Coral Reefs

Page 108

The shore immediately S. of ST. AUGUSTINE'S BAY appears fringed; but TULLEAR Harbour, directly N. of it, is formed by a narrow reef ten miles long, extending parallel to the shore, with from four to ten fathoms within it. If this reef had been more extensive, it must have been classed as a barrier-reef; but as the line of coast falls inwards here, a submarine bank perhaps extends parallel to the shore, which has offered a foundation for the growth of the coral; I have left this part uncoloured. From latitude 22 deg 16' to 21 deg 37', the shore is fringed by coral-reefs (see Lieutenant Boteler's "Narrative," volume ii., page 106), less than a mile in width, and with shallow water within. There are outlying coral-shoals in several parts of the offing, with about ten fathoms between them and the shore, and the depth of the sea one mile and a half seaward, is about thirty fathoms. The part above specified is engraved on a large scale; and as in the charts on rather a smaller scale the same fringe of reef extends as far as latitude 33 deg 15'; I have coloured the whole of this part of the coast red. The islands of JUAN DE NOVA (in latitude 17 deg S.) appear in the charts on a large scale to be fringed, but I have not been able to ascertain whether the reefs are of coral; uncoloured. The main part of the west coast appears to be low, with outlying sandbanks, which, Lieutenant Boteler (volume ii., page 106) says, "are faced on the edge of deep water by a line of sharp-pointed coral-rocks." Nevertheless I have not coloured this part, as I cannot make out by the charts that the coast itself is fringed. The headlands of NARRENDA and PASSANDAVA Bays (14 deg 40') and the islands in front of RADAMA HARBOUR are represented in the plans as regularly fringed, and have accordingly been coloured red. With respect to the EAST COAST OF MADAGASCAR, Dr. Allan informs me in a letter, that the whole line of coast, from TAMATAVE, in 18 deg 12', to C. AMBER, at the extreme northern point of the island, is bordered by coral-reefs. The land is low, uneven, and gradually rising from the coast. From Captain Owen's charts, also, the existence of these reefs, which evidently belong to the fringing class, on some parts, namely N. of BRITISH SOUND, and near NGONCY, of the above line of coast might have been inferred. Lieutenant Boteler (volume i., page 155) speaks of "the reef surrounding the island of ST. MARY'S at a small distance from the shore." In a previous chapter I have described, from the information of Dr. Allan, the manner in which the reefs extend in N.E. lines from the headlands on this coast, thus sometimes forming rather deep channels within them, this seems caused by the action of the currents, and the reefs spring up from the submarine prolongations of the sandy headlands. The above specified portion of the coast is coloured red. The remaining S.E. portions do not appear in any published chart to possess reefs of any kind; and the Rev. W. Ellis, whose means of information regarding this side of Madagascar have been extensive, informs me he believes there are none.


Proceeding from the northern part, the coast appears, for a considerable space, without reefs. My information, I may here observe, is derived from the survey by Captain Owen, together with his narrative; and that by Lieutenant Boteler. At MUKDEESHA (10 deg 1' N.) there is a coral-reef extending four or five miles along the shore (Owen's "Narr." volume i, page 357) which in the chart lies at the distance of a quarter of a mile from the shore, and has within it from six to ten feet water: this then is a fringing-reef, and is coloured red. From JUBA, a little S. of the equator, to LAMOO (in 2 deg 20' S.) "the coast and islands are formed of madrepore" (Owen's "Narrative," volume i., page 363). The chart of this part (entitled DUNDAS Islands), presents an extraordinary appearance; the coast of the mainland is quite straight and it is fronted at the average distance of two miles, by exceedingly narrow, straight islets, fringed with reefs. Within the chain of islets, there are extensive tidal flats and muddy bays, into which many rivers enter; the depths of these spaces varies from one to four fathoms--the latter depth not being common, and about twelve feet the average.

Charles Darwin

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