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movements in one direction has not been perpetual throughout all past time. There have been great oscillations of level, by which a surface of dry land has been submerged to a depth of several thousand feet, and then at a period long subsequent raised again and made to emerge. Nor have the regions now motionless been always at rest; and some of those which are at present the theatres of reiterated earthquakes have formerly enjoyed a long continuance of tranquillity. But, although disturbances have ceased after having long prevailed, or have recommenced after a suspension for ages, there has been no universal disruption of the earth's crust or desolation of the surface since times the most remote. The non-occurrence of such a general convulsion is proved by the perfect horizontality now retained by some of the most ancient fossiliferous strata throughout wide
That the subterranean forces have visited different parts of the globe at successive periods is inferred chiefly from the unconformability of strata belonging to groups of different ages. Thus, for example, on the borders of Wales and Shropshire, we find the slaty beds of the ancient Silurian system inclined and vertical, while the beds of the overlying carboniferous shale and sandstone are horizontal. All are agreed that in such a case the older set of strata had suffered great disturbance before the deposition of the newer or carboniferous beds, and that these last have never since been violently fractured, nor have ever been bent into folds, whether by sudden or continuous lateral pressure. On the other hand, the more ancient or Silurian group suffered only a local derangement, and neither in Wales nor elsewhere are all the rocks of that age found to be curved or vertical.
In various parts of Europe, for example, and particularly near Lake Wener in the south of Sweden, and in many parts of Russia, the Silurian strata maintain the most perfect horizontality; and a similar observation may be made respecting limestones and shales of like antiquity in the great lake district of Canada and the United States. These older rocks are still as flat and horizontal as when first formed; yet, since their origin, not only have most of the actual mountain-chains been uplifted, but some of the very rocks
SIR CHARLES LYELL
of which those mountains are composed have been formed, some of them by igneous and others by aqueous action.
It would be easy to multiply instances of similar unconformability in formations of other ages; but a few more will suffice. The carboniferous rocks before alluded to as horizontal on the borders of Wales are vertical in the Mendip hills in Somersetshire, where the overlying beds of the New Red Sandstone are horizontal. Again, in the Wolds of Yorkshire the last-mentioned sandstone supports on its curved and inclined beds the horizontal Chalk. The Chalk again is vertical on the flanks of the Pyrenees, and the tertiary strata repose unconformably upon it.
As almost every country supplies illustrations of the same phenomena, they who advocate the doctrine of alternate periods of disorder and repose may appeal to the facts above described, as proving that every district has been by turns convulsed by earthquakes and then respited for ages from convulsions. But so it might with equal truth be affirmed that every part of Europe has been visited alternately by winter and summer, although it has always been winter and always summer in some part of the planet, and neither of these seasons has ever reigned simultaneously over the entire globe. They have been always shifting from place to place; but the vicissitudes which recur thus annually in a single spot are never allowed to interfere with the invariable uniformity of seasons throughout the whole planet.
So, in regard to subterranean movements, the theory of the perpetual uniformity of the force which they exert on the earth's crust is quite consistent with the admission of their alternate development and suspension for long and indefinite periods within limited geographical areas.
If, for reasons before stated, we assume a continual extinction of species and appearance of others on the globe, it will then follow that the fossils of strata formed at two distant periods on the same spot will differ even more certainly than the mineral composition of those strata. For rocks of the same kind have sometimes been reproduced in the same district after a long interval of time; whereas all the evidence derived from fossil remains is in favour of the opinion that species which have once died out have never been
reproduced. The submergence, then, of land must be often attended by the commencement of a new class of sedimentary deposits, characterized by a new set of fossil animals and plants, while the reconversion of the bed of the sea into land may arrest at once and for an indefinite time the formation of geological monuments. Should the land again sink, strata will again be formed; but one or many entire revolutions in animal or vegetable life may have been completed in the interval.
As to the want of completeness in the fossiliferous series, which may be said to be almost universal, we have only to reflect on what has been already said of the laws governing sedimentary deposition, and those which give rise to fluctuations in the animate world, to be convinced that a very rare combination of circumstances can alone give rise to such a superposition and preservation of strata as will bear testimony to the gradual passage from one state of organic life to another. To produce such strata nothing less will be requisite than the fortunate coincidence of the following conditions: first, a never-failing supply of sediment in the same region throughout a period of vast duration; secondly, the fitness of the deposit in every part for the permanent preservation of imbedded fossils; and, thirdly, a gradual subsidence to prevent the sea or lake from being filled up and converted into land.
It will appear in the chapter on coral reefs, that, in certain parts of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, most of these conditions, if not all, are complied with, and the constant growth of coral, keeping pace with the sinking of the bottom of the sea, seems to have gone on so slowly, for such indefinite periods, that the signs of a gradual change in organic life might probably be detected in that quarter of the globe if we could explore its submarine geology. Instead of the growth of coralline limestone, let us suppose, in some other place, the continuous deposition of fluviatile mud and sand, such as the Ganges and Brahmapootra have poured for thousands of years into the Bay of Bengal. Part of this bay, although of considerable depth, might at length be filled up before an appreciable amount of change was effected in the fish, mollusca, and other inhabitants of the sea and neigh
bouring land. But if the bottom be lowered by sinking at the same rate that it is raised by fluviatile mud, the bay can never be turned into dry land. In that case one new layer of matter may be superimposed upon another for a thickness of many thousand feet, and the fossils of the inferior beds may differ greatly from those entombed in the uppermost, yet every intermediate gradation may be indicated in the passage from an older to a newer assemblage of species. Granting, however, that such an unbroken sequence of monuments may thus be elaborated in certain parts of the sea, and that the strata happen to be all of them well adapted to preserve the included fossils from decomposition, how many accidents must still concur before these submarine formations will be laid open to our investigation! The whole deposit must first be raised several thousand feet, in order to bring into view the very foundation; and during the process of exposure the superior beds must not be entirely swept away by denudation.
In the first place, the chances are nearly as three to one against the mere emergence of the mass above the waters, because nearly three-fourths of the globe are covered by the ocean. But if it be upheaved and made to constitute part of the dry land, it must also, before it can be available for our instruction, become part of that area already surveyed by geologists. In this small fraction of land already explored, and still very imperfectly known, we are required to find a set of strata deposited under peculiar conditions, and which, having been originally of limited extent, would have been probably much lessened by subsequent denudation.
Yet it is precisely because we do not encounter at every step the evidence of such gradations from one state of the organic world to another, that so many geologists have embraced the doctrine of great and sudden revolutions in the history of the animate world. Not content with simply availing themselves, for the convenience of classification, of those gaps and chasms which here and there interrupt the continuity of the chronological series, as at present known, they deduce, from the frequency of these breaks in the chain of records, an irregular mode of succession in the events themselves, both in the organic and inorganic world. But,
besides that some links of the chain which once existed are now entirely lost and others concealed from view, we have good reason to suspect that it was never complete originally.
It may undoubtedly be said that strata have been always forming somewhere, and therefore at every moment of past time Nature has added a page to her archives; but, in reference to this subject, it should be remembered that we can never hope to compile a consecutive history by gathering together monuments which were originally detached and scattered over the globe. For, as the species of organic beings contemporaneously inhabiting remote regions are distinct, the fossils of the first of several periods which may be preserved in any one country, as in America for example, will have no connection with those of a second period found in India, and will therefore no more enable us to trace the signs of a gradual change in the living creation, than a fragment of Chinese history will fill up a blank in the political annals of Europe.
The absence of any deposits of importance containing recent shells in Chili, or anywhere on the western coast of South America, naturally led Mr. Darwin to the conclusion that 'where the bed of the sea is either stationary or rising, circumstances are far less favourable than where the level is sinking to the accumulation of conchiferous strata of sufficient thickness and extension to resist the average vast amount of denudation." In like manner the beds of superficial sand, clay, and gravel, with recent shells, on the coasts of Norway and Sweden, where the land has risen in Posttertiary times, are so thin and scanty as to incline us to admit a similar proposition. We may in fact assume that in all cases where the bottom of the sea has been undergoing continuous elevation, the total thickness of sedimentary matter accumulating at depths suited to the habitation of most of the species of shells can never be great, nor can the deposits be thickly covered by superincumbent matter, so as to be consolidated by pressure. When they are upheaved,
therefore, the waves on the beach will bear down and disperse the loose materials; whereas, if the bed of the sea subsides slowly, a mass of strata, containing abundance of
Darwin's S. America, pp. 136, 139.