The Fairy-Land of Science eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 211 pages of information about The Fairy-Land of Science.

Now, just in the same way as the wrinkles and curves of a statue are cut by the sculptor’s chisel, so the hills and valleys, the steep slopes and gentle curves on the face of our earth, giving it all its beauty, and the varied landscapes we love so well, have been cut out by water and ice passing over them.  It is true that some of the greater wrinkles of the earth, the lofty mountains, and the high masses of land which rise above the sea , have been caused by earthquakes and shrinking of the earth.  We shall not speak of these to-day, but put them aside as belonging to the rough work of the statuary yard.  But when once these large masses are put ready for water to work upon, then all the rest of the rugged wrinkles and gentle slopes which make the country so beautiful are due to water and ice, and for this reason I have called them “sculptors.”

Go for a walk in the country, or notice the landscape as you travel on a railway journey.  You pass by hills and through valleys, through narrow steep gorges cut in hard rock, or through wild ravines up the sides of which you can hardly scramble.  Then you come to grassy slopes and to smooth plains across which you can look for miles without seeing a hill; or, when you arrive at the seashore, you clamber into caves and grottos, and along dark narrow passages leading from one bay to another.  All these — hills, valleys, gorges, ravines, slopes, plains, caves, grottos, and rocky shores — have been cut out by the water.  Day by day and year by year, while everything seems to us to remain the same, this industrious sculptor is chipping away, a few grains here, a corner there, a large mass in another place, till he gives to the country its own peculiar scenery, just as the human sculptor gives expression to his statue.

Our work to-day will consist in trying to form some idea of the way in which water thus carves out the surface of the earth, and we will begin by seeing how much can be done by our old friends the rain-drops before they become running streams.

Everyone must have noticed that whenever rain falls on soft ground it makes small round holes in which it collects, and then sinks into the ground, forcing its way between the grains of earth.  But you would hardly think that the beautiful pillars in Fig. 24 have been made entirely in this way by rain beating upon and soaking into the ground.

Where these pillars stand there was once a solid mass of clay and stones, into which the rain-drops crept, loosening the earthly particles; and then when the sun dried the earth again cracks were formed, so that the next shower loosened it still more, and carried some of the mud down into the valley below.  But here and there large stones were buried in the clay, and where this happened the rain could not penetrate, and the stones became the tops of tall pillars of clay, washed into shape by the rain beating on its sides, but escaping the general destruction of the

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The Fairy-Land of Science from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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