The Elements of Geology eBook

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


Deformed rocks show the effects of the stresses to which they have yielded, not only in the immense folds into which they have been thrown but in their smallest parts as well.  A hand specimen of slate, or even a particle under the microscope, may show plications similar in form and origin to the foldings which have produced ranges of mountains.  A tiny flake of mica in the rocks of the Alps may be puckered by the same resistless forces which have folded miles of solid rock to form that lofty range.

Slaty cleavage.  Rocks which have yielded to pressure often split easily in a certain direction across the bedding planes.  This cleavage is known as slaty cleavage, since it is most perfectly developed in fine-grained, homogeneous rocks, such as slates, which cleave to the thin, smooth-surfaced plates with which we are familiar in the slates used in roofing and for ciphering and blackboards.  In coarse-grained rocks, pressure develops more distant partings which separate the rocks into blocks.

Slaty cleavage cannot be due to lamination, since it commonly crosses bedding planes at an angle, while these planes have been often well-nigh or quite obliterated.  Examining slate with a microscope, we find that its cleavage is due to the grain of the rock.  Its particles are flattened and lie with their broad faces in parallel planes, along which the rock naturally splits more easily than in any other direction.  The irregular grains of the mud which has been altered to slate have been squeezed flat by a pressure exerted at right angles to the plane of cleavage.  Cleavage is found only in folded rocks, and, as we may see in Figure 176, the strike of the cleavage runs parallel to the strike of the strata and the axis of the folds.  The dip of the cleavage is generally steep, hence the pressure was nearly horizontal.  The pressure which has acted at right angles to the cleavage, and to which it is due, is the same lateral pressure which has thrown the strata into folds.

We find additional proof that slates have undergone compression at right angles to their cleavage in the fact that any inclusions in them, such as nodules and fossils, have been squeezed out of shape and have their long diameters lying in the planes of cleavage.

That pressure is competent to cause cleavage is shown by experiment.  Homogeneous material of fine grain, such as beeswax, when subjected to heavy pressure cleaves at right angles to the direction of the compressing force.

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The Elements of Geology from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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