The Elements of Geology eBook

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

On the west bank of the Hudson there extends from New York Bay north for thirty miles a bold cliff several hundred feet high,—­ the Palisades of the Hudson.  It is the outcropping edge of a sheet of ancient igneous rock, which rests on stratified sandstones and is overlain by strata of the same series.  Sandstones and lava sheet together dip gently to the west arid the latter disappears from view two miles back from the river.

It is an interesting question whether the Palisades sheet is contemporaneous or intrusive.  Was it outpoured on the sandstones beneath it when they formed the floor of the sea, and covered forthwith by the sediments of the strata above, or was it intruded among these beds at a later date?

The latter is the case:  for the overlying stratum is intensely baked along the zone of contact.  At the west edge of the sheet is found the dike in which the lava rose to force its way far and wide between the strata.

Electric peak, one of the prominent mountains of the Yellowstone National Park, is carved out of a mass of strata into which many sheets of molten rock have been intruded.  The western summit consists of such a sheet several hundred feet thick.  Studying the section of Figure 244, what inference do you draw as to the source of these intrusive sheets?


Bosses.  This name is generally applied to huge irregular masses of coarsely crystalline igneous rock lying in the midst of other formations.  Bosses vary greatly in size and may reach scores of miles in extent.  Seldom are there any evidences found that bosses ever had connection with the surface.  On the other hand, it is often proved that they have been driven, or have melted their way, upward into the formations in which they lie; for they give off dikes and intrusive sheets, and have profoundly altered the rocks about them by their heat.

The texture of the rock of bosses proves that consolidation proceeded slowly and at great depths, and it is only because of vast denudation that they are now exposed to view.  Bosses are commonly harder than the rocks about them, and stand up, therefore, as rounded hills and mountainous ridges long after the surrounding country has worn to a low plain.

The base of bosses is indefinite or undetermined, and in this respect they differ from laccoliths.  Some bosses have broken and faulted the overlying beds; some have forced the rocks aside and melted them away.

The Spanish peaks of southeastern Colorado were formed by the upthrust of immense masses of igneous rock, bulging and breaking the overlying strata.  On one side of the mountains the throw of the fault is nearly a mile, and fragments of deep-lying beds were dragged upward by the rising masses.  The adjacent rocks were altered by heat to a distance of several thousand feet.  No evidence appears that the molten rock ever reached the surface, and if volcanic eruptions ever took place either in lava flows or fragmental materials, all traces of them have been effaced.  The rock of the intrusive masses is coarsely crystalline, and no doubt solidified slowly under the pressure of vast thicknesses of overlying rock, now mostly removed by erosion.

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The Elements of Geology from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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