I was much interested by this fact, because I have often seen quartz rocks (for instance, in the Falkland Islands, and in the lower Silurian strata of the Stiper-stones in Shropshire), mottled in a precisely analogous manner, with little spots of a white, earthy substance (earthy feldspar?); and these rocks, there was good reason to suppose, had undergone the action of heat,--a view which thus receives confirmation. This spotted structure may possibly afford some indication in distinguishing those formations of quartz, which owe their present structure to igneous action, from those produced by the agency of water alone; a source of doubt, which I should think from my own experience, that most geologists, when examining arenaceo-quartzose districts must have experienced.
The lowest and most scoriaceous part of the lava, in rolling over the sedimentary deposit at the bottom of the sea, has caught up large quantities of calcareous matter, which now forms a snow-white, highly crystalline basis to a breccia, including small pieces of black, glossy scoriae. A little above this, where the lime is less abundant, and the lava more compact, numerous little balls, composed of spicula of calcareous spar, radiating from common centres, occupy the interstices. In one part of Quail Island, the lime has thus been crystallised by the heat of the superincumbent lava, where it is only thirteen feet in thickness; nor had the lava been originally thicker, and since reduced by degradation, as could be told from the degree of cellularity of its surface. I have already observed that the sea must have been shallow in which the calcareous deposit was accumulated. In this case, therefore, the carbonic acid gas has been retained under a pressure, insignificant compared with that (a column of water, 1,708 feet in height) originally supposed by Sir James Hall to be requisite for this end: but since his experiments, it has been discovered that pressure has less to do with the retention of carbonic acid gas, than the nature of the circumjacent atmosphere; and hence, as is stated to be the case by Mr. Faraday, masses of limestone are sometimes fused and crystallised even in common limekilns. (I am much indebted to Mr. E.W. Brayley in having given me the following references to papers on this subject: Faraday in the "Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal" volume 15 page 398; Gay-Lussac in "Annales de Chem. et Phys." tome 63 page 219 translated in the "London and Edinburgh Philosophical Magazine" volume 10 page 496.) Carbonate of lime can be heated to almost any degree, according to Faraday, in an atmosphere of carbonic acid gas, without being decomposed; and Gay-Lussac found that fragments of limestone, placed in a tube and heated to a degree, not sufficient by itself to cause their decomposition, yet immediately evolved their carbonic acid, when a stream of common air or steam was passed over them: Gay-Lussac attributes this to the mechanical displacement of the nascent carbonic acid gas. The calcareous matter beneath the lava, and especially that forming the crystalline spicula between the interstices of the scoriae, although heated in an atmosphere probably composed chiefly of steam, could not have been subjected to the effects of a passing stream; and hence it is, perhaps, that they have retained their carbonic acid, under a small amount of pressure.
The fragments of scoriae, embedded in the crystalline calcareous basis, are of a jet black colour, with a glossy fracture like pitchstone. Their surfaces, however, are coated with a layer of a reddish-orange, translucent substance, which can easily be scratched with a knife; hence they appear as if overlaid by a thin layer of rosin. Some of the smaller fragments are partially changed throughout into this substance: a change which appears quite different from ordinary decomposition. At the Galapagos Archipelago (as will be described in a future chapter), great beds are formed of volcanic ashes and particles of scoriae, which have undergone a closely similar change.