The Elements of Geology eBook

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

Slow submergence favors the cutting of a wide rock bench.  The water continually deepens upon the bench; storm waves can therefore always ride in to the base of the cliffs and attack them with full force; shore waste cannot impede the onset of the waves, for it is continually washed out in deeper water below wave base.

Basal CONGOLMERATES.  As the sea marches across the land during a slow submergence, the platform is covered with sheets of sea-laid sediments.  Lowest of these is a conglomerate,—­the bowlder and pebble beach, widened indefinitely by the retreat of the cliffs at whose base it was formed, and preserved by the finer deposits laid upon it in the constantly deepening water as the land subsides.  Such basal conglomerates are not uncommon among the ancient rocks of the land, and we may know them by their rounded pebbles and larger stones, composed of the same kind of rock as that of the abraded and evened surface on which they lie.



The alongshore deposits which we have now studied are the exposed edge of a vast subaqueous sheet of waste which borders the continents and extends often for as much as two or three hundred miles from land.  Soundings show that offshore deposits are laid in belts parallel to the coast, the coarsest materials lying nearest to the land and the finest farthest out.  The pebbles and gravel and the clean, coarse sand of beaches give place to broad stretches of sand, which grows finer and finer until it is succeeded by sheets of mud.  Clearly there is an offshore movement of waste by which it is sorted, the coarser being sooner dropped and the finer being carried farther out.


The debris torn by waves from rocky shores is far less in amount than the waste of the land brought down to the sea by rivers, being only one thirty-third as great, according to a conservative estimate.  Both mingle alongshore in all the forms of beach and bar that have been described, and both are together slowly carried out to sea.  On the shelving ocean floor waste is agitated by various movements of the unquiet water,—­by the undertow (an outward-running bottom current near the shore), by the ebb and flow of tides, by ocean currents where they approach the land, and by waves and ground swells, whose effects are sometimes felt to a depth of six hundred feet.  By all these means the waste is slowly washed to and fro, and as it is thus ground finer and finer and its soluble parts are more and more dissolved, it drifts farther and farther out from land.  It is by no steady and rapid movement that waste is swept from the shore to its final resting place.  Day after day and century after century the grains of sand and particles of mud are shifted to and fro, winnowed and spread in layers, which are destroyed and rebuilt again and again before they are buried safe from further disturbance.

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The Elements of Geology from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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