The Elements of Geology
by William Harmon Norton
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Stones transported by glaciers are sometimes called erratics. Such are the bowlders of the drift of our northern states. Erratics may be set down in an insecure position on the melting of the ice.

DEPOSIT. Little need be added here to what has already been said of ground and terminal moraines. All strictly glacial deposits are unstratified. The load laid down at the end of a glacier in the terminal moraine is loose in texture, while the drift lodged beneath the glacier as ground moraine is often an extremely dense, stony clay, having been compacted under the pressure of the overriding ice.

EROSION. A glacier erodes its bed and banks in two ways,—by abrasion and by plucking.

The rock bed over which a glacier has moved is seen in places to have been abraded, or ground away, to smooth surfaces which are marked by long, straight, parallel scorings aligned with the line of movement of the ice and varying in size from hair lines and coarse scratches to exceptional furrows several feet deep. Clearly this work has been accomplished by means of the sharp sand, the pebbles, and the larger stones with which the base of the glacier is inset, and which it holds in a firm grasp as running water cannot. Hard and fine-grained rocks, such as granite and quartzite, are often not only ground down to a smooth surface but are also highly polished by means of fine rock flour worn from the glacier bed.

In other places the bed of the glacier is rough and torn. The rocks have been disrupted and their fragments have been carried away,—a process known as PLUCKING. Moving under immense pressure the ice shatters the rock, breaks off projections, presses into crevices and wedges the rocks apart, dislodges the blocks into which the rock is divided by joints and bedding planes, and freezing fast to the fragments drags them on. In this work the freezing and thawing of subglacial waters in any cracks and crevices of the rock no doubt play an important part. Plucking occurs especially where the bed rock is weak because of close jointing. The product of plucking is bowlders, while the product of abrasion is fine rock flour and sand.

Is the ground moraine of Figure 87 due chiefly to abrasion or to plucking?

ROCHES MOUTONNEES AND ROUNDED HILLS. The prominences left between the hollows due to plucking are commonly ground down and rounded on the stoss side,—the side from which the ice advances,—and sometimes on the opposite, the lee side, as well. In this way the bed rock often comes to have a billowy surface known as roches moutonnees (sheep rocks). Hills overridden by an ice sheet often have similarly rounded contours on the stoss side, while on the lee side they may be craggy, either because of plucking or because here they have been less worn from their initial profile.

THE DIRECTION OF GLACIER MOVEMENT. The direction of the flow of vanished glaciers and ice sheets is recorded both in the differences just mentioned in the profiles of overridden hills and also in the minute details of the glacier trail.

Flint nodules or other small prominences in the bed rock are found more worn on the stoss than on the lee side, where indeed they may have a low cone of rock protected by them from abrasion. Cavities, on the other hand, have their edges worn on the lee side and left sharp upon the stoss.

Surfaces worn and torn in the ways which we have mentioned are said to be glaciated. But it must not be supposed that a glacier everywhere glaciates its bed. Although in places it acts as a rasp or as a pick, in others, and especially where its pressure is least, as near the terminus, it moves over its bed in the manner of a sled. Instances are known where glaciers have advanced over deposits of sand and gravel without disturbing them to any notable degree. Like a river, a glacier does not everywhere erode. In places it leaves its bed undisturbed and in places aggrades it by deposits of the ground moraine.

CIRQUES. Valley glaciers commonly head as we have seen, in broad amphitheaters deeply filled with snow and ice. On mountains now destitute of glaciers, but whose glaciation shows that they have supported glaciers in the past, there are found similar crescentic hollows with high, precipitous walls and glaciated floors. Their floors are often basined and hold lakelets whose deep and quiet waters reflect the sheltering ramparts of rugged rock which tower far above them. Such mountain hollows are termed CIRQUES. As a powerful spring wears back a recess in the valley side where it discharges, so the fountain head of a glacier gradually wears back a cirque. In its slow movement the neve field broadly scours its bed to a flat or basined floor. Meanwhile the sides of the valley head are steepened and driven back to precipitous walls. For in winter the crevasse of the bergschrund which surrounds the neve field is filled with snow and the neve is frozen fast to the rocky sides of the valley. In early summer the neve tears itself free, dislodging and removing any loosened blocks, and the open fissure of the bergschrund allows frost and other agencies of weathering to attack the unprotected rock. As cirques are thus formed and enlarged the peaks beneath which they lie are sharpened, and the mountain crests are scalloped and cut back from either side to knife-edged ridges.

In the western mountains of the United States many cirques, now empty of neve and glacier ice, and known locally as "basins," testify to the fact that in recent times the snow line stood beneath the levels of their floors, and thus far below its present altitude.

GLACIER TROUGHS. The channel worn to accommodate the big and clumsy glacier differs markedly from the river valley cut as with a saw by the narrow and flexible stream and widened by the weather and the wash of rains. The valley glacier may easily be from one thousand to three thousand feet deep and from one to three miles wide. Such a ponderous bulk of slowly moving ice does not readily adapt itself to sharp turns and a narrow bed. By scouring and plucking all resisting edges it develops a fitting channel with a wide, flat floor, and steep, smooth sides, above which are seen the weathered slopes of stream-worn mountain valleys. Since the trunk glacier requires a deeper channel than do its branches, the bed of a branch glacier enters the main trough at some distance above the floor of the latter, although the surface of the two ice streams may be accordant. Glacier troughs can be studied best where large glaciers have recently melted completely away, as is the case in many valleys of the mountains of the western United States and of central and northern Europe (Fig. 114). The typical glacier trough, as shown in such examples, is U-shaped, with a broad, flat floor, and high, steep walls. Its walls are little broken by projecting spurs and lateral ravines. It is as if a V- valley cut by a river had afterwards been gouged deeper with a gigantic chisel, widening the floor to the width of the chisel blade, cutting back the spurs, and smoothing and steepening the sides. A river valley could only be as wide-floored as this after it had long been worn down to grade.

The floor of a glacier trough may not be graded; it is often interrupted by irregular steps perhaps hundreds and even a thousand feet in height, over which the stream that now drains the valley tumbles in waterfalls. Reaches between the steps are often basined. Lakelets may occupy hollows excavated in solid rock, and other lakes may be held behind terminal moraines left as dams across the valley at pauses in the retreat of the glacier.

FJORDS are glacier troughs now occupied in part or wholly by the sea, either because they were excavated by a tide glacier to their present depth below sea level, or because of a submergence of the land. Their characteristic form is that of a long, deep, narrow bay with steep rock walls and basined floor. Fjords are found only in regions which have suffered glaciation, such as Norway and Alaska.

HANGING VALLEYS. These are lateral valleys which open on their main valley some distance above its floor. They are conspicuous features of glacier troughs from which the ice has vanished; for the trunk glacier in widening and deepening its channel cut its bed below the bottoms of the lateral valleys.

Since the mouths of hanging valleys are suspended on the walls of the glacier trough, their streams are compelled to plunge down its steep, high sides in waterfalls. Some of the loftiest and most beautiful waterfalls of the world leap from hanging valleys,— among them the celebrated Staubbach of the Lauterbrunnen valley of Switzerland, and those of the fjords of Norway and Alaska.

Hanging valleys are found also in river gorges where the smaller tributaries have not been able to keep pace with a strong master stream in cutting down their beds. In this case, however, they are a mark of extreme youth; for, as the trunk stream approaches grade and its velocity and power to erode its bed decrease, the side streams soon cut back their falls and wear their beds at their mouths to a common level with that of the main river. The Grand Canyon of the Colorado must be reckoned a young valley. At its base it narrows to scarcely more than the width of the river, and yet its tributaries, except the very smallest, enter it at a common level.

Why could not a wide-floored valley, such as a glacier trough, with hanging valleys opening upon it, be produced in the normal development of a river valley?

THE TROUGHS OF YOUNG AND OF MATURE GLACIERS. The features of a glacier trough depend much on the length of time the preexisting valley was occupied with ice. During the infancy of a glacier, we may believe, the spurs of the valley which it fills are but little blunted and its bed is but little broken by steps. In youth the glacier develops icefalls, as a river in youth develops waterfalls, and its bed becomes terraced with great stairs. The mature glacier, like the mature river, has effaced its falls and smoothed its bed to grade. It has also worn back the projecting spurs of its valley, making itself a wide channel with smooth sides. The bed of a mature glacier may form a long basin, since it abrades most in its upper and middle course, where its weight and motion are the greatest. Near the terminus, where weight and motion are the least, it erodes least, and may instead deposit a sheet of ground moraine, much as a river builds a flood plain in the same part of its course as it approaches maturity. The bed of a mature glacier thus tends to take the form of a long, relatively narrow basin, across whose lower end may be stretched the dam of the terminal moraine. On the disappearance of the ice the basin is rilled with a long, narrow lake, such as Lake Chelan in Washington and many of the lakes in the Highlands of Scotland.

Piedmont glaciers apparently erode but little. Beneath their lake- like expanse of sluggish or stagnant ice a broad sheet of ground moraine is probably being deposited.

Cirques and glaciated valleys rapidly lose their characteristic forms after the ice has withdrawn. The weather destroys all smoothed, polished, and scored surfaces which are not protected beneath glacial deposits. The oversteepened sides of the trough are graded by landslips, by talus slopes, and by alluvial cones. Morainic heaps of drift are dissected and carried away. Hanging valleys and the irregular bed of the trough are both worn down to grade by the streams which now occupy them. The length of time since the retreat of the ice from a mountain valley may thus be estimated by the degree to which the destruction of the characteristic features of the glacier trough has been carried.

In Figure 104 what characteristics of a glacier trough do you notice? What inference do you draw as to the former thickness of the glacier?

Name all the evidences you would expect to find to prove the fact that in the recent geological past the valleys of the Alps contained far larger glaciers than at present, and that on the north of the Alps the ice streams united in a piedmont glacier which extended across the plains of Switzerland to the sides of the Jura Mountains.

THE RELATIVE IMPORTANCE OF GLACIERS AND OF RIVERS. Powerful as glaciers are, and marked as are the land forms which they produce, it is easy to exaggerate their geological importance as compared with rivers. Under present climatic conditions they are confined to lofty mountains or polar lands. Polar ice sheets are permanent only so long as the lands remain on which they rest. Mountain glaciers can stay only the brief time during which the ranges continue young and high. As lofty mountains, such as the Selkirks and the Alps, are lowered by frost and glacier ice, the snowfall will decrease, the line of permanent snow will rise, and as the mountain hollows in which snow may gather are worn beneath the snow line, the glaciers must disappear. Under present climatic conditions the work of glaciers is therefore both local and of short duration.

Even the glacial epoch, during which vast ice sheets deposited drift over northeastern North America, must have been brief as well as recent, for many lofty mountains, such as the Rockies and the Alps, still bear the marks of great glaciers which then filled their valleys. Had the glacial epoch been long, as the earth counts time, these mountains would have been worn low by ice; had the epoch been remote, the marks of glaciation would already have been largely destroyed by other agencies.

On the other hand, rivers are well-nigh universally at work over the land surfaces of the globe, and ever since the dry land appeared they have been constantly engaged in leveling the continents and in delivering to the seas the waste which there is built into the stratified rocks.

ICEBERGS. Tide glaciers, such as those of Greenland and Alaska, are able to excavate their beds to a considerable distance below sea level. From their fronts the buoyancy of sea water raises and breaks away great masses of ice which float out to sea as icebergs. Only about one seventh of a mass of glacier ice floats above the surface, and a berg three hundred feet high may be estimated to have been detached from a glacier not less than two thousand feet thick where it met the sea.

Icebergs transport on their long journeys whatever drift they may have carried when part of the glacier, and scatter it, as they melt, over the ocean floor. In this way pebbles torn by the inland ice from the rocks of the interior of Greenland and glaciated during their carriage in the ground moraine are dropped at last among the oozes of the bottom of the North Atlantic.



We are now to study the geological work of the currents of the atmosphere, and to learn how they erode, and transport and deposit waste as they sweep over the land. Illustrations of the wind's work are at hand in dry weather on any windy day.

Clouds of dust are raised from the street and driven along by the gale. Here the roadway is swept bare; and there, in sheltered places, the dust settles in little windrows. The erosive power of waste-laden currents of air is suggested as the sharp grains of flying sand sting one's face or clatter against the window. In the country one sometimes sees the dust whirled in clouds from dry, plowed fields in spring and left in the lee of fences in small drifts resembling in form those of snow in winter.

THE ESSENTIAL CONDITIONS for the wind's conspicuous work are illustrated in these simple examples; they are aridity and the absence of vegetation. In humid climates these conditions are only rarely and locally met; for the most part a thick growth of vegetation protects the moist soil from the wind with a cover of leaves and stems and a mattress of interlacing roots. But in arid regions either vegetation is wholly lacking, or scant growths are found huddled in detached clumps, leaving interspaces of unprotected ground (Fig. 119). Here, too, the mantle of waste, which is formed chiefly under the action of temperature changes, remains dry and loose for long periods. Little or no moisture is present to cause its particles to cohere, and they are therefore readily lifted and drifted by the wind.


In the desert the finer waste is continually swept to and fro by the ever-shifting wind. Even in quiet weather the air heated by contact with the hot sands rises in whirls, and the dust is lifted in stately columns, sometimes as much as one thousand feet in height, which march slowly across the plain. In storms the sand is driven along the ground in a continuous sheet, while the air is tilled with dust. Explorers tell of sand storms in the deserts of central Asia and Africa, in which the air grows murky and suffocating. Even at midday it may become dark as night, and nothing can be heard except the roar of the blast and the whir of myriads of grains of sand as they fly past the ear.

Sand storms are by no means uncommon in the arid regions of the western United States. In a recent year, six were reported from Yuma, Arizona. Trains on transcontinental railways are occasionally blockaded by drifting sand, and the dust sifts into closed passenger coaches, covering the seats and floors. After such a storm thirteen car loads of sand were removed from the platform of a station on a western railway.

DUST FALLS. Dust launched by upward-whirling winds on the swift currents of the upper air is often blown for hundreds of miles beyond the arid region from which it was taken. Dust falls from western storms are not unknown even as far east as the Great Lakes. In 1896 a "black snow" fell in Chicago, and in another dust storm in the same decade the amount of dust carried in the air over Rock Island, Ill., was estimated at more than one thousand tons to the cubic mile.

In March, 1901, a cyclonic storm carried vast quantities of dust from the Sahara northward across the Mediterranean to fall over southern and central Europe. On March 8th dust storms raged in southern Algeria; two days later the dust fell in Italy; and on the 11th it had reached central Germany and Denmark. It is estimated that in these few days one million eight hundred thousand tons of waste were carried from northern Africa and deposited on European soil.

We may see from these examples the importance of the wind as an agent of transportation, and how vast in the aggregate are the loads which it carries. There are striking differences between air and water as carriers of waste. Rivers flow in fixed and narrow channels to definite goals. The channelless streams of the air sweep across broad areas, and, shifting about continually, carry their loads back and forth, now in one direction and now in another.


The mantle of waste of deserts is rapidly sorted by the wind. The coarser rubbish, too heavy to be lifted into the air, is left to strew wide tracts with residual gravels (Fig. 120). The sand derived from the disintegration of desert rocks gathers in vast fields. About one eighth of the surface of the Sahara is said to be thus covered with drifting sand. In desert mountains, as those of Sinai, it lies like fields of snow in the high valleys below the sharp peaks. On more level tracts it accumulates in seas of sand, sometimes, as in the deserts of Arabia, two hundred and more feet deep.

DUNES. The sand thus accumulated by the wind is heaped in wavelike hills called dunes. In the desert of northwestern India, where the prevalent wind is of great strength, the sand is laid in longitudinal dunes, i.e. in stripes running parallel with the direction of the wind; but commonly dunes lie, like ripple marks, transverse to the wind current. On the windward side they show a long, gentle slope, up which grains of sand can readily be moved; while to the lee their slope is frequently as great as the angle of repose (Fig. 122). Dunes whose sands are not fixed by vegetation travel slowly with the wind; for their material is ever shifted forward as the grains are driven up the windward slope and, falling over the crest, are deposited in slanting layers in the quiet of the lee.

Like river deposits, wind-blown sands are stratified, since they are laid by currents of air varying in intensity, and therefore in transporting power, which carry now finer and now coarser materials and lay them down where their velocity is checked (Fig. 123). Since the wind varies in direction, the strata dip in various directions. They also dip at various angles, according to the inclination of the surface on which they were laid.

Dunes occur not only in arid regions, but also wherever loose sand lies unprotected by vegetation from the wind. From the beaches of sea and lake shores the wind drives inland the surface sand left dry between tides and after storms, piling it in dunes which may invade forests and fields and bury villages beneath their slowly advancing waves. On flood plains during summer droughts river deposits are often worked over by the wind; the sand is heaped in hummocks and much of the fine silt is caught and held by the forests and grassy fields of the bordering hills.

The sand of shore dunes differs little in composition and the shape of its grains from that of the beach from which it was derived. But in deserts, by the long wear of grain on grain as they are blown hither and thither by the wind, all soft minerals are ground to powder and the sand comes to consist almost wholly of smooth round grams of hard quartz.

Some marine sandstones, such as the St. Peter sandstone of the upper Mississippi valley, are composed so entirely of polished spherules of quartz that it has been believed by some that their grains were long blown about in ancient deserts before they were deposited in the sea.

DUST DEPOSITS. As desert sands are composed almost wholly of quartz, we may ask what has become of the softer minerals of which the rocks whose disintegration has supplied the sand were in part, and often in large part, composed. The softer minerals have been ground to powder, and little by little the quartz sand also is worn by attrition to fine dust. Yet dust deposits are scant and few in great deserts such as the Sahara. The finer waste is blown beyond its limits and laid in adjacent oceans, where it adds to the muds and oozes of their floors, and on bordering steppes and forest lands, where it is bound fast by vegetation and slowly accumulates in deposits of unstratified loose yellow earth. The fine waste of the Sahara has been identified in dredgings from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, taken hundreds of miles from the coast of Africa.

LOESS. In northern China an area as large as France is deeply covered with a yellow pulverulent earth called loess (German, loose), which many consider a dust deposit blown from the great Mongolian desert lying to the west. Loess mantles the recently uplifted mountains to the height of eight thousand feet and descends on the plains nearly to sea level. Its texture and lack of stratification give it a vertical cleavage; hence it stands in steep cliffs on the sides of the deep and narrow trenches which have been cut in it by streams.

On loess hillsides in China are thousands of villages whose eavelike dwellings have been excavated in this soft, yet firm, dry loam. While dust falls are common at the present time in this region, the loess is now being rapidly denuded by streams, and its yellow silt gives name to the muddy Hwang-ho (Yellow River), and to the Yellow Sea, whose waters it discolors for scores of miles from shore.

Wind deposits both of dust and of sand may be expected to contain the remains of land shells, bits of wood, and bones of land animals, testifying to the fact that they were accumulated in open air and not in the sea or in bodies of fresh water.


Sand-laden currents of air abrade and smooth and polish exposed rock surfaces, acting in much the same way as does the jet of steam fed with sharp sand, which is used in the manufacture of ground glass. Indeed, in a single storm at Cape Cod a plate glass of a lighthouse was so ground by flying sand that its transparency was destroyed and its removal made necessary.

Telegraph poles and wires whetted by wind-blown sands are destroyed within a few years. In rocks of unequal resistance the harder parts are left in relief, while the softer are etched away. Thus in the pass of San Bernardino, Cal., through which strong winds stream from the west, crystals of garnet are left projecting on delicate rock fingers from the softer rock in which they were imbedded.

Wind-carved pebbles are characteristically planed, the facets meeting along a summit ridge or at a point like that of a pyramid. We may suppose that these facets were ground by prevalent winds from certain directions, or that from time to time the stone was undermined and rolled over as the sand beneath it was blown away on the windward side, thus exposing fresh surfaces to the driving sand. Such wind-carved pebbles are sometimes found in ancient rocks and may be accepted as evidence that the sands of which the rocks are composed were blown about by the wind.

DEFLATION. In the denudation of an arid region, wind erosion is comparatively ineffective as compared with deflation (Latin, de, from; flare, to blow),—a term by which is meant the constant removal of waste by the wind, leaving the rocks bare to the continuous attack of the weather. In moist climates denudation is continually impeded by the mantle of waste and its cover of vegetation, and the land surface can be lowered no faster than the waste is removed by running water. Deep residual soils come to protect all regions of moderate slope, concealing from view the rock structure, and the various forms of the land are due more to the agencies of erosion and transportation than to differences in the resistance of the underlying rocks.

But in arid regions the mantle is rapidly removed, even from well- nigh level plains and plateaus, by the sweep of the wind and the wash of occasional rains. The geological structure of these regions of naked rock can be read as far as the eye can see, and it is to this structure that the forms of the land are there largely due. In a land mass of horizontal strata, for example, any softer surface rocks wear down to some underlying, resistant stratum, and this for a while forms the surface of a level plateau (Fig. 129). The edges of the capping layer, together with those of any softer layers beneath it, wear back in steep cliffs, dissected by the valleys of wet-weather streams and often swept bare to the base by the wind. As they are little protected by talus, which commonly is removed about as fast as formed, these escarpments and the walls of the valleys retreat indefinitely, exposing some hard stratum beneath which forms the floor of a widening terrace.

The high plateaus of northern Arizona and southern Utah, north of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River, are composed of stratified rocks more than ten thousand feet thick and of very gentle inclination northward. From the broad plat form in which the canyon has been cut rises a series of gigantic stairs, which are often more than one thousand feet high and a score or more of miles in breadth. The retreating escarpments, the cliffs of the mesas and buttes which they have left behind as outliers, and the walls of the ravines are carved into noble architectural forms— into cathedrals, pyramids, amphitheaters, towers, arches, and colonnades—by the processes of weathering aided by deflation. It is thus by the help of the action of the wind that great plateaus in arid regions are dissected and at last are smoothed away to waterless plains, either composed of naked rock, or strewed with residual gravels, or covered with drifting residual sand.

The specific gravity of air is 1/823 that of water. How does this fact affect the weight of the material which each can carry at the same velocity?

If the rainfall should lessen in your own state to from five to ten inches a year, what changes would take place in the vegetation of the country? in the soil? in the streams? in the erosion of valleys? in the agencies chiefly at work in denuding the land?

In what way can a wind-carved pebble be distinguished from a river-worn pebble? from a glaciated pebble?



We have already seen that the ocean is the goal at which the waste of the land arrives. The mantle of rock waste, creeping down slopes, is washed to the sea by streams, together with the material which the streams have worn from their beds and that dissolved by underground waters. In arid regions the winds sweep waste either into bordering oceans or into more humid regions where rivers take it up and carry it on to the sea. Glaciers deliver the load of their moraines either directly to the sea or leave it for streams to transport to the same goal. All deposits made on the land, such as the flood plains of rivers, the silts of lake beds, dune sands, and sheets of glacial drift, mark but pauses in the process which is to bring all the materials of the land now above sea level to rest upon the ocean bed.

But the sea is also at work along all its shores as an agent of destruction, and we must first take up its work in erosion before we consider how it transports and deposits the waste of the land.


THE SEA CLIFF AND THE ROCK BENCH. On many coasts the land fronts the ocean in a line of cliffs. To the edge of the cliffs there lead down valleys and ridges, carved by running water, which, if extended, would meet the water surface some way out from shore. Evidently they are now abruptly cut short at the present shore line because the land has been cut back.

Along the foot of the cliff lies a gently shelving bench of rock, more or less thickly veneered with sand and shingle. At low tide its inner margin is laid bare, but at high tide it is covered wholly, and the sea washes the base of the cliffs. A notch, of which the SEA CLIFF and the ROCK BENCH are the two sides, has been cut along the shore.

WAVES. The position of the rock bench, with its inner margin slightly above low tide, shows that it has been cut by some agent which acts like a horizontal saw set at about sea level. This agent is clearly the surface agitation of the water; it is the wind-raised wave.

As a wave comes up the shelving bench the crest topples forward and the wave "breaks," striking a blow whose force is measured by the momentum of all its tons of falling water. On the coast of Scotland the force of the blows struck by the waves of the heaviest storms has sometimes exceeded three tons to the square foot. But even a calm sea constantly chafes the shore. It heaves in gentle undulations known as the ground swell, the result of storms perhaps a thousand miles distant, and breaks on the shore in surf.

The blows of the waves are not struck with clear water only, else they would have little effect on cliffs of solid rock. Storm waves arm themselves with the sand and gravel, the cobbles, and even the large bowlders which lie at the base of the cliff, and beat against it with these hammers of stone.

Where a precipice descends sheer into deep water, waves swash up and down the face of the rocks but cannot break and strike effective blows. They therefore erode but little until the talus fallen from the cliff is gradually built up beneath the sea to the level at which the waves drag bottom upon it and break.

Compare the ways in which different agents abrade. The wind lightly brushes sand and dust over exposed surfaces of rock. Running water sweeps fragments of various sizes along its channels, holding them with a loose hand. Glacial ice grinds the stones of its ground moraine against the underlying rock with the pressure of its enormous weight. The wave hurls fragments of rock against the sea cliff, bruising and battering it by the blow. It also rasps the bench as it drags sand and gravel to and fro upon it.

WEATHERING OF SEA CLIFFS. The sea cliff furnishes the weapons for its own destruction. They are broken from it not only by the wave but also by the weather. Indeed the sea cliff weathers more rapidly, as a rule, than do rock ledges inland. It is abundantly wet with spray. Along its base the ground water of the neighboring land finds its natural outlet in springs which under mine it. Moreover, it is unprotected by any shield of talus. Fragments of rock as they fall from its face are battered to pieces by the waves and swept out to sea. The cliff is thus left exposed to the attack of the weather, and its retreat would be comparatively rapid for this reason alone.

Sea cliffs seldom overhang, but commonly, as in Figure 134, slope seaward, showing that the upper portion has retreated at a more rapid rate than has the base. Which do you infer is on the whole the more destructive agent, weathering or the wave?

Draw a section of a sea cliff cut in well jointed rocks whose joints dip toward the land. Draw a diagram of a sea cliff where the joints dip toward the sea.

SEA CAVES. The wave does not merely batter the face of the cliff. Like a skillful quarryman it inserts wedges in all natural fissures, such as joints, and uses explosive forces. As a wave flaps against a crevice it compresses the air within with the sudden stroke; as it falls back the air as suddenly expands. On lighthouses heavily barred doors have been burst outward by the explosive force of the air within, as it was released from pressure when a partial vacuum was formed by the refluence of the wave. Where a crevice is filled with water the entire force of the blow of the wave is transmitted by hydraulic pressure to the sides of the fissure. Thus storm waves little by little pry and suck the rock loose, and in this way, and by the blows which they strike with the stones of the beach, they quarry out about a joint, or wherever the rock may be weak, a recess known as a SEA CAVE, provided that the rock above is coherent enough to form a roof. Otherwise an open chasm results.

BLOWHOLES AND SEA ARCHES. As a sea cave is drilled back into the rock, it may encounter a joint or crevice opened to the surface by percolating water. The shock of the waves soon enlarges this to a blowhole, which one may find on the breezy upland, perhaps a hundred yards and more back from the cliff's edge. In quiet weather the blowhole is a deep well; in storm it plays a fountain as the waves drive through the long tunnel below and spout their spray high in air in successive jets. As the roof of the cave thus breaks down in the rear, there may remain in front for a while a sea arch, similar to the natural bridges of land caverns.

STACKS AND WAVE-CUT ISLANDS. As the sea drives its tunnels and open drifts into the cliff, it breaks through behind the intervening portions and leaves them isolated as stacks, much as monuments are detached from inland escarpments by the weather; and as the sea cliff retreats, these remnant masses may be left behind as rocky islets. Thus the rock bench is often set with stacks, islets in all stages of destruction, and sunken reefs, all wrecks of the land testifying to its retreat before the incessant attack of the waves.

COVES. Where zones of soft or closely jointed rock outcrop along a shore, or where minor water courses conic down to the sea and aid in erosion, the shore is worn back in curved reentrants called coves; while the more resistant rocks on either hand are left projecting as headlands (Fig. 139). After coves are cut back a short distance by the waves, the headlands come to protect them, as with breakwaters, and prevent their indefinite retreat. The shore takes a curve of equilibrium, along which the hard rock of the exposed headland and the weak rock of the protected cove wear back at an equal rate.

RATE OF RECESSION. The rate at which a shore recedes depends on several factors. In soft or incoherent rocks exposed to violent storms the retreat is so rapid as to be easily measured. The coast of Yorkshire, England, whose cliffs are cut in glacial drift, loses seven feet a year on the average, and since the Norman conquest a strip a mile wide, with farmsteads and villages and historic seaports, has been devoured by the sea. The sandy south shore of Martha's Vineyard wears back three feet a year. But hard rocks retreat so slowly that their recession has seldom been measured by the records of history.


BOWLDER AND PEBBLE BEACHES. About as fast as formed the waste of the sea cliff is swept both along the shore and out to sea. The road of waste along shore is the BEACH. We may also define the beach as the exposed edge of the sheet of sediment formed by the carriage of land waste out to sea. At the foot of sea cliffs, where the waves are pounding hardest, one commonly finds the rock bench strewn on its inner margin with large stones, dislodged by the waves and by the weather and some-what worn on their corners and edges. From this BOWLDER BEACH the smaller fragments of waste from the cliff and the fragments into which the bowlders are at last broken drift on to more sheltered places and there accumulate in a PEBBLE BEACH, made of pebbles well rounded by the wear which they have suffered. Such beaches form a mill whose raw material is constantly supplied by the cliff. The breakers of storms set it in motion to a depth of several feet, grinding the pebbles together with a clatter to be heard above the roar of the surf. In such a rock crusher the life of a pebble is short. Where ships have stranded on our Atlantic coast with cargoes of hard-burned brick or of coal, a year of time and a drift of five miles along the shore have proved enough to wear brick and coal to powder. At no great distance from their source, therefore, pebble beaches give place to beaches of sand, which occupy the more sheltered reaches of the shore.

SAND BEACHES. The angular sand grains of various minerals into which pebbles are broken by the waves are ground together under the beating surf and rounded, and those of the softer minerals are crushed to powder. The process, however, is a slow one, and if we study these sand grains under a lens we may be surprised to see that, though their corners and edges have been blunted, they are yet far from the spherical form of the pebbles from which they were derived. The grains are small, and in water they have lost about half their weiglit in air; the blows which they strike one another are therefore weak. Besides, each grain of sand of the wet beach is protected by a cushion of water from the blows of its neighbors.

The shape and size of these grains and the relative proportion of grains of the softer minerals which still remain give a rough measure of the distance in space and time which they have traveled from their source. The sand of many beaches, derived from the rocks of adjacent cliffs or brought in by torrential streams from neighboring highlands, is dark with grains of a number of minerals softer than quartz. The white sand of other beaches, as those of the east coast of Florida, is almost wholly composed of quartz grains; for in its long travel down the Atlantic coast the weaker minerals have been worn to powder and the hardest alone survive.

How does the absence of cleavage in quartz affect the durability of quartz sand?

HOW SHORE DRIFT MIGRATES. It is under the action of waves and currents that shore drift migrates slowly along a coast. Where waves strike a coast obliquely they drive the waste before them little by little along the shore. Thus on a north-south coast, where the predominant storms are from the northeast, there will be a migration of shore drift southwards.

All shores are swept also by currents produced by winds and tides. These are usually far too gentle to transport of themselves the coarse materials of which beaches are made. But while the wave stirs the grains of sand and gravel, and for a moment lifts them from the bottom, the current carries them a step forward on their way. The current cannot lift and the wave cannot carry, but together the two transport the waste along the shore. The road of shore drift is therefore the zone of the breaking waves.

THE BAY-HEAD BEACH. As the waste derived from the wear of waves and that brought in by streams is trailed along a coast it assumes, under varying conditions, a number of distinct forms. When swept into the head of a sheltered bay it constitutes the bay-head beach. By the highest storm waves the beach is often built higher than the ground immediately behind it, and forms a dam inclosing a shallow pond or marsh.

THE BAY BAR. As the stream of shore drift reaches the mouth of a bay of some size it often occurs that, instead of turning in, it sets directly across toward the opposite headland. The waste is carried out from shore into the deeper waters of the bay mouth; where it is no longer supported by the breaking waves, and sinks to the bottom. The dump is gradually built to the surface as a stubby spur, pointing across the bay, and as it reaches the zone of wave action current and wave can now combine to carry shore drift along it, depositing their load continually at the point of the spur. An embankment is thus constructed in much the same manner as a railway fill, which, while it is building, serves as a roadway along which the dirt from an adjacent cut is carted to be dumped at the end. When the embankment is completed it bridges the bay with a highway along which shore drift now moves without interruption, and becomes a bay bar.

INCOMPLETE BAY BARS. Under certain conditions the sea cannot carry out its intention to bridge a bay. Rivers discharging in bays demand open way to the ocean. Strong tidal currents also are able to keep open channels scoured by their ebb and flow. In such cases the most that land waste can do is to build spits and shoals, narrowing and shoaling the channel as much as possible. Incomplete bay bars sometimes have their points recurved by currents setting at right angles to the stream of shore drift and are then classified as HOOKS (Fig. 142).

SAND REEFS. On low coasts where shallow water extends some distance out, the highway of shore drift lies along a low, narrow ridge, termed the sand reef, separated from the land by a narrow stretch of shallow water called the LAGOON. At intervals the reef is held open by INLETS,—gaps through which the tide flows and ebbs, and by which the water of streams finds way to the sea.

No finer example of this kind of shore line is to be found in the world than the coast of Texas. From near the mouth of the Rio Grande a continuous sand reef draws its even curve for a hundred miles to Corpus Christi Pass, and the reefs are but seldom interrupted by inlets as far north as Galveston Harbor. On this coast the tides are variable and exceptionally weak, being less than one foot in height, while the amount of waste swept along the shore is large. The lagoon is extremely shallow, and much of it is a mud flat too shoal for even small boats. On the coast of New Jersey strong tides are able to keep open inlets at intervals of from two to twenty miles in spite of a heavy alongshore drift.

Sand reefs are formed where the water is so shallow near shore that storm waves cannot run in it and therefore break some distance out from land. Where storm waves first drag bottom they erode and deepen the sea floor, and sweep in sediment as far as the line where they break. Here, where they lose their force, they drop their load and beat up the ridge which is known as the sand reef when it reaches the surface.


Our studies have already brought to our notice two distinct forms of strand lines,—one the high, rocky coast cut back to cliffs by the attack of the waves, and the other the low, sandy coast where the waves break usually upon the sand reef. To understand the origin of these two types we must know that the meeting place of sea and land is determined primarily by movements of the earth's crust. Where a coast land emerges the—shore line moves seaward; where it is being submerged the shore line advances on the land.

SHORES OF ELEVATION. The retreat of the sea, either because of a local uplift of the land or for any other reason, such as the lowering of any portion of ocean bottom, lays bare the inner margin of the sea floor. Where the sea floor has long received the waste of the land it has been built up to a smooth, subaqueous plain, gently shelving from the land. Since the new shore line is drawn across this even surface it is simple and regular, and is bordered on the one side by shallow water gradually deepening seaward, and on the other by low land composed of material which has not yet thoroughly consolidated to firm rock. A sand reef is soon beaten up by the waves, and for some time conditions will favor its growth. The loss of sand driven into the lagoon beyond, and of that ground to powder by the surf and carried out to sea, is more than made up by the stream of alongshore drift, and especially by the drag of sediments to the reef by the waves as they deepen the sea floor on its seaward side.

Meanwhile the lagoon gradually fills with waste from the reef and from the land. It is invaded by various grasses and reeds which have learned to grow in salt and brackish water; the marsh, laid bare only at low tide, is built above high tide by wind drift and vegetable deposits, and becomes a meadow, soldering the sand reef to the mainland.

While the lagoon has been filling, the waves have been so deepening the sea floor off the sand reef that at last they are able to attack it vigorously. They now wear it back, and, driving the shore line across the lagoon or meadow, cut a line of low cliffs on the mainland. Such a shore is that of Gascony in southwestern France,—a low, straight, sandy shore, bordered by dunes and unprotected by reefs from the attack of the waves of the Bay of Biscay.

We may say, then, that on shores of elevation the presence of sand reefs and lagoons indicates the stage of youth, while the absence of these features and the vigorous and unimpeded attack by the sea upon the mainland indicate the stage of maturity. Where much waste is brought in by rivers the maturity of such a coast may be long delayed. The waste from the land keeps the sea shallow offshore and constantly renews the sand reef. The energy of the waves is consumed in handling shore drift, and no energy is left for an effective attack upon the land. Indeed, with an excessive amount of waste brought down by streams the land may be built out and encroach temporarily upon the sea; and not until long denudation has lowered the land, and thus decreased the amount of waste from it, may the waves be able to cut through the sand reef and thus the coast reach maturity.


Where a coastal region is undergoing submergence the shore line moves landward. The horizontal plane of the sea now intersects an old land surface roughened by subaerial denudation. The shore line is irregular and indented in proportion to the relief of the land and the amount of the submergence which the land has suffered. It follows up partially submerged valleys, forming bays, and bends round the divides, leaving them to project as promontories and peninsulas. The outlines of shores of depression are as varied as are the forms of the land partially submerged. We give a few typical illustrations.

The characteristics of the coast of Maine are due chiefly to the fact that a mountainous region of hard rocks, once worn to a peneplain, and after a subsequent elevation deeply dissected by north-south valleys, has subsided, the depression amounting on its southern margin to as much as six hundred feet below sea level. Drowned valleys penetrate the land in long, narrow bays, and rugged divides project in long, narrow land arms prolonged seaward by islands representing the high portions of their extremities. Of this exceedingly ragged shore there are said to be two thousand miles from the New Brunswick boundary as far west as Portland,—a straight-line distance of but two hundred miles. Since the time of its greatest depression the land is known to have risen some three hundred feet; for the bays have been shortened, and the waste with which their floors were strewn is now in part laid bare as clay plains about the bay heads and in narrow selvages about the peninsulas and islands.

The coast of Dalmatia, on the Adriatic Sea, is characterized by long land arms and chains of long and narrow islands, all parallel to the trend of the coast. A region of parallel mountain ranges has been depressed, and the longitudinal valleys which lie between them are occupied by arms of the sea.

Chesapeake Bay is a branching bay due to the depression of an ancient coastal plain which, after having emerged from the sea, was channeled with broad, shallow valleys. The sea has invaded the valley of the trunk stream and those of its tributaries, forming a shallow bay whose many branches are all directed toward its axis (Fig. 146).

Hudson Bay, and the North, the Baltic, and the Yellow seas are examples where the sinking of the land has brought the sea in over low plains of large extent, thus deeply indenting the continental out-line. The rise of a few hundred feet would restore these submerged plains to the land.

THE CYCLE OF SHORES OF DEPRESSION. In its infantile stage the outline of a shore of depression depends almost wholly on the previous relief of the land, and but little on erosion by the sea. Sea cliffs and narrow benches appear where headlands and outlying islands have been nipped by the waves. As yet, little shore waste has been formed. The coast of Maine is an example of this stage.

In early youth all promontories have been strongly cliffed, and under a vigorous attack of the sea the shore of open bays may be cut back also. Sea stacks and rocky islets, caves and coves, make the shore minutely ragged. The irregularity of the coast, due to depression, is for a while increased by differential wave wear on harder and softer rocks. The rock bench is still narrow. Shore waste, though being produced in large amounts, is for the most part swept into deeper water and buried out of sight. Examples of this stage are the east coast of Scotland and the California coast near San Francisco.

Later youth is characterized by a large accumulation of shore waste. The rock bench has been cut back so that it now furnishes a good roadway for shore drift. The stream of alongshore drift grows larger and larger, filling the heads of the smaller bays with beaches, building spits and hooks, and tying islands with sand bars to the mainland. It bridges the larger bays with bay bars, while their length is being reduced as their inclosing promontories are cut back by the waves. Thus there comes to be a straight, continuous, and easy road, no longer interrupted by headlands and bays, for the transportation of waste alongshore. The Baltic coast of Germany is in this stage.

All this while streams have been busy filling with delta deposits the bays into which they empty. By these steps a coast gradually advances to MATURITY, the stage when the irregularities due to depression have been effaced, when outlying islands formed by subsidence have been planed away, and when the shore line has been driven back behind the former bay heads. The sea now attacks the land most effectively along a continuous and fairly straight line of cliffs. Although the first effect of wave wear was to increase the irregularities of the shore, it sooner or later rectifies it, making it simple and smooth. Northwestern France may be cited as an upland plain, dissected and depressed, whose coast has reached maturity.

In the OLD AGE of coasts the rock bench is cut back so far that the waves can no longer exert their full effect upon the shore. Their energy is dissipated in moving shore drift hither and thither and in abrading the bench when they drag bottom upon it. Little by little the bench is deepened by tidal currents and the drag of waves; but this process is so slow that meanwhile the sea cliffs melt down under the weather, and the bench becomes a broad shoal where waves and tides gradually work over the waste from the land to greater fineness and sweep it out to sea.

PLAINS OF MARINE ABRASION. While subaerial denudation reduces the land to baselevel, the sea is sawing its edges to WAVE BASE, i.e. the lowest limit of the wave's effective wear. The widened rock bench forms when uplifted a plain of marine abrasion, which like the peneplain bevels across strata regardless of their various inclinations and various degrees of hardness.

How may a plain of marine abrasion be expected to differ from a peneplain in its mantle of waste?

Compared with subaerial denudation, marine abrasion is a comparatively feeble agent. At the rate of five feet per century— a higher rate than obtains on the youthful rocky, coast of Britain—it would require more than ten million years to pare a strip one hundred miles wide from the margin of a continent, a time sufficient, at the rate at which the Mississippi valley is now being worn away, for subaerial denudation to lower the lands of the globe to the level of the sea.

Slow submergence favors the cutting of a wide rock bench. The water continually deepens upon the bench; storm waves can therefore always ride in to the base of the cliffs and attack them with full force; shore waste cannot impede the onset of the waves, for it is continually washed out in deeper water below wave base.

BASAL CONGOLMERATES. As the sea marches across the land during a slow submergence, the platform is covered with sheets of sea-laid sediments. Lowest of these is a conglomerate,—the bowlder and pebble beach, widened indefinitely by the retreat of the cliffs at whose base it was formed, and preserved by the finer deposits laid upon it in the constantly deepening water as the land subsides. Such basal conglomerates are not uncommon among the ancient rocks of the land, and we may know them by their rounded pebbles and larger stones, composed of the same kind of rock as that of the abraded and evened surface on which they lie.



The alongshore deposits which we have now studied are the exposed edge of a vast subaqueous sheet of waste which borders the continents and extends often for as much as two or three hundred miles from land. Soundings show that offshore deposits are laid in belts parallel to the coast, the coarsest materials lying nearest to the land and the finest farthest out. The pebbles and gravel and the clean, coarse sand of beaches give place to broad stretches of sand, which grows finer and finer until it is succeeded by sheets of mud. Clearly there is an offshore movement of waste by which it is sorted, the coarser being sooner dropped and the finer being carried farther out.


The debris torn by waves from rocky shores is far less in amount than the waste of the land brought down to the sea by rivers, being only one thirty-third as great, according to a conservative estimate. Both mingle alongshore in all the forms of beach and bar that have been described, and both are together slowly carried out to sea. On the shelving ocean floor waste is agitated by various movements of the unquiet water,—by the undertow (an outward- running bottom current near the shore), by the ebb and flow of tides, by ocean currents where they approach the land, and by waves and ground swells, whose effects are sometimes felt to a depth of six hundred feet. By all these means the waste is slowly washed to and fro, and as it is thus ground finer and finer and its soluble parts are more and more dissolved, it drifts farther and farther out from land. It is by no steady and rapid movement that waste is swept from the shore to its final resting place. Day after day and century after century the grains of sand and particles of mud are shifted to and fro, winnowed and spread in layers, which are destroyed and rebuilt again and again before they are buried safe from further disturbance.

These processes which are hidden from the eye are among the most important of those with which our science has to do; for it is they which have given shape to by far the largest part of the stratified rocks of which the land is made.

THE CONTINENTAL DELTA. This fitting term has been recently suggested for the sheet of waste slowly accumulating along the borders of the continents. Within a narrow belt, which rarely exceeds two or three hundred miles, except near the mouths of muddy rivers such as the Amazon and Congo, nearly all the waste of the continent, whether worn from its surface by the weather, by streams, by glaciers, or by the wind, or from its edge by the chafing of the waves, comes at last to its final resting place. The agencies which spread the material of the continental delta grow more and more feeble as they pass into deeper and more quiet water away from shore. Coarse materials are therefore soon dropped along narrow belts near land. Gravels and coarse sands lie in thick, wedge-shaped masses which thin out seaward rapidly and give place to sheets of finer sand.

SEA MUDS. Outermost of the sediments derived from the waste of the continents is a wide belt of mud; for fine clays settle so slowly, even in sea water,—whose saltness causes them to sink much faster than they would in fresh water,—that they are wafted far before they reach a bottom where they may remain undisturbed. Muds are also found near shore, carpeting the floors of estuaries, and among stretches of sandy deposits in hollows where the more quiet water has permitted the finer silt to rest.

Sea muds are commonly bluish and consolidate to bluish shales; the red coloring matter brought from land waste—iron oxide—is altered to other iron compounds by decomposing organic matter in the presence of sea water. Yellow and red muds occur where the amount of iron oxide in the silt brought down to the sea by rivers is too great to be reduced, or decomposed, by the organic matter present.

Green muds and green sand owe their color to certain chemical changes which take place where waste from the land accumulates on the sea floor with extreme slowness. A greenish mineral called GLAUCONITE—a silicate of iron and alumina—is then formed. Such deposits, known as GREEN SAND, are now in process of making in several patches off the Atlantic coast, and are found on the coastal plain of New Jersey among the offshore deposits of earlier geological ages.

ORGANIC DEPOSITS. Living creatures swarm along the shore and on the shallows out from land as nowhere else in the ocean. Seaweed often mantles the rock of the sea cliff between the levels of high and low tide, protecting it to some degree from the blows of waves. On the rock bench each little pool left by the ebbing tide is an aquarium abounding in the lowly forms of marine life. Below low-tide level occur beds of molluscous shells, such as the oyster, with countless numbers of other humble organisms. Their harder parts—the shells of mollusks, the white framework of corals, the carapaces of crabs and other crustaceans, the shells of sea urchins, the bones and teeth of fishes—are gradually buried within the accumulating sheets of sediment, either whole or, far more often, broken into fragments by the waves.

By means of these organic remains each layer of beach deposits and those of the continental delta may contain a record of the life of the time when it was laid. Such a record has been made ever since living creatures with hard parts appeared upon the globe. We shall find it sealed away in the stratified rocks of the continents,— parts of ancient sea deposits now raised to form the dry land. Thus we have in the traces of living creatures found in the rocks, i.e. in fossils, a history of the progress of life upon the planet.

MOLLUSCOUS SHELL DEPOSITS. The forms of marine life of importance in rock making thrive best in clear water, where little sediment is being laid, and where at the same time the depth is not so great as to deprive them of needed light, heat, and of sufficient oxygen absorbed by sea water from the air. In such clear and comparatively shallow water there often grow countless myriads of animals, such as mollusks and corals, whose shells and skeletons of carbonate of lime gradually accumulate in beds of limestone.

A shell limestone made of broken fragments cemented together is sometimes called COQUINA, a local term applied to such beds recently uplifted from the sea along the coast of Florida (Fig. 149).

OOLITIC limestone (oon, an egg; lithos, a stone) is so named from the likeness of the tiny spherules which compose it to the roe of fish. Corals and shells have been pounded by the waves to calcareous sand, and each grain has been covered with successive concentric coatings of lime carbonate deposited about it from solution.

The impalpable powder to which calcareous sand is ground by the waves settles at some distance from shore in deeper and quieter water as a limy silt, and hardens into a dense, fine-grained limestone in which perhaps no trace of fossil is found to suggest the fact that it is of organic origin.

From Florida Keys there extends south to the trough of Florida Straits a limestone bank covered by from five hundred and forty to eighteen hundred feet of water. The rocky bottom consists of limestone now slowly building from the accumulation of the remains of mollusks, small corals, sea urchins, worms with calcareous tubes, and lime-secreting seaweed, which live upon its surface.

Where sponges and other silica-secreting organisms abound on limestone banks, silica forms part of the accumulated deposit, either in its original condition, as, for example, the spicules of sponges, or gathered into concretions and layers of flint.

Where considerable mud is being deposited along with carbonate of lime there is in process of making a clayey limestone or a limy shale; where considerable sand, a sandy limestone or a limy sandstone.

CONSOLIDATION OF OFFSHORE DEPOSITS. We cannot doubt that all these loose sediments of the sea floor are being slowly consolidated to solid rock. They are soaked with water which carries in solution lime carbonate and other cementing substances. These cements are deposited between the fragments of shells and corals, the grains of sand and the particles of mud, binding them together into firm rock. Where sediments have accumulated to great thickness the lower portions tend also to consolidate under the weight of the overlying beds. Except in the case of limestones, recent sea deposits uplifted to form land are seldom so well cemented as are the older strata, which have long been acted upon by underground waters deep below the surface within the zone of cementation, and have been exposed to view by great erosion.

RIPPLE MARKS, SUN CRACKS, ETC. The pulse of waves and tidal currents agitates the loose material of offshore deposits, throwing it into fine parallel ridges called ripple marks. One may see this beautiful ribbing imprinted on beach sands uncovered by the outgoing tide, and it is also produced where the water is of considerable depth. While the tide is out the surface of shore deposits may be marked by the footprints of birds and other animals, or by the raindrops of a passing shower.

The mud of flats, thus exposed to the sun and dried, cracks in a characteristic way. Such markings may be covered over with a thin layer of sediment at the next flood tide and sealed away as a lasting record of the manner and place in which the strata were laid. In Figure 150 we have an illustration of a very ancient ripple-marked sand consolidated to hard stone, uplifted and set on edge by movements of the earth's crust, and exposed to open air after long erosion.

STRATIFICATION. For the most part the sheet of sea-laid waste is hidden from our sight. Where its edge is exposed along the shore we may see the surface markings which have just been noticed. Soundings also, and the observations made in shallow waters by divers, tell something of its surface; but to learn more of its structures we must study those ancient sediments which have been lifted from the sea and dissected by subaerial agencies. From them we ascertain that sea deposits are stratified. They lie in distinct layers which often differ from one another in thickness, in size of particles, and perhaps in color. They are parted by bedding planes, each of which represents either a change in material or a pause during which deposition ceased and the material of one layer had time to settle and become somewhat consolidated before the material of the next was laid upon it. Stratification is thus due to intermittently acting forces, such as the agitation of the water during storms, the flow and ebb of the tide, and the shifting channels of tidal currents. Off the mouths of rivers, stratification is also caused by the coarser and more abundant material brought down at time of floods being laid on the finer silt which is discharged during ordinary stages.

How stratified deposits are built up is well illustrated in the flats which border estuaries, such as the Bay of Fundy. Each advance of the tide spreads a film of mud, which dries and hardens in the air during low water before another film is laid upon it by the next incoming tidal flood. In this way the flats have been covered by a clay which splits into leaves as thin as sheets of paper.

It is in fine material, such as clays and shales and limestones, that the thinnest and most uniform layers, as well as those of widest extent, occur. On the other hand, coarse materials are commonly laid in thick beds, which soon thin out seaward and give place to deposits of finer stuff. In a general way strata are laid in well-nigh horizontal sheets, for the surface on which they are laid is generally of very gentle inclination. Each stratum, however, is lenticular, or lenslike, in form, having an area where it is thickest, and thinning out thence to its edges, where it is overlapped by strata similar in shape.

CROSS BEDDING. There is an apparent exception to this rule where strata whose upper and lower surfaces may be about horizontal are made up of layers inclined at angles which may be as high as the angle of repose. In this case each stratum grew by the addition along its edge of successive layers of sediment, precisely as does a sand bar in a river, the sand being pushed continuously over the edge and coming to rest on a sloping surface. Shoals built by strong and shifting tidal currents often show successive strata in which the cross bedding is inclined in different directions.

THICKNESS OF SEA DEPOSITS. Remembering the vast amount of material denuded from the land and deposited offshore, we should expect that with the lapse of time sea deposits would have grown to an enormous thickness. It is a suggestive fact that, as a rule, the profile of the ocean bed is that of a soup plate,—a basin surrounded by a flaring rim. On the CONTINENTAL SHELF, as the rim is called, the water is seldom more than six hundred feet in depth at the outer edge, and shallows gradually towards shore. Along the eastern coast of the United States the continental shelf is from fifty to one hundred and more miles in width; on the Pacific coast it is much narrower. So far as it is due to upbuilding, a wide continental shelf, such as that of the Atlantic coast, implies a massive continental delta thousands of feet in thickness. The coastal plain of the Atlantic states may be regarded as the emerged inner margin of this shelf, and borings made along the coast probe it to the depth of as much as three thousand feet without finding the bottom of ancient offshore deposits. Continental shelves may also be due in part to a submergence of the outer margin of a continental plateau and to marine abrasion.

DEPOSITION OF SEDIMENTS AND SUBSIDENCE. The stratified rocks of the land show in many places ancient sediments which reach a thickness which is measured in miles, and which are yet the product of well-nigh continuous deposition. Such strata may prove by their fossils and by their composition and structure that they were all laid offshore in shallow water. We must infer that, during the vast length of time recorded by the enormous pile, the floor of the sea along the coast was slowly sinking, and that the trough was constantly being filled, foot by foot, as fast as it was depressed. Such gradual, quiet movements of the earth's crust not only modify the outline of coasts, as we have seen, but are of far greater geological importance in that they permit the making of immense deposits of stratified rock.

A slow subsidence continued during long time is recorded also in the succession of the various kinds of rock that come to be deposited in the same area. As the sea transgresses the land, i.e. encroaches upon it, any given part of the sea bottom is brought farther and farther from the shore. The basal conglomerate formed by bowlder and pebble beaches comes to be covered with sheets of sand, and these with layers of mud as the sea becomes deeper and the shore more remote; while deposits of limestone are made when at last no waste is brought to the place from the now distant land, and the water is left clear for the growth of mollusks and other lime-secreting organisms.

RATE OF DEPOSITION. As deposition in the sea corresponds to denudation on the land, we are able to make a general estimate of the rate at which the former process is going on. Leaving out of account the soluble matter removed, the Mississippi is lowering its basin at the rate of one foot in five thousand years, and we may assume this as the average rate at which the earth's land surface of fifty-seven million square miles is now being denuded by the removal of its mechanical waste. But sediments from the land are spread within a zone but two or three hundred miles in width along the margin of the continents, a line one hundred thousand miles long. As the area of deposition—about twenty-five million square miles—is about one half the area of denudation, the average rate of deposition must be twice the average rate of denudation, i.e. about one foot in twenty-five hundred years. If some deposits are made much more rapidly than this, others are made much more slowly. If they were laid no faster than the present average rate, the strata of ancient sea deposits exposed in a quarry fifty feet deep represent a lapse of at least one hundred and twenty-five thousand years, and those of a formation five hundred feet thick required for their accumulation one million two hundred and fifty thousand years.

THE SEDIMENTARY RECORD AND THE DENUDATION CYCLE. We have seen that the successive stages in a cycle of denudation, such as that by which a land mass of lofty mountains is worn to low plains, are marked each by its own peculiar land forms, and that the forms of the earlier stages are more or less completely effaced as the cycle draws toward an end. Far more lasting records of each stage are left in the sedimentary deposits of the continental delta.

Thus, in the youth of such a land mass as we have mentioned, torrential streams flowing down the steep mountain sides deliver to the adjacent sea their heavy loads of coarse waste, and thick offshore deposits of sand and gravel (Fig. 156) record the high elevation of the bordering land. As the land is worn to lower levels, the amount and coarseness of the waste brought to the sea diminishes, until the sluggish streams carry only a fine silt which settles on the ocean floor near to land in wide sheets of mud which harden into shale. At last, in the old age of the region (Fig. 157), its low plains contribute little to the sea except the soluble elements of the rocks, and in the clear waters near the land lime-secreting organisms flourish and their remains accumulate in beds of limestone. When long-weathered lands mantled with deep, well-oxidized waste are uplifted by a gradual movement of the earth's crust, and the mantle is rapidly stripped off by the revived streams, the uprise is recorded in wide deposits of red and yellow clays and sands upon the adjacent ocean floor.

Where the waste brought in is more than the waves can easily distribute, as off the mouths of turbid rivers which drain highlands near the sea, deposits are little winnowed, and are laid in rapidly alternating, shaly sandstones and sandy shales.

Where the highlands are of igneous rock, such as granite, and mechanical disintegration is going on more rapidly than chemical decay, these conditions are recorded in the nature of the deposits laid offshore. The waste swept in by streams contains much feldspar and other minerals softer and more soluble than quartz, and where the waves have little opportunity to wear and winnow it, it comes to rest in beds of sandstone in which grains of feldspar and other soft minerals are abundant. Such feldspathic sandstones are known as ARKOSE.

On the other hand, where the waste supplied to the sea comes chiefly from wide, sandy, coastal plains, there are deposited off- shore clean sandstones of well-worn grains of quartz alone. In such coastal plains the waste of the land is stored for ages. Again and again they are abandoned and invaded by the sea as from time to time the land slowly emerges and is again submerged. Their deposits are long exposed to the weather, and sorted over by the streams, and winnowed and worked over again and again by the waves. In the course of long ages such deposits thus become thoroughly sorted, and the grains of all minerals softer than quartz are ground to mud.


GLOBIGERINA OOZE. Beyond the reach of waste from the land the bottom of the deep sea is carpeted for the most part with either chalky ooze or a fine red clay. The surface waters of the warm seas swarm with minute and lowly animals belonging to the order of the Foraminifera, which secrete shells of carbonate of lime. At death these tiny white shells fall through the sea water like snowflakes in the air, and, slowly dissolving, seem to melt quite away before they can reach depths greater than about three miles. Near shore they reach bottom, but are masked by the rapid deposit of waste derived from the land. At intermediate depths they mantle the ocean floor with a white, soft lime deposit known as Globigerina ooze, from a genus of the Foraminifera which contributes largely to its formation.

RED CLAY. Below depths of from fifteen to eighteen thousand feet the ocean bottom is sheeted with red or chocolate colored clay. It is the insoluble residue of seashells, of the debris of submarine volcanic eruptions, of volcanic dust wafted by the winds, and of pieces of pumice drifted by ocean currents far from the volcanoes from which they were hurled. The red clay builds up with such inconceivable slowness that the teeth of sharks and the hard ear bones of whales may be dredged in large numbers from the deep ocean bed, where they have lain unburied for thousands of years; and an appreciable part of the clay is also formed by the dust of meteorites consumed in the atmosphere,—a dust which falls everywhere on sea and land, but which elsewhere is wholly masked by other deposits.

The dark, cold abysses of the ocean are far less affected by change than any other portion of the surface of the lithosphere. These vast, silent plains of ooze lie far below the reach of storms. They know no succession of summer and winter, or of night and day. A mantle of deep and quiet water protects them from the agents of erosion which continually attack, furrow, and destroy the surface of the land. While the land is the area of erosion, the sea is the area of deposition. The sheets of sediment which are slowly spread there tend to efface any inequalities, and to form a smooth and featureless subaqueous plain.

With few exceptions, the stratified rocks of the land are proved by their fossils and composition to have been laid in the sea; but in the same way they are proved to be offshore, shallow-water deposits, akin to those now making on continental shelves. Deep- sea deposits are absent from the rocks of the land, and we may therefore infer that the deep sea has never held sway where the continents now are,—that the continents have ever been, as now, the elevated portions of the lithosphere, and that the deep seas of the present have ever been its most depressed portions.


In warm seas the most conspicuous of rock-making organisms are the corals known as the reef builders. Floating in a boat over a coral reef, as, for example, off the south coast of Florida or among the Bahamas, one looks down through clear water on thickets of branching coral shrubs perhaps as much as eight feet high, and hemispherical masses three or four feet thick, all abloom with countless minute flowerlike coral polyps, gorgeous in their colors of yellow, orange, green, and red. In structure each tiny polyp is little more than a fleshy sac whose mouth is surrounded with petal-like tentacles, or feelers. From the sea water the polyps secrete calcium carbonate and build it up into the stony framework which supports their colonies. Boring mollusks, worms, and sponges perforate and honeycomb this framework even while its surface is covered with myriads of living polyps. It is thus easily broken by the waves, and white fragments of coral trees strew the ground beneath. Brilliantly colored fishes live in these coral groves, and countless mollusks, sea urchins, and other forms of marine life make here their home. With the debris from all these sources the reef is constantly built up until it rises to low-tide level. Higher than this the corals cannot grow, since they are killed by a few hours' exposure to the air.

When the reef has risen to wave base, the waves abrade it on the windward side and pile to leeward coral blocks torn from their foundation, filling the interstices with finer fragments. Thus they heap up along the reef low, narrow islands (Fig. 160).

Reef building is a comparatively rapid progress. It has been estimated that off Florida a reef could be built up to the surface from a depth of fifty feet in about fifteen hundred years.

CORAL LIMESTONES. Limestones of various kinds are due to the reef builders. The reef rock is made of corals in place and broken fragments of all sizes, cemented together with calcium carbonate from solution by infiltrating waters. On the island beaches coral sand is forming oolitic limestone, and the white coral mud with which the sea is milky for miles about the reef in times of storm settles and concretes into a compact limestone of finest grain. Corals have been among the most important limestone builders of the sea ever since they made their appearance in the early geological ages.

The areas on which coral limestone is now forming are large. The Great Barrier Reef of Australia, which lies off the north-eastern coast, is twelve hundred and fifty miles long, and has a width of from ten to ninety miles. Most of the islands of the tropics are either skirted with coral reefs or are themselves of coral formation.

CONDITIONS OF CORAL GROWTH. Reef-building corals cannot live except in clear salt water less, as a rule, than one hundred and fifty feet in depth, with a winter temperature not lower than 68 degrees F. An important condition also is an abundant food supply, and this is best secured in the path of the warm oceanic currents.

Coral reefs may be grouped in three classes,—fringing reefs, barrier reefs, and atolls.

FRINGING REEFS. These take their name from the fact that they are attached as narrow fringes to the shore. An example is the reef which forms a selvage about a mile wide along the northeastern coast of Cuba. The outer margin, indicated by the line of white surf, where the corals are in vigorous growth, rises from about forty feet of water. Between this and the shore lies a stretch of shoal across which one can wade at low water, composed of coral sand with here and there a clump of growing coral.

BARRIER REEFS. Reefs separated from the shore by a ship channel of quiet water, often several miles in width and sometimes as much as three hundred feet in depth, are known as barrier reefs. The seaward face rises abruptly from water too deep for coral growth. Low islands are cast up by the waves upon the reef, and inlets give place for the ebb and flow of the tides. Along the west coast of the island of New Caledonia a barrier reef extends for four hundred miles, and for a length of many leagues seldom approaches within eight miles of the shore.

ATOLLS. These are ring-shaped or irregular coral islands, or island-studded reefs, inclosing a central lagoon. The narrow zone of land, like the rim of a great bowl sunken to the water's edge, rises hardly more than twenty feet at most above the sea, and is covered with a forest of trees such as the cocoanut, whose seeds can be drifted to it uninjured from long distances. The white beach of coral sand leads down to the growing reef, on whose outer margin the surf is constantly breaking. The sea face of the reef falls off abruptly, often to depths of thousands of feet, while the lagoon varies in depth from a few feet to one hundred and fifty or two hundred, and exceptionally measures as much as three hundred and fifty feet.

THEORIES OF CORAL REEFS. Fringing reefs require no explanation, since the depth of water about them is not greater than that at which coral can grow; but barrier reefs and atolls, which may rise from depths too great for coral growth demand a theory of their origin.

Darwin's theory holds that barrier reefs and atolls are formed from fringing reefs by SUBSIDENCE. The rate of sinking cannot be greater than that of the upbuilding of the reef, since otherwise the corals would be carried below their depth and drowned. The process is illustrated in Figure 161, where v represents a volcanic island in mid ocean undergoing slow depression, and ss the sea level before the sinking began, when the island was surrounded by a fringing reef. As the island slowly sinks, the reef builds up with equal pace. It rears its seaward face more steep than the island slope, and thus the intervening space between the sinking, narrowing land and the outer margin of the reef constantly widens. In this intervening space the corals are more or less smothered with silt from the outer reef and from the land, and are also deprived in large measure of the needful supply of food and oxygen by the vigorous growth of the corals on the outer rim. The outer rim thus becomes a barrier reef and the inner belt of retarded growth is deepened by subsidence to a ship channel, s's' representing sea level at this time. The final stage, where the island has been carried completely beneath the sea and overgrown by the contracting reef, whose outer ring now forms an atoll, is represented by s"s".

In very many instances, however, atolls and barrier reefs may be explained without subsidence. Thus a barrier reef may be formed by the seaward growth of a fringing reef upon the talus of its sea face. In Figure 162 f is a fringing reef whose outer wall rises from about one hundred and fifty feet, the lower limit of the reef-building species. At the foot of this submarine cliff a talus of fallen blocks t accumulates, and as it reaches the zone of coral growth becomes the foundation on which the reef is steadily extended seaward. As the reef widens, the polyps of the circumference flourish, while those of the inner belt are retarded in their growth and at last perish. The coral rock of the inner belt is now dissolved by sea water and scoured out by tidal currents until it gives place to a gradually deepening ship channel, while the outer margin is left as a barrier reef.

In much the same way atolls may be built on any shoal which lies within the zone of coral growth. Such shoals may be produced when volcanic islands are leveled by waves and ocean currents, and when submarine plateaus, ridges, and peaks are built up by various organic agencies, such as molluscous and foraminiferal shell deposits. The reef-building corals, whose eggs are drifted widely over the tropic seas by ocean currents, colonize such submarine foundations wherever the conditions are favorable for their growth. As the reef approaches the surface the corals of the inner area are smothered by silt and starved, and their Submarine Volcanic Peak hard parts are dissolved and scoured away; while those of the circumference, with abundant food supply, nourish and build the ring of the atoll. Atolls may be produced also by the backward drift of sand from either end of a crescentic coral reef or island, the spits uniting in the quiet water of the lee to inclose a lagoon. In the Maldive Archipelago all gradations between crescent-shaped islets and complete atoll rings have been observed.

In a number of instances where coral reefs have been raised by movements of the earth's crust, the reef formation is found to be a thin veneer built upon a foundation of other deposits. Thus Christmas Island, in the Indian Ocean, is a volcanic pile rising eleven hundred feet above sea level and fifteen thousand five hundred feet above the bottom of the sea. The summit is a plateau surrounded by a rim of hills of reef formation, which represent the ring of islets of an ancient atoll. Beneath the reef are thick beds of limestone, composed largely of the remains of foraminifers, which cover the lavas and fragraental materials of the old submarine volcano.

Among the ancient sediments which now form the stratified rocks of the land there occur many thin reef deposits, but none are known of the immense thickness which modern reefs are supposed to reach according to the theory of subsidence.

Barrier and fringing reefs are commonly interrupted off the mouths of rivers. Why?

SUMMARY. We have seen that the ocean bed is the goal to which the waste of the rocks of the land at last arrives. Their soluble parts, dissolved by underground waters and carried to the sea by rivers, are largely built up by living creatures into vast sheets of limestone. The less soluble portions—the waste brought in by streams and the waste of the shore—form the muds and sands of continental deltas. All of these sea deposits consolidate and harden, and the coherent rocks of the land are thus reconstructed on the ocean floor. But the destination is not a final one. The stratified rocks of the land are for the most part ancient deposits of the sea, which have been lifted above sea level; and we may believe that the sediments now being laid offshore are the "dust of continents to be," and will some time emerge to form additions to the land. We are now to study the movements of the earth's crust which restore the sediments of the sea to the light of day, and to whose beneficence we owe the habitable lands of the present.





The geological agencies which we have so far studied—weathering, streams, underground waters, glaciers, winds, and the ocean—all work upon the earth from without, and all are set in motion by an energy external to the earth, namely, the radiant energy of the sun. All, too, have a common tendency to reduce the inequalities of the earth's surface by leveling the lands and strewing their waste beneath the sea.

But despite the unceasing efforts of these external agencies, they have not destroyed the continents, which still rear their broad plains and great plateaus and mountain ranges above the sea. Either, then, the earth is very young and the agents of denudation have not yet had time to do their work, or they have been opposed successfully by other forces.

We enter now upon a department of our science which treats of forces which work upon the earth from within, and increase the inequalities of its surface. It is they which uplift and recreate the lands which the agents of denudation are continually destroying; it is they which deepen the ocean bed and thus withdraw its waters from the shores. At times also these forces have aided in the destruction of the lands by gradually lowering them and bringing in the sea. Under the action of forces resident within the earth the crust slowly rises or sinks; from time to time it has been folded and broken; while vast quantities of molten rock have been pressed up into it from beneath and outpoured upon its surface. We shall take up these phenomena in the following chapters, which treat of upheavals and depressions of the crust, foldings and fractures of the crust, earthquakes, volcanoes, the interior conditions of the earth, mineral veins, and metamorphism.


Of the various movements of the crust due to internal agencies we will consider first those called oscillations, which lift or depress large areas so slowly that a long time is needed to produce perceptible changes of level, and which leave the strata in nearly their original horizontal attitude. These movements are most conspicuous along coasts, where they can be referred to the datum plane of sea level; we will therefore take our first illustrations from rising and sinking shores.

NEW JERSEY. Along the coasts of New Jersey one may find awash at high tide ancient shell heaps, the remains of tribal feasts of aborigines. Meadows and old forest grounds, with the stumps still standing, are now overflowed by the sea, and fragments of their turf and wood are brought to shore by waves. Assuming that the sea level remains constant, it is clear that the New Jersey coast is now gradually sinking. The rate of submergence has been estimated at about two feet per century.

On the other hand, the wide coastal plain of New Jersey is made of stratified sands and clays, which, as their marine fossils show, were outspread beneath the sea. Their present position above sea level proves that the land now subsiding emerged in the recent past.

The coast of New Jersey is an example of the slow and tranquil oscillations of the earth's unstable crust now in progress along many shores. Some are emerging from the sea, some are sinking beneath it; and no part of the land seems to have been exempt from these changes in the past.

EVIDENCES OF CHANGES OF LEVEL. Taking the surface of the sea as a level of reference, we may accept as proofs of relative upheaval whatever is now found in place above sea level and could have been formed only at or beneath it, and as proofs of relative subsidence whatever is now found beneath the sea and could only have been formed above it.

Thus old strand lines with sea cliffs, wave-cut rock benches, and beaches of wave-worn pebbles or sand, are striking proofs of recent emergence to the amount of their present height above tide. No less conclusive is the presence of sea-laid rocks which we may find in the neighboring quarry or outcrop, although it may have been long ages since they were lifted from the sea to form part of the dry land.

Among common proofs of subsidence are roads and buildings and other works of man, and vegetal growths and deposits, such as forest grounds and peat beds, now submerged beneath the sea. In the deltas of many large rivers, such as the Po, the Nile, the Ganges, and the Mississippi, buried soils prove subsidences of hundreds of feet; and in several cases, as in the Mississippi delta, the depression seems to be now in progress.

Other proofs of the same movement are drowned land forms which are modeled only in open air. Since rivers cannot cut their valleys farther below the baselevel of the sea than the depths of their channels, DROWNED VALLEYS are among the plainest proofs of depression. To this class belong Narragansett, Delaware, Chesapeake, Mobile, and San Francisco bays, and many other similar drowned valleys along the coasts of the United States. Less conspicuous are the SUBMARINE CHANNELS which, as soundings show, extend from the mouths of a number of rivers some distance out to sea. Such is the submerged channel which reaches from New York Bay southeast to the edge of the continental shelf, and which is supposed to have been cut by the Hudson River when this part of the shelf was a coastal plain.

WARPING. In a region undergoing changes of level the rate of movement commonly varies in different parts. Portions of an area may be rising or sinking, while adjacent portions are stationary or moving in the opposite direction. In this way a land surface becomes WARPED. Thus, while Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are now rising from the level of the sea, Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton Island are sinking, and the sea now flows over the site of the famous old town of Louisburg destroyed in 1758.

Since the close of the glacial epoch the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador have risen hundreds of feet, but the rate of emergence has not been uniform. The old strand line, which stands at five hundred and seventy-five feet above tide at St. John's, Newfoundland, declines to two hundred and fifty feet near the northern point of Labrador.

THE GREAT LAKES is now under-going perceptible warping. Rivers enter the lakes from the south and west with sluggish currents and deep channels resembling the estuaries of drowned rivers; while those that enter from opposite directions are swift and shallow. At the western end of Lake Erie are found submerged caves containing stalactites, and old meadows and forest grounds are now under water. It is thus seen that the water of the lakes is rising along their southwestern shores, while from their north-eastern shores it is being withdrawn. The region of the Great Lakes is therefore warping; it is rising in the northeast as compared with the southwest.

From old bench marks and records of lake levels it has been estimated that the rate of warping amounts to five inches a century for every one hundred miles. It is calculated that the water of Lake Michigan is rising at Chicago at the rate of nine or ten inches per century. The divide at this point between the tributaries of the Mississippi and Lake Michigan is but eight feet above the mean stage of the lake. If the canting of the region continues at its present rate, in a thousand years the waters of the lake will here overflow the divide. In three thousand five hundred years all the lakes except Ontario will discharge by this outlet, via the Illinois and Mississippi rivers, into the Gulf of Mexico. The present outlet by the Niagara River will be left dry, and the divide between the St. Lawrence and the Mississippi systems will have shifted from Chicago to the vicinity of Buffalo.

PHYSIOGRAPHIC EFFECTS OF OSCILLATIONS. We have already mentioned several of the most important effects of movements of elevation and depression, such as their effects on rivers, the mantle of waste, and the forms of coasts. Movements of elevation—including uplifts by folding and fracture of the crust to be noticed later— are the necessary conditions for erosion by whatever agent. They determine the various agencies which are to be chiefly concerned m the wear of any land,—whether streams or glaciers, weathering or the wind,—and the degree of their efficiency. The lands must be uplifted before they can be eroded, and since they must be eroded before their waste can be deposited, movements of elevation are a prerequisite condition for sedimentation also. Subsidence is a necessary condition for deposits of great thickness, such as those of the Great Valley of California and the Indo-Gangetic plain (p. 101), the Mississippi delta (p. 109), and the still more important formations of the continental delta in gradually sinking troughs (p. 183). It is not too much to say that the character and thickness of each formation of the stratified rocks depend primarily on these crustal movements.

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