Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/505

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A GLIMPSE THROUGH THE CORRIDORS OF TIME.

is Sir Charles Lyell's "Principles." The feature which characterizes Lyell's work is expressed in the title of the hook, "Modern Changes of the Earth and its Inhabitants considered as illustrative of Geology." Lyell shows how the changes now going on in the earth have in course of time produced great effects. He points out triumphantly that there is no need of supposing mighty deluges and frightful earthquakes to account for the main facts of geology.

Lyell attempts to show that the present action of winds and storms, of rains and rivers, of ice and snow, of waves and tides, will account for the formation of strata, and that the gentle oscillations of the earth's crust will explain the varying distribution of land and water. In this we can to a great extent follow him. I am quite satisfied with the oscillations in the land. If the land rises an inch or two every century in one place and falls to the same extent elsewhere, all that is required has been explained. Nor do I feel at present disposed to question his views as to rivers or to glaciers, to rains or to winds. There is, however, one great natural agent of which Lyell does not take adequate account. He does not attach enough importance to the tides. No doubt he admits that the tides do some geological work. He even thinks they can do a great deal of work. The sea batters the cliffs on the coasts, and wears them into sand and pebble's. The glaciers grind down the mountains, the rains and frosts wear the land into mud, and rivers carry that mud into the sea. In the calm depths of ocean this mud subsides to the bottom; it becomes consolidated into rocks; in the course of time these rocks again become raised, to form the dry land with which we are acquainted.

The tides, says Lyell, help in this work. Tidal currents aid in carrying the mud out to sea; they aid to a considerable extent in the actual work of degradation, and thus contribute their quota to the manufacture of stratified rocks. Such is the modest rôle which Lyell has assigned to the tides, and no doubt the majority of geologists have acquiesced in this doctrine. Nor can there be any doubt that this is a just view of tidal action at present. That it is a just view of tidal action in past times is what I now deny. Lyell did not know—Lyell could not have known—that our tides are but the feeble surviving ripples of mighty tides with which our oceans once pulsated. Introduce these mighty tides among our geological agents, and see how waves and storms, rivers and glaciers, will hide their diminished heads.

I must attempt to illustrate this view of tidal importance in ancient geological times. Let me try by the aid of the tides to explain the great difficulty which every one must have felt in regard to Lyell's theory. I allude to the stupendous thickness of the Palæozoic rocks.

Look back through the Corridors of Time in the manner in which they are presented to us in the successive epochs of geology. We pass rapidly over the brief career of prehistoric man; then through the long ages of Tertiary rocks, when the great mammals were devel-