Page:Darwin Journal of Researches.djvu/502

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[CHAP. XX.
DISTRIBUTION OF CORAL-REEFS.

of the earth's movement. It deserves notice, that in more than one instance where single red and blue circles approach near each other, I can show that there have been oscillations of level; for in such cases the red or fringed circles consist of atolls, originally by our theory formed during subsidence, but subsequently upheaved; and on the other hand, some of the pale-blue or encircled islands are composed of coral-rock, which must have been uplifted to its present height before that subsidence took place, during which the existing barrier-reefs grew upwards.

Authors have noticed with surprise, that although atolls are the commonest coral-structures throughout some enormous oceanic tracts, they are entirely absent in other seas, as in the West Indies: we can now at once perceive the cause, for where there has not been subsidence, atolls cannot have been formed; and in the case of the West Indies and parts of the East Indies, these tracts are known to have been rising within the recent period. The larger areas, coloured red and blue, are all elongated; and between the two colours there is a degree of rude alternation, as if the rising of one had balanced the sinking of the other. Taking into consideration the proofs of recent elevation both on the fringed coasts and on some others (for instance, in South America) where there are no reefs, we are led to conclude that the great continents are for the most part rising areas; and from the nature of the coral-reefs, that the central parts of the great oceans are sinking areas. The East Indian archipelago, the most broken land in the world, is in most parts an area of elevation, but surrounded and penetrated, probably in more lines than one, by narrow areas of subsidence.

I have marked with vermilion spots all the many known active volcanos within the limits of this same map. Their entire absence from every one of the great subsiding areas, coloured either pale or dark blue, is most striking; and not less so is the coincidence of the chief volcanic chains with the parts coloured red, which we are led to conclude have either long remained stationary, or more generally have been recently upraised. Although a few of the vermilion spots occur within no great distance of single circles tinted blue, yet not one single active volcano is situated within several hundred miles of an archipelago, or even small group of atolls. It is, therefore, a striking fact that in