On one side of a steep-sided ravine, cutting through the plain behind Herradura Bay, I observed a narrow strip of stratified sand, containing similar shells in similar proportional numbers; a section of the ravine is represented in Diagram 8, which serves also to show the general composition of the plain. I mention this case of the ravine chiefly because without the evidence of the marine shells in the sand, any one would have supposed that it had been hollowed out by simple alluvial action.
The escarpment of the fringe-like plain, which stretches for eleven miles along the coast, is in some parts fronted by two or three narrow, step- formed terraces, one of which at Herradura Bay expands into a small plain. Its surface was there formed of gravel, cemented together by calcareous matter; and out of it I extracted the following recent shells, which are in a more perfect condition than those from the upper plain:--
1. Calyptraea radians. 2. Turritella cingulata. 3. Oliva Peruviana. 4. Murex labiosus, var. 5. Nassa (identical with a living species). 6. Solen Dombeiana. 7. Pecten purpuratus. 8. Venus Chilensis. 9. Amphidesma rugulosum. The small irregular wrinkles of the posterior part of this shell are rather stronger than in the recent specimens of this species from Coquimbo. (G.B. Sowerby.) 10. Balanus (identical with living species).
On the syenitic ridge, which forms the southern boundary of Herradura Bay and Plain, I found the Concholepas and Turritella cingulata (mostly in fragments), at the height of 242 feet above the sea. I could not have told that these shells had not formerly been brought up by man, if I had not found one very small mass of them cemented together in a friable calcareous tuff. I mention this fact more particularly, because I carefully looked, in many apparently favourable spots, at lesser heights on the side of this ridge, and could not find even the smallest fragment of a shell. This is only one instance out of many, proving that the absence of sea-shells on the surface, though in many respects inexplicable, is an argument of very little weight in opposition to other evidence on the recent elevation of the land. The highest point in this neighbourhood at which I found upraised shells of existing species was on an inland calcareous plain, at the height of 252 feet above the sea.
It would appear from Mr. Caldcleugh's researches, that a rise has taken place here within the last century and a half ("Proceedings of the Geological Society" volume 2 page 446.); and as no sudden change of level has been observed during the not very severe earthquakes, which have occasionally occurred here, the rising has probably been slow, like that now, or quite lately, in progress at Chiloe and at Valparaiso: there are three well-known rocks, called the Pelicans, which in 1710, according to Feuillee, were a fleur d'eau, but now are said to stand twelve feet above low-water mark: the spring-tides rise here only five feet. There is another rock, now nine feet above high-water mark, which in the time of Frezier and Feuillee rose only five or six feet out of water. Mr. Caldcleugh, I may add, also shows (and I received similar accounts) that there has been a considerable decrease in the soundings during the last twelve years in the Bays of Coquimbo, Concepcion, Valparaiso, and Guasco; but as in these cases it is nearly impossible to distinguish between the accumulation of sediment and the upheavement of the bottom, I have not entered into any details.
VALLEY OF COQUIMBO.
(FIGURE 9. EAST AND WEST SECTION THROUGH THE TERRACES AT COQUIMBO, WHERE THEY DEBOUCH FROM THE VALLEY, AND FRONT THE SEA.
Vertical scale 1/10 of inch to 100 feet: horizontal scale much contracted.
Height of terrace in feet from east (high) to west (low): Terrace F. 364 Terrace E. 302 Terrace D. shown dotted, height not given. Terrace C. 120 Terrace B. 70 Terrace A. 25 sloping down to level of sea at Town of Coquimbo.)
The narrow coast-plain sends, as before stated, an arm, or more correctly a fringe, on both sides, but chiefly on the southern side, several miles up the valley.