THE EXTENT AND HORIZONTALITY OF THE CALCAREOUS STRATUM.

(FIGURE 2: SIGNAL POST HILL. (Section with A low and C high.)

A.--Ancient volcanic rocks.

B.--Calcareous stratum.

C.--Upper basaltic lava.)

The upper line of surface of the calcareous stratum, which is so conspicuous from being quite white and so nearly horizontal, ranges for miles along the coast, at the height of about sixty feet above the sea. The sheet of basalt, by which it is capped, is on an average eighty feet in thickness. Westward of Porto Praya beyond Red Hill, the white stratum with the superincumbent basalt is covered up by more recent streams. Northward of Signal Post Hill, I could follow it with my eye, trending away for several miles along the sea cliffs. The distance thus observed is about seven miles; but I cannot doubt from its regularity that it extends much farther. In some ravines at right angles to the coast, it is seen gently dipping towards the sea, probably with the same inclination as when deposited round the ancient shores of the island. I found only one inland section, namely, at the base of the hill marked A, where, at the height of some hundred feet, this bed was exposed; it here rested on the usual compact augitic rock associated with wacke, and was covered by the widespread sheet of modern basaltic lava. Some exceptions occur to the horizontality of the white stratum: at Quail Island, its upper surface is only forty feet above the level of the sea; here also the capping of lava is only between twelve and fifteen feet in thickness; on the other hand, at the north-east side of Porto Praya harbour, the calcareous stratum, as well as the rock on which it rests, attain a height above the average level: the inequality of level in these two cases is not, as I believe, owing to unequal elevation, but to original irregularities at the bottom of the sea. Of this fact, at Quail Island, there was clear evidence in the calcareous deposit being in one part of much greater than the average thickness, and in another part being entirely absent; in this latter case, the modern basaltic lavas rested directly on those of more ancient origin.

Under Signal Post Hill, the white stratum dips into the sea in a remarkable manner. This hill is conical, 450 feet in height, and retains some traces of having had a crateriform structure; it is composed chiefly of matter erupted posteriorly to the elevation of the great basaltic plain, but partly of lava of apparently submarine origin and of considerable antiquity. The surrounding plain, as well as the eastern flank of this hill, has been worn into steep precipices, overhanging the sea. In these precipices, the white calcareous stratum may be seen, at the height of about seventy feet above the beach, running for some miles both northward and southward of the hill, in a line appearing to be perfectly horizontal; but for a space of a quarter of a mile directly under the hill, it dips into the sea and disappears. On the south side the dip is gradual, on the north side it is more abrupt, as is shown in Figure 2. As neither the calcareous stratum, nor the superincumbent basaltic lava (as far as the latter can be distinguished from the more modern ejections), appears to thicken as it dips, I infer that these strata were not originally accumulated in a trough, the centre of which afterwards became a point of eruption; but that they have subsequently been disturbed and bent. We may suppose either that Signal Post Hill subsided after its elevation with the surrounding country, or that it never was uplifted to the same height with it. This latter seems to me the most probable alternative, for during the slow and equable elevation of this portion of the island, the subterranean motive power, from expending part of its force in repeatedly erupting volcanic matter from beneath this point, would, it is likely, have less force to uplift it. Something of the same kind seems to have occurred near Red Hill, for when tracing upwards the naked streams of lava from near Porto Praya towards the interior of the island, I was strongly induced to suspect, that since the lava had flowed, the slope of the land had been slightly modified, either by a small subsidence near Red Hill, or by that portion of the plain having been uplifted to a less height during the elevation of the whole area.

Volcanic Islands Page 11

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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