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keys. “Roose Bolton’s cold and cunning, aye, but a

2023-12-02 06:03:01 [two] source:Unpredictable Network

On what foundations, then, have these reefs and islets of coral been constructed? A foundation must originally have been present beneath each atoll at that limited depth, which is indispensable for the first growth of the reef-building polypifers. A conjecture will perhaps be hazarded, that the requisite bases might have been afforded by the accumulation of great banks of sediment, which owing to the action of superficial currents (aided possibly by the undulatory movement of the sea) did not quite reach the surface,--as actually appears to have been the case in some parts of the West Indian Sea. But in the form and disposition of the groups of atolls, there is nothing to countenance this notion; and the assumption without any proof, that a number of immense piles of sediment have been heaped on the floor of the great Pacific and Indian Oceans, in their central parts far remote from land, and where the dark blue colour of the limpid water bespeaks its purity, cannot for one moment be admitted.

keys. “Roose Bolton’s cold and cunning, aye, but a

The many widely-scattered atolls must, therefore, rest on rocky bases. But we cannot believe that the broad summit of a mountain lies buried at the depth of a few fathoms beneath every atoll, and nevertheless throughout the immense areas above-named, with not one point of rock projecting above the level of the sea; for we may judge with some accuracy of mountains beneath the sea, by those on the land; and where can we find a single chain several hundred miles in length and of considerable breadth, much less several such chains, with their many broad summits attaining the same height, within from 120 to 180 feet? If the data be thought insufficient, on which I have grounded my belief, respecting the depth at which the reef-building polypifers can exist, and it be assumed that they can flourish at a depth of even one hundred fathoms, yet the weight of the above argument is but little diminished, for it is almost equally improbable, that as many submarine mountains, as there are low islands in the several great and widely separated areas above specified, should all rise within six hundred feet of the surface of the sea and not one above it, as that they should be of the same height within the smaller limit of one or two hundred feet. So highly improbable is this supposition, that we are compelled to believe, that the bases of the many atolls did never at any one period all lie submerged within the depth of a few fathoms beneath the surface, but that they were brought into the requisite position or level, some at one period and some at another, through movements in the earth's crust. But this could not have been effected by elevation, for the belief that points so numerous and so widely separated were successively uplifted to a certain level, but that not one point was raised above that level, is quite as improbable as the former supposition, and indeed differs little from it. It will probably occur to those who have read Ehrenberg's account of the Reefs of the Red Sea, that many points in these great areas may have been elevated, but that as soon as raised, the protuberant parts were cut off by the destroying action of the waves: a moment's reflection, however, on the basin-like form of the atolls, will show that this is impossible; for the upheaval and subsequent abrasion of an island would leave a flat disc, which might become coated with coral, but not a deeply concave surface; moreover, we should expect to see, in some parts at least, the rock of the foundation brought to the surface. If, then, the foundations of the many atolls were not uplifted into the requisite position, they must of necessity have subsided into it; and this at once solves every difficulty (The additional difficulty on the crater hypothesis before alluded to, will now be evident; for on this view the volcanic action must be supposed to have formed within the areas specified a vast number of craters, all rising within a few fathoms of the surface, and not one above it. The supposition that the craters were at different times upraised above the surface, and were there abraded by the surf and subsequently coated by corals, is subject to nearly the same objections with those given above in this paragraph; but I consider it superfluous to detail all the arguments opposed to such a notion. Chamisso's theory, from assuming the existence of so many banks, all lying at the proper depth beneath the water, is also vitally defective. The same observation applies to an hypothesis of Lieutenant Nelson's ("Geolog. Trans." volume v., page 122), who supposes that the ring-formed structure is caused by a greater number of germs of corals becoming attached to the declivity, than to the central plateau of a submarine bank: it likewise applies to the notion formerly entertained (Forster's "Observ." page 151), that lagoon-islands owe their peculiar form to the instinctive tendencies of the polypifers. According to this latter view, the corals on the outer margin of the reef instinctively expose themselves to the surf in order to afford protection to corals living in the lagoon, which belong to other genera, and to other families!), for we may safely infer, from the facts given in the last chapter, that during a gradual subsidence the corals would be favourably circumstanced for building up their solid frame works and reaching the surface, as island after island slowly disappeared. Thus areas of immense extent in the central and most profound parts of the great oceans, might become interspersed with coral-islets, none of which would rise to a greater height than that attained by detritus heaped up by the sea, and nevertheless they might all have been formed by corals, which absolutely required for their growth a solid foundation within a few fathoms of the surface.

keys. “Roose Bolton’s cold and cunning, aye, but a

It would be out of place here to do more than allude to the many facts, showing that the supposition of a gradual subsidence over large areas is by no means improbable. We have the clearest proof that a movement of this kind is possible, in the upright trees buried under the strata many thousand feet in thickness; we have also every reason for believing that there are now large areas gradually sinking, in the same manner as others are rising. And when we consider how many parts of the surface of the globe have been elevated within recent geological periods, we must admit that there have been subsidences on a corresponding scale, for otherwise the whole globe would have swollen. It is very remarkable that Mr. Lyell ("Principles of Geology," sixth edition, volume iii., page 386.), even in the first edition of his "Principles of Geology," inferred that the amount of subsidence in the Pacific must have exceeded that of elevation, from the area of land being very small relatively to the agents there tending to form it, namely, the growth of coral and volcanic action. But it will be asked, are there any direct proofs of a subsiding movement in those areas, in which subsidence will explain a phenomenon otherwise inexplicable? This, however, can hardly be expected, for it must ever be most difficult, excepting in countries long civilised, to detect a movement, the tendency of which is to conceal the part affected. In barbarous and semi-civilised nations how long might not a slow movement, even of elevation such as that now affecting Scandinavia, have escaped attention!

keys. “Roose Bolton’s cold and cunning, aye, but a

Mr. Williams (Williams's "Narrative of Missionary Enterprise," page 31.) insists strongly that the traditions of the natives, which he has taken much pains in collecting, do not indicate the appearance of any new islands: but on the theory of a gradual subsidence, all that would be apparent would be, the water sometimes encroaching slowly on the land, and the land again recovering by the accumulation of detritus its former extent, and perhaps sometimes the conversion of an atoll with coral islets on it, into a bare or into a sunken annular reef. Such changes would naturally take place at the periods when the sea rose above its usual limits, during a gale of more than ordinary strength; and the effects of the two causes would be hardly distinguishable. In Kotzebue's "Voyage" there are accounts of islands, both in the Caroline and Marshall Archipelagoes, which have been partly washed away during hurricanes; and Kadu, the native who was on board one of the Russian vessels, said "he saw the sea at Radack rise to the feet of the cocoa-nut trees; but it was conjured in time." (Kotzebue's "First Voyage," volume iii., page 168.) A storm lately entirely swept away two of the Caroline islands, and converted them into shoals; it partly, also, destroyed two other islands. (M. Desmoulins in "Comptes Rendus," 1840, page 837.) According to a tradition which was communicated to Captain Fitzroy, it is believed in the Low Archipelago, that the arrival of the first ship caused a great inundation, which destroyed many lives. Mr. Stutchbury relates, that in 1825, the western side of Chain Atoll, in the same group, was completely devastated by a hurricane, and not less than 300 lives lost: "in this instance it was evident, even to the natives, that the hurricane alone was not sufficient to account for the violent agitation of the ocean." ("West of England Journal", No. I., page 35.) That considerable changes have taken place recently in some of the atolls in the Low Archipelago, appears certain from the case already given of Matilda Island: with respect to Whitsunday and Gloucester Islands in this same group, we must either attribute great inaccuracy to their discoverer, the famous circumnavigator Wallis, or believe that they have undergone a considerable change in the period of fifty-nine years, between his voyage and that of Captain Beechey's. Whitsunday Island is described by Wallis as "about four miles long, and three wide," now it is only one mile and a half long. The appearance of Gloucester Island, in Captain Beechey's words (Beechey's "Voyage to the Pacific," chapter vii., and Wallis's "Voyage in the 'Dolphin'," chapter iv.), has been accurately described by its discoverer, but its present form and extent differ materially." Blenheim reef, in the Chagos group, consists of a water-washed annular reef, thirteen miles in circumference, surrounding a lagoon ten fathoms deep: on its surface there were a few worn patches of conglomerate coral-rock, of about the size of hovels; and these Captain Moresby considered as being, without doubt, the last remnants of islets; so that here an atoll has been converted into an atoll-formed reef. The inhabitants of the Maldiva Archipelago, as long ago as 1605, declared, "that the high tides and violent currents were diminishing the number of the islands" (See an extract from Pyrard's Voyage in Captain Owen's paper on the Maldiva Archipelago, in the "Geographical Journal", volume ii., page 84.): and I have already shown, on the authority of Captain Moresby, that the work of destruction is still in progress; but that on the other hand the first formation of some islets is known to the present inhabitants. In such cases, it would be exceedingly difficult to detect a gradual subsidence of the foundation, on which these mutable structures rest.

Some of the archipelagoes of low coral-islands are subject to earthquakes: Captain Moresby informs me that they are frequent, though not very strong, in the Chagos group, which occupies a very central position in the Indian Ocean, and is far from any land not of coral formation. One of the islands in this group was formerly covered by a bed of mould, which, after an earthquake, disappeared, and was believed by the residents to have been washed by the rain through the broken masses of underlying rock; the island was thus rendered unproductive. Chamisso (See Chamisso, in Kotzebue's "First Voyage," volume iii., pages 182 and 136.) states, that earthquakes are felt in the Marshall atolls, which are far from any high land, and likewise in the islands of the Caroline Archipelago. On one of the latter, namely Oulleay atoll, Admiral Lutke, as he had the kindness to inform me, observed several straight fissures about a foot in width, running for some hundred yards obliquely across the whole width of the reef. Fissures indicate a stretching of the earth's crust, and, therefore, probably changes in its level; but these coral-islands, which have been shaken and fissured, certainly have not been elevated, and, therefore, probably they have subsided. In the chapter on Keeling atoll, I attempted to show by direct evidence, that the island underwent a movement of subsidence, during the earthquakes lately felt there.

The facts stand thus;--there are many large tracts of ocean, without any high land, interspersed with reefs and islets, formed by the growth of those kinds of corals, which cannot live at great depths; and the existence of these reefs and low islets, in such numbers and at such distant points, is quite inexplicable, excepting on the theory, that the bases on which the reefs first became attached, slowly and successively sank beneath the level of the sea, whilst the corals continued to grow upwards. No positive facts are opposed to this view, and some general considerations render it probable. There is evidence of change in form, whether or not from subsidence, on some of these coral-islands; and there is evidence of subterranean disturbances beneath them. Will then the theory, to which we have thus been led, solve the curious problem,--what has given to each class of reef its peculiar form?

AA--Outer edge of the reef at the level of the sea.

A'A'--Outer edge of the reef, after its upward growth during a period of subsidence.

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