Mr. G.R. Sowerby has examined these shells, and has described them. There are seven species, namely, one Cochlogena, two species of the genus Cochlicopa, and four of Helix; none of these are known in a recent state, or have been found in any other country. The smaller species were picked out of the inside of the large shells of the Cochlogena aurisvulpina. This last-mentioned species is in many respects a very singular one; it was classed, even by Lamarck, in a marine genus, and having thus been mistaken for a sea-shell, and the smaller accompanying species having been overlooked, the exact localities where it was found have been measured, and the elevation of this island thus deduced! It is very remarkable that all the shells of this species found by me in one spot, form a distinct variety, as described by Mr. Sowerby, from those procured from another locality by Mr. Seale. As this Cochlogena is a large and conspicuous shell, I particularly inquired from several intelligent countrymen whether they had ever seen it alive; they all assured me that they had not, and they would not even believe that it was a land animal: Mr. Seale, moreover, who was a collector of shells all his life at St. Helena, never met with it alive. Possibly some of the smaller species may turn out to be yet living kinds; but, on the other hand, the two land- shells which are now living on the island in great numbers, do not occur embedded, as far as is yet known, with the extinct species. I have shown in my "Journal" ("Journal of Researches" page 582.), that the extinction of these land-shells possibly may not be an ancient event; as a great change took place in the state of the island about one hundred and twenty years ago, when the old trees died, and were not replaced by young ones, these being destroyed by the goats and hogs, which had run wild in numbers, from the year 1502. Mr. Seale states, that on Flagstaff Hill, where we have seen that the embedded land-shells are especially numerous, traces are everywhere discoverable, which plainly indicate that it was once thickly clothed with trees; at present not even a bush grows there. The thick bed of black vegetable mould which covers the shell-bed, on the flanks of this hill, was probably washed down from the upper part, as soon as the trees perished, and the shelter afforded by them was lost.


Seeing that the lavas of the basal series, which are of submarine origin, are raised above the level of the sea, and at some places to the height of many hundred feet, I looked out for superficial signs of the elevation of the land. The bottoms of some of the gorges, which descend to the coast, are filled up to the depth of about a hundred feet, by rudely divided layers of sand, muddy clay, and fragmentary masses; in these beds, Mr. Seale has found the bones of the tropic-bird and of the albatross; the former now rarely, and the latter never visiting the island. From the difference between these layers, and the sloping piles of detritus which rest on them, I suspect that they were deposited, when the gorges stood beneath the sea. Mr. Seale, moreover, has shown that some of the fissure- like gorges become, with a concave outline, gradually rather wider at the bottom than at the top; and this peculiar structure was probably caused by the wearing action of the sea, when it entered the lower part of these gorges. (A fissure-like gorge, near Stony-top, is said by Mr. Seale to be 840 feet deep, and only 115 feet in width.) At greater heights, the evidence of the rise of the land is even less clear: nevertheless, in a bay-like depression on the table-land behind Prosperous Bay, at the height of about a thousand feet, there are flat-topped masses of rock, which it is scarcely conceivable, could have been insulated from the surrounding and similar strata, by any other agency than the denuding action of a sea- beach. Much denudation, indeed, has been effected at great elevations, which it would not be easy to explain by any other means: thus, the flat summit of the Barn, which is 2,000 feet high, presents, according to Mr. Seale, a perfect network of truncated dikes; on hills like the Flagstaff, formed of soft rock, we might suppose that the dikes had been worn down and cut off by meteoric agency, but we can hardly suppose this possible with the hard, basaltic strata of the Barn.

Volcanic Islands Page 51

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Charles Darwin

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