This Shoalness of the sea- channels near their entrances probably results from the quantity of sediment formed by the wear and tear of the outer rocks exposed to the full force of the open sea. I have no doubt that many lakes, for instance in Scotland, which are very deep within, and are separated from the sea apparently only by a tract of detritus, were originally sea-channels with banks of this nature near their mouths, which have since been upheaved.)

The sea acts in another and distinct manner in the distribution of pebbles, namely by the waves on the beach. Mr. Palmer, in his excellent memoir on this subject, has shown that vast masses of shingle travel with surprising quickness along lines of coast, according to the direction with which the waves break on the beach and that this is determined by the prevailing direction of the winds. ("Philosophical Transactions" 1834 page 576.) This agency must be powerful in mingling together and disseminating pebbles derived from different sources: we may, perhaps, thus understand the wide distribution of the gallstone-yellow porphyry; and likewise, perhaps, the great difference in the nature of the pebbles at the mouth of the Santa Cruz from those in the same latitude at the head of the valley.

I will not pretend to assign to these several and complicated agencies their shares in the distribution of the Patagonian shingle: but from the several considerations given in this chapter, and I may add, from the frequency of a capping of gravel on tertiary deposits in all parts of the world, as I have myself observed and seen stated in the works of various authors, I cannot doubt that the power of widely dispersing gravel is an ordinary contingent on the action of the sea; and that even in the case of the great Patagonian shingle-bed we have no occasion to call in the aid of debacles. I at one time imagined that perhaps an immense accumulation of shingle had originally been collected at the foot of the Cordillera; and that this accumulation, when upraised above the level of the sea, had been eaten into and partially spread out (as off the present line of coast); and that the newly-spread out bed had in its turn been upraised, eaten into, and re-spread out; and so onwards, until the shingle, which was first accumulated in great thickness at the foot of the Cordillera, had reached in thinner beds its present extension. By whatever means the gravel formation of Patagonia may have been distributed, the vastness of its area, its thickness, its superficial position, its recent origin, and the great degree of similarity in the nature of its pebbles, all appear to me well deserving the attention of geologists, in relation to the origin of the widely-spread beds of conglomerate belonging to past epochs.



Height in feet above sea level.

Depths in fathoms.

Vertical and horizontal scale, two inches to a nautical mile. The point marked 1,600 feet is at the foot of High Knoll; point marked 510 feet is on the edge of Ladder Hill. The strata consist of basaltic streams.

Section left to right:

Height at the foot of High Knoll: 1,600 at top of strata.

Height on the edge of Ladder Hill: 510 at top of strata.

Bottom at coast rocky only to a depth of five or six fathoms.

30 fathoms: bottom mud and sand.

100 fathoms sloping more sharply to 250 fathoms.)

When viewing the sea-worn cliffs of Patagonia, in some parts between eight hundred and nine hundred feet in height, and formed of horizontal tertiary strata, which must once have extended far seaward--or again, when viewing the lofty cliffs round many volcanic islands, in which the gentle inclination of the lava-streams indicates the former extension of the land, a difficulty often occurred to me, namely, how the strata could possibly have been removed by the action of the sea at a considerable depth beneath its surface. The section in Diagram 7, which represents the general form of the land on the northern and leeward side of St.

South American Geology Page 26

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Charles Darwin

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