Helena (taken from Mr. Seale's large model and various measurements), and of the bottom of the adjoining sea (taken chiefly from Captain Austin's survey and some old charts), will show the nature of this difficulty.

If, as seems probable, the basaltic streams were originally prolonged with nearly their present inclination, they must, as shown by the dotted line in the section, once have extended at least to a point, now covered by the sea to a depth of nearly thirty fathoms: but I have every reason to believe they extended considerably further, for the inclination of the streams is less near the coast than further inland. It should also be observed, that other sections on the coast of this island would have given far more striking results, but I had not the exact measurements; thus, on the windward side, the cliffs are about two thousand feet in height and the cut-off lava streams very gently inclined, and the bottom of the sea has nearly a similar slope all round the island. How, then, has all the hard basaltic rock, which once extended beneath the surface of the sea, been worn away? According to Captain Austin, the bottom is uneven and rocky only to that very small distance from the beach within which the depth is from five to six fathoms; outside this line, to a depth of about one hundred fathoms, the bottom is smooth, gently inclined, and formed of mud and sand; outside the one hundred fathoms, it plunges suddenly into unfathomable depths, as is so very commonly the case on all coasts where sediment is accumulating. At greater depths than the five or six fathoms, it seems impossible, under existing circumstances, that the sea can both have worn away hard rock, in parts to a thickness of at least 150 feet, and have deposited a smooth bed of fine sediment. Now, if we had any reason to suppose that St. Helena had, during a long period, gone on slowly subsiding, every difficulty would be removed: for looking at the diagram, and imagining a fresh amount of subsidence, we can see that the waves would then act on the coast-cliffs with fresh and unimpaired vigour, whilst the rocky ledge near the beach would be carried down to that depth, at which sand and mud would be deposited on its bare and uneven surface: after the formation near the shore of a new rocky shoal, fresh subsidence would carry it down and allow it to be smoothly covered up. But in the case of the many cliff-bounded islands, for instance in some of the Canary Islands and of Madeira, round which the inclination of the strata shows that the land once extended far into the depths of the sea, where there is no apparent means of hard rock being worn away--are we to suppose that all these islands have slowly subsided? Madeira, I may remark, has, according to Mr. Smith of Jordan Hill, subsided. Are we to extend this conclusion to the high, cliff- bound, horizontally stratified shores of Patagonia, off which, though the water is not deep even at the distance of several miles, yet the smooth bottom of pebbles gradually decreasing in size with the increasing depth, and derived from a foreign source, seem to declare that the sea is now a depositing and not a corroding agent? I am much inclined to suspect, that we shall hereafter find in all such cases, that the land with the adjoining bed of the sea has in truth subsided: the time will, I believe, come, when geologists will consider it as improbable, that the land should have retained the same level during a whole geological period, as that the atmosphere should have remained absolutely calm during an entire season.


Chonos Archipelago. Chiloe, recent and gradual elevation of, traditions of the inhabitants on this subject. Concepcion, earthquake and elevation of. VALPARAISO, great elevation of, upraised shells, earth of marine origin, gradual rise of the land within the historical period. COQUIMBO, elevation of, in recent times; terraces of marine origin, their inclination, their escarpments not horizontal. Guasco, gravel terraces of. Copiapo. PERU. Upraised shells of Cobija, Iquique, and Arica. Lima, shell-beds and sea-beach on San Lorenzo, human remains, fossil earthenware, earthquake debacle, recent subsidence. On the decay of upraised shells. General summary.

Charles Darwin

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