Page:The cruise of the Corwin.djvu/49

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Unalaska, May 21, 1881.

The Aleutian chain of islands is one of the most remarkable and interesting to be found on the globe. It sweeps in a regular curve a thousand miles long from the end of the Alaska Peninsula towards Kamchatka and nearly unites the American and Asiatic continents. A very short geological time ago, just before the coming on of the glacial period, this connection of the continents was probably complete, inasmuch as the entire chain is simply a degraded portion of the North American coast mountains, with its foothills and connecting ridges between the summit peaks a few feet under water. These submerged ridges form the passes between the islands as they exist to-day, while it is evident that this segregating degradation has been effected by the majestic down-grinding glaciers that lately loaded all the chain. Only a few wasting remnants of these glaciers are now in existence, lingering in the highest, snowiest fountains on the largest of the islands.

The mountains are from three thousand to nine thousand feet high, many of them capped with perpetual snow, and rendered yet more imposing by volcanoes emitting smoke and ashes—the feeble manifestations of upbuilding volcanic force that was active long before the beginning of the great ice winter. To the