Young Folks' Library
Selections from the Choicest Literature of All Lands; Folk-Lore, Fairy Tales, Fables, Legends, Natural History, Wonders of Earth, Sea and Sky, Animal Stories, Sea Tales, Brave Deeds, Explorations, Stories of School and College Life, Biography, History, Patriotic Eloquence, Poetry
Revised in Conference by
Thomas Bailey Aldrich, Editor-in-Chief, President William Jewett Tucker, Hamilton Wright Mabie, Henry Van Dyke, Nathan Haskell Dole
Twenty Volumes Richly Illustrated
Boston Hall and Locke Company Publishers Stanhope Press F.H. Gilson Company Boston, U.S.A.
THOMAS BAILEY ALDRICH, Editor-in-chief, Author, poet, former editor Atlantic Monthly, Boston, Mass.
The HON. JOHN D. LONG, Secretary of the United States Navy, Boston.
HAMILTON WRIGHT MABIE, LL.D., Author, literarian, associate editor The Outlook, New York.
ERNEST THOMPSON SETON, Artist, author, New York.
JOHN TOWNSEND TROWBRIDGE, Author, poet, and editor, Arlington, Mass.
The REVEREND CYRUS TOWNSEND BRADY, Archdeacon, author, Philadelphia.
JOEL CHANDLER HARRIS, Humorous writer, Atlanta, Ga.
MARY HARTWELL CATHERWOOD, Historical novelist, Chicago.
LAURA E. RICHARDS, Author, Gardiner, Me.
ROSWELL FIELD, Author, editor The Evening Post>, Chicago.
TUDOR JENKS, Author, associate editor Saint Nicholas, New York.
GEORGE A. HENTY, Traveller, author, London, England.
KIRK MUNROE, Writer of stories for boys, Cocoanut Grove, Fla.
EDITH M. THOMAS, Poet, West New Brighton, N.Y.
CAROLINE TICKNOR, Author, editor, Boston.
NATHAN HASKELL DOLE, Author, translator, literary editor Current History, Boston.
WILLIAM RAINEY HARPER, D.D., LL.D., President Chicago University.
DAVID STARR JORDAN, M.D., LL.D., President Leland Stanford Junior University, naturalist, writer, Stanford University, Cal.
CHARLES ELIOT NORTON, A.M., LL.D., etc., Scholar, author, Emeritus Professor of Art at Harvard University.
HENRY VAN DYKE, D.D., LL.D., Clergyman, author, Professor Princeton University.
The REVEREND THOMAS J. SHAHAN, Dean of the Faculty of Divinity, Professor of Early Ecclesiastical History, Catholic University, Washington, D.C.
WILLIAM P. TRENT, Author, editor, Professor of English Literature, Columbia University, New York City.
EDWARD SINGLETON HOLDEN, A.M., LL.D., Ex-president University of California, astronomer, author, U.S. Military Academy, West Point.
EDWIN ERLE SPARKS, Professor of American History, Chicago University.
The VERY REV. GEORGE M. GRANT, D.D., LL.D., Educator, author, vice-principal Queen's College, Kingston, Ont.
BARONESS VON BULOW, Educator, author, Dresden, Germany.
ABBIE FARWELL BROWN, Author, Boston.
CHARLES WELSH, Managing Editor, Author, lecturer, editor, Winthrop Highlands, Mass.
LIST OF VOLUMES
THE STORY TELLER Edited by CHARLES ELIOT NORTON
THE MERRY MAKER Edited by JOEL CHANDLER HARRIS
FAMOUS FAIRY TALES Edited by ROSWELL FIELD
TALES OF FANTASY Edited by TUDOR JENKS
VOLUME V. MYTHS AND LEGENDS Edited by THOMAS J. SHAHAN
THE ANIMAL STORY BOOK Edited by ERNEST THOMPSON SETON
SCHOOL AND COLLEGE DAYS Edited by KIRK MUNROE and MARY HARTWELL CATHERWOOD
BOOK OF ADVENTURE Edited by NATHAN HASKELL DOLE
FAMOUS EXPLORERS Edited by EDWIN ERLE SPARKS
BRAVE DEEDS Edited by JOHN TOWNSEND TROWBRIDGE
WONDERS OF EARTH, SEA AND SKY Edited by EDWARD SINGLETON HOLDEN
FAMOUS TRAVELS Edited by GEORGE A. HENTY
SEA STORIES Edited by CYRUS TOWNSEND BRADY
A BOOK OF NATURAL HISTORY Edited by DAVID STARR JORDAN
HISTORIC SCENES IN FICTION Edited by HENRY VAN DYKE
FAMOUS BATTLES BY LAND AND SEA Edited by JOHN D. LONG
MEN WHO HAVE RISEN Edited by HAMILTON WRIGHT MABIE.
BOOK OF PATRIOTISM Edited by
LEADERS OF MEN, OR HISTORY TOLD IN BIOGRAPHY Edited by WILLIAM RAINEY HARPER
FAMOUS POEMS Selected by THOMAS BAILEY ALDRICH, with Poetical Foreword by EDITH M. THOMAS.
Volume XI: WONDERS OF EARTH, SEA AND SKY
Edited by EDWARD SINGLETON HOLDEN
Boston Hall and Locke Company Publishers
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS xi
THE MARVELS OF NATURE xiii BY PROFESSOR E.S. HOLDEN.
WHAT THE EARTH'S CRUST IS MADE OF 1 BY AGNES GIBERNE.
AMERICA THE OLD WORLD 45 BY LOUIS AGASSIZ.
SOME RECORDS OF THE ROCKS 77 BY N.S. SHALER.
THE PITCH LAKE IN THE WEST INDIES 97 BY CHARLES KINGSLEY.
A STALAGMITE CAVE 111 BY SIR C. WYVILLE THOMSON.
THE BIG TREES OF CALIFORNIA 119 BY ALFRED RUSSEL WALLACE.
WHAT IS EVOLUTION? 127 BY PROFESSOR EDWARD S. HOLDEN.
HOW THE SOIL IS MADE 135 BY CHARLES DARWIN.
ZOOeLOGICAL MYTHS 143 BY ANDREW WILSON.
ON A PIECE OF CHALK 171 BY T.H. HUXLEY.
A BIT OF SPONGE 205 BY A. WILSON.
THE GREATEST SEA-WAVE EVER KNOWN 211 BY R.A. PROCTOR.
THE PHOSPHORESCENT SEA 228 BY W.S. DALLAS.
COMETS 251 BY CAMILLE FLAMMARION.
THE TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE OF 1883 261 BY E.S. HOLDEN.
HALOS—PARHELIA—THE SPECTRE OF THE BROCKEN, ETC. 268 BY CAMILLE FLAMMARION.
THE PLANET VENUS 282 BY AGNES M. CLERKE.
THE STARS 296 BY SIR R.S. BALL.
RAIN AND SNOW 342 BY JOHN TYNDALL.
THE ORGANIC WORLD 357 BY ST. GEORGE MIVART.
INHABITANTS OF MY POOL 366 BY ARABELLA B. BUCKLEY.
BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES. 387
SUGGESTIONS FOR SUPPLEMENTARY READING. 389
The publishers' acknowledgments are due to Messrs. Houghton, Mifflin & Co., for permission to use "America and the Old World," by L. Agassiz; to Messrs. D.C. Heath & Co. for permission to use "Some Records of the Rocks," by Professor N.S. Shaler; and to Professor E.S. Holden for permission to use "What is Evolution?" and "An Astronomer's Voyage to Fairy Land."
LIST OF COLORED ILLUSTRATIONS
A GEYSER. Frontispiece, See Page 47
VIEW IN A CANON Face Page 12
A VOLCANO 48
A STALAGMITE CAVE 116
WHERE SPONGES GROW 208
A COMET 254
THE SPECTRE OF THE BROCKEN 272
AND ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY-FOUR BLACK AND WHITE ILLUSTRATIONS IN THE TEXT.
THE MARVELS OF NATURE
BY EDWARD S. HOLDEN, M.A., Sc.D. LL.D.
The Earth, the Sea, the Sky, and their wonders—these are the themes of this volume. The volume is so small, and the theme so vast! Men have lived on the earth for hundreds of the sands of years; and its wonders have increased, not diminished, with their experience.
To our barbarous ancestors of centuries ago, all was mystery—the thunder, the rainbow, the growing corn, the ocean, the stars. Gradually and by slow steps they learned to house themselves in trees, in caves, in huts, in houses; to find a sure supply of food; to provide a stock of serviceable clothing. The arts of life were born; tools were invented; the priceless boon of fire was received; tribes and clans united for defence; some measure of security and comfort was attained.
With security and comfort came leisure; and the mind of early Man began curiously to inquire the meaning of the mysteries with which he was surrounded. That curious inquiry was the birth of Science. Art was born when some far-away ancestor, in an idle hour, scratched on a bone the drawing of two of his reindeer fighting, or carved on the walls of his cave the image of the mammoth that he had but lately slain with his spear and arrows.
In a mind that is completely ignorant there is no wonder. Wonder is the child of knowledge—of partial and imperfect knowledge, to be sure, but still, of knowledge. The very first step in Science is to make an inventory of external Nature (and by and by of the faculties of the mind that thinks). The second step is to catalogue similar appearances together. It is a much higher flight to seek the causes of likenesses thus discovered.
A few of the chapters of this volume are items in a mere catalogue of wonders, and deserve their place by accurate and eloquent description. Most of them, however, represent higher stages of insight. In the latter, Nature is viewed not only with the eye of the observer, but also with the mind's eye, curious to discover the reasons for things seen. The most penetrating inward inquiry accompanies the acutest external observation in such chapters as those of Darwin and Huxley, here reprinted.
Now, the point not to be overlooked is this: to Darwin and Huxley, as to their remote and uncultured ancestors, the World—the Earth, the Sea, the Sky—is full of wonders and of mysteries, but the wonders are of a higher order. The problems of the thunder and of the rainbow as they presented themselves to the men of a thousand generations ago, have been fully solved: but the questions; what is the veritable nature of electricity, exactly how does it differ from light, are still unanswered. And what are simple problems like these to the questions: what is love; why do we feel a sympathy with this person, an antipathy for that; and others of the sort? Science has made almost infinite advances since pre-historic man first felt the feeble current of intellectual curiosity amid his awe of the storm; it has still to grow almost infinitely before anything like a complete explanation even of external Nature is achieved.
Suppose that, at some future day, all physical and mechanical laws should be found to be direct consequences of a single majestic law, just as all the motions of the planets are (but—are they?) the direct results of the single law of gravitation. Gravitation will, probably, soon be explained in terms of some remoter cause, but the reason of that single and ultimate law of the universe which we have imagined would still remain unknown. Human knowledge will always have limits, and beyond those limits there will always be room for mystery and wonder. A complete and exhaustive explanation of the world is inconceivable, so long as human powers and capacities remain at all as they now are.
It is important to emphasize such truths, especially in a book addressed to the young. When a lad hears for the first time that an astronomer, by a simple pointing of his spectroscope, can determine with what velocity a star is approaching the earth, or receding from it, or when he hears that the very shape of the revolving masses of certain stars can be calculated from simple measures of the sort, he is apt to conclude that Science, which has made such astounding advances since the days of Galileo and Newton, must eventually reach a complete explanation of the entire universe. The conclusion is not unnatural, but it is not correct. There are limits beyond which Science, in this sense, cannot go. Its scope is limited. Beyond its limits there are problems that it cannot solve, mysteries that it cannot explain.
At the present moment, for example, the nature of Force is unknown. A weight released from the hand drops to the earth. Exactly what is the nature of the force with which the earth attracts it? We do not know, but it so happens that it is more than likely that an explanation will be reached in our own day. Gravity will be explained in terms of some more general forces. The mystery will be pushed back another step, and yet another and another. But the progress is not indefinite. If all the mechanical actions of the entire universe were to be formulated as the results of a single law or cause, the cause of that cause would be still to seek, as has been said.
We have every right to exult in the amazing achievements of Science; but we have not understood them until we realize that the universe of Science has strict limits, within which all its conquests must necessarily be confined. Humility, and not pride, is the final lesson of scientific work and study.
* * * * *
The choice of the selections printed in this volume has been necessarily limited by many hampering conditions, that of mere space being one of the most harassing. Each of the chapters might readily be expanded into a volume. Volumes might be added on topics almost untouched here. It has been necessary to pass over almost without notice matters of surpassing interest and importance: Electricity and its wonderful and new applications; the new Biology, with its views upon such fundamental questions as the origins of life and death; modern Astronomy, with its far-reaching pronouncements upon the fate of universes. All these can only be touched lightly, if at all. It is the chief purpose of this volume to point the way towards the most modern and the greatest conclusions of Science, and to lay foundations upon which the reading of a life-time can be laid.
UNITED STATES MILITARY ACADEMY, WEST POINT, January 1, 1902.
WONDERS OF EARTH, SEA, AND SKY
WHAT THE EARTH'S CRUST IS MADE OF
(FROM THE WORLD'S FOUNDATIONS.)
BY AGNES GIBERNE.
"Stand still and consider the wondrous works of God."
What is the earth made of—this round earth upon which we human beings live and move?
A question more easily asked than answered, as regards a very large portion of it. For the earth is a huge ball nearly eight thousand miles in diameter, and we who dwell on the outside have no means of getting down more than a very little way below the surface. So it is quite impossible for us to speak positively as to the inside of the earth, and what it is made of. Some people believe the earth's inside to be hard and solid, while others believe it to be one enormous lake or furnace of fiery melted rock. But nobody really knows.
This outside crust has been reckoned to be of many different thicknesses. One man will say it is ten miles thick, and another will rate it at four hundred miles. So far as regards man's knowledge of it, gained from mining, from boring, from examination of rocks, and from reasoning out all that may be learned from these observations, we shall allow an ample margin if we count the field of geology to extend some twenty miles downwards from the highest mountain-tops. Beyond this we find ourselves in a land of darkness and conjecture.
Twenty miles is only one four-hundredth part of the earth's diameter—a mere thin shell over a massive globe. If the earth were brought down in size to an ordinary large school globe, a piece of rough brown paper covering it might well represent the thickness of this earth-crust, with which the science of geology has to do. And the whole of the globe, this earth of ours, is but one tiny planet in the great Solar System. And the centre of that Solar System, the blazing sun, though equal in size to more than a million earths, is yet himself but one star amid millions of twinkling stars, scattered broadcast through the universe. So it would seem at first sight that the field of geology is a small field compared with that of astronomy....
With regard to the great bulk of the globe little can be said. Very probably it is formed through and through of the same materials as the crust. This we do not know. Neither can we tell, even if it be so formed, whether the said materials are solid and cold like the outside crust, or whether they are liquid with heat. The belief has been long and widely held that the whole inside of the earth is one vast lake or furnace of melted fiery-hot material, with only a thin cooled crust covering it. Some in the present day are inclined to question this, and hold rather that the earth is solid and cold throughout, though with large lakes of liquid fire here and there, under or in her crust, from which our volcanoes are fed....
The materials of which the crust is made are many and various; yet, generally speaking, they may all be classed under one simple word, and that word is—Rock.
It must be understood that, when we talk of rock in this geological sense, we do not only mean hard and solid stone, as in common conversation. Rock may be changed by heat into a liquid or "molten" state, as ice is changed by heat to water. Liquid rock may be changed by yet greater heat to vapor, as water is changed to steam, only we have in a common way no such heat at command as would be needed to effect this. Rock may be hard or soft. Rock maybe chalky, clayey, or sandy. Rock may be so close-grained that strong force is needed to break it; or it may be so porous—so full of tiny holes—that water will drain through it; or it may be crushed and crumbled into loose grains, among which you can pass your fingers.
The cliffs above our beaches are rock; the sand upon our seashore is rock; the clay used in brick-making is rock; the limestone of the quarry is rock; the marble of which our mantel-pieces are made is rock. The soft sandstone of South Devon, and the hard granite of the north of Scotland, are alike rock. The pebbles in the road are rock; the very mould in our gardens is largely composed of crumbled rock. So the word in its geological sense is a word of wide meaning.
Now the business of the geologist is to read the history of the past in these rocks of which the earth's crust is made. This may seem a singular thing to do, and I can assure you it is not an easy task.
For, to begin with, the history itself is written in a strange language, a language which man is only just beginning to spell out and understand. And this is only half the difficulty with which we have to struggle.
If a large and learned book were put before you and you were set to read it through, you would perhaps, have no insurmountable difficulty, with patience and perseverance, in mastering its meaning.
But how if the book were first chopped up into pieces, if part of it were flung away out of reach, if part of it were crushed into a pulp, if the numbering of the pages were in many places lost, if the whole were mixed up in confusion, and if then you were desired to sort, and arrange, and study the volume?
Picture to yourself what sort of a task this would be, and you will have some idea of the labors of the patient geologist.
Rocks may be divided into several kinds or classes. For the present moment it will be enough to consider the two grand divisions—Stratified rocks and Unstratified rocks.
Unstratified rocks are those which were once, at a time more or less distant, in a melted state from intense heat, and which have since cooled into a half crystallized state; much the same as water, when growing colder, cools and crystallizes into ice. Strictly speaking, ice is rock, just as much as granite and sandstone are rock. Water itself is of the nature of rock, only as we commonly know it in the liquid state we do not commonly call it so.
"Crystallization" means those particular forms or shapes in which the particles of a liquid arrange themselves, as that liquid hardens into a solid—in other words, as it freezes. Granite, iron, marble, are frozen substances, just as truly as ice is a frozen substance; for with greater heat they would all become liquid like water. When a liquid freezes, there are always crystals formed, though these are not always visible without the help of a microscope. Also the crystals are of different shapes with different substances.
If you examine the surface of a puddle or pond, when a thin covering of ice is beginning to form, you will be able to see plainly the delicate sharp needle-like forms of the ice crystals. Break a piece of ice, and you will find that it will not easily break just in any way that you may choose, but it will only split along the lines of these needle-like crystals. This particular mode of splitting in a crystallized rock is called the cleavage of that rock.
Crystallization may take place either slowly or rapidly, and either in the open air or far below ground. The lava from a volcano is an example of rock which has crystallized rapidly in the open air; and granite is an example of rock which has crystallized slowly underground beneath great pressure.
Stratified rocks, on the contrary, which make up a very large part of the earth's crust, are not crystallized. Instead of having cooled from a liquid into a solid state, they have been slowly built up, bit by bit and grain upon grain, into their present form, through long ages of the world's history. The materials of which they are made were probably once, long, long ago, the crumblings from granite and other crystallized rocks, but they show now no signs of crystallization.
They are called "stratified" because they are in themselves made up of distinct layers, and also because they lie thus one upon another in layers, or strata, just as the leaves of a book lie, or as the bricks of a house are placed.
Throughout the greater part of Europe, of Asia, of Africa, of North and South America, of Australia, these rocks are to be found, stretching over hundreds of miles together, north, south, east, and west, extending up to the tops of some of the earth's highest mountains, reaching down deep into the earth's crust. In many parts if you could dig straight downwards through the earth for thousands of feet, you would come to layer after layer of these stratified rocks, one kind below another, some layers thick, some layers thin, here a stratum of gravel, there a stratum of sandstone, here a stratum of coal, there a stratum of clay.
But how, when, where, did the building up of all these rock-layers take place?
People are rather apt to think of land and water on the earth as if they were fixed in one changeless form,—as if every continent and every island were of exactly the same shape and size now that it always has been and always will be.
Yet nothing can be further from the truth. The earth-crust is a scene of perpetual change, of perpetual struggle, of perpetual building up, of perpetual wearing away.
The work may go on slowly, but it does go on. The sea is always fighting against the land, beating down her cliffs, eating into her shores, swallowing bit by bit of solid earth; and rain and frost and inland streams are always busily at work, helping the ocean in her work of destruction. Year by year and century by century it continues. Not a country in the world which is bordered by the open sea has precisely the same coast-line that it had one hundred years ago; not a land in the world but parts each century with masses of its material, washed piecemeal away into the ocean.
Is this hard to believe? Look at the crumbling cliffs around old England's shores. See the effect upon the beach of one night's fierce storm. Mark the pathway on the cliff, how it seems to have crept so near the edge that here and there it is scarcely safe to tread; and very soon, as we know, it will become impassable. Just from a mere accident, of course,—the breaking away of some of the earth, loosened by rain and frost and wind. But this is an accident which happens daily in hundreds of places around the shores.
Leaving the ocean, look now at this river in our neighborhood, and see the slight muddiness which seems to color its waters. What from? Only a little earth and sand carried off from the banks as it flowed,—very unimportant and small in quantity, doubtless, just at this moment and just at this spot. But what of that little going on week after week, and century after century, throughout the whole course of the river, and throughout the whole course of every river and rivulet in our whole country and in every other country. A vast amount of material must every year be thus torn from the land and given to the ocean. For the land's loss here is the ocean's gain.
And, strange to say, we shall find that this same ocean, so busily engaged with the help of its tributary rivers in pulling down land, is no less busily engaged with their help in building it up.
You have sometimes seen directions upon a vial of medicine to "shake" before taking the dose. When you have so shaken the bottle the clear liquid grows thick; and if you let it stand for awhile the thickness goes off, and a fine grain-like or dust-like substance settles down at the bottom—the settlement or sediment of the medicine. The finer this sediment, the slower it is in settling. If you were to keep the liquid in gentle motion, the fine sediment would not settle down at the bottom. With coarser and heavier grains the motion would have to be quicker to keep them supported in the water.
Now it is just the same thing with our rivers and streams. Running water can support and carry along sand and earth, which in still water would quickly sink to the bottom; and the more rapid the movement of the water, the greater is the weight it is able to bear.
This is plainly to be seen in the case of a mountain torrent. As it foams fiercely through its rocky bed it bears along, not only mud and sand and gravel, but stones and even small rocks, grinding the latter roughly together till they are gradually worn away, first to rounded pebbles, then to sand, and finally to mud. The material thus swept away by a stream, ground fine, and carried out to sea—part being dropped by the way on the river-bed—is called detritus, which simply means worn-out material.
The tremendous carrying-power of a mountain torrent can scarcely be realized by those who have not observed it for themselves. I have seen a little mountain-stream swell in the course of a heavy thunderstorm to such a torrent, brown and turbid with earth torn from the mountainside, and sweeping resistlessly along in its career a shower of stones and rock-fragments. That which happens thus occasionally with many streams is more or less the work all the year round of many more.
As the torrent grows less rapid, lower down in its course, it ceases to carry rocks and stones, though the grinding and wearing away of stones upon the rocky bed continues, and coarse gravel is borne still upon its waters. Presently the widening stream, flowing yet more calmly, drops upon its bed all such coarser gravel as is not worn away to fine earth, but still bears on the lighter grains of sand. Next the slackening speed makes even the sand too heavy a weight, and that in turn falls to line the river-bed, while the now broad and placid stream carries only the finer particles of mud suspended in its waters. Soon it reaches the ocean, and the flow being there checked by the incoming ocean-tide, even the mud can no longer be held up, and it also sinks slowly in the shallows near the shore, forming sometimes broad mud-banks dangerous to the mariner.
This is the case only with smaller rivers. Where the stream is stronger, the mud-banks are often formed much farther out at sea; and more often still the river-detritus is carried away and shed over the ocean-bed, beyond the reach of our ken. The powerful rush of water in earth's greater streams bears enormous masses of sand and mud each year far out into the ocean, there dropping quietly the gravel, sand, and earth, layer upon layer at the bottom of the sea. Thus pulling down and building up go on ever side by side; and while land is the theatre oftentimes of decay and loss, ocean is the theatre oftentimes of renewal and gain.
Did you notice the word "sediment" used a few pages back about the settlement at the bottom of a medicine-vial?
There is a second name given to the Stratified Rocks, of which the earth's crust is so largely made up. They are called also Sedimentary Rocks.
The reason is simply this. The Stratified Rocks of the present day were once upon a time made up out of the sediment stolen first from land and then allowed to settle down on the sea-bottom.
Long, long ago, the rivers, the streams, the ocean, were at work, as they are now, carrying away rock and gravel, sand and earth. Then, as now, all this material, borne upon the rivers, washed to and fro by the ocean, settled down at the mouths of rivers or at the bottom of the sea, into a sediment, one layer forming over another, gradually built up through long ages. At first it was only a soft, loose, sandy or muddy sediment, such as you may see on the seashore, or in a mud-bank. But as the thickness of the sediment increased, the weight of the layers above gradually pressed the lower layers into firm hard rocks; and still, as the work of building went on, these layers were, in their turn, made solid by the increasing weight over them. Certain chemical changes had also a share in the transformation from soft mud to hard rock, which need not be here considered.
All this has through thousands of years been going on. The land is perpetually crumbling away; and fresh land under the sea is being perpetually built up, from the very same materials which the sea and the rivers have so mercilessly stolen from continents and islands. This is the way, if geologists rightly judge, in which a very large part of the enormous formations of Stratified or Sedimentary Rocks have been made.
So far is clear. But now we come to a difficulty.
The Stratified Rocks, of which a very large part of the continents is made, appear to have been built up slowly, layer upon layer, out of the gravel, sand, and mud, washed away from the land and dropped on the shore of the ocean.
You may see these layers for yourself as you walk out into the country. Look at the first piece of bluff rock you come near, and observe the clear pencil-like markings of layer above layer—not often indeed lying flat, one over another, and this must be explained later, but however irregularly slanting, still plainly visible. You can examine these lines of stratification on the nearest cliff, the nearest quarry, the nearest bare headland, in your neighborhood.
But how can this be? If all these stratified rocks are built on the floor of the ocean out of material taken from the land, how can we by any possibility find such rocks upon the land? In the beds of rivers we might indeed expect to see them, but surely nowhere else save under ocean waters.
Yet find them we do. Through England, through the two great world-continents, they abound on every side. Thousands of miles in unbroken succession are composed of such rocks.
Stand with me near the seashore, and let us look around. Those white chalk cliffs—they, at least, are not formed of sand or earth. True, and the lines of stratification are in them very indistinct, if seen at all; yet they too are built up of sediment of a different kind, dropping upon ocean's floor. See, however, in the rough sides of yonder bluff the markings spoken of, fine lines running alongside of one another, sometimes flat, sometimes bent or slanting, but always giving the impression of layer piled upon layer. Yet how can one for a moment suppose that the ocean-waters ever rose so high?
Stay a moment. Look again at yonder white chalk cliff, and observe a little way below the top a singular band of shingles, squeezed into the cliff, as it were, with chalk below and earth above.
That is believed to be an old sea-beach. Once upon a time the waters of the sea are supposed to have washed those shingles, as now they wash the shore near which we stand, and all the white cliff must have lain then beneath the ocean.
Geologists were for a long while sorely puzzled to account for these old sea-beaches, found high up in the cliffs around our land in many different places.
They had at first a theory that the sea must once, in far back ages, have been a great deal higher than it is now. But this explanation only brought about fresh difficulties. It is quite impossible that the level of the sea should be higher in one part of the world than in another. If the sea around England were then one or two hundred feet higher than it is now, it must have been one or two hundred feet higher in every part of the world where the ocean-waters have free flow. One is rather puzzled to know where all the water could have come from, for such a tremendous additional amount. Besides, in some places remains of sea-animals are found in mountain heights, as much as two or three thousand feet above the sea-level—as, for instance, in Corsica. This very much increases the difficulty of the above explanation.
So another theory was started instead, and this is now generally supposed to be the true one. What if instead of the whole ocean having been higher, parts of the land were lower? England at one time, parts of Europe at another time, parts of Asia and America at other times, may have slowly sunk beneath the ocean, and after long remaining there have slowly risen again.
This is by no means so wild a supposition as it may seem when first heard, and as it doubtless did seem when first proposed. For even in the present day these movements of the solid crust of our earth are going on. The coasts of Sweden and Finland have long been slowly and steadily rising out of the sea, so that the waves can no longer reach so high upon those shores as in years gone by they used to reach. In Greenland, on the contrary, land has long been slowly and steadily sinking, so that what used to be the shore now lies under the sea. Other such risings and sinkings might be mentioned, as also many more in connection with volcanoes and earthquakes, which are neither slow nor steady, but sudden and violent.
So it becomes no impossible matter to believe that, in the course of ages past, all those wide reaches of our continents and islands, where sedimentary rocks are to be found, were each in turn, at one time or another, during long periods, beneath the rolling waters of the ocean....
* * * * *
These built-up rocks are not only called "Stratified," and "Sedimentary." They have also the name of Aqueous Rock, from the Latin word aqua, water; because they are believed to have been formed by the action of the water.
They have yet another and fourth title, which is, Fossiliferous Rocks.
Fossils are the hardened remains of animals and vegetables found in rocks. They are rarely, if ever, seen in unstratified rocks; but many layers of stratified rocks abound in these remains. Whole skeletons as well as single bones, whole tree-trunks as well as single leaves, are found thus embedded in rock-layers, where in ages past the animal or plant died and found a grave. They exist by thousands in many parts of the world, varying in size from the huge skeleton of the elephant to the tiny shell of the microscopic animalcule.
Fossils differ greatly in kind. Sometimes the entire shell or bone is changed into stone, losing all its animal substance, but retaining its old outline and its natural markings. Sometimes the fossil is merely the hardened impress of the outside of a shell or leaf, which has dented its picture on soft clay, and has itself disappeared, while the soft clay has become rock, and the indented picture remains fixed through after-centuries. Sometimes the fossil is the cast of the inside of a shell; the said shell having been filled with soft mud, which has taken its exact shape and hardened, while the shell itself has vanished. The most complete description of fossil is the first of these three kinds. It is wonderfully shown sometimes in fossil wood, where all the tiny cells and delicate fibres remain distinctly marked as of old, only the whole woody substance has changed into hard stone.
But although the fossil remains of quadrupeds and other land-animals are found in large quantities, their number is small compared with the enormous number of fossil sea-shells and sea-animals.
Land-animals can, as a rule, have been so preserved, only when they have been drowned in ponds or rivers, or mired in bogs and swamps, or overtaken by frost, or swept out to sea.
Sea-animals, on the contrary, have been so preserved on land whenever that land has been under the sea; and this appears to have been the case, at one or another past age, with the greater part of our present continents. These fossil remains of sea-animals are discovered in all quarters of the world, not only on the seashore but also far inland, not only deep down underground but also high up on the tops of lofty mountains—a plain proof that over the summits of those mountains the ocean must once have rolled, and this not for a brief space only, but through long periods of time. And not on the mountain-summit only are these fossils known to abound, but sometimes in layer below layer of the mountain, from top to bottom, through thousands of feet of rock.
This may well seem puzzling at first sight. Fossils of sea-creatures on a mountain-top are startling enough; yet hardly so startling as the thought of fossils inside that mountain. How could they have found their way thither?
The difficulty soon vanishes, if once we clearly understand that all these thousands of feet of rock were built up slowly, layer after layer, when portions of the land lay deep under the sea. Thus each separate layer of mud or sand or other material became in its turn the top layer, and was for the time the floor of the ocean, until further droppings of material out of the waters made a fresh layer, covering up the one below.
While each layer was thus in succession the top layer of the building, and at the same time the floor of the ocean, animals lived and died in the ocean, and their remains sank to the bottom, resting upon the sediment floor. Thousands of such dead remains disappeared, crumbling into fine dust and mingling with the waters, but here and there one was caught captive by the half-liquid mud, and was quickly covered and preserved from decay. And still the building went on, and still layer after layer was placed, till many fossils lay deep down beneath the later-formed layers; and when at length, by slow or quick upheaval of the ground, this sea-bottom became a mountain, the little fossils were buried within the body of that mountain. So wondrously the matter appears to have come about.
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Another difficulty with respect to the stratified rocks has to be thought of. All these layers or deposits of gravel, sand, or earth, on the floor of the ocean, would naturally be horizontal—that is, would lie flat, one upon another. In places the ocean-floor might slant, or a crevice or valley or ridge might break the smoothness of the deposit. But though the layers might partake of the slant, though the valley might have to be filled, though the ridge might have to be surmounted, still the general tendency of the waves would be to level the dropping deposits into flat layers.
Then how is it that when we examine the strata of rocks in our neighborhood, wherever that neighborhood may be, we do not find them so arranged? Here, it is true, the lines for a space are nearly horizontal, but there, a little way farther on, they are perpendicular; here they are bent, and there curved; here they are slanting, and there crushed and broken.
This only bears out what has been already said about the Book of Geology. It has been bent and disturbed, crushed and broken.
Great powers have been at work in this crust of our earth. Continents have been raised, mountains have been upheaved, vast masses of rock have been scattered into fragments. Here or there we may find the layers arranged as they were first laid down; but far more often we discover signs of later disturbance, either slow or sudden, varying from a mere quiet tilting to a violent overturn.
So the Book of Geology is a torn and disorganized volume, not easy to read.
Yet, on the other hand, these very changes which have taken place are a help to the geologist.
It may seem at first sight as if we should have an easier task, if the strata were all left lying just as they were first formed, in smooth level layers, one above another. But if it were so, we could know very little about the lower layers.
We might indeed feel sure, as we do now, that the lowest layers were the oldest and the top layers the newest, and that any fossils found in the lower layers must belong to an age farther back than any fossils found in the upper layers.
So much would be clear. And we might dig also and burrow a little way down, through a few different kinds of rock, where they were not too thick. But that would be all. There our powers would cease.
Now how different. Through the heavings and tiltings of the earth's crust, the lower layers are often pushed quite up to the surface, so that we are able to examine them and their fossils without the least difficulty, and very often without digging underground at all.
You must not suppose that the real order of the rocks is changed by these movements, for generally speaking it is not. The lower kinds are rarely if ever found placed over the upper kinds; only the ends of them are seen peeping out above ground.
It is as if you had a pile of copy-books lying flat one upon another, and were to put your finger under the lowest and push it up. All those above would be pushed up also, and perhaps they would slip a little way down, so that you would have a row of edges showing side by side, at very much the same height. The arrangement of the copy-books would not be changed, for the lowest would still be the lowest in actual position; but a general tilting or upheaval would have taken place.
Just such a tilting or upheaval has taken place again and again with the rocks forming our earth-crust. The edges of the lower rocks often show side by side with those of higher layers.
But geologists know them apart. They are able to tell confidently whether such and such a rock, peeping out at the earth's surface, belongs really to a lower or a higher kind. For there is a certain sort of order followed in the arrangement of rock-layers all over the earth, and it is well known that some rocks are never found below some other rocks, that certain particular kinds are never placed above certain other kinds. Thus it follows that the fossils found in one description of rock, must be the fossils of animals which lived and died before the animals whose fossil remains are found in another neighboring rock, just because this last rock-layer was built upon the ocean-floor above and therefore later than the other.
All this is part of the foreign language of geology—part of the piecing and arranging of the torn volume. Many mistakes are made; many blunders are possible; but the mistakes and blunders are being gradually corrected, and certain rules by which to read and understand are becoming more and more clear.
It has been already said that unstratified rocks are those which have been at some period, whether lately or very long ago, in a liquid state from intense heat, and which have since cooled, either quickly or slowly, crystallizing as they cooled.
Unstratified Rocks may be divided into two distinct classes.
First.—Volcanic Rocks, such as lava. These have been quickly cooled at the surface of the earth, or not far below it.
Secondly.—Plutonic Rocks, such as granite. These have been slowly cooled deep down in the earth under heavy pressure.
There is also a class of rocks, called metamorphic rocks, including some kinds of marble. These are, strictly speaking, crystalline rocks, and yet they are arranged in something like layers. The word "metamorphic" simply means "transformed." They are believed to have been once stratified rocks, perhaps containing often the remains of animals; but intense heat has later transformed them into crystalline rocks, and the animal remains have almost or quite vanished.
Just as the different kinds of Stratified Rocks are often called Aqueous Rocks, or rocks formed by the action of water—so these different kinds of Unstratified Rocks are often called Igneous Rocks, or rocks formed by the action of fire—the name being taken from the Latin word for fire. The Metamorphic Rocks are sometimes described as "Aqueo-igneous," since both water and fire helped in the forming of them.
It was at one time believed, as a matter of certainty, that granite and such rocks belonged to a period much farther back than the periods of the stratified rocks. That is to say, it was supposed that fire-action had come first and water-action second; that the fire-made rocks were all formed in very early ages, and that only water-made rocks still continued to be formed. So the name of Primary Rocks, or First Rocks, was given to the granites and other such rocks, and the name of Secondary Rocks to all water-built rocks; while those of the third class were called Transition Rocks, because they seemed to be a kind of link or stepping-stone in the change from the First to the Second Rocks.
The chief reason for the general belief that fire-built rocks were older than water-built ones was, that the former are as a rule found to lie lower than the latter. They form, as it were, the basement of the building, while the top-stories are made of water-built rocks.
Many still believe that there is much truth in the thought. It is most probable, so far as we are able to judge, that the first-formed crust of rocks all over the earth was of cooled and crystallized material. As these rocks were crumbled and wasted by the ocean, materials would have been supplied for the building-up of rocks, layer upon layer.
But this is conjecture. We cannot know with any certainty the course of events so far back in the past. And geologists are now able to state with tolerable confidence that, however old many of the granites may be, yet a large amount of the fire-built rocks are no older than the water-built rocks which lie over them.
So by many geologists the names of Primary, Transition, and Secondary Formations are pretty well given up. It has been proposed to give instead to the crystallized rocks of all kinds the name of Underlying Rocks (Hypogene Rocks).
But if they really do lie under, how can they possibly be of the same age? One would scarcely venture to suppose, in looking at a building, that the cellars had not been finished before the upper floors.
True. In the first instance doubtless the cellars were first made, then the ground-floor, then the upper stories.
When, however, the house was so built, alterations and improvements might be very widely carried on above and below. While one set of workmen were engaged in remodelling the roof, another set of workmen might be engaged in remodelling the kitchens and first floor, pulling down, propping up, and actually rebuilding parts of the lower walls.
This is precisely what the two great fellow-workmen, Fire and Water, are ever doing in the crust of our earth. And if it be objected that such alterations too widely undertaken might result in slips, cracks, and slidings, of ceilings and walls in the upper stories, I can only say that such catastrophes have been the result of underground alterations in that great building, the earth's crust....
We see therefore clearly that, although the earliest fire-made rocks may very likely date farther back than the earliest water-made rocks, yet the making of the two kinds has gone on side by side, one below and the other above ground, through all ages up to the present moment.
And just as in the present day water continues its busy work above ground of pulling down and building up, so also fire continues its busy work underground of melting rocks which afterwards cool into new forms, and also of shattering and upheaving parts of the earth-crust.
For there can be no doubt that fiery heat does exist as a mighty power within our earth, though to what extent we are not able to say.
These two fellow-workers in nature have different modes of working. One we can see on all sides, quietly progressing, demolishing land patiently bit by bit, building up land steadily grain by grain. The other, though more commonly hidden from sight, is fierce and tumultuous in character, and shows his power in occasional terrific outbursts.
We can scarcely realize what the power is of the imprisoned fiery forces underground, though even we are not without some witness of their existence. From time to time even our firm land has been felt to tremble with a thrill from some far-off shock; and even in our country is seen the marvel of scalding water pouring unceasingly from deep underground....
Think of the tremendous eruptions of Vesuvius, of Etna, of Hecla, of Mauna Loa. Think of whole towns crushed and buried, with their thousands of living inhabitants. Think of rivers of glowing lava streaming up from regions below ground, and pouring along the surface for a distance of forty, fifty, and even sixty miles, as in Iceland and Hawaii. Think of red-hot cinders flung from a volcano-crater to a height of ten thousand feet. Think of lakes of liquid fire in other craters, five hundred to a thousand feet across, huge cauldrons of boiling rock. Think of showers of ashes from the furnace below of yet another, borne so high aloft as to be carried seven hundred miles before they sank to earth again. Think of millions of red-hot stones flung out in one eruption of Vesuvius. Think of a mass of rock, one hundred cubic yards in size, hurled to a distance of eight miles or more out of the crater of Cotopaxi.
Think also of earthquake-shocks felt through twelve hundred miles of country. Think of fierce tremblings and heavings lasting in constant succession through days and weeks of terror. Think of hundreds of miles of land raised several feet in one great upheaval. Think of the earth opening in scores of wide-lipped cracks, to swallow men and beasts. Think of hot mud, boiling water, scalding stream, liquid rock, bursting from such cracks, or pouring from rents in a mountain-side.
Truly these are signs of a state of things in or below the solid crust on which we live, that may make us doubt the absolute security of "Mother Earth."
Different explanations have been put forward to explain this seemingly fiery state of things underground.
Until lately the belief was widely held that our earth was one huge globe of liquid fire, with only a slender cooled crust covering her, a few miles in thickness.
This view was supported by the fact that heat is found to increase as men descend into the earth. Measurements of such heat-increase have been taken, both in mines and in borings for wells. The usual rate is about one degree more of heat, of our common thermometer, for every fifty or sixty feet of descent. If this were steadily continued, water would boil at a depth of eight thousand feet below the surface; iron would melt at a depth of twenty-eight miles; while at a depth of forty or fifty miles no known substance upon earth could remain solid.
The force of this proof is, however, weakened by the fact that the rate at which the heat increases differs very much in different places. Also it is now generally supposed that such a tremendous furnace of heat—a furnace nearly eight thousand miles in diameter—could not fail to break up and melt so slight a covering shell.
Many believe, therefore, not that the whole interior of the earth is liquid with heat, but that enormous fire-seas or lakes of melted rock exist here and there, under or in the earth-crust. From these lakes the volcanoes would be fed, and they would be the cause of earthquakes and land-upheavals or land-sinkings. There are strong reasons for supposing that the earth was once a fiery liquid body, and that she has slowly cooled through long ages. Some hold that her centre probably grew solid first from tremendous pressure; that her crust afterwards became gradually cold; and that between the solid crust and the solid inside or "nucleus," a sea of melted rock long existed, the remains of which are still to be found in these tremendous fiery reservoirs.
The idea accords well with the fact that large numbers of extinct or dead volcanoes are scattered through many parts of the earth. If the above explanation be the right one, doubtless the fire-seas in the crust extended once upon a time beneath such volcanoes, but have since died out or smouldered low in those parts.
A somewhat curious calculation has been made, to illustrate the different modes of working of these two mighty powers—Fire and Water.
The amount of land swept away each year in mud, and borne to the ocean by the River Ganges, was roughly reckoned, and also the amount of land believed to have been upheaved several feet in the great Chilian earthquake.
It was found that the river, steadily working month by month, would require some four hundred years to carry to the sea the same weight of material, which in one tremendous effort was upheaved by the fiery underground forces.
Yet we must not carry this distinction too far. Fire does not always work suddenly, or water slowly; witness the slow rising and sinking of land in parts of the earth, continuing through centuries; and witness also the effects of great floods and storms.
The crust of the earth is made of rock. But what is rock made of?
Certain leading divisions of rocks have been already considered:
The Water-made Rocks;
The Fire-made Rocks, both Plutonic and Volcanic;
The Water-and-Fire-made Rocks.
The first of these—Water-made Rocks—may be subdivided into three classes. These are,—
I. Flint Rocks; II. Clay Rocks; III. Lime Rocks.
This is not a book in which it would be wise to go closely into the mineral nature of rocks. Two or three leading thoughts may, however, be given.
Does it not seem strange that the hard and solid rocks should be in great measure formed of the same substances which form the thin invisible air floating around us?
Yet so it is. There is a certain gas called Oxygen Gas. Without that gas you could not live many minutes. Banish it from the room in which you are sitting, and in a few minutes you will die.
This gas makes up nearly one-quarter by weight of the atmosphere round the whole earth.
The same gas plays an important part in the ocean; for more than three-quarters of water is oxygen.
It plays also an important part in rocks; for about half the material of the entire earth's crust is oxygen.
Another chief material in rocks is silicon. This makes up one-quarter of the crust, leaving only one-quarter to be accounted for. Silicon mixed with oxygen makes silica or quartz. There are few rocks which have not a large amount of quartz in them. Common flint, sandstones, and the sand of our shores, are made of quartz, and therefore belong to the first class of Silicious or Flint Rocks. Granites and lavas are about one-half quartz. The beautiful stones, amethyst, agate, chalcedony, and jasper, are all different kinds of quartz.
Another chief material in rocks is a white metal called aluminium. United to oxygen it becomes alumina, the chief substance in clay. Rocks of this kind—such as clays, and also the lovely blue gem, sapphire—are called Argillaceous Rocks, from the Latin word for clay, and belong to the second class. Such rocks keep fossils well.
Another is calcium. United to oxygen and carbonic acid, it makes carbonate of lime, the chief substance in limestone; so all limestones belong to the third class of Calcareous or Lime Rocks.
Other important materials may be mentioned, such as magnesium, potassium, sodium, iron, carbon, sulphur, hydrogen, chlorine, nitrogen. These, with many more, not so common, make up the remaining quarter of the earth-crust.
Carbon plays as important a part in animal and vegetable life as silicon in rocks. Carbon is most commonly seen in three distinct forms—as charcoal, as black-lead, and as the pure brilliant diamond. Carbon united, in a particular proportion, to oxygen, forms carbonic acid; and carbonic acid united, in a particular proportion, to lime, forms limestone.
Hydrogen united to oxygen forms water. Each of these two gases is invisible alone, but when they meet and mingle they form a liquid.
Nitrogen united to oxygen and to a small quantity of carbonic acid gas forms our atmosphere.
Rocks of pure flint, pure clay, or pure lime, are rarely or never met with. Most rocks are made up of several different substances melted together.
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In the fire-built rocks no remains of animals are found, though in water-built rocks they abound. Water-built rocks are sometimes divided into two classes—those which only contain occasional animal remains, and those which are more or less built up of the skeletons of animals.
There are some exceedingly tiny creatures inhabiting the ocean, called Rhizopods. They live in minute shells, the largest of which may be almost the size of a grain of wheat, but by far the greater number are invisible as shells without a microscope, and merely show as fine dust. The rhizopods are of different shapes, sometimes round, sometimes spiral, sometimes having only one cell, sometimes having several cells. In the latter case a separate animal lives in each cell. The animal is of the very simplest as well as the smallest kind. He has not even a mouth or a stomach but can take in food at any part of his body.
These rhizopods live in the oceans in enormous numbers. Tens of millions are ever coming into existence, living out their tiny lives, dying, and sinking to the bottom.
There upon the ocean-floor gather their remains, a heaped-up multitude of minute skeletons or shells, layer forming over layer.
It was long suspected that the white chalk cliffs of England were built up in some such manner as this through past ages. And now at length proof has been found, in the shape of mud dredged up from the ocean-bottom—mud entirely composed of countless multitudes of these little shells, dropping there by myriads, and becoming slowly joined together in one mass.
Just so, it is believed, were the white chalk cliffs built—gradually prepared on the ocean-floor, and then slowly or suddenly upheaved, so as to become a part of the dry land.
Think what the enormous numbers must have been of tiny living creatures, out of whose shells the wide reaches of white chalk cliffs have been made. Chalk cliffs and chalk layers extend from Ireland, through England and France, as far as to the Crimea. In the south of Russia they are said to be six hundred feet thick. Yet one cubic inch of chalk is calculated to hold the remains of more than one million rhizopods. How many countless millions upon millions must have gone to the whole structure! How long must the work of building up have lasted!
These little shells do not always drop softly and evenly to the ocean-floor, to become quietly part of a mass of shells. Sometimes, where the ocean is shallow enough for the waves to have power below, or where land currents can reach, they are washed about, and thrown one against another, and ground into fine powder; and the fine powder becomes in time, through different causes, solid rock.
Limestone is made in another way also. In the warm waters of the South Pacific Ocean there are many islands, large and small, which have been formed in a wonderful manner by tiny living workers. The workers are soft jelly-like creatures, called polyps, who labor together in building up great walls and masses of coral.
They never carry on their work above the surface of the water, for in the air they would die. But the waves break the coral, and heap it up above high-water mark, and carry earth and seeds to drop there till at length a small low-lying island is formed.
The waves not only heap up broken coral, but they grind the coral into fine powder, and from this powder limestone rock is made, just as it is from the powdered shells of rhizopods. The material used by the polyps in building the coral is chiefly lime, which they have the power of gathering out of the water, and the fine coral-powder, sinking to the bottom, makes large quantities of hard limestone. Soft chalk is rarely, if ever, found near the coral islands.
Limestones are formed in the same manner from the grinding up of other sea-shells and fossils, various in kind; the powder becoming gradually united into solid rock.
There is yet another way in which limestone is made, quite different from all these. Sometimes streams of water have a large quantity of lime in them; and these as they flow will drop layers of lime which harden into rock. Or a lime-laden spring, making its way through the roof of an underground cavern, will leave all kinds of fantastic arrangements of limestone wherever its waters can trickle and drip. Such a cavern is called a "stalactite cave."
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So there are different kinds of fossil rock-making. There may be rocks made of other materials, with fossil simply buried in them. There may be rocks made entirely of fossils, which have gathered in masses as they sank to the sea-bottom, and have there become simply and lightly joined together. There may be rocks made of the ground-up powder of fossils, pressed into a solid substance or united by some other substance.
Rocks are also often formed of whole fossils, or stones, or shells, bound into one by some natural soft sticky cement, which has gathered round them and afterwards grown hard, like the cement which holds together the stones in a wall.
The tiny rhizopods (meaning root foot) which have so large a share in chalk and limestone making, are among the smallest and simplest known kinds of animal life.
There are also some very minute forms of vegetable life, which exist in equally vast numbers, called Diatoms. For a long while they were believed to be living animals, like the rhizopods. Scientific men are now, however, pretty well agreed that they really are only vegetables or plants.
The diatoms have each one a tiny shell or shield, not made of lime like the rhizopod-shells, but of flint. Some think that common flint may be formed of these tiny shells.
Again, there is a kind of rock called Mountain Meal, which is entirely made up of the remains of diatoms. Examined under the microscope, thousands of minute flint shields of various shapes are seen. This rock, or earth, is very abundant in many places, and is sometimes used as a polishing powder. In Bohemia there is a layer of it no less than fourteen feet thick. Yet so minute are the shells of which it is composed, that one square inch of rock is said to contain about four thousand millions of them. Each one of these millions is a separate distinct fossil....
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If you examine carefully a piece of coal, you will find, more or less clearly, markings like those which are seen in a piece of wood. Sometimes they are very distinct indeed. Coal abounds in impressions of leaves, ferns, and stems, and fossil remains of plants and tree-trunks are found in numbers in coal-seams.
Coal is a vegetable substance. The wide coal-fields of Britain and other lands are the fossil remains of vast forests.
Long ages ago, as it seems, broad and luxuriant forests flourished over the earth. In many parts generation after generation of trees lived and died and decayed, leaving no trace of their existence, beyond a little layer of black mould, soon to be carried away by wind and water. Coal could only be formed where there were bogs and quagmires.
But in bogs and quagmires, and in shallow lakes of low-lying lands, there were great gatherings of slowly-decaying vegetable remains, trees, plants, and ferns all mingling together. Then after a while the low lands would sink and the ocean pouring in would cover them with layers of protecting sand or mud; and sometimes the land would rise again, and fresh forests would spring into life, only to be in their turn overwhelmed anew, and covered by fresh sandy or earthy deposits.
These buried forests lay through the ages following, slowly hardening into the black and shining coal, so useful now to man.
The coal is found thus in thin or thick seams, with other rock-layers between, telling each its history of centuries long past. In one place no less than sixteen such beds of coal are found, one below another, each divided from the next above and the next underneath by beds of clay or sand or shale. The forests could not have grown in the sea, and the earth-layers could not have been formed on land, therefore many land-risings and sinkings must have taken place. Each bed probably tells the tale of a succession of forests....
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Before going on to a sketch of the early ages of the Earth's history—ages stretching back long long before the time of Adam—it is needful to think yet for a little longer about the manner in which that history is written, and the way in which it has to be read.
For the record is one difficult to make out, and its style of expression is often dark and mysterious. There is scarcely any other volume in the great Book of Nature, which the student is so likely to misread as this one. It is very needful, therefore, to hold the conclusions of geologists with a light grasp, guarding each with a "perhaps" or a "may be." Many an imposing edifice has been built, in geology, upon a rickety foundation which has speedily given way.
In all ages of the world's history up to the present day, rock-making has taken place—fire-made rocks being fashioned underground, and water-made rocks being fashioned above ground though under water.
Also in all ages different kinds of rocks have been fashioned side by side—limestone in one part of the world, sandstone in another, chalk in another, clay in another, and so on. There have, it is true, been ages when one kind seems to have been the chief kind—an age of limestone, or an age of chalk. But even then there were doubtless more rock-buildings going on, though not to so great an extent. On the other hand, there may have been ages during which no limestone was made, or no chalk, or no clay. As a general rule, however, the various sorts of rock-building have probably gone on together. This was not so well understood by early geologists as it is now.
The difficulty is often great of disentangling the different strata, and saying which was earlier and which later formed.
Still, by close and careful study of the rocks which compose the earth's crust, a certain kind of order is found to exist, more or less followed out in all parts of the world. When each layer was formed in England or in America, the geologist cannot possibly say. He can, however, assert, in either place, that a certain mass of rock was formed before a certain other mass in that same place, even though the two may seem to lie side by side; for he knows that they were so placed only by upheaval, and that once upon a time the one lay beneath the other.
The geologist can go further. He can often declare that a certain mass of rock in America and a certain mass of rock in England, quite different in kind, were probably built up at about the same time. How long ago that time was he would be rash to attempt to say; but that the two belong to the same age he has good reason for supposing.
We find rocks piled upon rocks in a certain order, so that we may generally be pretty confident that the lower rocks were first made, and the upper rocks the latest built. Further than this, we find in all the said layers of water-built rocks signs of past life.
As already stated, much of this life was ocean-life, though not all.
Below the sea, as the rock-layers were being formed, bit by bit, of earth dropping from the ocean to the ocean's floor, sea-creatures lived out their lives and died by thousands, to sink to that same floor. Millions passed away, dissolving and leaving no trace behind; but thousands were preserved—shells often, animals sometimes.
Nor was this all. For now and again some part of the sea-bottom was upheaved, slowly or quickly, till it became dry land. On this dry land animals lived again, and thousands of them, too, died, and their bones crumbled into dust. But here and there one was caught in bog or frost, and his remains were preserved till, through lapse of ages, they turned to stone.
Yet again that land would sink, and over it fresh layers were formed by the ocean-waters, with fresh remains of sea-animals buried in with the layers of sand or lime; and once more the sea-bottom would rise, perhaps then to continue as dry land, until the day when man should discover and handle these hidden remains.
Now note a remarkable fact as to these fossils, scattered far and wide through the layers of stratified rock.
In the uppermost and latest built rocks the animals found are the same, in great measure, as those which now exist upon the earth.
Leaving the uppermost rocks, and examining those which lie a little way below, we find a difference. Some are still the same, and others, if not quite the same, are very much like what we have now; but here and there a creature of a different form appears.
Go deeper still, and the kinds of animals change further. Fewer and fewer resemble those which now range the earth; more and more belong to other species.
Descend through layer after layer till we come to rocks built in earliest ages and not one fossil shall we find precisely the same as one animal living now.
So not only are the rocks built in successive order, stratum after stratum belonging to age after age in the past, but fossil-remains also are found in successive order, kind after kind belonging to past age after age.
Although in the first instance the succession of fossils was understood by means of the succession of rock-layers, yet in the second place the arrangement of rock-layers is made more clear by the means of these very fossils.
A geologist, looking at the rocks in America, can say which there were first-formed, which second-formed, which third-formed. Also, looking at the rocks in England, he can say which there were first-formed, second-formed, third-formed. He would, however, find it very difficult, if not impossible, to say which among any of the American rocks was formed at about the same time as any particular one among the English rocks, were it not for the help afforded him by these fossils.
Just as the regular succession of rock-strata has been gradually learned, so the regular succession of different fossils is becoming more and more understood. It is now known that some kinds of fossils are always found in the oldest rocks, and in them only; that some kinds are always found in the newest rocks, and in them only; that some fossils are rarely or never found lower than certain layers; that some fossils are rarely or never found higher than certain other layers.
So this fossil arrangement is growing into quite a history of the past. And a geologist, looking at certain rocks, pushed up from underground, in England and in America, can say: "These are very different kinds of rocks, it is true, and it would be impossible to say how long the building up of the one might have taken place before or after the other. But I see that in both these rocks there are exactly the same kinds of fossil-remains, differing from those in the rocks above and below. I conclude therefore that the two rocks belong to about the same great age in the world's past history, when the same animals were living upon the earth."
Observing and reasoning thus, geologists have drawn up a general plan or order of strata; and the whole of the vast masses of water-built rocks throughout the world have been arranged in a regular succession of classes, rising step by step from earliest ages up to the present time.
AMERICA THE OLD WORLD
(FROM GEOLOGICAL SKETCHES.)
BY L. AGASSIZ.
First-born among the Continents, though so much later in culture and civilization than some of more recent birth, America, so far as her physical history is concerned, has been falsely denominated the New World. Hers was the first dry land lifted out of the waters, hers the first shore washed by the ocean that enveloped all the earth beside; and while Europe was represented only by islands rising here and there above the sea, America already stretched an unbroken line of land from Nova Scotia to the Far West.
In the present state of our knowledge, our conclusions respecting the beginning of the earth's history, the way in which it took form and shape as a distinct, separate planet, must, of course, be very vague and hypothetical. Yet the progress of science is so rapidly reconstructing the past that we may hope to solve even this problem; and to one who looks upon man's appearance upon the earth as the crowning work in a succession of creative acts, all of which have had relation to his coming in the end, it will not seem strange that he should at last be allowed to understand a history which was but the introduction to his own existence. It is my belief that not only the future, but the past also, is the inheritance of man, and that we shall yet conquer our lost birthright.
Even now our knowledge carries us far enough to warrant the assertion that there was a time when our earth was in a state of igneous fusion, when no ocean bathed it and no atmosphere surrounded it, when no wind blew over it and no rain fell upon it, but an intense heat held all its materials in solution. In those days the rocks which are now the very bones and sinews of our mother Earth—her granites, her porphyries, her basalts, her syenites—were melted into a liquid mass. As I am writing for the unscientific reader, who may not be familiar with the facts through which these inferences have been reached, I will answer here a question which, were we talking together, he might naturally ask in a somewhat sceptical tone. How do you know that this state of things ever existed, and, supposing that the solid materials of which our earth consists were ever in a liquid condition, what right have you to infer that this condition was caused by the action of heat upon them? I answer, Because it is acting upon them still; because the earth we tread is but a thin crust floating on a liquid sea of molten materials; because the agencies that were at work then are at work now, and the present is the logical sequence of the past. From artesian wells, from mines, from geysers, from hot springs, a mass of facts has been collected, proving incontestably the heated condition of all substances at a certain depth below the earth's surface; and if we need more positive evidence, we have it in the fiery eruptions that even now bear fearful testimony to the molten ocean seething within the globe and forcing its way but from time to time. The modern progress of Geology has led us by successive and perfectly connected steps back to a time when what is now only an occasional and rare phenomenon was the normal condition of our earth; when the internal fires were enclosed by an envelope so thin that it opposed but little resistance to their frequent outbreak, and they constantly forced themselves through this crust, pouring out melted materials that subsequently cooled and consolidated on its surface. So constant were these eruptions, and so slight was the resistance they encountered, that some portions of the earlier rock-deposits are perforated with numerous chimneys, narrow tunnels as it were, bored by the liquid masses that poured out through them and greatly modified their first condition.
The question at once suggests itself, How was even this thin crust formed? what should cause any solid envelope, however slight and filmy when compared to the whole bulk of the globe, to form upon the surface of such a liquid mass? At this point of the investigation the geologist must appeal to the astronomer; for in this vague and nebulous border-land, where the very rocks lose their outlines and flow into each other, not yet specialized into definite forms and substances,—there the two sciences meet. Astronomy shows us our planet thrown off from the central mass of which it once formed a part, to move henceforth in an independent orbit of its own. That orbit, it tells us, passed through celestial spaces cold enough to chill this heated globe, and of course to consolidate it externally. We know, from the action of similar causes on a smaller scale and on comparatively insignificant objects immediately about us, what must have been the effect of this cooling process upon the heated mass of the globe. All substances when heated occupy more space than they do when cold. Water, which expands when freezing, is the only exception to this rule. The first effect of cooling the surface of our planet must have been to solidify it, and thus to form a film or crust over it. That crust would shrink as the cooling process went on; in consequence of the shrinking, wrinkles and folds would arise upon it, and here and there, where the tension was too great, cracks and fissures would be produced. In proportion as the surface cooled, the masses within would be affected by the change of temperature outside of them, and would consolidate internally also, the crust gradually thickening by this process.
But there was another element without the globe, equally powerful in building it up. Fire and water wrought together in this work, if not always harmoniously, at least with equal force and persistency. I have said that there was a time when no atmosphere surrounded the earth; but one of the first results of the cooling of its crust must have been the formation of an atmosphere, with all the phenomena connected with it,—the rising of vapors, their condensation into clouds, the falling of rains, the gathering of waters upon its surface. Water is a very active agent of destruction, but it works over again the materials it pulls down or wears away, and builds them up anew in other forms. As soon as an ocean washed over the consolidated crust of the globe, it would begin to abrade the surfaces upon which it moved, gradually loosening and detaching materials, to deposit them again as sand or mud or pebbles at its bottom in successive layers, one above another. Thus, in analyzing the crust of the globe, we find at once two kinds of rocks, the respective work of fire and water: the first poured out from the furnaces within, and cooling, as one may see any mass of metal cool that is poured out from a smelting-furnace to-day, in solid crystalline masses, without any division into separate layers or leaves; and the latter in successive beds, one over another, the heavier materials below, the lighter above, or sometimes in alternate layers, as special causes may have determined successive deposits of lighter or heavier materials at some given spot.
There were many well-fought battles between geologists before it was understood that these two elements had been equally active in building up the crust of the earth. The ground was hotly contested by the disciples of the two geological schools, one of which held that the solid envelope of the earth was exclusively due to the influence of fire, while the other insisted that it had been accumulated wholly under the agency of water. This difference of opinion grew up very naturally; for the great leaders of the two schools lived in different localities, and pursued their investigations over regions where the geological phenomena were of an entirely opposite character,—the one exhibiting the effect of volcanic eruptions, the other that of stratified deposits. It was the old story of the two knights on opposite sides of the shield, one swearing that it was made of gold, the other that it was made of silver; and almost killing each other before they discovered that it was made of both. So prone are men to hug their theories and shut their eyes to any antagonistic facts, that it is related of Werner, the great leader of the Aqueous school, that he was actually on his way to see a geological locality of especial interest, but, being told that it confirmed the views of his opponents, he turned round and went home again, refusing to see what might force him to change his opinions. If the rocks did not confirm his theory, so much the worse for the rocks,—he would none of them. At last it was found that the two great chemists, fire and water, had worked together in the vast laboratory of the globe, and since then scientific men have decided to work together also; and if they still have a passage at arms occasionally over some doubtful point, yet the results of their investigations are ever drawing them nearer to each other,—since men who study truth, when they reach their goal, must always meet at last on common ground.
The rocks formed under the influence of heat are called, in geological language, the Igneous, or, as some naturalists have named them, the Plutonic rocks, alluding to their fiery origin, while the others have been called Aqueous or Neptunic rocks, in reference to their origin under the agency of water. A simpler term, however, quite as distinctive, and more descriptive of their structure, is that of the stratified and massive or unstratified rocks. We shall see hereafter how the relative position of these two classes of rocks and their action upon each other enable us to determine the chronology of the earth, to compare the age of her mountains, and, if we have no standard by which to estimate the positive duration of her continents, to say at least which was the first-born among them, and how their characteristic features have been successfully worked out. I am aware that many of these inferences, drawn from what is called "the geological record," must seem to be the work of the imagination. In a certain sense this is true,—for imagination, chastened by correct observation, is our best guide in the study of Nature. We are too apt to associate the exercise of this faculty with works of fiction, while it is in fact the keenest detective of truth.
Besides the stratified and massive rocks, there is still a third set, produced by the contact of these two, and called, in consequence of the changes thus brought about, the Metamorphic rocks. The effect of heat upon clay is to bake it into slate; limestone under the influence of heat becomes quick-lime, or, if subjected afterwards to the action of water, it is changed to mortar; sand under the same agency is changed to a coarse kind of glass. Suppose, then, that a volcanic eruption takes place in a region of the earth's surface where successive layers of limestone, of clay, and of sandstone, have been previously deposited by the action of water. If such an eruption has force enough to break through these beds, the hot, melted masses will pour out through the rent, flow over its edges, and fill all the lesser cracks and fissures produced by such a disturbance. What will be the effect upon the stratified rocks? Wherever these liquid masses, melted by a heat more intense than can be produced by any artificial means, have flowed over them or cooled in immediate contact with them, the clays will be changed to slate, the limestone will have assumed a character more like marble, while the sandstone will be vitrified. This is exactly what has been found to be the case, wherever the stratified rocks have been penetrated by the melted masses from beneath. They have been themselves partially melted by the contact, and when they have cooled again, their stratification, though still perceptible, has been partly obliterated, and their substance changed. Such effects may often be traced in dikes, which are only the cracks in rocks filled by materials poured into them at some period of eruption when the melted masses within the earth were thrown out and flowed like water into any inequality or depression of the surface around. The walls enclosing such a dike are often found to be completely altered by contact with its burning contents, and to have assumed a character quite different from the rocks of which they make a part; while the mass itself which fills the fissure shows by the character of its crystallization that it has cooled more quickly on the outside, where it meets the walls, than at the centre.
The first two great classes of rocks, the unstratified and stratified rocks, represent different epochs in the world's physical history: the former mark its revolutions, while the latter chronicle its periods of rest. All mountains and mountain-chains have been upheaved by great convulsions of the globe, which rent asunder the surface of the earth, destroyed the animals and plants living upon it at the time, and were then succeeded by long intervals of repose, when all things returned to their accustomed order, ocean and river deposited fresh beds in uninterrupted succession, the accumulation of materials went on as before, a new set of animals and plants were introduced, and a time of building up and renewing followed the time of destruction. These periods of revolution are naturally more difficult to decipher than the periods of rest; for they have so torn and shattered the beds they uplifted, disturbing them from their natural relations to each other, that it is not easy to reconstruct the parts and give them coherence and completeness again. But within the last half-century this work has been accomplished in many parts of the world with an amazing degree of accuracy, considering the disconnected character of the phenomena to be studied; and I think I shall be able to convince my readers that the modern results of geological investigation are perfectly sound logical inferences from well-established facts. In this, as in so many other things, we are but "children of a larger growth." The world is the geologist's great puzzle-box; he stands before it like the child to whom the separate pieces of his puzzle remain a mystery till he detects their relation and sees where they fit, and then his fragments grow at once into a connected picture beneath his hand....
When geologists first turned their attention to the physical history of the earth, they saw at once certain great features which they took to be the skeleton and basis of the whole structure. They saw the great masses of granite forming the mountains and mountain-chains, with the stratified rocks resting against their slopes; and they assumed that granite was the first primary agent, and that all stratified rocks must be of a later formation. Although this involved a partial error, as we shall see hereafter when we trace the upheavals of granite even into comparatively modern periods, yet it held an important geological truth also; for, though granite formations are by no means limited to those early periods, they are nevertheless very characteristic of them, and are indeed the foundation-stones on which the physical history of the globe is built.