Madam How and Lady Why eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 263 pages of information about Madam How and Lady Why.

But since then strange discoveries have been made, especially by the naval officers who surveyed the bottom of the great Atlantic Ocean before laying down the electric cable between Ireland and America.  And this is what they found: 

That at the bottom of the Atlantic were vast plains of soft mud, in some places 2500 fathoms (15,000 feet) deep; that is, as deep as the Alps are high.  And more:  they found out, to their surprise, that the oozy mud of the Atlantic floor was made up almost entirely of just the same atomies as make up our chalk, especially globigerinas; that, in fact, a vast bed of chalk was now forming at the bottom of the Atlantic, with living shells and sea-animals of the most brilliant colours crawling about on it in black darkness, and beds of sponges growing out of it, just as the sponges grew at the bottom of the old chalk ocean, and were all, generation after generation, turned into flints.

And, for reasons which you will hardly understand, men are beginning now to believe that the chalk has never ceased to be made, somewhere or other, for many thousand years, ever since the Winchester Downs were at the bottom of the sea:  and that “the Globigerina-mud is not merely a chalk formation, but a continuation of the chalk formation, so that we may be said to be still living in the age of Chalk.” {1} Ah, my little man, what would I not give to see you, before I die, add one such thought as that to the sum of human knowledge!

So there the little creatures have been lying, making chalk out of the lime in the sea-water, layer over layer, the young over the old, the dead over the living, year after year, age after age—­for how long?

Who can tell?  How deep the layer of new chalk at the bottom of the Atlantic is, we can never know.  But the layer of live atomies on it is not an inch thick, probably not a tenth of an inch.  And if it grew a tenth of an inch a year, or even a whole inch, how many years must it have taken to make the chalk of our downs, which is in some parts 1300 feet thick?  How many inches are there in 1300 feet?  Do that sum, and judge for yourself.

One difference will be found between the chalk now forming at the bottom of the ocean, if it ever become dry land, and the chalk on which you tread on the downs.  The new chalk will be full of the teeth and bones of whales—­warm-blooded creatures, who suckle their young like cows, instead of laying eggs, like birds and fish.  For there were no whales in the old chalk ocean; but our modern oceans are full of cachalots, porpoises, dolphins, swimming in shoals round any ship; and their bones and teeth, and still more their ear-bones, will drop to the bottom as they die, and be found, ages hence, in the mud which the live atomies make, along with wrecks of mighty ships

   “Great anchors, heaps of pearl,”

and all that man has lost in the deep seas.  And sadder fossils yet, my child, will be scattered on those white plains:—­

Project Gutenberg
Madam How and Lady Why from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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