Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/91

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81
A HALF-CENTURY OF SCIENCE.

time, in many cases, to a wide and deep circular opening at the top of the cone, called by the advocates of this hypothesis a "crater of elevation."

This theory, though, as it seems to us now, it had already received its death-blow from the admirable memoirs of Scrope, was yet that most generally adopted fifty years ago, because it was considered that compact and crystalline lavas could not have consolidated on a slope exceeding 1° or 2°. In 1858, however, Sir diaries Lyell conclusively showed that in fact such lavas could consolidate at a considerable angle, even in some cases at more than 30°, and it is now generally admitted that, though the beds of lava, etc., may have sustained a slight angular elevation since their deposition, still, in the main, volcanic cones have acquired their form by the accumulation of lava and ashes ejected from one or more craters.

The problems presented by glaciers are of very great interest. In 1843 Agassiz and Forbes proved that the center of a glacier, like that of a river, moves more rapidly than its sides. But how and why do glaciers move at all? Rendu, afterward Bishop of Annecy, in 1841 endeavored to explain the facts by supposing that glacier-ice enjoys a kind of ductility. The "viscous theory" of glaciers was also adopted and most ably advocated by Forbes, who compared the condition of a glacier to that of the contents of a tar-barrel poured into a sloping channel. We have all, however, seen long, narrow fissures, a mere fraction of an inch in width, stretching far across glaciers—a condition incompatible with the ordinary idea of viscosity. The phenomenon of regelation was afterward applied to the explanation of glacier motion. An observation of Faraday's supplied the clew. He noticed in 1850 that, when two pieces of thawing ice are placed together, they unite by freezing at the place of contact. Following up this suggestion, Tyndall found that, if he compressed a block of ice in a mold, it could be made to assume any shape he pleased. A straight prism, for instance, placed in a groove and submitted to hydraulic pressure, was bent into a transparent semicircle of ice. These experiments seem to have proved that a glacial valley is a mold through which the ice is forced, and to which it will accommodate itself, while, as Tyndall and Huxley also pointed out, the "veined structure of ice" is produced by pressure, in the same manner as the cleavage of slate-rocks.

It was in the year 1842 that Darwin published his great work on "Coral Islands." The fringing reefs of coral presented no special difficulty. They could be obviously accounted for by an elevation of the land, so that the coral, which had originally grown under water, had been raised above the sea-level. The circular or oval shape of so many reefs, however, each having a lagoon in the center, closely surrounded by a deep ocean, and rising but a few feet above the sea-level, had long been a puzzle to the physical geographer. The favorite theory was, that these were the summits of submarine volcanoes on which the