By trying with a parallel ruler, I found that the thin grey layers and the black hair-like lines were absolutely straight and parallel to each other. It is impossible to trace the gradation from the homogeneous grey rocks to these striped varieties, or indeed the character of the different layers in the same specimen, without feeling convinced that the more or less perfect whiteness of the crystalline feldspathic matter depends on the more or less perfect aggregation of diffused matter, into the black and red specks of hornblende and oxide of iron.


A compact heavy rock, not laminated, with an irregular, angular, highly crystalline, fracture; it abounds with distinct crystals of glassy feldspar, and the crystalline feldspathic base is mottled with a black mineral, which on the weathered surface is seen to be aggregated into small crystals, some perfect, but the greater number imperfect. I showed this specimen to an experienced geologist, and asked him what it was; he answered, as I think every one else would have done, that it was a primitive greenstone. The weathered surface, also, of the banded variety in Figure 4, strikingly resembles a worn fragment of finely laminated gneiss.

These five varieties, with many intermediate ones, pass and repass into each other. As the compact varieties are quite subordinate to the others, the whole may be considered as laminated or striped. The laminae, to sum up their characteristics, are either quite straight, or slightly tortuous, or convoluted; they are all parallel to each other, and to the intercalating strata of obsidian; they are generally of extreme thinness; they consist either of an apparently homogeneous, compact rock, striped with different shades of grey and brown colours, or of crystalline feldspathic layers in a more or less perfect state of purity, and of different thicknesses, with distinct crystals of glassy feldspar placed lengthways, or of very thin layers chiefly composed of minute crystals of quartz and augite, or composed of black and red specks of an augitic mineral and of an oxide of iron, either not crystallised or imperfectly so. After having fully described the obsidian, I shall return to the subject of the lamination of rocks of the trachytic series.

The passage of the foregoing beds into the strata of glassy obsidian is effected in several ways: first, angulo-modular masses of obsidian, both large and small, abruptly appear disseminated in a slaty, or in an amorphous, pale-coloured, feldspathic rock, with a somewhat pearly fracture. Secondly, small irregular nodules of the obsidian, either standing separately, or united into thin layers, seldom more than the tenth of an inch in thickness, alternate repeatedly with very thin layers of a feldspathic rock, which is striped with the finest parallel zones of colour, like an agate, and which sometimes passes into the nature of pitchstone; the interstices between the nodules of obsidian are generally filled by soft white matter, resembling pumiceous ashes. Thirdly, the whole substance of the bounding rock suddenly passes into an angulo-concretionary mass of obsidian. Such masses (as well as the small nodules) of obsidian are of a pale green colour, and are generally streaked with different shades of colour, parallel to the laminae of the surrounding rock; they likewise generally contain minute white sphaerulites, of which half is sometimes embedded in a zone of one shade of colour, and half in a zone of another shade. The obsidian assumes its jet black colour and perfectly conchoidal fracture, only when in large masses; but even in these, on careful examination and on holding the specimens in different lights, I could generally distinguish parallel streaks of different shades of darkness.

(FIGURE 6. OPAQUE BROWN SPHAERULITES, drawn on an enlarged scale. The upper ones are externally marked with parallel ridges. The internal radiating structure of the lower ones, is much too plainly represented.


One of the commonest transitional rocks deserves in several respects a further description.

Volcanic Islands Page 35

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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