The Elements of Geology eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 384 pages of information about The Elements of Geology.

In all thrust faults one mass has been pushed over another, so as to bring the underlying and older strata upon younger beds; and when the fault planes are nearly horizontal, and especially when the rocks have been broken into many slices which have slidden far one upon another, the true succession of strata is extremely hard to decipher.

In the Selkirk Mountains of Canada the basement rocks of the region have been driven east for seven miles on a thrust plane, over rocks which originally lay thousands of feet above them.

Along the western Appalachians, from Virginia to Georgia, the mountain folds are broken by more than fifteen parallel thrust planes, running from northeast to southwest, along which the older strata have been pushed westward over the younger.  The longest continuous fault has been traced three hundred and seventy-five miles, and the greatest horizontal displacement has been estimated at not less than eleven miles.

Crush breccia.  Rocks often do not fault with a clean and simple fracture, but along a zone, sometimes several yards in width, in which they are broken to fragments.  It may occur also that strata which as a whole yield to lateral thrust by folding include beds of brittle rocks, such as thin-layered limestones, which are crushed to pieces by the strain.  In either case the fragments when recemented by percolating waters form a rock known as a crush breccia (pronounced BRETCHA).

Breccia is a term applied to any rock formed of cemented angular fragments.  This rock may be made by the consolidation of volcanic cinders, of angular waste at the foot of cliffs, or of fragments of coral torn by the waves from coral reefs, as well as of strata crushed by crustal movements.


Fault scarps.  A fault of recent date may be marked at surface by a scarp, because the face of the upthrown block has not yet been worn to the level of the downthrow side.

After the upthrown block has been worn down to this level, differential erosion produces fault scarps wherever weak rocks and resistant rocks are brought in contact along the fault plane; and the harder rocks, whether on the upthrow or the downthrow side, emerge in a line of cliffs.  Where a fault is so old that no abrupt scarps appear, its general course is sometimes marked by the line of division between highland and lowland or hill and plain.  Great faults have sometimes brought ancient crystalline rocks in contact with weaker and younger sedimentary rocks, and long after erosion has destroyed all fault scarps the harder crystallines rise in an upland of rugged or mountainous country which meets the lowland along the line of faulting.

The vast majority of faults give rise to no surface features.  The faulted region may be old enough to have been baseleveled, or the rocks on both sides of the line of dislocation may be alike in their resistance to erosion and therefore have been worn down to a common slope.  The fault may be entirely concealed by the mantle of waste, and in such cases it can be inferred from abrupt changes in the character or the strike and dip of the strata where they may outcrop near it.

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The Elements of Geology from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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