The Elements of Geology
by William Harmon Norton
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Along the Baltic coast of Sweden, bench marks show that the sea is withdrawing from the land at a rate which at the north amounts to between three and four feet per century; Towards the south the rate decreases. South of Stockholm, until recent years, the sea has gained upon the land, and here in several seaboard towns streets by the shore are still submerged. The rate of oscillation increases also from the coast inland. On the other hand, along the German coast of the Baltic the only historic fluctuations of sea level are those which may be accounted for by variations due to changes in rainfall. In 1730 Celsius explained the changes of level of the Swedish coast as due to a lowering of the Baltic instead of to an elevation of the land. Are the facts just stated consistent with his theory?

At the little town of Tadousac—where the Saguenay River empties into the St. Lawrence—there are terraces of old sea beaches, some almost as fresh as recent railway fills, the highest standing two hundred and thirty feet above the river. Here the Saguenay is eight hundred and forty feet in depth, and the tide ebbs and flows far up its stream. Was its channel cut to this depth by the river when the land was at its present height? What oscillations are here recorded, and to what amount?

A few miles north of Naples, Italy, the ruins of an ancient Roman temple lie by the edge of the sea, on a narrow plain which is overlooked in the rear by an old sea cliff (Fig. 166). Three marble pillars are still standing. For eleven feet above their bases these columns are uninjured, for to this height they were protected by an accumulation of volcanic ashes; but from eleven to nineteen feet they are closely pitted with the holes of boring marine mollusks. From these facts trace the history of the oscillations of the region.


The oscillations which we have just described leave the strata not far from their original horizontal attitude. Figure 167 represents a region in which movements of a very different nature have taken place. Here, on either side of the valley V, we find outcrops of layers tilted at high angles. Sections along the ridge r show that it is composed of layers which slant inward from either side. In places the outcropping strata stand nearly on edge, and on the right of the valley they are quite overturned; a shale SH has come to overlie a limestone LM although the shale is the older rock, whose original position was beneath the limestone.

It is not reasonable to suppose that these rocks were deposited in the attitude in which we find them now; we must believe that, like other stratified rocks, they were outspread in nearly level sheets upon the ocean floor. Since that time they must have been deformed. Layers of solid rock several miles in thickness have been crumpled and folded like soft wax in the hand, and a vast denudation has worn away the upper portions of the folds, in part represented in our section by dotted lines.

DIP AND STRIKE. In districts where the strata have been disturbed it is desirable to record their attitude. This is most easily done by taking the angle at which the strata are inclined and the compass direction in which they slant. It is also convenient to record the direction in which the outcrop of the strata trends across the country.

The inclination of a bed of rocks to the horizon is its DIP. The amount of the dip is the angle made with a horizontal plane. The dip of a horizontal layer is zero, and that of a vertical layer is 90 degrees. The direction of the dip is taken with the compass. Thus a geologist's notebook in describing the attitude of outcropping strata contains many such entries as these: dip 32 degrees north, or dip 8 degrees south 20 degrees west,—meaning in the latter case that the amount of the dip is 8 degrees and the direction of the dip bears 20 degrees west of south.

The line of intersection of a layer with the horizontal plane is the STRIKE. The strike always runs at right angles to the dip.

Dip and strike may be illustrated by a book set aslant on a shelf. The dip is the acute angle made with the shelf by the side of the book, while the strike is represented by a line running along the book's upper edge. If the dip is north or south, the strike runs east and west.

FOLDED STRUCTURES. An upfold, in which the strata dip away from a line drawn along the crest and called the axis of the fold, is known as an ANTICLINE. A downfold, where the strata dip from either side toward the axis of the trough, is called a SYNCLINE. There is sometimes seen a downward bend in horizontal or gently inclined strata, by which they descend to a lower level. Such a single flexure is a MONOCLINE.

DEGREES OF FOLDING. Folds vary in degree from broad, low swells, which can hardly be detected, to the most highly contorted and complicated structures. In SYMMETRIC folds the dips of the rocks on each side the axis of the fold are equal. In UNSYMMETRICAL folds one limb is steeper than the other, as in the anticline in Figure 167. In OVERTURNED folds one limb is inclined beyond the perpendicular. FAN FOLDS have been so pinched that the original anticlines are left broader at the top than at the bottom.

In folds where the compression has been great the layers are often found thickened at the crest and thinned along the limbs. Where strong rocks such as heavy limestones are folded together with weak rocks such as shales, the strong rocks are often bent into great simple folds, while the weak rocks are minutely crumpled.

SYSTEMS OF FOLDS. As a rule, folds occur in systems. Over the Appalachian mountain belt, for example, extending from northeastern Pennsylvania to northern Alabama and Georgia, the earth's crust has been thrown into a series of parallel folds whose axes run from northeast to southwest (Fig. 175). In Pennsylvania one may count a score or more of these earth waves,— some but from ten to twenty miles in length, and some extending as much as two hundred miles before they die away. On the eastern part of this belt the folds are steeper and more numerous than on the western side.

CAUSE AND CONDITIONS OF FOLDING. The sections which we have studied suggest that rocks are folded by lateral pressure. While a single, simple fold might be produced by a heave, a series of folds, including overturns, fan folds, and folds thickened on their crests at the expense of their limbs, could only be made in one way,—by pressure from the side. Experiment has reproduced all forms of folds by subjecting to lateral thrust layers of plastic material such as wax.

Vast as the force must have been which could fold the solid rocks of the crust as one may crumple the leaves of a magazine in the fingers, it is only under certain conditions that it could have produced the results which we see. Rocks are brittle, and it is only when under a HEAVY LOAD and by GREAT PRESSURE SLOWLY APPLIED, that they can thus be folded and bent instead of being crushed to pieces. Under these conditions, experiments prove that not only metals such as steel, but also brittle rocks such as marble, can be deformed and molded and made to flow like plastic clay.

ZONE OF FLOW, ZONE OF FLOW AND FRACTURE, AND ZONE OF FRACTURE. We may believe that at depths which must be reckoned in tens of thousands of feet the load of overlying rocks is so great that rocks of all kinds yield by folding to lateral pressure, and flow instead of breaking. Indeed, at such profound depths and under such inconceivable weight no cavity can form, and any fractures would be healed at once by the welding of grain to grain. At less depths there exists a zone where soft rocks fold and flow under stress, and hard rocks are fractured; while at and near the surface hard and soft rocks alike yield by fracture to strong pressure.


Deformed rocks show the effects of the stresses to which they have yielded, not only in the immense folds into which they have been thrown but in their smallest parts as well. A hand specimen of slate, or even a particle under the microscope, may show plications similar in form and origin to the foldings which have produced ranges of mountains. A tiny flake of mica in the rocks of the Alps may be puckered by the same resistless forces which have folded miles of solid rock to form that lofty range.

SLATY CLEAVAGE. Rocks which have yielded to pressure often split easily in a certain direction across the bedding planes. This cleavage is known as slaty cleavage, since it is most perfectly developed in fine-grained, homogeneous rocks, such as slates, which cleave to the thin, smooth-surfaced plates with which we are familiar in the slates used in roofing and for ciphering and blackboards. In coarse-grained rocks, pressure develops more distant partings which separate the rocks into blocks.

Slaty cleavage cannot be due to lamination, since it commonly crosses bedding planes at an angle, while these planes have been often well-nigh or quite obliterated. Examining slate with a microscope, we find that its cleavage is due to the grain of the rock. Its particles are flattened and lie with their broad faces in parallel planes, along which the rock naturally splits more easily than in any other direction. The irregular grains of the mud which has been altered to slate have been squeezed flat by a pressure exerted at right angles to the plane of cleavage. Cleavage is found only in folded rocks, and, as we may see in Figure 176, the strike of the cleavage runs parallel to the strike of the strata and the axis of the folds. The dip of the cleavage is generally steep, hence the pressure was nearly horizontal. The pressure which has acted at right angles to the cleavage, and to which it is due, is the same lateral pressure which has thrown the strata into folds.

We find additional proof that slates have undergone compression at right angles to their cleavage in the fact that any inclusions in them, such as nodules and fossils, have been squeezed out of shape and have their long diameters lying in the planes of cleavage.

That pressure is competent to cause cleavage is shown by experiment. Homogeneous material of fine grain, such as beeswax, when subjected to heavy pressure cleaves at right angles to the direction of the compressing force.

RATE OF FOLDING. All the facts known with regard to rock deformation agree that it is a secular process, taking place so slowly that, like the deepening of valleys by erosion, it escapes the notice of the inhabitants of the region. It is only under stresses slowly applied that rocks bend without breaking. The folds of some of the highest mountains have risen so gradually that strong, well-intrenched rivers which had the right of way across the region were able to hold to their courses, and as a circular saw cuts its way through the log which is steadily driven against it, so these rivers sawed their gorges through the fold as fast as it rose beneath them. Streams which thus maintain the course which they had antecedent to a deformation of the region are known as ANTECEDENT streams. Examples of such are the Sutlej and other rivers of India, whose valleys trench the outer ranges of the Himalayas and whose earlier river deposits have been upturned by the rising ridges. On the other hand, mountain crests are usually divides, parting the head waters of different drainage systems. In these cases the original streams of the region have been broken or destroyed by the uplift of the mountain mass across their paths.

On the whole, which have worked more rapidly, processes of deformation or of denudation?


As folding goes on so slowly, it is never left to form surface features unmodified by the action of other agencies. An anticlinal fold is attacked by erosion as soon as it begins to rise above the original level, and the higher it is uplifted, and the stronger are its slopes, the faster is it worn away. Even while rising, a young upfold is often thus unroofed, and instead of appearing as a long, Smooth, boat-shaped ridge, it commonly has had opened along the rocks of the axis, when these are weak, a valley which is overlooked by the infacing escarpments of the hard layers of the sides of the fold. Under long-continued erosion, anticlines may be degraded to valleys, while the synclines of the same system may be left in relief as ridges.

FOLDED MOUNTAINS. The vastness of the forces which wrinkle the crust is best realized in the presence of some lofty mountain range. All mountains, indeed, are not the result of folding. Some, as we shall see, are due to upwarps or to fractures of the crust; some are piles of volcanic material; some are swellings caused by the intrusion of molten matter beneath the surface; some are the relicts left after the long denudation of high plateaus.

But most of the mountain ranges of the earth, and some of the greatest, such as the Alps and the Himalayas, were originally mountains of folding. The earth's crust has wrinkled into a fold; or into a series of folds, forming a series of parallel ridges and intervening valleys; or a number of folds have been mashed together into a vast upswelling of the crust, in which the layers have been so crumpled and twisted, overturned and crushed, that it is exceedingly difficult to make out the original structure.

The close and intricate folds seen in great mountain ranges were formed, as we have seen, deep below the surface, within the zone of folding. Hence they may never have found expression in any individual surface features. As the result of these deformations deep under ground the surface was broadly lifted to mountain height, and the crumpled and twisted mountain structures are now to be seen only because erosion has swept away the heavy cover of surface rocks under whose load they were developed.

When the structure of mountains has been deciphered it is possible to estimate roughly the amount of horizontal compression which the region has suffered. If the strata of the folds of the Alps were smoothed out, they would occupy a belt seventy-four miles wider than that to which they have been compressed, or twice their present width. A section across the Appalachian folds in Pennyslvania shows a compression to about two thirds the original width; the belt has been shortened thirty-five miles in every hundred.

Considering the thickness of their strata, the compression which mountains have undergone accounts fully for their height, with enough to spare for all that has been lost by denudation.

The Appalachian folds involve strata thirty thousand feet in thickness. Assuming that the folded strata rested on an unyielding foundation, and that what was lost in width was gained in height, what elevation would the range have reached had not denudation worn it as it rose?

THE LIFE HISTORY OF MOUNTAINS. While the disturbance and uplift of mountain masses are due to deformation, their sculpture into ridges and peaks, valleys and deep ravines, and all the forms which meet the eye in mountain scenery, excepting in the very youngest ranges, is due solely to erosion. We may therefore classify mountains according to the degree to which they have been dissected. The Juras are an example of the stage of early youth, in which the anticlines still persist as ridges and the synclines coincide with the valleys; this they owe as much to the slight height of their uplift as to the recency of its date.

The Alps were upheaved at various times, the last uplift being later than the uplift of the Juras, but to so much greater height that erosion has already advanced them well on towards maturity. The mountain mass has been cut to the core, revealing strange contortions of strata which could never have found expression at the surface. Sharp peaks, knife-edged crests, deep valleys with ungraded slopes subject to frequent landslides, are all features of Alpine scenery typical of a mountain range at this stage in its life history. They represent the survival of the hardest rocks and the strongest structures, and the destruction of the weaker in their long struggle for existence against the agents of erosion. Although miles of rock have been removed from such ranges as the Alps, we need not suppose that they ever stood much, if any, higher than at present. All this vast denudation may easily have been accomplished while their slow upheaval was going on; in several mountain ranges we have evidence that elevation has not yet ceased.

Under long denudation mountains are subdued to the forms characteristic of old age. The lofty peaks and jagged crests of their earlier life are smoothed down to low domes and rounded crests. The southern Appalachians and portions of the Hartz Mountains in Germany are examples of mountains which have reached this stage.

There are numerous regions of upland and plains in which the rocks are found to have the same structure that we have seen in folded mountains; they are tilted, crumpled, and overturned, and have clearly suffered intense compression. We may infer that their folds were once lifted to the height of mountains and have since been wasted to low-lying lands. Such a section as that of Figure 67 illustrates how ancient mountains may be leveled to their roots, and represents the final stage to which even the Alps and the Himalayas must sometime arrive. Mountains, perhaps of Alpine height, once stood about Lake Superior; a lofty range once extended from New England and New Jersey southwestward to Georgia along the Piedmont belt. In our study of historic geology we shall see more clearly how short is the life of mountains as the earth counts time, and how great ranges have been lifted, worn away, and again upheaved into a new cycle of erosion.

THE SEDIMENTARY HISTORY OF FOLDED MOUNTAINS. We may mention here some of the conditions which have commonly been antecedent to great foldings of the crust.

1. Mountain ranges are made of belts of enormously and exceptionally thick sediments. The strata of the Appalachians are thirty thousand feet thick, while the same formations thin out to five thousand feet in the Mississippi valley. The folds of the Wasatch Mountains involve strata thirty thousand feet thick, which thin to two thousand feet in the region of the Plains.

2. The sedimentary strata of which mountains are made are for the most part the shallow-water deposits of continental deltas. Mountain ranges have been upfolded along the margins of continents.

3. Shallow-water deposits of the immense thickness found in mountain ranges can be laid only in a gradually sinking area. A profound subsidence, often to be reckoned in tens of thousands of feet, precedes the upfolding of a mountain range.

Thus the history of mountains of folding is as follows: For long ages the sea bottom off the coast of a continent slowly subsides, and the great trough, as fast as it forms, is filled with sediments, which at last come to be many thousands of feet thick. The downward movement finally ceases. A slow but resistless pressure sets in, and gradually, and with a long series of many intermittent movements, the vast mass of accumulated sediments is crumpled and uplifted into a mountain range.


Considering the immense stresses to which the rocks of the crust are subjected, it is not surprising to find that they often yield by fracture, like brittle bodies, instead of by folding and flowing, like plastic solids. Whether rocks bend or break depends on the character and condition of the rocks, the load of overlying rocks which they bear, and the amount of the force and the slowness with which it is applied.

JOINTS. At the surface, where their load is least, we find rocks universally broken into blocks of greater or less size by partings known as joints. Under this name are included many division planes caused by cooling and drying; but it is now generally believed that the larger and more regular joints, especially those which run parallel to the dip and strike of the strata, are fractures due to up-and-down movements and foldings and twistings of the rocks.

Joints are used to great advantage in quarrying, and we have seen how they are utilized by the weather in breaking up rock masses, by rivers in widening their valleys, by the sea in driving back its cliffs, by glaciers in plucking their beds, and how they are enlarged in soluble rocks to form natural passageways for underground waters. The ends of the parted strata match along both sides of joint planes; in. joints there has been little or no displacement of the broken rocks.

FAULTS. In Figure 184 the rocks have been both broken and dislocated along the plane ff'. One side must have been moved up or down past the other. Such a dislocation is called a fault. The amount of the displacement, as measured by the vertical distance between the ends of a parted layer, is the throw. The angle which the fault plane makes with the vertical is the HADE. In Figure 184 the right side has gone down relatively to the left; the right is the side of the downthrow, while the left is the side of the upthrow. Where the fault plane is not vertical the surfaces on the two sides may be distinguished as the HANGING WALL and the FOOT WALL. Faults differ in throw from a fraction of an inch to many thousands of feet.

SLICKENSIDES. If we examine the walls of a fault, we may find further evidence of movement in the fact that the surfaces are polished and grooved by the enormous friction which they have suffered as they have ground one upon the other. These appearances, called sliekensides, have sometimes been mistaken for the results of glacial action.

NORMAL FAULTS. Faults are of two kinds,—normal faults and thrust faults. Normal faults, of which Figure 184 is an example, hade to the downthrow; the hanging wall has gone down. The total length of the strata has been increased by the displacement. It seems that the strata have been stretched and broken, and that the blocks have readjusted themselves under the action of gravity as they settled.

THRUST FAULTS. Thrust faults hade to the upthrow; the hanging wall has gone up. Clearly such faults, where the strata occupy less space than before, are due to lateral thrust. Folds and thrust faults are closely associated. Under lateral pressure strata may fold to a certain point and then tear apart and fault along the surface of least resistance. Under immense pressure strata also break by shear without folding. Thus, in Figure 185, the rigid earth block under lateral thrust has found it easier to break along the fault plane than to fold. Where such faults are nearly horizontal they are distinguished as THRUST PLANES.

In all thrust faults one mass has been pushed over another, so as to bring the underlying and older strata upon younger beds; and when the fault planes are nearly horizontal, and especially when the rocks have been broken into many slices which have slidden far one upon another, the true succession of strata is extremely hard to decipher.

In the Selkirk Mountains of Canada the basement rocks of the region have been driven east for seven miles on a thrust plane, over rocks which originally lay thousands of feet above them.

Along the western Appalachians, from Virginia to Georgia, the mountain folds are broken by more than fifteen parallel thrust planes, running from northeast to southwest, along which the older strata have been pushed westward over the younger. The longest continuous fault has been traced three hundred and seventy-five miles, and the greatest horizontal displacement has been estimated at not less than eleven miles.

CRUSH BRECCIA. Rocks often do not fault with a clean and simple fracture, but along a zone, sometimes several yards in width, in which they are broken to fragments. It may occur also that strata which as a whole yield to lateral thrust by folding include beds of brittle rocks, such as thin-layered limestones, which are crushed to pieces by the strain. In either case the fragments when recemented by percolating waters form a rock known as a CRUSH BRECCIA (pronounced BRETCHA).

Breccia is a term applied to any rock formed of cemented ANGULAR fragments. This rock may be made by the consolidation of volcanic cinders, of angular waste at the foot of cliffs, or of fragments of coral torn by the waves from coral reefs, as well as of strata crushed by crustal movements.


FAULT SCARPS. A fault of recent date may be marked at surface by a scarp, because the face of the upthrown block has not yet been worn to the level of the downthrow side.

After the upthrown block has been worn down to this level, differential erosion produces fault scarps wherever weak rocks and resistant rocks are brought in contact along the fault plane; and the harder rocks, whether on the upthrow or the downthrow side, emerge in a line of cliffs. Where a fault is so old that no abrupt scarps appear, its general course is sometimes marked by the line of division between highland and lowland or hill and plain. Great faults have sometimes brought ancient crystalline rocks in contact with weaker and younger sedimentary rocks, and long after erosion has destroyed all fault scarps the harder crystallines rise in an upland of rugged or mountainous country which meets the lowland along the line of faulting.

The vast majority of faults give rise to no surface features. The faulted region may be old enough to have been baseleveled, or the rocks on both sides of the line of dislocation may be alike in their resistance to erosion and therefore have been worn down to a common slope. The fault may be entirely concealed by the mantle of waste, and in such cases it can be inferred from abrupt changes in the character or the strike and dip of the strata where they may outcrop near it.

The plateau trenched by the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River exhibits a series of magnificent fault scarps whose general course is from north to south, marking the edges of the great crust blocks into which the country has been broken. The highest part of the plateau is a crust block ninety miles long and thirty-five miles in maximum width, which has been hoisted to nine thousand three hundred feet above, sea level. On the east it descends four thousand feet by a monoclinal fold, which passes into a fault towards the north. On the west it breaks down by a succession of terraces faced by fault scarps. The throw of these faults varies from seven hundred feet to more than a mile. The escarpments, however, are due in a large degree to the erosion of weaker rock on the downthrow side.

The Highlands of Scotland meet the Lowlands on the south with a bold front of rugged hills along a line of dislocation which runs across the country from sea to sea. On the one side are hills of ancient crystalline rocks whose crumpled structures prove that they are but the roots of once lofty mountains; on the other lies a lowland of sandstone and other stratified rocks formed from the waste of those long-vanished mountain ranges. Remnants of sandstone occur in places on the north of the great fault, and are here seen to rest on the worn and fairly even surface of the crystallines. We may infer that these ancient mountains were reduced along their margins to low plains, which were slowly lowered beneath the sea to receive a cover of sedimentary rocks. Still later came an uplift and dislocation. On the one side erosion has since stripped off the sandstones for the most part, but the hard crystalline rocks yet stand in bold relief. On the other side the weak sedimentary rocks have been worn down to lowlands.

RIFT VALLEYS. In a broken region undergoing uplift or the unequal settling which may follow, a slice inclosed between two fissures may sink below the level of the crust blocks on either side, thus forming a linear depression known as a rift valley, or valley of fracture.

One of the most striking examples of this rare type of valley is the long trough which runs straight from the Lebanon Mountains of Syria on the north to the Red Sea on the south, and whose central portion is occupied by the Jordan valley and the Dead Sea. The plateau which it gashes has been lifted more than three thousand feet above sea level, and the bottom of the trough reaches a depth of two thousand six hundred feet below that level in parts of the Dead Sea. South of the Dead Sea the floor of the trough rises somewhat above sea level, and in the Gulf of Akabah again sinks below it. This uneven floor could be accounted for either by the profound warping of a valley of erosion or by the unequal depression of the floor of a rift valley. But that the trough is a true valley of fracture is proved by the fact that on either side it is bounded by fault scarps and monoclinal folds. The keystone of the arch has subsided. Many geologists believe that the Jordan- Akabah trough, the long narrow basin of the Red Sea, and the chain of down-faulted valleys which in Africa extends from the strait of Bab-el-Mandeb as far south as Lake Nyassa—valleys which contain more than thirty lakes—belong to a single system of dislocation.

Should you expect the lateral valleys of a rift valley at the time of its formation to enter it as hanging valleys or at a common level?

BLOCK MOUNTAINS. Dislocations take place on so grand a scale that by the upheaval of blocks of the earth's crust or the down- faulting of the blocks about one which is relatively stationary, mountains known as block mountains are produced. A tilted crust block may present a steep slope on the side upheaved and a more gentle descent on the side depressed.

THE BASIN RANGES. The plateaus of the United States bounded by the Rocky Mouirtains on the east, and on the west by the ranges which front the Pacific, have been profoundly fractured and faulted. The system of great fissures by which they are broken extends north and south, and the long, narrow, tilted crust blocks intercepted between the fissures give rise to the numerous north-south ranges of the region. Some of the tilted blocks, as those of southern Oregon, are as yet but moderately carved by erosion, and shallow lakes lie on the waste that has been washed into the depressions between them. We may therefore conclude that their displacement is somewhat recent. Others, as those of Nevada, are so old that they have been deeply dissected; their original form has been destroyed by erosion, and the intermontane depressions are occupied by wide plains of waste.

DISLOCATIONS AND RIVER VALLEYS. Before geologists had proved that rivers can by their own unaided efforts cut deep canyons, it was common to consider any narrow gorge as a gaping fissure of the crust. This crude view has long since been set aside. A map of the plateaus of northern Arizona shows how independent of the immense faults of the region is the course of the Colorado River. In the Alps the tunnels on the Saint Gotthard railway pass six times beneath the gorge of the Reuss, but at no point do the rocks show the slightest trace of a fault.

RATE OF DISLOCATION. So far as human experience goes, the earth movements which we have just studied, some of which have produced deep-sunk valleys and lofty mountain ranges, and faults whose throw is to be measured in thousands of feet, are slow and gradual. They are not accomplished by a single paroxysmal effort, but by slow creep and a series of slight slips continued for vast lengths of time.

In the Aspen mining district in Colorado faulting is now going on at a comparatively rapid rate. Although no sudden slips take place, the creep of the rock along certain planes of faulting gradually bends out of shape the square-set timbers in horizontal drifts and has closed some vertical shafts by shifting the upper portion across the lower. Along one of the faults of this region it is estimated that there has been a movement of at least four hundred feet since the Glacial epoch. More conspicuous are the instances of active faulting by means of sudden slips. In 1891 there occurred along an old fault plane in Japan a slip which produced an earth rent traced for fifty miles (Fig. 192). The country on one side was depressed in places twenty feet below that on the other, and also shifted as much as thirteen feet horizontally in the direction of the fault line.

In 1872 a slip occurred for forty miles on the great line of dislocation which runs along the eastern base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. In the Owens valley, California, the throw amounted to twenty-five feet in places, with a horizontal movement along the fault line of as much as eighteen feet. Both this slip and that in Japan just mentioned caused severe earthquakes.

For the sake of clearness we have described oscillations, foldings, and fractures of the crust as separate processes, each giving rise to its own peculiar surface features, but in nature earth movements are by no means so simple,—they are often implicated with one another: folds pass into faults; in a deformed region certain rocks have bent, while others under the same strain, but under different conditions of plasticity and load, have broken; folded mountains have been worn to their roots, and the peneplains to which they have been denuded have been upwarped to mountain height and afterwards dissected,—as in the case of the Alleghany ridges, the southern Carpathians, and other ranges, —or, as in the case of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, have been broken and uplifted as mountains of fracture.

Draw the following diagrams, being careful to show the direction in which the faulted blocks have moved, by the position of the two parts of some well-defined layer of limestone, sandstone, or shale, which occurs on each side of the fault plane, as in Figure 184.

1. A normal fault with a hade of 15 degrees, the original fault scarp remaining.

2. A normal fault with a hade of 50 degrees, the original fault scarp worn away, showing cliffs caused by harder strata on the downthrow side.

3. A thrust fault with a hade of 30 degrees, showing cliffs due to harder strata outcropping on the downthrow.

4. A thrust fault with a hade of 80 degrees, with surface baseleveled.

5. In a region of normal faults a coal mine is being worked along the seam of coal AB (Fig. 193). At B it is found broken by a fault f which hades toward A. To find the seam again, should you advise tunneling up or down from B?

6. In a vertical shaft of a coal mine the same bed of coal is pierced twice at different levels because of a fault. Draw a diagram to show whether the fault is normal or a thrust.

7. Copy the diagram in Figure 194, showing how the two ridges may be accounted for by a single resistant stratum dislocated by a fault. Is the fault a STRIKE FAULT, i.e. one running parallel with the strike of the strata, or a DIP FAULT, one running parallel with the direction of the dip?

8. Draw a diagram of the block in Figure 195 as it would appear if dislocated along the plane efg by a normal fault whose throw equals one fourth the height of the block. Is the fault a strike or a dip fault? Draw a second diagram showing the same block after denudation has worn it down below the center of the upthrown side. Note that the outcrop of the coal seam is now deceptively repeated. This exercise may be done in blocks of wood instead of drawings.

9. Draw diagrams showing by dotted lines the conditions both of A and of B, Figure 196, after deformation had given the strata their present attitude.

10. What is the attitude of the strata of this earth block, Figure 197? What has taken place along the plane bef? When did the dislocation occur compared with the folding of the strata? With the erosion of the valleys on the right-hand side of the mountain? With the deposition of the sediments? Do you find any remnants of the original surface baf produced by the dislocation? From the left-hand side of the mountain infer what was the relief of the region before the dislocation. Give the complete history recorded in the diagram from the deposition of the strata to the present.

11. Which is the older fault, in Figure 198, or When did the lava flow occur? How long a time elapsed between the formation of the two faults as measured in the work done in the interval? How long a time since the formation of the later fault?

12. Measure by the scale the thickness lie of the coal-bearing strata outcropping from a to b in Figure 199. On any convenient scale draw a similar section of strata with a dip of 30 degrees outcropping along a horizontal line normal to the strike one thousand feet in length, and measure the thickness of the strata by the scale employed. The thickness may also be calculated by trigonometry.


Strata deposited one upon, another in an unbroken succession are said to be conformable. But the continuous deposition of strata is often interrupted by movements of the earth's crust, Old sea floors are lifted to form land and are again depressed beneath the sea to receive a cover of sediments only after an interval during which they were carved by subaerial erosion. An erosion surface which thus parts older from younger strata is known as an UNCONFORMITY, and the strata above it are said to be UNCONFORMABLE with the rocks below, or to rest unconformably upon them. An unconformity thus records movements of the crust and a consequent break in the deposition of the strata. It denotes a period of land erosion of greater or less length, which may sometimes be roughly measured by the stage in the erosion cycle which the land surface had attained before its burial. Unconformable strata may be parallel, as in Figure 200, where the record includes the deposition of strata, their emergence, the erosion of the land surface, a submergence and the deposit of the strata, and lastly, emergence and the erosion of the present surface.

Often the earth movements to which the uplift or depression was due involved tilting or folding of the earlier strata, so that the strata are now nonparallel as well as unconformable. In Figure 201, for example, the record includes deposition, uplift, and tilting of a; erosion, depression, the deposit of b; and finally the uplift which has brought the rocks to open air and permitted the dissection by which the unconformity is revealed. From this section infer that during early Silurian times the area was sea, and thick sea muds were laid upon it. These were later altered to hard slates by pressure and upfolded into mountains. During the later Silurian and the Devonian the area was land and suffered vast denudation. In the Carboniferous period it was lowered beneath the sea and received a cover of limestone.

THE AGE OF MOUNTAINS. It is largely by means of unconformities that we read the history of mountain making and other deformations and movements of the crust. In Figure 203, for example, the deformation which upfolded the range of mountains took place after the deposit of the series of strata a of which the mountains are composed, and before the deposit of the stratified rocks, which rest unconformably on a and have not shared their uplift.

Most great mountain ranges, like the Sierra Nevada and the Alps, mark lines of weakness along which the earth's crust has yielded again and again during the long ages of geological time. The strata deposited at various times about their flanks have been infolded by later crumplings with the original mountain mass, and have been repeatedly crushed, inverted, faulted, intruded with igneous rocks, and denuded. The structure of great mountain ranges thus becomes exceedingly complex and difficult to read. A comparatively simple case of repeated uplift is shown in Figure 204. In the section of a portion of the Alps shown in Figure 179 a far more complicated history may be deciphered.

UNCONFORMITIES IN THE COLORADO CANYON, ARIZONA. How geological history may be read in unconformities is further illustrated in Figures 207 and 208. The dark crystalline rocks a at the bottom of the canyon are among the most ancient known, and are overlain unconformably by a mass of tilted coarse marine sandstones b, whose total thickness is not seen in the diagram and measures twelve thousand feet perpendicularly to the dip. Both a and b rise to a common level nn and upon them rest the horizontal sea-laid strata c, in which the upper portion of the canyon has been cut.

Note that the crystalline rocks a have been crumpled and crushed. Comparing their structure with that of folded mountains, what do you infer as to their relief after their deformation? To which surface were they first worn down, mm' or nm? Describe and account for the surface mm'. How does it differ from the surface of the crystalline rocks seen in the Torridonian Mountains, and why? This surface mm' is one of the oldest land surfaces of which any vestige remains.

It is a bit of fossil geography buried from view since the earliest geological ages and recently brought to light by the erosion of the canyon.

How did the surface mm' come to receive its cover of sandstones b? From the thickness and coarseness of these sediments draw inferences as to the land mass from which they were derived. Was it rising or subsiding? high or low? Were its streams slow or swift? Was the amount of erosion small or great?

Note the strong dip of these sandstones b. Was the surface mm' tilted as now when the sandstones were deposited upon it? When was it tilted? Draw a diagram showing the attitude of the rocks after this tilting occurred, and their height relative to sea level.

The surface nn' is remarkably even, although diversified by some low hills which rise into the bedded rocks of c, and it may be traced for long distances up and down the canyon. Were the layers of b and the surface mm' always thus cut short by nn' as now? What has made the surface nn' so even? How does it come to cross the hard crystalline rocks a and the weaker sandstones b at the same impartial level? How did the sediments of c come to be laid upon it? Give now the entire history recorded in the section, and in addition that involved in the production of the platform P, shown in Figure 130, and that of the cutting of the canyon. How does the time involved in the cutting of the canyon compare with that required for the production of the surfaces mm', nn', and P?



Any sudden movement of the rocks of the crust, as when they tear apart when a fissure is formed or extended, or slip from time to time along a growing fault, produces a jar called an earthquake, which spreads in all directions from the place of disturbance.

THE CHARLESTON EARTHQUAKE. On the evening of August 31, 1886, the city of Charleston, S.C., was shaken by one of the greatest earthquakes which has occurred in the United States. A slight tremor which rattled the windows was followed a few seconds later by a roar, as of subterranean thunder, as the main shock passed beneath the city. Houses swayed to and fro, and their heaving floors overturned furniture and threw persons off their feet as, dizzy and nauseated, they rushed to the doors for safety. In sixty seconds a number of houses were completely wrecked, fourteen thousand chimneys were toppled over, and in all the city scarcely a building was left without serious injury. In the vicinity of Charleston railways were twisted and trains derailed. Fissures opened in the loose superficial deposits, and in places spouted water mingled with sand from shallow underlying aquifers.

The point of origin, or FOCUS, of the earthquake was inferred from subsequent investigations to be a rent in the rocks about twelve miles beneath the surface. From the center of greatest disturbance, which lay above the focus, a few miles northwest of the city, the surface shock traveled outward in every direction, with decreasing effects, at the rate of nearly two hundred miles per minute. It was felt from Boston to Cuba, and from eastern Iowa to the Bermudas, over a circular area whose diameter was a thousand miles.

An earthquake is transmitted from the focus through the elastic rocks of the crust, as a wave, or series of waves, of compression and rarefaction, much as a sound wave is transmitted through the elastic medium of the air. Each earth particle vibrates with exceeding swiftness, but over a very short path. The swing of a particle in firm rock seldom exceeds one tenth of an inch in ordinary earthquakes, and when it reaches one half an inch and an inch, the movement becomes dangerous and destructive.

The velocity of earthquake waves, like that of all elastic waves, varies with the temperature and elasticity of the medium. In the deep, hot, elastic rocks they speed faster than in the cold and broken rocks near the surface. The deeper the point of origin and the more violent the initial shock, the faster and farther do the vibrations run.

Great earthquakes, caused by some sudden displacement or some violent rending of the rocks, shake the entire planet. Their waves run through the body of the earth at the rate of about three hundred and fifty miles a minute, and more slowly round its circumference, registering their arrival at opposite sides of the globe on the exceedingly delicate instruments of modern earthquake observatories.

GEOLOGICAL EFFECTS. Even great earthquakes seldom produce geological effects of much importance. Landslides may be shaken down from the sides of mountains and hills, and cracks may be opened in the surface deposits of plains; but the transient shiver, which may overturn cities and destroy thousands of human lives, runs through the crust and leaves it much the same as before.

EARTHQUAKES ATTENDING GREAT DISPLACEMENTS. Great earthquakes frequently attend the displacement of large masses of the rocks of the crust. In 1822 the coast of Chile was suddenly raised three or four feet, and the rise was five or six feet a mile inland. In 1835 the same region was again upheaved from two to ten feet. In each instance a destructive earthquake was felt for one thousand miles along the coast.

THE GREAT CALIFORNIA EARTHQUAKE OF 1906. A sudden dislocation occurred in 1906 along an ancient fault plane which extends for 300 miles through western California. The vertical displacement did not exceed four feet, while the horizontal shifting reached a maximum of twenty feet. Fences, rows of trees, and roads which crossed the fault were broken and offset. The latitude and longitude of all points over thousands of square miles were changed. On each side of the fault the earth blocks moved in opposite directions, the block on the east moving southward and that on the west moving northward and to twice the distance. East and west of the fault the movements lessened with increasing distance from it.

This sudden slip set up an earthquake lasting sixty-five seconds, followed by minor shocks recurring for many days. In places the jar shook down the waste on steep hillsides, snapped off or uprooted trees, and rocked houses from their foundations or threw down their walls or chimneys. The water mains of San Francisco were broken, and the city was thus left defenseless against a conflagration which destroyed $500,000,000 worth of property. The destructive effects varied with the nature of the ground. Buildings on firm rock suffered least, while those on deep alluvium were severely shaken by the undulations, like water waves, into which the loose material was thrown. Well-braced steel structures, even of the largest size, were earthquake proof, and buildings of other materials, when honestly built and intelligently designed to withstand earthquake shocks, usually suffered little injury. The length of the intervals between severe earthquakes in western California shows that a great dislocation so relieves the stresses of the adjacent earth blocks that scores of years may elapse before the stresses again accumulate and cause another dislocation.

Perhaps the most violent earthquake which ever visited the United States attended the depression, in 1812, of a region seventy-five miles long and thirty miles wide, near New Madrid, Mo. Much of the area was converted into swamps and some into shallow lakes, while a region twenty miles in diameter was bulged up athwart the channel of the Mississippi. Slight quakes are still felt in this region from time to time, showing that the strains to which the dislocation was due have not yet been fully relieved.

EARTHQUAKES ORIGINATING BENEATH THE SEA. Many earthquakes originate beneath the sea, and in a number of examples they seem to have been accompanied, as soundings indicate, by local subsidences of the ocean bottom. There have been instances where the displacement has been sufficient to set the entire Pacific Ocean pulsating for many hours. In mid ocean the wave thus produced has a height of only a few feet, while it may be two hundred miles in width. On shores near the point of origin destructive waves two or three score feet in height roll in, and on coasts thousands of miles distant the expiring undulations may be still able to record themselves on tidal gauges.

DISTRIBUTION OF EARTHQUAKES. Every half hour some considerable area of the earth's surface is sensibly shaken by an earthquake, but earthquakes are by no means uniformly distributed over the globe. As we might infer from what we know as to their causes, earthquakes are most frequent in regions now undergoing deformation. Such are young rising mountain ranges, fault lines where readjustments recur from time to time, and the slopes of suboceanic depressions whose steepness suggests that subsidence may there be in progress.

Earthquakes, often of extreme severity, frequently visit the lofty and young ranges of the Andes, while they are little known in the subdued old mountains of Brazil. The Highlands of Scotland are crossed by a deep and singularly straight depression called the Great Glen, which has been excavated along a very ancient line of dislocation. The earthquakes which occur from time to time in this region, such as the Inverness earthquake in 1891, are referred to slight slips along this fault plane.

In Japan, earthquakes are very frequent. More than a thousand are recorded every year, and twenty-nine world-shaking earthquakes occurred in the three years ending with 1901. They originate, for the most part, well down on the eastern flank of the earth fold whose summit is the mountainous crest of the islands, and which plunges steeply beneath the sea to the abyss of the Tuscarora Deep.

MINOR CAUSES OF EARTHQUAKES. Since any concussion within the crust sets up an earth jar, there are several minor causes of earthquakes, such as volcanic explosions and even the collapse of the roofs of caves. The earthquakes which attend the eruption of volcanoes are local, even in the case of the most violent volcanic paroxysms known. When the top of a volcano has been blown to fragments, the accompanying earth shock has sometimes not been felt more than twenty-five miles away.

DEPTH OF FOCUS. The focus of the Charleston earthquake, estimated at about twelve miles below the surface, was exceptionally deep. Volcanic earthquakes are particularly shallow, and probably no earthquakes known have started at a greater depth than fifteen or twenty miles. This distance is so slight compared with the earth's radius that we may say that earthquakes are but skin-deep.

Should you expect the velocity of an earthquake to be greater in a peneplain or in a river delta?

After an earthquake, piles on which buildings rested were found driven into the ground, and chimneys crushed at base. From what direction did the shock come?

Chimneys standing on the south walls of houses toppled over on the roof. Should you infer that the shock in this case came from the north or south?

How should you expect a shock from the east to affect pictures hanging on the east and the west walls of a room? how the pictures hanging on the north and the south walls?

In parts of the country, as in southwestern Wisconsin, slender erosion pillars, or "monuments," are common. What inference could you draw as to the occurrence in such regions of severe earthquakes in the recent past?



Connected with movements of the earth's crust which take place so slowly that they can be inferred only from their effects is one of the most rapid and impressive of all geological processes,—the extrusion of molten rock from beneath the surface of the earth, giving rise to all the various phenomena of volcanoes.

In a volcano, molten rock from a region deep below, which we may call its reservoir, ascends through a pipe or fissure to the surface. The materials erupted may be spread over vast areas, or, as is commonly the case, may accumulate about the opening, forming a conical pile known as the volcanic cone. It is to this cone that popular usage refers the word VOLCANO; but the cone is simply a conspicuous part of the volcanic mechanism whose still more important parts, the reservoir and the pipe, are hidden from view.

Volcanic eruptions are of two types,—EFFUSIVE eruptions, in which molten rock wells up from below and flows forth in streams of LAVA (a comprehensive term applied to all kinds of rock emitted from volcanoes in a molten state), and EXPLOSIVE eruptions, in which the rock is blown out in fragments great and small by the expansive force of steam.


THE HAWAIIAN VOLCANOES. The Hawaiian Islands are all volcanic in origin, and have a linear arrangement characteristic of many volcanic groups in all parts of the world. They are strung along a northwest-southeast line, their volcanoes standing in two parallel rows as if reared along two adjacent lines of fracture or folding. In the northwestern islands the volcanoes have long been extinct and are worn low by erosion. In the southeastern island. Hawaii, three volcanoes are still active and in process of building. Of these Mauna Loa, the monarch of volcanoes, with a girth of two hundred miles and a height of nearly fourteen thousand feet above sea level, is a lava dome the slope of whose sides does not average more than five degrees. On the summit is an elliptical basin ten miles in circumference and several hundred feet deep. Concentric cracks surround the rim, and from time to time the basin is enlarged as great slices are detached from the vertical walls and engulfed.

Such a volcanic basin, formed by the insinking of the top of the cone, is called a CALDERA.

On the flanks of Mauna Loa, four thousand feet above sea level, lies the caldera of Kilauea, an independent volcano whose dome has been joined to the larger mountain by the gradual growth of the two. In each caldera the floor, which to the eye is a plain of black lava, is the congealed surface of a column of molten rock. At times of an eruption lakes of boiling lava appear which may be compared to air holes in a frozen river. Great waves surge up, lifting tons of the fiery liquid a score of feet in air, to fall back with a mighty plunge and roar, and occasionally the lava rises several hundred feet in fountains of dazzling brightness. The lava lakes may flood the floor of the basin, but in historic times have never been known to fill it and overflow the rim. Instead, the heavy column of lava breaks way through the sides of the mountain and discharges in streams which flow down the mountain slopes for a distance sometimes of as much as thirty-five miles. With the drawing off of the lava the column in the duct of the volcano lowers, and the floor of the caldera wholly or in part subsides. A black and steaming abyss marks the place of the lava lakes. After a time the lava rises in the duct, the floor is floated higher, and the boiling lakes reappear.

The eruptions of the Hawaiian volcanoes are thus of the effusive type. The column of lava rises, breaks through the side of the mountain, and discharges in lava streams. There are no explosions, and usually no earthquakes, or very slight ones, accompany the eruptions. The lava in the calderas boils because of escaping steam, but the vapor emitted is comparatively little, and seldom hangs above the summits in heavy clouds. We see here in its simplest form the most impressive and important fact in all volcanic action, molten rock has been driven upward to the surface from some deep-lying source.

LAVA FLOWS. As lava issues from the side of a volcano or overflows from the summit, it flows away in a glowing stream resembling molten iron drawn white-hot from an iron furnace. The surface of the stream soon cools and blackens, and the hard crust of nonconducting rock may grow thick and firm enough to form a tunnel, within which the fluid lava may flow far before it loses its heat to any marked degree. Such tunnels may at last be left as caves by the draining away of the lava, and are sometimes several miles in length.

PAHOEHOE AND AA. When the crust of highly fluid lava remains unbroken after its first freezing, it presents a smooth, hummocky, and ropy surface known by the Hawaiian term PAHOEHOE. On the other hand, the crust of a viscid flow may be broken and splintered as it is dragged along by the slowly moving mass beneath. The stream then appears as a field of stones clanking and grinding on, with here and there from some chink a dull red glow or a wisp of steam. It sets to a surface called AA, of broken, sharp-edged blocks, which is often both difficult and dangerous to traverse.

FISSURE ERUPTIONS. Some of the largest and most important outflows of lava have not been connected with volcanic cones, but have been discharged from fissures, flooding the country far and wide with molten rock. Sheet after sheet of molten rock has been successively outpoured, and there have been built up, layer upon layer, plateaus of lava thousands of feet in thickness and many thousands of square miles in area.

ICELAND. This island plateau has been rent from time to time by fissures from which floods of lava have outpoured. In some instances the lava discharges along the whole length of the fissure, but more often only at certain points upon it. The Laki fissure, twenty miles long, was in eruption in 1783 for seven months. The inundation of fluid rock which poured from it is the largest of historic record, reaching a distance of forty-seven miles and covering two hundred and twenty square miles to an average depth of a hundred feet. At the present time the fissure is traced by a line of several hundred insignificant mounds of fragmental materials which mark where the lava issued.

The distance to which the fissure eruptions of Iceland flow on slopes extremely gentle is noteworthy. One such stream is ninety miles in length, and another seventy miles long has a slope of little more than one half a degree.

Where lava is emitted at one point and flows to a less distance there is gradually built up a dome of the shape of an inverted saucer with an immense base but comparatively low. Many LAVA DOMES have been discovered in Iceland, although from their exceedingly gentle slopes, often but two or three degrees, they long escaped the notice of explorers.

The entire plateau of Iceland, a region as large as Ohio, is composed of volcanic products,—for the most part of successive sheets of lava whose total thickness falls little short of two miles. The lava sheets exposed to view were outpoured in open air and not beneath the sea; for peat bogs and old forest grounds are interbedded with them, and the fossil plants of these vegetable deposits prove that the plateau has long been building and is very ancient. On the steep sea cliffs of the island, where its structure is exhibited, the sheets of lava are seen to be cut with many DIKES,—fissures which have been filled by molten rock,—and there is little doubt that it was through these fissures that the lava outwelled in successive flows which spread far and wide over the country and gradually reared the enormous pile of the plateau.


In the majority of volcanoes the lava which rises in the pipe is at least in part blown into fragments with violent explosions and shot into the air together with vast quantities of water vapor and various gases. The finer particles into—which the lava is exploded are called VOLCANIC DUST or VOLCANIC ASHES, and are often carried long distances by the wind before they settle to the earth. The coarser fragments fall about the vent and there accumulate in a steep, conical, volcanic mountain. As successive explosions keep open the throat of the pipe, there remains on the summit a cup-shaped depression called the CRATER.

STROMBOLI. To study the nature of these explosions we may visit Stromboli, a low volcano built chiefly of fragmental materials, which rises from the sea off the north coast of Sicily and is in constant though moderate action.

Over the summit hangs a cloud of vapor which strikingly resembles the column of smoke puffed from the smokestack of a locomotive, in that it consists of globular masses, each the product of a distinct explosion. At night the cloud of vapor is lighted with a red glow at intervals of a few minutes, like the glow on the trail of smoke behind the locomotive when from time to time the fire bos is opened. Because of this intermittent light flashing thousands of feet above the sea, Stromboli has been given the name of the Lighthouse of the Mediterranean.

Looking down into the crater of the volcano, one sees a viscid lava slowly seething. The agitation gradually increases. A great bubble forms. It bursts with an explosion which causes the walls of the crater to quiver with a miniature earthquake, and an outrush of steam carries the fragments of the bubble aloft for a thousand feet to fall into the crater or on the mountain side about it. With the explosion the cooled and darkened crust of the lava is removed, and the light of the incandescent liquid beneath is reflected from the cloud of vapor which overhangs the cone.

At Stromboli we learn the lesson that the explosive force in volcanoes is that of steam. The lava in the pipe is permeated with it much as is a thick boiling porridge. The steam in boiling porridge is unable to escape freely and gathers into bubbles which in breaking spurt out drops of the pasty substance; in the same way the explosion of great bubbles of steam in the viscid lava shoots clots and fragments of it into the air.

KRAKATOA. The most violent eruption of history, that of Krakatoa, a small volcanic island in the strait between Sumatra and Java, occurred in the last week of August, 1883. Continuous explosions shot a column of steam and ashes. seventeen miles in air. A black cloud, beneath which was midnight darkness and from which fell a rain of ashes and stones, overspread the surrounding region to a distance of one hundred and fifty miles. Launched on the currents of the upper air, the dust was swiftly carried westward to long distances. Three days after the eruption it fell on the deck of a ship sixteen hundred miles away, and in thirteen days the finest impalpable powder from the volcano had floated round the globe. For many months the dust hung over Europe and America as a faint lofty haze illuminated at sunrise and sunset with brilliant crimson. In countries nearer the eruption, as in India and Africa, the haze for some time was so thick that it colored sun and moon with blue, green, and copper-red tints and encircled them with coronas.

At a distance of even a thousand miles the detonations of the eruption sounded like the booming of heavy guns a few miles away. In one direction they were audible for a distance as great as that from San Francisco to Cleveland. The entire atmosphere was thrown into undulations under which all barometers rose and fell as the air waves thrice encircled the earth. The shock of the explosions raised sea waves which swept round the adjacent shores at a height of more than fifty feet, and which were perceptible halfway around the globe.

At the close of the eruption it was found that half the mountain had been blown away, and that where the central part of the island had been the sea was a thousand feet deep.

MARTINIQUE AND ST. VINCENT. In 1902 two dormant volcanoes of the West Indies, Mt. Pelee in Martinique and Soufriere in St. Vincent, broke into eruption simultaneously. No lava was emitted, but there were blown into the air great quantities of ashes, which mantled the adjacent parts of the islands with a pall as of gray snow. In early stages of the eruption lakes which occupied old craters were discharged and swept down the ash-covered mountain valleys in torrents of boiling mud.

On several occasions there was shot from the crater of each volcano a thick and heavy cloud of incandescent ashes and steam, which rushed down the mountain side like an avalanche, red with glowing stones and scintillating with lightning flashes. Forests and buildings in its path were leveled as by a tornado, wood was charred and set on fire by the incandescent fragments, all vegetation was destroyed, and to breathe the steam and hot, suffocating dust of the cloud was death to every living creature. On the morning of the 8th of May, 1902, the first of these peculiar avalanches from Mt. Pelee fell on the city of St. Pierre and instantly destroyed the lives of its thirty thousand inhabitants.

The eruptions of many volcanoes partake of both the effusive and the explosive types: the molten rock in the pipe is in part blown into the air with explosions of steam, and in part is discharged in streams of lava over the lip of the crater and from fissures in the sides of the cone. Such are the eruptions of Vesuvius, one of which is illustrated in Figure 219.

SUBMARINE ERUPTIONS. The many volcanic islands of the ocean and the coral islands resting on submerged volcanic peaks prove that eruptions have often taken place upon the ocean floor and have there built up enormous piles of volcanic fragments and lava. The Hawaiian volcanoes rise from a depth of eighteen thousand feet of water and lift their heads to about thirty thousand feet above the ocean bed. Christmas Island (see p. 194), built wholly beneath the ocean, is a coral-capped volcanic peak, whose total height, as measured from the bottom of the sea, is more than fifteen thousand feet. Deep-sea soundings have revealed the presence of numerous peaks which fail to reach sea level and which no doubt are submarine volcanoes. A number of volcanoes on the land were submarine in their early stages, as, for example, the vast pile of Etna, the celebrated Sicilian volcano, which rests on stratified volcanic fragments containing marine shells now uplifted from the sea.

Submarine outflows of lava and deposits of volcanic fragments become covered with sediments during the long intervals between eruptions. Such volcanic deposits are said to be CONTEMPORANEOUS, because they are formed during the same period as the strata among which they are imbedded. Contemporaneous lava sheets may be expected to bake the surface of the stratum on which they rest, while the sediments deposited upon them are unaltered by their heat. They are among the most permanent records of volcanic action, far outlasting the greatest volcanic mountains built in open air.

From upraised submarine volcanoes, such as Christmas Island, it is learned that lava flows which are poured out upon the bottom of the sea do not differ materially either in composition or texture from those of the land.


Vast amounts of steam are, as we have seen, emitted from volcanoes, and comparatively small quantities of other vapors, such as various acid and sulphurous gases. The rocks erupted from volcanoes differ widely in chemical composition and in texture.

ACIDIC AND BASIC LAVAS. Two classes of volcanic rocks may be distinguished,—those containing a large proportion of silica (silicic acid, SiO2) and therefore called ACIDIC, and those containing less silica and a larger proportion of the bases (lime, magnesia, soda, etc.) and therefore called BASIC. The acidic lavas, of which RHYOLITE and THRACHYTE are examples, are comparatively light in color and weight, and are difficult to melt. The basic lavas, of which BASALT is a type, are dark and heavy and melt at a lower temperature.

SCORIA AND PUMICE. The texture of volcanic rocks depends in part on the degree to which they were distended by the steam which permeated them when in a molten state. They harden into compact rock where the steam cannot expand. Where the steam is released from pressure, as on the surface of a lava stream, it forms bubbles (steam blebs) of various sizes, which give the hardened rock a cellular structure (Fig. 220), In this way are formed the rough slags and clinkers called SCORIA, which are found on the surface of flows and which are also thrown out as clots of lava in explosive eruptions.

On the surface of the seething lava in the throat of the volcano there gathers a rock foam, which, when hurled into the air, is cooled and falls as PUMICE,—a spongy gray rock so light that it floats on water.

AMYGDULES. The steam blebs of lava flows are often drawn out from a spherical to an elliptical form resembling that of an almond, and after the rock has cooled these cavities are gradually filled with minerals deposited from solution by underground water. From their shape such casts are called amygdules (Greek, amygdalon, an almond). Amygdules are commonly composed of silica. Lavas contain both silica and the alkalies, potash and soda, and after dissolving the alkalies, percolating water is able to take silica also into solution. Most AGATES are banded amygdules in which the silica has been laid in varicolored, concentric layers.

GLASSY AND STONY LAVAS. Volcanic rocks differ in texture according also to the rate at which they have solidified. When rapidly cooled, as on the surface of a lava flow, molten rock chills to a glass, because the minerals of which it is composed have not had time to separate themselves from the fused mixture and form crystals. Under slow cooling, as in the interior of the flow, it becomes a stony mass composed of crystals set in a glassy paste. In thin slices of volcanic glass one may see under the microscope the beginnings of crystal growth in filaments and needles and feathery forms, which are the rudiments of the crystals of various minerals.

Spherulites, which also mark the first changes of glassy lavas toward a stony condition, are little balls within the rock, varying from microscopic size to several inches in diameter, and made up of radiating fibers.

Perlitic structure, common among glassy lavas, consists of microscopic curving and interlacing cracks, due to contraction.

FLOW LINES are exhibited by volcanic rocks both to the naked eye and under the microscope. Steam blebs, together with crystals and their embryonic forms, are left arranged in lines and streaks by the currents of the flowing lava as it stiffened into rock.

PORPHYRITIC STRUCTURE. Rocks whose ground mass has scattered through it large conspicuous crystals are said to be PORPHYRITIC, and it is especially among volcanic rocks that this structure occurs. The ground mass of porphyries either may be glassy or may consist in part of a felt of minute crystals; in either case it represents the consolidation of the rock after its outpouring upon the surface. On the other hand, the large crystals of porphyry have slowly formed deep below the ground at an earlier date.

COLUMNAR STRUCTURE. Just as wet starch contracts on drying to prismatic forms, so lava often contracts on cooling to a mass of close-set, prismatic, and commonly six-sided columns, which stand at right angles to the cooling surface. The upper portion of a flow, on rapid cooling from the surface exposed to the air, may contract to a confused mass of small and irregular prisms; while the remainder forms large and beautifully regular columns, which have grown upward by slow cooling from beneath.


Rocks weighing many tons are often thrown from a volcano at the beginning of an outburst by the breaking up of the solidofied floor of the crater; and during the progress of an eruption large blocks may be torn from the throat of the volcano by the outrush of steam. But the most important fragmental materials are those derived from the lava itself. As lava rises in the pipe, the steam which permeates it is released from pressure and explodes, hurling the lava into the air in fragments of all sizes,—large pieces of scoria, LAPILLI (fragments the size of a pea or walnut), volcanic "sand" and volcanic "ashes." The latter resemble in appearance the ashes of wood or coal, but they are not in any sense, like them, a residue after combustion.

Volcanic ashes are produced in several ways: lava rising in the volcanic duct is exploded into fine dust by the steam which permeates it; glassy lava, hurled into the air and cooled suddenly, is brought into a state of high strain and tension, and, like Prince Rupert's drops, flies to pieces at the least provocation. The clash of rising and falling projectiles also produces some dust, a fair sample of which may be made by grating together two pieces of pumice.

Beds of volcanic ash occur widely among recent deposits in the western United States. In Nebraska ash beds are found in twenty counties, and are often as white as powdered pumice. The beds grow thicker and coarser toward the southwestern part of the state, where their thickness sometimes reaches fifty feet. In what direction would you look for the now extinct volcano whose explosive eruptions are thus recorded?

TUFF. This is a convenient term designating any rock composed of volcanic fragments. Coarse tuffs of angular fragments are called VOLCANIC BRECIA, and when the fragments have been rounded and sorted by water the rock is termed a VOLCANIC CONGLOMERATE. Even when deposited in the open air, as on the slopes of a volcano, tuffs may be rudely bedded and their fragments more or less rounded, and unless marine shells or the remains of land plants and animals are found as fossils in them, there is often considerable difficulty in telling whether they were laid in water or in air. In either case they soon become consolidated. Chemical deposits from percolating waters fill the interstices, and the bed of loose fragments is cemented to hard rock.

The materials of which tuffs are composed are easily recognized as volcanic in their origin. The fragments are more or less cellular, according to the degree to which they were distended with steam when in a molten state, and even in the finest dust one may see the glass or the crystals of lava from which it was derived. Tuffs often contain VOCLANIC BOMBS,—balls of lava which took shape while whirling in the air, and solidified before falling to the ground.

ANCIENT VOLCANIC ROCKS. It is in these materials and structures which we have described that volcanoes leave some of their most enduring records. Even the volcanic rocks of the earliest geological ages, uplifted after long burial beneath the sea and exposed to view by deep erosion, are recognized and their history read despite the many changes which they may have undergone. A sheet of ancient lava may be distinguished by its composition from the sediments among which it is imbedded. The direction of its flow lines may be noted. The cellular and slaggy surface where the pasty lava was distended by escaping steam is recognized by the amygdules which now fill the ancient steam blebs. In a pile of successive sheets of lava each flow may be distinguished and its thickness measured; for the surface of each sheet is glassy and scoriaceous, while beneath its upper portions the lava of each flow is more dense and stony. The length of time which elapsed before a sheet was buried beneath the materials of succeeding eruptions may be told by the amount of weathering which it had undergone, the depth of ancient soil—now baked to solid rock—upon it, and the erosion which it had suffered in the interval.

If the flow occurred from some submarine volcano, we may recognize the fact by the sea-laid sediments which cover it, filling the cracks and crevices of its upper surface and containing pieces of lava washed from it in their basal layers.

Long-buried glassy lavas devitrify, or pass to a stony condition, under the unceasing action of underground waters; but their flow lines and perlitic and spherulitic structures remain to tell of their original state.

Ancient tuffs are known by the fragmental character of their volcanic material, even though they have been altered to firm rock. Some remains of land animals and plants may be found imbedded to tell that the beds were laid in open air; while the remains of marine organisms would prove as surely that the tuffs were deposited in the sea.

In these ways ancient volcanoes have been recognized near Boston, in southeastern Pennsylvania, about Lake Superior, and in other regions of the United States.


The invasion of a region by volcanic forces is attended by movements of the crust heralded by earthquakes. A fissure or a pipe is opened and the building of the cone or the spreading of wide lava sheets is begun.

VOLCANIC CONES. The shape of a volcanic cone depends chiefly on the materials erupted. Cones made of fragments may have sides as steep as the angle of repose, which in the case of coarse scoria is sometimes as high as thirty or forty degrees. About the base of the mountain the finer materials erupted are spread in more gentle slopes, and are also washed forward by rains and streams. The normal profile is thus a symmetric cone with a flaring base.

Cones built of lava vary in form according to the liquidity of the lava. Domes of gentle slope, as those of Hawaii, for example, are formed of basalt, which flows to long distances before it congeals. When superheated and emitted from many vents, this easily melted lava builds great plateaus, such as that of Iceland. On the other hand, lavas less fusible, or poured out at a lower temperature, stiffen when they have flowed but a short distance, and accumulate in a steep cone. Trachyte has been extruded in a state so viscid that it has formed steepsided domes like that of Sarcoui.

Most volcanoes are built, like Vesuvius, both of lava flows and of tuffs, and sections show that the structure of the cone consists of outward-dipping, alternating layers of lava, scoria, and ashes.

From time to time the cone is rent by the violence of explosions and by the weight of the column of lava in the pipe. The fissures are filled with lava and some discharge on the sides of the mountain, building parasitic cones, while all form dikes, which strengthen the pile with ribs of hard rock and make it more difficult to rend.

Great catastrophes are recorded in the shape of some volcanoes which consist of a circular rim perhaps miles in diameter, inclosing a vast crater or a caldera within which small cones may rise. We may infer that at some time the top of the mountain has been blown off, or has collapsed and been engulfed because some reservoir beneath had been emptied by long-continued eruptions.

The cone-building stage may be said to continue until eruptions of lava and fragmental materials cease altogether. Sooner or later the volcanic forces shift or die away, and no further eruptions add to the pile or replace its losses by erosion during periods of repose. Gases however are still emitted, and, as sulphur vapors are conspicuous among them, such vents are called SOLFATARAS. Mount Hood, in Oregon, is an example of a volcano sunk to this stage. From a steaming rift on its side there rise sulphurous fumes which, half a mile down the wind, will tarnish a silver coin.

GEYSERS AND HOT SPRINGS. The hot springs of volcanic regions are among the last vestiges of volcanic heat. Periodically eruptive boiling springs are termed geysers. In each of the geyser regions of the earth—the Yellowstone National Park, Iceland, and New Zealand—the ground water of the locality is supposed to be heated by ancient lavas that, because of the poor conductivity of the rock, still remain hot beneath the surface.

OLD FAITHFUL, one of the many geysers of the Yellowstone National Park, plays a fountain of boiling water a hundred feet in air; while clouds of vapor from the escaping steam ascend to several times that height. The eruptions take place at intervals of from seventy to ninety minutes. In repose the geyser is a quiet pool, occupying a craterlike depression in a conical mound some twelve feet high. The conduit of the spring is too irregular to be sounded. The mound is composed of porous silica deposited by the waters of the geyser.

Geysers erupt at intervals instead of continuously boiling, because their long, narrow, and often tortuous conduits do not permit a free circulation of the water. After an eruption the tube is refilled and the water again gradually becomes heated. Deep in the tube where it is in contact with hot lavas the water sooner or later reaches the boiling point, and bursting into steam shoots the water above it high in air.

CARBONATED SPRINGS. After all the other signs of life have gone, the ancient volcano may emit carbon dioxide as its dying breath. The springs of the region may long be charged with carbon dioxide, or carbonated, and where they rise through limestone may be expected to deposit large quantities of travertine. We should remember, however, that many carbonated springs, and many hot springs, are wholly independent of volcanoes.

THE DESTRUCTION OF THE CONE. As soon as the volcanic cone ceases to grow by eruptions the agents of erosion begin to wear it down, and the length of time that has elapsed since the period of active growth may be roughly measured by the degree to which the cone has been dissected. We infer that Mount Shasta, whose conical shape is still preserved despite the gullies one thousand feet deep which trench its sides, is younger than Mount Hood, which erosive agencies have carved to a pyramidal form. The pile of materials accumulated about a volcanic vent, no matter how vast in bulk, is at last swept entirely away. The cone of the volcano, active or extinct, is not old as the earth counts time; volcanoes are short- lived geological phenomena.

CRANDALL VOLCANO. This name is given to a dissected ancient volcano in the Yellowstone National Park, which once, it is estimated, reared its head thousands of feet above the surrounding country and greatly exceeded in bulk either Mount Shasta or Mount Etna. Not a line of the original mountain remains; all has been swept away by erosion except some four thousand feet of the base of the pile. This basal wreck now appears as a rugged region about thirty miles in diameter, trenched by deep valleys and cut into sharp peaks and precipitous ridges. In the center of the area is found the nucleus (N, Fig. 237),—a mass of coarsely crystalline rock that congealed deep in the old volcanic pipe. From it there radiate in all directions, like the spokes of a wheel, long dikes whose rock grows rapidly finer of grain as it leaves the vicinity of the once heated core. The remainder of the base of the ancient mountain is made of rudely bedded tuffs and volcanic breccia, with occasional flows of lava, some of the fragments of the breccia measuring as much as twenty feet in diameter. On the sides of canyons the breccia is carved by rain erosion to fantastic pinnacles. At different levels in the midst of these beds of tuff and lava are many old forest grounds. The stumps and trunks of the trees, now turned to stone, still in many cases stand upright where once they grew on the slopes of the mountain as it was building (Fig. 238). The great size and age of some of these trees indicate, the lapse of time between the eruption whose lavas or tuffs weathered to the soil on which they grew and the subsequent eruption which buried them beneath showers of stones and ashes.

Near the edge of the area lies Death Gulch, in which carbon dioxide is given off in such quantities that in quiet weather it accumulates in a heavy layer along the ground and suffocates the animals which may enter it.



It is because long-continued erosion lays bare the innermost anatomy of an extinct volcano, and even sweeps away the entire pile with much of the underlying strata, thus leaving the very roots of the volcano open to view, that we are able to study underground volcanic structures. With these we include, for convenience, intrusions of molten rock which have been driven upward into the crust, but which may not have succeeded in breaking way to the surface and establishing a volcano. All these structures are built of rock forced when in a fluid or pasty state into some cavity which it has found or made, and we may classify them therefore, according to the shape of the molds in which the molten rock has congealed, as (1) dikes, (2) volcanic necks, (3) intrusive sheets, and (4) intrusive masses.

DIKES. The sheet of once molten rock with which a fissure has been filled is known as a dike. Dikes are formed when volcanic cones are rent by explosions or by the weight of the lava column in the duct, and on the dissection of the pile they appear as radiating vertical ribs cutting across the layers of lava and tuff of which the cone is built. In regions undergoing deformation rocks lying deep below the ground are often broken and the fissures are filled with molten rock from beneath, which finds no outlet to the surface. Such dikes are common in areas of the most ancient rocks, which have been brought to light by long erosion.

In exceptional cases dikes may reach the length of fifty or one hundred miles. They vary in width from a fraction of a foot to even as much as three hundred feet.

Dikes are commonly more fine of grain on the sides than in the center, and may have a glassy and crackled surface where they meet the inclosing rock. Can you account for this on any principle which you have learned?

VOLCANIC NECKS. The pipe of a volcano rises from far below the base of the cone,—from the deep reservoir from which its eruptions are supplied. When the volcano has become extinct this great tube remains filled with hardened lava. It forms a cylindrical core of solid rock, except for some distance below the ancient crater, where it may contain a mass of fragments which had fallen back into the chimney after being hurled into the air.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8     Next Part
Home - Random Browse