Coral Reefs

Page 69

Mr. M'Clelland (Report of Committee for investigating Coal in India, page 39) has shown that the volcanic band passing through Barren Island must be extended northwards. It appears by an old chart, that Cheduba was once an active volcano (see also "Silliman's North American Journal", volume xxxviii., page 385). In Berghaus' "Physical Atlas," 1840, No. 7 of Geological Part, a volcano on the coast of Pondicherry is said to have burst forth in 1757. Ordinaire ("Hist. Nat. des Volcans," page 218) says that there is one at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, but I have not coloured it, as he gives no particulars. A volcano in Amsterdam, or St. Paul's, in the southern part of the Indian Ocean, has been seen ("Naut. Mag." 1838, page 842) in action. Dr. J. Allan, of Forres, informs me in a letter, that when he was at Joanna, he saw at night flames apparently volcanic, issuing from the chief Comoro Island, and that the Arabs assured him that they were volcanic, adding that the volcano burned more during the wet season. I have marked this as a volcano, though with some hesitation, on account of the possibility of the flame arising from gaseous sources.)

The uncoloured coasts consist, first and chiefly, of those, where there are no coral-reefs, or such small portions as to be quite insignificant. Secondly, of those coasts where there are reefs, but where the sea is very shallow, for in this case the reefs generally lie far from the land, and become very irregular, in their forms: where they have not become irregular, they have been coloured. thirdly, if I had the means of ascertaining the fact, I should not colour a reef merely coating the edges of a submarine crater, or of a level submerged bank; for such superficial formations differ essentially, even when not in external appearance, from reefs whose foundations as well as superficies have been wholly formed by the growth of coral. Fourthly, in the Red Sea, and within some parts of the East Indian Archipelago (if the imperfect charts of the latter can be trusted), there are many scattered reefs, of small size, represented in the chart by mere dots, which rise out of deep water: these cannot be arranged under either of the three classes: in the Red Sea, however, some of these little reefs, from their position, seem once to have formed parts of a continuous barrier. There exist, also, scattered in the open ocean, some linear and irregularly formed strips of coral-reef, which, as shown in the last chapter, are probably allied in their origin to atolls; but as they do not belong to that class, they have not been coloured; they are very few in number and of insignificant dimensions. Lastly, some reefs are left uncoloured from the want of information respecting them, and some because they are of an intermediate structure between the barrier and fringing classes. The value of the map is lessened, in proportion to the number of reefs which I have been obliged to leave uncoloured, although, in a theoretical point of view, few of them present any great difficulty: but their number is not very great, as will be found by comparing the map with the statements in the Appendix. I have experienced more difficulty in colouring fringing-reefs than in colouring barrier-reefs, as the former, from their much less dimensions, have less attracted the attention of navigators. As I have had to seek my information from all kinds of sources, and often from indirect ones, I do not venture to hope that the map is free from many errors. Nevertheless, I trust it will give an approximately correct view of the general distribution of the coral-reefs over the whole world (with the exception of some fringing-reefs on the coast of Brazil, not included within the limits of the map), and of their arrangement into the three great classes, which, though necessarily very imperfect from the nature of the objects classified, have been adopted by most voyagers. I may further remark, that the dark blue colour represents land entirely composed of coral-rock; the pale blue, land with a wide and thick border of coral-rock; and the red, a mere narrow fringe of coral-rock.

Charles Darwin

All Pages of This Book