Coral Reefs

Page 119

Moreover, there are evident proofs (Nelson, Ibid., page 118), that islands similar to the existing ones, formerly extended over other parts of the reef. It would, I believe, be difficult to find a true atoll with land exceeding thirty feet in height; whereas, Mr. Nelson estimates the highest point of the Bermuda Islands to be 260 feet; if, however, Mr. Nelson's view, that the whole of the land consists of sand drifted by the winds, and agglutinated together, were proved correct, this difference would be immaterial; but, from his own account (page 118), there occur in one place, five or six layers of red earth, interstratified with the ordinary calcareous rock, and including stones too heavy for the wind to have moved, without having at the same time utterly dispersed every grain of the accompanying drifted matter. Mr. Nelson attributes the origin of these several layers, with their embedded stones, to as many violent catastrophes; but further investigation in such cases has generally succeeded in explaining phenomena of this kind by ordinary and simpler means. Finally, I may remark, that these islands have a considerable resemblance in shape to Barbuda in the West Indies, and to Pemba on the eastern coast of Africa, which latter island is about two hundred feet in height, and consists of coral-rock. I believe that the Bermuda Islands, from being fringed by living reefs, ought to have been coloured red; but I have left them uncoloured, on account of their general resemblance in external form to a lagoon-island or atoll.

Charles Darwin

All Pages of This Book