Augustin is believed to have been built in 1614, and there is a tradition that the sea formerly flowed very near it; by levelling, its foundations were found to stand nineteen feet six inches above the highest beach-line; so that we see in a period of 220 years, the elevation cannot have been as much as nineteen feet six inches. From the facts given with respect to the sea-wall, and from the testimony of the elder inhabitants, it appears certain that the change in level began to be manifest about the year 1817. The only sudden elevation of which there is any record occurred in 1822, and this seems to have been less than three feet. Since that year, I was assured by several competent observers, that part of an old wreck, which is firmly embedded near the beach, has sensibly emerged; hence here, as at Chiloe, a slow rise of the land appears to be now in progress. It seems highly probable that the rocks which are corroded in a band at the height of fourteen feet above the sea were acted on during the period, when by tradition the base of S. Augustin church, now nineteen feet six inches above the highest water-mark, was occasionally washed by the waves.


For the first seventy-five miles north of Valparaiso I followed the coast- road, and throughout this space I observed innumerable masses of upraised shells. About Quintero there are immense accumulations (worked for lime) of the Mesodesma donaciforme, packed in sandy earth; they abound chiefly about fifteen feet above high-water, but shells are here found, according to Mr. Miers, to a height of 500 feet, and at a distance of three leagues from the coast ("Travels in Chile" volume 1 pages 395, 458. I received several similar accounts from the inhabitants, and was assured that there are many shells on the plain of Casa Blanca, between Valparaiso and Santiago, at the height of 800 feet.): I here noticed barnacles adhering to the rocks three or four feet above the highest tides. In the neighbourhood of Plazilla and Catapilco, at heights of between two hundred and three hundred feet, the number of comminuted shells, with some perfect ones, especially of the Mesodesma, packed in layers, was truly immense: the land at Plazilla had evidently existed as a bay, with abrupt rocky masses rising out of it, precisely like the islets in the broken bays now indenting this coast. On both sides of the rivers Ligua, Longotomo, Guachen, and Quilimari, there are plains of gravel about two hundred feet in height, in many parts absolutely covered with shells. Close to Conchalee, a gravel-plain is fronted by a lower and similar plain about sixty feet in height, and this again is separated from the beach by a wide tract of low land: the surfaces of all three plains or terraces were strewed with vast numbers of the Concholepas, Mesodesma, an existing Venus, and other still existing littoral shells. The two upper terraces closely resemble in miniature the plains of Patagonia; and like them are furrowed by dry, flat-bottomed, winding valleys. Northward of this place I turned inward; and therefore found no more shells: but the valleys of Chuapa, Illapel, and Limari, are bounded by gravel-capped plains, often including a lower terrace within. These plains send bay-like arms between and into the surrounding hills; and they are continuously united with other extensive gravel-capped plains, separating the coast mountain-ranges from the Cordillera.


A narrow fringe-like plain, gently inclined towards the sea, here extends for eleven miles along the coast, with arms stretching up between the coast-mountains, and likewise up the valley of Coquimbo: at its southern extremity it is directly connected with the plain of Limari, out of which hills abruptly rise like islets, and other hills project like headlands on a coast. The surface of the fringe-like plain appears level, but differs insensibly in height, and greatly in composition, in different parts.

At the mouth of the valley of Coquimbo, the surface consists wholly of gravel, and stands from 300 to 350 feet above the level of the sea, being about one hundred feet higher than in other parts.

South American Geology Page 34

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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