The Student's Elements of Geology
by Sir Charles Lyell
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(FIGURE 14. e. Recent wood bored by Toredo. d. Shell and tube of Teredo navalis, from the same. c. Anterior and posterior view of the valves of same detached from the tube.))

It may be well to mention one more illustration of the manner in which single fossils may sometimes throw light on a former state of things, both in the bed of the ocean and on some adjoining land. We meet with many fragments of wood bored by ship-worms at various depths in the clay on which London is built. Entire branches and stems of trees, several feet in length, are sometimes found drilled all over by the holes of these borers, the tubes and shells of the mollusk still remaining in the cylindrical hollows. In Figure 14, e, a representation is given of a piece of recent wood pierced by the Teredo navalis, or common ship-worm, which destroys wooden piles and ships. When the cylindrical tube d has been extracted from the wood, the valves are seen at the larger or anterior extremity, as shown at c. In like manner, a piece of fossil wood (a, Figure 13) has been perforated by a kindred but extinct genus, the Teredina of Lamarck. The calcareous tube of this mollusk was united and, as it were, soldered on to the valves of the shell (b), which therefore can not be detached from the tube, like the valves of the recent Teredo. The wood in this fossil specimen is now converted into a stony mass, a mixture of clay and lime; but it must once have been buoyant and floating in the sea, when the Teredinae lived upon, and perforated it. Again, before the infant colony settled upon the drift wood, part of a tree must have been floated down to the sea by a river, uprooted, perhaps, by a flood, or torn off and cast into the waves by the wind: and thus our thoughts are carried back to a prior period, when the tree grew for years on dry land, enjoying a fit soil and climate.


(FIGURE 15. Gaillonella ferruginea, Ehb.)

(FIGURE 16. Gaillonella distans, Ehb.)

(FIGURE 17. Bacillaria paradoxa. a. Front view. b. Side view.)

It has been already remarked that there are rocks in the interior of continents, at various depths in the earth, and at great heights above the sea, almost entirely made up of the remains of zoophytes and testacea. Such masses may be compared to modern oyster-beds and coral-reefs; and, like them, the rate of increase must have been extremely gradual. But there are a variety of stone deposits in the earth's crust, now proved to have been derived from plants and animals of which the organic origin was not suspected until of late years, even by naturalists. Great surprise was therefore created some years since by the discovery of Professor Ehrenberg, of Berlin, that a certain kind of siliceous stone, called tripoli, was entirely composed of millions of the remains of organic beings, which were formerly referred to microscopic Infusoria, but which are now admitted to be plants. They abound in rivulets, lakes, and ponds in England and other countries, and are termed Diatomaceae by those naturalists who believe in their vegetable origin. The subject alluded to has long been well- known in the arts, under the name of infusorial earth or mountain meal, and is used in the form of powder for polishing stones and metals. It has been procured, among other places, from the mud of a lake at Dolgelly, in North Wales, and from Bilin, in Bohemia, in which latter place a single stratum, extending over a wide area, is no less than fourteen feet thick. This stone, when examined with a powerful microscope, is found to consist of the siliceous plates or frustules of the above-figured Diatomaceae, united together without any visible cement. It is difficult to convey an idea of their extreme minuteness; but Ehrenberg estimates that in the Bilin tripoli there are 41,000 millions of individuals of the Gaillonella distans (see Figure 16) in every cubic inch (which weighs about 220 grains), or about 187 millions in a single grain. At every stroke, therefore, that we make with this polishing powder, several millions, perhaps tens of millions, of perfect fossils are crushed to atoms.

A well-known substance, called bog-iron ore, often met with in peat-mosses, has often been shown by Ehrenberg to consist of innumerable articulated threads, of a yellow ochre colour, composed of silica, argillaceous matter, and peroxide of iron. These threads are the cases of a minute microscopic body, called Gaillonella ferruginea (Figure 15), associated with the siliceous frustules of other fresh-water algae. Layers of this iron ore occurring in Scotch peat bogs are often called "the pan," and are sometimes of economical value.

It is clear much time must have been required for the accumulation of strata to which countless generations of Diatomaceae have contributed their remains; and these discoveries lead us naturally to suspect that other deposits, of which the materials have been supposed to be inorganic, may in reality be composed chiefly of microscopic organic bodies. That this is the case with the white chalk, has often been imagined, and is now proved to be the fact. It has, moreover, been lately discovered that the chambers into which these Foraminifera are divided are actually often filled with thousands of well-preserved organic bodies, which abound in every minute grain of chalk, and are especially apparent in the white coating of flints, often accompanied by innumerable needle-shaped spiculae of sponges (see Chapter 17.).

"The dust we tread upon was once alive!"— Byron.

How faint an idea does this exclamation of the poet convey of the real wonders of nature! for here we discover proofs that the calcareous and siliceous dust of which hills are composed has not only been once alive, but almost every particle, albeit invisible to the naked eye, still retains the organic structure which, at periods of time incalculably remote, was impressed upon it by the powers of life.


Strata, whether deposited in salt or fresh water, have the same forms; but the imbedded fossils are very different in the two cases, because the aquatic animals which frequent lakes and rivers are distinct from those inhabiting the sea. In the northern part of the Isle of Wight formations of marl and limestone, more than 50 feet thick occur, in which the shells are of extinct species. Yet we recognise their fresh-water origin, because they are of the same genera as those now abounding in ponds, lakes, and rivers, either in our own country or in warmer latitudes.

In many parts of France— in Auvergne, for example— strata occur of limestone, marl, and sandstone hundreds of feet thick, which contain exclusively fresh- water and land shells, together with the remains of terrestrial quadrupeds. The number of land-shells scattered through some of these fresh-water deposits is exceedingly great; and there are districts in Germany where the rocks scarcely contain any other fossils except snail-shells (helices); as, for instance, the limestone on the left bank of the Rhine, between Mayence and Worms, at Oppenheim, Findheim, Budenheim, and other places. In order to account for this phenomenon, the geologist has only to examine the small deltas of torrents which enter the Swiss lakes when the waters are low, such as the newly-formed plain where the Kander enters the Lake of Thun. He there sees sand and mud strewn over with innumerable dead land-shells, which have been brought down from the valleys in the Alps in the preceding spring, during the melting of the snows. Again, if we search the sands on the borders of the Rhine, in the lower part of its course, we find countless land-shells mixed with others of species belonging to lakes, stagnant pools, and marshes. These individuals have been washed away from the alluvial plains of the great river and its tributaries, some from mountainous regions, others from the low country.

Although fresh-water formations are often of great thickness, yet they are usually very limited in area when compared to marine deposits, just as lakes and estuaries are of small dimensions in comparison with seas.

The absence of many fossil forms usually met with in marine strata, affords a useful negative indication of the fresh-water origin of a formation. For example, there are no sea-urchins, no corals, no chambered shells, such as the nautilus, nor microscopic Foraminifera in lacustrine or fluviatile deposits. In distinguishing the latter from formations accumulated in the sea, we are chiefly guided by the forms of the mollusca. In a fresh-water deposit, the number of individual shells is often as great as in a marine stratum, if not greater; but there is a smaller variety of species and genera. This might be anticipated from the fact that the genera and species of recent fresh-water and land shells are few when contrasted with the marine. Thus, the genera of true mollusca according to Woodward's system, excluding those altogether extinct and those without shells, amount to 446 in number, of which the terrestrial and fresh-water genera scarcely form more than a fifth. (See Woodward's Manual of Mollusca 1856.)

(FIGURE 18. Cyrena obovata, Sowerby; fossil. Hants.)

(FIGURE 19. Cyrena (Corbicella) fluminalis, Moll.; fossil. Grays, Essex.)

(FIGURE 20. Anodonta Cordierii; D'Orbigny; fossil. Paris.)

(FIGURE 21. Anodonta latimarginata; recent. Bahia.)

(FIGURE 22. Unio littoralis. Lamarck; recent. Auvergne.)

(FIGURE 23. Gryphaea incurva, Sowerby; (G. arcuata, Lamarck) upper valve. Lias.)

Almost all bivalve shells, or those of acephalous mollusca, are marine, about sixteen only out of 140 genera being fresh-water. Among these last, the four most common forms, both recent and fossil, are Cyclas, Cyrena, Unio, and Anodonta (see Figures 18-22); the two first and two last of which are so nearly allied as to pass into each other.

Lamarck divided the bivalve mollusca into the Dimyary, or those having two large muscular impressions in each valve, as a, b in the Cyclas, Figure 18, and Unio, Figure 22, and the Monomyary, such as the oyster and scallop, in which there is only one of these impressions, as is seen in Figure 23. Now, as none of these last, or the unimuscular bivalves, are fresh-water, we may at once presume a deposit containing any of them to be marine. (The fresh-water Mulleria, when young, forms a single exception to the rule, as it then has two muscular impressions, but it has only one in the adult state.)

(FIGURE 24. Planorbis euomphalus, Sowerby; fossil. Isle of Wight.)

(FIGURE 25. Limnaea longiscala, Brongniart; fossil. Isle of Wight.)

(FIGURE 26. Paludina lenta, Brand.; fossil. Isle of Wight.)

(FIGURE 27. Succinea amphibia, Drap. (S. putris, L.); fossil. Loess, Rhine.)

(FIGURE 28. Ancylus velletia (A. elegans), Sowerby; fossil. Isle of Wight.)

(FIGURE 29. Valvata piscinalis, Mull.; fossil. Grays, Essex.)

(FIGURE 30. Physa hypnorum, Linne; recent. Isle of Wight.)

(FIGURE 31. Auricula; recent. Ava.)

(FIGURE 32. Melania inquinata, Def. Paris basin.)

(FIGURE 33. Physa columnaris, Desh. Paris basin.)

(FIGURE 34. Melanopsis buccinoidea, Ferr.; recent. Asia.)

The univalve shells most characteristic of fresh-water deposits are, Planorbis, Limnaea, and Paludina. (See Figures 24-26.) But to these are occasionally added Physa, Succinea, Ancylus, Valvata, Melanopsis, Melania, Potamides, and Neritina (see Figures 27-34), the four last being usually found in estuaries.

(FIGURE 35. Neritina globulus, Def. Paris basin.)

(FIGURE 36. Nerita granulosa, Desh. Paris basin.)

Some naturalists include Neritina (Figure 35) and the marine Nerita (Figure 36) in the same genus, it being scarcely possible to distinguish the two by good generic characters. But, as a general rule, the fluviatile species are smaller, smoother, and more globular than the marine; and they have never, like the Neritae, the inner margin of the outer lip toothed or crenulated. (See Figure 36.)

(FIGURE 37. Potamides cinctus, Sowerby. Paris basin.)

The Potamides inhabit the mouths of rivers in warm latitudes, and are distinguishable from the marine Cerithia by their orbicular and multispiral opercula. The genus Auricula (Figure 31) is amphibious, frequenting swamps and marshes within the influence of the tide.

(FIGURE 38. Helix Turonensis, Desh.; faluns, Touraine.)

(FIGURE 39. Cyclostoma elegans, Mull.; Loess.)

(FIGURE 40. Pupa tridens, Drap.; Loess.)

(FIGURE 41. Clausilia bidens, Drap.; Loess.)

(FIGURE 42. Bulimus lubricus, Mull.; Loess, Rhine.)

The terrestrial shells are all univalves. The most important genera among these, both in a recent and fossil state, are Helix (Figure 38), Cyclostoma (Figure 39), Pupa (Figure 40), Clausilia (Figure 41) Bulimus (Figure 42), Glandina and Achatina.

(FIGURE 43. Ampullaria glauca, from the Jumna.)

Ampullaria (Figure 43) is another genus of shells inhabiting rivers and ponds in hot countries. Many fossil species formerly referred to this genus, and which have been met with chiefly in marine formations, are now considered by conchologists to belong to Natica and other marine genera.

(FIGURE 44. Pleurotoma exorta, Brand. Upper and Middle Eocene. Barton and Bracklesham.)

(FIGURE 45. Ancillaria subulata, Sowerby. Barton clay. Eocene.)

All univalve shells of land and fresh-water species, with the exception of Melanopsis (Figure 34), and Achatina, which has a slight indentation, have entire mouths; and this circumstance may often serve as a convenient rule for distinguishing fresh-water from marine strata; since, if any univalves occur of which the mouths are not entire, we may presume that the formation is marine. The aperture is said to be entire in such shells as the fresh-water Ampullaria and the land-shells (Figures 38-42), when its outline is not interrupted by an indentation or notch, such as that seen at b in Ancillaria (Figure 45); or is not prolonged into a canal, as that seen at a in Pleurotoma (Figure 44).

The mouths of a large proportion of the marine univalves have these notches or canals, and almost all species are carnivorous; whereas nearly all testacea having entire mouths are plant-eaters, whether the species be marine, fresh- water, or terrestrial.

There is, however, one genus which affords an occasional exception to one of the above rules. The Potamides (Figure 37), a subgenus of Cerithium, although provided with a short canal, comprises some species which inhabit salt, others brackish, and others fresh-water, and they are said to be all plant-eaters.

Among the fossils very common in fresh-water deposits are the shells of Cypris, a minute bivalve crustaceous animal. (For figures of fossil species of Purbeck see below, Chapter 19.) Many minute living species of this genus swarm in lakes and stagnant pools in Great Britain; but their shells are not, if considered separately, conclusive as to the fresh-water origin of a deposit, because the majority of species in another kindred genus of the same order, the Cytherina of Lamarck, inhabit salt-water; and, although the animal differs slightly, the shell is scarcely distinguishable from that of the Cypris.


(FIGURE 46. Chara medicaginula; fossil. Upper Eocene, Isle of Wight.)

The seed-vessels and stems of Chara, a genus of aquatic plants, are very frequent in fresh-water strata. These seed-vessels were called, before their true nature was known, gyrogonites, and were supposed to be foraminiferous shells. (See Figure 46, a.)

(FIGURE 47. Chara elastica; recent, Italy. a. Sessile seed-vessel between the divisions of the leaves of the female plant. b. Magnified transverse section of a branch, with five seed-vessels, seen from below upward.)

The Charae inhabit the bottom of lakes and ponds, and flourish mostly where the water is charged with carbonate of lime. Their seed-vessels are covered with a very tough integument, capable of resisting decomposition; to which circumstance we may attribute their abundance in a fossil state. Figure 47 represents a branch of one of many new species found by Professor Amici in the lakes of Northern Italy. The seed-vessel in this plant is more globular than in the British Charae, and therefore more nearly resembles in form the extinct fossil species found in England, France, and other countries. The stems, as well as the seed-vessels, of these plants occur both in modern shell-marl and in ancient fresh-water formations. They are generally composed of a large central tube surrounded by smaller ones; the whole stem being divided at certain intervals by transverse partitions or joints. (See b, Figure 46.)

It is not uncommon to meet with layers of vegetable matter, impressions of leaves, and branches of trees, in strata containing fresh-water shells; and we also find occasionally the teeth and bones of land quadrupeds, of species now unknown. The manner in which such remains are occasionally carried by rivers into lakes, especially during floods, has been fully treated of in the "Principles of Geology."


The remains of fish are occasionally useful in determining the fresh-water origin of strata. Certain genera, such as carp, perch, pike, and loach (Cyprinus, Perca, Esox, and Cobitis), as also Lebias, being peculiar to fresh- water. Other genera contain some fresh-water and some marine species, as Cottus, Mugil, and Anguilla, or eel. The rest are either common to rivers and the sea, as the salmon; or are exclusively characteristic of salt-water. The above observations respecting fossil fishes are applicable only to the more modern or tertiary deposits; for in the more ancient rocks the forms depart so widely from those of existing fishes, that it is very difficult, at least in the present state of science, to derive any positive information from ichthyolites respecting the element in which strata were deposited.

The alternation of marine and fresh-water formations, both on a small and large scale, are facts well ascertained in geology. When it occurs on a small scale, it may have arisen from the alternate occupation of certain spaces by river- water and the sea; for in the flood season the river forces back the ocean and freshens it over a large area, depositing at the same time its sediment; after which the salt-water again returns, and, on resuming its former place, brings with it sand, mud, and marine shells.

There are also lagoons at the mouth of many rivers, as the Nile and Mississippi, which are divided off by bars of sand from the sea, and which are filled with salt and fresh water by turns. They often communicate exclusively with the river for months, years, or even centuries; and then a breach being made in the bar of sand, they are for long periods filled with salt-water.


The Lym-Fiord in Jutland offers an excellent illustration of analogous changes; for, in the course of the last thousand years, the western extremity of this long frith, which is 120 miles in length, including its windings, has been four times fresh and four times salt, a bar of sand between it and the ocean having been often formed and removed. The last irruption of salt water happened in 1824, when the North Sea entered, killing all the fresh-water shells, fish, and plants; and from that time to the present, the sea-weed Fucus vesiculosus, together with oysters and other marine mollusca, have succeeded the Cyclas, Lymnaea, Paludina, and Charae. (See Principles Index "Lym-Fiord.")

But changes like these in the Lym-Fiord, and those before mentioned as occurring at the mouths of great rivers, will only account for some cases of marine deposits of partial extent resting on fresh-water strata. When we find, as in the south-east of England (Chapter 18), a great series of fresh-water beds, 1000 feet in thickness, resting upon marine formations and again covered by other rocks, such as the Cretaceous, more than 1000 feet thick, and of deep-sea origin, we shall find it necessary to seek for a different explanation of the phenomena.



Chemical and Mechanical Deposits. Cementing together of Particles. Hardening by Exposure to Air. Concretionary Nodules. Consolidating Effects of Pressure. Mineralization of Organic Remains. Impressions and Casts: how formed. Fossil Wood. Goppert's Experiments. Precipitation of Stony Matter most rapid where Putrefaction is going on. Sources of Lime and Silex in Solution.

Having spoken in the preceding chapters of the characters of sedimentary formations, both as dependent on the deposition of inorganic matter and the distribution of fossils, I may next treat of the consolidation of stratified rocks, and the petrifaction of imbedded organic remains.


A distinction has been made by geologists between deposits of a mechanical, and those of a chemical, origin. By the name mechanical are designated beds of mud, sand, or pebbles produced by the action of running water, also accumulations of stones and scoriae thrown out by a volcano, which have fallen into their present place by the force of gravitation. But the matter which forms a chemical deposit has not been mechanically suspended in water, but in a state of solution until separated by chemical action. In this manner carbonate of lime is occasionally precipitated upon the bottom of lakes in a solid form, as may be well seen in many parts of Italy, where mineral springs abound, and where the calcareous stone, called travertin, is deposited. In these springs the lime is usually held in solution by an excess of carbonic acid, or by heat if it be a hot spring, until the water, on issuing from the earth, cools or loses part of its acid. The calcareous matter then falls down in a solid state, incrusting shells, fragments of wood and leaves, and binding them together.

That similar travertin is formed at some points in the bed of the sea where calcareous springs issue can not be doubted, but as a general rule the quantity of lime, according to Bischoff, spread through the waters of the ocean is very small, the free carbonic acid gas in the same waters being five times as much as is necessary to keep the lime in a fluid state. Carbonate of lime, therefore, can rarely be precipitated at the bottom of the sea by chemical action alone, but must be produced by vital agency as in the case of coral reefs.

In such reefs, large masses of limestone are formed by the stony skeletons of zoophytes; and these, together with shells, become cemented together by carbonate of lime, part of which is probably furnished to the sea-water by the decomposition of dead corals. Even shells, of which the animals are still living on these reefs, are very commonly found to be incrusted over with a hard coating of limestone.

If sand and pebbles are carried by a river into the sea, and these are bound together immediately by carbonate of lime, the deposit may be described as of a mixed origin, partly chemical, and partly mechanical.

Now, the remarks already made in Chapter 2 on the original horizontality of strata are strictly applicable to mechanical deposits, and only partially to those of a mixed nature. Such as are purely chemical may be formed on a very steep slope, or may even incrust the vertical walls of a fissure, and be of equal thickness throughout; but such deposits are of small extent, and for the most part confined to vein-stones.


It is chiefly in the case of calcareous rocks that solidification takes place at the time of deposition. But there are many deposits in which a cementing process comes into operation long afterwards. We may sometimes observe, where the water of ferruginous or calcareous springs has flowed through a bed of sand or gravel, that iron or carbonate of lime has been deposited in the interstices between the grains or pebbles, so that in certain places the whole has been bound together into a stone, the same set of strata remaining in other parts loose and incoherent.

Proofs of a similar cementing action are seen in a rock at Kelloway, in Wiltshire. A peculiar band of sandy strata belonging to the group called Oolite by geologists may be traced through several counties, the sand being for the most part loose and unconsolidated, but becoming stony near Kelloway. In this district there are numerous fossil shells which have decomposed, having for the most part left only their casts. The calcareous matter hence derived has evidently served, at some former period, as a cement to the siliceous grains of sand, and thus a solid sandstone has been produced. If we take fragments of many other argillaceous grits, retaining the casts of shells, and plunge them into dilute muriatic or other acid, we see them immediately changed into common sand and mud; the cement of lime, derived from the shells, having been dissolved by the acid.

Traces of impressions and casts are often extremely faint. In some loose sands of recent date we meet with shells in so advanced a stage of decomposition as to crumble into powder when touched. It is clear that water percolating such strata may soon remove the calcareous matter of the shell; and unless circumstances cause the carbonate of lime to be again deposited, the grains of sand will not be cemented together; in which case no memorial of the fossil will remain.

In what manner silex and carbonate of lime may become widely diffused in small quantities through the waters which permeate the earth's crust will be spoken of presently, when the petrifaction of fossil bodies is considered; but I may remark here that such waters are always passing in the case of thermal springs from hotter to colder parts of the interior of the earth; and, as often as the temperature of the solvent is lowered, mineral matter has a tendency to separate from it and solidify. Thus a stony cement is often supplied to sand, pebbles, or any fragmentary mixture. In some conglomerates, like the pudding-stone of Hertfordshire (a Lower Eocene deposit), pebbles of flint and grains of sand are united by a siliceous cement so firmly, that if a block be fractured, the rent passes as readily through the pebbles as through the cement.

It is probable that many strata became solid at the time when they emerged from the waters in which they were deposited, and when they first formed a part of the dry land. A well-known fact seems to confirm this idea: by far the greater number of the stones used for building and road-making are much softer when first taken from the quarry than after they have been long exposed to the air; and these, when once dried, may afterwards be immersed for any length of time in water without becoming soft again. Hence it is found desirable to shape the stones which are to be used in architecture while they are yet soft and wet, and while they contain their "quarry-water," as it is called; also to break up stone intended for roads when soft, and then leave it to dry in the air for months that it may harden. Such induration may perhaps be accounted for by supposing the water, which penetrates the minutest pores of rocks, to deposit, on evaporation, carbonate of lime, iron, silex, and other minerals previously held in solution, and thereby to fill up the pores partially. These particles, on crystallising, would not only be themselves deprived of freedom of motion, but would also bind together other portions of the rock which before were loosely aggregated. On the same principle wet sand and mud become as hard as stone when frozen; because one ingredient of the mass, namely, the water, has crystallised, so as to hold firmly together all the separate particles of which the loose mud and sand were composed.

Dr. MacCulloch mentions a sandstone in Skye, which may be moulded like dough when first found; and some simple minerals, which are rigid and as hard as glass in our cabinets, are often flexible and soft in their native beds: this is the case with asbestos, sahlite, tremolite, and chalcedony, and it is reported also to happen in the case of the beryl. (Dr. MacCulloch System of Geology volume 1 page 123.)

The marl recently deposited at the bottom of Lake Superior, in North America, is soft, and often filled with fresh-water shells; but if a piece be taken up and dried, it becomes so hard that it can only be broken by a smart blow of the hammer. If the lake, therefore, was drained, such a deposit would be found to consist of strata of marlstone, like that observed in many ancient European formations, and, like them, containing fresh-water shells.


(FIGURE 48. Calcareous nodules in Lias.)

It is probable that some of the heterogeneous materials which rivers transport to the sea may at once set under water, like the artificial mixture called pozzolana, which consists of fine volcanic sand charged with about twenty per cent of oxide of iron, and the addition of a small quantity of lime. This substance hardens, and becomes a solid stone in water, and was used by the Romans in constructing the foundations of buildings in the sea. Consolidation in such cases is brought about by the action of chemical affinity on finely comminuted matter previously suspended in water. After deposition similar particles seem often to exert a mutual attraction on each other, and congregate together in particular spots, forming lumps, nodules, and concretions. Thus in many argillaceous deposits there are calcareous balls, or spherical concretions, ranged in layers parallel to the general stratification; an arrangement which took place after the shale or marl had been thrown down in successive laminae; for these laminae are often traceable through the concretions, remaining parallel to those of the surrounding unconsolidated rock. (See Figure 48.) Such nodules of limestone have often a shell or other foreign body in the centre.

(FIGURE 49. Spheroidal concretions in magnesian limestone.)

Among the most remarkable examples of concretionary structure are those described by Professor Sedgwick as abounding in the magnesian limestone of the north of England. The spherical balls are of various sizes, from that of a pea to a diameter of several feet, and they have both a concentric and radiated structure, while at the same time the laminae of original deposition pass uninterruptedly through them. In some cliffs this limestone resembles a great irregular pile of cannon-balls. Some of the globular masses have their centre in one stratum, while a portion of their exterior passes through to the stratum above or below. Thus the larger spheroid in the section (Figure 49) passes from the stratum b upward into a. In this instance we must suppose the deposition of a series of minor layers, first forming the stratum b, and afterwards the incumbent stratum a; then a movement of the particles took place, and the carbonates of lime and magnesia separated from the more impure and mixed matter forming the still unconsolidated parts of the stratum. Crystallisation, beginning at the centre, must have gone on forming concentric coats around the original nucleus without interfering with the laminated structure of the rock.

(FIGURE 50. Section through strata of grit.)

When the particles of rocks have been thus rearranged by chemical forces, it is sometimes difficult or impossible to ascertain whether certain lines of division are due to original deposition or to the subsequent aggregation of several particles. Thus suppose three strata of grit, A, B, C, are charged unequally with calcareous matter, and that B is the most calcareous. If consolidation takes place in B, the concretionary action may spread upward into a part of A, where the carbonate of lime is more abundant than in the rest; so that a mass, d e f, forming a portion of the superior stratum, becomes united with B into one solid mass of stone. The original line of division, d e, being thus effaced, the line d f would generally be considered as the surface of the bed B, though not strictly a true plane of stratification. (Figure 50.)


When sand and mud sink to the bottom of a deep sea, the particles are not pressed down by the enormous weight of the incumbent ocean; for the water, which becomes mingled with the sand and mud, resists pressure with a force equal to that of the column of fluid above. The same happens in regard to organic remains which are filled with water under great pressure as they sink, otherwise they would be immediately crushed to pieces and flattened. Nevertheless, if the materials of a stratum remain in a yielding state, and do not set or solidify, they will be gradually squeezed down by the weight of other materials successively heaped upon them, just as soft clay or loose sand on which a house is built may give way. By such downward pressure particles of clay, sand, and marl may become packed into a smaller space, and be made to cohere together permanently.

Analogous effects of condensation may arise when the solid parts of the earth's crust are forced in various directions by those mechanical movements hereafter to be described, by which strata have been bent, broken, and raised above the level of the sea. Rocks of more yielding materials must often have been forced against others previously consolidated, and may thus by compression have acquired a new structure. A recent discovery may help us to comprehend how fine sediment derived from the detritus of rocks may be solidified by mere pressure. The graphite or "black lead" of commerce having become very scarce, Mr. Brockedon contrived a method by which the dust of the purer portions of the mineral found in Borrowdale might be recomposed into a mass as dense and compact as native graphite. The powder of graphite is first carefully prepared and freed from air, and placed under a powerful press on a strong steel die, with air- tight fittings. It is then struck several blows, each of a power of 1000 tons; after which operation the powder is so perfectly solidified that it can be cut for pencils, and exhibits when broken the same texture as native graphite.

But the action of heat at various depths in the earth is probably the most powerful of all causes in hardening sedimentary strata. To this subject I shall refer again when treating of the metamorphic rocks, and of the slaty and jointed structure.


(FIGURE 51. Phasianella Heddingtonensis, and cast of the same. Coral Rag.)

(FIGURE 52. Pleurotomaria Anglica, and cast. Lias.)

The changes which fossil organic bodies have undergone since they were first imbedded in rocks, throw much light on the consolidation of strata. Fossil shells in some modern deposits have been scarcely altered in the course of centuries, having simply lost a part of their animal matter. But in other cases the shell has disappeared, and left an impression only of its exterior, or, secondly, a cast of its interior form, or, thirdly, a cast of the shell itself, the original matter of which has been removed. These different forms of fossilisation may easily be understood if we examine the mud recently thrown out from a pond or canal in which there are shells. If the mud be argillaceous, it acquires consistency on drying, and on breaking open a portion of it we find that each shell has left impressions of its external form. If we then remove the shell itself, we find within a solid nucleus of clay, having the form of the interior of the shell. This form is often very different from that of the outer shell. Thus a cast such as a, Figure 51, commonly called a fossil screw, would never be suspected by an inexperienced conchologist to be the internal shape of the fossil univalve, b, Figure 51. Nor should we have imagined at first sight that the shell a and the cast b, Figure 52, belong to one and the same fossil. The reader will observe, in the last-mentioned figure (b, Figure 52), that an empty space shaded dark, which the SHELL ITSELF once occupied, now intervenes between the enveloping stone and the cast of the smooth interior of the whorls. In such cases the shell has been dissolved and the component particles removed by water percolating the rock. If the nucleus were taken out, a hollow mould would remain, on which the external form of the shell with its tubercles and striae, as seen in a, Figure 52, would be seen embossed. Now if the space alluded to between the nucleus and the impression, instead of being left empty, has been filled up with calcareous spar, flint, pyrites, or other mineral, we then obtain from the mould an exact cast both of the external and internal form of the original shell. In this manner silicified casts of shells have been formed; and if the mud or sand of the nucleus happen to be incoherent, or soluble in acid, we can then procure in flint an empty shell, which in shape is the exact counterpart of the original. This cast may be compared to a bronze statue, representing merely the superficial form, and not the internal organisation; but there is another description of petrifaction by no means uncommon, and of a much more wonderful kind, which may be compared to certain anatomical models in wax, where not only the outward forms and features, but the nerves, blood-vessels, and other internal organs are also shown. Thus we find corals, originally calcareous, in which not only the general shape, but also the minute and complicated internal organisation is retained in flint.

(FIGURE 53. Section of a tree from the coal-measures, magnified (Witham), showing texture of wood.)

Such a process of petrifaction is still more remarkably exhibited in fossil wood, in which we often perceive not only the rings of annual growth, but all the minute vessels and medullary rays. Many of the minute cells and fibres of plants, and even those spiral vessels which in the living vegetable can only be discovered by the microscope, are preserved. Among many instances, I may mention a fossil tree, seventy-two feet in length, found at Gosforth, near Newcastle, in sandstone strata associated with coal. By cutting a transverse slice so thin as to transmit light, and magnifying it about fifty-five times, the texture, as seen in Figure 53, is exhibited. A texture equally minute and complicated has been observed in the wood of large trunks of fossil trees found in the Craigleith quarry near Edinburgh, where the stone was not in the slightest degree siliceous, but consisted chiefly of carbonate of lime, with oxide of iron, alumina, and carbon. The parallel rows of vessels here seen are the rings of annual growth, but in one part they are imperfectly preserved, the wood having probably decayed before the mineralising matter had penetrated to that portion of the tree.

In attempting to explain the process of petrifaction in such cases, we may first assume that strata are very generally permeated by water charged with minute portions of calcareous, siliceous, and other earths in solution. In what manner they become so impregnated will be afterwards considered. If an organic substance is exposed in the open air to the action of the sun and rain, it will in time putrefy, or be dissolved into its component elements, consisting usually of oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and carbon. These will readily be absorbed by the atmosphere or be washed away by rain, so that all vestiges of the dead animal or plant disappear. But if the same substances be submerged in water, they decompose more gradually; and if buried in earth, still more slowly; as in the familiar example of wooden piles or other buried timber. Now, if as fast as each particle is set free by putrefaction in a fluid or gaseous state, a particle equally minute of carbonate of lime, flint, or other mineral, is at hand ready to be precipitated, we may imagine this inorganic matter to take the place just before left unoccupied by the organic molecule. In this manner a cast of the interior of certain vessels may first be taken, and afterwards the more solid walls of the same may decay and suffer a like transmutation. Yet when the whole is lapidified, it may not form one homogeneous mass of stone or metal. Some of the original ligneous, osseous, or other organic elements may remain mingled in certain parts, or the lapidifying substance itself may be differently coloured at different times, or so crystallised as to reflect light differently, and thus the texture of the original body may be faithfully exhibited.

The student may perhaps ask whether, on chemical principles, we have any ground to expect that mineral matter will be thrown down precisely in those spots where organic decomposition is in progress? The following curious experiments may serve to illustrate this point: Professor Goppert of Breslau, with a view of imitating the natural process of petrifaction, steeped a variety of animal and vegetable substances in waters, some holding siliceous, others calcareous, others metallic matter in solution. He found that in the period of a few weeks, or sometimes even days, the organic bodies thus immersed were mineralised to a certain extent. Thus, for example, thin vertical slices of deal, taken from the Scotch fir (Pinus sylvestris), were immersed in a moderately strong solution of sulphate of iron. When they had been thoroughly soaked in the liquid for several days they were dried and exposed to a red-heat until the vegetable matter was burnt up and nothing remained but an oxide of iron, which was found to have taken the form of the deal so exactly that casts even of the dotted vessels peculiar to this family of plants were distinctly visible under the microscope.

The late Dr. Turner observes, that when mineral matter is in a "nascent state," that is to say, just liberated from a previous state of chemical combination, it is most ready to unite with other matter, and form a new chemical compound. Probably the particles or atoms just set free are of extreme minuteness, and therefore move more freely, and are more ready to obey any impulse of chemical affinity. Whatever be the cause, it clearly follows, as before stated, that where organic matter newly imbedded in sediment is decomposing, there will chemical changes take place most actively.

An analysis was lately made of the water which was flowing off from the rich mud deposited by the Hooghly River in the Delta of the Ganges after the annual inundation. This water was found to be highly charged with carbonic acid holding lime in solution. (Piddington Asiatic Researches volume 18 page 226.) Now if newly-deposited mud is thus proved to be permeated by mineral matter in a state of solution, it is not difficult to perceive that decomposing organic bodies, naturally imbedded in sediment, may as readily become petrified as the substances artificially immersed by Professor Goppert in various fluid mixtures.

It is well known that the waters of all springs are more or less charged with earthy, alkaline, or metallic ingredients derived from the rocks and mineral veins through which they percolate. Silex is especially abundant in hot springs, and carbonate of lime is almost always present in greater or less quantity. The materials for the petrifaction of organic remains are, therefore, usually at hand in a state of chemical solution wherever organic remains are imbedded in new strata.



Why the Position of Marine Strata, above the Level of the Sea, should be referred to the rising up of the Land, not to the going down of the Sea. Strata of Deep-sea and Shallow-water Origin alternate. Also Marine and Fresh-water Beds and old Land Surfaces. Vertical, inclined, and folded Strata. Anticlinal and Synclinal Curves. Theories to explain Lateral Movements. Creeps in Coal-mines. Dip and Strike. Structure of the Jura. Various Forms of Outcrop. Synclinal Strata forming Ridges. Connection of Fracture and Flexure of Rocks. Inverted Strata. Faults described. Superficial Signs of the same obliterated by Denudation. Great Faults the Result of repeated Movements. Arrangement and Direction of parallel Folds of Strata. Unconformability. Overlapping Strata.


It has been already stated that the aqueous rocks containing marine fossils extend over wide continental tracts, and are seen in mountain chains rising to great heights above the level of the sea (Chapter 1). Hence it follows, that what is now dry land was once under water. But if we admit this conclusion, we must imagine, either that there has been a general lowering of the waters of the ocean, or that the solid rocks, once covered by water, have been raised up bodily out of the sea, and have thus become dry land. The earlier geologists, finding themselves reduced to this alternative, embraced the former opinion, assuming that the ocean was originally universal, and had gradually sunk down to its actual level, so that the present islands and continents were left dry. It seemed to them far easier to conceive that the water had gone down, than that solid land had risen upward into its present position. It was, however, impossible to invent any satisfactory hypothesis to explain the disappearance of so enormous a body of water throughout the globe, it being necessary to infer that the ocean had once stood at whatever height marine shells might be detected. It moreover appeared clear, as the science of geology advanced, that certain spaces on the globe had been alternately sea, then land, then estuary, then sea again, and, lastly, once more habitable land, having remained in each of these states for considerable periods. In order to account for such phenomena without admitting any movement of the land itself, we are required to imagine several retreats and returns of the ocean; and even then our theory applies merely to cases where the marine strata composing the dry land are horizontal, leaving unexplained those more common instances where strata are inclined, curved, or placed on their edges, and evidently not in the position in which they were first deposited.

Geologists, therefore, were at last compelled to have recourse to the doctrine that the solid land has been repeatedly moved upward or downward, so as permanently to change its position relatively to the sea. There are several distinct grounds for preferring this conclusion. First, it will account equally for the position of those elevated masses of marine origin in which the stratification remains horizontal, and for those in which the strata are disturbed, broken, inclined, or vertical. Secondly, it is consistent with human experience that land should rise gradually in some places and be depressed in others. Such changes have actually occurred in our own days, and are now in progress, having been accompanied in some cases by violent convulsions, while in others they have proceeded so insensibly as to have been ascertainable only by the most careful scientific observations, made at considerable intervals of time. On the other hand, there is no evidence from human experience of a rising or lowering of the sea's level in any region, and the ocean can not be raised or depressed in one place without its level being changed all over the globe.

These preliminary remarks will prepare the reader to understand the great theoretical interest attached to all facts connected with the position of strata, whether horizontal or inclined, curved or vertical.

Now the first and most simple appearance is where strata of marine origin occur above the level of the sea in horizontal position. Such are the strata which we meet with in the south of Sicily, filled with shells for the most part of the same species as those now living in the Mediterranean. Some of these rocks rise to the height of more than 2000 feet above the sea. Other mountain masses might be mentioned, composed of horizontal strata of high antiquity, which contain fossil remains of animals wholly dissimilar from any now known to exist. In the south of Sweden, for example, near Lake Wener, the beds of some of the oldest fossiliferous deposits, called Silurian and Cambrian by geologists, occur in as level a position as if they had recently formed part of the delta of a great river, and been left dry on the retiring of the annual floods. Aqueous rocks of equal antiquity extend for hundreds of miles over the lake-district of North America, and exhibit in like manner a stratification nearly undisturbed. The Table Mountain at the Cape of Good Hope is another example of highly elevated yet perfectly horizontal strata, no less than 3500 feet in thickness, and consisting of sandstone of very ancient date.

Instead of imagining that such fossiliferous rocks were always at their present level, and that the sea was once high enough to cover them, we suppose them to have constituted the ancient bed of the ocean, and to have been afterwards uplifted to their present height. This idea, however startling it may at first appear, is quite in accordance, as before stated, with the analogy of changes now going on in certain regions of the globe. Thus, in parts of Sweden, and the shores and islands of the Gulf of Bothnia, proofs have been obtained that the land is experiencing, and has experienced for centuries, a slow upheaving movement. (See "Principles of Geology" 1867 page 314.)

It appears from the observations of Mr. Darwin and others, that very extensive regions of the continent of South America have been undergoing slow and gradual upheaval, by which the level plains of Patagonia, covered with recent marine shells, and the Pampas of Buenos Ayres, have been raised above the level of the sea. On the other hand, the gradual sinking of the west coast of Greenland, for the space of more than 600 miles from north to south, during the last four centuries, has been established by the observations of a Danish naturalist, Dr. Pingel. And while these proofs of continental elevation and subsidence, by slow and insensible movements, have been recently brought to light, the evidence has been daily strengthened of continued changes of level effected by violent convulsions in countries where earthquakes are frequent. There the rocks are rent from time to time, and heaved up or thrown down several feet at once, and disturbed in such a manner as to show how entirely the original position of strata may be modified in the course of centuries.

Mr. Darwin has also inferred that, in those seas where circular coral islands and barrier reefs abound, there is a slow and continued sinking of the submarine mountains on which the masses of coral are based; while there are other areas of the South Sea where the land is on the rise, and where coral has been upheaved far above the sea-level.


It has been shown in the third chapter that there is such a difference between land, fresh-water, and marine fossils as to enable the geologist to determine whether particular groups of strata were formed at the bottom of the ocean or in estuaries, rivers, or lakes. If surprise was at first created by the discovery of marine corals and shells at the height of several miles above the sea-level, the imagination was afterwards not less startled by observing that in the successive strata composing the earth's crust, especially if their total thickness amounted to thousands of feet, they comprised in some parts formations of shallow-sea as well as of deep-sea origin; also beds of brackish or even of purely fresh-water formation, as well as vegetable matter or coal accumulated on ancient land. In these cases we as frequently find fresh-water beds below a marine set or shallow-water under those of deep-sea origin as the reverse. Thus, if we bore an artesian well below London, we pass through a marine clay, and there reach, at the depth of several hundred feet, a shallow-water and fluviatile sand, beneath which comes the white chalk originally formed in a deep sea. Or if we bore vertically through the chalk of the North Downs, we come, after traversing marine chalky strata, upon a fresh-water formation many hundreds of feet thick, called the Wealden, such as is seen in Kent and Surrey, which is known in its turn to rest on purely marine beds. In like manner, in various parts of Great Britain we sink vertical shafts through marine deposits of great thickness, and come upon coal which was formed by the growth of plants on an ancient land-surface sometimes hundreds of square miles in extent.


(FIGURE 54. Vertical conglomerate and sandstone.)

It has been stated that marine strata of different ages are sometimes found at a considerable height above the sea, yet retaining their original horizontality; but this state of things is quite exceptional. As a general rule, strata are inclined or bent in such a manner as to imply that their original position has been altered.

(FIGURE 55. Section of Forfarshire, from N.W. to S.E., from the foot of the Grampians to the sea at Arbroath (volcanic or trap rocks omitted). Length of section twenty miles. From S.E. (left) Sea: Whiteness, Arbroath: Strata a, 2, 3: Leys Mill: Strata 4: Sidlaw Hills. Viney R.: Strata B: Pitmuies: Strata 4: Position and nature of the rocks below No. 4 unknown: Turin: Findhaven: Strata 3, 2, A: Valley of Strathmore: Strata 1, 2, 3: W. Ogle: Strata 4 and Clay-Slate: to N.W. (right).)

The most unequivocal evidence of such a change is afforded by their standing up vertically, showing their edges, which is by no means a rare phenomenon, especially in mountainous countries. Thus we find in Scotland, on the southern skirts of the Grampians, beds of pudding-stone alternating with thin layers of fine sand, all placed vertically to the horizon. When Saussure first observed certain conglomerates in a similar position in the Swiss Alps, he remarked that the pebbles, being for the most part of an oval shape, had their longer axes parallel to the planes of stratification (see Figure 54). From this he inferred that such strata must, at first, have been horizontal, each oval pebble having settled at the bottom of the water, with its flatter side parallel to the horizon, for the same reason that an egg will not stand on either end if unsupported. Some few, indeed, of the rounded stones in a conglomerate occasionally afford an exception to the above rule, for the same reason that in a river's bed, or on a shingle beach, some pebbles rest on their ends or edges; these having been shoved against or between other stones by a wave or current, so as to assume this position.


Vertical strata, when they can be traced continuously upward or downward for some depth, are almost invariably seen to be parts of great curves, which may have a diameter of a few yards, or of several miles. I shall first describe two curves of considerable regularity, which occur in Forfarshire, extending over a country twenty miles in breadth, from the foot of the Grampians to the sea near Arbroath.

The mass of strata here shown may be 2000 feet in thickness, consisting of red and white sandstone, and various coloured shales, the beds being distinguishable into four principal groups, namely, No. 1, red marl or shale; No. 2, red sandstone, used for building; No. 3, conglomerate; and No. 4, grey paving-stone, and tile-stone, with green and reddish shale, containing peculiar organic remains. A glance at the section (Figure 55.) will show that each of the formations 2, 3, 4 are repeated thrice at the surface, twice with a southerly, and once with a northerly inclination or DIP, and the beds in No. 1, which are nearly horizontal, are still brought up twice by a slight curvature to the surface, once on each side of A. Beginning at the north-west extremity, the tile-stones and conglomerates, No. 4 and No. 3, are vertical, and they generally form a ridge parallel to the southern skirts of the Grampians. The superior strata, Nos. 2 and 1, become less and less inclined on descending to the valley of Strathmore, where the strata, having a concave bend, are said by geologists to lie in a "trough" or "basin." Through the centre of this valley runs an imaginary line A, called technically a "synclinal line," where the beds, which are tilted in opposite directions, may be supposed to meet. It is most important for the observer to mark such lines, for he will perceive by the diagram that, in travelling from the north to the centre of the basin, he is always passing from older to newer beds; whereas, after crossing the line A, and pursuing his course in the same southerly direction, he is continually leaving the newer, and advancing upon older strata. All the deposits which he had before examined begin then to recur in reversed order, until he arrives at the central axis of the Sidlaw hills, where the strata are seen to form an arch, or SADDLE, having an ANTICLINAL line, B, in the centre. On passing this line, and continuing towards the S.E., the formations 4, 3, and 2, are again repeated, in the same relative order of superposition, but with a southerly dip. At Whiteness (see Figure 55) it will be seen that the inclined strata are covered by a newer deposit, a, in horizontal beds. These are composed of red conglomerate and sand, and are newer than any of the groups, 1, 2, 3, 4, before described, and rest UNCONFORMABLY upon strata of the sandstone group, No. 2.

An example of curved strata, in which the bends or convolutions of the rock are sharper and far more numerous within an equal space, has been well described by Sir James Hall. (Edinburgh Transactions volume 7 plate 3.) It occurs near St. Abb's Head, on the east coast of Scotland, where the rocks consist principally of a bluish slate, having frequently a ripple-marked surface. The undulations of the beds reach from the top to the bottom of cliffs from 200 to 300 feet in height, and there are sixteen distinct bendings in the course of about six miles, the curvatures being alternately concave and convex upward.


(FIGURE 56. Curved strata of slate near St. Abb's Head, Berwickshire. (Sir J. Hall.)

(FIGURE 57. Curved strata in line of cliff.)

(FIGURE 58. Folded cloths imitating bent strata.)

An experiment was made by Sir James Hall, with a view of illustrating the manner in which such strata, assuming them to have been originally horizontal, may have been forced into their present position. A set of layers of clay were placed under a weight, and their opposite ends pressed towards each other with such force as to cause them to approach more nearly together. On the removal of the weight, the layers of clay were found to be curved and folded, so as to bear a miniature resemblance to the strata in the cliffs. We must, however, bear in mind that in the natural section or sea-cliff we only see the foldings imperfectly, one part being invisible beneath the sea, and the other, or upper portion, being supposed to have been carried away by DENUDATION, or that action of water which will be explained in the next chapter. The dark lines in the plan (Figure 57) represent what is actually seen of the strata in the line of cliff alluded to; the fainter lines, that portion which is concealed beneath the sea- level, as also that which is supposed to have once existed above the present surface.

We may still more easily illustrate the effects which a lateral thrust might produce on flexible strata, by placing several pieces of differently coloured cloths upon a table, and when they are spread out horizontally, cover them with a book. Then apply other books to each end, and force them towards each other. The folding of the cloths (see Figure 58) will imitate those of the bent strata; the incumbent book being slightly lifted up, and no longer touching the two volumes on which it rested before, because it is supported by the tops of the anticlinal ridges formed by the curved cloths. In like manner there can be no doubt that the squeezed strata, although laterally condensed and more closely packed, are yet elongated and made to rise upward, in a direction perpendicular to the pressure.

Whether the analogous flexures in stratified rocks have really been due to similar sideway movements is a question which we can not decide by reference to our own observation. Our inability to explain the nature of the process is, perhaps, not simply owing to the inaccessibility of the subterranean regions where the mechanical force is exerted, but to the extreme slowness of the movement. The changes may sometimes be due to variation in the temperature of mountain masses of rock causing them, while still solid, to expand or contract; or melting them, and then again cooling them and allowing them to crystallise. If such be the case, we have scarcely more reason to expect to witness the operation of the process within the limited periods of our scientific observation than to see the swelling of the roots of a tree, by which, in the course of years, a wall of solid masonry may be lifted up, rent or thrown down. In both instances the force may be irresistible, but though adequate, it need not be visible by us, provided the time required for its development be very great. The lateral pressure arising from the unequal expansion of rocks by heat may cause one mass lying in the same horizontal plane gradually to occupy a larger space, so as to press upon another rock, which, if flexible, may be squeezed into a bent and folded form. It will also appear, when the volcanic and granitic rocks are described, that some of them have, when melted in the interior of the earth's crust, been injected forcibly into fissures, and after the solidification of such intruded matter, other sets of rents, crossing the first, have been formed and in their turn filled by melted rock. Such repeated injections imply a stretching, and often upheaval, of the whole mass.

We also know, especially by the study of regions liable to earthquakes, that there are causes at work in the interior of the earth capable of producing a sinking in of the ground, sometimes very local, but often extending over a wide area. The continuance of such a downward movement, especially if partial and confined to linear areas, may produce regular folds in the strata.


The "creeps," as they are called in coal-mines, afford an excellent illustration of this fact.— First, it may be stated generally, that the excavation of coal at a considerable depth causes the mass of overlying strata to sink down bodily, even when props are left to support the roof of the mine. "In Yorkshire," says Mr. Buddle, "three distinct subsidences were perceptible at the surface, after the clearing out of three seams of coal below, and innumerable vertical cracks were caused in the incumbent mass of sandstone and shale which thus settled down." (Proceedings of Geological Society volume 3 page 148.) The exact amount of depression in these cases can only be accurately measured where water accumulates on the surface, or a railway traverses a coal-field.

(FIGURE 59. Section of carboniferous strata at Wallsend, Newcastle, showing "creeps." (J. Buddle, Esq.) Horizontal length of section 174 feet. The upper seam, or main coal, here worked out, was 630 feet below the surface. Section through, from top to bottom: Siliceous sandstone. Shale. 1. Main coal, 6 feet 6 inches, with creeps a, b, c, d. Shale eighteen yards thick. 2. Metal coal, 3 feet, with fractures e, f, g, h.)

When a bed of coal is worked out, pillars or rectangular masses of coal are left at intervals as props to support the roof, and protect the colliers. Thus in Figure 59, representing a section at Wallsend, Newcastle, the galleries which have been excavated are represented by the white spaces a, b, while the adjoining dark portions are parts of the original coal seam left as props, beds of sandy clay or shale constituting the floor of the mine. When the props have been reduced in size, they are pressed down by the weight of overlying rocks (no less than 630 feet thick) upon the shale below, which is thereby squeezed and forced up into the open spaces.

Now it might have been expected that, instead of the floor rising up, the ceiling would sink down, and this effect, called a "thrust," does, in fact, take place where the pavement is more solid than the roof. But it usually happens, in coalmines, that the roof is composed of hard shale, or occasionally of sandstone, more unyielding than the foundation, which often consists of clay. Even where the argillaceous substrata are hard at first, they soon become softened and reduced to a plastic state when exposed to the contact of air and water in the floor of a mine.

The first symptom of a "creep," says Mr. Buddle, is a slight curvature at the bottom of each gallery, as at a, Figure 59: then the pavement, continuing to rise, begins to open with a longitudinal crack, as at b; then the points of the fractured ridge reach the roof, as at c; and, lastly, the upraised beds close up the whole gallery, and the broken portions of the ridge are reunited and flattened at the top, exhibiting the flexure seen at d. Meanwhile the coal in the props has become crushed and cracked by pressure. It is also found that below the creeps a, b, c, d, an inferior stratum, called the "metal coal," which is 3 feet thick, has been fractured at the points e, f, g, h, and has risen, so as to prove that the upward movement, caused by the working out of the "main coal," has been propagated through a thickness of 54 feet of argillaceous beds, which intervene between the two coal-seams. This same displacement has also been traced downward more than 150 feet below the metal coal, but it grows continually less and less until it becomes imperceptible.

No part of the process above described is more deserving of our notice than the slowness with which the change in the arrangement of the beds is brought about. Days, months, or even years, will sometimes elapse between the first bending of the pavement and the time of its reaching the roof. Where the movement has been most rapid, the curvature of the beds is most regular, and the reunion of the fractured ends most complete; whereas the signs of displacement or violence are greatest in those creeps which have required months or years for their entire accomplishment. Hence we may conclude that similar changes may have been wrought on a larger scale in the earth's crust by partial and gradual subsidences, especially where the ground has been undermined throughout long periods of time; and we must be on our guard against inferring sudden violence, simply because the distortion of the beds is excessive.

Engineers are familiar with the fact that when they raise the level of a railway by heaping stone or gravel on a foundation of marsh, quicksand, or other yielding formation, the new mound often sinks for a time as fast as they attempt to elevate it; when they have persevered so as to overcome this difficulty, they frequently find that some of the adjoining flexible ground has risen up in one or more parallel arches or folds, showing that the vertical pressure of the sinking materials has given rise to a lateral folding movement.

In like manner, in the interior of the earth, the solid parts of the earth's crust may sometimes, as before mentioned, be made to expand by heat, or may be pressed by the force of steam against flexible strata loaded with a great weight of incumbent rocks. In this case the yielding mass, squeezed, but unable to overcome the resistance which it meets with in a vertical direction, may be gradually relieved by lateral folding.


(FIGURE 60. Series of inclined strata dipping to the north at an angle of 45 degrees.)

In describing the manner in which strata depart from their original horizontality, some technical terms, such as "dip" and "strike," "anticlinal" and "synclinal" line or axis, are used by geologists. I shall now proceed to explain some of these to the student. If a stratum or bed of rock, instead of being quite level, be inclined to one side, it is said to DIP; the point of the compass to which it is inclined is called the POINT OF DIP, and the degree of deviation from a level or horizontal line is called THE AMOUNT OF DIP, or THE ANGLE OF DIP. Thus, in the diagram (Figure 60), a series of strata are inclined, and they dip to the north at an angle of forty-five degrees. The STRIKE, or LINE OF BEARING, is the prolongation or extension of the strata in a direction AT RIGHT ANGLES to the dip; and hence it is sometimes called the DIRECTION of the strata. Thus, in the above instance of strata dipping to the north, their strike must necessarily be east and west. We have borrowed the word from the German geologists, streichen signifying to extend, to have a certain direction. Dip and strike may be aptly illustrated by a row of houses running east and west, the long ridge of the roof representing the strike of the stratum of slates, which dip on one side to the north, and on the other to the south.

A stratum which is horizontal, or quite level in all directions, has neither dip nor strike.

It is always important for the geologist, who is endeavouring to comprehend the structure of a country, to learn how the beds dip in every part of the district; but it requires some practice to avoid being occasionally deceived, both as to the point of dip and the amount of it.

(FIGURE 61. Apparent horizontality of inclined strata.)

If the upper surface of a hard stony stratum be uncovered, whether artificially in a quarry, or by waves at the foot of a cliff, it is easy to determine towards what point of the compass the slope is steepest, or in what direction water would flow if poured upon it. This is the true dip. But the edges of highly inclined strata may give rise to perfectly horizontal lines in the face of a vertical cliff, if the observer see the strata in the line of the strike, the dip being inward from the face of the cliff. If, however, we come to a break in the cliff, which exhibits a section exactly at right angles to the line of the strike, we are then able to ascertain the true dip. In the drawing (Figure 61), we may suppose a headland, one side of which faces to the north, where the beds would appear perfectly horizontal to a person in the boat; while in the other side facing the west, the true dip would be seen by the person on shore to be at an angle of 40 degrees. If, therefore, our observations are confined to a vertical precipice facing in one direction, we must endeavour to find a ledge or portion of the plane of one of the beds projecting beyond the others, in order to ascertain the true dip.

(FIGURE 62. Two hands used to determine the inclination of strata.)

If not provided with a clinometer, a most useful instrument, when it is of consequence to determine with precision the inclination of the strata, the observer may measure the angle within a few degrees by standing exactly opposite to a cliff where the true dip is exhibited, holding the hands immediately before the eyes, and placing the fingers of one in a perpendicular, and of the other in a horizontal position, as in Figure 62. It is thus easy to discover whether the lines of the inclined beds bisect the angle of 90 degrees, formed by the meeting of the hands, so as to give an angle of 45 degrees, or whether it would divide the space into two equal or unequal portions. You have only to change hands to get the line of dip on the upper side of the horizontal hand.

(FIGURE 63. Section illustrating the structure of the Swiss Jura.)

It has been already seen, in describing the curved strata on the east coast of Scotland, in Forfarshire and Berwickshire, that a series of concave and convex bendings are occasionally repeated several times. These usually form part of a series of parallel waves of strata, which are prolonged in the same direction, throughout a considerable extent of country. Thus, for example, in the Swiss Jura, that lofty chain of mountains has been proved to consist of many parallel ridges, with intervening longitudinal valleys, as in Figure 63, the ridges being formed by curved fossiliferous strata, of which the nature and dip are occasionally displayed in deep transverse gorges, called "cluses," caused by fractures at right angles to the direction of the chain. (Thurmann "Essai sur les Soulevemens Jurassiques de Porrentruy" Paris 1832.) Now let us suppose these ridges and parallel valleys to run north and south, we should then say that the STRIKE of the beds is north and south, and the DIP east and west. Lines drawn along the summits of the ridges, A, B, would be anticlinal lines, and one following the bottom of the adjoining valleys a synclinal line.


(FIGURE 64. Ground-plan of the denuded ridge C, Figure 63.)

(FIGURE 65. Transverse section of the denuded ridge C, Figure 63..)

It will be observed that some of these ridges, A, B, are unbroken on the summit, whereas one of them, C, has been fractured along the line of strike, and a portion of it carried away by denudation, so that the ridges of the beds in the formations a, b, c come out to the day, or, as the miners say, CROP OUT, on the sides of a valley. The ground-plan of such a denuded ridge as C, as given in a geological map, may be expressed by the diagram, Figure 64, and the cross- section of the same by Figure 65. The line D E, Figure 64, is the anticlinal line, on each side of which the dip is in opposite directions, as expressed by the arrows. The emergence of strata at the surface is called by miners their OUTCROP, or BASSET.

If, instead of being folded into parallel ridges, the beds form a boss or dome- shaped protuberance, and if we suppose the summit of the dome carried off, the ground-plan would exhibit the edges of the strata forming a succession of circles, or ellipses, round a common centre. These circles are the lines of strike, and the dip being always at right angles is inclined in the course of the circuit to every point of the compass, constituting what is termed a qua- quaversal dip— that is, turning every way.

There are endless variations in the figures described by the basset-edges of the strata, according to the different inclination of the beds, and the mode in which they happen to have been denuded. One of the simplest rules, with which every geologist should be acquainted, relates to the V-like form of the beds as they crop out in an ordinary valley. First, if the strata be horizontal, the V- like form will be also on a level, and the newest strata will appear at the greatest heights.

(FIGURE 66. Slope of valley 40 degrees, dip of strata 20 degrees.)

Secondly, if the beds be inclined and intersected by a valley sloping in the same direction, and the dip of the beds be less steep than the slope of the valley, then the V's, as they are often termed by miners, will point upward (see Figure 66), those formed by the newer beds appearing in a superior position, and extending highest up the valley, as A is seen above B.

(FIGURE 67. Slope of valley 20 degrees, dip of strata 50 degrees.)

Thirdly, if the dip of the beds be steeper than the slope of the valley, then the V's will point downward (see Figure 67), and those formed of the older beds will now appear uppermost, as B appears above A.

(FIGURE 68. Slope of valley 20 degrees, dip of strata 20 degrees, in opposite directions.)

Fourthly, in every case where the strata dip in a contrary direction to the slope of the valley, whatever be the angle of inclination, the newer beds will appear the highest, as in the first and second cases. This is shown by the drawing (Figure 68), which exhibits strata rising at an angle of 20 degrees, and crossed by a valley, which declines in an opposite direction at 20 degrees.

These rules may often be of great practical utility; for the different degrees of dip occurring in the two cases represented in Figures 66 and 67 may occasionally be encountered in following the same line of flexure at points a few miles distant from each other. A miner unacquainted with the rule, who had first explored the valley Figure 66, may have sunk a vertical shaft below the coal-seam A, until he reached the inferior bed, B. He might then pass to the valley, Figure 67, and discovering there also the outcrop of two coal-seams, might begin his workings in the uppermost in the expectation of coming down to the other bed A, which would be observed cropping out lower down the valley. But a glance at the section will demonstrate the futility of such hopes. (I am indebted to the kindness of T. Sopwith, Esq., for three models which I have copied in the above diagrams; but the beginner may find it by no means easy to understand such copies, although, if he were to examine and handle the originals, turning them about in different ways, he would at once comprehend their meaning, as well as the import of others far more complicated, which the same engineer has constructed to illustrate FAULTS.)


(FIGURE 69. Section of carboniferous rocks of Lancashire. (E. Hull. (Edward Hull, Quarterly Geological Journal volume 24 page 324. 1868.)) a. Synclinal. Grits and shales. c. Anticlinal. Mountain limestone. b. Synclinal. Grits and shales.)

Although in many cases an anticlinal axis forms a ridge, and a synclinal axis a valley, as in A B, Figure 63, yet this can by no means be laid down as a general rule, as the beds very often slope inward from either side of a mountain, as at a, b, Figure 69, while in the intervening valley, c, they slope upward, forming an arch.

It would be natural to expect the fracture of solid rocks to take place chiefly where the bending of the strata has been sharpest, and such rending may produce ravines giving access to running water and exposing the surface to atmospheric waste. The entire absence, however, of such cracks at points where the strain must have been greatest, as at a, Figure 63, is often very remarkable, and not always easy of explanation. We must imagine that many strata of limestone, chert, and other rocks which are now brittle, were pliant when bent into their present position. They may have owed their flexibility in part to the fluid matter which they contained in their minute pores, as before described, and in part to the permeation of sea-water while they were yet submerged.

(FIGURE 70. Strata of chert, grit, and marl, near St. Jean de Luz.)

At the western extremity of the Pyrenees, great curvatures of the strata are seen in the sea-cliffs, where the rocks consist of marl, grit, and chert. At certain points, as at a, Figure 70, some of the bendings of the flinty chert are so sharp that specimens might be broken off well fitted to serve as ridge-tiles on the roof of a house. Although this chert could not have been brittle as now, when first folded into this shape, it presents, nevertheless, here and there, at the points of greatest flexure, small cracks, which show that it was solid, and not wholly incapable of breaking at the period of its displacement. The numerous rents alluded to are not empty, but filled with chalcedony and quartz.

(FIGURE 71. Bent and undulating gypseous marl. g. Gypsum. m. Marl.)

Between San Caterina and Castrogiovanni, in Sicily, bent and undulating gypseous marls occur, with here and there thin beds of solid gypsum interstratified. Sometimes these solid layers have been broken into detached fragments, still preserving their sharp edges (g, g, Figure 71), while the continuity of the more pliable and ductile marls, m, m, has not been interrupted.

(FIGURE 72. Folded strata.)

(FIGURE 73. Folded strata.)

We have already explained, Figure 69, that stratified rocks have usually their strata bent into parallel folds forming anticlinal and synclinal axes, a group of several of these folds having often been subjected to a common movement, and having acquired a uniform strike or direction. In some disturbed regions these folds have been doubled back upon themselves in such a manner that it is often difficult for an experienced geologist to determine correctly the relative age of the beds by superposition. Thus, if we meet with the strata seen in the section, Figure 72, we should naturally suppose that there were twelve distinct beds, or sets of beds, No. 1 being the newest, and No. 12 the oldest of the series. But this section may perhaps exhibit merely six beds, which have been folded in the manner seen in Figure 73, so that each of them is twice repeated, the position of one half being reversed, and part of No. 1, originally the uppermost, having now become the lowest of the series.

These phenomena are observable on a magnificent scale in certain regions in Switzerland, in precipices often more than 2000 feet in perpendicular height, and there are flexures not inferior in dimensions in the Pyrenees. The upper part of the curves seen in this diagram, Figure 73, and expressed in fainter lines, has been removed by what is called denudation, to be afterwards explained.


Numerous rents may often be seen in rocks which appear to have been simply broken, the fractured parts still remaining in contact; but we often find a fissure, several inches or yards wide, intervening between the disunited portions. These fissures are usually filled with fine earth and sand, or with angular fragments of stone, evidently derived from the fracture of the contiguous rocks.

The face of each wall of the fissure is often beautifully polished, as if glazed, striated, or scored with parallel furrows and ridges, such as would be produced by the continued rubbing together of surfaces of unequal hardness. These polished surfaces are called by miners "slickensides." It is supposed that the lines of the striae indicate the direction in which the rocks were moved. During one of the minor earthquakes in Chili, in 1840, the brick walls of a building were rent vertically in several places, and made to vibrate for several minutes during each shock, after which they remained uninjured, and without any opening, although the line of each crack was still visible. When all movement had ceased, there were seen on the floor of the house, at the bottom of each rent, small heaps of fine brick-dust, evidently produced by trituration.

(FIGURE 74. Faults. A B perpendicular, C D oblique to the horizon.)

(FIGURE 75. E F, fault or fissure filled with rubbish, on each side of which the shifted strata are not parallel.)

It is not uncommon to find the mass of rock on one side of a fissure thrown up above or down below the mass with which it was once in contact on the other side. "This mode of displacement is called a fault, shift, slip, or throw." "The miner," says Playfair, describing a fault, "is often perplexed, in his subterranean journey, by a derangement in the strata, which changes at once all those lines and bearings which had hitherto directed his course. When his mine reaches a certain plane, which is sometimes perpendicular, as in A B, Figure 74, sometimes oblique to the horizon (as in C D, ibid.), he finds the beds of rock broken asunder, those on the one side of the plane having changed their place, by sliding in a particular direction along the face of the others. In this motion they have sometimes preserved their parallelism, as in Figure 74, so that the strata on each side of faults A B, C D, continue parallel to one another; in other cases, the strata on each side are inclined, as in a, b, c, d (Figure 75), though their identity is still to be recognised by their possessing the same thickness and the same internal characters." (Playfair, Illustration of Hutt. Theory paragraph 42.)

In Coalbrook Dale, says Mr. Prestwich (Geological Transactions second series volume 5 page 452.), deposits of sandstone, shale, and coal, several thousand feet thick, and occupying an area of many miles, have been shivered into fragments, and the broken remnants have been placed in very discordant positions, often at levels differing several hundred feet from each other. The sides of the faults, when perpendicular, are commonly several yards apart, and are sometimes as much as 50 yards asunder, the interval being filled with broken debris of the strata. In following the course of the same fault it is sometimes found to produce in different places very unequal changes of level, the amount of shift being in one place 300, and in another 700 feet, which arises from the union of two or more faults. In other words, the disjointed strata have in certain districts been subjected to renewed movements, which they have not suffered elsewhere.

We may occasionally see exact counterparts of these slips, on a small scale, in pits of loose sand and gravel, many of which have doubtless been caused by the drying and shrinking of argillaceous and other beds, slight subsidences having taken place from failure of support. Sometimes, however, even these small slips may have been produced during earthquakes; for land has been moved, and its level, relatively to the sea, considerably altered, within the period when much of the alluvial sand and gravel now covering the surface of continents was deposited.

I have already stated that a geologist must be on his guard, in a region of disturbed strata, against inferring repeated alternations of rocks, when, in fact, the same strata, once continuous, have been bent round so as to recur in the same section, and with the same dip. A similar mistake has often been occasioned by a series of faults.

(FIGURE 76. Apparent alternations of strata caused by vertical faults.)

If, for example, the dark line A H (Figure 76) represent the surface of a country on which the strata a, b, c frequently crop out, an observer who is proceeding from H to A might at first imagine that at every step he was approaching new strata, whereas the repetition of the same beds has been caused by vertical faults, or downthrows. Thus, suppose the original mass, A, B, C, D, to have been a set of uniformly inclined strata, and that the different masses under E F, F G, and G D sank down successively, so as to leave vacant the spaces marked in the diagram by dotted lines, and to occupy those marked by the continuous lines, then let denudation take place along the line A H, so that the protruding masses indicated by the fainter lines are swept away— a miner, who has not discovered the faults, finding the mass a, which we will suppose to be a bed of coal four times repeated, might hope to find four beds, workable to an indefinite depth, but first, on arriving at the fault G, he is stopped suddenly in his workings, for he comes partly upon the shale b, and partly on the sandstone c; the same result awaits him at the fault F, and on reaching E he is again stopped by a wall composed of the rock d.

The very different levels at which the separated parts of the same strata are found on the different sides of the fissure, in some faults, is truly astonishing. One of the most celebrated in England is that called the "ninety- fathom dike," in the coal-field of Newcastle. This name has been given to it, because the same beds are ninety fathoms (540 feet) lower on the northern than they are on the southern side. The fissure has been filled by a body of sand, which is now in the state of sandstone, and is called the dike, which is sometimes very narrow, but in other places more than twenty yards wide. (Conybeare and Phillips Outlines, etc. page 376.) The walls of the fissure are scored by grooves, such as would have been produced if the broken ends of the rock had been rubbed along the plane of the fault. (Phillips Geology Lardner's Cyclop. page 41.) In the Tynedale and Craven faults, in the north of England, the vertical displacement is still greater, and the fracture has extended in a horizontal direction for a distance of thirty miles or more.


It must not, however, be supposed that faults generally consist of single linear rents; there are usually a number of faults springing off from the main one, and sometimes a long strip of country seems broken up into fragments by sets of parallel and connecting transverse faults. Oftentimes a great line of fault has been repeated, or the movements have been continued through successive periods, so that, newer deposits having covered the old line of displacement, the strata both newer and older have given way along the old line of fracture. Some geologists have considered it necessary to imagine that the upward or downward movement in these cases was accomplished at a single stroke, and not by a series of sudden but interrupted movements. They appear to have derived this idea from a notion that the grooved walls have merely been rubbed in one direction, which is far from being a constant phenomenon. Not only are some sets of striae not parallel to others, but the clay and rubbish between the walls, when squeezed or rubbed, have been streaked in different directions, the grooves which the harder minerals have impressed on the softer being frequently curved and irregular.

(FIGURE 77. Faults and denuded coal-strata, Ashby de la Zouch. (Mammatt.))

The usual absence of protruding masses of rock forming precipices or ridges along the lines of great faults has already been alluded to in explaining Figure 76, and the same remarkable fact is well exemplified in every coal-field which has been extensively worked. It is in such districts that the former relation of the beds which have been shifted is determinable with great accuracy. Thus in the coal-field of Ashby de la Zouch, in Leicestershire (see Figure 77), a fault occurs, on one side of which the coal-beds a, b, c, d must once have risen to the height of 500 feet above the corresponding beds on the other side. But the uplifted strata do not stand up 500 feet above the general surface; on the contrary, the outline of the country, as expressed by the line z z, is uniformly undulating, without any break, and the mass indicated by the dotted outline must have been washed away. (See Mammatt's Geological Facts etc. page 90 and plate.)

The student may refer to Mr. Hull's measurement of faults, observed in the Lancashire coal-field, where the vertical displacement has amounted to thousands of feet, and yet where all the superficial inequalities which must have resulted from such movements have been obliterated by subsequent denudation. In the same memoir proofs are afforded of there having been two periods of vertical movement in the same fault— one, for example, before, and another after, the Triassic epoch. (Hull Quarterly Geological Journal volume 24 page 318. 1868.)

The shifting of the beds by faults is often intimately connected with those same foldings which constitute the anticlinal and synclinal axes before alluded to, and there is no doubt that the subterranean causes of both forms of disturbance are to a great extent the same. A fault in Virginia, believed to imply a displacement of several thousand feet, has been traced for more than eighty miles in the same direction as the foldings of the Appalachian chain. (H.D. Rogers Geology of Pennsylvania page 897.) An hypothesis which attributes such a change of position to a succession of movements, is far preferable to any theory which assumes each fault to have been accomplished by a single upcast or downthrow of several thousand feet. For we know that there are operations now in progress, at great depths in the interior of the earth, by which both large and small tracts of ground are made to rise above and sink below their former level, some slowly and insensibly, others suddenly and by starts, a few feet or yards at a time; whereas there are no grounds for believing that, during the last 3000 years at least, any regions have been either upheaved or depressed, at a single stroke, to the amount of several hundred, much less several thousand feet.

It is certainly not easy to understand how in the subterranean regions one mass of solid rock should have been folded up by a continued series of movements, while another mass in contact, or only separated by a line of fissure, has remained stationary or has perhaps subsided. But every volcano, by the intermittent action of the steam, gases, and lava evolved during an eruption, helps us to form some idea of the manner in which such operations take place. For eruptions are repeated at uncertain intervals throughout the whole or a large part of a geological period, some of the surrounding and contiguous districts remaining quite undisturbed. And in most of the instances with which we are best acquainted the emission of lava, scoria, and steam is accompanied by the uplifting of the solid crust. Thus in Vesuvius, Etna, the Madeiras, the Canary Islands, and the Azores there is evidence of marine deposits of recent and tertiary date having been elevated to the height of a thousand feet, and sometimes more, since the commencement of the volcanic explosions. There is, moreover, a general tendency in contemporaneous volcanic vents to affect a linear arrangement, extending in some instances, as in the Andes or the Indian Archipelago, to distances equalling half the circumference of the globe. Where volcanic heat, therefore, operates at such a depth as not to obtain vent at the surface, in the form of an eruption, it may nevertheless be conceived to give rise to upheavals, foldings, and faults in certain linear tracts. And marine denudation, to be treated of in the next chapter, will help us to understand why that which should be the protruding portion of the faulted rocks is missing at the surface.

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