Coral Reefs

Page 81

Trans." 2nd Ser., vol. v., page 606) that at the same moment that a large district was upraised, volcanic matter burst forth at widely separated points, through both new and old vents.) Nevertheless, until it could be shown that volcanoes were inactive, or did not exist in subsiding areas, the conclusion that their distribution depended on the nature of the subterranean movements in progress, would have been hazardous. But now, viewing the appended map, it may, I think, be considered as almost established, that volcanoes are often (not necessarily always) present in those areas where the subterranean motive power has lately forced, or is now forcing outwards, the crust of the earth, but that they are invariably absent in those, where the surface has lately subsided or is still subsiding. (We may infer from this rule, that in any old deposit, which contains interstratified beds of erupted matter, there was at the period, and in the area of its formation, a TENDENCY to an upward movement in the earth's surface, and certainly no movement of subsidence.)


The immense surfaces on the map, which, both by our theory and by the plain evidence of upraised marine remains, have undergone a change of level either downwards or upwards during a late period, is a most remarkable fact. The existence of continents shows that the areas have been immense which at some period have been upraised; in South America we may feel sure, and on the north-western shores of the Indian Ocean we may suspect, that this rising is either now actually in progress, or has taken place quite recently. By our theory, we may conclude that the areas are likewise immense which have lately subsided, or, judging from the earthquakes occasionally felt and from other appearances, are now subsiding. The smallness of the scale of our map should not be overlooked: each of the squares on it contains (not allowing for the curvature of the earth) 810,000 square miles. Look at the space of ocean from near the southern end of the Low Archipelago to the northern end of the Marshall Archipelago, a length of 4,500 miles, in which, as far as is known, every island, except Aurora which lies just without the Low Archipelago, is atoll-formed. The eastern and western boundaries of our map are continents, and they are rising areas: the central spaces of the great Indian and Pacific Oceans, are mostly subsiding; between them, north of Australia, lies the most broken land on the globe, and there the rising parts are surrounded and penetrated by areas of subsidence (I suspect that the Arru and Timor-laut Islands present an included small area of subsidence, like that of the China Sea, but I have not ventured to colour them from my imperfect information, as given in the Appendix.), so that the prevailing movements now in progress, seem to accord with the actual states of surface of the great divisions of the world.

The blue spaces on the map are nearly all elongated; but it does not necessarily follow from this (a caution, for which I am indebted to Mr. Lyell), that the areas of subsidence were likewise elongated; for the subsidence of a long, narrow space of the bed of the ocean, including in it a transverse chain of mountains, surmounted by atolls, would only be marked on the map by a transverse blue band. But where a chain of atolls and barrier-reefs lies in an elongated area, between spaces coloured red, which therefore have remained stationary or have been upraised, this must have resulted either from the area of subsidence having originally been elongated (owing to some tendency in the earth's crust thus to subside), or from the subsiding area having originally been of an irregular figure, or as broad as long, and having since been narrowed by the elevation of neighbouring districts. Thus the areas, which subsided during the formation of the great north and south lines of atolls in the Indian Ocean,--of the east and west line of the Caroline atolls,--and of the north-west and south-east line of the barrier-reefs of New Caledonia and Louisiade, must have originally been elongated, or if not so, they must have since been made elongated by elevations, which we know to belong to a recent period.

Charles Darwin

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