Theory of the Earth: Part 2 (historical)
Title: Theory of the Earth
Author: James Hutton
Published in: Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, vol. I, Part II, pp.209-304, plates I and II.
Edition Used: Edinburgh: Printed for J. Dickson, Bookseller to the Royal Society. Sold in London by T. Cadell, in the Strand.
First published: 1788
Part II: An Investigation of the Natural Operations employed in consolidating the Strata of the Globe
THERE are just two ways in which porous or spongy bodies can be consolidated, and by which substances may be formed into masses of a natural shape and regular structure; the one of these is simple congelation from a fluid state, by means of cold; the other is accretion; and this includes a separatory operation, as well as that by which the solid body is to be produced. But, in whichever of these ways solidity is to be procured, it must be brought about by first inducing fluidity, either immediately by the action of heat, or mediately with the assistance of a solvent, that is, but the operation of solution.
THUS, fire and water may be considered as the general agents in this operation which we would explore. We are, therefore, to consider well, what may be the consequences of consolidation by the one or other of those agents; and what may be their several powers with respect to this operation.
IF we are not informed in this branch of science, we may gaze without instruction upon the most convincing proofs of what we want to attain. If our knowledge is imperfect, we may form erroneous principles, and deceive ourselves in reasoning with regard to those works of nature, which are wisely calculated for our instruction.
THE strata, formed at the bottom of the sea, are to be considered as having been consolidated, either by aqueous solution and crystallization, or by the effect of heat and fusion. If it is in the first of these two ways that the solid strata of the globe have attained to their present state, there will be a certain uniformity observable in the effects; and there will be general laws, by which this operation must have been conducted. Therefore, knowing those general laws, and making just observations with regard to the natural appearances of those consolidated masses, a philosopher, in his closet, should be able to determine, what may, and what may not have been transacted in the bowels of the earth , or below the bottom of the ocean.
LET us now endeavour to ascertain what may have been the power of water, acting under fixed circumstances, operating upon known substances, and conducting to a certain end.
THE action of water upon all different substances is an operation with which we are familiar. We have it in our power to apply water in different degrees of heat for the solution of bodies, and under various degrees of compression; consequently, there is no reason to conclude any thing mysterious in the operations of the globe, which are to be performed by means of water, unless an immense compressing power should alter the nature of those operations. But compression alters the relation of evaporation only with regard to heat, or it changes the degree of heat which water may be made to contain; consequently, we are to look for no occult quality in water acting upon bodies at the bottom of the deepest ocean, more than what can be observed in experiments which we have it in our power to try.
WITH regard again to the effect of time. Though the continuance of time may do much in those operations which are extremely slow, where no changes, to our observation, had appeared to take place; yet, where it is not in the nature of things to produce the change in question, the unlimited course of time would be no more effectual, than the moment by which we measure events in our observations.
WATER being the general medium in which bodies collected at the bottom of the sea are always contained, if those masses of collected matter are to be consolidated by solution, it must be by the dissolution of those bodies in that water as a menstruum, and by the concretion or crystallization of this dissolved matter, that the spaces, first occupied by water in those masses, are afterwards to be filled with a hard and solid substance; but without some other power, by which the water contained in those cavities and endless labyrinths of the strata, should be separated in proportion as it had performed its task, it is inconceivable how those masses, however changed from the state of their first subsidence, should be absolutely consolidated, without a particle of fluid water in their composition.
BESIDES this difficulty of having the water separated from the porous masses which are to be consolidated, there is another with which, upon this supposition, we have to struggle. This is, From whence should come the matter with which the numberless cavities in those masses are to be filled?
THE water in the cavities and interstices of those bodies composing strata, must be in a stagnating state; consequently, it can only act upon the surfaces of those cavities which are to be filled up. But with what are they to be filled? Not with water; they are full of this already: Not with the substance of the bodies which contain that water; this would be only to make one cavity in order to fill up another. If, therefore, the cavities of the strata are to be filled with solid matter, but means of water, there must be made to pass through those porous masses, water impregnated with some other substances in a dissolved state; and the aqueous menstruum must be made to separate from the dissolved substance, and to deposit the same in those cavities through which the solution moves.
BY such a supposition as this, we might perhaps explain a partial consolidation of those strata; but this is a supposition, of which the case under consideration does not admit; for in the present case, which is that of materials accumulated at the bottom of the ocean, there is not proper means for separating the dissolved matter from the water included in those enormous masses; nor are there any means by which a circulation in those masses may be formed. In this case, therefore, where the means are not naturally in the supposition, a philosopher, who is to explain the phaenomenon by the natural operation of water in this situation, must not have recourse to another agent, still more powerful, to assist his supposition, which cannot be admitted.
THUS, it will appear, that, to consolidate strata formed at the bottom of the sea, in the manner now considered, operations are required unnatural to this place; consequently , not to be supposed in order to support a hypothesis.
BUT now, instead of enquiring how far water may be supposed instrumental in the consolidation of the strata which were originally of loose texture, we are to consider how far there may be appearances in those consolidated bodies, by which it might be concluded, whether or not the present state of their consolidation has been actually brought about by means of that agent.
IF water had been the menstruum by which the consolidating matter was introduced into the interstices of strata, masses of those bodies could only be found consolidated with such substances as water is capable of dissolving; and these substances would be found only in such a state as the simple separation of the dissolving water might produce.
IN this case, the consolidation of strata would be extremely limited; for we cannot allow more power to water than we find it has in nature; nor are we to imagine to ourselves unlimited powers in bodies, on purpose to explain those appearances, by which we should be made to know the powers of nature. Let us, therefore, attend, with every possible circumspection, to the appearances of those bodies, by means of which we are to investigate the principles of mineralogy, and know the laws of nature.
THE question now before us concerns the consolidating substances of strata. Are these such as will correspond to the dissolving power of water, and to the state in which those substances might be left by the separation of their menstruum? No; far, far from this supposition is the conclusion that necessarily follows from natural appearances.
WE have strata consolidated by calcareous spar, a thing perfectly distinguishable from the stalactical concretion of calcareous earth, in consequence of aqueous solution. We have strata made solid by the formation of fluor, a substance not soluble, so far as we know, by water. We have strata consolidated with sulphureous and bituminous substances, which do not correspond to the solution of water. We have strata consolidated with siliceous matter, in a state totally different from that under which it has been observed, on certain occasions, to be deposited by water. We have strata consolidated by feldspar, a substance insoluble in water. We have strata consolidated by almost all the various metallic substances, with their almost endless mixtures and sulphureous compositions; that is to say, we find, perhaps, every different substance introduced into the interstices of strata which had been formed by subsidence at the bottom of the sea.
IF it is by means of water that those interstices have been filled with those materials, water must be, like fire, an universal solvent, or cause of fluidity, and we must change entirely our opinion of water in relation to its chemical character. But there is no necessity thus to violate our chemical principles, in order to explain certain natural appearances; more especially if those appearances may be explained in another manner, consistently with the known laws of nature.
IF, again, it is by means of heat and fusion that the loose and porous structure of strata shall be supposed to have been consolidated, then every difficulty which had occurred in reasoning upon the power or agency of water is at once removed. The loose and discontinuous body of a stratum may be closed by means of softness and compression; the porous structure of the materials may be consolidated, in a similar manner, by the fusion of their substance; and foreign matter may be introduced into the open structure of strata, in form of steam or exhalation, as well as in the fluid state of fusion; consequently, heat is an agent competent for the consolidation of strata, which water alone is not. If, therefore, such an agent could be found acting in the natural place of strata, we must pronounce it proper to bring about that end.
THE examination of nature gives countenance to this supposition, so far as strata are found consolidated by every species of substance, and almost every possible mixture of those different substances; consequently, however difficulty it may appear to have this application of heat, for the purpose of consolidating strata formed at the bottom of the ocean, we cannot, from natural appearances, suppose any other cause, as having actually produced the effects which are now examined.
THIS question, with regard to the means of consolidating the strata of the globe, is, to natural history, of the greatest importance; and it is essential in the theory now proposed to be given of the mineral system. It would, therefore, require to be discussed with some degree of precision, in examining the particulars; but of these, there is so great a field, and the subject is so complicated in its nature, that volumes might be written upon particular branches only, without exhausting what might be said upon the subject; because the evidence, though strong in many particulars, is chiefly to be enforced by a multitude of facts, conspiring, in a diversity of ways, to point out one truth, and by the impossibility of reconciling all these facts, except by means of one supposition.
BUT, as it is necessary to give some proof of that which is to be a principle in our reasoning afterwards, I shall now endeavour to generalize the subject as much as possible, in order to answer that end, and, at the same time, to point out the particular method of enquiry.
THERE are to be found, among the various strata of the globe, bodies formed of two different kinds of substances, siliceous bodies, and those which may be termed sulphureous. With one or other, or both of those two substances, every different consolidated stratum of the globe will be found so intimately mixed, or closely connected, that it must be concluded, by whatever cause those bodies of siliceous and sulphureous matter had been changed from a fluid to a concreted state, the strata must have been similarly affected by the same cause.
THESE two species of bodies, therefore, the siliceous and the sulphureous, may now be examined, in relation to the causes of their concretion, with a view to determine, what has been the general concreting or consolidating power, which has operated universally in the globe; and particularly to shew, it has not been by means of any fluid solution, that strata in general have been consolidated, or that those particular substances have been crystallized and concreted.
SILICEOUS matter, physically speaking, is not soluble in water; that is to say, in no manner of way have we been enabled to learn, that water has the power of dissolving this matter.
MANY other substances, which are so little soluble in water, that their solubility could not be otherwise detected of themselves, are made to appear soluble by means of siliceous matter; such is fel-spar, one of the component parts of rock-granite.
FELD-SPAR is a compound of siliceous, argillaceous, and calcareous earth, intimately united together. This compound siliceous body being, for ages, exposed to the weather, the calcareous part of it is dissolved, and the siliceous part is left in form of a soft white earth. But whether this dissolution is performed by pure water, or by means also of an acid, may perhaps be questioned. This, however, is certain, that we must consider siliceous substances as insoluble in water.
THE water of Giezer in Iceland undoubtedly contains this substance in solution; but there is no reason to believe, that it is here dissolved by any other than natural means; that is, an alkaline substance, by which siliceous bodies may be rendered soluble in water.
IT may be, therefore, asserted, that no siliceous body having the hardness of flint, nor any crystallization of that substance, has ever been formed, except by fusion. If, by any art, this substance shall be dissolved in simple water, or made to crystallize from any solution, in that case, the assertion which has been here made may be denied. But where there is not the vestige of any proof, to authorise the supposition of flinty matter being dissolved by water, or crystallized from that solution, such an hypothesis cannot be admitted, in opposition to general and evident appearances.
BESIDES this proof for the fusion of siliceous bodies, which is indirect, arising from the indissolubility of that substance in water, there is another, which is more direct, being founded upon appearances which are plainly inconsistent with any other supposition, except that of simple fluidity induced by heat. The proof I mean is, the penetration of many bodies with a flinty substance, which, according to every collateral circumstance, must have been performed by the flinty matter in a simply fluid state, and not in a state of dissolution by a solvent.
THESE are flinty bodies perfectly insulated in strata both of chalk and sand. It requires but inspection to be convinced. It is not possible that flinty matter could be conveyed into the middle of those strata, by a menstruum in which it was dissolved, and thus deposited in that place, without the smallest trace of deposition in the surrounding parts.
BUT, besides this argument taken from what does not appear, the actual form in which those flinty masses are found, demonstrates, first, That they have been introduced among those strata in a fluid state, by injection from some other place. 2dly, That they have been dispersed in a variety of ways among those strata, then deeply immersed at the bottom of the sea; and, lastly, That they have been there congealed from the state of fusion, and have remained in that situation, while those strata have been removed from the bottom of the ocean to the surface of the present land.
TO describe those particular appearances would draw this paper beyond the bounds of an essay. We must, therefore, refer those who would enquire more minutely into the subject, to examine the chalk-countries of France and England, in which the flint is found variously formed; the sand-hills interspersed among those chalk-countries, which have been also injected by melted flint; and the pudding-stone of England, which I have not seen in its natural situation. More particularly, I would recommend an examination of the insulated masses of stone, found in the sand-hills by the city of Brussels; a stone which is formed by an injection of flint among sand, similar to that which, in a body of gravel, had formed the pudding-stone of England. [Accurate descriptions of those appearances, with drawings, would be, to natural history, a valuable acquisition].
ALL these examples would require to be examined upon the spot, as a great part of the proof for the fusion of the flinty substances, arises, in my opinion, from the form in which those bodies are found, and the state of the surrounding parts. But there are specimens brought from many different places, which contain, in themselves, the most evident marks of this injection of the flinty substance in a fluid state. These are pieces of fossil wood, penetrated with a siliceous substance, which are brought from England, Germany, and Lochneagh in Ireland.
IT appears from these specimens, that there has sometimes been a prior penetration of the body of wood, either with irony matter, or calcareous substance. Sometimes, again, which is the case with that of Lochneagh, there does not seem to have been any penetration of those two substances. The injected flint appears to have penetrated the body of this wood, immersed at the bottom of the sea, under an immense compression of water. This appears from the wood being penetrated partially, some parts not being penetrated at all.
NOW, in the limits between those two parts, we have the most convincing proof, that it had been flint in a simple fluid state which had penetrated the wood, and not in a state of solution.
First, BECAUSE, however little of the wood is left unpenetrated, the division is always distinct between the injected part of that which is not penetrated by the fluid flint. In this case, the flinty matter has proceeded a certain length, which is marked, and no farther; and, beyond this boundary, there is no partial impregnation, nor a gradation of the flintifying operation, as must have been the case if siliceous matter had been deposited from a solution. 2dly, The termination of the flinty impregnation has assumed such a form, precisely, as would naturally happen from a fluid flint penetrating that body.
IN other specimens of this mineralizing operation, fossil wood, penetrated, more of less, with ferruginous and calcareous substances, has been afterwards penetrated with a flinty substance. In this case, with whatever different substances the woody body shall be supposed to have been penetrated in a state of solution by water, the regular structure of the plant would still have remained, with its vacuities variously filled with the petrifying substances, separated from the aqueous menstruum, and deposited in the vascular structure of the wood.
THERE cannot be a doubt with regard to the truth of this proposition; for as it is, we frequently find parts of the consolidated wood, with the vascular structure remaining perfectly in the natural shape and situation; but if it had been by aqueous solution that the wood had been penetrated and consolidated, all the parts of that body would be found in the same natural shape and situation.
THIS, however, is far from being the case; for while, in some parts, the vascular structure is preserved entire, it is also evident, that, in general, the woody structure is variously broken and dissolved by the fusion and crystallization of the flint. There are so many and such various convincing examples of this, that, to attempt to describe them, would be to exceed the bounds prescribed for this dissertation; but such specimens are in my possession, ready for the inspection of any person who may desire to study the subject.
WE may now proceed to consider sulphureous substances, with regard to their solubility in water, and to the part which these bodies have acted in consolidating the strata of the globe.
THE sulphureous substances here meant to be considered, are substances not soluble in water, so far as we know, but fusible by heat, and inflammable by means of heat and vital air. These substances are of two kinds; the one more simple, the other more compound.
THE most simple kind is composed of two different substances, viz. phlogiston, with acid or metallic substances; from which result, on the one hand, sulphur, and, on the other, metals, both properly so called. The more compound sort, again, is oily matter, produced by vegetables, and forming bituminous bodies.
THE first of these is found naturally combined with almost all metallic substances, which are then said to be mineralized with sulphur. Now, it is well known, that this mineralizing operation is performed by means of heat or fusion; and there is no person skilled in chemistry that will pretend to say, this may be done by aqueous solution. The combination of iron and sulphur, for example, may easily be performed by fusion; but, by aqueous solution, this particular combination is again resolved, and forms an acido-metallic, that is, a vitriolic substance, after the phlogiston (which refuses aqueous solution) has been separated from the composition, by means of the joint operation of vital air.
THE variety of these sulphureo-metallic substances, in point of composition, is almost indefinite; but, unless they were all soluble in water, this could not have happened by the action of that solvent. If we shall allow any one of those bodies to have been formed by the fluidity of heat, they must all have been formed in the same manner; for there is such a chain of connection among those bodies in the mineral regions, that they must all have been composed, either, on the one hand, by aqueous solution, or, on the other, by means of heat and fusion.
HERE, for example, are crystallized together in one mass, first, Pyrites, containing sulphur, iron copper; 2dly, Blend, a composition of iron, sulphur, and calamine; 3rdly, Galena, consisting of lead and sulphur; 4thly, Marmor metallicum, being the terra ponderosa, saturated with the vitriolic acid; a substance insoluble in water; 5thly, Fluor, a saturation of calcareous earth, with a peculiar acid, called the acid of spar, also insoluble in water; 6thly, Calcareous spar, of different kinds, being calcareous earth saturated with fixed air, and something besides, which forms a variety in this substance; lastly, Siliceous substances, or Quartz crystals. All these bodies, each possessing its proper shape, are mixed in such a manner as it would be endless to describe, but which may be expressed in general by saying, that they are mutually contained in, and contain each other.
UNLESS, therefore, every one of these different substances may be dissolved in water, and crystallized from it, it is in vain to look for the explanation of these appearances in the operations of nature, by the means of aqueous solution.
ON the other hand, heat being capable of rendering all these substances liquid, they may be, with the greatest simplicity, transported from one place to another; and they may be made to concrete altogether, at the same time, and distinctly separate in any place. Hence, for the explanation of those natural appearances, which are so general, no further conditions are required, than the supposition of a sufficient intensity of subterraneous fire or heat, and a sufficient degree of compression upon those bodies, which are to be subjected to that violent heat, without calcination or change. But, so far as this supposition is not gratuitous, the appearances of nature will be thus explained.
I SHALL only mention one specimen, which must appear most decisive of the question. It is, I believe, from an Hungarian mine. In this specimen, petro-silex, pyrites, and cinnabar, are so mixed together, and crystallized upon each other, that it is impossible to conceive any one of those bodies to have had its fluidity and concretion from a cause which had not affected the other two. Now, let those who would deny the fusion of this siliceous body explain how water could dissolved these three different bodies, and deposit them in their present shape. If, on the contrary, they have not the least shadow of reason for such gratuitous supposition, the present argument must be admitted in its full force.
SULPHUR and metals are commonly found combined in the mineral regions. But this rule is not universal; for they are also frequently in a separate state. There is not, perhaps, a metal, among the great number which are now discovered, that may not be found native, as they are called, or in their metallic state.
METALLIC substances are also thus found in some proportion to the disposition of the particular metals, to resist the mineralizing operations, and to their facility of being metallized by fire and fusion. Gold, which refuses to be mineralized with sulphur, is found generally in its native state. Iron, again, which is so easily mineralized and scorified, is seldom found its malleable state. The other metals are all found more of less mineralized, though some of them but rarely in the native state.
BESIDES being found with circumstances thus corresponding to the natural facility, or to the impediments attending the metallization of those different calces, the native metals are also found in such a shape, and with such marks, as can only agree with the fusion of those bodies; that is to say, those appearances are perfectly irreconcileable with any manner of solution and precipitation.
FOR the truth of this assertion, among a thousand other examples, I appeal to that famous mass of native iron, discovered by Mr PALLAS, in Siberia. This mass being so well known to all the mineralists of Europe, any comment upon its shape and structure will be unnecessary.
WE come now to the second species of inflammable bodies called oily or bituminous. These substances are also found variously mixed with mineral bodies, as well as forming strata of themselves; they are, therefore, a proper subject for a particular examination.
IN the process of vegetation, there are produced oily and resinous substances; and from the collection of these substances at the bottom of the ocean, there are formed strata, which have been variously changed, in consequence of the effects of that heat, according as the distillation of the more volatile parts of those bodies has been suffered to proceed.
IN order to understand this, it must be considered that, while immersed in water, and under insuperable compression, the vegetable, oily, and resinous substances, would appear to be unalterable by heat; and it is only in proportion as certain chemical separations take place, that these inflammable bodies are changed in their substance by the application of heat. Now, the most general change of this kind is in consequence of evaporation, or the distillation of their more volatile parts, by which oily substances become bituminous, and bituminous substances become coaly.
THERE is here a gradation which may best understood by comparing the extremes.
ON the one hand, we know by experiment, that oily and bituminous substances can be melted and partly changed into vapour by heat, and that they become harder and denser, in proportion as the more volatile parts have evaporated from them. On the other hand, coaly substances are destitute of fusibility and volatility, in proportion as they have been exposed to greater degrees of heat, and to other circumstances favourable to the dissipation of their more volatile and fluid parts.
IF, therefore, in mineral bodies, we find the two extreme states of this combustible substance, and also the intermediate states, we must either conclude, that this particular operation of heat has been thus actually employed in nature, or we must explain those appearances by some other means, in as satisfactory a manner, and so as shall be consistent with other appearances.
IN this case, it will avail nothing to have recourse to the false analogy of water dissolving and crystallizing salts, which has been so much employed for the explanation of other mineral appearances. The operation here in question is of a different nature, and necessarily requires both the powers of heat and proper conditions for evaporation.
THEREFORE, in order to decide the point, with regard to what is the power in nature by which mineral bodies have become solid, we have but to find bituminous substance in the most complete state of coal, intimately connected with some other substance, which is more generally found consolidating the strata, and assisting in the concretion of mineral substances. But I have in my possession the most undoubted proof of this kind. It is a mineral vein, or cavity, in which are blended together coal of the most fixed kind, quartz and marmor metallicum. Nor is this all; for the specimen now referred to is contained in a rock of this kind, which every naturalist now-a-days will allow to have congealed from a fluid state of fusion. I have also similar specimens from the same place, in which the coal is not of that fixed and infusible kind, which burns without flame or smoak, but is bituminous or inflammable coal.
WE have hitherto been resting the argument upon a single point, for the sake of simplicity or clearness, not for want of those circumstances which shall be found to corroborate the theory. The strata of fossil coal are found in almost every intermediate state, as well as in those of bitumen and charcoal. Of the one kind is that fossil coal which melts or becomes fluid upon receiving heat; of the other, is that species of coal, found both in Wales and Scotland, which is perfectly infusible in the fire, and burns like coaks, without flame or smoak. The one species abounds in oily matter, the other has been distilled by heat, until it has become a caput mortuum, or perfect coal.
THE more volatile parts of these bituminous bodies are found in their separate state on some occasions. There is a stratum of limestone in Fifeshire near Raith, which, though but slightly tinged with a black colour, contains bituminous matter, like pitch, in many cavities, which are lined with calcareous spar crystallized. I have a specimen of such a cavity, in which the bitumen is in sphericles, or rounded drops, immersed in the calcareous spar.
NOW, it is to be observed, that, if the cavity in the solid limestone or marble, which is lined with calcareous crystals containing pyrites, had been thus encrusted by means of the filtration of water, this water must have dissolved calcareous spar, pyrites and bitumen. But these natural appearances would not even be explained by this dissolution and supposed filtration of those substances. There is also required, first, a cause for the separation of those different substances, form the aqueous menstruum in which they had been dissolved: 2dly, An explanation of the way in which a dissolved bitumen should be formed into round hard bodies of the most solid structure; and, lastly, Some probable means for this complicated operation being performed, below the bottom of the ocean, in the close cavity of a marble stratum.
THUS, the additional proof, from the facts relating to the bituminous substances, conspiring with that from the phaenomena of other bodies, affords the strongest corroboration of this opinion, that the various concretions found in the internal parts of strata have not been occasioned by means of aqueous solution, but by the power of heat and operation of simple fusion, preparing those different substances to concrete and crystallize in cooling.
THE arguments which have been now employed for proving that strata have been consolidated by the power of heat, or by the means of fusion, have been drawn chiefly from the insoluble nature of those consolidating substances in relation to water, which is the only general menstruum that can be allowed for the mineral regions. But there are found in the mineral kingdom, many solid masses of sal gem, which is a soluble substance. It may be now enquired, how far these masses, which are not unfrequent in the earth, tend either to confirm the present theory, or, on the contrary, to give countenance to that which supposes water the chief instrument in consolidating strata.
THE formation of salt at the bottom of the sea, without the assistance of subterranean fire, is not a thing unsupposable, as at first sight it might be. Let us but suppose a rock place across the gut of Gibraltar, (a case nowise unnatural), and the bottom of the Mediterranean would be certainly filled with salt, because the evaporation from the surface of that sea exceeds the measure of its supply.
BUT strata of salt, formed in this manner at the bottom of the sea, are as far from being consolidated by means of aqueous solution, as a bed of sand in the same situation; and we cannot explain the consolidation of such a stratum of salt by means of water, without supposing subterranean heat employed, to evaporate the brine which would successively occupy the interstices of the saline crystals. But this, it may be observed, is equally departing from the natural operation of water, as the means for consolidating the sediment of the ocean, as if we were to suppose the same thing done by heat and fusion. For the question is not, if subterranean heat be of sufficient intensity for the purpose of consolidating strata by the fusion of their substances; the question, is whether it be by means of this agent, subterranean heat, or by water alone, without the operation of a melting heat, that those materials have been variously consolidated.
THE example now under consideration, consolidated mineral salt, will serve to throw some light upon the subject; for as it is to be shewn, that this body of salt had been consolidated by perfect fusion, and not by means of aqueous solution, the consolidation of strata of dissoluble substances, by the operation of a melting heat, will meet with all that confirmation which the consistency of natural appearances can give.
THE rock salt in Cheshire lies in strata of red marl. It is horizontal in its direction. I do not know its thickness, but it is dug thirty or forty feet deep. The body of this rock is perfectly solid, and the salt, in many places, pure, colourless and transparent, breaking with a sparry cubical structure. But the greatest part is tinged by the admixture of the marl, and that in various degrees, from the slightest tinge of red, to the most perfect opacity. Thus, the rock appears as if it had been a mass of fluid salt, in which had been floating a quantity of marly substance, not uniformly mixed, but every where separating and subsiding from the pure saline substance.
THERE is also to be observed a certain regularity in this separation of the tinging from the colourless substance, which, at a proper distance, gives to the perpendicular section of the rock a distinguishable figure in its structure. Then looking at this appearance near the bottom of the rock, it, at first, presented me with the figure of regular stratification; but, upon examining the whole mass of rock, I found, that it was only towards the bottom that this stratified appearance took place; and that, at the top of the rock, the most beautiful and regular figure was to be observed; but a figure the most opposite to that of stratification. It was all composed of concentric circles; and these appeared to be the section of a mass, composed altogether of concentric spheres, like those beautiful systems of configuration which agates so frequently present us with in miniature. In about eight or ten feet from the top, the circles growing large, were blended together, and gradually lost their regular appearance, until, at a greater depth, they again appeared in resemblance of a stratification.
THIS regular arrangement of the floating marly substance in the body of salt, which is that of the structure of a coated pebble, or that of concentric spheres, is altogether inexplicable upon any other supposition, than the perfect fluidity or fusion of the salt, and the attractions and repulsions of the contained substances. It is in vain to look, in the operations of solution and evaporation, for that which nothing but perfect fluidity or fusion can explain.
THIS example of a mineral salt congealed from a melted state, may be confirmed from another which I have from Dr BLACK, who suggested it to me. It is an alkaline salt, found in a mineral state, and described in the Philosophical Transactions, anno 1771. But to understand this specimen, something must be premised with regard to the nature of fossil alkali.
THE fossil alkali crystallizes from a dissolved state, in combining itself with a large portion of the water, in the manner of alum; and, in this case, the water is essential to the constitution of that transparent crystalline body; for, upon the evaporation of the water, the transparent salt loses its solidity, and becomes a white powder. If, instead of being gently dried, the crystalline salt is suddenly exposed to a sufficient degree of heat, that is, somewhat more than boiling water, it enters into the state of aqueous fusion, and it boils, in emitting the water by means of which it had been crystallized in the cold, and rendered fluid in that heated state. It is not possible to crystallize this alkaline salt from a dissolved state, without the combination of that quantity of water, nor to separate that water without destroying its crystalline state.
BUT in this mineral specimen, we have a solid crystalline salt, with a structure which, upon fracture, appears to be sparry and radiated, something resembling that of zeolite. It contains no water in its crystallization, but melts in a sufficient heat, without any aqueous fusion. Therefore, this salt must have been in a fluid state of fusion, immediately before its congelation and crystallization.
IT would be endless to give examples of particular facts, so many are the different natural appearances that occur, attended with a variety of different circumstances.
THERE is one, however, which is peculiarly distinct, admits of sufficiently accurate description, and contains circumstances from which conclusions may be drawn with clearness. This is the iron-stone, which is commonly found among the argillaceous strata, attendant upon fossil coal, both in Scotland and in England.
THIS stone is generally found among the bituminous schistus, or black argillaceous strata, either in separate masses of various shapes and sizes, or forming of itself strata with are more or less continuous in their direction among the schistus or argillaceous beds.
THIS mineral contains in general from 40 to 50 per cent. of iron, and it loses near one third of its weight in calcination. Before calcination it is of a gray colour, is not penetrable by water, and takes a polish. In this state, therefore, it is perfectly solid; but being calcined, it becomes red, porous, and tender.
THE fact to be proved with regard to these iron-stones is this, That they have acquired their solid state from fusion, and not in concreting from any aqueous solution.
TO abridge this disquisition, no argument is to be taken from contingent circumstances, (which, however, are often found here as well as in the case of marbles); such only are to be employed as are general to the subject, and arise necessarily from the nature of the operation.
IT will be proper to describe a species of these stones, which is remarkably regular in its form. It is that found at Aberlady in East Lothian.
THE form of these iron-stones is that of an oblate or much compressed sphere, and the size from two or three inches diameter to more than a foot. In the circular or horizontal section, they present the most elegant septarium; and, from the examination of this particular structure, the following conclusions may be drawn.
First, THAT the septa have been formed by the uniform contraction of the internal parts of the stone, the volume of the central parts diminishing more than that of the circumference; by this means, the separations of the stone diminish, in a progression from the centre towards the circumference.
2d, THAT there are only two ways in which the septa must have received the spar with which they are filled, more or less, either, first, By insinuation into the cavity of the septa after these were formed; or, 2dly, By separation from the substance of the stone, at the same time that the septa were forming.
WERE the first supposition true, appearances would be observable, shewing that the sparry substance had been admitted, either through the porous structure of the stone, or through proper apertures communicating from without. Now, if either one or other of these had been the case, and that the stone had been consolidated from no other cause than concretion from a dissolved state, that particular structure of the stone, by means of which the spar had been admitted, must appear at present upon an accurate examination.
THIS, however, is not the case, and we may rest the argument here. The septa reach not the circumference; the surface of the stone is solid and uniform in every part; and there is not any appearance of the spar in the argillaceous bed around the stone.
IT, therefore, necessarily follows, that the contraction of the iron-stone, in order to form septa, and the filling of these cavities with spar, had proceeded pari passu; and that this operation must have been brought about by means of fusion, or by congelation from a state of simple fluidity and expansion.
IT is only further to be observed, that all the arguments which have been already employed, concerning mineral concretions from a simply fluid state, or that of fusion, here take place. I have septaria of this kind, in which, besides pyrites, iron-ore, calcareous spar, and another that is ferruginous and compound, there is contained siliceous crystals; a case which is not so common. I have them also attended with circumstances of concretion and crystallization, which, besides being extremely rare, are equally curious and interesting.
THERE is one fact more which is well worth our attention, being one of those which are so general in the mineral regions. It is the crystallizations which are found in the close cavities of the most solid bodies.
NOTHING is more common than this appearance. Cavities are everywhere found closely lined with crystallization, of every different substance which may be supposed in those places. These concretions are well known to naturalists, and form part of the beautiful specimens which are preserved in the cabinets of collectors, and which the German mineralists have termed Drusen. I shall only particularize one species, which may be described upon principle, and therefore may be a proper subject on which to reason, for ascertaining the order of production in certain bodies. This body, which we are now to examine, is of the agate species.
WE have now been considering the means employed by nature in consolidating strata which were originally of an open structure; but in perfectly solid strata, we find bodies of agate, which have evidently been formed in that place where they now are found. This fact, however, is not still that of which we are now particularly to enquire; for this, of which we are to treat, concerns only a cavity within this agate; now, whatever may have been the origin of the agate itself, we are to shew, from what appears within its cavity, that the crystallizations which are found in this place had arisen from a simply fluid state, and not from that of any manner of solution.
THE agates now in question are those of the coated kind, so frequent in this country, called pebbles. Many of these are filled with a siliceous crystallization, which evidently proceeds from the circumferences towards the centre. Many of them, again, are hollow. Those cavities are variously lined with crystallized substances; and these are the object of the present examination.
BUT before describing what is found within, it is necessary to attend to this particular circumstance, that the cavity is perfectly inclosed with many solid coats, impervious to air or water, but particularly with the external cortical part, which is extremely hard, takes the highest polish, and is of the most perfect solidity, admitting the passage of nothing but light and heat.
WITHIN these cavities, we find, first, The coat of crystals with which this cavity is always lines; and this is general to all substances concreting, in similar circumstances, from a state of fusion; for when thus at liberty they naturally crystallize. 2dly, We have frequently a subsequent crystallization, set upon the first, and more or less immersed in it. 3dly, There is also sometimes a third crystallization, superincumbent on the second, and in like manner as the second is on the first. I shall mention some particulars.
I HAVE one specimen, in which the primary crystals are siliceous, the secondary thin foliaceous crystals of deep red but transparent iron-ore, forming elegant figures, that have the form of roses. The tertiary crystallization is a frosting of small siliceous crystals upon the edges of the foliaceous crystals.
IN other specimens, there is first a lining of colourless siliceous crystals, then another lining of amethystine crystals, and sometimes within that, fuliginous crystals. Upon these fuliginous and amethystine crystals are many sphericles or hemispheres of red compact iron-ore, like haematites.
IN others, again, the primary crystals are siliceous, and the secondary calcareous. Of this kind, I have one which has, upon the calcareous crystals, beautiful transparent siliceous crystals, and iron-sphericles upon these.
Lastly, I HAVE an agate formed of various red and white coats, and beautifully figured. The cavity within the coated part of the pebble is filled up without vacuity, first, with colourless siliceous crystals; secondly, with fuliginous crystals; and, lastly, with white or colourless calcareous spar. But between the spar and crystals there are many sphericles, seemingly of iron, half sunk into each of these two different substances.
FROM these facts, I may now be allowed to draw the following conclusions:
First, THAT concretion had proceeded from the surface of the agate body inwards. This necessarily follows from the nature of those figured bodies, the figures of the external coats always determining the shape of those within, and never, contrarily, those within affecting those without.
2dly, THAT when the agate was formed, the cavity then contained everything which now is found within it, and nothing more.
3dly, THAT the contained substances must have been in a fluid state, in order to their crystallizing.
Lastly, THAT as this fluid state had not been the effect of solution in a menstruum, it must have been fluidity from heat and fusion.
THERE are in jaspers and agates many other appearances, from whence this last conclusion may be formed with great certainty and precision; but it is hoped, that what has been now given may suffice for establishing that proposition without any doubt.
IT must not here be objected, that there are frequently found siliceous crystals and amethysts containing water; and that it is impossible to confine water even in melted glass. It is true, that here, at the surface of the earth, melted glass cannot, in ordinary circumstances, be made to receive and inclose condensed water; but let us only suppose a sufficient degree of compression in the body of melted glass, and we can easily imagine it to receive and confine water, as well as any other substance. But if, even in our operations, water, by means of compression, may be made to endure the heat of red hot iron without being converted into vapour, what may not the power of nature be able to perform? The place of mineral operations is not on the surface of the earth; and we are not to limit nature with our imbecility, or estimate the powers of nature by the measure of our own.
TO conclude this long chemico-mineral disquisition, I have specimens in which the mixture of calcareous, siliceous and metallic substances, in almost every species of concretion which is to be found in mineral bodies, may be observed, and in which there is exhibited, in miniature, almost every species of mineral transaction, which, in nature, is found upon a scale of grandeur and magnificence. They are nodules contained in the whinstone, porphyry, or basaltes of the Calton-hill, by Edinburgh; a body which is to be afterwards examined, when it will be found to have flowed, and to have been in fusion, by the operation of subterranean heat.
THIS evidence, though most conclusive with regard to the application of subterranean heat, as the means employed in bringing into fusion all the different substances with which strata may be found consolidated, is not directly a proof that strata had been consolidated by the fusion of their proper substance. It was necessary to see the general nature of the evidence, for the universal application of subterranean heat, in the fusion of every kind of mineral body. Now, that this has been done, we may give examples of strata consolidated without the introduction of foreign matter, merely by the softening or fusion of their own materials.
FOR this purpose, we may consider two different species of strata, such as are perfectly simple in their nature, of the most distinct substances, and whose origin is perfectly understood, consequently, whose subsequent changes may be reasoned upon with certainty and clearness. These are the siliceous and calcareous strata; and these are the two prevailing substances of the globe, all the rest being, in comparison of these, as nothing; for unless it be the bituminous or coal strata, there is hardly any other which does not necessarily contain more or less of one of other of these two substances. If, therefore, it can be shewn, that both of those two general strata have been consolidated by the simple fusion of their substance, no desideratum or doubt will remain, with regard to the nature of that operation which has been transacted at great depths of the earth, places to which all access is denied to mortal eyes.
WE are now to prove, first, That those strata have been consolidated by simple fusion; and, 2dly, That this operation is universal, in relation to the strata of the earth, as having produced all various degrees of solidity or hardness in these bodies.
I SHALL first remark, that a fortuitous collection of hard bodies, such as gravel and sand, can only touch in points and cannot, while in that hard state, be made to correspond so precisely to each other's shape as to consolidate the mass. But if these hard bodies should be softened in their substance, or brought into a certain degree of fusion, they might be adapted mutually to each other, and thus consolidate the open structure of the mass. Therefore, to prove the present point, we have but to exhibit specimens of siliceous and calcareous strata which have been evidently consolidated in this manner.
OF the first kind, great varieties occur in this country. It is, therefore, needless to describe these particularly. They are the consolidated strata of gravel and sand, often containing abundance of feld-spar, and thus graduating into granite; a body, in this respect, perfectly similar to the more regular strata which we now examine.
THE second kind, again, are not so common in this country, unless we consider the shells and coralline bodies in our limestones, as exhibiting the same example, which indeed they do. But I have a specimen of marble from Spain, which may be described, and which will afford the most satisfactory evidence of the fact in question.
THIS Spanish marble may be considered as a species of pudding-stone, being formed of calcareous gravel; a species of marble which, from Mr BOWLES'S Natural History, appears to be very common in Spain. The gravel of which this marble is composed, consists of fragments of other marbles of different kinds. Among these, are different species of oolites marble, some shell marbles, and some composed of a chalky substance, or of undistinguishable parts. But it appears, that all these different marbles had been consolidated or made hard, then broken into fragments, rolled and worn by attrition, and thus collected together, along with some sand or small siliceous bodies, into one mass. Lastly, This compound body is consolidated in such a manner as to give the most distinct evidence, that this had been executed by the operation of heat or simple fusion.
THE proof I have is this, That besides the general conformation of those hard bodies, so as to be perfectly adapted to each other's shape, there is, in some places, a mutual indentation of the different pieces of gravel into each other; an indentation which resembles perfectly that junction of the different bones of the cranium, called sutures, and which must have necessarily required a mixture of those bodies while in a soft or fluid state.
THIS appearance of indentation is, by no means, singular or limited to one particular specimen. I have several specimens of different marbles, in which fine examples of this species of mixture may be perceived. But in this particular case of the Spanish pudding-stone, where the mutual indentation is made between two pieces of hard stone, worn round by attrition, the softening or fusion of these two bodies is not simply rendered probable, but demonstrated.
HAVING thus proved, that those strata had been consolidated by simple fusion, as proposed, we now proceed to shew, that this mineral operation had been not only general, as being found in all regions of the globe, but universal, in consolidating our earth in all the various degrees, from loose and incoherent shells and sand, to the most solid bodies of the siliceous and calcareous substances.
TO exemplify this in the various collections and mixtures of sands, gravels, shells and corals, were endless and superfluous. I shall only take, for an example, one simple homogeneous body, in order to exhibit it in the various degrees of consolidation, from the state of simple incoherent earth to that of the most solid marble. It must be evident that this is chalk; naturally a soft calcareous earth, but which may be also found consolidated in every different degree.
THROUGH the middle of the isle of Wight, there runs a ridge of hills of indurated chalk. This ridge runs from the isle of Wight directly west into Dorsetshire, and goes by Corf-castle towards Dorchester, perhaps beyond that place. The sea has broke through this ridge at the west end of the isle of Wight, where columns of the indurated chalk remain, called the needles; the same appearance being found upon the opposite shore in Dorsetshire.
IN this field of chalk, we find every gradation of that soft earthy substance to the most consolidated body of this indurated ridge, which is not solid marble, but which has lost its chalky property, and has acquired a kind of stony hardness.
WE want only further to see this cretaceous substance in its most indurated and consolidated state; and this we have in the north of Ireland, not far from the Giants Causeway. I have examined cargoes of this limestone brought to the west of Scotland, and find the most perfect evidence of this body having been once a mass of chalk, which is now a solid marble.
THUS, if it is by means of fusion that the strata of the earth have been, in many places, consolidated, we must conclude, that all the degrees of consolidation, which are indefinite, have been brought about by the same means.
NOW, that all the strata of the mineral regions, which are those only now examined, have been consolidated in some degree, is a fact for which no proof can be offered here, but must be submitted to experience and enquiry; so far, however, as they shall be considered as consolidated in any degree, which they certainly are in general, we have investigated the means which had been employed in that mineral operation.
WE have now considered the concretions of particular bodies, and the general consolidation of strata; but it may be alleged, that there is a great part of the solid mass of this earth not properly comprehended among those bodies which have been thus proved to be consolidated by means of fusion. The body here alluded to is granite; a mass which is not generally stratified, and which, being a body perfectly solid, and forming some part in the structure of this earth, deserves to be considered.
THE nature of granite, as a part of the structure of the earth, is too intricate a subject to be here considered, where we only seek to prove the fusion of a substance from the evident marks which are to be observed in a body. We shall, therefore, only now consider one particular species of granite; and if this shall appear to have been in a fluid state of fusion, we may be allowed to extend this property to all the kind.
THE species now to be examined comes from the north country, about four or five miles west from Portsoy, on the road to Huntly. I have not been upon the spot, but am informed that this rock is immediately connected or continuous with the common granite of the country. This indeed appears in the specimens which I have got; for, in some of these, there is to be perceived a gradation from the regular to the irregular sort.
THIS rock may indeed by considered, in some respects, as a porphyry; for it has an evident ground, which is feld-spar, in its sparry state; and it is, in one view, distinctly maculated with quartz, which is transparent, but somewhat dark-coloured.
CONSIDERED as a porphyry, this specimen is no less singular than as a granite. For, instead of a siliceous ground, maculated with the rhombic feld-spar, which is the common state of porphyry, the ground is uniformly crystallized, or a homogeneous regular fel-spar, maculated with the transparent siliceous substance. But as, besides the fel-spar and quartz, which are the constituent parts of the stone, there is also mica, in some places, it may, with propriety, be termed a granite.
THE singularity of this specimen consists, not in the nature or proportions of its constituent parts, but in the uniformity of the sparry ground, and the regular shape of the quartz mixture. This siliceous substance, viewed in one direction, or longitudinally, may be considered as columnar, prismatical, or continued in lines running nearly parallel. These columnar bodies of quartz are beautifully impressed with a figure on the sides, where they are in contact with the spar. This figure is that of furrows or channels, which are perfectly parallel, and run across the longitudinal direction of the quartz. This is represented in fig. 4. This striated figure is only seen when, by fracture, the quartz is separated from the contiguous spar.
BUT what I would here more particularly represent is, the transverse section of those longitudinal siliceous bodies. These are seen in fig. 1. 2. and 3. They have not only separately the forms of certain typographic characters, but collectively give the regular lineal appearance of types set in writing.
IT is evident from the inspection of this fossil, that the sparry and siliceous substances had been mixed together in a fluid state; and that the crystallization of the sparry substance, which is rhombic, had determined the regular structure of the quartz, at least in some directions.
THUS, the siliceous substance is to be considered as included in the spar, and as figured according to the laws of crystallization proper to the sparry ground; but the spar is also to be found included in the quartz. IT is not, indeed, always perfectly included or inclosed on all sides; but this is sometimes the case, or it appears so in the section. Fig. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. and 10. are those cases magnified, and represent the different figured quartz inclosing the feld-spar. In one of them, the feld-spar, which is contained within the quartz, contains also a small triangle of quartz, which it incloses. Now, it is not possible to conceive any other way in which those two substances, quartz and feld-spar, could be thus concreted, except by congelation from a fluid state, in which they have been mixed.
THERE is one thing more to be observed with regard to this curious species of granite. It is the different order or arrangement of the crystallization or internal structure of the feld-spar ground, in two contiguous parts of the same mass. This to be perceived in the polished surface of the stone, by means of the reflection of light.
THERE is a certain direction in which, viewing the stone, when the light falls with a proper obliquity, we see a luminous reflection from the internal parts of the stone. This arises from the reflecting surfaces of the sparry structure or minute cracks, all turned in one direction, consequently, giving that luminous appearance only in one point of view.
NOW, all the parts of the stone in which the figured quartz is directed in the same manner, or regularly placed in relation to each other, present that shining appearance to the eye at one time, or in the same point of direction. But there are parts of the mass, which, though immediately contiguous and properly continuous, have a different disposition of the figured quartz; and these two distinguished masses, in the same surface of the polished stone, give to the eye their shining appearance in very different directions. Fig. 3 shows two of those figured and shining masses, in the same plane or polished surface.
IT must be evident, that, as the crystallization of the sparry structure is the figuring cause of the quartz bodies, there must be observed a certain correspondency between those two things, the alinement (if I may be allowed the expression) of the quartz, and the shining of the sparry ground. It must also appear, that, at the time of congelation of the fluid spar, those two contiguous portions had been differently disposed in the crystallization of their substance. This is an observation which I have had frequent opportunities of making, with respect to masses of calcareous spar.
UPON the whole, therefore, whether we shall consider granite as a stratum or as an irregular mass, whether as a collection of several material, or as the separation of substances which had been mixed, there is sufficient evidence of this body having been consolidated by means of fusion, and in no other manner.
WE are thus led to suppose, that the power of heat and operation of fusion must have been employed in consolidating strata of loose materials, which had been collected together and amassed at the bottom of the ocean. It will, therefore, be proper to consider, what are the appearances in consolidated strata that naturally should follow, on the one hand, from fluidity having been, in this manner, introduced by means of heat, and, on the other, from the interstices being filled by means of solution; that so we may compare appearances with the one and other of those two suppositions, in order to know that with which they may be only found consistent.
THE consolidation of strata with every different kind of substance was found to be inconsistent with the supposition, that aqueous solution had been the means employed for this purpose. This appearance, on the contrary, is perfectly consistent with the idea, that the fluidity of these bodies had been the effect of heat; for, whether we suppose the introduction of foreign matter into the porous mass of a stratum for its consolidation, or whether we shall suppose the materials of the mass acquiring a degree of softness, by means of which, together with an immense compression, the porous body might be rendered solid; the power of heat, as the cause of fluidity and vapour, is equally proper and perfectly competent. Here, therefore, appearances are as decidedly in favour of the last supposition, as they had been inconsistent with the first.
BUT if strata have been consolidated by means of aqueous solution, these masses should be found precisely in the same state as when they were originally deposited from the water. The perpendicular section of those masses might shew the compression of the bodies included in them, or of which they are composed; but the horizontal section could not contain any separation of the parts of the stratum from one another.
IF, again, strata have been consolidated by means of heat, acting in such a manner as to soften their substance, then, in cooling, they must have formed rents or separations of their substance, by the unequal degrees of contraction which the contiguous strata may have suffered. Here is a most decisive mark by which the present question must be determined.
THERE is not in nature any appearance more distinct than this of the perpendicular fissures and separations in strata. These are generally known to workmen by the terms of veins or backs and cutters; and there is no consolidated stratum that wants these appearances. Here is, therefore, a clear decision of the question, whether it has been by means of heat, or by means of aqueous solution, that collections of loose bodies at the bottom of the sea have been consolidated into the hardest rocks and most perfect marbles.
ERROR never can be consistent, nor can truth fail of having support from the accurate examination of every circumstance. It is not enough to have found appearances decisive of the question, with regard to the two suppositions which have been now considered. we may farther seek confirmation of that supposition which has been found alone consistent with appearances.
IF it be by means of heat and fusion that strata have been consolidated, then, in proportion to the degree of consolidation they have undergone from their original state, they should, caeteris paribus, abound more with separations in their mass. But this conclusion is found consistent with appearances. A stratum of porous sand-stone does not abound so much with veins and cutters as a similar stratum of marble, or even a similar stratum of stand-stone that is more consolidated. In proportion, therefore, as strata have been consolidated, they are in general intersected with veins and cutters; and in proportion as strata are deep in their perpendicular section, the veins are wide, and placed at greater distances. In like manner, when strata are thin, the veins are many, but proportionally narrow.
IT is thus, upon chemical principles, to be demonstrated, that all the solid strata of the globe have been condensed by means of heat, and hardened from a state of fusion. But this proposition is equally to be maintained from principles which are mechanical. The strata of the globe, besides being formed of earths, are composed of sand, of gravel, and fragments of hard bodies, all which may be considered as, in their nature, simple; but these strata are also found composed of bodies which are not simple, but are fragments of former strata, which had been consolidated, and afterwards were broken and worn by attrition, so as to be made gravel. Strata composed in this manner have been again consolidated; and now the question is, by what means?
IF strata composed of such various bodies had been consolidated, by any manner of concretion, from the fluidity of a dissolution, the hard and solid bodies must be found in their entire state, while the interstices between those constituent parts of the stratum are filled up. No partial fracture can be conceived as introduced into the middle of a solid mass of hard matter, without having been communicated from the surrounding parts. But such partial separations are found in the middle of those hard and solid masses; therefore, this compound body must have been consolidated by other means than that of concretion from a state of solution.
THE Spanish marble already described, as well as many consolidated strata of siliceous gravel, of which I have specimens, afford the clearest evidence of this fact. These hard bodies are perfectly united together, in forming the most solid mass; the contiguous parts of some of the rounded fragments are interlaced together, as has already been observed; and there are partial shrinkings of the mass forming veins, traversing several fragments, but perfectly filled with the sparry substance of the mass, and sometimes with parts of the stone distinctly floating in the transparent body of spar. Now, there is not, besides heat or fusion, any known power in nature by which these effects might be produced. But such effects are general to all consolidated masses, although not always so well illustrated in a cabinet specimen.
THUS we have discovered a truth that is confirmed by every appearance, so far as the nature of the subject now examined admits. We now return to the general operation, of forming continents of those materials which had been deposited at the bottom of the sea.
- ^ Since this Dissertation was written, M. DE LA PEYROUSE has discovered a native manganese. The circumstances of this mineral are so well adapted for illustrating the present doctrine, and so well related by M. DE LA PEYROUSE, that I should be wanting to the interest of mineral knowledge, were I not to give here that part of his Memoir.
"LORSQUE je fis insérer dans the journal de physique de l'anneée 1780, au mois de Janvier, une Dissertation contenant la classification des mines de manganèse, je ne connoissois point, à cette epoque, la mine de manganèse native. Elle a la couleur de son régule: elle salit les doigts de la même teinte. Son tissu paroit aussi lamelleux, et les lames semblent affecter une sorte de divergence. Elle a ainsi que lui, l'éclat métalllique; comme lui elle se laisse applatir sous le marteau, et s'exfolie si l'on redouble les coups; mais une circonstance qui est trop frappante pour que je l'omette, c'est la figure de la manganèse native, si prodigieusement conforme à celle du régule, qu'on s'y laisseroit tromper, si la mine n'étoit encore dans sa gangue: figure très-essentielle à observer ici, parce qu'elle est due à la nature même de la manganèse. En effect, pour réduire toutes les mines en général, il faut employer divers flux appropriés. Pour la reduction de la manganèse, bien loin d'user de ce moyen, il faut, au contraire, éloigner tout flux, produire la fusion, par la seule violence et la promptetude du feu. Et telle est la propension naturelle et prodigieuse de la manganèse à la vitrification, qu'on n'a pu parvenir encore à réduire son régule en un seul culot; on trouve dans le creuset plusieurs petits boutons, qui forment autant de culots séparés. Dans la mine de manganèse native, elle n'est point en une seule masse; elle est disposée également en plusieurs culots séparés, et un peu applatis, comme ceux que l'art produit; beaucoup plus gros, à la vérité, parce que les agens de la nature doivent avoir une autre énergie, que ceux de nos laboratoires; et cette ressemblance si exacte, semble devoir vous faire penser que la mine native a été produite par le feu, tout comme son régule. La presence de la chaux argentée de la manganèse, me permettroit de croire que la nature n'a fait que réduire cette chaux. Du reste, cette mine native est très-pure, et ne contient aucune partie attirable à l'aimant. Cette mine, unique jusqu'à ce moment, vient, tout comme les autres manganèse que j'ai décrites, des mines de fer de Sem, dans la vallée de Viedersos, en Comté de Foix." Journal de Physique, Janvier 1786.
Translation: When I had included in the journal of physics for the year 1780, in the month of January, a Dissertation containing the classification of the appearances of managese, I did not know, at that time, the appearance of native manganese. It has the colour of its regulus [metallic remains after smelting ore]; it dirties the fingers with the same colour. Its tissue also appears flaky, and the strips appear to develop a sort of divergence. As well, it has a metallic shine. It can be flattened under a hammer and if one increases the blows it exfoliates. But one feature which is too remarkable for me to omit is that the appearance of native manganese is so amazingly close to that of the regulus that one could be mistaken about them, if the mineral was not still in the layer. This appearance is very important to observe here, because it is due to the very nature of manganese. In fact, to reduce all these minerals in general, it is necessary to use various appropriate fluxes. By contrast, for the reduction of manganese, far from using this method, one must give up all flux, and produce fusion, with only the power and swiftness of fire. And so great is the natural propensity of managanese to vitrify, it has not been possible yet to reduce its regulus in one single residue. One finds in the crucible several small buttons which form like so many separate residues. In appearance, native manganese is not in a single mass. It is spread about equally in several separate residues, and a little flattened, like something produced artificially. It is very much bigger, to be sure, because the agents of nature must have had a different energy than those of our laboratories. And this very precise resemblance apparently makes one think that the native mineral has been produced by fire, just as its regulus. The presence of silvery chalk in the manganese allows me to believe that nature has only reduced this chalk. As to the rest, this native mineral is very pure and does not contain any parts attracted by a magnet. This mineral, unique up to this moment, comes, just like the other manganese which I have described, from the iron mines of Senn, in the valley of Viedersos in the country of Foix." Journal of Physics, January 1786.
This is a chapter from Theory of the Earth (historical).
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