The Elements of Geology eBook

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

Among the ancient sediments which now form the stratified rocks of the land there occur many thin reef deposits, but none are known of the immense thickness which modern reefs are supposed to reach according to the theory of subsidence.

Barrier and fringing reefs are commonly interrupted off the mouths of rivers.  Why?

Summary.  We have seen that the ocean bed is the goal to which the waste of the rocks of the land at last arrives.  Their soluble parts, dissolved by underground waters and carried to the sea by rivers, are largely built up by living creatures into vast sheets of limestone.  The less soluble portions—­the waste brought in by streams and the waste of the shore—­form the muds and sands of continental deltas.  All of these sea deposits consolidate and harden, and the coherent rocks of the land are thus reconstructed on the ocean floor.  But the destination is not a final one.  The stratified rocks of the land are for the most part ancient deposits of the sea, which have been lifted above sea level; and we may believe that the sediments now being laid offshore are the “dust of continents to be,” and will some time emerge to form additions to the land.  We are now to study the movements of the earth’s crust which restore the sediments of the sea to the light of day, and to whose beneficence we owe the habitable lands of the present.





The geological agencies which we have so far studied—­weathering, streams, underground waters, glaciers, winds, and the ocean—­all work upon the earth from without, and all are set in motion by an energy external to the earth, namely, the radiant energy of the sun.  All, too, have a common tendency to reduce the inequalities of the earth’s surface by leveling the lands and strewing their waste beneath the sea.

But despite the unceasing efforts of these external agencies, they have not destroyed the continents, which still rear their broad plains and great plateaus and mountain ranges above the sea.  Either, then, the earth is very young and the agents of denudation have not yet had time to do their work, or they have been opposed successfully by other forces.

We enter now upon a department of our science which treats of forces which work upon the earth from within, and increase the inequalities of its surface.  It is they which uplift and recreate the lands which the agents of denudation are continually destroying; it is they which deepen the ocean bed and thus withdraw its waters from the shores.  At times also these forces have aided in the destruction of the lands by gradually lowering them and bringing in the sea.  Under the action of forces resident within the earth the crust slowly rises or sinks; from time to time it has been folded and broken; while vast quantities of molten rock have been pressed up into it from beneath and outpoured upon its surface.  We shall take up these phenomena in the following chapters, which treat of upheavals and depressions of the crust, foldings and fractures of the crust, earthquakes, volcanoes, the interior conditions of the earth, mineral veins, and metamorphism.

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The Elements of Geology from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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