At these greater heights the shells are almost invariably embedded in mould, and sometimes are exposed only by tearing up bushes. These shells obviously had a very much more ancient appearance than those from the lesser heights; the apices of the Trochi were often worn down; the little holes made by burrowing animals were greatly enlarged; and the Concholepas was often perforated quite through, owing to the inner plates of shell having scaled off.

Many of these shells, as I have said, were packed in, and were quite filled with, blackish or reddish-brown earth, resting on the granitic detritus. I did not doubt until lately that this mould was of purely terrestrial origin, when with a microscope examining some of it from the inside of a Concholepas from the height of about one hundred feet, I found that it was in considerable part composed of minute fragments of the spines, mouth- bones, and shells of Echini, and of minute fragments, of chiefly very young Patellae, Mytili, and other species. I found similar microscopical fragments in earth filling up the central orifices of some large Fissurellae. This earth when crushed emits a sickly smell, precisely like that from garden-mould mixed with guano. The earth accidentally preserved within the shells, from the greater heights, has the same general appearance, but it is a little redder; it emits the same smell when rubbed, but I was unable to detect with certainty any marine remains in it. This earth resembles in general appearance, as before remarked, that capping the rocks of Quiriquina in the Bay of Concepcion, on which beds of sea-shells lay. I have, also, shown that the black, peaty soil, in which the shells at the height of 350 feet at Chiloe were packed, contained many minute fragments of marine animals. These facts appear to me interesting, as they show that soils, which would naturally be considered of purely terrestrial nature, may owe their origin in chief part to the sea.

Being well aware from what I have seen at Chiloe and in Tierra del Fuego, that vast quantities of shells are carried, during successive ages, far inland, where the inhabitants chiefly subsist on these productions, I am bound to state that at greater heights than 557 feet, where the number of very young and small shells proved that they had not been carried up for food, the only evidence of the shells having been naturally left by the sea, consists in their invariable and uniform appearance of extreme antiquity--in the distance of some of the places from the coast, in others being inaccessible from the nearest part of the beach, and in the absence of fresh water for men to drink--in the shells NOT LYING IN HEAPS,--and, lastly, in the close similarity of the soil in which they are embedded, to that which lower down can be unequivocally shown to be in great part formed from the debris of the sea animals. (In the "Proceedings of the Geological Society" volume 2 page 446, I have given a brief account of the upraised shells on the coast of Chile, and have there stated that the proofs of elevation are not satisfactory above the height of 230 feet. I had at that time unfortunately overlooked a separate page written during my second visit to Valparaiso, describing the shells now in my possession from the 557 feet hill; I had not then unpacked my collections, and had not reconsidered the obvious appearance of greater antiquity of the shells from the greater heights, nor had I at that time discovered the marine origin of the earth in which many of the shells are packed. Considering these facts, I do not now feel a shadow of doubt that the shells, at the height of 1,300 feet, have been upraised by natural causes into their present position.)

With respect to the position in which the shells lie, I was repeatedly struck here, at Concepcion, and at other places, with the frequency of their occurrence on the summits and edges either of separate hills, or of little flat headlands often terminating precipitously over the sea. The several above-enumerated species of mollusca, which are found strewed on the surface of the land from a few feet above the level of the sea up to the height of 1,300 feet, all now live either on the beach, or at only a few fathoms' depth: Mr.

Charles Darwin

All Pages of This Book