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by Charles DarwinJanuary 18th, 2023
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Rio Negro.—S. Josef.—Port Desire, white pumiceous mudstone with Infusoria.—Port S. Julian.—Santa Cruz, basaltic lava of.—P. Gallegos.—Eastern Tierra del Fuego; leaves of extinct beech-trees.—Summary on the Patagonian tertiary formations.—Tertiary formations of the Western Coast.—Chonos and Chiloe groups, volcanic rocks of.—Concepcion.—Navidad.—Coquimbo.—Summary.—Age of the tertiary formations.—Lines of elevation.—Silicified wood.—Comparative ranges of the extinct and living mollusca on the West Coast of—S. America.—Climate of the tertiary period.—On the causes of the absence of recent conchiferous deposits on the coast of S. America.—On the contemporaneous deposition and preservation of sedimentary formations. RIO NEGRO. I can add little to the details given by M. d’Orbigny on the sandstone formation of this district. (“Voyage” Part Geolog. pages 57-65.) The cliffs to the south of the river are about two hundred feet in height, and are composed of sandstone of various tints and degrees of hardness. One layer, which thinned out at both ends, consisted of earthy matter, of a pale reddish colour, with some gypsum, and very like (I speak after comparison of the specimens brought home) Pampean mud: above this was a layer of compact marly rock with dendritic manganese. Many blocks of a conglomerate of pumice-pebbles embedded in hard sandstone were strewed at the foot of the cliff, and had evidently fallen from above. A few miles N.E. of the town, I found, low down in the sandstone, a bed, a few inches in thickness, of a white, friable, harsh-feeling sediment, which adheres to the tongue, is of easy fusibility, and of little specific gravity; examined under the microscope, it is seen to be pumiceous tuff, formed of broken transparent crystals. In the cliffs south of the river, there is, also, a thin layer of nearly similar nature, but finer grained, and not so white; it might easily have been mistaken for a calcareous tuff, but it contains no lime: this substance precisely resembles a most widely extended and thick formation in Southern Patagonia, hereafter to be described, and which is remarkable for being partially formed of infusoria. These beds, conjointly with the conglomerate of pumice, are interesting, as showing the nature of the volcanic action in the Cordillera during this old tertiary period.
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Geological Observations on South America by Charles Darwin, is part of the HackerNoon Books Series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here. ON THE OLDER TERTIARY FORMATIONS OF PATAGONIA AND CHILE


Rio Negro.—S. Josef.—Port Desire, white pumiceous mudstone with Infusoria.—Port S. Julian.—Santa Cruz, basaltic lava of.—P. Gallegos.—Eastern Tierra del Fuego; leaves of extinct beech-trees.—Summary on the Patagonian tertiary formations.—Tertiary formations of the Western Coast.—Chonos and Chiloe groups, volcanic rocks of.—Concepcion.—Navidad.—Coquimbo.—Summary.—Age of the tertiary formations.—Lines of elevation.—Silicified wood.—Comparative ranges of the extinct and living mollusca on the West Coast of—S. America.—Climate of the tertiary period.—On the causes of the absence of recent conchiferous deposits on the coast of S. America.—On the contemporaneous deposition and preservation of sedimentary formations.


I can add little to the details given by M. d’Orbigny on the sandstone formation of this district. (“Voyage” Part Geolog. pages 57-65.) The cliffs to the south of the river are about two hundred feet in height, and are composed of sandstone of various tints and degrees of hardness. One layer, which thinned out at both ends, consisted of earthy matter, of a pale reddish colour, with some gypsum, and very like (I speak after comparison of the specimens brought home) Pampean mud: above this was a layer of compact marly rock with dendritic manganese. Many blocks of a conglomerate of pumice-pebbles embedded in hard sandstone were strewed at the foot of the cliff, and had evidently fallen from above. A few miles N.E. of the town, I found, low down in the sandstone, a bed, a few inches in thickness, of a white, friable, harsh-feeling sediment, which adheres to the tongue, is of easy fusibility, and of little specific gravity; examined under the microscope, it is seen to be pumiceous tuff, formed of broken transparent crystals. In the cliffs south of the river, there is, also, a thin layer of nearly similar nature, but finer grained, and not so white; it might easily have been mistaken for a calcareous tuff, but it contains no lime: this substance precisely resembles a most widely extended and thick formation in Southern Patagonia, hereafter to be described, and which is remarkable for being partially formed of infusoria. These beds, conjointly with the conglomerate of pumice, are interesting, as showing the nature of the volcanic action in the Cordillera during this old tertiary period.

In a bed at the base of the southern cliffs, M. d’Orbigny found two extinct fresh-water shells, namely, a Unio and Chilina. This bed rested on one with bones of an extinct rodent, namely, the Megamys Patagoniensis; and this again on another with extinct marine shells. The species found by M. d’Orbigny in different parts of this formation consist of:—

1. Ostrea Patagonica, d’Orbigny, “Voyage, Pal.” (also at St. Fe, and whole coast of Patagonia). 2. Ostrea Ferrarisi, d’Orbigny, “Voyage, Pal.” 3. Ostrea Alvarezii, d’Orbigny, “Voyage, Pal.” (also at St. Fe, and S. Josef). 4. Pecten Patagoniensis, d’Orbigny, “Voyage, Pal.” 5. Venus Munsterii, d’Orbigny, “Voyage, Pal.” (also at St. Fe). 6. Arca Bonplandiana, d’Orbigny, “Voyage, Pal.” (also at St. Fe).

According to M. d’Orbigny, the sandstone extends westward along the coast as far as Port S. Antonio, and up the R. Negro far into the interior: northward I traced it to the southern side of the Rio Colorado, where it forms a low denuded plain. This formation, though contemporaneous with that of the rest of Patagonia, is quite different in mineralogical composition, being connected with it only by the one thin white layer: this difference may be reasonably attributed to the sediment brought down in ancient times by the Rio Negro; by which agency, also, we can understand the presence of the fresh-water shells, and of the bones of land animals. Judging from the identity of four of the above shells, this formation is contemporaneous (as remarked by M. d’Orbigny) with that under the Pampean deposit in Entre Rios and in Banda Oriental. The gravel capping the sandstone plain, with its calcareous cement and nodules of gypsum, is probably, from the reasons given in the First Chapter, contemporaneous with the uppermost beds of the Pampean formation on the upper plain north of the Colorado.


My examination here was very short: the cliffs are about a hundred feet high; the lower third consists of yellowish-brown, soft, slightly calcareous, muddy sandstone, parts of which when struck emit a fetid smell. In this bed the great Ostraea Patagonica, often marked with dendritic manganese and small coral-lines, were extraordinarily numerous. I found here the following shells:—

1. Ostrea Patagonica, d’Orbigny, “Voyage, Pal.” (also at St. Fe and whole coast of Patagonia). 2. Ostrea Alvarezii, d’Orbigny, “Voyage, Pal.” (also at St. Fe and R. Negro). 3. Pecten Paranensis, d’Orbigny, “Voyage, Pal.” (also at St. Fe, S. Julian, and Port Desire). 4. Pecten Darwinianus, d’Orbigny, “Voyage, Pal.” (also at St. Fe). 5. Pecten actinodes, G.B. Sowerby. 6. Terebratula Patagonica, G.B. Sowerby (also S. Julian). 7. Casts of a Turritella.

The four first of these species occur at St. Fe in Entre Rios, and the two first in the sandstone of the Rio Negro. Above this fossiliferous mass, there is a stratum of very fine-grained, pale brown mudstone, including numerous laminae of selenite. All the strata appear horizontal, but when followed by the eye for a long distance, they are seen to have a small easterly dip. On the surface we have the porphyritic gravel, and on it sand with recent shells.


From specimens and notes given me by Lieutenant Stokes, it appears that the lower bed consists of soft muddy sandstone, like that of S. Josef, with many imperfect shells, including the Pecten Paranensis, d’Orbigny, casts of a Turritella and Scutella. On this there are two strata of the pale brown mudstone, also like that of S. Josef, separated by a darker-coloured, more argillaceous variety, including the Ostrea Patagonica. Professor Ehrenberg has examined this mudstone for me: he finds in it three already known microscopic organisms, enveloped in a fine-grained pumiceous tuff, which I shall have immediately to describe in detail. Specimens brought to me from the uppermost bed, north of the Rio Chupat, consist of this same substance, but of a whiter colour.

Tertiary strata, such as here described, appear to extend along the whole coast between Rio Chupat and Port Desire, except where interrupted by the underlying claystone porphyry, and by some metamorphic rocks; these hard rocks, I may add, are found at intervals over a space of about five degrees of latitude, from Point Union to a point between Port S. Julian and S. Cruz, and will be described in the ensuing chapter. Many gigantic specimens of the Ostraea Patagonica were collected in the Gulf of St. George.


A good section of the lowest fossiliferous mass, about forty feet in thickness, resting on claystone porphyry, is exhibited a few miles south of the harbour. The shells sufficiently perfect to be recognised consist of:—

1. Ostrea Patagonica, d’Orbigny, (also at St. Fe, and whole coast of Patagonia). 2. Pecten Paranensis, d’Orbigny, “Voyage, Pal.” (also at St. Fe, S. Josef, S. Julian). 3. Pecten centralis, G.B. Sowerby (also at S. Julian and S. Cruz). 4. Cucullaea alta, G.B. Sowerby (also at S. Cruz). 5. Nucula ornata, G.B. Sowerby. 6. Turritella Patagonica, G.B. Sowerby.

The fossiliferous strata, when not denuded, are conformably covered by a considerable thickness of the fine-grained pumiceous mudstone, divided into two masses: the lower half is very fine-grained, slightly unctuous, and so compact as to break with a semi-conchoidal fracture, though yielding to the nail; it includes laminae of selenite: the upper half precisely resembles the one layer at the Rio Negro, and with the exception of being whiter, the upper beds at San Josef and Nuevo Gulf. In neither mass is there any trace to the naked eye of organic forms. Taking the entire deposit, it is generally quite white, or yellowish, or feebly tinted with green; it is either almost friable under the finger, or as hard as chalk; it is of easy fusibility, of little specific gravity, is not harsh to the touch, adheres to the tongue, and when breathed on exhales a strong aluminous odour; it sometimes contains a very little calcareous matter, and traces (besides the included laminae) of gypsum. Under the microscope, according to Professor Ehrenberg, it consists of minute, triturated, cellular, glassy fragments of pumice, with some broken crystals. (“Monatsberichten de konig. Akad. zu Berlin” vom April 1845.) In the minute glassy fragments, Professor Ehrenberg recognises organic structures, which have been affected by volcanic heat: in the specimens from this place, and from Port S. Julian, he finds sixteen Polygastrica and twelve Phytolitharia. Of these organisms, seven are new forms, the others being previously known: all are of marine, and chiefly of oceanic, origin. This deposit to the naked eye resembles the crust which often appears on weathered surfaces of feldspathic rocks; it likewise resembles those beds of earthy feldspathic matter, sometimes interstratified with porphyritic rocks, as is the case in this very district with the underlying purple claystone porphyry. From examining specimens under a common microscope, and comparing them with other specimens undoubtedly of volcanic origin, I had come to the same conclusion with Professor Ehrenberg, namely, that this great deposit, in its first origin, is of volcanic nature.



(Section through beds from top to bottom: A, B, C, D, E, F.))

On the south side of the harbour, Figure 17 gives the nature of the beds seen in the cliffs of the ninety feet plain. Beginning at the top:—

1st, the earthy mass (AA), including the remains of the Macrauchenia, with recent shells on the surface.

Second, the porphyritic shingle (B), which in its lower part is interstratified (owing, I believe, to redisposition during denudation) with the white pumiceous mudstone.

Third, this white mudstone, about twenty feet in thickness, and divided into two varieties (C and D), both closely resembling the lower, fine- grained, more unctuous and compact kind at Port Desire; and, as at that place, including much selenite.

Fourth, a fossiliferous mass, divided into three main beds, of which the uppermost is thin, and consists of ferruginous sandstone, with many shells of the great oyster and Pecten Paranensis; the middle bed (E) is a yellowish earthy sandstone abounding with Scutellae; and the lowest bed (F) is an indurated, greenish, sandy clay, including large concretions of calcareous sandstone, many shells of the great oyster, and in parts almost made up of fragments of Balanidae. Out of these three beds, I procured the following twelve species, of which the two first were exceedingly numerous in individuals, as were the Terebratulae and Turritellae in certain layers:—

1. Ostrea Patagonica, d’Orbigny, “Voyage, Pal.” (also at St. Fe, and whole coast of Patagonia). 2. Pecten Paranensis, d’Orbigny, “Voyage, Pal.” (St. Fe, S. Josef, Port Desire). 3. Pecten centralis, G.B. Sowerby (also at Port Desire and S. Cruz). 4. Pecten geminatus, G.B. Sowerby. 5. Terebratula Patagonica, G.B. Sowerby (also S. Josef). 6. Struthiolaria ornata, G.B. Sowerby (also S. Cruz). 7. Fusus Patagonicus, G.B. Sowerby. 8. Fusus Noachinus, G.B. Sowerby. 9. Scalaria rugulosa, G.B. Sowerby. 10. Turritella ambulacrum, G.B. Sowerby (also S. Cruz). 11. Pyrula, cast of, like P. ventricosa of Sowerby, Tank Cat. 12. Balanus varians, G.B. Sowerby. 13. Scutella, differing from the species from Nuevo Gulf.

At the head of the inner harbour of Port S. Julian, the fossiliferous mass is not displayed, and the sea-cliffs from the water’s edge to a height of between one and two hundred feet are formed of the white pumiceous mudstone, which here includes innumerable, far-extended, sometimes horizontal, sometimes inclined or vertical laminae of transparent gypsum, often about an inch in thickness. Further inland, with the exception of the superficial gravel, the whole thickness of the truncated hills, which represent a formerly continuous plain 950 feet in height, appears to be formed of this white mudstone: here and there, however, at various heights, thin earthy layers, containing the great oyster, Pecten Paranensis and Turritella ambulacrum, are interstratified; thus showing that the whole mass belongs to the same epoch. I nowhere found even a fragment of a shell actually in the white deposit, and only a single cast of a Turritella. Out of the eighteen microscopic organisms discovered by Ehrenberg in the specimens from this place, ten are common to the same deposit at Port Desire. I may add that specimens of this white mudstone, with the same identical characters were brought me from two points,—one twenty miles north of S. Julian, where a wide gravel-capped plain, 350 feet in height, is thus composed; and the other forty miles south of S. Julian, where, on the old charts, the cliffs are marked as “Chalk Hills.”


The gravel-capped cliffs at the mouth of the river are 355 feet in height: the lower part, to a thickness of fifty or sixty feet, consists of a more or less hardened, darkish, muddy, or argillaceous sandstone (like the lowest bed of Port Desire), containing very many shells, some silicified and some converted into yellow calcareous spar. The great oyster is here numerous in layers; the Trigonocelia and Turritella are also very numerous: it is remarkable that the Pecten Paranensis, so common in all other parts of the coast, is here absent: the shells consist of:—

1. Ostrea Patagonica, d’Orbigny; “Voyage Pal.” (also at St. Fe and whole coast of Patagonia).
2. Pecten centralis, G.B. Sowerby (also P. Desire and S. Julian).
3. Venus meridionalis of G.B. Sowerby.
4. Crassatella Lyellii, G.B. Sowerby.
5. Cardium puelchum, G.B. Sowerby.
6. Cardita Patagonica, G.B. Sowerby.
7. Mactra rugata, G.B. Sowerby.
8. Mactra Darwinii, G.B. Sowerby.
9. Cucullaea alta, G.B. Sowerby (also P. Desire).
10. Trigonocelia insolita, G.B. Sowerby.
11. Nucula (?) glabra, G.B. Sowerby.
12. Crepidula gregaria, G.B. Sowerby.
13. Voluta alta, G.B. Sowerby.
14. Trochus collaris, G.B. Sowerby.
15. Natica solida (?), G.B. Sowerby
16. Struthiolaria ornata, G.B. Sowerby (also P. Desire).
17. Turritella ambulacrum, G.B. Sowerby (also P. S. Julian).
Imperfect fragments of the genera Byssoarca, Artemis, and Fusus.

The upper part of the cliff is generally divided into three great strata, differing slightly in composition, but essentially resembling the pumiceous mudstone of the places farther north; the deposit, however, here is more arenaceous, of greater specific gravity, and not so white: it is interlaced with numerous thin veins, partially or quite filled with transverse fibres of gypsum; these fibres were too short to reach across the vein, have their extremities curved or bent: in the same veins with the gypsum, and likewise in separate veins as well as in little nests, there is much powdery sulphate of magnesia (as ascertained by Mr. Reeks) in an uncompressed form: I believe that this salt has not heretofore been found in veins. Of the three beds, the central one is the most compact, and more like ordinary sandstone: it includes numerous flattened spherical concretions, often united like a necklace, composed of hard calcareous sandstone, containing a few shells: some of these concretions were four feet in diameter, and in a horizontal line nine feet apart, showing that the calcareous matter must have been drawn to the centres of attraction, from a distance of four feet and a half on both sides. In the upper and lower finer-grained strata, there were other concretions of a grey colour, containing calcareous matter, and so fine-grained and compact, as almost to resemble porcelain- rock: I have seen exactly similar concretions in a volcanic tufaceous bed in Chiloe. Although in this upper fine-grained strata, organic remains were very rare, yet I noticed a few of the great oyster; and in one included soft ferruginous layer, there were some specimens of the Cucullaea alta (found at Port Desire in the lower fossiliferous mass) and of the Mactra rugata, which latter shell has been partially converted into gypsum.


(Section through strata (from top to bottom)): Surface of plain with erratic boulders; 1,146 feet above the sea. a. Gravel and boulders, 212 feet thick. b. Basaltic lava, 322 feet thick. c, d and e. Sedimentary layers, bed of small pebbles and talus respectively, total 592 feet thick. River of S. Cruz; here 280 feet above sea.)

In ascending the valley of the S. Cruz, the upper strata of the coast- cliffs are prolonged, with nearly the same characters, for fifty miles: at about this point, they begin in the most gradual and scarcely perceptible manner, to be banded with white lines; and after ascending ten miles farther, we meet with distinct thin layers of whitish, greenish, and yellowish fine-grained, fusible sediments. At eighty miles from the coast, in a cliff thus composed, there were a few layers of ferruginous sandstone, and of an argillaceous sandstone with concretions of marl like those in the Pampas. (At this spot, for a space of three-quarters of a mile along the north side of the river, and for a width of half a mile, there has been a great slip, which has formed hills between sixty and seventy feet in height, and has tilted the strata into highly inclined and even vertical positions. The strata generally dipped at an angle of 45 degrees towards the cliff from which they had slided. I have observed in slips, both on a small and large scale, that this inward dip is very general. Is it due to the hydrostatic pressure of water percolating with difficulty through the strata acting with greater force at the base of the mass than against the upper part?) At one hundred miles from the coast, that is at a central point between the Atlantic and the Cordillera, we have the section in Figure 18.

The upper half of the sedimentary mass, under the basaltic lava, consists of innumerable zones of perfectly white bright green, yellowish and brownish, fine-grained, sometimes incoherent, sedimentary matter. The white, pumiceous, trachytic tuff-like varieties are of rather greater specific gravity than the pumiceous mudstone on the coast to the north; some of the layers, especially the browner ones, are coarser, so that the broken crystals are distinguishable with a weak lens. The layers vary in character in short distances. With the exception of a few of the Ostrea Patagonica, which appeared to have rolled down from the cliff above, no organic remains were found. The chief difference between these layers taken as a whole, and the upper beds both at the mouth of the river and on the coast northward, seems to lie in the occasional presence of more colouring matter, and in the supply having been intermittent; these characters, as we have seen, very gradually disappear in descending the valley, and this fact may perhaps be accounted for by the currents of a more open sea having blended together the sediment from a distant and intermittent source.

The coloured layers in the foregoing section rest on a mass, apparently of great thickness (but much hidden by the talus), of soft sandstone, almost composed of minute pebbles, from one-tenth to two-tenths of an inch in diameter, of the rocks (with the entire exception of the basaltic lava) composing the great boulders on the surface of the plain, and probably composing the neighbouring Cordillera. Five miles higher up the valley, and again thirty miles higher up (that is twenty miles from the nearest range of the Cordillera), the lower plain included within the upper escarpments, is formed, as seen on the banks of the river, of a nearly similar but finer-grained, more earthy, laminated sandstone, alternating with argillaceous beds, and containing numerous moderately sized pebbles of the same rocks, and some shells of the great Ostrea Patagonica. (I found at both places, but not in situ, quantities of coniferous and ordinary dicotyledonous silicified wood, which was examined for me by Mr. R. Brown.) As most of these shells had been rolled before being here embedded, their presence does not prove that the sandstone belongs to the great Patagonian tertiary formation, for they might have been redeposited in it, when the valley existed as a sea-strait; but as amongst the pebbles there were none of basalt, although the cliffs on both sides of the valley are composed of this rock, I believe that the sandstone does belong to this formation. At the highest point to which we ascended, twenty miles distant from the nearest slope of the Cordillera, I could see the horizontally zoned white beds, stretching under the black basaltic lava, close up to the mountains; so that the valley of the S. Cruz gives a fair idea of the constitution of the whole width of Patagonia.


This formation is first met with sixty-seven miles from the mouth of the river; thence it extends uninterruptedly, generally but not exclusively on the northern side of the valley, close up to the Cordillera. The basalt is generally black and fine-grained, but sometimes grey and laminated; it contains some olivine, and high up the valley much glassy feldspar, where, also, it is often amygdaloidal; it is never highly vesicular, except on the sides of rents and on the upper and lower, spherically laminated surfaces. It is often columnar; and in one place I saw magnificent columns, each face twelve feet in width, with their interstices filled up with calcareous tuff. The streams rest conformably on the white sedimentary beds, but I nowhere saw the actual junction; nor did I anywhere see the white beds actually superimposed on the lava; but some way up the valley at the foot of the uppermost escarpments, they must be thus superimposed. Moreover, at the lowest point down the valley, where the streams thin out and terminate in irregular projections, the spaces or intervals between these projections are filled up to the level of the now denuded and gravel-capped surfaces of the plains, with the white-zoned sedimentary beds; proving that this matter continued to be deposited after the streams had flowed. Hence we may conclude that the basalt is contemporaneous with the upper parts of the great tertiary formation.

The lava where first met with is 130 feet in thickness: it there consists of two, three, or perhaps more streams, divided from each other by vesicular spheroids like those on the surface. From the streams having, as it appears, extended to different distances, the terminal points are of unequal heights. Generally the surface of the basalt is smooth them in one part high up the valley, it was so uneven and hummocky, that until I afterwards saw the streams extending continuously on both sides of the valley up to a height of about three thousand feet close to the Cordillera, I thought that the craters of eruption were probably close at hand. This hummocky surface I believe to have been caused by the crossing and heaping up of different streams. In one place, there were several rounded ridges about twenty feet in height, some of them as broad as high, and some broader, which certainly had been formed whilst the lava was fluid, for in transverse sections each ridge was seen to be concentrically laminated, and to be composed of imperfect columns radiating from common centres, like the spokes of wheels.

The basaltic mass where first met with is, as I have said, 130 feet in thickness, and, thirty-five miles higher up the valley, it increases to 322 feet. In the first fourteen and a half miles of this distance, the upper surface of the lava, judging from three measurements taken above the level of the river (of which the apparently very uniform inclination has been calculated from its total height at a point 135 miles from the mouth), slopes towards the Atlantic at an angle of only 0 degrees 7 minutes twenty seconds: this must be considered only as an approximate measurement, but it cannot be far wrong. Taking the whole thirty-five miles, the upper surface slopes at an angle of 0 degrees 10 minutes 53 seconds; but this result is of no value in showing the inclination of any one stream, for halfway between the two points of measurement, the surface suddenly rises between one hundred and two hundred feet, apparently caused by some of the uppermost streams having extended thus far and no farther. From the measurement made at these two points, thirty-five miles apart, the mean inclination of the sedimentary beds, over which the lava has flowed, is NOW (after elevation from under the sea) only 0 degrees 7 minutes 52 seconds: for the sake of comparison, it may be mentioned that the bottom of the present sea in a line from the mouth of the S. Cruz to the Falkland Islands, from a depth of seventeen fathoms to a depth of eighty-five fathoms, declines at an angle of 0 degrees 1 minute 22 seconds; between the beach and the depth of seventeen fathoms, the slope is greater. From a point about half-way up the valley, the basaltic mass rises more abruptly towards the foot of the Cordillera, namely, from a height of 1,204 feet, to about 3,000 feet above the sea.

This great deluge of lava is worthy, in its dimensions, of the great continent to which it belongs. The aggregate streams have flowed from the Cordillera to a distance (unparalleled, I believe, in any case yet known) of about one hundred geographical miles. Near their furthest extremity their total thickness is 130 feet, which increase thirty-five miles farther inland, as we have just seen, to 322 feet. The least inclination given by M. E. de Beaumont of the upper surface of a lava-stream, namely 0 degrees 30 minutes, is that of the great subaerial eruption in 1783 from Skaptar Jukul in Iceland; and M. E. de Beaumont shows that it must have flowed down a mean inclination of less than 0 degrees 20 minutes. (“Memoires pour servir” etc. pages 178 and 217.) But we now see that under the pressure of the sea, successive streams have flowed over a smooth bottom with a mean inclination of not more than 0 degrees 7 minutes 52 seconds; and that the upper surface of the terminal portion (over a space of fourteen and a half miles) has an inclination of not more than 0 degrees 7 minutes 20 seconds. If the elevation of Patagonia has been greater nearer the Cordillera than near the Atlantic (as is probable), then these angles are now all too large. I must repeat, that although the foregoing measurements, which were all carefully taken with the barometer, may not be absolutely correct, they cannot be widely erroneous.

Southward of the S. Cruz, the cliffs of the 840 feet plain extend to Coy Inlet, and owing to the naked patches of the white sediment, they are said on the charts to be “like the coast of Kent.” At Coy Inlet the high plain trends inland, leaving flat-topped outliers. At Port Gallegos (latitude 51 degrees 35 minutes, and ninety miles south of S. Cruz), I am informed by Captain Sulivan, R.N., that there is a gravel-capped plain from two to three hundred feet in height, formed of numerous strata, some fine-grained and pale-coloured, like the upper beds at the mouth of the S. Cruz, others rather dark and coarser, so as to resemble gritstones or tuffs; these latter include rather large fragments of apparently decomposed volcanic rocks; there are, also, included layers of gravel. This formation is highly remarkable, from abounding with mammiferous remains, which have not as yet been examined by Professor Owen, but which include some large, but mostly small, species of Pachydermata, Edentata, and Rodentia. From the appearance of the pale-coloured, fine-grained beds, I was inclined to believe that they corresponded with the upper beds of the S. Cruz; but Professor Ehrenberg, who has examined some of the specimens, informs me that the included microscopical organisms are wholly different, being fresh and brackish-water forms. Hence the two to three hundred feet plain at Port Gallegos is of unknown age, but probably of subsequent origin to the great Patagonian tertiary formation.


Judging from the height, the general appearance, and the white colour of the patches visible on the hill sides, the uppermost plain, both on the north and western side of the Strait of Magellan, and along the eastern coast of Tierra del Fuego as far south as near Port St. Polycarp, probably belongs to the great Patagonian tertiary formation, These higher table- ranges are fringed by low, irregular, extensive plains, belonging to the boulder formation (Described in the “Geological Transactions” volume 6 page 415.), and composed of coarse unstratified masses, sometimes associated (as north of C. Virgin’s) with fine, laminated, muddy sandstones. The cliffs in Sebastian Bay are 200 feet in height, and are composed of fine sandstones, often in curvilinear layers, including hard concretions of calcareous sandstone, and layers of gravel. In these beds there are fragments of wood, legs of crabs, barnacles encrusted with corallines still partially retaining their colour, imperfect fragments of a Pholas distinct from any known species, and of a Venus, approaching very closely to, but slightly different in form from, the V. lenticularis, a species living on the coast of Chile. Leaves of trees are numerous between the laminae of the muddy sandstone; they belong, as I am informed by Dr. J.D. Hooker, to three species of deciduous beech, different from the two species which compose the great proportion of trees in this forest-clad land. (“Botany of the Antarctic Voyage” page 212.) From these facts it is difficult to conjecture, whether we here see the basal part of the great Patagonian formation, or some later deposit.


Four out of the seven fossil shells, from St. Fe in Entre Rios, were found by M. d’Orbigny in the sandstone of the Rio Negro, and by me at San Josef. Three out of the six from San Josef are identical with those from Port Desire and S. Julian, which two places have together fifteen species, out of which three are common to both. Santa Cruz has seventeen species, out of which five are common to Port Desire and S. Julian. Considering the difference in latitude between these several places, and the small number of species altogether collected, namely thirty-six, I conceive the above proportional number of species in common, is sufficient to show that the lower fossiliferous mass belongs nearly, I do not say absolutely, to the same epoch. What this epoch may be, compared with the European tertiary stages, M. d’Orbigny will not pretend to determine. The thirty-six species (including those collected by myself and by M. d’Orbigny) are all extinct, or at least unknown; but it should be borne in mind, that the present coast consists of shingle, and that no one, I believe, has dredged here for shells; hence it is not improbable that some of the species may hereafter be found living. Some few of the species are closely related with existing ones; this is especially the case, according to M. d’Orbigny and Mr. Sowerby, with the Fusus Patagonicus; and, according to Mr. Sowerby, with the Pyrula, the Venus meridionalis, the Crepidula gregaria, and the Turritella ambulacrum, and T. Patagonica. At least three of the genera, namely, Cucullaea, Crassatella, and (as determined by Mr. Sowerby) Struthiolaria, are not found in this quarter of the world; and Trigonocelia is extinct. The evidence taken altogether indicates that this great tertiary formation is of considerable antiquity; but when treating of the Chilean beds, I shall have to refer again to this subject.

The white pumiceous mudstone, with its abundant gypsum, belongs to the same general epoch with the underlying fossiliferous mass, as may be inferred from the shells included in the intercalated layers at Nuevo Gulf, S. Julian, and S. Cruz. Out of the twenty-seven marine microscopic structures found by Professor Ehrenberg in the specimens from S. Julian and Port Desire, ten are common to these two places: the three found at Nuevo Gulf are distinct. I have minutely described this deposit, from its remarkable characters and its wide extension. From Coy Inlet to Port Desire, a distance of 230 miles, it is certainly continuous; and I have reason to believe that it likewise extends to the Rio Chupat, Nuevo Gulf, and San Josef, a distance of 570 miles: we have, also, seen that a single layer occurs at the Rio Negro. At Port S. Julian it is from eight to nine hundred feet in thickness; and at S. Cruz it extends, with a slightly altered character, up to the Cordillera. From its microscopic structure, and from its analogy with other formations in volcanic districts, it must be considered as originally of volcanic origin: it may have been formed by the long-continued attrition of vast quantities of pumice, or judging from the manner in which the mass becomes, in ascending the valley of S. Cruz, divided into variously coloured layers, from the long-continued eruption of clouds of fine ashes. In either case, we must conclude, that the southern volcanic orifices of the Cordillera, now in a dormant state, were at about this period over a wide space, and for a great length of time, in action. We have evidence of this fact, in the latitude of the Rio Negro, in the sandstone-conglomerate with pumice, and demonstrative proof of it, at S. Cruz, in the vast deluges of basaltic lava: at this same tertiary period, also, there is distinct evidence of volcanic action in Western Banda Oriental.

The Patagonian tertiary formation extends continuously, judging from fossils alone, from S. Cruz to near the Rio Colorado, a distance of above six hundred miles, and reappears over a wide area in Entre Rios and Banda Oriental, making a total distance of 1,100 miles; but this formation undoubtedly extends (though no fossils were collected) far south of the S. Cruz, and, according to M. d’Orbigny, 120 miles north of St. Fe. At S. Cruz we have seen that it extends across the continent; being on the coast about eight hundred feet in thickness (and rather more at S. Julian), and rising with the contemporaneous lava-streams to a height of about three thousand feet at the base of the Cordillera. It rests, wherever any underlying formation can be seen, on plutonic and metamorphic rocks. Including the newer Pampean deposit, and those strata in Eastern Tierra del Fuego of doubtful age, as well as the boulder formation, we have a line of more than twenty-seven degrees of latitude, equal to that from the Straits of Gibraltar to the south of Iceland, continuously composed of tertiary formations. Throughout this great space the land has been upraised, without the strata having been in a single instance, as far as my means of observation went, unequally tilted or dislocated by a fault.


The numerous islands of this group, with the exception of Lemus, Ypun, consist of metamorphic schists; these two islands are formed of softish grey and brown, fusible, often laminated sandstones, containing a few pebbles, fragments of black lignite, and numerous mammillated concretions of hard calcareous sandstone. Out of these concretions at Ypun (latitude 40 degrees 30 minutes S.), I extracted the four following extinct species of shells:—

1. Turritella suturalis, G.B. Sowerby (also Navidad). 2. Sigaretus subglobosus, G.B. Sowerby (also Navidad). 3. Cytheraea (?) sulculosa (?), G.B. Sowerby (also Chiloe and Huafo?). 4. Voluta, fragments of.

In the northern parts of this group there are some cliffs of gravel and of the boulder formation. In the southern part (at P. Andres in Tres Montes), there is a volcanic formation, probably of tertiary origin. The lavas attain a thickness of from two to three hundred feet; they are extremely variable in colour and nature, being compact, or brecciated, or cellular, or amygdaloidal with zeolite, agate and bole, or porphyritic with glassy albitic feldspar. There is also much imperfect rubbly pitchstone, with the interstices charged with powdery carbonate of lime apparently of contemporaneous origin. These lavas are conformably associated with strata of breccia and of brown tuff containing lignite. The whole mass has been broken up and tilted at an angle of 45 degrees, by a series of great volcanic dikes, one of which was thirty yards in breadth. This volcanic formation resembles one, presently to be described, in Chiloe.


This island lies between the Chonos and Chiloe groups: it is about eight hundred feet high, and perhaps has a nucleus of metamorphic rocks. The strata which I examined consisted of fine-grained muddy sandstones, with fragments of lignite and concretions of calcareous sandstone. I collected the following extinct shells, of which the Turritella was in great numbers:—

1. Bulla cosmophila, G.B. Sowerby. 2. Pleurotoma subaequalis, G.B. Sowerby. 3. Fusus cleryanus, d’Orbigny, “Voyage Pal.” (also at Coquimbo). 4. Triton leucostomoides, G.B. Sowerby. 5. Turritella Chilensis, G.B. Sowerby (also Mocha). 6. Venus, probably a distinct species, but very imperfect. 7. Cytheraea (?) sulculosa (?), probably a distinct species, but very imperfect. 8. Dentalium majus, G.B. Sowerby.


This fine island is about one hundred miles in length. The entire southern part, and the whole western coast, consists of mica-schist, which likewise is seen in the ravines of the interior. The central mountains rise to a height of 3,000 feet, and are said to be partly formed of granite and greenstone: there are two small volcanic districts. The eastern coast, and large parts of the northern extremity of the island are composed of gravel, the boulder formation, and underlying horizontal strata. The latter are well displayed for twenty miles north and south of Castro; they vary in character from common sandstone to fine-grained, laminated mudstones: all the specimens which I examined are easily fusible, and some of the beds might be called volcanic grit-stones. These latter strata are perhaps related to a mass of columnar trachyte which occurs behind Castro. The sandstone occasionally includes pebbles, and many fragments and layers of lignite; of the latter, some are apparently formed of wood and others of leaves: one layer on the N.W. side of Lemuy is nearly two feet in thickness. There is also much silicified wood, both common dicotyledonous and coniferous: a section of one specimen in the direction of the medullary rays has, as I am informed by Mr. R. Brown, the discs in a double row placed alternately, and not opposite as in the true Araucaria. I found marine remains only in one spot, in some concretions of hard calcareous sandstone: in several other districts I have observed that organic remains were exclusively confined to such concretions; are we to account for this fact, by the supposition that the shells lived only at these points, or is it not more probable that their remains were preserved only where concretions were formed? The shells here are in a bad state, they consist of:—

1. Tellinides (?) oblonga, G.B. Sowerby (a solenella in M. d’Orbigny’s opinion). 2. Natica striolata, G.B. Sowerby. 3. Natica (?) pumila, G.B. Sowerby. 4. Cytheraea (?) sulculosa, G.B. Sowerby (also Ypun and Huafo?).

At the northern extremity of the island, near S. Carlos, there is a large volcanic formation, between five and seven hundred feet in thickness. The commonest lava is blackish-grey or brown, either vesicular, or amygdaloidal with calcareous spar and bole: most even of the darkest varieties fuse into a pale-coloured glass. The next commonest variety is a rubbly, rarely well characterised pitchstone (fusing into a white glass) which passes in the most irregular manner into stony grey lavas. This pitchstone, as well as some purple claystone porphyry, certainly flowed in the form of streams. These various lavas often pass, at a considerable depth from the surface, in the most abrupt and singular manner into wacke. Great masses of the solid rock are brecciated, and it was generally impossible to discover whether the recementing process had been an igneous or aqueous action. (In a cliff of the hardest fragmentary mass, I found several tortuous, vertical veins, varying in thickness from a few tenths of an inch to one inch and a half, of a substance which I have not seen described. It is glossy, and of a brown colour; it is thinly laminated, with the laminae transparent and elastic; it is a little harder than calcareous spar; it is infusible under the blowpipe, sometimes decrepitates, gives out water, curls up, blackens, and becomes magnetic. Borax easily dissolves a considerable quantity of it, and gives a glass tinged with green. I have no idea what its true nature is. On first seeing it, I mistook it for lignite!) The beds are obscurely separated from each other; they are sometimes parted by seams of tuff and layers of pebbles. In one place they rested on, and in another place were capped by, tuffs and girt-stones, apparently of submarine origin.

The neighbouring peninsula of Lacuy is almost wholly formed of tufaceous deposits, connected probably in their origin with the volcanic hills just described. The tuffs are pale-coloured, alternating with laminated mudstones and sandstones (all easily fusible), and passing sometimes into fine-grained white beds strikingly resembling the great upper infusorial deposit of Patagonia, and sometimes into brecciolas with pieces of pumice in the last stage of decay; these again pass into ordinary coarse breccias and conglomerates of hard rocks. Within very short distances, some of the finer tuffs often passed into each other in a peculiar manner, namely, by irregular polygonal concretions of one variety increasing so much and so suddenly in size, that the second variety, instead of any longer forming the entire mass, was left merely in thin veins between the concretions. In a straight line of cliffs, at Point Tenuy, I examined the following remarkable section (Figure 19):—

(FIGURE 19.)

On the left hand, the lower part (AA) consists of regular, alternating strata of brown tuffs and greenish laminated mudstone, gently inclined to the right, and conformably covered by a mass (B left) of a white, tufaceous and brecciolated deposit. On the right hand, the whole cliff (BB right) consists of the same white tufaceous matter, which on this side presents scarcely a trace of stratification, but to the left becomes very gradually and rather indistinctly divided into strata quite conformable with the underlying beds (AA): moreover, a few hundred yards further to the left, where the surface has been less denuded, the tufaceous strata (B left) are conformably covered by another set of strata, like the underlying ones (AA) of this section. In the middle of the diagram, the beds (AA) are seen to be abruptly cut off, and to abut against the tufaceous non-stratified mass; but the line of junction has been accidentally not represented steep enough, for I particularly noticed that before the beds had been tilted to the right, this line must have been nearly vertical. It appears that a current of water cut for itself a deep and steep submarine channel, and at the same time or afterwards filled it up with the tufaceous and brecciolated matter, and spread the same over the surrounding submarine beds; the matter becoming stratified in these more distant and less troubled parts, and being moreover subsequently covered up by other strata (like AA) not shown in the diagram. It is singular that three of the beds (of AA) are prolonged in their proper direction, as represented, beyond the line of junction into the white tufaceous matter: the prolonged portions of two of the beds are rounded; in the third, the terminal fragment has been pushed upwards: how these beds could have been left thus prolonged, I will not pretend to explain. In another section on the opposite side of a promontory, there was at the foot of this same line of junction, that is at the bottom of the old submarine channel, a pile of fragments of the strata (AA), with their interstices filled up with white tufaceous matter: this is exactly what might have been anticipated under such circumstances.


The various tufaceous and other beds at this northern end of Chiloe probably belong to about the same age with those near Castro, and they contain, as there, many fragments of black lignite and of silicified and pyritous wood, often embedded close together. They also contain many and singular concretions: some are of hard calcareous sandstone, in which it would appear that broken volcanic crystals and scales of mica have been better preserved (as in the case of the organic remains near Castro) than in the surrounding mass. Other concretions in the white brecciola are of a hard, ferruginous, yet fusible, nature; they are as round as cannon-balls, and vary from two or three inches to two feet in diameter; their insides generally consist either of fine, scarcely coherent volcanic sand (The frequent tendency in iron to form hollow concretions or shell containing incoherent matter is singular; D’Aubuisson (“Traite de Geogn.” tome 1 page 318) remarks on this circumstance.), or of an argillaceous tuff; in this latter case, the external crust was quite thin and hard. Some of these spherical balls were encircled in the line of their equators, by a necklace-like row of smaller concretions. Again there were other concretions, irregularly formed, and composed of a hard, compact, ash- coloured stone, with an almost porcelainous fracture, adhesive to the tongue, and without any calcareous matter. These beds are, also, interlaced by many veins, containing gypsum, ferruginous matter, calcareous spar, and agate. It was here seen with remarkable distinctness, how intimately concretionary action and the production of fissures and veins are related together. Figure 20 is an accurate representation of a horizontal space of tuff, about four feet long by two and a half in width: the double lines represent the fissures partially filled with oxide of iron and agate: the curvilinear lines show the course of the innumerable, concentric, concretionary zones of different shades of colour and of coarseness in the particles of tuff. The symmetry and complexity of the arrangement gave the surface an elegant appearance. It may be seen how obviously the fissures determine (or have been determined by) the shape, sometimes of the whole concretion, and sometimes only of its central parts. The fissures also determine the curvatures of the long undulating zones of concretionary action. From the varying composition of the veins and concretions, the amount of chemical action which the mass has undergone is surprisingly great; and it would likewise appear from the difference in size in the particles of the concretionary zones, that the mass, also, has been subjected to internal mechanical movements.

In the peninsula of Lacuy, the strata over a width of four miles have been upheaved by three distinct, and some other indistinct, lines of elevation, ranging within a point of north and south. One line, about two hundred feet in height, is regularly anticlinal, with the strata dipping away on both sides, at an angle of 15 degrees, from a central “valley of elevation,” about three hundred yards in width. A second narrow steep ridge, only sixty feet high, is uniclinal, the strata throughout dipping westward; those on both flanks being inclined at an angle of from ten to fifteen degrees; whilst those on the ridge dip in the same direction at an angle of between thirty and forty degrees. This ridge, traced northwards, dies away; and the beds at its terminal point, instead of dipping westward, are inclined 12 degrees to the north. This case interested me, as being the first in which I found in South America, formations perhaps of tertiary origin, broken by lines of elevation.


The formations of Chiloe seem to extend with nearly the same character to Valdivia, and for some leagues northward of it: the underlying rocks are micaceous schists, and are covered up with sandstone and other sedimentary beds, including, as I was assured, in many places layers of lignite. I did not land on Mocha (latitude 38 degrees 20 minutes), but Mr. Stokes brought me specimens of the grey, fine-grained, slightly calcareous sandstone, precisely like that of Huafo, containing lignite and numerous Turritellae. The island is flat topped, 1,240 feet in height, and appears like an outlier of the sedimentary beds on the mainland. The few shells collected consist of:—

1. Turritella Chilensis, G.B. Sowerby (also at Huafo). 2. Fusus, very imperfect, somewhat resembling F. subreflexus of Navidad, but probably different. 3. Venus, fragments of.


Sailing northward from Valdivia, the coast-cliffs are seen, first to assume near the R. Tolten, and thence for 150 miles northward, to be continued with the same mineralogical characters, immediately to be described at Concepcion. I heard in many places of beds of lignite, some of it fine and glossy, and likewise of silicified wood; near the Tolten the cliffs are low, but they soon rise in height; and the horizontal strata are prolonged, with a nearly level surface, until coming to a more lofty tract between points Rumena and Lavapie. Here the beds have been broken up by at least eight or nine parallel lines of elevation, ranging E. or E.N.E. and W. or W.S.W. These lines can be followed with the eye many miles into the interior; they are all uniclinal, the strata in each dipping to a point between S. and S.S.E. with an inclination in the central lines of about forty degrees, and in the outer ones of under twenty degrees. This band of symmetrically troubled country is about eight miles in width.

The island of Quiriquina, in the Bay of Concepcion, is formed of various soft and often ferruginous sandstones, with bands of pebbles, and with the lower strata sometimes passing into a conglomerate resting on the underlying metamorphic schists. These beds include subordinate layers of greenish impure clay, soft micaceous and calcareous sandstones, and reddish friable earthy matter with white specks like decomposed crystals of feldspar; they include, also, hard concretions, fragments of shells, lignite, and silicified wood. In the upper part they pass into white, soft sediments and brecciolas, very like those described at Chiloe; as indeed is the whole formation. At Lirguen and other places on the eastern side of the bay, there are good sections of the lower sandstones, which are generally ferruginous, but which vary in character, and even pass into an argillaceous nature; they contain hard concretions, fragments of lignite, silicified wood, and pebbles (of the same rocks with the pebbles in the sandstones of Quiriquina), and they alternate with numerous, often very thin layers of imperfect coal, generally of little specific gravity. The main bed here is three feet thick; and only the coal of this one bed has a glossy fracture. Another irregular, curvilinear bed of brown, compact lignite, is remarkable for being included in a mass of coarse gravel. These imperfect coals, when placed in a heap, ignite spontaneously. The cliffs on this side of the bay, as well as on the island of Quiriquina, are capped with red friable earth, which, as stated in the Second Chapter, is of recent formation. The stratification in this neighbourhood is generally horizontal; but near Lirguen the beds dip N.W. at an angle of 23 degrees; near Concepcion they are also inclined: at the northern end of Quiriquina they have been tilted at an angle of 30 degrees, and at the southern end at angles varying from 15 degrees to 40 degrees: these dislocations must have taken place under the sea.

A collection of shells, from the island of Quiriquina, has been described by M. d’Orbigny: they are all extinct, and from their generic character, M. d’Orbigny inferred that they were of tertiary origin: they consist of:—

1. Scalaria Chilensis, d’Orbigny, “Voyage, Part Pal.” 2. Natica Araucana, d’Orbigny, “Voyage, Part Pal.” 3. Natica australis, d’Orbigny, “Voyage, Part Pal.” 4. Fusus difficilis, d’Orbigny, “Voyage, Part Pal.” 5. Pyrula longirostra, d’Orbigny, “Voyage, Part Pal.” 6. Pleurotoma Araucana, d’Orbigny, “Voyage, Part Pal.” 7. Cardium auca, d’Orbigny, “Voyage, Part Pal.” 8. Cardium acuticostatum, d’Orbigny, “Voyage, Part Pal.” 9. Venus auca, d’Orbigny, “Voyage, Part Pal.” 10. Mactra cecileana, d’Orbigny, “Voyage, Part Pal.” 11. Mactra Araucana, d’Orbigny, “Voyage, Part Pal.” 12. Arca Araucana, d’Orbigny, “Voyage, Part Pal.” 13. Nucula Largillierti, d’Orbigny, “Voyage, Part Pal.” 14. Trigonia Hanetiana, d’Orbigny, “Voyage, Part Pal.”

During a second visit of the “Beagle” to Concepcion, Mr. Kent collected for me some silicified wood and shells out of the concretions in the sandstone from Tome, situated a short distance north of Lirguen. They consist of:—

1. Natica australis, d’Orbigny, “Voyage, Part Pal.” 2. Mactra Araucana, d’Orbigny, “Voyage, Part Pal.” 3. Trigonia Hanetiana, d’Orbigny, “Voyage, Part Pal.” 4. Pecten, fragments of, probably two species, but too imperfect for description. 5. Baculites vagina, E. Forbes. 6. Nautilus d’Orbignyanus, E. Forbes.

Besides these shells, Captain Belcher found here an Ammonite, nearly three feet in diameter, and so heavy that he could not bring it away; fragments are deposited at Haslar Hospital: he also found the silicified vertebrae of some very large animal. (“Zoology of Captain Beechey’s Voyage” page 163.) From the identity in mineralogical nature of the rocks, and from Captain Belcher’s minute description of the coast between Lirguen and Tome, the fossiliferous concretions at this latter place certainly belong to the same formation with the beds examined by myself at Lirguen; and these again are undoubtedly the same with the strata of Quiriquina; moreover; the three first of the shells from Tome, though associated in the same concretions with the Baculite, are identical with the species from Quiriquina. Hence all the sandstone and lignitiferous beds in this neighbourhood certainly belong to the same formation. Although the generic character of the Quiriquina fossils naturally led M. d’Orbigny to conceive that they were of tertiary origin, yet as we now find them associated with the Baculites vagina and with an Ammonite, we must, in the opinion of M. d’Orbigny, and if we are guided by the analogy of the northern hemisphere, rank them in the Cretaceous system. Moreover, the Baculites vagina, which is in a tolerable state of preservation, appears to Professor E. Forbes certainly to be identical with a species, so named by him, from Pondicherry in India; where it is associated with numerous decidedly cretaceous species, which approach most nearly to Lower Greensand or Neocomian forms: this fact, considering the vast distance between Chile and India, is truly surprising. Again, the Nautilus d’Orbignyanus, as far as its imperfect state allows of comparison, resembles, as I am informed by Professor Forbes, both in its general form and in that of its chambers, two species from the Upper Greensand. It may be added that every one of the above-named genera from Quiriquina, which have an apparently tertiary character, are found in the Pondicherry strata. There are, however, some difficulties on this view of the formations at Concepcion being cretaceous, which I shall afterwards allude to; and I will here only state that the Cardium auca is found also at Coquimbo, the beds at which place, there can be no doubt, are tertiary.

NAVIDAD. (I was guided to this locality by the Report on M. Gay’s “Geological Researches” in the “Annales des Scienc. Nat.” 1st series tome 28.)

The Concepcion formation extends some distance northward, but how far I know not; for the next point at which I landed was at Navidad, 160 miles north of Concepcion, and 60 miles south of Valparaiso. The cliffs here are about eight hundred feet in height: they consist, wherever I could examine them, of fine-grained, yellowish, earthy sandstones, with ferruginous veins, and with concretions of hard calcareous sandstone. In one part, there were many pebbles of the common metamorphic porphyries of the Cordillera: and near the base of the cliff, I observed a single rounded boulder of greenstone, nearly a yard in diameter. I traced this sandstone formation beneath the superficial covering of gravel, for some distance inland: the strata are slightly inclined from the sea towards the Cordillera, which apparently has been caused by their having been accumulated against or round outlying masses of granite, of which some points project near the coast. The sandstone contains fragments of wood, either in the state of lignite or partially silicified, sharks’ teeth, and shells in great abundance, both high up and low down the sea-cliffs. Pectunculus and Oliva were most numerous in individuals, and next to them Turritella and Fusus. I collected in a short time, though suffering from illness, the following thirty-one species, all of which are extinct, and several of the genera do not now range (as we shall hereafter show) nearly so far south:—

1. Gastridium cepa, G.B. Sowerby. 2. Monoceros, fragments of, considered by M. d’Orbigny as a new species. 3. Voluta alta, G.B. Sowerby (considered by M. d’Orbigny as distinct from the V. alta of Santa Cruz). 4. Voluta triplicata, G.B. Sowerby. 5. Oliva dimidiata, G.B. Sowerby. 6. Pleurotoma discors, G.B. Sowerby. 7. Pleurotoma turbinelloides, G.B. Sowerby. 8. Fusus subreflexus, G.B. Sowerby. 9. Fusus pyruliformis, G.B. Sowerby. 10. Fusus, allied to F. regularis (considered by M. d’Orbigny as a distinct species). 11. Turritella suturalis, G.B. Sowerby. 12. Turritella Patagonica, G.B. Sowerby (fragments of). 13. Trochus laevis, G.B. Sowerby. 14. Trochus collaris, G.B. Sowerby (considered by M. d’Orbigny as the young of the T. laevis). 15. Cassis monilifer, G.B. Sowerby. 16. Pyrula distans, G.B. Sowerby. 17. Triton verruculosus, G.B. Sowerby. 18. Sigaretus subglobosus, G.B. Sowerby. 19. Natica solida, G.B. Sowerby. (It is doubtful whether the Natica solida of S. Cruz is the same species with this.) 20. Terebra undulifera, G.B. Sowerby. 21. Terebra costellata, G.B. Sowerby. 22. Bulla (fragments of). 23. Dentalium giganteum, do. 24. Dentalium sulcosum, do. 25. Corbis (?) laevigata, do. 26. Cardium multiradiatum, do. 27. Venus meridionalis, do. 28. Pectunculus dispar, (?) Desh. (considered by M. d’Orbigny as a distinct species). 29, 30. Cytheraea and Mactra, fragments of (considered by M. d’Orbigny as new species). 31. Pecten, fragments of.


From Level of Sea to Surface of plain, 252 feet above sea, through levels F, E, D and C:

F.—Lower sandstone, with concretions and silicified bones, with fossil shells, all, or nearly all, extinct.

E.—Upper ferruginous sandstone, with numerous Balani, with fossil shells, all, or nearly all, extinct.

C and D.—Calcareous beds with recent shells.

A.—Stratified sand in a ravine, also with recent shells.)

For more than two hundred miles northward of Navidad, the coast consists of plutonic and metamorphic rocks, with the exception of some quite insignificant superficial beds of recent origin. At Tonguay, twenty-five miles south of Coquimbo, tertiary beds recommence. I have already minutely described in the Second Chapter, the step-formed plains of Coquimbo, and the upper calcareous beds (from twenty to thirty feet in thickness) containing shells of recent species, but in different proportions from those on the beach. There remains to be described only the underlying ancient tertiary beds, represented in Figure 21 by the letters F and E:—

I obtained good sections of bed F only in Herradura Bay: it consists of soft whitish sandstone, with ferruginous veins, some pebbles of granite, and concretionary layers of hard calcareous sandstone. These concretions are remarkable from the great number of large silicified bones, apparently of cetaceous animals, which they contain; and likewise of a shark’s teeth, closely resembling those of the Carcharias megalodon. Shells of the following species, of which the gigantic Oyster and Perna are the most conspicuous, are numerously embedded in the concretions:—

1. Bulla ambigua, d’Orbigny “Voyage” Pal. 2. Monoceros Blainvillii, d’Orbigny “Voyage” Pal. 3. Cardium auca, d’Orbigny “Voyage” Pal. 4. Panopaea Coquimbensis, d’Orbigny “Voyage” Pal. 5. Perna Gaudichaudi, d’Orbigny “Voyage” Pal. 6. Artemis ponderosa; Mr. Sowerby can find no distinguishing character between this fossil and the recent A. ponderosa; it is certainly an Artemis, as shown by the pallial impression. 7. Ostrea Patagonica (?); Mr. Sowerby can point out no distinguishing character between this species and that so eminently characteristic of the great Patagonian formation; but he will not pretend to affirm that they are identical. 8. Fragments of a Venus and Natica.

The cliffs on one side of Herradura Bay are capped by a mass of stratified shingle, containing a little calcareous matter, and I did not doubt that it belonged to the same recent formation with the gravel on the surrounding plains, also cemented by calcareous matter, until to my surprise, I found in the midst of it, a single thin layer almost entirely composed of the above gigantic oyster.

At a little distance inland, I obtained several sections of the bed E, which, though different in appearance from the lower bed F, belongs to the same formation: it consists of a highly ferruginous sandy mass, almost composed, like the lowest bed at Port S. Julian, of fragments of Balanidae; it includes some pebbles, and layers of yellowish-brown mudstone. The embedded shells consist of:—

1. Monoceros Blainvillii, d’Orbigny “Voyage” Pal. 2. Monoceros ambiguus, G.B. Sowerby. 3. Anomia alternans, G.B. Sowerby. 4. Pecten rudis, G.B. Sowerby. 5. Perna Gaudichaudi, d’Orbigny “Voyage” Pal. 6. Ostrea Patagonica (?), d’Orbigny “Voyage” Pal. 7. Ostrea, small species, in imperfect state; it appeared to me like a small kind now living in, but very rare in the bay. 8. Mytilus Chiloensis; Mr. Sowerby can find no distinguishing character between this fossil, as far as its not very perfect condition allows of comparison, and the recent species. 9. Balanus Coquimbensis, G.B. Sowerby. 10. Balanus psittacus? King. This appears to Mr. Sowerby and myself identical with a very large and common species now living on the coast.

The uppermost layers of this ferrugino-sandy mass are conformably covered by, and impregnated to the depth of several inches with, the calcareous matter of the bed D called losa: hence I at one time imagined that there was a gradual passage between them; but as all the species are recent in the bed D, whilst the most characteristic shells of the uppermost layers of E are the extinct Perna, Pecten, and Monoceros, I agree with M. d’Orbigny, that this view is erroneous, and that there is only a mineralogical passage between them, and no gradual transition in the nature of their organic remains. Besides the fourteen species enumerated from these two lower beds, M. d’Orbigny has described ten other species given to him from this locality; namely:—

1. Fusus Cleryanus, d’Orbigny “Voyage” Pal. 2. Fusus petitianus, d’Orbigny “Voyage” Pal. 3. Venus hanetiana, d’Orbigny “Voyage” Pal. 4. Venus incerta (?) d’Orbigny “Voyage” Pal. 5. Venus Cleryana, d’Orbigny “Voyage” Pal. 6. Venus petitiana, d’Orbigny “Voyage” Pal. 7. Venus Chilensis, d’Orbigny “Voyage” Pal. 8. Solecurtus hanetianus, d’Orbigny “Voyage” Pal. 9. Mactra auca, d’Orbigny “Voyage” Pal. 10. Oliva serena, d’Orbigny “Voyage” Pal.

Of these twenty-four shells, all are extinct, except, according to Mr. Sowerby, the Artemis ponderosa, Mytilus Chiloensis, and probably the great Balanus.


A few miles north of Coquimbo, I met with the ferruginous, balaniferous mass E with many silicified bones; I was informed that these silicified bones occur also at Tonguay, south of Coquimbo: their number is certainly remarkable, and they seem to take the place of the silicified wood, so common on the coast-formations of Southern Chile. In the valley of Chaneral, I again saw this same formation, capped with the recent calcareous beds. I here left the coast, and did not see any more of the tertiary formations, until descending to the sea at Copiapo: here in one place I found variously coloured layers of sand and soft sandstone, with seams of gypsum, and in another place, a comminuted shelly mass, with layers of rotten-stone and seams of gypsum, including many of the extinct gigantic oyster: beds with these oysters are said to occur at English Harbour, a few miles north of Copiapo.


With the exception of deposits containing recent shells and of quite insignificant dimensions, no tertiary formations have been observed on this coast, for a space of twenty-two degrees of latitude north of Copiapo, until coming to Payta, where there is said to be a considerable calcareous deposit: a few fossils have been described by M. d’Orbigny from this place, namely:—

1. Rostellaria Gaudichaudi, d’Orbigny “Voyage” Pal. 2. Pectunculus Paytensis, d’Orbigny “Voyage” Pal. 3. Venus petitiana, d’Orbigny “Voyage” Pal. 4. Ostrea Patagonica? This great oyster (of which specimens have been given me) cannot be distinguished by Mr. Sowerby from some of the varieties from Patagonia; though it would be hazardous to assert it is the same with that species, or with that from Coquimbo.


The formations described in this chapter, have, in the case of Chiloe and probably in that of Concepcion and Navidad, apparently been accumulated in troughs formed by submarine ridges extending parallel to the ancient shores of the continent; in the case of the islands of Mocha and Huafo it is highly probable, and in that of Ypun and Lemus almost certain, that they were accumulated round isolated rocky centres or nuclei, in the same manner as mud and sand are now collecting round the outlying islets and reefs in the West Indian Archipelago. Hence, I may remark, it does not follow that the outlying tertiary masses of Mocha and Huafo were ever continuously united at the same level with the formations on the mainland, though they may have been of contemporaneous origin, and been subsequently upraised to the same height. In the more northern parts of Chile, the tertiary strata seem to have been separately accumulated in bays, now forming the mouths of valleys.

The relation between these several deposits on the shores of the Pacific, is not nearly so clear as in the case of the tertiary formations on the Atlantic. Judging from the form and height of the land (evidence which I feel sure is here much more trustworthy than it can ever be in such broken continents as that of Europe), from the identity of mineralogical composition, from the presence of fragments of lignite and of silicified wood, and from the intercalated layers of imperfect coal, I must believe that the coast-formations from Central Chiloe to Concepcion, a distance of 400 miles, are of the same age: from nearly similar reasons, I suspect that the beds of Mocha, Huafo, and Ypun, belong also to the same period. The commonest shell in Mocha and Huafo is the same species of Turritella; and I believe the same Cytheraea is found on the islands of Huafo, Chiloe, and Ypun; but with these trifling exceptions, the few organic remains found at these places are distinct. The numerous shells from Navidad, with the exception of two, namely, the Sigaretus and Turritella found at Ypun, are likewise distinct from those found in any other part of this coast. Coquimbo has Cardium auca in common with Concepcion, and Fusus Cleryanus with Huafo; I may add, that Coquimbo has Venus petitiana, and a gigantic oyster (said by M. d’Orbigny also to be found a little south of Concepcion) in common with Payta, though this latter place is situated twenty-two degrees northward of latitude 27 degrees, to which point the Coquimbo formation extends.

From these facts, and from the generic resemblance of the fossils from the different localities, I cannot avoid the suspicion that they all belong to nearly the same epoch, which epoch, as we shall immediately see, must be a very ancient tertiary one. But as the Baculite, especially considering its apparent identity with the Cretaceous Pondicherry species, and the presence of an Ammonite, and the resemblance of the Nautilus to two upper greensand species, together afford very strong evidence that the formation of Concepcion is a Secondary one; I will, in my remarks on the fossils from the other localities, put on one side those from Concepcion and from Eastern Chiloe, which, whatever their age may be, appear to me to belong to one group. I must, however, again call attention to the fact that the Cardium auca is found both at Concepcion and in the undoubtedly tertiary strata of Coquimbo: nor should the possibility be overlooked, that as Trigonia, though known in the northern hemisphere only as a Secondary genus, has living representatives in the Australian seas, so a Baculite, Ammonite, and Trigonia may have survived in this remote part of the southern ocean to a somewhat later period than to the north of the equator.

Before passing in review the fossils from the other localities, there are two points, with respect to the formations between Concepcion and Chiloe, which deserve some notice. First, that though the strata are generally horizontal, they have been upheaved in Chiloe in a set of parallel anticlinal and uniclinal lines ranging north and south,—in the district near P. Rumena by eight or nine far-extended, most symmetrical, uniclinal lines ranging nearly east and west,—and in the neighbourhood of Concepcion by less regular single lines, directed both N.E. and S.W., and N.W. and S.E. This fact is of some interest, as showing that within a period which cannot be considered as very ancient in relation to the history of the continent, the strata between the Cordillera and the Pacific have been broken up in the same variously directed manner as have the old plutonic and metamorphic rocks in this same district. The second point is, that the sandstone between Concepcion and Southern Chiloe is everywhere lignitiferous, and includes much silicified wood; whereas the formations in Northern Chile do not include beds of lignite or coal, and in place of the fragments of silicified wood there are silicified bones. Now, at the present day, from Cape Horn to near Concepcion, the land is entirely concealed by forests, which thin out at Concepcion, and in Central and Northern Chile entirely disappear. This coincidence in the distribution of the fossil wood and the living forests may be quite accidental; but I incline to take a different view of it; for, as the difference in climate, on which the presence of forests depends, is here obviously in chief part due to the form of the land, and as the Cordillera undoubtedly existed when the lignitiferous beds were accumulating, I conceive it is not improbable that the climate, during the lignitiferous period, varied on different parts of the coast in a somewhat similar manner as it now does. Looking to an earlier epoch, when the strata of the Cordillera were depositing, there were islands which even in the latitude of Northern Chile, where now all is irreclaimably desert, supported large coniferous forests.


Column 1. Genera, with living and tertiary species on the west coast of South America. (M. d’Orbigny states that the genus Natica is not found on the coast of Chile; but Mr. Cuming found it at Valparaiso. Scalaria was found at Valparaiso; Arca, at Iquique, in latitude 20, by Mr. Cuming; Arca, also, was found by Captain King, at Juan Fernandez, in latitude 33 degrees 30′S.)

Column 2. Latitudes, in which found fossil on the coasts of Chile and Peru. (In degrees and minutes.)

Column 3. Southernmost latitude, in which found living on the west coast of South America. (In degrees and minutes.)

Bulla : 30 to 43 30 : 12 near Lima.

Cassis : 34 : 1 37.

Pyrula : 34 (and 36 30 at Concepcion) : 5 Payta.

Fusus : 30 and 43 30 : 23 Mexillones; reappears at the St. of Magellan.

Pleurotoma : 34 to 43 30 : 2 18 St. Elena.

Terebra : 34 : 5 Payta.

Sigaretus : 34 to 44 30 : 12 Lima.

Anomia : 30 : 7 48.

Perna : 30 : 1 23 Xixappa.

Cardium : 30 to 34 (and 36 30 at Concepcion) : 5 Payta.

Artemis : 30 : 5 Payta.

Voluta : 34 to 44 30 : Mr. Cuming does not know of any species living on the west coast, between the equator and latitude 43 south; from this latitude a species is found as far south as Tierra del Fuego.

Seventy-nine species of fossil shells, in a tolerably recognisable condition, from the coast of Chile and Peru, are described in this volume, and in the Palaeontological part of M. d’Orbigny’s “Voyage”: if we put on one side the twenty species exclusively found at Concepcion and Chiloe, fifty-nine species from Navidad and the other specified localities remain. Of these fifty-nine species only an Artemis, a Mytilus and Balanus, all from Coquimbo, are (in the opinion of Mr. Sowerby, but not in that of M. d’Orbigny) identical with living shells; and it would certainly require a better series of specimens to render this conclusion certain. Only the Turritella Chilensis from Huafo and Mocha, the T. Patagonica and Venus meridionalis from Navidad, come very near to recent South American shells, namely, the two Turritellas to T. cingulata, and the Venus to V. exalbida: some few other species come rather less near; and some few resemble forms in the older European tertiary deposits: none of the species resemble secondary forms. Hence I conceive there can be no doubt that these formations are tertiary,—a point necessary to consider, after the case of Concepcion. The fifty-nine species belong to thirty-two genera; of these, Gastridium is extinct, and three or four of the genera (viz. Panopaea, Rostellaria, Corbis (?), and I believe Solecurtus) are not now found on the west coast of South America. Fifteen of the genera have on this coast living representatives in about the same latitudes with the fossil species; but twelve genera now range very differently to what they formerly did. The idea of Table 4, in which the difference between the extension in latitude of the fossil and existing species is shown, is taken from M. d’Orbigny’s work; but the range of the living shells is given on the authority of Mr. Cuming, whose long-continued researches on the conchology of South America are well-known.

When we consider that very few, if any, of the fifty-nine fossil shells are identical with, or make any close approach to, living species; when we consider that some of the genera do not now exist on the west coast of South America, and that no less than twelve genera out of the thirty-two formerly ranged very differently from the existing species of the same genera, we must admit that these deposits are of considerable antiquity, and that they probably verge on the commencement of the tertiary era. May we not venture to believe, that they are of nearly contemporaneous origin with the Eocene formations of the northern hemisphere?

Comparing the fossil remains from the coast of Chile (leaving out, as before, Concepcion and Chiloe) with those from Patagonia, we may conclude, from their generic resemblance, and from the small number of the species which from either coast approach closely to living forms, that the formations of both belong to nearly the same epoch; and this is the opinion of M. D’Orbigny. Had not a single fossil shell been common to the two coasts, it could not have been argued that the formations belonged to different ages; for Messrs. Cuming and Hinds have found, on the comparison of nearly two thousand living species from the opposite sides of South America, only one in common, namely, the Purpura lapillus from both sides of the Isthmus of Panama: even the shells collected by myself amongst the Chonos Islands and on the coast of Patagonia, are dissimilar, and we must descend to the apex of the continent, to Tierra del Fuego, to find these two great conchological provinces united into one. Hence it is remarkable that four or five of the fossil shells from Navidad, namely, Voluta alta, Turritella Patagonica, Trochus collaris, Venus meridionalis, perhaps Natica solida, and perhaps the large oyster from Coquimbo, are considered by Mr. Sowerby as identical with species from Santa Cruz and P. Desire. M. d’Orbigny, however, admits the perfect identity only of the Trochus.


As the number of the fossil species and genera from the western and eastern coasts is considerable, it will be interesting to consider the probable nature of the climate under which they lived. We will first take the case of Navidad, in latitude 34 degrees, where thirty-one species were collected, and which, as we shall presently see, must have inhabited shallow water, and therefore will necessarily well exhibit the effects of temperature. Referring to Table 4 we find that the existing species of the genera Cassis, Pyrula, Pleurotoma, Terebra, and Sigaretus, which are generally (though by no means invariably) characteristic of warmer latitudes, do not at the present day range nearly so far south on this line of coast as the fossil species formerly did. Including Coquimbo, we have Perna in the same predicament. The first impression from this fact is, that the climate must formerly have been warmer than it now is; but we must be very cautious in admitting this, for Cardium, Bulla, and Fusus (and, if we include Coquimbo, Anomia and Artemis) likewise formerly ranged farther south than they now do; and as these genera are far from being characteristic of hot climates, their former greater southern range may well have been owing to causes quite distinct from climate: Voluta, again, though generally so tropical a genus, is at present confined on the west coast to colder or more southern latitudes than it was during the tertiary period. The Trochus collaris, moreover, and, as we have just seen according to Mr. Sowerby, two or three other species, formerly ranged from Navidad as far south as Santa Cruz in latitude 50 degrees. If, instead of comparing the fossils of Navidad, as we have hitherto done, with the shells now living on the west coast of South America, we compare them with those found in other parts of the world, under nearly similar latitudes; for instance, in the southern parts of the Mediterranean or of Australia, there is no evidence that the sea off Navidad was formerly hotter than what might have been expected from its latitude, even if it was somewhat warmer than it now is when cooled by the great southern polar current. Several of the most tropical genera have no representative fossils at Navidad; and there are only single species of Cassis, Pyrula, and Sigaretus, two of Pleurotoma and two of Terebra, but none of these species are of conspicuous size. In Patagonia, there is even still less evidence in the character of the fossils, of the climate having been formerly warmer. (It may be worth while to mention that the shells living at the present day on this eastern side of South America, in latitude 40 degrees, have perhaps a more tropical character than those in corresponding latitudes on the shores of Europe: for at Bahia Blanca and S. Blas, there are two fine species of Voluta and four of Oliva.) As from the various reasons already assigned, there can be little doubt that the formations of Patagonia and at least of Navidad and Coquimbo in Chile, are the equivalents of an ancient stage in the tertiary formations of the northern hemisphere, the conclusion that the climate of the southern seas at this period was not hotter than what might have been expected from the latitude of each place, appears to me highly important; for we must believe, in accordance with the views of Mr. Lyell, that the causes which gave to the older tertiary productions of the quite temperate zones of Europe a tropical character, WERE OF A LOCAL CHARACTER AND DID NOT AFFECT THE ENTIRE GLOBE. On the other hand, I have endeavoured to show, in the “Geological Transactions,” that, at a much later period, Europe and North and South America were nearly contemporaneously subjected to ice- action, and consequently to a colder, or at least more equable, climate than that now characteristic of the same latitudes.


Knowing from the researches of Professor E. Forbes, that molluscous animals chiefly abound within a depth of 100 fathoms and under, and bearing in mind how many thousand miles of both coasts of South America have been upraised within the recent period by a slow, long-continued, intermittent movement,—seeing the diversity in nature of the shores and the number of shells now living on them,—seeing also that the sea off Patagonia and off many parts of Chile, was during the tertiary period highly favourable to the accumulation of sediment,—the absence of extensive deposits including recent shells over these vast spaces of coast is highly remarkable. The conchiferous calcareous beds at Coquimbo, and at a few isolated points northward, offer the most marked exception to this statement; for these beds are from twenty to thirty feet in thickness, and they stretch for some miles along shore, attaining, however, only a very trifling breadth. At Valdivia there is some sandstone with imperfect casts of shells, which POSSIBLY may belong to the recent period: parts of the boulder formation and the shingle-beds on the lower plains of Patagonia probably belong to this same period, but neither are fossiliferous: it also so happens that the great Pampean formation does not include, with the exception of the Azara, any mollusca. There cannot be the smallest doubt that the upraised shells along the shores of the Atlantic and Pacific, whether lying on the bare surface, or embedded in mould or in sand-hillocks, will in the course of ages be destroyed by alluvial action: this probably will be the case even with the calcareous beds of Coquimbo, so liable to dissolution by rain-water. If we take into consideration the probability of oscillations of level and the consequent action of the tidal-waves at different heights, their destruction will appear almost certain. Looking to an epoch as far distant in futurity as we now are from the past Miocene period, there seems to me scarcely a chance, under existing conditions, of the numerous shells now living in those zones of depths most fertile in life, and found exclusively on the western and south-eastern coasts of South America, being preserved to this imaginary distant epoch. A whole conchological series will in time be swept away, with no memorials of their existence preserved in the earth’s crust.

Can any light be thrown on this remarkable absence of recent conchiferous deposits on these coasts, on which, at an ancient tertiary epoch, strata abounding with organic remains were extensively accumulated? I think there can, namely, by considering the conditions necessary for the preservation of a formation to a distant age. Looking to the enormous amount of denudation which on all sides of us has been effected,—as evidenced by the lofty cliffs cutting off on so many coasts horizontal and once far-extended strata of no great antiquity (as in the case of Patagonia),—as evidenced by the level surface of the ground on both sides of great faults and dislocations,—by inland lines of escarpments, by outliers, and numberless other facts, and by that argument of high generality advanced by Mr. Lyell, namely, that every SEDIMENTARY formation, whatever its thickness may be, and over however many hundred square miles it may extend, is the result and the measure of an equal amount of wear and tear of pre-existing formations; considering these facts, we must conclude that, as an ordinary rule, a formation to resist such vast destroying powers, and to last to a distant epoch, must be of wide extent, and either in itself, or together with superincumbent strata, be of great thickness. In this discussion, we are considering only formations containing the remains of marine animals, which, as before mentioned, live, with some exceptions within (most of them much within) depths of 100 fathoms. How, then, can a thick and widely extended formation be accumulated, which shall include such organic remains? First, let us take the case of the bed of the sea long remaining at a stationary level: under these circumstances it is evident that CONCHIFEROUS strata can accumulate only to the same thickness with the depth at which the shells can live; on gently inclined coasts alone can they accumulate to any considerable width; and from the want of superincumbent pressure, it is probable that the sedimentary matter will seldom be much consolidated: such formations have no very good chance, when in the course of time they are upraised, of long resisting the powers of denudation. The chance will be less if the submarine surface, instead of having remained stationary, shall have gone on slowly rising during the deposition of the strata, for in this case their total thickness must be less, and each part, before being consolidated or thickly covered up by superincumbent matter, will have had successively to pass through the ordeal of the beach; and on most coasts, the waves on the beach tend to wear down and disperse every object exposed to their action. Now, both on the south-eastern and western shores of South America, we have had clear proofs that the land has been slowly rising, and in the long lines of lofty cliffs, we have seen that the tendency of the sea is almost everywhere to eat into the land. Considering these facts, it ceases, I think, to be surprising, that extensive recent conchiferous deposits are entirely absent on the southern and western shores of America.

Let us take the one remaining case, of the bed of the sea slowly subsiding during a length of time, whilst sediment has gone on being deposited. It is evident that strata might thus accumulate to any thickness, each stratum being deposited in shallow water, and consequently abounding with those shells which cannot live at great depths: the pressure, also, I may observe, of each fresh bed would aid in consolidating all the lower ones. Even on a rather steep coast, though such must ever be unfavourable to widely extended deposits, the formations would always tend to increase in breadth from the water encroaching on the land. Hence we may admit that periods of slow subsidence will commonly be most favourable to the accumulation of CONCHIFEROUS deposits, of sufficient thickness, extension, and hardness, to resist the average powers of denudation.

We have seen that at an ancient tertiary epoch, fossiliferous deposits were extensively deposited on the coasts of South America; and it is a very interesting fact, that there is evidence that these ancient tertiary beds were deposited during a period of subsidence. Thus, at Navidad, the strata are about eight hundred feet in thickness, and the fossil shells are abundant both at the level of the sea and some way up the cliffs; having sent a list of these fossils to Professor E. Forbes, he thinks they must have lived in water between one and ten fathoms in depth: hence the bottom of the sea on which these shells once lived must have subsided at least 700 feet to allow of the superincumbent matter being deposited. I must here remark, that, as all these and the following fossil shells are extinct species, Professor Forbes necessarily judges of the depths at which they lived only from their generic character, and from the analogical distribution of shells in the northern hemisphere; but there is no just cause from this to doubt the general results. At Huafo the strata are about the same thickness, namely, 800 feet, and Professor Forbes thinks the fossils found there cannot have lived at a greater depth than fifty fathoms, or 300 feet. These two points, namely, Navidad and Huafo, are 570 miles apart, but nearly halfway between them lies Mocha, an island 1,200 feet in height, apparently formed of tertiary strata up to its level summit, and with many shells, including the same Turritella with that found at Huafo, embedded close to the level of the sea. In Patagonia, shells are numerous at Santa Cruz, at the foot of the 350 feet plain, which has certainly been formed by the denudation of the 840 feet plain, and therefore was originally covered by strata that number of feet in thickness, and these shells, according to Professor Forbes, probably lived at a depth of between seven and fifteen fathoms: at Port S. Julian, sixty miles to the north, shells are numerous at the foot of the ninety feet plain (formed by the denudation of the 950 feet plain), and likewise occasionally at the height of several hundred feet in the upper strata; these shells must have lived in water somewhere between five and fifty fathoms in depth. Although in other parts of Patagonia I have no direct evidence of shoal-water shells having been buried under a great thickness of superincumbent submarine strata, yet it should be borne in mind that the lower fossiliferous strata with several of the same species of Mollusca, the upper tufaceous beds, and the high summit-plain, stretch for a considerable distance southward, and for hundreds of miles northward; seeing this uniformity of structure, I conceive it may be fairly concluded that the subsidence by which the shells at Santa Cruz and S. Julian were carried down and covered up, was not confined to these two points, but was co-extensive with a considerable portion of the Patagonian tertiary formation. In a succeeding chapter it will be seen, that we are led to a similar conclusion with respect to the secondary fossiliferous strata of the Cordillera, namely, that they also were deposited during a long- continued and great period of subsidence. From the foregoing reasoning, and from the facts just given, I think we must admit the probability of the following proposition: namely, that when the bed of the sea is either stationary or rising, circumstances are far less favourable, than when the level is sinking, to the accumulation of CONCHIFEROUS deposits of sufficient thickness and extension to resist, when upheaved, the average vast amount of denudation. This result appears to me, in several respects, very interesting: every one is at first inclined to believe that at innumerable points, wherever there is a supply of sediment, fossiliferous strata are now forming, which at some future distant epoch will be upheaved and preserved; but on the views above given, we must conclude that this is far from being the case; on the contrary, we require (1st), a long-continued supply of sediment; (2nd), an extensive shallow area; and (3rd), that this area shall slowly subside to a great depth, so as to admit the accumulation of a widely extended thick mass of superincumbent strata. In how few parts of the world, probably, do these conditions at the present day concur! We can thus, also, understand the general want of that close sequence in fossiliferous formations which we might theoretically have anticipated; for, without we suppose a subsiding movement to go on at the same spot during an enormous period, from one geological era to another, and during the whole of this period sediment to accumulate at the proper rate, so that the depth should not become too great for the continued existence of molluscous animals, it is scarcely possible that there should be a perfect sequence at the same spot in the fossil shells of the two geological formations. (Professor H.D. Rogers, in his excellent address to the Association of American Geologists (“Silliman’s Journal” volume 47 page 277) makes the following remark: “I question if we are at all aware how COMPLETELY the whole history of all departed time lies indelibly recorded with the amplest minuteness of detail in the successive sediments of the globe, how effectually, in other words, every period of time HAS WRITTEN ITS OWN HISTORY, carefully preserving every created form and every trace of action.” I think the correctness of such remarks is more than doubtful, even if we except (as I suppose he would) all those numerous organic forms which contain no hard parts.) So far from a very long-continued subsidence being probable, many facts lead to the belief that the earth’s surface oscillates up and down; and we have seen that during the elevatory movements there is but a small chance of DURABLE fossiliferous deposits accumulating.

Lastly, these same considerations appear to throw some light on the fact that certain periods appear to have been favourable to the deposition, or at least to the preservation, of contemporaneous formations at very distant points. We have seen that in South America an enormous area has been rising within the recent period; and in other quarters of the globe immense spaces appear to have risen contemporaneously. From my examination of the coral- reefs of the great oceans, I have been led to conclude that the bed of the sea has gone on slowly sinking within the present era, over truly vast areas: this, indeed, is in itself probable, from the simple fact of the rising areas having been so large. In South America we have distinct evidence that at nearly the same tertiary period, the bed of the sea off parts of the coast of Chile and off Patagonia was sinking, though these regions are very remote from each other. If, then, it holds good, as a general rule, that in the same quarter of the globe the earth’s crust tends to sink and rise contemporaneously over vast spaces, we can at once see, that we have at distant points, at the same period, those very conditions which appear to be requisite for the accumulation of fossiliferous masses of sufficient extension, thickness, and hardness, to resist denudation, and consequently to last unto an epoch distant in futurity. (Professor Forbes has some admirable remarks on this subject, in his “Report on the Shells of the Aegean Sea.” In a letter to Mr. Maclaren (“Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal” January 1843), I partially entered into this discussion, and endeavoured to show that it was highly improbable, that upraised atolls or barrier-reefs, though of great thickness, should, owing to their small extension or breadth, be preserved to a distant future period.)

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