The importance of this conclusion will be realised when we remember that it was then the common creed of geologists--and still continues to be so on the Continent--that all highly crystalline rocks are of great geological antiquity, and that the igneous ejections which have taken place since the beginning of the tertiary periods differ essentially, in their composition, their structure, and their mode of occurrence, from those which have made their appearance at earlier periods of the world's history.
Very completely have the conclusions of Darwin upon these subjects been justified by recent researches. In England, the United States, and Italy, examples of the gradual passage of rocks of truly granitic structure into ordinary lavas have been described, and the reality of the transition has been demonstrated by the most careful studies with the microscope. Recent researches carried on in South America by Professor Stelzner, have also shown the existence of a class of highly crystalline rocks--the "Andengranites"--which combine in themselves many of the characteristics which were once thought to be distinctive of the so-called Plutonic and volcanic rocks. No one familiar with recent geological literature--even in Germany and France, where the old views concerning the distinction of igneous products of different ages have been most stoutly maintained--can fail to recognise the fact that the principles contended for by Darwin bid fair at no distant period to win universal acceptance among geologists all over the globe.
Still more important are the conclusions at which Darwin arrived with respect to the origin of the schists and gneisses which cover so large an area in South America.
Carefully noting, by the aid of his compass and clinometer, at every point which he visited, the direction and amount of inclination of the parallel divisions in these rocks, he was led to a very important generalisation-- namely, that over very wide areas the direction (strike) of the planes of cleavage in slates, and of foliation in schists and gneisses, remained constant, though the amount of their inclination (dip) often varied within wide limits. Further than this it appeared that there was always a close correspondence between the strike of the cleavage and foliation and the direction of the great axes along which elevation had taken place in the district.
In Tierra del Fuego, Darwin found striking evidence that the cleavage intersecting great masses of slate-rocks was quite independent of their original stratification, and could often, indeed, be seen cutting across it at right angles. He was also able to verify Sedgwick's observation that, in some slates, glossy surfaces on the planes of cleavage arise from the development of new minerals, chlorite, epidote or mica, and that in this way a complete graduation from slates to true schists may be traced.
Darwin further showed that in highly schistose rocks, the folia bend around and encircle any foreign bodies in the mass, and that in some cases they exhibit the most tortuous forms and complicated puckerings. He clearly saw that in all cases the forces by which these striking phenomena must have been produced were persistent over wide areas, and were connected with the great movements by which the rocks had been upheaved and folded.
That the distinct folia of quartz, feldspar, mica, and other minerals composing the metamorphic schists could not have been separately deposited as sediment was strongly insisted upon by Darwin; and in doing so he opposed the view generally prevalent among geologists at that time. He was thus driven to the conclusion that foliation, like cleavage, is not an original, but a superinduced structure in rock-masses, and that it is the result of re-crystallisation, under the controlling influence of great pressure, of the materials of which the rock was composed.
In studying the lavas of Ascension, as we have already seen, Darwin was led to recognise the circumstance that, when igneous rocks are subjected to great differential movements during the period of their consolidation, they acquire a foliated structure, closely analogous to that of the crystalline schists.