Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/90

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part of the subject falls rather within the scope of geology, hut I may here refer, in illustration, to the distribution of lakes, the phenomena of glaciers, the formation of volcanic mountains, and the structure and distribution of coral islands.

The origin and distribution of lakes is one of the most interesting problems in physical geography. That they are not scattered at random, a glance at the map is sufficient to show. They abound in mountain districts, are comparatively rare in equatorial regions, increasing in number as we go north, so that in Scotland and the northern parts of America they are sown broadcast. Perhaps a priori the first explanation of the origin of lakes which would suggest itself, would be that they were formed in hollows resulting from a disturbance of the strata, which had thrown them into a basin-shaped form. Lake-basins, however, of this character are, as a matter of fact, very rare; as a general rule, lakes have not the form of basin-shaped synclinal hollows, but, on the contrary, the strike of the strata often runs right across them. My eminent predecessor, Professor Ramsay, divides lakes into three classes: 1. Those which are due to irregular accumulations of drift, and which are generally quite shallow; 2. Those which are formed by moraines; and, 8, those which occupy true basins scooped by glacier-ice out of the solid rock. To the latter class belong most of the great Swiss and Italian lakes. Professor Ramsay attributes their excavation to glaciers, because it is of course obvious that rivers can not make basin-shaped hollows surrounded by rock on all sides. Now, the Lake of Geneva, 1,230 feet above the sea, is 984 feet deep, the Lake of Brienz is 1,850 feet above the sea, and 2,000 feet deep, so that its bottom is really below the sea-level. The Italian lakes are even more remarkable. The Lake of Como, 700 feet above the sea, is 1,929 feet deep. Lago Maggiore, 685 feet above the sea, is no less than 2,625 feet deep. It will be observed that these lakes, like many others in mountain regions, those of Scandinavia, for instance, lie in the direct channels of the great old glaciers. If the mind is at first staggered at the magnitude of the scale, we must remember that the ice, which scooped out the valley in which the Lake of Geneva now reposes, was once at least 2,700 feet thick; while the moraines were also of gigantic magnitude, that of Ivrea, for instance, being no less than 1,500 feet in height. Professor Ramsay's theory seems, therefore, to account beautifully for a large number of interesting facts.

Passing from lakes to mountains, two rival theories with reference to the structure and origin of volcanoes long struggled for supremacy. The more general view was that the sheets of lava and scoriæ which form volcanic cones such, for instance, as Etna or Vesuvius—were originally nearly horizontal, and that subsequently a force operating from below, and exerting a pressure both upward and outward from a central axis toward all points of the compass, uplifted the whole stratified mass, and made it assume a conical form, giving rise at the same