South of the Strait of Magellan, there are large outlying masses of apparently the same great tableland, extending at intervals along the eastern coast of Tierra del Fuego: at two places here, 110 miles a part, this plain was found to be 950 and 970 feet in height.

From Coy Inlet, where the high summit-plain trends inland, a plain estimated at 350 feet in height, extends for forty miles to the river Gallegos. From this point to the Strait of Magellan, and on each side of that Strait, the country has been much denuded and is less level. It consists chiefly of the boulder formation, which rises to a height of between one hundred and fifty and two hundred and fifty feet, and is often capped by beds of gravel. At N.S. Gracia, on the north side of the Inner Narrows of the Strait of Magellan, I found on the summit of a cliff, 160 feet in height, shells of existing Patellae and Mytili, scattered on the surface and partially embedded in earth. On the eastern coast, also, of Tierra del Fuego, in latitude 53 degrees 20' south, I found many Mytili on some level land, estimated at 200 feet in height. Anterior to the elevation attested by these shells, it is evident by the present form of the land, and by the distribution of the great erratic boulders on the surface, that two sea-channels connected the Strait of Magellan both with Sebastian Bay and with Otway Water. ("Geological Transactions" volume 6 page 419.)


Upraised shells of species, still existing as the commonest kinds in the adjoining sea, occur, as we have seen, at heights of between a few feet and 410 feet, at intervals from latitude 33 degrees 40' to 53 degrees 20' south. This is a distance of 1,180 geographical miles--about equal from London to the North Cape of Sweden. As the boulder formation extends with nearly the same height 150 miles south of 53 degrees 20', the most southern point where I landed and found upraised shells; and as the level Pampas ranges many hundred miles northward of the point, where M. d'Orbigny found at the height of 100 feet beds of the Azara, the space in a north and south line, which has been uplifted within the recent period, must have been much above the 1,180 miles. By the term "recent," I refer only to that period within which the now living mollusca were called into existence; for it will be seen in the Fourth Chapter, that both at Bahia Blanca and P. S. Julian, the mammiferous quadrupeds which co-existed with these shells belong to extinct species. I have said that the upraised shells were found only at intervals on this line of coast, but this in all probability may be attributed to my not having landed at the intermediate points; for wherever I did land, with the exception of the river Negro, shells were found: moreover, the shells are strewed on plains or terraces, which, as we shall immediately see, extend for great distances with a uniform height. I ascended the higher plains only in a few places, owing to the distance at which their escarpments generally range from the coast, so that I am far from knowing that 410 feet is the maximum of elevation of these upraised remains. The shells are those now most abundant in a living state in the adjoining sea. (Captain King "Voyages of 'Adventure' and 'Beagle'" volume 1 pages 6 and 133.) All of them have an ancient appearance; but some, especially the mussels, although lying fully exposed to the weather, retain to a considerable extent their colours: this circumstance appears at first surprising, but it is now known that the colouring principle of the Mytilus is so enduring, that it is preserved when the shell itself is completely disintegrated. (See Mr. Lyell "Proofs of a Gradual Rising in Sweden" in the "Philosophical Transactions" 1835 page 1. See also Mr. Smith of Jordan Hill in the "Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal" volume 25 page 393.) Most of the shells are broken; I nowhere found two valves united; the fragments are not rounded, at least in none of the specimens which I brought home.

Charles Darwin

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