Coral Reefs

Page 107

These islands, as well as the Amirantes, certainly are not atoll-formed, and they differ as a group from every other group with which I am acquainted; I have not coloured them; but probably the reefs belong to the fringing class. Their formation is attributed, both by Dr. Allan and Captain F. Moresby, to the action of the currents, here exceedingly violent, on banks, which no doubt have had an independent geological origin. They resemble in many respects some islands and banks in the West Indies, which owe their origin to a similar agency, in conjunction with an elevation of the entire area. In close vicinity to the several islands, there are three others of an apparently different nature: first, JUAN DE NOVA, which appears from some plans and accounts to be an atoll; but from others does not appear to be so; not coloured. Secondly COSMOLEDO; "this group consists of a ring of coral, ten leagues in circumference, and a quarter of a mile broad in some places, enclosing a magnificent lagoon, into which there did not appear a single opening" (Horsburgh, volume i., page 151); coloured blue. Thirdly, ALDABRA; it consists of three islets, about twenty-five feet in height, with red cliffs (Horsburgh, volume i., page 176) surrounding a very shallow basin or lagoon. The sea is profoundly deep close to the shore. Viewing this island in a chart, it would be thought an atoll; but the foregoing description shows that there is something different in its nature; Dr. Allan also states that it is cavernous, and that the coral-rock has a vitrified appearance. Is it an upheaved atoll, or the crater of a volcano?--uncoloured.


MAYOTTA, according to Horsburgh (volume i., page 216, 4th edition), is completely surrounded by a reef, which runs at the distance of three, four, and in some places even five miles from the land; in an old chart, published by Dalrymple, a depth in many places of thirty-six and thirty-eight fathoms is laid down within the reef. In the same chart, the space of open water within the reef in some parts is even more than three miles wide: the land is bold and peaked; this island, therefore, is encircled by a well-characterised barrier-reef, and is coloured pale blue.--JOHANNA; Horsburgh says (volume I. page 217) this island from the N.W. to the S.W. point, is bounded by a reef, at the distance of two miles from the shore; in some parts, however, the reef must be attached, since Lieutenant Boteler ("Narr." volume i., page 161) describes a passage through it, within which there is room only for a few boats. Its height, as I am informed by Dr. Allan, is about 3,500 feet; it is very precipitous, and is composed of granite, greenstone, and quartz; coloured blue.--MOHILLA; on the S. side of this island there is anchorage, in from thirty to forty-five fathoms, between a reef and the shore (Horsburgh, volume i., page 214); in Captain Owen's chart of Madagascar, this island is represented as encircled; coloured blue.--GREAT COMORO Island is, as I am informed by Dr. Allan, about 8,000 feet high, and apparently volcanic; it is not regularly encircled; but reefs of various shapes and dimensions, jut out from every headland on the W., S., and S.E. coasts, inside of which reefs there are channels, often parallel with the shore, with deep water. On the north-western coasts the reefs appear attached to the shores. The land near the coast is in some places bold, but generally speaking it is flat; Horsburgh says (volume i., page 214) the water is profoundly deep close to the SHORE, from which expression I presume some parts are without reefs. From this description I apprehend the reef belongs to the barrier class; but I have not coloured it, as most of the charts which I have seen, represent the reefs round it as very much less extensive than round the other islands in the group.


My information is chiefly derived from the published charts by Captain Owen, and the accounts given by him and by Lieutenant Boteler. Commencing at the S.W. extremity of the island; towards the northern part of the STAR BANK (in latitude 25 deg S.) the coast for ten miles is fringed by a reef; coloured red.

Charles Darwin

All Pages of This Book