The upper beds which form some of the higher pinnacles consist of layers of snow-white gypsum and red compact sandstone, from the thickness of paper to a few feet, alternating in an endless round. The rock has a most curiously painted appearance. At the pass of the Peuquenes in this formation, where however a black rock like clay-slate, without many laminae, occurring with a pale limestone, has replaced the red sandstone, I found abundant impressions of shells. The elevation must be between 12 and 13,000 feet. A shell which I believe is the Gryphaea is the most abundant--an Ostrea, Turratella, Ammonites, small bivalves, Terebratulae (?). Perhaps some good conchologist (6/1. Some of these genera are mentioned by Darwin ("Geol. Obs." page 181) as having been named for him by M. D'Orbigny.) will be able to give a guess, to what grand division of the formations of Europe these organic remains bear most resemblance. They are exceedingly imperfect and few. It was late in the season and the situation particularly dangerous for snow-storms. I did not dare to delay, otherwise a grand harvest might have been reaped. So much for the western line; in the Portillo pass, proceeding eastward, we meet an immense mass of conglomerate, dipping to the west 45 deg, which rest on micaceous sandstone, etc., etc., upheaved and converted into quartz-rock penetrated by dykes from the very grand mass of protogine (large crystals of quartz, red feldspar, and occasional little chlorite). Now this conglomerate which reposes on and dips from the protogene 45 deg consists of the peculiar rocks of the first described chain, pebbles of the black rock with shells, green sandstone, etc., etc. It is hence manifest that the upheaval (and deposition at least of part) of the grand eastern chain is entirely posterior to the western. To the north in the Uspallata pass, we have also a fact of the same class. Bear this in mind: it will help to make you believe what follows. I have said the Uspallata range is geologically, although only 6,000-7,000 feet, a continuation of the grand eastern chain. It has its nucleus of granite, consists of grand beds of various crystalline rocks, which I can feel no doubt are subaqueous lavas alternating with sandstone, conglomerates and white aluminous beds (like decomposed feldspar) with many other curious varieties of sedimentary deposits. These lavas and sandstones alterate very many times, and are quite conformable one to the other. During two days of careful examination I said to myself at least fifty times, how exactly like (only rather harder) these beds are to those of the upper Tertiary strata of Patagonia, Chiloe and Concepcion, without the possible identity ever having occurred to me. At last there was no resisting the conclusion. I could not expect shells, for they never occur in this formation; but lignite or carbonaceous shale ought to be found. I had previously been exceedingly puzzled by meeting in the sandstone, thin layers (few inches to feet thick) of a brecciated pitchstone. I strongly suspect the underlying granite has altered such beds into this pitchstone. The silicified wood (particularly characteristic) was yet absent. The conviction that I was on the Tertiary strata was so strong by this time in my mind, that on the third day in the midst of lavas and [? masses] of granite I began my apparently forlorn hunt. How do you think I succeeded? In an escarpement of compact greenish sandstone, I found a small wood of petrified trees in a vertical position, or rather the strata were inclined about 20-30 deg to one point and the trees 70 deg to the opposite one. That is, they were before the tilt truly vertical. The sandstone consists of many layers, and is marked by the concentric lines of the bark (I have specimens); 11 are perfectly silicified and resemble the dicotyledonous wood which I have found at Chiloe and Concepcion (6/2. "Geol. Obs." page 202. Specimens of the silicified wood were examined by Robert Brown, and determined by him as coniferous, "partaking of the characters of the Araucarian tribe, with some curious points of affinity with the yew."); the others (30-40) I only know to be trees from the analogy of form and position; they consist of snow- white columns (like Lot's wife) of coarsely crystalline carb.

Charles Darwin

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