumed to be 1000 ft. thick down to lat. 60°, its removal to the opposite hemisphere would raise the level of the sea 80 ft. at the north pole, while the Rev. Osmond Fisher made the rise as much as 409 ft. The melting of the ice would still further raise the sea-level by the addition of so large a volume of water to the ocean. To what extent superficial changes of this kind have operated in geological history remains an unsolved problem, but their probable occurrence in the past has to be recognized as one of the factors that must be considered in tracing the revolutions of the earth’s surface.
The Age of the Earth.—Intimately connected with the relations of our globe to the sun and the other members of the solar system is the question of the planet’s antiquity—a subject of great geological importance, regarding which much discussion has taken place since the middle of the 19th century. Though an account of this discussion necessarily involves allusion to departments of geology which are more appropriately referred to in later parts of this article, it may perhaps be most conveniently included here.
Geologists were for many years in the habit of believing that no limit could be assigned to the antiquity of the planet, and that they were at liberty to make unlimited drafts on the ages of the past. In 1862 and subsequent years, however, Lord Kelvin (then Sir William Thomson) pointed out that these demands were opposed to known physical facts, and that the amount of time required for geological history was not only limited, but must have been comprised within a comparatively narrow compass. His argument rested on three kinds of evidence: (1) the internal heat and rate of cooling of the earth; (2) the tidal retardation of the earth’s rotation; and (3) the origin and age of the sun’s heat.
1. Applying Fourier’s theory of thermal conductivity, Lord Kelvin contended that in the known rate of increase of temperature downward and beneath the surface, and the rate of loss of heat from the earth, we have a limit to the antiquity of the planet. He showed, from the data available at the time, that the superficial consolidation of the globe could not have occurred less than 20 million years ago, or the underground heat would have been greater than it is; nor more than 400 million years ago, otherwise the underground temperature would have shown no sensible increase downwards. He admitted that very wide limits were necessary. In subsequently discussing the subject, he inclined rather towards the lower than the higher antiquity, but concluded that the limit, from a consideration of all the evidence, must be placed within some such period of past time as 100 millions of years.
2. The argument from tidal retardation proceeds on the admitted fact that, owing to the friction of the tide-wave, the rotation of the earth is retarded, and is, therefore, much slower now than it must have been at one time. Lord Kelvin affirmed that had the globe become solid some 10,000 million years ago, or indeed any high antiquity beyond 100 million years, the centrifugal force due to the more rapid rotation must have given the planet a very much greater polar flattening than it actually possesses. He admitted, however, that, though 100 million years ago that force must have been about 3% greater than now, yet “nothing we know regarding the figure of the earth, and the disposition of land and water, would justify us in saying that a body consolidated when there was more centrifugal force by 3% than now, might not now be in all respects like the earth, so far as we know it at present.”
3. The third argument, based upon the age of the sun’s heat, is confessedly less to be relied on than the two previous ones. It proceeds upon calculations as to the amount of heat which would be available by the falling together of masses from space, which gave rise by their impact to our sun. The vagueness of the data on which this argument rests may be inferred from the fact that in one passage P. G. Tait placed the limit of time during which the sun has been illuminating the earth as, “on the very highest computation, not more than about 15 or 20 millions of years”; while, in another sentence of the same volume, he admitted that, “by calculations in which there is no possibility of large error, this hypothesis [of the origin of the sun’s heat by the falling together of masses of matter] is thoroughly competent to explain 100 millions of years’ solar radiation at the present rate, perhaps more.” In more recently reviewing his argument, Lord Kelvin expressed himself in favour of more strictly limiting geological time than he had at first been disposed to do. He insists that the time “was more than 20 and less than 40 millions of years and probably much nearer 20 than 40.” Geologists appear to have reluctantly brought themselves to believe that perhaps, after all, 100 millions of years might suffice for the evolution of geological history. But when the time was cut down to 15 or 20 millions they protested that such a restricted period was insufficient for that evolution, and though they did not offer any effective criticism of the arguments of the physicists they felt convinced that there must be some flaw in the premises on which these arguments were based.
By degrees, however, there have arisen among the physicists themselves grave doubts as to the validity of the physical evidence on which the limitation of the earth’s age has been founded, and at the same time greater appreciation has been shown of the signification and certainty than that of the geologists, and the scale of geological time remains in great measure unknown” (see also Tide, chap. viii.).of the geological proofs of the high antiquity of our planet. In an address from the chair of the Mathematical Section of the British Association in 1886, Professor (afterwards Sir) George Darwin reviewed the controversy, and pronounced the following deliberate judgment in regard to it: “In considering these three arguments I have adduced some reasons against the validity of the first [tidal friction], and have endeavoured to show that there are elements of uncertainty surrounding the second [secular cooling of the earth]; nevertheless, they undoubtedly constitute a contribution of the first importance to physical geology. Whilst, then, we may protest against the precision with which Professor Tait seeks to deduce results from them, we are fully justified in following Sir William Thomson, who says that ‘the existing state of things on the earth, life on the earth—all geological history showing continuity of life—must be limited within some such period of past time as 100 million years’.” Lord Kelvin has never dealt with the geological and palaeontological objections against the limitation of geological time to a few millions of years. But Professor Darwin, in the address just cited, uttered the memorable warning: “At present our knowledge of a definite limit to geological time has so little precision that we should do wrong summarily to reject theories which appear to demand longer periods of time than those which now appear allowable.” In his presidential address to the British Association at Cape Town in 1905 he returned to the subject, remarking that the argument derived from the increase of underground temperature “seems to be entirely destroyed” by the discovery of the properties of radium. He thinks that “it does not seem extravagant to suppose that 500 to 1000 million years may have elapsed since the birth of the moon.” He has “always believed that the geologists were more nearly correct than the physicists, notwithstanding the fact that appearances were so strongly against them,” and he concludes thus: “It appears, then, that the physical argument is not susceptible of a greater degree of
In an address to the mathematical section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1889, the vice-president of the section, R. S. Woodward, thus expressed himself with regard to the physical arguments brought forward by Lord Kelvin and Professor Tait in limitation of geological time: “Having been at some pains to look into this matter, I feel bound to state that, although the hypothesis appears to be the best which can be formulated at present, the odds are against its correctness. Its weak links are the unverified assumptions of an initial uniform temperature and a constant diffusivity. Very likely these are approximations, but of what order we cannot decide. Furthermore, if we accept the hypothesis, the odds appear to be against the present attainment of trustworthy numerical results, since the data for calculation, obtained mostly from observations on continental areas, are far too meagre to give satisfactory average values for the entire mass of the earth.”
Still more emphatic is the protest made from the physical side by Professor John Perry. He has attacked each of the three lines of argument of Lord Kelvin, and has impugned the validity of the conclusions drawn from them. The argument from tidal retardation he dismisses as fallacious, following in this contention the previous criticism of the Rev. Maxwell Close and Sir George Darwin. In dealing with the argument based on the secular cooling of the earth, he holds it to be perfectly allowable to assume a much higher conductivity for the interior of the globe, and that such a reasonable assumption would enable us greatly to increase our estimate of the earth’s antiquity. As for the third argument, from the age of the sun’s heat, he points out that the sun may have been repeatedly fed by a supply of meteorites from outside, while the earth may have been protected from radiation, and been able to retain much of its heat by being enveloped in a dense atmosphere. Remarking that “almost anything is possible as to the present internal state of the earth,” he concludes thus: “To sum up, we can find no published record of any lower maximum age of life on the earth, as calculated by physicists, than 400 millions of years. From the three physical arguments Lord Kelvin’s higher limits are 1000, 400 and 500 million years. I have shown that we have reasons for believing that the age, from all these, may be very considerably underestimated. It is to be observed that if we exclude everything but the arguments from mere physics, the probable age of life on the earth is much less than any of the above estimates; but if the palaeontologists have good reasons for demanding much greater times, I see nothing from the physicists’ point of view which denies them four times the greatest of these estimates.”
A fresh line of argument against Lord Kelvin’s limitation of the antiquity of our globe has recently been started by the remarkable discoveries in radio-activity. From the ascertained properties of radium it appears to be possible that our estimates of solar heat, as derived from the theory of gravitation, may have to be augmented ten or twenty times; that stores of radium and similar bodies within the earth may have indefinitely deferred the establishment of the present temperature gradient from the surface inward; that consequently the earth may have remained for long ages at a temperature not greatly different from that which it now possesses, and hence that the times during which our globe has supported animal and vegetable life may be very much longer than that allowed in the estimates previously made by physicists from other data (see Radioactivity).
The arguments from the geological side against the physical contention that would limit the age of our globe to some 10 or 20 millions of years are mainly based on the observed rates of geological and biological changes at the present time upon land and sea, and on the nature, physical history and organic contents of the stratified crust of the earth. Unfortunately, actual numerical data are not obtainable in many departments of geological activity, and even where they can be procured they do not yet rest on a sufficiently wide collection of accurate and co-ordinated observations. But in some branches of dynamical geology, material exists for, at least, a preliminary computation of the rate of change. This is more especially the case in respect of the wide domain of denudation. The observational records of the action of the sea, of springs, rivers and glaciers are becoming gradually fuller and more trustworthy. A method of making use of these records for estimating the rate of denudation of the land has been devised. Taking the Mississippi as a general type of river action, it has been shown that the amount of material conveyed by this stream into the sea in one year is equivalent to the lowering of the general surface of the drainage basin of the river by 1 of a foot. This would amount to one foot in 6000 years and 1000 ft. in 6 million years. So that at the present rate of waste in the Mississippi basin a whole continent might be worn away in a few millions of years.
It is evident that as deposition and denudation are simultaneous processes, the ascertainment of the rate at which solid material is removed from the surface of the land supplies some necessary information for estimating the rate at which new sedimentary formations are being accumulated on the floor of the sea, and for a computation of the length of time that would be required at the present rate of change for the deposition of all the stratified rocks that enter into the composition of the crust of our globe. If the thickness of these rocks be assumed to be 100,000 ft., and if we could suppose them to have been laid down over as wide an area as that of the drainage basins from the waste of which they were derived, then at the present rate of denudation their accumulation would require some 600 millions of years. But, as Dr A. R. Wallace has justly pointed out, the tract of sea-floor over which the material derived from the waste of the terrestrial surface is laid down is at present much less than that from which this material is worn away. We have no means, however, of determining what may have been the ratio between the two areas in past time. Certainly ancient marine sedimentary rocks cover at the present day a much more extensive area than that in which they are now being elaborated. If we take the ratio postulated by Dr Wallace—1 to 19—the 100,000 ft. of sedimentary strata would require 31 millions of years for their accumulation. It is quite possible, however, that this ratio may be much too high. There are reasons for believing that the proportion of coast-line to land area has been diminishing during geological time; in other words, that in early times the land was more insular and is now more continental. So that the 31 millions of years may be much less than the period that would be required, even on the supposition of continuous uninterrupted denudation and sedimentation, during the whole of the time represented by the stratified formations.
But no one who has made himself familiar with the actual composition of these formations and the detailed structure of the terrestrial crust can fail to recognize how vague, imperfect and misleading are the data on which such computations are founded. It requires no prolonged acquaintance with the earth’s crust to impress upon the mind that one all-important element is omitted, and indeed can hardly be allowed for from want of sufficiently precise data, but the neglect of which must needs seriously impair the value of all numerical calculations made without it. The assumption that the stratified formations can be treated as if they consisted of a continuous unbroken sequence of sediments, indicating a vast and uninterrupted process of waste and deposition, is one that is belied on every hand by the actual structure of these formations. It can only give us a minimum of the time required; for, instead of an unbroken series, the sedimentary formations are full of “unconformabilities”—gaps in the sequence of the chronological records—as if whole chapters and groups of chapters had been torn out of a historical work. It can often be shown that these breaks of continuity must have been of vast duration, and actually exceeded in chronological importance thick groups of strata lying below and above them (see Part VI.). Moreover, even among the uninterrupted strata, where no such unconformabilities exist, but where the sediments follow each other in apparently uninterrupted sequence, and might be thought to have been deposited continuously at the same general rate, and without the intervention of any pause, it can be demonstrated that sometimes an inch or two of sediment , on certain horizons, represent the deposit of an enormously longer period than a hundred or a thousand times the same amount of sediment on other horizons. A prolonged study of these questions leads to a profound conviction that in many parts of the geological record the time represented by sedimentary deposits may be vastly less than the time which is not so represented.
It has often been objected that the present rate of geological change ought not to be taken as a measure of the rate in past time, because the total sum of terrestrial energy has been steadily diminishing, and geological processes must consequently have been more vigorous in former ages than they are now. Geologists do not pretend to assert that there has been no variation or diminution in the activities of the various processes which they have to study. What they do insist on is that the present rate of change is the only one which we can watch and measure, and which will thus supply a statistical basis for any computations on the subject. But it has been dogmatically affirmed that because terrestrial energy has been diminishing therefore all kinds of geological work must have been more vigorously and more rapidly carried on in former times than now; that there were far more abundant and more stupendous volcanoes, more frequent and more destructive earthquakes, more gigantic upheavals and subsidences, more powerful oceanic waves and tides, more violent atmospheric disturbances with heavier rainfall and more active denudation.
It is easy to make these assertions, and they look plausible; but, after all, they rest on nothing stronger than assumption. They can be tested by an appeal to the crust of the earth, in which the geological history of our planet has been so fully recorded. Had such portentous manifestations of geological activity ever been the normal condition of things since the beginning of that history, there ought to be a record of them in the rocks. But no evidence for them has been found there, though it has been diligently sought for in all quarters of the globe. We may confidently assert that while geological changes may quite possibly have taken place on a gigantic scale in the earliest ages of the earth’s existence, of which no geological record remains, there is no proof that they have ever done so since the time when the very oldest of the stratified formations were deposited. There is no need to maintain that they have always been conducted precisely on the same scale as now, or to deny that they may have gradually become less vigorous as the general sum of terrestrial energy has diminished. But we may unhesitatingly affirm that no actual evidence of any such progressive diminution of activity has been adduced from the geological record in the crust of the earth: that, on the contrary, no appearances have been detected there which necessarily demand the assumption of those more powerful operations postulated by physicists, or which are not satisfactorily explicable by reference to the existing scale of nature’s processes.
That this conclusion is warranted even with regard to the innate energy of the globe itself will be seen if we institute a comparison between the more ancient and the more recent manifestations of that energy. Take, for example, the proofs of gigantic plication, fracture and displacement within the terrestrial crust. These, as they have affected the most ancient rocks of Europe, have been worked out in great detail in the north-west of Scotland. But they are not essentially different from or on a greater scale than those which have been proved to have affected the Alps, and to have involved strata of so recent a date as the older Tertiary formations. On the contrary, it may be doubted whether any denuded core of an ancient mountain-chain reveals traces of such stupendous disturbances of the crust as those which have given rise to the younger mountain-chains of the globe. It may, indeed, quite well have been the rule that instead of diminishing in intensity of effect, the consequences of terrestrial contraction have increased in magnitude, the augmenting thickness of the crust offering greater resistance to the stresses, and giving rise to vaster plications, faults, thrust-planes and metamorphism, as this growing resistance had to be overcome.
The assertion that volcanic action must have been more violent and more persistent in ancient times than it is now has assuredly no geological evidence in its support. It is quite true that there are vastly more remains of former volcanoes scattered over the surface of the globe than there are active craters now, and that traces of copious eruptions of volcanic material can be followed back into some of the oldest parts of the geological record. But we have no proof that ever at any one time in geological history there have been more or larger or more vigorous volcanoes than those of recent periods. It may be said that the absence of such proof ought not to invalidate the assertion until a far wider area of the earth’s surface has been geologically studied. But most assuredly, as far as geological investigation has yet gone, there is an overwhelming body of evidence to show that from the earliest epochs in geological history, as registered in the stratified rocks, volcanic action has manifested itself very much as it does now, but on a less rather than on a greater scale. Nowhere can this subject be more exhaustively studied than in the British Isles, where a remarkably complete series of volcanic eruptions has been chronicled ranging from the earliest Palaeozoic down to older Tertiary time. The result of a prolonged study of British volcanic geology has demonstrated that, even to minute points of detail, there has been a singular uniformity in the phenomena from beginning to end. The oldest lavas and ashes differ in no essential respect from the youngest. Nor have they been erupted more copiously or more frequently. Many successive volcanic periods have followed each other after prolonged intervals of repose, each displaying the same general sequence of phenomena and similar evidence of gradual diminution and extinction. The youngest, instead of being the feeblest, were the most extensive outbursts in the whole of this prolonged series.
If now we turn for evidence of the alleged greater activity of all the epigene or superficial forces, and especially for proofs of more rapid denudation and deposition on the earth’s surface, we search for it in vain among the stratified formations of the terrestrial crust. Had the oldest of these rocks been accumulated in a time of great atmospheric perturbation, of torrential rains, colossal tides and violent storms, we might surely expect to find among the sediments some proof of such disturbed meteorological and geographical conditions. We should look, on the one hand, for tumultuous accumulations of coarse unworn detritus, rapidly swept by rains, floods and waves from land to sea, and on the other hand, for an absence of any evidence of the tranquil and continuous deposit of such fine laminated silt as could only settle in quiet water. But an appeal to the geological record is made in vain for any such proofs. The oldest sediments, like the youngest, reveal the operation only of such agents and such rates of activity as are still to be witnessed in the accumulation of the same kind of deposits. If, for instance, we search the most ancient thick sedimentary formation in Britain—the Torridon Sandstone of north-west Scotland, which is older than the oldest fossiliferous deposits—we meet with nothing which might not be found in any Palaeozoic, Mesozoic or Cainozoic group of similar sediments. We see an accumulation, at least 8000 or 10,000 ft. thick, of consolidated sand, gravel and mud, such as may be gathering now on the floor of any large mountain-girdled lake. The conglomerates of this ancient series are not pell-mell heaps of angular detritus, violently swept away from the land and huddled promiscuously on the sea-floor. They are, in general, built up of pebbles that have been worn smooth, rounded and polished by prolonged attrition in running water, and they follow each other on successive platforms with intervening layers of finer sediment. The sandstones are composed of well water-worn sand, some of which has been laid down so tranquilly that its component grains have been separated out in layers according to their specific gravity, in such manner that they now present dark laminae in which particles of magnetic iron, zircon and other heavy minerals have been sifted out together, just as iron-sand may be seen gathered into thin sheets on sandy beaches at the present day. Again, the same series of primeval sediments includes intercalations of fine silt, which has been deposited as regularly and intermittently there as it has been among the most recent formations. These bands of shale have been diligently searched for fossils, as yet without success; but they may eventually disclose organic remains older than any hitherto found in Europe.
We now come to the consideration of the palaeontological evidence as to the value of geological time. Here the conclusions derived from a study of the structure of the sedimentary formations are vastly strengthened and extended. In the first place, the organization of the most ancient plants and animals furnishes no indication that they had to contend with any greater violence of storm, flood, wave or ocean-current than is familiar to their modern descendants. The oldest trees, shrubs, ferns and club-mosses display no special structures that suggest a difference in the general conditions of their environment. The most ancient crinoids, sponges, crustaceans, arachnids and molluscs were as delicately constructed as those of to-day, and their remains are often found in such perfect preservation as to show that neither during their lifetime nor after their death were they subject to any greater violence of the elements than their living representatives now experience. Of much more cogency, however, is the evidence supplied by the grand upward succession of organic forms, from the most ancient stratified rocks up to the present day. No biologist now doubts for a moment that this marvellous succession is the result of a gradual process of evolution from lower to higher types of organization. There may be differences of opinion as to the causes which have governed this process and the order of the steps through which it has advanced, but no one who is conversant with the facts will now venture to deny that it has taken place, and that, on any possible explanation of its progress, it must have demanded an enormous lapse of time. In the Cambrian or oldest fossiliferous formations there is already a large and varied fauna, in which the leading groups of invertebrate life are represented. On no tenable hypothesis can these be regarded as the first organisms that came into being on our planet. They must have had a long ancestry, and as Darwin first maintained, the time required for their evolution may have been “as long as, or probably far longer than, the whole interval from the Silurian [Cambrian] age to the present day.” The records of these earliest eras of organic development have unfortunately not survived the geological revolutions of the past; at least, they have not yet been recovered. But it cannot be doubted that they once existed and registered their testimony to the prodigious lapse of time prior to the deposition of the most ancient fossiliferous formations which have escaped destruction.
The impressive character of the evidence furnished by the sequence of organic forms throughout the great series of fossiliferous strata can hardly be fully realized without a detailed and careful study of the subject. Professor E. B. Poulton, in an address to the zoological section of the British Association at the Liverpool Meeting in 1896, showed how overwhelming are the demands which this evidence makes for long periods of time, and how impossible it is of comprehension unless these demands be conceded. The history of life upon the earth, though it will probably always be surrounded with great and even insuperable difficulties, becomes broadly comprehensible in its general progress when sufficient time is granted for the evolution which it records; but it remains unintelligible on any other conditions.
Taken then as a whole, the body of evidence, geological and palaeontological, in favour of the high antiquity of our globe is so great, so manifold, and based on such an ever-increasing breadth of observation and reflection, that it may be confidently appealed to in answer to the physical arguments which would seek to limit that antiquity to ten or twenty millions of years. In the present state of science it is out of our power to state positively what must be the lowest limit of the age of the earth. But we cannot assume it to be much less, and it may possibly have been much more, than the 100 millions of years which Lord Kelvin was at one time willing to concede.
Part III.—Geognosy. The Investigation of the Nature and Composition of the Materials of which the Earth Consists
This division of the science is devoted to a description of the parts of the earth—of the atmosphere and ocean that surround the planet, and more especially of the solid materials that underlie these envelopes and extend downwards to an unknown distance into the interior. These various constituents of the globe are here considered as forms of matter capable of being analysed, and arranged according to their composition and the place they take in the general composition of the globe.
Viewed in the simplest way the earth may be regarded as made up of three distinct parts, each of which ever since an early period of planetary history has been the theatre of important geological operations. (1) An envelope of air, termed the atmosphere, which surrounds the whole globe; (2) A lower and less extensive envelope of water, known as the hydrosphere (Gr. ὕδωρ, water) which, constituting the oceans and seas, covers nearly three-fourths of the underlying solid surface of the planet; (3) A globe, called the lithosphere (Gr. λίθος, stone), the external part of which, consisting of solid stone, forms the crust, while underneath, and forming the vast mass of the interior, lies the nucleus, regarding the true constitution of which we are still ignorant.
1. The Atmosphere.—The general characters of the atmosphere are described in separate articles (see especially Atmosphere; Meteorology). Only its relations to geology have here to be considered. As this gaseous envelope encircles the whole globe it is the most universally present and active of all the agents of geological change. Its efficacy in this respect arises partly from its composition, and the chemical reactions which it effects upon the surface of the land, partly from its great variations in temperature and moisture, and partly from its movements.
Many speculations have been made regarding the chemical composition of the atmosphere during former geological periods. There can indeed be little doubt that it must originally have differed greatly from its present condition. If the whole mass of the planet originally existed in a gaseous state, there would be practically no atmosphere. The present outer envelope of air may be considered to be the surviving relic of this condition, after all the other constituents have been incorporated into the hydrosphere and lithosphere. The oxygen, which now forms fully a half of the outer crust of the earth, was doubtless originally, whether free or in combination, part of the atmosphere. So, too, the vast beds of coal found all over the world, in geological formations of many different ages, represent so much carbonic acid once present in the air. The chlorides and other salts in the sea may likewise partly represent materials carried down out of the atmosphere in the primitive condensation of the aqueous vapour, though they have been continually increased ever since by contributions from the drainage of the land. It has often been suggested that, during the Carboniferous period, the atmosphere must have been warmer and more charged with aqueous vapour and carbon dioxide than at the present day, to admit of so luxuriant a flora as that from which the coal-seams were formed. There seems, however, to be at present no method of arriving at any certainty on this subject. Lastly, the amount of carbonic acid absorbed in the weathering of rocks at the surface, and the consequent production of carbonates, represents an enormous abstraction of this gas.
As at present constituted, the atmosphere is regarded as a mechanical mixture of nearly four volumes of nitrogen and one of oxygen, together with an average of 3.5 parts of carbon dioxide in every 10,000 parts of air, and minute quantities of various other gases and solid particles. Of the vapours contained in it by far the most important is that of water which, although always present, varies greatly in amount according to variations in temperature. By condensation the water vapour appears in visible form as dew, mist, cloud, rain, hail, snow and ice, and in these forms includes and carries down some of the other vapours, gases and solid particles present in the air. The circulation of water from the atmosphere to the land, from the land to the sea, and again from the sea to the land, forms the great geological process whereby the habitable condition of the planet is maintained and the surface of the land is sculptured (Part IV.).
2. The Hydrosphere.—The water envelope covers nearly three-fourths of the surface of the earth, and forms the various oceans and seas which, though for convenience of reference distinguished by separate names, are all linked together in one great body. The physical characters of this vast envelope are discussed in separate articles (see Ocean and Oceanography). Viewed from the geological standpoint, the features of the sea that specially deserve attention are first the composition of its waters, and secondly its movements.
Sea-water is distinguished from that of ordinary lakes and rivers by its greater specific gravity and its saline taste. Its average density is about 1.026, but it varies even within the same ocean, being least where large quantities of fresh water are added from rain or melting snow and ice, and greatest where evaporation is most active. That sea-water is heavier than fresh arises from the greater proportion of salts which it contains in solution. These salts constitute about three and a half parts in every hundred of water. They consist mainly of chlorides of sodium and magnesium, the sulphates of magnesium, calcium and potassium, with minuter quantities of magnesium bromide and calcium carbonate. Still smaller proportions of other substances have been detected, gold for example having been found in the proportion of 1 part in 15,180,000.
That many of the salts have existed in the sea from the time of its first condensation out of the primeval atmosphere appears to be probable. It is manifest, however, that, whatever may have been the original composition of the oceans, they have for a vast section of geological time been constantly receiving mineral matter in solution from the land. Every spring, brook and river removes various salts from the rocks over which it moves, and these substances, thus dissolved, eventually find their way into the sea. Consequently sea-water ought to contain more or less traceable proportions of every substance which the terrestrial waters can remove from the land, in short, of probably every element present in the outer shell of the globe, for there seems to be no constituent of this earth which may not, under certain circumstances, be held in solution in water. Moreover, unless there be some counteracting process to remove these mineral ingredients, the ocean water ought to be growing, insensibly perhaps, but still assuredly,, for the supply of saline matter from the land is incessant.
To the geologist the presence of mineral solutions in sea-water is a fact of much importance, for it explains the origin of a considerable part of the stratified rocks of the earth’s crust. By evaporation the water has given rise to deposits of rock-salt, gypsum and other materials. The lime contained in solution, whether as sulphate or carbonate, has been extracted by many tribes of marine animals, which have thus built up out of their remains vast masses of solid limestone, of which many mountain-chains largely consist.
Another important geological feature of the sea is to be seen in the fact that its basins form the great receptacles for the detritus worn away from the land. Besides the limestones, the visible parts of the terrestrial crust are, in large measure, composed of sedimentary rocks which were originally laid down on the sea-bottom. Moreover, by its various movements, the sea occupies a prominent place among the epigene or superficial agents which produce geological changes on the surface of the globe.
3. The Lithosphere.—Beneath the gaseous and liquid envelopes lies the solid part of the planet, which is conveniently regarded as consisting of two parts,—(a) the crust, and (b) the interior or nucleus.
It was for a long time a prevalent belief that the interior of the globe is a molten mass round which an outer shell has gradually formed through cooling. Hence the term “crust” was applied to this external solid envelope, which was variously computed to be 10, 20, or more miles in thickness. The crust. The portion of this crust accessible to human observation was seen to afford abundant evidence of vast plications and corrugations of its substance, which were regarded as only explicable on the supposition of a thin solid collapsible shell floating on a denser liquid interior. When, however, physical arguments were adduced to show the great rigidity of the earth as a whole, the idea of a thin crust enclosing a molten nucleus was reluctantly abandoned by geologists, who found the problem of the earth’s interior to be incapable of solution by any evidence which their science could produce. They continued, however, to use the term “crust” as a convenient word to denote the cool outer layer of the earth’s mass, the structure and history of which form the main subjects of geological investigation. More recently, however, various lines of research have concurred in suggesting that, whatever may be the condition of the interior, its substance must differ greatly from that of the outer shell, and that there may be more reason than appeared for the retention of the name of crust. Observations on earthquake motion by Dr John Milne and others, show that the rate and character of the waves transmitted through the interior of the earth differ in a marked degree from those propagated along the crust. This difference indicates that rocky material, such as we know at the surface, may extend inwards for some 30 m., below which the earth’s interior rapidly becomes fairly homogeneous and possesses a high rigidity. From measurements of the force of gravity in India by Colonel S. G. Burrard, it has been inferred that the variations in density of the outer parts of the earth do not descend farther than 30 or 40 m., which might be assumed to be the limit of the thickness of the crust. Recent researches in regard to the radio-active substances present in rocks suggest that the crust is not more than 50 m. thick, and that the interior differs from it in possessing little or no radio-active material.
Though we cannot hope ever to have direct acquaintance with more than the mere outside skin of our planet, we may be led to infer the irregular distribution of materials within the crust from the present distribution of land and water, and the observed differences in the amount of The interior. deflection of the plumb-line near the sea and near mountain-chains. The fact that the southern hemisphere is almost wholly covered with water appears explicable only on the assumption of an excess of density in the mass of that portion of the planet. The existence of such a vast sheet of water as that of the Pacific Ocean is to be accounted for, as Archdeacon J. H. Pratt pointed out, by the presence of “some excess of matter in the solid parts of the earth between the Pacific Ocean and the earth’s centre, which retains the water in its place, otherwise the ocean would flow away to the other parts of the earth.” A deflection of the plumb-line towards the sea, which has in a number of cases been observed, indicates that “the density of the crust beneath the mountains must be less than that below the plains, and still less than that below the ocean-bed.” Apart therefore from the depression of the earth’s surface in which the oceans lie, we must regard the internal density, whether of crust or nucleus, to be somewhat irregularly arranged, there being an excess of heavy materials in the water hemisphere, and beneath the ocean-beds, as compared with the continental masses.
In our ignorance regarding the chemical constitution of the nucleus of our planet, an argument has sometimes been based upon the known fact that the specific gravity of the globe as a whole is about double that of the crust. This has been held by some writers to prove that the interior must consist of much heavier material and is therefore probably metallic. But the effect of pressure ought to make the density of the nucleus much higher, even if the interior consisted of matter no heavier than the crust. That the total density of the planet does not greatly exceed its observed amount seems only explicable on the supposition that some antagonistic force counteracts the effects of pressure. The only force we can suppose capable of so acting is heat. But comparatively little is yet known regarding the compression of gases, liquids and solids under such vast pressures as must exist within the nucleus.
That the interior of the earth possesses a high temperature is inferred from the evidence of various sources. (1) Volcanoes, which are openings that constantly, or intermittently, give out hot vapours and molten lava from reservoirs beneath the crust. Besides active volcanoes, it is known that former eruptive vents have been abundantly and widely distributed over the globe from the earliest geological periods down to our own day. (2) Hot springs are found in many parts of the globe, with temperatures varying up to the boiling point of water. (3) From mines, tunnels and deep borings into the earth it has been ascertained that in all quarters of the globe below the superficial zone of invariable temperature, there is a progressive increase of heat towards the interior. The rate of this increase varies, being influenced, among other causes, by the varying conductivity of the rocks. But the average appears to be about 1° Fahr. for every 50 or 60 ft. of descent, as far down as observations have extended. Though the increase may not advance in the same proportion at great depths, the inference has been confidently drawn that the temperature of the nucleus must be exceedingly high.
The probable condition of the earth’s interior has been a fruitful source of speculation ever since geology came into existence; but no general agreement has been arrived at on the subject. Three chief hypotheses have been propounded: (1) that the nucleus is a molten mass enclosed within a solid shell; (2) that, save in local vesicular spaces which may be filled with molten or gaseous material, the globe is solid and rigid to the centre; (3) that the great body of the nucleus consists of incandescent vapours and gases, especially vaporous iron, which under the gigantic pressure within the earth are so compressed as to confer practical rigidity on the globe as a whole, and that outside this main part of the nucleus the gases pass into a shell of molten magma, which, in turn, shades off outwards into the comparatively thin, cool solidified crust. Recent seismological observations have led to the inference that the outer crust, some 30 to 45 m. thick, must rapidly merge into a fairly homogeneous nucleus which, whatever be its constitution, transmits undulatory movements through its substance with uniform velocity and is believed to possess a high rigidity.
The origin of the earth’s high internal temperature has been variously accounted for. Most usually it has been assumed to be the residue of the original “tracts of fluent heat” out of which the planet shaped itself into a globe. According to another supposition the effects of the gradual gravitational compression of the earth’s mass have been the main source of the high temperature. Recent researches in radio-activity, to which reference has already been made, have indicated another possible source of the internal heat in the presence of radium in the rocks of the crust. This substance has been detected in all igneous rocks, especially among the granites, in quantity sufficient, according to the Hon. R. J. Strutt, to account for the observed temperature-gradient in the crust, and to indicate that this crust cannot be more than 45 m. thick, otherwise the outflow of heat would be greater than the amount actually ascertained. Inside this external crust containing radio-active substances, it is supposed, as already stated, that the nucleus consists of some totally different matter containing little or no radium.
Constitution of the Earth’s Crust.—As the crust of the earth contains the “geological record,” or stony chronicle from which geology interprets the history of our globe, it forms the main subject of study to the geologist. The materials of which this crust consists are known as minerals and rocks. From many chemical analyses, which have been made of these materials, the general chemical constitution of, at least, the accessible portion of the crust has been satisfactorily ascertained. This information becomes of much importance in speculations regarding the early history of the globe. Of the elements known to the chemist the great majority form but a small proportion of the composition of the crust, which is mainly built up of about twenty of them. Of these by far the most important are the non-metallic elements oxygen and silicon. The former forms about 47% and the latter rather more than 28% of the original crust, so that these two elements make up about three-fourths of the whole. Next after them come the metals aluminium (8.16%), iron (4.64), calcium (3.50), magnesium (2.62), sodium (2.63), and potassium (2.35). The other twelve elements included in the twenty vary in amount from a proportion of 0.41% in the case of titanium, to not more than 0.01% of chlorine, fluorine, chromium, nickel and lithium. The other fifty or more elements exist in such minute proportions in the crust that, probably, not one of them amounts to as much as 0.01%, though they include the useful metals, except iron. Taking the crust, and the external envelopes of the ocean and the air, we thus perceive that these outer parts of our planet consist of more than three-fourths of non-metals and less than one-fourth of metals.
The combinations of the elements which are of most importance in the constitution of the terrestrial crust consist of oxides. From the mean of a large number of analyses of the rocks of the lower or primitive portion of the crust, it has been ascertained that silica (SiO2) forms almost 60% and alumina (Al2O3) upwards of 15% of the whole. The other combinations in order of importance are lime (CaO) 4.90%, magnesia (MgO) 4.36, soda (Na2O) 3.55, ferrous oxide (FeO) 3.52, potash (K2O) 2.80, ferric oxide (Fe2O3) 2.63, water (H2O) 1.52, titanium oxide (TiO2) 0.60, phosphoric acid (P2O5) 0.22; the other combinations of elements thus form less than 1% of the crust.
These different combinations of the elements enter into further combinations with each other so as to produce the wide assortment of simple minerals (see Mineralogy). Thus, silica and alumina are combined to form the aluminous silicates, which enter so largely into the composition of the crust of the earth. The silicates of magnesia, potash and soda constitute other important families of minerals. A mass of material composed of one, but more usually of more than one mineral, is known as a rock. Under this term geologists are accustomed to class not only solid stone, such as granite and limestone, but also less coherent materials such as clay, peat and even loose sand. The accessible portion of the earth’s crust consists of various kinds of rocks, which differ from each other in structure, composition and origin, and are therefore susceptible of diverse classifications according to the point of view from which they are considered. The details of this subject will be found in the article Petrology.
Classification of Rocks.—Various systems of classification of rocks have been proposed, but none of them is wholly satisfactory. The most useful arrangement for most purposes of the geologist is one based on the broad differences between them in regard to their mode of origin. From this point of view they may be ranged in three divisions:
1. In the first place, a large number of rocks may be described as original or underived, for it is not possible to trace them back to any earlier source. They belong to the primitive constitution of the planet, and, as they have all come up from below through the crust, they serve to show the nature of the material which lies immediately below the outer parts of that crust. They include the numerous varieties of lava, which have been poured out in a molten state from volcanic vents, also a great series of other rocks which, though they may never have been erupted to the surface, have been forced upward in a melted condition into the other rocks of the crust and have solidified there. From their mode of origin this great class of rocks has been called “igneous” or “eruptive.” As they generally show no definite internal structure save such as may result from joints, they have been termed “massive” or “unstratified,” to distinguish them from those of the second division which are strongly marked out by the presence of a stratified structure. The igneous rocks present a considerable range of composition. For the most part they consist mainly of aluminous silicates, some of them being highly acid compounds with 75% or more of silica. But they also include highly basic varieties wherein the proportion of silica sinks to 40%, and where magnesia greatly predominates over alumina. The textures of igneous rocks likewise comprise a wide series of varieties. On the one hand, some are completely vitreous, like obsidian, which is a natural glass. From this extreme every gradation may be traced through gradual increase of the products of devitrification, until the mass may become completely crystalline. Again, some crystalline igneous rocks are so fine in grain as not to show their component crystals save under the microscope, while in others the texture is so coarse as to present the component minerals in separate crystals an inch or more in length. These differences indicate that, at first, the materials of the rock may have been as completely molten as artificial glass, and that the crystalline condition has been subsequently developed by cooling, and the separation of the chemical constituents into definite crystalline minerals. Many of the characters of igneous rocks have been reproduced experimentally by fusing together their minerals, or the constituents of their minerals, in the proper proportion. But it has not yet been found possible to imitate the structure of such rocks as granite. Doubtless these rocks consolidated with extreme slowness at great depths below the surface, under vast pressures and probably in the presence of water or water-vapour—conditions which cannot be adequately imitated in a laboratory.
Though the igneous rocks occupy extensive areas in some countries, they nevertheless cover a much smaller part of the whole surface of the land than is taken up by the second division or stratified rocks. But they increase in quantity downwards and probably extend continuously round the globe below the other rocks. This important series brings before us the relations of the molten magma within the earth to the overlying crust and to the outer surface. On the one hand, it includes the oldest and most deep-seated extravasations of that magma, which have been brought to light by ruptures and upheavals of the crust and prolonged denudation. On the other, it presents to our study the varied outpourings of molten and fragmentary materials in the discharges of modern and ancient volcanoes. Between these two extremes of position and age, we find that the crust has been, as it were, riddled with injections of the magma from below. These features will be further noticed in Part V. of this article.
2. The “sedimentary” or “stratified rocks” form by much the larger part of the dry land of the globe, and they are prolonged to an unknown distance from the shores under the bed of the sea. They include those masses of mineral matter which, unlike the igneous rocks, can be traced back to a definite origin on the surface of the earth. Three distinct types may be recognized among them: (a) By far the largest proportion of them consists of different kinds of sediment derived from the disintegration of pre-existing rocks. In this “fragmental” group are placed all the varieties of shingle, gravel, sand, clay and mud, whether these materials remain in a loose incoherent condition, or have been compacted into solid stone. (b) Another group consists of materials that have been deposited by chemical precipitation from solution in water. The white sinter laid down by calcareous springs is a familiar example on a small scale. Beds of rock-salt, gypsum and dolomite have, in some regions, been accumulated to a thickness of many thousand feet, by successive precipitations of the salt contained in the water of inland seas. (c) An abundant and highly important series of sedimentary formations has been formed from the remains of plants and animals. Such accumulations may arise either from the transport and deposit of these remains, as in the case of sheets of drift-wood, and banks of drifted sea-shells, or from the growth and decay of the organisms on the spot, as happens in peat bogs and in coral-reefs.
As the sedimentary rocks have for the most part been laid down under water, and more especially on the sea-floor, they are often spoken of as “aqueous,” in contradistinction to the igneous rocks. Some of them, however, are accumulated by the drifting action of wind upon loose materials, and are known as “aeolian” formations. Familiar instances of such wind-formed deposits are the sand-dunes along many parts of the sea coast. Much more extensive in area are the sands of the great deserts in the arid regions of the globe.
It is from the sedimentary rocks that the main portion of geological history is derived. They have been deposited one over another in successive strata from a remote period in the development of the globe down to the present time. From this arrangement they have been termed “stratified,” in contrast to the unstratified or igneous series. They have preserved memorials of the geographical revolutions which the surface of the earth has undergone; and above all, in the abundant fossils which they have enclosed, they furnish a momentous record of the various tribes of plants and animals which have successively flourished on land and sea. Their investigation is thus the most important task which devolves upon the geologist.
3. In the third place comes a series of rocks which are not now in their original condition, but have undergone such alteration as to have acquired new characters that more or less conceal their first structures. Some of them can be readily recognized as altered igneous masses; others are as manifestly of sedimentary origin; while of many it is difficult to decide what may have been their pristine character. To this series the term “metamorphic” has been applied. Its members are specially distinguished by a prevailing fissile, or schistose, structure which they did not at first possess, and which differs from anything found in unaltered igneous or sedimentary rocks. This fissility is combined with a more or less pronounced crystalline structure. These changes are believed to be the result of movements within the crust of the earth, whereby the most solid rocks were crushed and sheared, while, at the same time, under the influence of a high temperature and the presence of water, they underwent internal chemical reactions, which led to a rearrangement and recomposition of their mineral constituents and the production of a crystalline structure (see Metamorphism).
Among the less altered metamorphic rocks of sedimentary origin, the successive laminae of deposit of the original sediment can be easily observed; but they are also traversed by a new set of divisional planes, along which they split across the original bedding. Together with this superinduced cleavage there have been developed in them minute hairs, scales and rudimentary crystals. Further stages of alteration are marked by the increase of micaceous scales, garnets and other minerals, especially along the planes of cleavage, until the whole rock becomes crystalline, and displays its chief component minerals in successive discontinuous folia which merge into each other, and are often crumpled and puckered. Massive igneous rocks can be observed to have undergone intense crushing and cleavage, and to have ultimately assumed a crystalline foliated character. Rocks which present this aspect are known as schists (q.v.). They range from the finest silky slates, or phyllites, up to the coarsest gneisses, which in hand-specimens can hardly be distinguished from granites. There is indeed every reason to believe that such gneisses were probably originally true granites, and that their foliation and recrystallization have been the result of metamorphism.
The schists are more especially to be found in the heart of mountain-chains, and in regions where the lowest and oldest parts of the earth’s crust have, in the course of geological revolutions, been exposed to the light of day. They have been claimed by some writers to be part of the original or primitive surface of our globe that first consolidated on the molten nucleus. But the progress of investigation all over the world has shown that this supposition cannot be sustained. The oldest known rocks present none of the characters of molten material that has cooled and hardened in the air, like the various forms of recent lava. On the contrary, they possess many of the features characteristic of bodies of eruptive material that have been injected into the crust at some depth underground, and are now visible at the surface, owing to the removal by denudation of the rocks under which they consolidated. In their less foliated portions they can be recognized as true eruptive rocks. In many places gneisses that possess a thoroughly typical foliation have been found to pierce ancient sedimentary formations as intrusive bosses and veins.
Part IV.—Dynamical Geology
This section of the science includes the investigation of those processes of change which are at present in progress upon the earth, whereby modifications are made on the structure and composition of the crust, on the relations between the interior and the surface, as shown by volcanoes, earthquakes and other terrestrial disturbances, on the distribution of oceans and continents, on the outlines of the land, on the form and depth of the sea-bottom, on climate, and on the races of plants and animals by which the earth is tenanted. It brings before us, in short, the whole range of activities which it is the province of geology to study, and leads us to precise notions regarding their relations to each other and the results which they achieve. A knowledge of this branch of the subject is thus the essential groundwork of a true and fruitful acquaintance with the principles of geology, seeing that it necessitates a study of the present order of nature, and thus provides a key for the interpretation of the past.
The whole range of operations included within the scope of inquiry in this branch of the science may be regarded as a vast cycle of change, into which we may break at any point, and round which we may travel, only to find ourselves brought back to our starting-point. It is a matter of comparatively small moment at what part of the cycle we begin our inquiries. We shall always find that the changes we see in action have resulted from some that preceded, and give place to others which follow them.
At an early time in the earth’s history, anterior to any of the periods of which a record remains in the visible rocks, the chief sources of geological action probably lay within the earth itself. If, as is generally supposed, the planet still retained a great store of its initial heat, it was doubtless the theatre of great chemical changes, giving rise, perhaps, to manifestations of volcanic energy somewhat like those which have so marvellously roughened the surface of the moon. As the outer layers of the globe cooled, and the disturbances due to internal heat and chemical action became less marked, the conditions would arise in which the materials for geological history were accumulated. The influence of the sun, which must always have operated, would then stand out more clearly, giving rise to that wide circle of superficial changes wherein variations of temperature and the circulation of air and water over the surface of the earth come into play.
In the pursuit of his inquiries into the past history and into the present régime of the earth, the geologist must needs keep his mind ever open to the reception of evidence for kinds and especially for degrees of action which he had not before imagined. Human experience has been too short to allow him to assume that all the causes and modes of geological change have been definitively ascertained. On the earth itself there may remain for future discovery evidence of former operations by heat, magnetism, chemical change or otherwise, which may explain many of the phenomena with which geology has to deal. Of the influences, so many and profound, which the sun exerts upon our planet, we can as yet only perceive a little. Nor can we tell what other cosmical influences may have lent their aid in the evolution of geological changes.
Much useful information regarding many geological processes has been obtained from experimental research in laboratories and elsewhere, and much more may be confidently looked for from future extensions of this method of inquiry. The early experiments of Sir James Hall, already noticed, formed the starting-point for numerous subsequent researches, which have elucidated many points in the origin and history of rocks. It is true that we cannot hope to imitate those operations of nature which demand enormous pressures and excessively high temperatures combined with a long lapse of time. But experience has shown that in regard to a large number of processes, it is possible to imitate nature’s working with sufficient accuracy to enable us to understand them, and so to modify and control the results as to obtain a satisfactory solution of some geological problems.
In the present state of our knowledge, all the geological energy upon and within the earth must ultimately be traced back to the primeval energy of the parent nebula or sun. There is, however, a certain propriety and convenience in distinguishing between that part of it which is due to the survival of some of the original energy of the planet and that part which arises from the present supply of energy received day by day from the sun. In the former case we have to deal with the interior of the earth, and its reaction upon the surface; in the latter, we deal with the surface of the earth and to some extent with its reaction on the interior. This distinction allows of a broad treatment of the subject under two divisions:
I. Hypogene or Plutonic Action: The changes within the earth caused by internal heat, mechanical movement and chemical rearrangements.
II. Epigene or Surface Action: The changes produced on the superficial parts of the earth, chiefly by the circulation of air and water set in motion by the sun’s heat.
DIVISION I.—HYPOGENE OR PLUTONIC ACTION
In the discussion of this branch of the subject we must carry in our minds the conception of a globe still possessing a high internal temperature, radiating heat into space and consequently contracting in bulk. Portions of molten rocks from inside are from time to time poured out at the surface. Sudden shocks are generated by which destructive earthquakes are propagated through the diameter of the globe as well as to and along its surface. Wide geographical areas are pushed up or sink down. In the midst of these movements remarkable changes are produced upon the rocks of the crust; they are plicated, fractured, crushed, rendered crystalline and even fused.
(A) Volcanoes and Volcanic Action.
This subject is discussed in the article Volcano, and only a general view of its main features will be given here. Under the term volcanic action (vulcanism, vulcanicity) are embraced all the phenomena connected with the expulsion of heated materials from the interior of the earth to the surface. A volcano may be defined as a conical hill or mountain, built up wholly or mainly of materials which have been ejected from below, and which have accumulated around the central vent of eruption. As a rule its truncated summit presents a cup-shaped cavity, termed the crater, at the bottom of which is the opening of the main funnel or pipe whereby communication is maintained with the heated interior. From time to time, however, in large volcanoes rents are formed on the sides of the cone, whence steam and other hot vapours and also streams of molten lava are poured forth. On such rents smaller or parasitic cones are often formed, which imitate the operations of the parent cone and, after repeated eruptions, may rise to hills hundreds of feet in height. In course of centuries the result of the constant outpouring of volcanic materials may be to build up a large mountain like Etna, which towers above the sea to a height of 10,840 feet, and has some 200 minor cones along its flanks.
But all volcanic eruptions do not proceed from central orifices. In Iceland it has been observed that, from fissures opened in the ground and extending for long distances, molten material has issued in such abundance as to be spread over the surrounding country for many miles, while along the lines of fissure small cones or hillocks of fragmentary material have accumulated round more active parts of the rent. There is reason to believe that in the geological past this fissure-type of eruption has repeatedly been developed, as well as the more common form of central cones like Vesuvius or Etna.
In the operations of existing volcanoes only the superficial manifestations of volcanic action are observable. But when the rocks of the earth’s crust are studied, they are found to enclose the relics of former volcanic eruptions. The roots of ancient volcanoes have thus been laid bare by geological revolutions; and some of the subterranean phases of volcanic action are thereby revealed which are wholly concealed in an active volcano. Hence to obtain as complete a conception as possible of the nature and history of volcanic action, regard must be had, not merely to modern volcanoes, but to the records of ancient eruptions which have been preserved within the crust.
The substances discharged from volcanic vents consist of—(1) Gases and vapours: which, dissolved in the molten magma of the interior, take the chief share in volcanic activity. They include in greatest abundance water-gas, which condenses into the clouds of steam so conspicuous in volcanic eruptions. Hydrochloric acid and sulphuretted hydrogen are likewise plentiful, together with many other substances which, sublimed by the high internal temperature, take a solid form on cooling at the surface. (2) Molten rock or lava: which ranges from the extremely acid type of the obsidians and rhyolites with 70% or more of silica, to the more basic and heavy varieties such as basalts and leucite-lavas with much iron, and sometimes no more than 45% of silica. The specific gravity of lavas varies between 2.37 and 3.22, and the texture ranges from nearly pure glass, like obsidian, to a coarse granitoid compound, as in some rhyolites. (3) Fragmentary materials, which are sometimes discharged in enormous quantity and dispersed over a wide extent of country, the finer particles being transported by upper air-currents for hundreds of miles. These materials arise either from the explosion of lava by the sudden expansion of the dissolved vapours and gases, as the molten rock rises to the surface, or from the breaking up and expulsion of portions of the walls of the vent, or of the lava, which happens to have solidified within these walls. They vary from the finest impalpable dust and ashes, through increasing stages of coarseness up to huge “bombs” torn from the upper surface of the molten rock in the vent, and large blocks of already solidified lava, or of non-volcanic rock detached from the sides of the pipe up which the eruptions take place.
Nothing is yet known as to the determining cause of any particular volcanic eruption. Some vents, like that of Stromboli, in the Mediterranean, are continually active, and have been so ever since man has observed them. Others again have been only intermittently in eruption, with intervals of centuries between their periods of activity. We are equally in the dark as to what has determined the sites on which volcanic action has manifested itself. There is reason, indeed, to believe that extensive fractures of the terrestrial crust have often provided passages up which the vapours, imprisoned in the internal magma, have been able to make their way, accompanied by other products. Where chains of volcanoes rise along definite lines, like those of Sumatra, Java, and many other tracts both in the Old and the New World, there appears to be little doubt that their linear distribution should be attributed to this cause. But where a volcano has appeared by itself, in a region previously exempt from volcanic action, the existence of a contributing fissure cannot be so confidently presumed. The study of certain ancient volcanoes, the roots of which have been exposed by long denudation, has shown an absence of any visible trace of their having availed themselves of fractures in the crust. The inference has been drawn that volcanic energy is capable of itself drilling an orifice through the crust, probably at some weaker part, and ejecting its products at the surface. The source of this energy is to be sought in the enormous expansive force of the vapours and gases dissolved in the magma. They are kept in solution by the enormous pressure within the earth; but as the lava approaches the surface and this pressure is relieved these dissolved vapours and gases rush out with explosive violence, blowing the upper part of the lava column into dust, and allowing portions of the liquid mass below to rise and escape, either from the crater or from some fissure which the vigour of explosion has opened on the side of the cone. So gigantic is the energy of these pent-up vapours, that, after a long period of volcanic quiescence, they sometimes burst forth with such violence as to blow off the whole of the upper part or even one side of a large cone. The history of Vesuvius, and the great eruptions of Krakatoa in 1883 and of Bandaizan in 1888 furnish memorable examples of great volcanic convulsions. It has been observed that such stupendous discharges of aeriform and fragmentary matter may be attended with the emission of little or no lava. On the other hand, some of the largest outflows of lava have been accompanied by comparatively little fragmentary material. Thus, the great lava-floods of Iceland in 1783 spread for 40 m. away from their parent fissure, which was marked only by a line of little cones of slag.
The temperature of lava as it issues from underground has been measured more or less satisfactorily, and affords an indication of that existing within the earth. At Vesuvius it has been ascertained to be more than 2000° Fahr. At first the molten rock glows with a white light, which rapidly reddens, and disappears under the rugged brown and black crust that forms on the surface. Underneath this badly conducting crust, the lava cools so slowly that columns of steam have been noticed rising from its surface more than 80 years after its eruption.
Considerable alteration in the topography of volcanic regions may be produced by successive eruptions. The fragmentary materials are sometimes discharged in such abundance as to cover the ground for many miles around with a deposit of loose ashes, cinders and slag. Such a deposit accumulating to a depth of many feet may completely bury valleys and water-courses, and thus greatly affect the drainage. The coarsest materials accumulate nearest to the vent that emits them. The finer dust is not infrequently hurled forth with such an impetus as to be carried for thousands of feet into the tracks of upper air-currents, whereby it may be borne for hundreds of miles away from the vent so as ultimately to fall to the ground in countries far removed from any active volcano. Outflows of lava, from their greater solidity and durability, produce still more serious and lasting changes in the external features of the ground over which they flow. As they naturally seek the lowest levels, they find their way into the channels of streams. If they keep along the channels, they seal them up under a mass of compact stone which the running water, if not wholly diverted elsewhere, will take many long centuries to cut through. If, on the other hand, the lava crosses a stream, it forms a massive dam, above which the water is ponded back so as to form a lake.
As the result of prolonged activity a volcanic cone is gradually built up by successive outflows of lava and showers of dust and stones. These materials are arranged in beds, or sheets, inclined outwards from the central vent. On surrounding level ground the alternating beds are flat. In course of time, deep gullies are cut on the outer slopes of the cone by rain, and by the heavy showers that arise from the condensation of the copious discharges of steam during eruptions. Along the sides of these ravines instructive sections may be studied of the volcanic strata. The larger rivers of some volcanic regions have likewise eroded vast gorges in the more horizontal lavas and ashes of the flatter country, and have thus laid bare stupendous cliffs, along which the successive volcanic sheets can be seen piled above each other for many hundred feet. On a small scale, some of these features are well displayed among the rivers that drain the volcanic tracts of central France; on a great scale, they are presented in the course of the Snake river, and other streams that traverse the great volcanic country of western North America. Similar volcanic scenery has been produced in western Europe by the action of denudation in dissecting the flat Tertiary lavas of Scotland, the Faeroe Isles and Iceland.
Of special interest to the geologist are those volcanoes which have taken their rise on the sea-bottom; for the volcanic intercalations among the stratified formations of the earth’s crust are almost entirely of submarine origin. Many active volcanoes situated on islands have begun their eruptions below sea-level. Both Vesuvius and Etna sprang up on the floor of the Mediterranean sea, and have gradually built up their cones into conspicuous parts of the dry land. Examples of a similar history are to be found among the volcanic islands of the Pacific Ocean. In some of these cases a movement of elevation has carried the submarine lavas, tuffs and agglomerates above sea-level, and has furnished opportunities of comparing these materials with those of recent subaerial origin, and also with the ancient records of submarine eruptions which have been preserved among the stratified formations. From the evidence thus supplied, it can be shown that the materials ejected from modern submarine volcanic vents closely resemble those accumulated by subaerial volcanoes; that the dust, ashes and stones become intermingled or interstratified with coral-mud, or other non-volcanic deposit of the sea-bottom, that vesicular lavas may be intercalated among them as on land, and that between the successive sheets of volcanic origin, layers of limestone may be laid down which are composed chiefly, or wholly, of the remains of calcareous marine organisms.
Though active volcanoes are widely distributed over the globe, and are especially abundant around the vast basin of the Pacific Ocean, they afford an incomplete picture of the extent to which volcanic action has displayed itself on the surface of our planet. When the rocks of the land are attentively studied they disclose proofs of that action in many districts where there is now no outward sign of it. Not only so, but they reveal that volcanoes have been in eruption in some of these districts during many different periods of the past, back to the beginnings of geological history. The British Islands furnish a remarkable example of such a series of ancient eruptions. From the Cambrian period all through Palaeozoic times there rose at intervals in that country a succession of volcanic centres from some of which thousands of feet of lavas and tuffs were discharged. Again in older Tertiary times the same region witnessed a stupendous outpouring of basalt, the surviving relics of which are more than 3000 ft. thick, and cover many hundreds of square miles. Similar evidence is supplied in other countries both in the Old and the New world. Hence it is proved that, in the geological past, volcanic action has been vigorous at long intervals on the same sites during a vast series of ages, though no active vents are to be seen there now. The volcanoes now active form but a small proportion of the total number which has appeared on the surface of the earth.
With regard to the cause of volcanic action much has been speculated, but little can be confidently affirmed. That water in the form of occluded gas plays the chief part in forcing the lava column up a volcanic chimney, and in the violent explosions that accompany the rise of the molten material, is generally admitted. But opinions differ as to the source of this water. According to some investigators, it should be regarded as in large measure of meteoric origin, derived from the descent of rain into the earth, and its absorption by the molten magma in the interior. Others, contending that the supply so furnished, even if it could reach and be dissolved in the magma, would yet be insufficient to furnish the prodigious quantity of aqueous vapour discharged during an eruption, maintain that the water belongs to the magma itself. They point to the admitted fact that many substances, particularly metals in a state of fusion, can absorb large quantities of vapours and gases without chemical combination, and on cooling discharge them with eruptive phenomena somewhat like those of volcanoes. This question must be regarded as one of the still unsolved problems of geology.
(B) Movements of the Earth’s Crust.
Among the hypogene forces in geological dynamics an important place must be assigned to movements of the terrestrial crust. Though the expression “the solid earth” has become proverbial, it appears singularly inappropriate in the light of the results obtained in recent years by the use of delicate instruments of observation. With the facilities supplied by these instruments (see Seismometer), it has been ascertained that the ground beneath our feet is subject to continual slight tremors, and feeble pulsations of longer duration, some of which may be due to daily or seasonal variations of temperature, atmospheric pressure or other meteorological causes. The establishment of self-recording seismometers all over the world has led to the detection of many otherwise imperceptible shocks, over and above the appreciable earth-waves propagated from earthquake centres of disturbance. Moreover, it has been ascertained that some parts of the surface of the land are slowly rising, while others are falling with reference to the sea-level. From time to time the surface suffers calamitous devastation from earthquakes, when portions of the crust under great strain suddenly give way. Lastly, at intervals, probably separated from each other by vast periods of time, the terrestrial crust undergoes intense plication and fracture, and is consequently ridged up into mountain-chains. No event of this kind has been witnessed since man began to record his experiences. But from the structure of mountains, as laid open by prolonged denudation, it is possible to form a vivid conception of the nature and effects of these most stupendous of all geological revolutions.
In considering this department of geological inquiry it will be convenient to treat it under the following heads: (1) Slow depression and upheaval; (2) Earthquakes; (3) Mountain-making; (4) Metamorphism of rocks.
1. Slow Depression and Upheaval.—On the west side of Japan the land is believed to be sinking below the sea, for fields are replaced by beaches of sand or shingle, while the depth of the sea off shore has perceptibly increased. A subsidence of the south of Sweden has taken place in comparatively recent times, for streets and foundations of houses at successive levels are found below high-water mark. The west coast of Greenland over an extent of more than 600 m. is sinking, and old settlements are now submerged. Proofs of submergence of land are furnished by “submerged forests,” and beds of terrestrial peat now lying at various depths below the level of the sea, of which many examples have been collected along the shores of the British Isles, Holland and France. Interesting evidence that the west of Europe now stands at a lower level than it did at a late geological period is supplied in the charts of the North Sea and Atlantic, which show that the valleys of the land are prolonged under the sea. These valleys have been eroded out of the rocks by the streams which flow in them, and the depth of their submerged portions below the sea level affords an indication of the extent of the subsidence.
The uprise of land has been detected in various parts of the world. One of the most celebrated instances is that of the shores of the Gulf of Bothnia, where, at Stockholm, the elevation, between the years 1774 and 1875, appears to have been 48 centimetres (181 in.) in a century. But on the west side of Sweden, fronting the Skager Rak, the coast, between the years 1820 and 1870, rose 30 centimetres, which is at the rate of 60 centimetres, or nearly 2 ft. in a century. In the region of the Great Lakes in the interior of Canada and the United States it has been ascertained that the land is undergoing a slow tilt towards the south-west, of which the mean rate appears to be rather less than 6 in. in a century. If this rate of change should continue the waters of Lake Michigan, owing to the progress of the tilt, will, in some 500 or 600 years, submerge the city of Chicago, and eventually the drainage of the lakes will be diverted into the basin of the Mississippi. Proof of recent emergence of land is supplied by what are called “raised beaches” or “strand-lines,” that is, lines of former shores marked by sheets of littoral deposits, or platforms cut by shore-waves in rock and flanked by old sea-cliffs and lines of sea-worn caves. Admirable examples of these features are to be seen along the west coast of Europe from the south of England to the north of Norway. These lines of old shores become fainter in proportion to their antiquity. In Britain they occur at various heights, the platforms at 25, 50 and 100 ft. being well marked.
The cause of these slow upward and downward movements of the crust of the earth is still imperfectly understood. Upheaval might conceivably be produced by an ascent of the internal magma, and the consequent expansion of the overlying crust by heat; while depression might follow any subsidence of the magma, or its displacement to another district. If, as is generally believed, the globe is still contracting, the shrinkage of the surface may cause both these movements. Subsidence will be in excess, but between subsiding tracts lateral thrust may suffice to push upward intervening more solid and stable ground; but no solution of the problem yet proposed is wholly satisfactory.
2. Earthquakes.—As this subject is discussed in a separate article it will be sufficient here to take note of its more important geological bearings. It was for many centuries taken for granted that earthquakes and volcanoes are due to a common cause. We have seen that in classical antiquity they were looked on as the results of the movements of wind imprisoned within the earth. Long after this notion was discarded, and a more scientific appreciation of volcanic action was reached, it was still thought that earthquakes should be regarded as manifestations of the same source of energy as that which displays itself in volcanic eruptions. It is true that earthquakes are frequent in districts of active volcanoes, and they may undoubtedly be often due there to the explosions of the magma, or to the rupture of rocks caused by its ascent towards the surface. But such shocks are comparatively local in their range and feeble in their effects. There is now a general agreement that between the great world-shaking earthquakes and volcanic phenomena, no immediate and intimate relationship can be traced, though they may be connected in ways which are not yet perceived. Some of the more recent great earthquakes on land have proved that the waves of shock are produced by the sudden rupture or collapse of rocks under great strain, either along lines of previous fracture or of new rents in the terrestrial crust; and that such ruptures may occur at a remote distance from any volcano. Thus the recent disastrous San Francisco earthquake has been recognized to have resulted from a slipping of ground along the line of an old fault, which has been traced for a long distance in California generally parallel to the coast. The position of this fault at the surface has long been clearly followed by its characteristic topography. After the earthquake these superficial features were found to have been removed by the same cause that had originated them. For some 300 m. on the track of this old fault-line a renewed slipping was seen to have taken place along one or both sides, and the ground at the surface was ruptured as well as displaced horizontally. Obviously, the jar occasioned by the sudden and simultaneous subsidence of a portion of the earth’s crust several hundred miles long, must be far more serious than could be produced by an earthquake radiating from a single local volcanic focus.
From their disastrous effects on buildings and human lives, an exaggerated importance has been imputed to earthquakes as agents of geological change. Experience shows that even after a severe shock which may have destroyed numerous towns and villages, together with thousands of their inhabitants, the face of the country has suffered scarcely any perceptible change, and that, in the course of a year or two, when the ruined houses and prostrate trees have been cleared away, little or no obvious trace of the catastrophe may remain. Among the more enduring records of a great earthquake may be enumerated (a) landslips, which lay bare hillsides, and sometimes pond back the drainage of valleys so as to give rise to lakes; (b) alterations of the topography, as in fissuring of the ground, or in the production of inequalities whereby the drainage is affected; new valleys and new lakes may thus be formed, while previously existing lakes may be emptied; (c) permanent changes of level, either in an upward or downward direction.
3. Mountain-making.—This subject may be referred to here for the striking evidence which it supplies of the importance of movements of the earth’s crust among geological processes. The structure of a great mountain-chain such as the Alps proves that the crust of the earth has been intensely plicated, crumpled and fractured. Vast piles of sedimentary strata have been folded to such an extent as to occupy now only half of their original horizontal extent. This compression in the case of the Alps has been computed to amount to as much as 120,000 metres or 74 English miles, so that two points on the opposite sides of that chain have been brought by so much nearer to each other than they were originally before the movements. Besides such intense plication, extensive rupturing of the crust has taken place in the same range of mountains. Not only have the most ancient rocks been squeezed up into the central axis of the chain, but huge slices of them have been torn away from the main body, and thrust forward for many miles, so as now actually to form the summits of mountains, which are almost entirely composed of much younger formations. If these colossal disturbances occurred rapidly, they would give rise to cataclysms of inconceivable magnitude over the surface of the globe. No record has been discovered of such accompanying devastation. But whether sudden and violent, or prolonged and gradual, such stupendous upturnings of the crust did undoubtedly take place, as is clearly revealed in innumerable natural sections, which have been laid open by the denudation of the crests and sides of the mountains.
4. Metamorphism of Rocks (see Metamorphism).—During the movements to which the crust of the earth has been subject, not only have the rocks been folded and fractured, but they have likewise, in many regions, acquired new internal structures, and have thus undergone a process of “regional metamorphism.” This rearrangement of their substance has been governed by conditions which are probably not yet all recognized, but among them we should doubtless include a high temperature, intense pressure, mechanical movement resulting in crushing, shearing and foliation, and the presence of water in their pores. It is among igneous rocks that the progressive stages of metamorphism can be most easily traced. Their definite original structure and mineral composition afford a starting-point from which the investigation may be begun and pursued. Where an igneous rock has been invaded by metamorphic changes, it may be observed to have been first broken down into separate lenticles, the cores of which may still retain, with little or no alteration, the original characteristic minerals and crystalline structure of the rock. Between these lenticles, the intervening portions have been crushed down into a powder or paste, which seems to have been squeezed round and past them, and shows a laminated arrangement that resembles the flow-structure in lavas. As the degree of metamorphism increases, the lenticles diminish in size, and the intervening crushed and foliated matrix increases in amount, until at last it may form the entire mass of the rock. While the original minerals are thus broken down, new varieties make their appearance. Of these, among the earliest to present themselves are usually the micas, that impart their characteristic silvery sheen to the surfaces of the folia along which they spread. Younger felspars, as well as mica, are developed, and there arise also sillimanite, garnet, andalusite and many others. The texture becomes more coarsely crystalline, and the segregation of the constituent minerals more definite along the lines of foliation. From the finest silky phyllites a graduation may be traced through successively coarser mica-schists, until we reach the almost granitic texture of the coarsest gneisses.
Regional metamorphism has arisen in the heart of mountain-chains, and in any other district where the deformation of the crust has been sufficiently intense. There is another type of alteration termed “contact-metamorphism,” which is developed around masses of igneous rock, especially where these have been intruded in large bosses among stratified formations. It is particularly displayed around masses of granite, where sandstones are found altered into quartzite, shales and grits into schistose compounds, and where sometimes fossils are still recognizable among the metamorphic minerals.
DIVISION II.—EPIGENE OR SUPERFICIAL ACTION
It is on the surface of the globe, and by the operation of agents working there, that at present the chief amount of visible geological change is effected. In considering this branch of inquiry, we are not involved in a preliminary difficulty regarding the very nature of the agencies as is the case in the investigation of plutonic action. On the contrary, the surface agents are carrying on their work under our very eyes. We can watch it in all its stages, measure its progress, and mark in many ways how accurately it represents similar changes which, for long ages previously, must have been effected by the same means. But in the systematic treatment of this subject we encounter a difficulty of another kind. We discover that while the operations to be discussed are numerous and readily observable, they are so interwoven into one great network that any separation of them under different subdivisions is sure to be more or less artificial and to convey an erroneous impression. While, therefore, under the unavoidable necessity of making use of such a classification of subjects, we must always bear in mind that it is employed merely for convenience, and that in nature superficial geological action must be continually viewed as a whole, since the work of each agent has constant reference to that of the others, and is not properly intelligible unless that connexion be kept in view.
The movements of the air; the evaporation from land and sea; the fall of rain, hail and snow; the flow of rivers and glaciers; the tides, currents and waves of the ocean; the growth and decay of organized existence, alike on land and in the depths of the sea;—in short, the whole circle of movement, which is continually in progress upon the surface of our planet, are the subjects now to be examined. It is desirable to adopt some general term to embrace the whole of this range of inquiry. For this end the word epigene (Gr. ἐπί, upon) has been suggested as a convenient term, and antithetical to hypogene (Gr. ὑπό, under), or subterranean action.
A simple arrangement of this part of Geological Dynamics is in three sections:
- Air.—The influence of the atmosphere in destroying and forming rocks.
- Water.—The geological functions of the circulation of water through the air and between sea and land, and the action of the sea.
- Life.—The part taken by plants and animals in preserving, destroying or reproducing geological formations.
The words destructive, reproductive and conservative, employed in describing the operations of the epigene agents, do not necessarily imply that anything useful to man is destroyed, reproduced or preserved. On the contrary, the destructive action of the atmosphere may turn barren rock into rich soil, while its reproductive effects sometimes turn rich land into barren desert. Again, the conservative influence of vegetation has sometimes for centuries retained as barren morass what might otherwise have become rich meadow or luxuriant woodland. The terms, therefore, are used in a strictly geological sense, to denote the removal and re-deposition of material, and its agency in preserving what lies beneath it.
(A) The Air.
As a geological agent, the air brings about changes partly by its component gases and partly by its movements. Its destructive action is both chemical and mechanical. The chemical changes are probably mainly, if not entirely, due to the moisture of the air, and particularly to the gases, vapours and organic matter which the moisture contains. Dry air seems to have little or no appreciable influence in promoting these reactions. As the changes in question are similar to those much more abundantly brought about by rain they are described in the following section under the division on rain.
Among the more recognizable mechanical changes effected in the atmosphere, one of considerable importance is to be seen in the result of great and rapid changes of temperature. Heat expands rocks, while cold contracts them. In countries with a great annual range of temperature, considerable difficulty is sometimes experienced in selecting building materials liable to be little affected by the alternate expansion and contraction, which prevents the joints of masonry from remaining close and tight. In dry tropical climates, where the days are intensely hot and the nights extremely cold, the rapid nocturnal contraction produces a strain so great as to rival frost in its influence upon the surface of exposed rocks, disintegrating them into sand, or causing them to crack or peel off in skins or irregular pieces. Dr Livingstone found in Africa (12° S. lat., 34° E. long.) that surfaces of rock which during the day were heated up to 137° Fahr., cooled so rapidly by radiation at night that, unable to sustain the strain of contraction, they split and threw off sharp angular fragments from a few ounces to 100 or 200 ℔ in weight. In temperate regions this action, though much less pronounced, still makes itself felt. In these climates, however, and still more in high latitudes, somewhat similar results are brought about by frost.
By its motion in wind the air drives loose sand over rocks, and in course of time abrades and smoothes them. “Desert polish” is the name given to the characteristic lustrous surface thus imparted. Holes are said to be drilled in window glass at Cape Cod by the same agency. Cavities are now and then hollowed out of rocks by the gyration in them of little fragments of stone or grains of sand kept in motion by the wind. Hurricanes form important geological agents upon land in uprooting trees, and thus sometimes impeding the drainage of a country and giving rise to the formation of peat mosses.
The reproductive action of the air arises partly from the effect of the chemical and mechanical disintegration involved in the process of “weathering,” and partly from the transporting power of wind and of aerial currents. The layer of soil, which covers so much of the surface of the land, is the result of the decay of the underlying rocks, mingled with mineral matter blown over the ground by wind, or washed thither by rain, and with the mouldering remains of plants and animals. The extent to which fine dust may be transported over the surface of the land can hardly be realized in countries clothed with a covering of vegetation, though even there, in dry weather during spring, clouds of dust may often be seen blown away by wind from bare ploughed fields. Intercepted by the leaves of plants and washed down to their roots by rain, this dust goes to increase the soil below. In arid climates, where dust clouds are dense and frequent, enormous quantities of fine mineral particles are thus borne along and accumulated. The remarkable deposit of “Loess,” which is sometimes more than 1500 ft. thick and covers extensive areas in China and other countries, is regarded as due to the drifting of dust by wind. Again the dunes of sand so abundant along the inner side of sandy sea-beaches in many different parts of the world are attributable to the same action.
In treating of the epigene action of water in geological processes it will be convenient to deal first with its operations in traversing the land, and then with those which it performs in the sea. The circulation of water from land to sea and again from sea to land constitutes the fundamental cause of most of the daily changes by which the surface of the land is affected.
1. Rain.—Rain effects two kinds of changes upon the surface of the land. It acts chemically upon soils and stones, and sinking under ground continues a great series of similar reactions there. It acts mechanically, by washing away loose materials, and thus powerfully affecting the contours of the land. Its chemical action depends mainly upon the nature and proportion of the substances which, in descending to the earth, it abstracts from the atmosphere. Rain always absorbs a little air, which, in addition to its nitrogen and oxygen, contains carbonic acid, and in minute proportions, sodium chloride, sulphuric acid and other ingredients, especially inorganic dust, organic particles and living germs. Probably the most generally efficient of these constituents are oxygen, carbonic acid and organic matter. Armed with these reagents, rain effects a chemical decomposition of the rocks on which it falls, and through which it sinks underground. The principal changes thus produced are as follows: (a) Oxidation.—Owing to the prominence of oxygen in rain-water, and its readiness to unite with any substance which can contain more of it, a thin oxidized pellicle is formed on the surface of many rocks on which rain falls, and this oxidized layer if not at once washed off, sinks deeper until a crust is formed over the stone. A familiar illustration of this action is afforded by the rust, or oxide, which forms on iron when exposed to moisture, though this iron may be kept long bright if allowed to remain screened from moist air and rain. (b) Deoxidation.—Organic matter having an affinity for more oxygen decomposes peroxides by depriving them of some part of their share of that element and reducing them to protoxides. These changes are especially noticeable among the iron oxides so abundantly diffused among rocks. Hence rain-water, in sinking through soil and obtaining such organic matter, becomes thereby a reducing agent. (c) Solution.—This may take place either by the simple action of the water, as in the solution of rock-salt, or by the influence of the carbonic acid present in the rain. (d) Formation of Carbonates.—A familiar example of the action of carbonic acid in rain is to be seen in the corrosion of exposed marble slabs. The carbonic acid dissolves some of the lime, which, as a bicarbonate, is held in solution in the carbonated water, but is deposited again when the water loses its carbonic acid or evaporates. It is not merely carbonates, however, which are liable to this kind of destruction. Even silicates of lime, potash and soda, combinations existing abundantly as constituents of rocks, are attacked; their silica is liberated, and their alkalis or alkaline earths, becoming carbonates, are removed in solution. (e) Hydration.—Some minerals, containing little or no water, and therefore called anhydrous, when exposed to the action of the atmosphere, absorb water, or become hydrous, and are then usually more prone to further change. Hence the rocks of which they form part become disintegrated.
Besides the reactions here enumerated, a considerable amount of decay may be observed as the result of the presence of sulphuric and nitric acid in the air, especially in that of large towns and manufacturing districts, where much coal is consumed. Metallic surfaces, as well as various kinds of stone, are there corroded, while the mortar of walls may often be observed to be slowly swelling out and dropping off, owing to the conversion of the lime into sulphate. Great injury is likewise done from a similar cause to marble monuments in exposed graveyards.
The general result of the disintegrating action of the air and of rain, including also that of plants and animals, to be noticed in the sequel, is denoted by the term “weathering.” The amount of decay depends partly on conditions of climate, especially the range of temperature, the abundance of moisture, height above the sea and exposure to prevalent winds. Many rocks liable to be saturated with rain and rapidly dried under a warm sun are apt to disintegrate at the surface with comparative rapidity. The nature and progress of the weathering are mainly governed by the composition and texture of the rocks exposed to it. Rocks composed of particles liable to little chemical change from the influence of moisture are best fitted to resist weathering, provided they possess sufficient cohesion to withstand the mechanical processes of disintegration. Siliceous sandstones are excellent examples of this permanence. Consisting wholly or mainly of the durable mineral quartz, they are sometimes able so to withstand decay that buildings made of them still retain, after the lapse of centuries, the chisel-marks of the builders. Some rocks, which yield with comparative rapidity to the chemical attacks of moisture, may show little or no mark of disintegration on their surface. This is particularly the case with certain calcareous rocks. Limestone when pure is wholly soluble in acidulated water. Rain falling on such a rock removes some of it in solution, and will continue to do so until the whole is dissolved away. But where a limestone is full of impurities, a weathered crust of more or less insoluble particles remains after the solution of the calcareous part of the stone. Hence the relative purity of limestones may be roughly determined by examining their weathered surfaces, where, if they contain much sand, the grains will be seen projecting from the calcareous matrix, and where, should the rock be very ferruginous, the yellow hydrous peroxide, or ochre, will be found as a powdery crust. In limestones containing abundant encrinites, shells, or other organic remains, the weathered surface commonly presents the fossils standing out in relief. The crystalline arrangement of the lime in the organic structures enables them to resist disintegration better than the general mechanically aggregated matrix of the rock. An experienced fossil collector will always search well such weathered surfaces, for he often finds there, delicately picked out by the weather, minute and frail fossils which are wholly invisible on a freshly broken surface of the stone. Many rocks weather with a thick crust, or even decay inwards for many feet or yards. Basalt, for example, often shows a yellowish-brown ferruginous layer on its surface, formed by the conversion of its felspar into kaolin, and the removal of its calcium silicate as carbonate, by the hydration of its olivine and augite and their conversion into serpentine, or some other hydrous magnesian silicate, and by the conversion of its magnetite into limonite. Granite sometimes shows in a most remarkable way the distance to which weathering can reach. It may occasionally be dug into for a depth of 20 or 30 ft., the quartz crystals and veins retaining their original positions, while the felspar is completely kaolinized. It is to the endlessly varied effects of weathering that the abundant fantastic shapes assumed by crags and other rocky masses are due. Most varieties of rock have their own characteristic modes of weathering, whereby they may be recognized even from a distance. To some of these features reference will be made in Part VIII.
The mechanical action of rain, which is intimately bound up with its chemical action, consists in washing off the fine superficial particles of rocks which have been corroded and loosened by the process of weathering, and in thus laying open fresh portions to the same influences of decay. The detritus so removed is partly carried down into the soil which is thereby enriched, partly held in suspension in the little runnels into which the rain-drops gather as they begin to flow over the land, partly pushed downwards along the surface of sloping ground. A good deal of it finds its way into the nearest brooks and rivers, which are consequently made muddy by heavy rain.
It is natural that a casual consideration of the subject should lead to an impression that, though the general result of the fall of rain upon a land-surface must lead to some amount of disintegration and lowering of that surface, the process must be so slow and slight as hardly to be considered of much importance among geological operations. But further attention will show such an impression to be singularly erroneous. It loses sight of the fact that a change which may be hardly appreciable within a human lifetime, or even within the comparatively brief span of geological time embraced in the compass of human history, may nevertheless become gigantic in its results in the course of immensely protracted periods. An instructive lesson in the erosive action of rain may be found in the pitted and channelled surface of ground lying under the drip of the eaves of a cottage. The fragments of stone and pebbles of gravel that form part of the soil can there be seen sticking out of the ground, because being hard they resist the impetus of the falling drops, protecting for a time the earth beneath them, while that which surrounded and covered them is washed away. From this familiar illustration the observer may advance through every stage in the disappearance of material which once covered the surface, until he comes to examples where once continuous and thick sheets of solid rock have been reduced to a few fragments or have been entirely removed. Since the whole land surface over which rain falls is exposed to this waste, the superficial covering of decayed rock or soil, as Hutton insisted, is constantly, though imperceptibly, travelling outward and downward to the sea. In this process of transport rain is an important carrying agent, while at the same time it serves to connect the work of the other disintegrating forces, and to make it conducive to the general degradation of the land. Though this decay is general and constant, it is obviously not uniform. In some places where, from the nature of the rock, from the flatness of the ground, or from other causes, rain works under great difficulties, the rate of waste may be extremely slow. In other places it may be rapid enough to be appreciable from year to year. A survey of this department of geological activity shows how unequal wasting by rain, combined with the operations of brooks and rivers, has produced the details of the present relief of the land, those tracts where the destruction has been greatest forming hollows and valleys, others, where it has been less, rising into ridges and hills (Part VIII.).
Rain-action is not merely destructive, but is accompanied with reproductive effects, chief of which is the formation of soil. In favourable situations it has gathered together accumulations of loam and earth from neighbouring higher ground, such as the “brick-earth,” “head,” and “rain-wash” of the south of England—earthy deposits, sometimes full of angular stones, derived from the subaerial waste of the rocks of the neighbourhood.
2. Underground Water.—Of the rain which falls upon the land one portion flows off into brooks and rivers by which the water is conducted back to the ocean; the larger part, however, sinks into the ground and disappears. It is this latter part which has now to be considered. Over and above the proportion of the rainfall which is absorbed by living vegetation and by the soil, there is a continual filtering down of the water from the surface into the rocks that lie below, where it partly lodges in pores and interstices, and partly finds its way into subterranean joints and fissures, in which it performs an underground circulation, and ultimately issues once more at the surface in the form of springs (q.v.). In the course of this circulation the water performs an important geological task. Not only carrying down with it the substances which the rain has abstracted from the air, but obtaining more acids and organic matter from the soil, it is enabled to effect chemical changes in the rocks underneath, and especially to dissolve limestone and other calcareous formations. So considerable is the extent of this solution in some places that the springs which come to the surface, and begin there to evaporate and lose some of their carbonic acid, contain more dissolved lime than they can hold. They consequently deposit it in the form of calcareous tuff or sinter (q.v.). Other subterranean waters issue with a large proportion of iron-salts in solution which form deposits of ochre. The various mineral springs so largely made use of for the mitigation or cure of diseases owe their properties to the various salts which they have dissolved out of rocks underground. As the result of prolonged subterranean solution in limestone districts, passages and caves (q.v.), sometimes of great width and length, are formed. When these lie near the surface their roofs sometimes fall in and engulf brooks and rivers, which then flow for some way underground until the tunnels conduct them back again to daylight on some lower ground.
Besides its chemical activity water exerts among subterranean rocks a mechanical influence which leads to important changes in the topography of the surface. In removing the mineral matter, either in solution or as fine sediment, it sometimes loosens the support of overlying masses of rock which may ultimately give way on sloping ground, and rush down the declivities in the form of landslips. These destructive effects are specially frequent on the sides of valleys in mountainous countries and on lines of sea-cliff.
3. Brooks and Rivers.—As geological agents the running waters on the face of the land play an important part in epigene changes. Like rain and springs they have both a chemical and a mechanical action. The latter receives most attention, as it undoubtedly is the more important; but the former ought not to be omitted in any survey of the general waste of the earth’s surface. The water of rivers must possess the powers of a chemical solvent like rain and springs, though its actual work in this respect can be less easily measured, seeing that river water is directly derived from rain and springs, and necessarily contains in solution mineral substances supplied to it by them and not by its own operation. Nevertheless, it is sometimes easy to prove that streams dissolve chemically the rocks of their channels. Thus, in limestone districts the base of the cliffs of river ravines may be found eaten away into tunnels, arches, and overhanging projections, presenting in their smooth surfaces a great contrast to the angular jointed faces of the same rock, where now exposed to the influence only of the weather on the higher parts of the cliff.
The mechanical action of rivers consists (a) in transporting mud, sand, gravel and blocks of stone from higher to lower levels; (b) in using these loose materials to widen and deepen their channels by erosion; (c) in depositing their load of detritus wherever possible and thus to make new geological formations.
(a) Transporting Power.—River-water is distinguished from that of springs by being less transparent, because it contains more or less mineral matter in suspension, derived mainly from what is washed down by rain, or carried in by brooks, but partly also from the abrasion of the water-channels by the erosive action of the rivers themselves. The progress of this burden of detritus may be instructively followed from the mountain-tributaries of a river down to the mouth of the main stream. In the high grounds the water-courses may be observed to be choked with large fragments of rock disengaged from the cliffs and crags on either side. Traced downwards the blocks are seen to become gradually smaller and more rounded. They are ground against each other, and upon the rocky sides and bottom of the channel, getting more and more reduced as they descend, and at the same time abrading the rocks over or against which they are driven. Hence a great deal of débris is produced, and is swept along by the onward and downward movement of the water. The finer portions, such as mud and fine sand, are carried in suspension, and impart the characteristic turbidity to river-water; the coarser sand and gravel are driven along the river-bottom. The proportion of suspended mineral matter has been ascertained with more or less precision for a number of rivers. As an illustrative example of a river draining a vast area with different climates, forms of surface and geological structure the Mississippi may be cited. The average proportion of sediment in its water was ascertained by Humphreys and Abbot to be 1 by weight or 1 by volume. These engineers found that, in addition to this suspended material, coarse detritus is constantly being pushed forward along the bed of the river into the Gulf of Mexico, to an amount which they estimated at about 750,000,000 cubic ft. of sand, earth and gravel; they concluded that the Mississippi carries into the gulf every year an amount of mechanically transported sediment sufficient to make a prism one square mile in area and 268 ft. in height.
(b) Excavating Power.—It is by means of the sand, gravel and stones which they drive against the sides and bottoms of their channels that streams have hollowed out the beds in which they flow. Not only is the coarse detritus reduced in size by the friction of the stones against each other, but, at the same time, these materials abrade the rocks against which they are driven by the current. Where, owing to the shape of the bottom of the channel, the stones are caught in eddies, and are kept whirling round there, they become more and more worn down themselves, and at the same time scour out basin-shaped cavities, or “pot-holes,” in the solid rock below. The uneven bed of a swiftly flowing stream may in this way be honeycombed with such eroded basins which coalesce and thus appreciably lower the surface of the bed. The steeper the channel, other conditions being equal, the more rapid will be the erosion. Geological structure also affects the character and rate of the excavation. Where the rocks are so arranged as to favour the formation and persistence of a waterfall, a long chasm may be hollowed out like that of the Niagara below the falls, where a hard thick bed of nearly flat limestone lies on softer and more easily eroded shales. The latter are scooped out from underneath the limestone, which from time to time breaks off in large masses and the waterfall gradually retreats up stream, while the ravine is proportionately lengthened. To the excavating power of rivers the origin of the valley systems of the dry land must be mainly assigned (see Part VIII.).
(c) Reproductive Power.—So long as a stream flows over a steep declivity its velocity suffices to keep the sediment in suspension, but when from any cause, such as a diminution of slope, the velocity is checked, the transporting power is lessened and the sediment begins to fall to the bottom and to remain there. Hence various river-formed or “alluvial” deposits are laid down. These sometimes cover considerable spaces at the foot of mountains. The floors of valleys are strewn with detritus, and their level may thereby be sensibly raised. In floods the ground inundated on either side of a stream intercepts some part of the detritus, which is then spread over the flood-plain and gradually heightens it. At the same time the stream continues to erode the channel, and ultimately is unable to reach the old flood-plain. It consequently forms a new plain at a lower level, and thus, by degrees, it comes to be flanked on either side by a series of successive terraces or platforms, each of which marks one of its former levels. Where a river enters a large body of water its current is checked. Some of its sediment is consequently dropped, and by slow accumulation forms a delta (q.v.). On land, every lake in mountain districts furnishes instances of this kind of alluvium. But the most important deltas are those formed in the sea at the mouths of the larger rivers of the globe. Off many coast-lines the detritus washed from the land gathers into bars, which enclose long strips of water more or less completely separated from the sea outside and known as lagoons. A chain of such lagoon-barriers stretches for hundreds of miles round the Gulf of Mexico and the eastern shores of the United States.
4. Lakes.—These sheets of water, considered as a whole, do not belong to the normal system of drainage on the land whereby valleys are excavated. On the contrary they are exceptional to it; for the constant tendency of running water is to fill them up, or to drain them by wearing down the barriers that contain them at their outflow. Some of them are referable to movements of the terrestrial crust whereby depressions arise on the surface of the land, as has been noted after earthquakes. Others have arisen from solution such as that of rock-salt or of limestone, the removal of which by underground water causes a subsidence of the ground above. A third type of lake-basin occurs in regions that are now or have once been subject to the erosive action of glaciers (see under next subdivision, Terrestrial Ice). Many small lakes or tarns have been caused by the deposit of débris across a valley as by landslips or moraines. Considered from a geological point of view, lakes perform an important function in regulating the drainage of the ground below their outfall and diminishing the destructive effects of floods, in filtering the water received from their affluent streams, and in providing undisturbed areas of deposit in which thick and extensive lacustrine formations may be accumulated. In the inland basins of some dry climates the lakes are salt, owing to excess of evaporation, and their bottoms become the sites of chemical deposits, particularly of chlorides of sodium and magnesium, and calcium sulphate and carbonate.
5. Terrestrial Ice.—Each of the forms assumed by frozen water has its own characteristic action in geological processes. Frost has a powerful influence in breaking up damp soils and surfaces of stone in the pores or cracks of which moisture has lodged. The water in freezing expands, and in so doing pushes asunder the component particles of soil or stone, or widens the space between the walls of joints or crevices. When the ice melts the loosened grains remain apart ready to be washed away by rain or blown off by wind, while by the widening of joints large blocks of rock are detached from the faces of cliffs. Where rivers or lakes are frozen over the ice exerts a marked pressure on their banks; and when it breaks up large sheets of it are driven ashore, pushing up quantities of gravel and stones above the level of the water. The piling up of the disrupted ice against obstructions in rivers ponds back the water, and often leads to destructive floods when the ice barriers break. Where the ice has formed round boulders in shallow water, or at the bottom (“anchor-ice”), it may lift these up when the frost gives way, and may transport them for some distance. Ice formed in the atmosphere, and descending to the ground in the form of hail, often causes great destruction to vegetation and not infrequently to animal life. Where the frozen moisture reaches the earth as snow, it serves to protect rock, soil and vegetation from the effects of frost; but on sloping ground it is apt to give rise to destructive avalanches or landslips, while indirectly, by its rapid melting, it may cause serious floods in rivers.
But the most striking geological work performed by terrestrial ice is that achieved by glaciers (q.v.) and ice-sheets. These vast masses of moving ice, when they descend from mountains where the steeper rocks are clear of snow, receive on their surface the débris detached by frost from the declivities above, and bear these materials to lower levels or to the sea. Enormous quantities of rock-rubbish are thus transported in the Alps and other high mountain ranges. When the ice retreats the boulders carried by it are dropped where it melts, and left there as memorials of the former extension of the glaciers. Evidence of this nature proves the much wider extent of the Alpine ice at a comparatively recent geological date. It can also be shown that detritus from Scandinavia has been ice-borne to the south-east of England and far into the heart of Europe.
The ice, by means of grains of sand and pieces of stone which it drags along, scores, scratches and polishes the surfaces of rock underneath it, and, in this way, produces the abundant fine sediment that gives the characteristic milky appearance to the rivers that issue from the lower ends of glaciers. By such long-continued attrition the rocks are worn down, portions of them of softer nature, or where the ice acts with especial vigour, are hollowed out into cavities which, on the disappearance of the ice, may be filled with water and become tarns or lakes. Rocks over which land-ice has passed are marked by a peculiar smooth, flowing outline, which forms a contrast to the more rugged surface produced by ordinary weathering. They are covered with groovings, which range from the finest striae left by sharp grains of sand to deep ruts ground out by blocks of stone. The trend of these markings shows the direction in which the ice flowed. By their evidence the position and movement of former glaciers in countries from which the ice has entirely vanished may be clearly determined (see Glacial Period).
6. The Sea.—The physical features of the sea are discussed in separate articles (see Ocean and Oceanography). The sea must be regarded as the great regulator of temperature and climate over the globe, and as thus exerting a profound influence on the distribution of plant and animal life. Its distinctly geological work is partly erosive and partly reproductive. As an eroding agent it must to some extent effect chemical decompositions in the rocks and sediments over which it spreads; but these changes have not yet been satisfactorily studied. Undoubtedly, its chief destructive power is of a mechanical kind, and arises from the action of its waves in beating upon shore-cliffs. By the alternate compression and expansion of the air in crevices of the rocks on which heavy breakers fall, and by the hydraulic pressure which these masses of sea-water exert on the walls of the fissures into which they rush, large masses of rock are loosened and detached, and caves and tunnels are drilled along the base of sea-cliffs. Probably still more efficacious are the blows of the loose shingle, which, caught up and hurled forward by the waves, falls with great force upon the shore rocks, battering them as with a kind of artillery until they are worn away. The smooth surfaces of the rocks within reach of the waves contrasted with their angular forms above that limit bear witness to the amount of waste, while the rounded forms of the boulders and shingle show that they too are being continually reduced in size. Thus the sea, by its action on the coasts, produces much sediment, which is swept away by its waves and currents and strewn over its floor. Besides this material, it is constantly receiving the fine silt and sand carried down by rivers. As the floor of the ocean is thus the final receptacle for the waste of the land, it becomes the chief era on the surface of the globe for the accumulation of new stratified formations. And such has been one of its great functions since the beginning of geological time, as is proved by the rocks that form the visible part of the earth’s crust, and consist in great part of marine deposits. Chemical precipitates take place more especially in enclosed parts of the sea, where concentration of the water by evaporation can take place, and where layers of sodium chloride, calcium sulphate and carbonate, and other salts are laid down. But the chief marine accumulations are of detrital origin. Near the land and for a variable distance extending sometimes to 200 or 300 m. from shore the deposits consist chiefly of sediments derived from the waste of the land, the finer silts being transported farthest from their source. At greater depths and distances the ocean floor receives a slow deposit of exceedingly fine clay, which is believed to be derived from the decomposition of pumice and volcanic dust from insular or submarine volcanoes. Wide tracts of the bottom are covered with various forms of ooze derived from the accumulation of the remains of minute organisms.
Among the agents by which geological changes are carried on upon the surface of the globe living organisms must be enumerated. Both plants and animals co-operate with the inorganic agents in promoting the degradation of the land. In some cases, on the other hand, they protect rocks from decay, while, by the accumulation of their remains, they give rise to extensive formations both upon the land and in the sea. Their operations may hence be described as alike destructive, conservative and reproductive. Under this heading also the influence of Man as a geological agent deserves notice.
(a) Plants.—Vegetation promotes the disintegration of rocks and soil in the following ways: (1) By keeping the surfaces of stone moist, and thus promoting both mechanical and chemical dissolution, as is especially shown by liverworts, mosses and other moisture-loving plants. (2) By producing through their decay carbonic and other acids, which, together with decaying organic matter taken up by passing moisture, become potent in effecting the chemical decomposition of rocks and in promoting the disintegration of soils. (3) By inserting their roots or branches between joints of rock, which are thereby loosened, so that large slices may be eventually wedged off. (4) By attracting rain, as thick woods, forests and peat-mosses do, and thus accelerating the general waste of a country by running water. (5) By promoting the decay of diseased and dead plants and animals, as when fungi overspread a damp rotting tree or the carcase of a dead animal.
That plants also exert a conservative influence on the surface of the land is shown in various ways. (1) The formation of a stratum of turf protects the soil and rocks underneath from being rapidly disintegrated and washed away by atmospheric action. (2) Many plants, even without forming a layer of turf, serve by their roots or branches to protect the loose sand or soil on which they grow from being removed by wind. The common sand-carex and other arenaceous plants bind the loose sand-dunes of our coasts, and give them a permanence, which would at once be destroyed were the sand laid bare again to storms. The growth of shrubs and brushwood along the course of a stream not only keeps the alluvial banks from being so easily undermined and removed as would otherwise be the case, but serves to arrest the sediment in floods, filtering the water and thereby adding to the height of the flood plain. (3) Some marine plants, like the calcareous nullipores, afford protection to shore rocks by covering them with a hard incrustation. The tangles and smaller Fuci which grow abundantly on the littoral zone break the force of the waves or diminish the effects of ground swell. (4) Forests and brushwood protect the soil, especially on slopes, from being washed away by rain or ploughed up by avalanches.
Plants contribute by the aggregation of their remains to the formation of stratified deposits. Some marine algae which secrete carbonate of lime not only encrust rocks but give rise to sheets of submarine limestone. An analogous part is played in fresh-water lakes by various lime-secreting plants, such as Chara. Long-continued growth of vegetation has, in some regions, produced thick accumulations of a dark loam, as in the black cotton soil (regur) of India, and the black earth (tchernozom) of Russia. Peat-mosses are formed in temperate and arctic climates by the growth of marsh-loving plants, sometimes to a thickness of 40 or 50 ft. In tropical regions the mangrove swamps on low moist shores form a dense jungle, sometimes 20 m. broad, which protects these shores from the sea until, by the arrest of sediment and the constant contribution of decayed vegetation, the spongy ground is at last turned into firm soil. Some plants (diatoms) can abstract silica and build it into their framework, so that their remains form a siliceous deposit or ooze which covers spaces of the deep sea-floor estimated at more than ten millions of square miles in extent.
(b) Animals.—These exert a destructive influence in the following ways: (1) By seriously affecting the composition and arrangement of the vegetable soil. Worms bring up the lower portions of the soil to the surface, and while thus promoting its fertility increase its liability to be washed away by rain. Burrowing animals, by throwing up the soil and subsoil, expose these to be dried and blown away by the wind. At the same time their subterranean passages serve to drain off the superficial water and to injure the stability of the surface of the ground above them. In Britain the mole and rabbit are familiar examples. (2) By interfering with or even diverting the flow of streams. Thus beaver-dams check the current of water-courses, intercept floating materials, and sometimes turn streams into new channels. The embankments of the Mississippi are sometimes weakened to such an extent by the burrowings of the cray-fish as to give way and allow the river to inundate the surrounding country. Similar results have happened in Europe from subterranean operations of rats. (3) Some mollusca bore into stone or wood and by the number of contiguous perforations greatly weaken the material. (4) Many animals exercise a ruinously destructive influence upon vegetation. Of the numerous plagues of this kind the locust, phylloxera and Colorado beetle may be cited.
The most important geological function performed by animals is the formation of new deposits out of their remains. It is chiefly by the lower grades of the animal kingdom that this work is accomplished, especially by molluscs, corals and foraminifera. Shell-banks are formed abundantly in such comparatively shallow and enclosed basins as that of the North Sea, and on a much more extensive scale on the floor of the West Indian seas. By the coral polyps thick masses of limestones have been built up in the warmer seas of the globe (see Coral Reefs). The floor of the Atlantic and other oceans is covered with a fine calcareous ooze derived mainly from the remains of foraminifera, while in other regions the bottom shows a siliceous ooze formed almost entirely of radiolaria. Vertebrate animals give rise to phosphatic deposits formed sometimes of their excrement, as in guano and coprolites, sometimes of an accumulation of their bones.
(c) Man.—No survey of the geological workings of plant and animal life upon the surface of the globe can be complete which does not take account of the influence of man—an influence of enormous and increasing consequence in physical geography, for man has introduced, as it were, an element of antagonism to nature. His interference shows itself in his relations to climate, where he has affected the meteorological conditions of different countries: (1) By removing forests, and laying bare to the sun and winds areas which were previously kept cool and damp under trees, or which, lying on the lee side, were protected from tempests. It is supposed that the wholesale destruction of the woodlands formerly existing in countries bordering the Mediterranean has been in part the cause of the present desiccation of these districts. (2) By drainage, whereby the discharged rainfall is rapidly removed, and the evaporation is lessened, with a consequent diminution of rainfall and some increase in the general temperature of a country. (3) By the other processes of agriculture, such as the transformation of moor and bog into cultivated land, and the clothing of bare hillsides with green crops or plantations of coniferous and hardwood trees.
Still more obvious are the results of human interference with the flow of water: (1) By increasing or diminishing the rainfall man directly affects the volume of rivers. (2) By his drainage operations he makes the rain to run off more rapidly than before, and thereby increases the magnitude of floods and of the destruction caused by them. (3) By wells, bores, mines, or other subterranean works he interferes with the underground waters, and consequently with the discharge of springs. (4) By embanking rivers he confines them to narrow channels, sometimes increasing their scour, and enabling them to carry their sediment further seaward, sometimes causing them to deposit it over the plains and raise their level. (5) By his engineering operations for water-supply he abstracts water from its natural basins and depletes the streams.
In many ways man alters the aspect of a country: (1) By changing forest into bare mountain, or clothing bare mountains with forest. (2) By promoting the growth or causing the removal of peat-mosses. (3) By heedlessly uncovering sand-dunes, and thereby setting in motion a process of destruction which may convert hundreds of acres of fertile land into waste sand, or by prudently planting the dunes with sand-loving vegetation and thus arresting their landward progress. (4) By so guiding the course of rivers as to make them aid him in reclaiming waste land, and bringing it under cultivation. (5) By piers and bulwarks, whereby the ravages of the sea are stayed, or by the thoughtless removal from the beach of stones which the waves had themselves thrown up, and which would have served for a time to protect the land. (6) By forming new deposits either designedly or incidentally. The roads, bridges, canals, railways, tunnels, villages and towns with which man has covered the surface of the land will in many cases form a permanent record of his presence. Under his hand the whole surface of civilized countries is very slowly covered with a stratum, either formed wholly by him or due in great measure to his operations and containing many relics of his presence. The soil of ancient towns has been increased to a depth of many feet by their successive destructions and renovations.
Perhaps the most subtle of human influences are to be seen in the distribution of plant and animal life upon the globe. Some of man’s doings in this domain are indeed plain enough, such as the extirpation of wild animals, the diminution or destruction of some forms of vegetation, the introduction of plants and animals useful to himself, and especially the enormous predominance given by him to the cereals and to the spread of sheep and cattle. But no such extensive disturbance of the normal conditions of the distribution of life can take place without carrying with it many secondary effects, and setting in motion a wide cycle of change and of reaction in the animal and vegetable. For example, the incessant warfare waged by man against birds and beasts of prey in districts given up to the chase leads sometimes to unforeseen results. The weak game is allowed to live, which would otherwise be killed off and give more room for the healthy remainder. Other animals which feed perhaps on the same materials as the game are by the same cause permitted to live unchecked, and thereby to act as a further hindrance to the spread of the protected species. But the indirect results of man’s interference with the régime of plants and animals still require much prolonged observation.
Part V.—Geotectonic or Structural Geology
From a study of the nature and composition of minerals and rocks, and an investigation of the different agencies by which they are formed and modified, the geologist proceeds to inquire how these materials have been put together so as to build up the visible part of the earth’s crust. He soon ascertains that they have not been thrown together wholly at random, but that they show a recognizable order of arrangement. Some of them, especially those of most recent growth, remain in their original condition and position, but, in proportion to their antiquity, they generally present increasing alteration, until it may no longer be possible to tell what was their pristine state. As by far the largest accessible portion of the terrestrial crust consists of stratified rocks, and as these furnish clear evidence of most of the modifications to which they have been subjected in the long course of geological history, it is convenient to take them into consideration first. They possess a number of structures which belong to the original conditions in which they were accumulated. They present in addition other structures which have been superinduced upon them, and which they share with the unstratified or igneous rocks.
1. Original Structures
(a) Stratified Rocks.—This extensive and important series is above all distinguished by possessing a prevailing stratified arrangement. Their materials have been laid down in laminae, layers and strata, or beds, pointing generally to the intermittent deposition of the sediments of which they consist. As this stratification was, as a rule, originally nearly or quite horizontal, it serves as a base from which to measure any subsequent disturbance which the rocks have undergone. The occurrence of false-bedding, i.e. bands of inclined layers between the normal planes of stratification, does not form any real exception; but indicates the action of shifting currents whereby the sediment was transported and thrown down. Other important records of the original conditions of deposit are supplied by ripple-marks, sun-cracks, rain-prints and concretions.
From the nature of the material further light is cast on the geographical conditions in which the strata were accumulated. Thus, conglomerates indicate the proximity of old shore-lines, sandstones mark deposits in comparatively shallow water, clays and shales point to the tranquil accumulation of fine silt at a greater depth and further from land, while fossiliferous limestones bear witness to clearer water in which organisms flourished at some distance from deposits of sand and mud. Again, the alternation of different kinds of sediment suggests a variability in the conditions of deposition, such as a shifting of the sediment-bearing currents and of the areas of muddy and clear water. A thick group of conformable strata, that is, a series of deposits which show no discordance in their stratification, may usually be regarded as having been laid down on a sea-floor that was gently sinking. Here and there evidence is obtainable of the limits or of the progress of the subsidence by what is called “overlap.” Of the absolute length of time represented by any strata or groups of strata no satisfactory estimates can yet be formed. Certain general conclusions may indeed be drawn, and comparisons may be made between different series of rocks. Sandstones full of false-bedding were probably accumulated more rapidly than finely-laminated shales or clays. It is not uncommon in certain Carboniferous formations to find coniferous and other trunks embedded in sandstone. Some of these trees seem to have been carried along and to have sunk, their heavier or root end touching the bottom and their upper end slanting upward in the direction of the current, exactly as in the case of the snags of the Mississippi. In other cases the trees have been submerged while still in their positions of growth. The continuous deposit of sand at last rose above the level of the trunks and buried them. It is clear then that the rate of deposit must have been sometimes sufficiently rapid to allow sand to accumulate to a depth of 30 ft. or more before the decay of the wood. Modern instances are known where, under certain circumstances, submerged trees may last for some centuries, but even the most durable must decay in what, after all, is a brief space of geological time. Since continuous layers of the same kind of deposit suggest a persistence of geological conditions, while numerous alternations of different kinds of sedimentary matter point to vicissitudes or alternations of conditions, it may be supposed that the time represented by a given thickness of similar strata was less than that shown by the same thickness of dissimilar strata, because the changes needed to bring new varieties of sediment into the area of deposit would usually require the lapse of some time for their completion. But this conclusion may often be erroneous. It will be best supported when, from the very nature of the rocks, wide variations in the character of the water-bottom can be established. Thus a group of shales followed by a fossiliferous limestone would almost always mark the lapse of a much longer period than an equal depth of sandy strata. A thick mass of limestone, made up of organic remains which lived and died upon the spot, and whose remains are crowded together generation above generation, must have demanded many years or centuries for its formation.
But in all speculations of this kind we must bear in mind that the length of time represented by a given depth of strata is not to be estimated merely from their thickness or lithological character. The interval between the deposit of two successive laminae of shale may have been as long as, or even longer than, that required for the formation of one of the laminae. In like manner the interval needed for the transition from one stratum or kind of strata to another may often have been more than equal to the time required for the formation of the strata on either side. But the relative chronological importance of the bars or lines in the geological record can seldom be satisfactorily discussed merely on lithological grounds. This must mainly be decided on the evidence of organic remains, as shown in Part VI., where the grouping of the stratified rocks into formations and systems is described.
(b) Igneous Rocks.—As part of the earth’s crust these rocks present characters by which they are strongly differentiated from the stratified series. While the broad petrographical distinctions of their several varieties remain persistent, they present sufficient local variations of type to point to the existence of what have been called petrographic provinces, in each of which the eruptive masses are connected by a general family relationship, differing more or less from that of a neighbouring province. In each region presenting a long chronological series of eruptive rocks a petrographical sequence can be traced, which is observed to be not absolutely the same everywhere, though its general features may be persistent. The earliest manifestations of eruptive material in any district appear to have been most frequently of an intermediate type between acid and basic, passing thence into a thoroughly acid series and concluding with an effusion of basic material.
Considered as part of the architecture of the crust of the earth, igneous rocks are conveniently divisible into two great series: (1) those bodies of material which have been injected into the crust and have solidified there, and (2) those which have reached the surface and have been ejected there, either in a molten state as lava or in a fragmental form as dust, ashes and scoriae. The first of these divisions represents the plutonic, intrusive or subsequent phase of eruptivity; the second marks the volcanic, interstratified or contemporaneous phase.
1. The plutonic or intrusive rocks, which have been forced into the crust and have consolidated there, present a wide range of texture from the most coarse-grained granites to the most perfect natural glass. Seeing that they have usually cooled with extreme slowness underground, they are as a general rule more largely crystalline than the volcanic series. The form assumed by each individual body of intrusive material has depended upon the shape of the space into which it has been injected, and where it has cooled and become solid. This shape has been determined by the local structure of the earth’s crust on the one hand and by the energy of the eruptive force on the other. It offers a convenient basis for the classification of the intrusive rocks, which, as part of the framework of the crust, may thus be grouped according to the shape of the cavity which received them, as bosses, sills, dikes and necks.
Bosses, or stocks, are the largest and most shapeless extravasations of erupted material. They include the great bodies of granite which, in most countries of the world, have risen for many miles through the stratified formations and have altered the rocks around them by contact-metamorphism. Sills, or intrusive sheets, are bed-like masses which have been thrust between the planes of sedimentary or even of igneous rocks. The term laccolite has been applied to sills which are connected with bosses. Intrusive sheets are distinguishable from true contemporaneously intercalated lavas by not keeping always to the same platform, but breaking across and altering the contiguous strata, and by the closeness of their texture where they come in contact with the contiguous rocks, which, being cold, chilled the molten material and caused it to consolidate on its outer margins more rapidly than in its interior. Dikes or veins are vertical walls or ramifying branches of intrusive material which has consolidated in fissures or irregular clefts of the crust. Necks are volcanic chimneys which have been filled up with erupted material, and have now been exposed at the surface after prolonged denudation has removed not only the superficial volcanic masses originally associated with them, but also more or less of the upper part of the vents. Plutonic rocks do not present evidence of their precise geological age. All that can be certainly affirmed from them is that they must be younger than the rocks into which they have been intruded. From their internal structure, however, and from the evidence of the rocks associated with them, some more or less definite conjectures may be made as to the limits of time within which they were probably injected.
2. The interstratified or volcanic series is of special importance in geology, inasmuch as it contains the records of volcanic action during the past history of the globe. It was pointed out in Part I. that while towards the end of the 18th and in the beginning of the 19th century much attention was paid by Hutton and his followers to the proofs of intrusion afforded by what they called the “unerupted lavas” within the earth’s crust, these observers lost sight of the possibility that some of these rocks might have been erupted at the surface, and might thus be chronicles of volcanic action in former geological periods. It is not always possible to satisfactorily discriminate between the two types of contemporaneously intercalated and subsequently injected material. But rocks of the former type have not broken into or involved the overlying strata, and they are usually marked by the characteristic structures of superficial lavas and by their association with volcanic tuffs. By means of the evidence which they supply, it has been ascertained that volcanic action has been manifested in the globe since the earliest geological periods. In the British Isles, for example, the volcanic record is remarkably full for the long series of ages from Cambrian to Permian time, and again for the older Tertiary period.
2. Subsequently induced Structures
After their accumulation, whether as stratified or eruptive masses, all kinds of rocks have been subject to various changes, and have acquired in consequence a variety of superinduced structures. It has been pointed out in the part of this article dealing with dynamical geology that one of the most important forms of energy in the evolution of geological processes is to be found in the movements that take place within the crust of the earth. Some of these movements are so slight as to be only recognizable by means of delicate instruments; but from this inferior limit they range up to gigantic convulsions by which mountain-chains are upheaved. The crust must be regarded as in a perpetual state of strain, and its component materials are therefore subject to all the effects which flow from that condition. It is the one great object of the geotectonic division of geology to study the structures which have been developed in consequence of earth-movements, and to discover from this investigation the nature of the processes whereby the rocks of the crust have been brought into the condition and the positions in which we now find them. The details of this subject will be found in separate articles descriptive of each of the technical terms applied to the several kinds of superinduced structures. All that need be offered here is a general outline connecting the several portions of the subject together.
One of the most universal of these later structures is to be seen in the divisional planes, usually vertical or highly inclined, by which rocks are split into quadrangular or irregularly shaped blocks. To these planes the name of joints has been given. They are of prime importance from an industrial point of view, seeing that the art of quarrying consists mainly in detecting and making proper use of them. Their abundance in all kinds of rocks, from those of recent date up to those of the highest antiquity, affords a remarkable testimony to the strains which the terrestrial crust has suffered. They have arisen sometimes from tension, such as that caused by contraction from the drying and consolidation of an aqueous sediment or from the cooling of a molten mass; sometimes from torsion during movements of the crust.
Although the stratified rocks were originally deposited in a more or less nearly horizontal position on the floor of the sea, where now visible on the dry land they are seldom found to have retained their flatness. On the contrary, they are seen to have been generally tilted up at various angles, sometimes even placed on end (crop, dip, strike). When a sufficiently large area of ground is examined, the inclination into which the strata have been thrown may be observed not to continue far in the same direction, but to turn over to the opposite or another quarter. It can then be seen that in reality the rocks have been thrown into undulations. From the lowest and flattest arches where the departure from horizontality may be only trifling, every step may be followed up to intense curvature, where the strata have been compressed and plicated as if they had been piles of soft carpets (anticline, syncline, monocline, geo-anticline, geo-syncline, isoclinal, plication, curvature, quaquaversal). It has further happened abundantly all over the surface of the globe that relief from internal strain in the crust has been obtained by fracture, and the consequent subsidence or elevation of one or both sides of the fissure. The differential movement between the two sides may be scarcely perceptible in the feeblest dislocation, but in the extreme cases it may amount to many thousand feet (fault, fissure, dislocation, hade, slickensides). The great faults in a country are among its most important structural features, and as they not infrequently continue to be lines of weakness in the crust along which sudden slipping may from time to time take place, they become the lines of origin of earthquakes. The San Francisco earthquake of 1906, already cited, affords a memorable illustration of this connexion.
It is in a great mountain-chain that the extraordinary complication of plicated and faulted structures in the crust of the earth can be most impressively beheld. The combination of overturned folds with rupture has been already referred to as a characteristic feature in the Alps (Part IV.). The gigantic folds have in many places been pushed over each other so as to lie almost flat, while the upper limb has not infrequently been driven for many miles beyond the lower by a rupture along the axis. In this way successive slices of a thick series of formations have been carried northwards on the northern slope of the Alps, and have been piled so abnormally above each other that some of their oldest members recur several times on different thrust-planes, the whole being underlain by Tertiary strata (see Alps). Further proof of the colossal compression to which the rocks have been subjected is afforded by their intense crumpling and corrugation, and by the abundantly faulted and crushed condition to which they have been reduced. Similar evidence as to stresses in the terrestrial crust and the important changes which they produce among the rocks may also be obtained on a smaller scale in many non-mountainous countries.
Another marked result of the compression of the terrestrial crust has been induced in some rocks by the production of the fissile structure which is typically shown in roofing-slate (cleavage). Closely connected with this internal rearrangement has been the development of microscopic microlites or crystals (rutile, mica, &c.) in argillaceous slates which were undoubtedly originally fine marine mud and silt. From this incipient form of metamorphism successive stages may be traced through the various kinds of argillite and phyllite into mica-schist, and thence into more crystalline gneissoid varieties (foliation, slate, mica-schist, gneiss). The Alps afford excellent illustrations of these transformations.
The fissures produced in the crust are sometimes clean, sharply defined divisional planes, like cracks across a pane of glass. Much more usually, however, the rocks on either side have been broken up by the friction of movement, and the fault is marked by a variable breadth of this broken material. Sometimes the walls have separated and molten rock has risen from below and solidified between them as a dike. Occasionally the fissures have opened to the surface, and have been filled in from above with detritus, as in the sandstone-dikes of Colorado and California. In mineral districts the fissures have been filled with various spars and ores, forming what are known as mineral veins.
Where one series of rocks is covered by another without any break or discordance in the stratification they are said to be conformable. But where the older series has been tilted up or visibly denuded before being overlain by the younger, the latter is termed unconformable. This relation is one of the greatest value in structural geology, for it marks a gap in the geological record, which may represent a vast lapse of time not there recorded by strata.
Part VI.—Palaeontological Geology
This division of the science deals with fossils, or the traces of plants and animals preserved in the rocks of the earth’s crust, and endeavours to gather from them information as to the history of the globe and its inhabitants. The term “fossil” (Lat. fossilis, from fodere, to dig up), meaning literally anything “dug up,” was formerly applied indiscriminately to any mineral substance taken out of the earth’s crust, whether organized or not. Since the time of Lamarck, however, the meaning of the word has been restricted, so as to include only the remains or traces of plants and animals preserved in any natural formation whether hard rock or superficial deposit. It includes not merely the petrified structures of organisms, but whatever was directly connected with or produced by these organisms. Thus the resin which was exuded from trees of long-perished forests is as much a fossil as any portion of the stem, leaves, flowers or fruit, and in some respects is even more valuable to the geologist than more determinable remains of its parent trees, because it has often preserved in admirable perfection the insects which flitted about in the woodlands. The burrows and trails of a worm preserved in sandstone and shale claim recognition as fossils, and indeed are commonly the only indications to be met with of the existence of annelid life among old geological formations. The droppings of fishes and reptiles, called coprolites, are excellent fossils, and tell their tale as to the presence and food of vertebrate life in ancient waters. The little agglutinated cases of the caddis-worm remain as fossils in formations from which, perchance, most other traces of life may have passed away. Nay, the very handiwork of man, when preserved in any natural manner, is entitled to rank among fossils; as where his flint-implements have been dropped into the prehistoric gravels of river-valleys or where his canoes have been buried in the silt of lake-bottoms.
A study of the land-surfaces and sea-floors of the present time shows that there are so many chances against the conservation of the remains of either terrestrial or marine animals and plants that if, as is probable, the same conditions existed in former geological periods, we should regard the occurrence of organic remains among the stratified formations of the earth’s crust as generally the result of various fortunate accidents.
Let us consider, in the first place, the chances for the preservation of remains of the present fauna and flora of a country. The surface of the land may be densely clothed with forest and abundantly peopled with animal life. But the trees die and moulder into soil. The animals, too, disappear, generation after generation, and leave few or no perceptible traces of their existence. If we were not aware from authentic records that central and northern Europe were covered with vast forests at the beginning of our era, how could we know this fact? What has become of the herds of wild oxen, the bears, wolves and other denizens of primeval Europe? How could we prove from the examination of the surface soil of any country that those creatures had once abounded there? The conditions for the preservation of any relics of the plant and animal life of a terrestrial surface must obviously be always exceptional. They are supplied only where the organic remains can be protected from the air and superficial decay. Hence they may be observed in (1) the deposits on the floors of lakes; (2) in peat-mosses; (3) in deltas at river-mouths; and (4) under the stalagmite of caverns in limestone districts. But in these and other favourable places a mere infinitesimal fraction of the fauna or flora of a land-surface is likely to be entombed or preserved.
In the second place, although in the sea the conditions for the preservation of organic remains are in many respects more favourable than on land, they are apt to be frustrated by many adverse circumstances. While the level of the land remains stationary, there can be but little effective entombment of marine organisms in littoral deposits; for only a limited accumulation of sediment will be formed until subsidence of the sea-floor takes place. In the trifling beds of sand or gravel thrown up on a stationary shore, only the harder and more durable forms of life, such as gastropods and lamellibranchs, which can withstand the triturating effects of the beach waves, are likely to remain uneffaced.
Below tide-marks, along the margin of the land where sediment is gradually deposited, the conditions are more favourable for the preservation of marine organisms. In the sheets of sand and mud there laid down the harder parts of many forms of life may be entombed and protected from decay. But only a small proportion of the total marine fauna may be expected to appear in such deposits. At the best, merely littoral and shallow-water forms will occur, and, even under the most favourable conditions, they will represent but a fraction of the whole assemblage of life in these juxta-terrestrial parts of the ocean. As we recede from the land the rate of deposition of sediment on the sea-floor must become feebler, until, in the remote central abysses, it reaches a hardly appreciable minimum. Except, therefore, where some kind of ooze or other deposit is accumulating in these more pelagic regions, the conditions must be on the whole unfavourable for the preservation of any adequate representation of the deep-sea fauna. Hard durable objects, such as teeth and bones, may slowly accumulate, and be protected by a coating of peroxide of manganese, or of some of the silicates now forming here and there over the deep-sea bottom; or the rate of growth of the abysmal deposit may be so tardy that most of the remains of at least the larger animals will disappear, owing to decay, before they can be covered up and preserved. Any such deep-sea formation, if raised into land, would supply but a meagre picture of the whole life of the sea.
It would thus appear that the portion of the sea-floor best suited for receiving and preserving the most varied assemblage of marine organic remains is the area in front of the land, to which rivers and currents bring continual supplies of sediment. The most favourable conditions for the accumulation of a thick mass of marine fossiliferous strata will arise when the area of deposit is undergoing a gradual subsidence. If the rate of depression and that of deposit were equal, or nearly so, the movement might proceed for a vast period without producing any great apparent change in marine geography, and even without seriously affecting the distribution of life over the sea-floor within the area of subsidence. Hundreds or thousands of feet of sedimentary strata might in this way be heaped up round the continents, containing a fragmentary series of organic remains belonging to those forms of comparatively shallow-water life which had hard parts capable of preservation. There can be little doubt that such has, in fact, been the history of the main mass of stratified formations in the earth’s crust. By far the largest proportion of these piles of marine strata has unquestionably been laid down in water of no great depth within the area of deposit of terrestrial sediment. The enormous thickness to which they attain seems only explicable by prolonged and repeated movements of subsidence, interrupted, however, as we know, by other movements of a contrary kind.
Since the conditions for the preservation of organic remains exist more favourably under the sea than on land, marine organisms must be far more abundantly conserved than those of the land. This is true to-day, and has, as far as known, been true in all past geological time. Hence for the purposes of the geologist the fossil remains of marine forms of life far surpass all others in value. Among them there will necessarily be a gradation of importance, regulated chiefly by their relative abundance. Now, of all the marine tribes which live within the juxta-terrestrial belt of sedimentation, unquestionably the Mollusca stand in the place of pre-eminence as regards their aptitude for becoming fossils. They almost all possess a hard, durable shell, capable of resisting considerable abrasion and readily passing into a mineralized condition. They are extremely abundant both as to individuals and genera. They occur on the shore within tide mark, and range thence down into the abysses. Moreover, they appear to have possessed these qualifications from early geological times. In the marine Mollusca, therefore, we have a common ground of comparison between the stratified formations of different periods. They have been styled the alphabet of palaeontological inquiry.
There are two main purposes to which fossils may be put in geological research: (1) to throw light upon former conditions of physical geography, such as the presence of land, rivers, lakes and seas, in places where they do not now exist, changes of climate, and the former distribution of plants and animals; and (2) to furnish a guide in geological chronology whereby rocks may be classified according to relative date, and the facts of geological history may be arranged and interpreted as a connected record of the earth’s progress.
1. As examples of the first of these two directions of inquiry reference may be made to (a) former land-surfaces revealed by the occurrence of layers of soil with tree-stumps and roots still in the position of growth (see Purbeckian); (b) ancient lakes proved by beds of marl or limestone full of lacustrine shells; (c) old sea-bottoms marked by the occurrence of marine organisms; (d) variations in the quality of the water, such as freshness or saltness, indicated by changes in the size and shape of the fossils; (e) proximity to former land, suggested by the occurrence of abundant drift-wood in the strata; (f) former conditions of climate, different from the present, as evidenced by such organisms as tropical types of plants and animals intercalated among the strata of temperate or northern countries.
2. In applying fossils to the determination of geological chronology it is first necessary to ascertain the order of superposition of the rocks. Obviously, in a continuous series of undisturbed sedimentary deposits the lowest must necessarily be the oldest, and the plants or animals which they contain must have lived and died before any of the organisms that occur in the overlying strata. This order of superposition having been settled in a series of formations, it is found that the fossils at the bottom are not quite the same as those at the top of the series. Tracing the beds upward, we discover that species after species of the lowest platforms disappears, until perhaps not one of them is found. With the cessation of these older species others make their entrance. These, in turn, are found to die out, and to be replaced by newer forms. After patient examination of the rocks, it has been ascertained that every well-marked “formation,” or group of strata, is characterized by its own species or genera, or by a general assemblage, or facies, of organic forms. Such a generalization can only, of course, be determined by actual practical experience over an area of some size. When the typical fossils of a formation are known, they serve to identify that formation in its progress across a country. Thus, in tracts where the true order of superposition cannot be determined, owing to the want of sections or to the disturbed condition of the rocks, fossils serve as a means of identification and furnish a guide to the succession of the rocks. They even demonstrate that in some mountainous ground the beds have been turned completely upside down, where it can be shown that the fossils in what are now the uppermost strata ought properly to lie underneath those in the beds below them.
It is by their characteristic fossils that the stratified rocks of the earth’s crust can be most satisfactorily subdivided into convenient groups of strata and classed in chronological order. Each “formation” is distinguished by its own peculiar assemblage of organic remains, by means of which it can be followed and recognized, even amid the crumplings and dislocations of a disturbed region. The same general succession of organic types can be observed over a large part of the world, though, of course, with important modifications in different countries. This similarity of succession has been termed homotaxis, a term which expresses the fact that the order in which the leading types of organized existence have appeared upon the earth has been similar even in widely separated regions. It is evident that, in this way, a reliable method of comparison is furnished, whereby the stratified formations of different parts of the earth’s crust can be brought into relation with each other. Had the geologist continued to remain, as in the days of Werner, hampered by the limitations imposed by a reliance on mere lithological characters, he would have made little or no progress in deciphering the record of the successive phases of the history of the globe chronicled in the crust. Just as, at the present time, sheets of gravel in one place are contemporaneous with sheets of mud at another, so in the past all kinds of sedimentation have been in progress simultaneously, and those of one period may not be distinguishable in themselves from those of another. Little or no reliance can be placed upon lithological resemblances or differences in comparing the sedimentary formations of different countries.
In making use of fossil evidence for the purpose of subdividing the stratified rocks of the earth’s crust, it is found to be applicable to the smaller details of stratigraphy as well as to the definition of large groups of strata. Thus a particular stratum may be marked by the occurrence in it of various fossils, one or more of which may be distinctive, either from occurring in no other bed above and below or from special abundance in that stratum. One or more of these species is therefore used as a guide to the occurrence of the bed in question, which is called by the name of the most abundant species. In this way what is called a “geological horizon,” or “zone,” is marked off, and its exact position in the series of formations is fixed.
Perhaps the most distinctive feature in the progress of palaeontological geology during the last half century has been the recognition and wide application of this method of zonal stratigraphy, which, in itself, was only a further development of William Smith’s famous idea, “Strata identified by Organized Fossils.” It was first carried out in detail by various palaeontologists in reference to the Jurassic formations, notably by F. A. von Quenstedt and C. A. Oppel in Germany and A.D. d’Orbigny in France. The publication of Oppel’s classic work Die Juraformation Englands, Frankreichs und des südwestlichen Deutschlands (1856–1858) marked an epoch in the development of stratigraphical geology. Combining what had been done by various observers with his own laborious researches in France, England, Württemberg and Bavaria, he drew up a classification of the Jurassic system, grouping its several formations into zones, each characterized by some distinctly predominant fossil after which it was named (see Lias). The same method of classification was afterwards extended to the Cretaceous series by A. D. d’Orbigny, E. Hébert and others, until the whole Mesozoic rocks from the Trias to the top of the Chalk has now been partitioned into zones, each named after some characteristic species or genus of fossils. More recently the principle has been extended to the Palaeozoic formations, though as yet less fully than to the younger parts of the geological record. It has been successfully applied by Professor C. Lapworth to the investigation of the Silurian series (see Silurian; Ordovician System). He found that the species of graptolites have each a comparatively narrow vertical range, and they may consequently be used for stratigraphical purposes. Applying the method, in the first instance, to the highly plicated Silurian rocks of the south of Scotland, he found that by means of graptolites he was able to work out the structure of the ground. Each great group of strata was seen to possess its own graptolitic zones, and by their means could be identified not only in the original complex Scottish area, but in England and Wales and in Ireland. It was eventually ascertained that the succession of zones in Great Britain could be recognized on the Continent, in North America and even in Australia. The brachiopods and trilobites have likewise been made use of for zonal purposes among the oldest sedimentary formations. The most ancient of the Palaeozoic systems has as its fitting base the Olenellus zone.
Within undefined and no doubt variable geographical limits palaeontological zones have been found to be remarkably persistent. They follow each other in the same general order, but not always with equal definiteness. The type fossil may appear in some districts on a higher or a lower platform than it does in others. Only to a limited degree is there any coincidence between lithological variations in the strata and the sequence of the zones. In the Jurassic formations, indeed, where frequent alternations of different sedimentary materials are to be met with, it is in some cases possible to trace a definite upward or downward limit for a zone by some abrupt change in the sedimentation, such as from limestone to shale. But such a precise demarcation is impossible where no distinct bands of different sediments are to be seen. The zones can then only be vaguely determined by finding their characteristic fossils, and noting where these begin to appear in the strata and where they cease. It would seem, therefore, that the sequence of palaeontological zones, or life-horizons, has not depended merely upon changes in the nature of the conditions under which the organisms lived. We should naturally expect that these changes would have had a marked influence; that, for instance, a difference should be perceptible between the character of the fossils in a limestone and that of those in a shale or a sandstone. The environment, when a limestone was in course of deposition, would generally be one of clear water, favourable for a more vigorous and more varied fauna than where a shale series was accumulating, when the water would be discoloured, and only such animals would continue to live in it, or on the bottom, as could maintain themselves in the midst of mud. But no such lithological reason, betokening geographical changes that would affect living creatures, can be adduced as a universally applicable explanation of the occurrence and limitation of palaeontological zones. One of these zones may be only a few inches, or feet or yards in vertical extent, and no obvious lithological or other cause can be seen why its specially characteristic fossils should not be found just as frequently in the similar strata above and below. There is often little or no evidence of any serious change in the conditions of sedimentation, still less of any widespread physical disturbance, such as the catastrophes by which the older geologists explained the extinction of successive types of life.
It has been suggested that, where the life-zones are well defined, sedimentation has been extremely slow, and that though these zones follow each other with no break in the sedimentation, they were really separated by prolonged intervals of time during which organic evolution could come effectively into play. But it is not easy to explain how, for example in the Lower Lias, there could have been a succession of prodigious intervals, when practically no sediment was laid down, and yet that the strata should show no sign of contemporaneous disturbance or denudation, but succeed each other as if they had been accumulated by one continuous process of deposit. It must be admitted that the problem of life-zones in stratigraphical geology has not yet been solved.
As Darwin first cogently showed, the history of life has been very imperfectly registered in the stratified parts of the earth’s crust. Apart from the fact that, even under the most favourable conditions, only a small proportion of the total flora and fauna of any period would be preserved in the fossil state, enormous gaps occur where no record has survived at all. It is as if whole chapters and books were missing from a historical work. Some of these lacunae are sufficiently obvious. Thus, in some cases, powerful dislocations have thrown considerable portions of the rocks out of sight. Sometimes extensive metamorphism has so affected them that their original characters, including their organic contents, have been destroyed. Oftenest of all, denudation has come into play, and vast masses of fossiliferous rock have been entirely worn away, as is demonstrated by the abundant unconformabilities in the structure of the earth’s crust.
While the mere fact that one series of rocks lies unconformably on another proves the lapse of a considerable interval between their respective dates, the relative length of this interval may sometimes be proved by means of fossil evidence, and by this alone. Let us suppose, for example, that a certain group of formations has been disturbed, upraised, denuded and covered unconformably by a second group. In lithological characters the two may closely resemble each other, and there may be nothing to show that the gap represented by their unconformability is of an important character. In many cases, indeed, it would be quite impossible to pronounce any well-grounded judgment as to the amount of interval, even measured by the vague relative standards of geological chronology. But if each group contains a well-preserved suite of organic remains, it may not only be possible, but easy, to say exactly how much of the geological record has been left out between the two sets of formations. By comparing the fossils with those obtained from regions where the geological record is more complete, it may be ascertained, perhaps, that the lower rocks belong to a certain platform or stage in geological history which for our present purpose we may call D, and that the upper rocks can in like manner be paralleled with stage H. It would be then apparent that at this locality the chronicles of three great geological periods E, F, and G were wanting, which are elsewhere found to be intercalated between D and H. The lapse of time represented by this unconformability would thus be equivalent to that required for the accumulation of the three missing formations in those regions where sedimentation was more continuous.
Fossil evidence may be made to prove the existence of gaps which are not otherwise apparent. As has been already remarked, changes in organic forms must, on the whole, have been extremely slow in the geological past. The whole species of a sea-floor could not pass entirely away, and be replaced by other forms, without the lapse of long periods of time. If then among the conformable stratified formations of former ages we encounter sudden and abrupt changes in the facies of the fossils, we may be certain that these must mark omissions in the record, which we may hope to fill in from a more perfect series elsewhere. The complete biological contrasts between the fossil contents of unconformable strata are sufficiently explicable. It is not so easy to give a satisfactory account of those which occur where the beds are strictly conformable, and where no evidence can be observed of any considerable change of physical conditions at the time of deposit. A group of strata having the same general lithological characters throughout may be marked by a great discrepance between the fossils above and below a certain line. A few species may pass from the one into the other, or perhaps every species may be different. In cases of this kind, when proved to be not merely local but persistent over wide areas, we must admit, notwithstanding the apparently undisturbed and continuous character of the original deposition of the strata, that the abrupt transition from the one facies of fossils to the other represents a long interval of time which has not been recorded by the deposit of strata. A. C. Ramsay, who called attention to these gaps, termed them “breaks in the succession of organic remains.” He showed that they occur abundantly among the Palaeozoic and Secondary rocks of England. It is obvious, of course, that such breaks, even though traceable over wide regions, were not general over the whole globe. There have never been any universal interruptions in the continuity of the chain of being, so far as geological evidence can show. But the physical changes which caused the breaks may have been general over a zoological district or minor region. They no doubt often caused the complete extinction of genera and species which had a small geographical range.
From all these facts it is clear that the geological record, as it now exists, is at the best but an imperfect chronicle of geological history. In no country is it complete. The lacunae of one region must be supplied from another. Yet in proportion to the geographical distance between the localities where the gaps occur and those whence the missing intervals are supplied, the element of uncertainty in our reading of the record is increased. The most desirable method of research is to exhaust the evidence for each area or province, and to compare the general order of its succession as a whole with that which can be established for other provinces.
Part VII.—Stratigraphical Geology
This branch of the science arranges the rocks of the earth’s crust in the order of their appearance, and interprets the sequence of events of which they form the records. Its province is to cull from the other departments of geology the facts which may be needed to show what has been the progress of our planet, and of each continent and country, from the earliest times of which the rocks have preserved any memorial. Thus from mineralogy and petrography it contains information regarding the origin and subsequent mutations of minerals and rocks. From dynamical geology it learns by what agencies the materials of the earth’s crust have been formed, altered, broken, upheaved and melted. From geotectonic geology it understands the various processes whereby these materials were put together so as to build up the complicated crust of the earth. From palaeontological geology it receives in well-determined fossil remains a clue by which to discriminate the different stratified formations, and to trace the grand onward march of organized existence upon this planet. Stratigraphical geology thus gathers up the sum of all that is made known by the other departments of the science, and makes it subservient to the interpretation of the geological history of the earth.
The leading principles of stratigraphy may be summed up as follows:
1. In every stratigraphical research the fundamental requisite is to establish the order of superposition of the strata. Until this is accomplished it is impossible to arrange the dates, and make out the sequence of geological history.
2. The stratified portion of the earth’s crust, or what has been called the “geological record,” can be subdivided into natural groups, or series of strata, characterized by distinctive organic remains and recognizable by these remains, in spite of great changes in lithological character from place to place. A bed, or a number of beds, linked together by containing one or more distinctive species or genera of fossils is termed a zone or horizon, and usually bears the name of one of its more characteristic fossils, as the Planorbis-zone of the Lower Lias, which is so called from the prevalence in it of the ammonite Psiloceras planorbis. Two or more such zones related to each other by the possession of a number of the same characteristic species or genera have been designated beds or an assise. Two or more sets of beds or assises similarly related form a group or stage; a number of groups or stages make a series, formation or section, and a succession of formations may be united into a system.
3. Some living species of plants and animals can be traced downwards through the more recent geological formations; but the number which can be so followed grows smaller as the examination is pursued into more ancient deposits. With their disappearance other species or genera present themselves which are no longer living. These in turn may be traced backward into earlier formations, till they too cease and their places are taken by yet older forms. It is thus shown that the stratified rocks contain the records of a gradual progression of organic forms. A species which has once died out does not seem ever to have reappeared.
4. When the order of succession of organic remains among the stratified rocks has been determined, they become an invaluable guide in the investigation of the relative age of rocks and the structure of the land. Each zone and formation, being characterized by its own species or genera, may be recognized by their means, and the true succession of strata may thus be confidently established even in a country wherein the rocks have been shattered by dislocation, folded, inverted or metamorphosed.
5. Though local differences exist in regard to the precise zone in which a given species of organism may make its first appearance, the general order of succession of the organic forms found in the rocks is never inverted. The record is nowhere complete in any region, but the portions represented, even though extremely imperfect, always follow each other in their proper chronological order, unless where disturbance of the crust has intervened to destroy the original sequence.
6. The relative chronological value of the divisions of the geological record is not to be measured by mere depth of strata. While it may be reasonably assumed that, in general, a great thickness of stratified rock must mark the passage of a long period of time, it cannot safely be affirmed that a much less thickness elsewhere must represent a correspondingly diminished period. The need for this caution may sometimes be made evident by an unconformability between two sets of rocks, as has already been explained. The total depth of both groups together may be, say 1000 ft. Elsewhere we may find a single unbroken formation reaching a depth of 10,000 ft.; but it would be unwarrantable to assume that the latter represents ten times the length of time indicated by the former two. So far from this being the case, it might not be difficult to show that the minor thickness of rock really denotes by far the longer geological interval. If, for instance, it could be proved that the upper part of both the sections lies on one and the same geological platform, but that the lower unconformable series in the one locality belongs to a far lower and older system of rocks than the base of the thick conformable series in the other, then it would be clear that the gap marked by the unconformability really indicates a longer period than the massive succession of deposits.
7. Fossil evidence furnishes the chief means of comparing the relative value of formations and groups of rock. A “break in the succession of organic remains,” as already explained, marks an interval of time often unrepresented by strata at the place where the break is found. The relative importance of these breaks, and therefore, probably, the comparative intervals of time which they mark, may be estimated by the difference of the facies or general character of the fossils on each side. If, for example, in one case we find every species to be dissimilar above and below a certain horizon, while in another locality only half of the species on each side are peculiar, we naturally infer, if the total number of species seems large enough to warrant the inference, that the interval marked by the former break was much longer than that marked by the second. But we may go further and compare by means of fossil evidence the relation between breaks in the succession of organic remains and the depth of strata between them.
Three formations of fossiliferous strata, A, C, and H, may occur conformably above each other. By a comparison of the fossil contents of all parts of A, it may be ascertained that, while some species are peculiar to its lower, others to its higher portions, yet the majority extend throughout the formation. If now it is found that of the total number of species in the upper portion of A only one-third passes up into C, it may be inferred with some plausibility that the time represented by the break between A and C was really longer than that required for the accumulation of the whole of the formation A. It might even be possible to discover elsewhere a thick intermediate formation B filling up the gap between A and C. In like manner were it to be discovered that, while the whole of the formation C is characterized by a common suite of fossils, not one of the species and only one half of the genera pass up into H, the inference could hardly be resisted that the gap between the two formations marks the passage of a far longer interval than was needed for the deposition of the whole of C. And thus we reach the remarkable conclusion that, thick though the stratified formations of a country may be, in some cases they may not represent so long a total period of time as do the gaps in their succession,—in other words, that non-deposition was more frequent and prolonged than deposition, or that the intervals of time which have been recorded by strata have not been so long as those which have not been so recorded.
In all speculations of this nature, however, it is necessary to reason from as wide a basis of observation as possible, seeing that so much of the evidence is negative. Especially needful is it to bear in mind that the cessation of one or more species at a certain line among the rocks of a particular district may mean nothing more than that, onward from the time marked by that line, these species, owing to some change in the conditions of life, were compelled to migrate or became locally extinct or, from some alteration in the conditions of fossilization, were no longer imbedded and preserved as fossils. They may have continued to flourish abundantly in neighbouring districts for a long period afterward. Many examples of this obvious truth might be cited. Thus in a great succession of mingled marine, brackish-water and terrestrial strata, like that of the Carboniferous Limestone series of Scotland, corals, crinoids and brachiopods abound in the limestones and accompanying shales, but disappear as the sandstones, ironstones, clays, coals and bituminous shales supervene. An observer meeting for the first time with an instance of this disappearance, and remembering what he had read about breaks in succession, might be tempted to speculate about the extinction of these organisms, and their replacement by other and later forms of life, such as the ferns, lycopods, estuarine or fresh-water shells, ganoid fishes and other fossils so abundant in the overlying strata. But further research would show him that high above the plant-bearing sandstones and coals other limestones and shales might be observed, once more charged with the same marine fossils as before, and still farther overlying groups of sandstones, coals and carbonaceous beds followed by yet higher marine limestones. He would thus learn that the same organisms, after being locally exterminated, returned again and again to the same area. After such a lesson he would probably pause before too confidently asserting that the highest bed in which we can detect certain fossils marks their final appearance in the history of life. Some breaks in the succession may thus be extremely local, one set of organisms having been driven to a different part of the same region, while another set occupied their place until the first was enabled to return.
8. The geological record is at the best but an imperfect chronicle of the geological history of the earth. It abounds in gaps, some of which have been caused by the destruction of strata owing to metamorphism, denudation or otherwise, others by original non-deposition, as above explained. Nevertheless from this record alone can the progress of the earth be traced. It contains the registers of the appearance and disappearance of tribes of plants and animals which have from time to time flourished on the earth. Only a small proportion of the total number of species which have lived in past time have been thus chronicled, yet by collecting the broken fragments of the record an outline at least of the history of life upon the earth can be deciphered.
It cannot be too frequently stated, nor too prominently kept in view, that, although gaps occur in the succession of organic remains as recorded in the rocks, they do not warrant the conclusion that any such blank intervals ever interrupted the progress of plant and animal life upon the globe. There is every reason to believe that the march of life has been unbroken, onward and upward. Geological history, therefore, if its records in the stratified formations were perfect, ought to show a blending and gradation of epoch with epoch. But the progress has been constantly interrupted, now by upheaval, now by volcanic outbursts, now by depression. These interruptions serve as natural divisions in the chronicle, and enable the geologist to arrange his history into periods. As the order of succession among stratified rocks was first made out in Europe, and as many of the gaps in that succession were found to be widespread over the European area, the divisions which experience established for that portion of the globe came to be regarded as typical, and the names adopted for them were applied to the rocks of other and far distant regions. This application has brought out the fact that some of the most marked breaks in the European series do not exist elsewhere, and, on the other hand, that some portions of that series are much more complete than the corresponding sections in other regions. Hence, while the general similarity of succession may remain, different subdivisions and nomenclature are required as we pass from continent to continent.
The nomenclature adopted for the subdivisions of the geological record bears witness to the rapid growth of geology. It is a patch-work in which no system nor language has been adhered to, but where the influences by which the progress of the science has been moulded may be distinctly traced. Some of the earliest names are lithological, and remind us of the fact that mineralogy and petrography preceded geology in the order of birth—Chalk, Oolite, Greensand, Millstone Grit. Others are topographical, and often recall the labours of the early geologists of England—London Clay, Oxford Clay, Purbeck, Portland, Kimmeridge beds. Others are taken from local English provincial names, and remind us of the debt we owe to William Smith, by whom so many of them were first used—Lias, Gault, Crag, Cornbrash. Others of later date recognize an order of superposition as already established among formations—Old Red Sandstone, New Red Sandstone. By common consent it is admitted that names taken from the region where a formation or group of rocks is typically developed are best adapted for general use. Cambrian, Silurian, Devonian, Permian, Jurassic are of this class, and have been adopted all over the globe.
But whatever be the name chosen to designate a particular group of strata, it soon comes to be used as a chronological or homotaxial term, apart altogether from the stratigraphical character of the strata to which it is applied. Thus we speak of the Chalk or Cretaceous system, and embrace under that term formations which may contain no chalk; and we may describe as Silurian a series of strata utterly unlike in lithological characters to the formations in the typical Silurian country. In using these terms we unconsciously allow the idea of relative date to arise prominently before us. Hence such a word as “chalk” or “cretaceous” does not suggest so much to us the group of strata so called as the interval of geological history which these strata represent. We speak of the Cretaceous, Jurassic, and Cambrian periods, and of the Cretaceous fauna, the Jurassic flora, the Cambrian trilobites, as if these adjectives denoted simply epochs of geological time.
The stratified formations of the earth’s crust, or geological record, are classified into five main divisions, which in their order of antiquity are as follows: (1) Archean or Pre-Cambrian, called also sometimes Azoic (lifeless) or Eozoic (dawn of life); (2) Palaeozoic (ancient life) or Primary; (3) Mesozoic (middle life) or Secondary; (4) Cainozoic (recent life) or Tertiary; (5) Quaternary or Post-Tertiary. These divisions are further ranged into systems, formations, groups or stages, assises and zones. Accounts of the various subdivisions named are given in separate articles under their own headings. In order, however, that the sequence of the formations and their parallelism in Europe and North America may be presented together a stratigraphical table is given on next page.
Part VIII.—Physiographical Geology
This department of geological inquiry investigates the origin and history of the present topographical features of the land. As these features must obviously be related to those of earlier time which are recorded in the rocks of the earth’s crust, they cannot be satisfactorily studied until at least the main outlines of the history of these rocks have been traced. Hence physiographical research comes appropriately after the other branches of the science have been considered.From the stratigraphy of the terrestrial crust we learn that by far the largest part of the area of dry land is built up of marine formations; and therefore that the present land is not an aboriginal portion of the earth’s surface, but has been overspread by the sea in which its rocks were mainly accumulated. We further discover that this submergence of the land did not happen once only, but again and again in past ages and in all parts of the world. Yet although the terrestrial areas varied much from age to age in their extent and in their distribution, being at one time more continental, at another more insular, there is reason to believe that these successive diminutions and expansions have on the whole been effected within, or not far outside, the limits of the existing continents. There is no evidence that any portion of the present land ever lay under the deeper parts of the ocean. The abysmal deposits of the ocean-floor have no true representatives among the sedimentary formations anywhere visible on the land. Nor, on the other hand, can it be shown that any part of the existing ocean abysses ever rose above sea-level into dry land. Hence geologists have drawn the inference that the ocean basins have probably been always where they now are; and that although the continental areas have often been narrowed by submergence and by denudation, there has probably seldom or never been a complete
|Quaternary or Post-Tertiary||Recent, Post-glacial or Human.||Historic, up to the present time.
Prehistoric, comprising deposits of the Iron, Bronze and later Stone Ages.
Neolitic—alluvium, peat, lake-dwellings, loess, &c.
Palneolithic—river-gravels, cave-deposits, &c.
|Similar to the European development, but with scantier traces of the presence of man.|
|Pleistocene or Glacial.||Older Loess and valley-gravels; cave-deposits.
Strand-lines or raised beaches; youngest moraines.
Upper Boulder-clays; eskers; marine sands and clays.
Lower boulder-clay or Till, with striated rock-surfaces below.
|As in Europe, it is hardly possible to assign a definite chronological place to each of the various deposits of this period, terrestrial and marine. They generally resemble the European series. The characteristic marine, fluviatile and lacustrine terraces, which overlie the older drifts, have been classed as the Champlain Group.|
|Cainozoic or Tertiary.||Pliocene||Newer:—English Forest-Bed Group; Red and Norwich Crag; Amstelian and Scaldesian groups of Belgium and Holland; Sicilian and Astian of France and Italy.
Older:—English Coralline Crag; Diestian of Belgium; Plaisancian of southand Italy.
|On the Atlantic border represented by the marine Floridian series; in the interior by a subaerial and lacustrine series; and on the Pacific border by the thick marine series of San Francisco.|
|Miocene||Wanting in Britain; well developed in France, S. E. Europe and Italy; divisible into the following groups in descending order: (1) Pontian; (2) Sarmatian; (3) Tortonian; (4) Helvetian; (5) Langhian (Burdigalian).||Represented in the Eastern States by a marine (Yorktown or Chesapeake, Chipola and Chattahoochee groups) and in the interior by the lacustrine Loup Fork (Nebraska), Deep River, and John Day groups.|
|Oligocene||In Britain the "fluvio-marine series" of the Isle of Wight; also the volcanic plateaux of Antrim and Inner Hebrides and those of the Faeroe Isles and Iceland. In continental Europe the following subdivisions have been established in descending order: (1) Aquitanian, (2) Stampian (Rupelian) (3) Tongrain (Sannosian)||On the Atlantic border no equivalents have been satisfactorily recognised, but on the Pacific side there are marine deposits in N.W. Oregon, which may represent this division. In the interior the equivalent is believed to be the fresh-water White River series, including (1) Protoceras beds, (2) Oreodon beds, and (3) Titanothervum beds.|
|Eocene||Barton sands and clays; Ludian series of France.
Bracklesham Beds; Lutetian (Calcaire grossier and Caillasses) of Paris basin.
London clay, Woolwich and Reading Beds; Thanet sands; Ypresian or Londinian of N. France and Belgium; Sparnacian and Thanetian groups.
|Woodstock and Aquia Creek groups of Potomac River; Vicksburg, Jackson, Claiborne, Buhrstone; and Lignitic groups of Mississipi.
In the interior a thick series of fresh-water formations. comprising, in descending order, the Uinta, Bridger, Wind River, Wasatch, Torrejon, and Puerco groups.
On the Pacific side the marine Tejon series of Oregon and California.
|Mesozoic or Secondary.||Cretaceous. Upper.||Danian—wanting in Britain; uppermost limestone of Denmark.
Senonian—Upper Chalk with Flints of England; Aturian and Emscherian stages on the European continent.
Turonian—Middle Chalk with few flints, and comprising the Angoumian and Ligerian stages.
Cenomanian—Lower Chalk and Chalk Marl.
Albian—Upper Greensand and Gault.
|On the Atlantic border both marine strata and others containing a terrestrial flora represent the Cretaceous series of formations.
In the interior there is also a commingling of marine with lacustrine deposits. At the top lies the Laramie or Lignitic series with an abundant terrestrial flora, passing down into the lacustrine and brackish-water Montana series. Of older date, the Colorado series contains an abundant marine fauna, yet includes also some Niobrara marls and limestones are likewise of marine origin, but the lower members of the series (Benton and Dakota) show another great representation of fresh-water sedimentation with lignites and coals.
In California a vast succession of marine deposits (Shasta-Chico) represents the Cretaceous system; and in western British N. America coal-seams also occur.
|Cretaceous. Lower.||Aptian—Lower Greensand; Marls and limestones of Provence, &c.
Urgonian (Barremian)—Atherfield clay; massive Hippurite limestones of southern France.
Neocomian—Weald clay and Hastings sand; Hauterivian and Valanginian sub-stages of Switzerland and France.
|Jurassic.||Purbeckian—Purbeck beds; Münder Mergel; largely present in Westphalia.
Portlandian—Portland group of England, represented in S. France by the thick Tithonian limestones.
Kimmeridgian— Kimmeridge Clay of England; Virgulian and Pterocerian groups of N. France; represented by thick limestones in the Mediterranean basin.
Corallian—Coral Rag, Coralline Oolite; Sequanian stages of the Continent, comprising the sub-stages of Astartian and Rauracian.
Oxfordian—Oxford Clay; Axgovian and Neuvizyan stages.
Callovian—Kellaways Rock, Divesian sub-stage of N. France.
Bathonian—series of English strata from Cornbrash down to Fuller’s Earth.
Bajocian—Inferior Oolite of England.
Lassic—divisible into (1) Upper Lias or Toarcian, (2) Middle Lias, Marlstone or Charmouthian, (3) Lower Lias of Sinemurian and Hettangian.
|Representatives of the Middle and lower Jurassic formations have been found in California and Oregon, and farther north among the Arctic islands.
Strata containing Lower Jurassic marine fossils appear in Wyoming and Dakota; and above them come the Atlantosaurus and Baptanodon beds, which have yielded so large a variety ofand other vertebrates, and especially the remains of a number of genera of small mammals.
|Triassic.||In Germany and western Europe this division represents the deposits of inland seas or lagoons, and is divisible into the following stages in descending order: (1) Rhaetic, (2) Keuper, (3) Muschelkalk, (4) Bunter. In the eastern Alps and the Mediterranean basin the contemporaneous sedimentary formations are those of open clear sea, in which a thickness of many thousand feet of strata was accumulated.||In New York, Connecticut, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia a series of red sandstone (Newark series) contains land-plants and labyrinthodonts like the lagoon type of central and western Europe. On the Pacific slope, however, marine equivalents occur, representing the pelagic type of south-eastern Europe.|
|Paleozoic or Primary.||Permian.||Thuringian—Zechstein, Magnesian Limestone; named from its development in Thuringia; well represented also in Saxony, Bavaria and Bohemia.
Saxonian—Rothliegendes Group; Red Sandstones, &c.
Autunian—where the strata present the lagoon facies, well displayed at Autun in France; where the marine type is predominant, as in Russia, the group has been termed Artinskian.
|To this division of the geological record the Upper Barren Measures of the coal-fields of Pennsylvania, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have been assigned.
Farther south in Kansas, Texas, and Nebraska the representatives of the division have an abundant marine fauna.
|Carboniferous.||Stephanian or Uralian—represented in Russia by marine formations, and in central and western Europe by numerous small basins containing a peculiar flora and in some places a great variety of insects.
Westphalian or Moscovian—Coal-measures, Millstone Grit.
Culm or Dinantian—Carboniferous Limestone and Calciferous Sandstone series.
|Upper productive Coal-measures.
Lower Barren measures.
Lower productive Coal-measures.
Mauch Chunk shales; limestones of Chester, St Louis, &c.
Pocono series; Kinderhook limestone.
|Devonian and Old Red Sandstone.||Devonian type.||Old Red Sandstone type.|
|Yellow and red sandstone with Holoptychius, Bothriolepis, &c.||Catskill red sandstone; Old Red Sandstone type: the strata below show the Devonian type.
|Caithness Flagstones with Osteolepus, Dipterus, Homosteus, &c.||Hamilton Group.
|Red and purple sandstones and conglomerates with Cephalaspis, Pteraspis, &c.||Corniferous Limestone.
|Upper Helderberg Group.|
|Lower Helderberg Group.
Niagara Shale and Limestone.
|Lower (Ordovician)||Caradoc or Bala Group.
|Cambrian||Upper or Olenus series—Tremadoc slates and Lingula Flags.
Middle or Pardoxides series—Menevian Group.
Lower or Olenellus series—Llanberis and Harlech Group, and Olenellus-zone.
|Upper or Potsdam series with Olenus and Dicelocephalus fauna.
Middle or Acadian series with Paradoxides fauna.
Lower or Georgian series with Olenellus fauna.
|Archean, Pre-Cambrian Eozoic.||In Scotland, underneath the Cambrian Olenellus group, lies unconformably a mass of red sandstone and conglomerate (Torridonian) 8000 or 10,000 ft. thick, which rests with a strong gneisses and schists (Lewisian). A thick series of slates and phyllites lies below the oldest Palaeozoic rocks in central Europe, with coarse gneisses below.||In Canada and the Lake Superior region of the United States a vast succession of rocks of Pre-Cambrian age has been grouped into the following subdivisions in descending order: (1) Keweenwan, lying unconformably on (2) Animikie, separated by a strong unconformability from (3) Upper Huronian, (4) Lower Huronian with an unconformable base, (5) Goutchiching, (6) Laurentian. In the eastern part of Canada, Newfoundland, &c., and also in Montana, sedimentary formations of great thickness below the lowest Cambrian zone have been found to contain some obscure organisms.|
From these general considerations we proceed to inquire how the existing topographical features of the land arose. Obviously the co-operation of the two great geological agencies of hypogene and epigene energy, which have been at work from the beginning of our globe’s decipherable history, must have been the cause to which these features are to be assigned; and the task of the geologist is to ascertain, if possible, the part that has been taken by each. There is a natural tendency to see in a stupendous piece of scenery, such as a deep ravine, a range of hills, a line of precipice or a chain of mountains, evidence only of subterranean convulsion; and before the subject was taken up as a matter of strict scientific induction, an appeal to former cataclysms was considered a sufficient solution of the problems presented by such features of landscape. The rise of the modern Huttonian school, however, led to a more careful examination of these problems. The important share taken by erosion in the determination of the present features of landscape was then recognized, while a fuller appreciation of the relative parts played by the hypogene and epigene causes has gradually been reached.
1. The study of the progress of denudation at the present time has led to the conclusion that even if the rate of waste were not more rapid than it is to-day, it would yet suffice in a comparatively brief geological period to reduce the dry land to below the sea-level. But not only would the area of the land be diminished by denudation, it could hardly fail to be more or less involved in those widespread movements of subsidence, during which the thick sedimentary formations of the crust appear to have been accumulated. It is thus manifest that there must have been from time to time during the history of our globe upward movements of the crust, whereby the balance between land and sea was redressed. Proofs of such movements have been abundantly preserved among the stratified formations. We there learn that the uplifts have usually followed each other at long intervals between which subsidence prevailed, and thus that there has been a prolonged oscillation of the crust over the great continental areas of the earth’s surface.
An examination of that surface leads to the recognition of two great types of upheaval. In the one, the sea-floor, with all its thick accumulations of sediment, has been carried upwards, sometimes for several thousand feet, so equably that the strata retain their original flatness with hardly any sensible disturbance for hundreds of square miles. In the other type the solid crust has been plicated, corrugated and dislocated, especially along particular lines, and has attained its most stupendous disruption in lofty chains of mountains. Between these two phases of uplift many intermediate stages have been developed, according to the direction and intensity of the subterranean force and the varying nature and disposition of the rocks Of the crust.
(a) Where the uplift has extended over wide spaces, without appreciable deformation of the crust, the flat strata have given rise to low plains, or if the amount of uprise has been great enough, to high plains, plateaux or tablelands. The plains of Russia, for example, lie for the most part on such tracts of equably uplifted strata. The great plains of the western interior of the United States form a great plateau or tableland, 5000 or 6000 ft. above the sea, and many thousands of square miles in extent, on which the Rocky Mountains have been ridged up.
(b) It is in a great mountain-chain that the complicated structures developed during disturbances of the earth’s crust can best be studied (see Parts IV. and V. of this article), and where the influence of these structures on the topography of the surface is most effectively displayed. Such a chain may be the result of one colossal disturbance; but those of high geological antiquity usually furnish proofs of successive uplifts with more or less intervening denudation. Formed along lines of continental displacement in the crust, they have again and again given relief from the strain of compression by fresh crumpling, fracture and uprise. The chief guide in tracing these successive stages of growth is supplied by unconformability. If, for example, a mountain-range consists of upraised Silurian rocks, upon the upturned and denuded edges of which the Carboniferous Limestone lies transgressively, it is clear that its original upheaval must have taken place in the period of geological time represented by the interval between the Silurian and the Carboniferous Limestone formations. If, as the range is followed along its course, the Carboniferous Limestone is found to be also highly inclined and covered unconformably by the Upper Coal-measures, a second uplift of that portion of the ground can be proved to have taken place between the time of the Limestone and that of the Upper Coal-measures. By this simple and obvious kind of evidence the relative ages of different mountain-chains may be compared. In most great chains, however, the rocks have been so intensely crumpled, and even inverted, that much labour may be required before their true relations can be determined.
The Alps furnish an instructive example of the long series of revolutions through which a great mountain-system may have passed before reaching its present development. The first beginnings of the chain may have been upraised before the oldest Palaeozoic formations were laid down. There are at least traces of land and shore-lines in the Carboniferous period. Subsequent submergences and uplifts appear to have occurred during the Mesozoic periods. There is evidence that thereafter the whole region sank deep under the sea, in which the older Tertiary sediments were accumulated, and which seems to have spread right across the heart of the Old World. But after the deposition of the Eocene formations came the gigantic disruptions whereby all the rocks of the Alpine region were folded over each other, crushed, corrugated, fractured and displaced, some of their older portions, including the fundamental gneisses and schists, being squeezed up, torn off, and pushed horizontally for many miles over the younger rocks. But this upheaval, though the most momentous, was not the last which the chain has undergone, for at a later epoch in Tertiary time renewed disturbance gave rise to a further series of ruptures and plications. The chain thus successively upheaved has been continuously exposed to denudation and has consequently lost much of its original height. That it has been left in a state of instability is indicated by the frequent earthquakes of the Alpine region, which doubtless arise from the sudden snapping of rocks under intense strain.
A distinct type of mountain due to direct hypogene action is to be seen in a volcano. It has been already pointed out (Part IV. sect. 1) that at the vents which maintain a communication between the molten magma of the earth’s interior and the surface, eruptions take place whereby quantities of lava and fragmentary materials are heaped round each orifice of discharge. A typical volcanic mountain takes the form of a perfect cone, but as it grows in size and its main vent is choked, while the sides of the cone are unable to withstand the force of the explosions or the pressure of the ascending column of lava, eruptions take place laterally, and numerous parasitic cones arise on the flanks of the parent mountain. Where lava flows out from long fissures, it may pile up vast sheets of rock, and bury the surrounding country under several thousand feet of solid stone, covering many hundreds of square miles. In this way volcanic tablelands have been formed which, attacked by the denuding forces, are gradually trenched by valleys and ravines, until the original level surface of the lava-field may be almost or wholly lost. As striking examples of this physiographical type reference may be made to the plateau of Abyssinia, the Ghats of India, the plateaux of Antrim, the Inner Hebrides and Iceland, and the great lava-plains of the western territories of the United States.
2. But while the subterranean movements have upraised portions of the surface of the lithosphere above the level of the ocean, and have thus been instrumental in producing the existing tracts of land, the detailed topographical features of a landscape are not solely, nor in general even chiefly, attributable to these movements. From the time that any portion of the sea-floor appears above sea-level, it undergoes erosion by the various epigene agents. Each climate and geological region has its own development of these agents, which include air, aridity, rapid and frequent alternations of wetness and dryness or of heat and cold, rain, springs, frosts, rivers, glaciers, the sea, plant and animal life. In a dry climate subject to great extremes of temperature the character and rate of decay will differ from those of a moist or an arctic climate. But it must be remembered that, however much they may vary in activity and in the results which they effect, the epigene forces work without intermission, while the hypogene forces bring about the upheaval of land only after long intervals. Hence, trifling as the results during a human life may appear, if we realize the multiplying influence of time we are led to perceive that the apparently feeble superficial agents can, in the course of ages, achieve stupendous transformations in the aspect of the land. If this efficacy may be deduced from what can be seen to be in progress now, it may not less convincingly be shown, from the nature of the sedimentary rocks of the earth’s crust, to have been in progress from the early beginnings of geological history. Side by side with the various upheavals and subsidences, there has been a continuous removal of materials from the land, and an equally persistent deposit of these materials under water, with the consequent growth of new rocks. Denudation has been aptly compared to a process of sculpturing wherein, while each of the implements employed by nature, like a special kind of graving tool, produces its own characteristic impress on the land, they all combine harmoniously towards the achievement of their one common task. Hence the present contours of the land depend partly on the original configuration of the ground, and the influence it may have had in guiding the operations of the erosive agents, partly on the vigour with which these agents perform their work, and partly on the varying structure and powers of resistance possessed by the rocks on which the erosion is carried on.
Where a new tract of land has been raised out of the sea by such an energetic movement as broke up the crust and produced the complicated structure and tumultuous external forms of a great mountain chain, the influence of the hypogene forces on the topography attains its highest development. But even the youngest existing chain has suffered so greatly from denudation that the aspect which it presented at the time of its uplift can only be dimly perceived. No more striking illustration of this feature can be found than that supplied by the Alps, nor one where the geotectonic structures have been so fully studied in detail. On the outer flanks of these mountains the longitudinal ridges and valleys of the Jura correspond with lines of anticline and syncline. Yet though the dominant topographical elements of the region have obviously been produced by the plication of the stratified formations, each ridge has suffered so large an amount of erosion that the younger rocks have been removed from its crest where the older members of the series are now exposed to view, while on every slope proofs may be seen of extensive denudation. If from these long wave-like undulations of the ground, where the relations between the disposition of the rocks below and the forms of the surface are so clearly traceable, the observer proceeds inwards to the main chain, he finds that the plications and displacements of the various formations assume an increasingly complicated character; and that although proofs of great denudation continue to abound, it becomes increasingly difficult to form any satisfactory conjecture as to the shape of the ground when the upheaval ended or any reliable estimate of the amount of material which has since then been removed. Along the central heights the mountains lift themselves towards the sky like the storm-swept crests of vast earth-billows. The whole aspect of the ground suggests intense commotion, and the impression thus given is often much intensified by the twisted and crumpled strata, visible from a long distance, on the crags and crests. On this broken-up surface the various agents of denudation have been ceaselessly engaged since it emerged from the sea. They have excavated valleys, sometimes along depressions provided for them by the subterranean disturbances, sometimes down the slopes of the disrupted blocks of ground. So powerful has been this erosion that valleys cut out along lines of anticline, which were natural ridges, have sometimes become more important than those in lines of syncline, which were structurally depressions. The same subaerial forces have eroded lake-basins, dug out corries or cirques, notched the ridges, splintered the crests and furrowed the slopes, leaving no part of the original surface of the uplifted chain unmodified.
It has often been noted with surprise that features of underground structure which, it might have been confidently anticipated, should have exercised a marked influence on the topography of the surface have not been able to resist the levelling action of the denuding agents, and do not now affect the surface at all. This result is conspicuously seen in coal-fields where the strata are abundantly traversed by faults. These dislocations, having sometimes a displacement of several hundred feet, might have been expected to break up the surface into a network of cliffs and plains; yet in general they do not modify the level character of the ground above. One of the most remarkable faults in Europe is the great thrust which bounds the southern edge of the Belgian coal-field and brings the Devonian rocks above the Coal-measures. It can be traced across Belgium into the Boulonnais, and may not improbably run beneath the Secondary and Tertiary rocks of the south of England. It is crossed by the valleys of the Meuse and other northerly-flowing streams. Yet so indistinctly is it marked in the Meuse valley that no one would suspect its existence from any peculiarity in the general form of the ground, and even an experienced geologist, until he had learned the structure of the district, would scarcely detect any fault at all.
Where faults have influenced the superficial topography, it is usually by giving rise to a hollow along which the subaerial agents and especially running water can act effectively. Such a hollow may be eventually widened and deepened into a valley. On bare crags and crests, lines of fault are apt to be marked by notches or clefts, and they thus help to produce the pinnacles and serrated outlines of these exposed uplands.
It was cogently enforced by Hutton and Playfair, and independently by Lamarck, that no co-operation of underground agency is needed to produce such topography as may be seen in a great part of the world, but that if a tract of sea-floor were upraised into a wide plain, the fall of rain and the circulation of water over its surface would in the end carve out such a system of hills and valleys as may be seen on the dry land now. No such plain would be a dead-level. It would have inequalities on its surface which would serve as channels to guide the drainage from the first showers of rain. And these channels would be slowly widened and deepened until they would become ravines and valleys, while the ground between them would be left projecting as ridges and hills. Nor would the erosion of such a system of water-courses require a long series of geological periods for its accomplishment. From measurements and estimates of the amount of erosion now taking place in the basin of the Mississippi river it has been computed that valleys 800 ft. deep might be carved out in less than a million years. In the vast tablelands of Colorado and other western regions of the United States an impressive picture is presented of the results of mere subaerial erosion on undisturbed and nearly level strata. Systems of stream-courses and valleys, river gorges unexampled elsewhere in the world for depth and length, vast winding lines of escarpment, like ranges of sea-cliffs, terraced slopes rising from plateau to plateau, huge buttresses and solitary stacks standing like islands out of the plains, great mountain-masses towering into picturesque peaks and pinnacles cleft by innumerable gullies, yet everywhere marked by the parallel bars of the horizontal strata out of which they have been carved—these are the orderly symmetrical characteristics of a country where the scenery is due entirely to the action of subaerial agents on the one hand and the varying resistance of perfectly regular stratified rocks on the other.
The details of the sculpture of the land have mainly depended on the nature of the materials on which nature’s erosive tools have been employed. The joints by which all rocks are traversed have been especially serviceable as dominant lines down which the rain has filtered, up which the springs have risen and into which the frost wedges have been driven. On the high bare scarps of a lofty mountain the inner structure of the mass is laid open, and there the system of joints even more than faults is seen to have determined the lines of crest, the vertical walls of cliff and precipice, the forms of buttress and recess, the position of cleft and chasm, the outline of spire and pinnacle. On the lower slopes, even under the tapestry of verdure which nature delights to hang where she can over her naked rocks, we may detect the same pervading influence of the joints upon the forms assumed by ravines and crags. Each kind of stone, too, gives rise to its own characteristic form of scenery. Massive crystalline rocks, such as granite, break up along their joints and often decay into sand or earth along their exposed surfaces, giving rise to rugged crags with long talus slopes at their base. The stratified rocks besides splitting at their joints are especially distinguished by parallel ledges, cornices and recesses, produced by the irregular decay of their component strata, so that they often assume curiously architectural types of scenery. But besides this family feature they display many minor varieties of aspect according to their lithological composition. A range of sandstone hills, for example, presents a marked contrast to one of limestone, and a line of chalk downs to the escarpments formed by alternating bands of harder and softer clays and shales.
It may suffice here merely to allude to a few of the more important parts of the topography of the land in their relation to physiographical geology. A true mountain-chain, viewed from the geological side, is a mass of high ground which owes its prominence to a ridging-up of the earth’s crust, and the intense plication and rupture of the rocks of which it is composed. But ranges of hills almost mountainous in their bulk may be formed by the gradual erosion of valleys out of a mass of original high ground, such as a high plateau or tableland. Eminences which have been isolated by denudation from the main mass of the formations of which they originally formed part are known as “outliers” or “hills of circumdenudation.”
Tablelands, as already pointed out, may be produced either by the upheaval of tracts of horizontal strata from the sea-floor into land; or by the uprise of plains of denudation, where rocks of various composition, structure and age have been levelled down to near or below the level of the sea by the co-operation of the various erosive agents. Most of the great tablelands of the globe are platforms of little-disturbed strata which have been upraised bodily to a considerable elevation. No sooner, however, are they placed in that position than they are attacked by running water, and begin to be hollowed out into systems of valleys. As the valleys sink, the platforms between them grow into narrower and more definite ridges, until eventually the level tableland is converted into a complicated network of hills and valleys, wherein, nevertheless, the key to the whole arrangement is furnished by a knowledge of the disposition and effects of the flow of water. The examples of this process brought to light in Colorado, Wyoming, Nevada and the other western regions by Newberry, King, Hayden, Powell and other explorers, are among the most striking monuments of geological operations in the world.
Examples of ancient and much decayed tablelands formed by the denudation of much disturbed rocks are furnished by the Highlands of Scotland and of Norway. Each of these tracts of high ground consists of some of the oldest and most dislocated formations of Europe, which at a remote period were worn down into a plain, and in that condition may have lain long submerged under the sea and may possibly have been overspread there with younger formations. Having at a much later time been raised several thousand feet above sea-level the ancient platforms of Britain and Scandinavia have been since exposed to denudation, whereby each of them has been so deeply channeled into glens and fjords that it presents to-day a surface of rugged hills, either isolated or connected along the flanks, while only fragments of the general surface of the tableland can here and there be recognized amidst the general destruction.
Valleys have in general been hollowed out by the greater erosive action of running water along the channels of drainage. Their direction has been probably determined in the great majority of cases by irregularities of the surface along which the drainage flowed on the first emergence of the land. Sometimes these irregularities have been produced by folds of the terrestrial crust, sometimes by faults, sometimes by the irregularities on the surface of an uplifted platform of deposition or of denudation. Two dominant trends may be observed among them. Some are longitudinal and run along the line of flexures in the upraised tract of land, others are transverse where the drainage has flowed down the slopes of the ridges into the longitudinal valleys or into the sea. The forms of valleys have been governed partly by the structure and composition of the rocks, and partly by the relative potency of the different denuding agents. Where the influence of rain and frost has been slight, and the streams, supplied from distant sources, have had sufficient declivity, deep, narrow, precipitous ravines or gorges have been excavated. The canyons of the arid region of the Colorado are a magnificent example of this result. Where, on the other hand, ordinary atmospheric action has been more rapid, the sides of the river channels have been attacked, and open sloping glens and valleys have been hollowed out. A gorge or defile is usually due to the action of a waterfall, which, beginning with some abrupt declivity or precipice in the course of the river when it first commenced to flow, or caused by some hard rock crossing the channel, has eaten its way backward.
Lakes have been already referred to, and their modes of origin have been mentioned. As they are continually being filled up with the detritus washed into them from the surrounding regions they cannot be of any great geological antiquity, unless where by some unknown process their basins are from time to time widened and deepened.
In the general subaerial denudation of a country, innumerable minor features are worked out as the structure of the rocks controls the operations of the eroding agents. Thus, among comparatively undisturbed strata, a hard bed resting upon others of a softer kind is apt to form along its outcrop a line of cliff or escarpment. Though a long range of such cliffs resembles a coast that has been worn by the sea, it may be entirely due to mere atmospheric waste. Again, the more resisting portions of a rock may be seen projecting as crags or knolls. An igneous mass will stand out as a bold hill from amidst the more decomposable strata through which it has risen. These features, often so marked on the lower grounds, attain their most conspicuous development among the higher and barer parts of the mountains, where subaerial disintegration is most rapid. The torrents tear out deep gullies from the sides of the declivities. Corries or cirques are scooped out on the one hand and naked precipices are left on the other. The harder bands of rock project as massive ribs down the slopes, shoot up into prominent aiguilles, or help to give to the summits the notched saw-like outlines they so often present.
The materials worn from the surface of the higher are spread out over the lower grounds. The streams as they descend begin to drop their freight of sediment when, by the lessening of their declivity, their carrying power is diminished. The great plains of the earth’s surface are due to this deposit of gravel, sand and loam. They are thus monuments at once of the destructive and reproductive processes which have been in progress unceasingly since the first land rose above the sea and the first shower of rain fell. Every pebble and particle of their soil, once part of the distant mountains, has travelled slowly and fitfully to lower levels. Again and again have these materials been shifted, ever moving downward and sea-ward. For centuries, perhaps, they have taken their share in the fertility of the plains and have ministered to the nurture of flower and tree, of the bird of the air, the beast of the field and of man himself. But their destiny is still the great ocean. In that bourne alone can they find undisturbed repose, and there, slowly accumulating in massive beds, they will remain until, in the course of ages, renewed upheaval shall raise them into future land, there once more to pass through the same cycle of change. (A. Ge.)
Literature.—Historical: The standard work is Karl A. von Zittel’s Geschichte der Geologie und Paläontologie (1899), of which there is an abbreviated, but still valuable, English translation; D’Archiac, Histoire des progrès de la géologie, deals especially with the period 1834–1850; Keferstein, Geschichte und Literatur der Geognosie, gives a summary up to 1840; while Sir A. Geikie’s Founders of Geology (1897; 2nd ed., 1906) deals more particularly with the period 1750–1820. General treatises: Sir Charles Lyell’s Principles of Geology is a classic. Of modern English works, Sir A. Geikie’s Text Book of Geology (4th ed., 1903) occupies the first place; the work of T. C. Chamberlin and R. D. Salisbury, Geology; Earth History (3 vols., 1905–1906), is especially valuable for American geology. A. de Lapparent’s Traité de géologie (5th ed., 1906), is the standard French work. H. Credner’s Elemente der Geologie has gone through several editions in Germany. Dynamical and physiographical geology are elaborately treated by E. Suess, Das Antlitz der Erde, translated into English, with the title The Face of the Earth. The practical study of the science is treated of by F. von Richthofen, Führer für Forschungsreisende (1886); G. A. Cole, Aids in Practical Geology (5th ed., 1906); A. Geikie, Outlines of Field Geology (5th ed., 1900). The practical applications of Geology are discussed by J. V. Elsden, Applied Geology (1898–1899). The relations of Geology to scenery are dealt with by Sir A. Geikie, Scenery of Scotland (3rd ed., 1901); J. E. Marr, The Scientific Study of Scenery (1900); Lord Avebury, The Scenery of Switzerland (1896); The Scenery of England (1902); and J. Geikie, Earth Sculpture (1898). A detailed bibliography is given in Sir A. Geikie’s Text Book of Geology. See also the separate articles on geological subjects for special references to authorities.
- In De Luc’s Lettres physiques et morales sur les montagnes (1778), the word “cosmology” is used for our science, the author stating that “geology” is more appropriate, but it “was not a word in use.” In a completed edition, published in 1779, the same statement is made, but “geology” occurs in the text; in the same year De Saussure used the word without any explanation, as if it were well known.
- The subject of the age of the earth has also been discussed by Professor J. Joly and Professor W. J. Sollas. The former geologist, approaching the question from a novel point of view, has estimated the total quantity of sodium in the water of the ocean and the quantity of that element received annually by the ocean from the denudation of the land. Dividing the one sum by the other, he arrives at the result that the probable age of the earth is between 90 and 100 millions of years (Trans. Roy. Dublin Soc. ser. ii. vol. vii., 1899, p. 23: Geol. Mag., 1900, p. 220). Professor Sollas believes that this limit exceeds what is required for the evolution of geological history, that the lower limit assigned by Lord Kelvin falls short of what the facts demand, and that geological time will probably be found to have been comprised within some indeterminate period between these limits. (Address to Section C, Brit. Assoc. Report, 1900; Age of the Earth, London, 1905.)