As the vesicles generally increase in size and number in the upper parts of a stream of lava, so would the effects of their compression increase; the yielding, moreover, of each lower vesicle must tend to disturb all the softened matter above it. Hence we might expect to trace a perfect gradation from an unaltered crystalline rock to one in which all the particles (although originally forming part of the same solid mass) had undergone mechanical displacement; and such particles could hardly be distinguished from others of similar composition, which had been deposited as sediment. As lavas are sometimes laminated in their upper parts even horizontal lines, appearing like those of aqueous deposition, could not in all cases be relied on as a criterion of sedimentary origin. From these considerations it is not surprising that formerly many geologists believed in real transitions from aqueous deposits, through wacke, into igneous traps.

In the valley of Tia-auru, the commonest rocks are basalts with much olivine, and in some cases almost composed of large crystals of augite. I picked up some specimens, with much glassy feldspar, approaching in character to trachyte. There were also many large blocks of vesicular basalt, with the cavities beautifully lined with chabasie (?), and radiating bundles of mesotype. Some of these specimens presented a curious appearance, owing to a number of the vesicles being half filled up with a white, soft, earthy mesotypic mineral, which intumesced under the blowpipe in a remarkable manner. As the upper surfaces in all the half-filled cells are exactly parallel, it is evident that this substance has sunk to the bottom of each cell from its weight. Sometimes, however, it entirely fills the cells. Other cells are either quite filled, or lined, with small crystals, apparently of chabasie; these crystals, also, frequently line the upper half of the cells partly filled with the earthy mineral, as well as the upper surface of this substance itself, in which case the two minerals appear to blend into each other. I have never seen any other amygdaloid with the cells half filled in the manner here described; and it is difficult to imagine the causes which determined the earthy mineral to sink from its gravity to the bottom of the cells, and the crystalline mineral to adhere in a coating of equal thickness round the sides of the cells. (MacCulloch, however, has described and given a plate of ("Geolog. Trans." 1st series volume 4 page 225) a trap rock, with cavities filled up horizontally with quartz and chalcedony. The upper halves of these cavities are often filled by layers, which follow each irregularity of the surface, and by little depending stalactites of the same siliceous substances.)

The basic strata on the sides of the valley are gently inclined seaward, and I nowhere observed any sign of disturbance; the strata are separated from each other by thick, compact beds of conglomerate, in which the fragments are large, some being rounded, but most angular. From the character of these beds, from the compact and crystalline condition of most of the lavas, and from the nature of the infiltrated minerals, I was led to conjecture that they had originally flowed beneath the sea. This conclusion agrees with the fact that the Rev. W. Ellis found marine remains at a considerable height, which he believes were interstratified with volcanic matter; as is likewise described to be the case by Messrs. Tyerman and Bennett at Huaheine, an island in this same archipelago. Mr. Stutchbury also discovered near the summit of one of the loftiest mountains of Tahiti, at the height of several thousand feet, a stratum of semi-fossil coral. None of these remains have been specifically examined. On the coast, where masses of coral-rock would have afforded the clearest evidence, I looked in vain for any signs of recent elevation. For references to the above authorities, and for more detailed reasons for not believing that Tahiti has been recently elevated, I must refer to the "Structure and Distribution of Coral-Reefs."


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Charles Darwin

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