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.

The River Thames, which you all know, and whose course you will find clearly described in Mr. Huxley’s ‘Physiography,’ drains in this way no less than one-seventh of the whole of England.  All the rain which falls in Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Middlesex, Hertfordshire, Surrey, the north of Wiltshire and north-west of Kent, the south of Buckinghamshire and of Gloucestershire, finds its way into the Thames; making an area of 6160 square miles over which every rivulet and brook trickle down to the one great river, which bears them to the ocean.  And so with every other area of land in the world there is some one channel towards which the ground on all sides slopes gently down, and into this channel all the water will run, on its way to the sea.

But what has this to do with sculpture or cutting out of valleys?  If you will only take a glass of water out of any river, and let it stand for some hours, you will soon answer this question for yourself.  For you will find that even from river water which looks quite clear, a thin layer of mud will fall to the bottom of the glass, and if you take the water when the river is swollen and muddy you will get quite a thick deposit.  This shows that the brooks, the streams, and the rivers wash away the land as they flow over it and carry it from the mountains down to the valleys, and from the valleys away out into the sea.

But besides earthly matter, which we can see, there is much matter dissolved in the water of rivers (as we mentioned in the last lecture), and this we cannot see.

If you use water which comes out of a chalk country you will find that after a time the kettle in which you have been in the habit of boiling this water has a hard crust on its bottom and sides, and this crust is made of chalk or carbonate of lime, which the water took out of the rocks when it was passing through them.  Professor Bischoff has calculated that the river Rhine carries past Bonn every year enough carbonate of lime dissolved in its water to make 332,000 million oyster-shells, and that if all these shells were built into a cube it would measure 560 feet.

Week 14

Imagine to yourselves the whole of St. Paul’s churchyard filled with oyster-shells, built up in a large square till they reached half as high again as the top of the cathedral, then you will have some idea of the amount of chalk carried invisibly past Bonn in the water of the Rhine every year.

Since all this matter, whether brought down as mud or dissolved, comes from one part of the land to be carried elsewhere or out to sea, it is clear that some gaps and hollows must be left in the places from which it is taken.  Let us see how these gaps are made.  Have you ever clambered up the mountainside, or even up one of those small ravines in the hillside, which have generally a little stream trickling through them?  If so, you must have noticed the number of pebbles, large and small, lying in patches here and there in the stream, and many pieces of broken rock, which are often scattered along the sides of the ravine; and how, as you climb, the path grows steeper, and the rocks become rugged and stick out in strange shapes.

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