Theory of the Earth: Part 3 (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 III: An System of Decay and Renovation observed in the Earth

WE seek to know that operation by means of which masses of loose materials, collected at the bottom of the sea, were raised above its surface, and transformed into solid land.

WE have found, that there is not in this globe (as a planet revolving in the solar system) any power or motion adapted to the purpose now in view; nor, were there such a power, could a mass of simply collected materials have continued any considerable time to resist the waves and currents natural to the sea, but must have been quickly carried away, and again deposited at the bottom of the ocean. But we have found, that there had been operations, natural to the bowels of this earth, by which those loose and unconnected materials have been cemented together, and consolidated into masses of great strength and hardness; those bodies are thus enabled to resist the force of waves and currents, and to preserve themselves, for a sufficient time, in their proper shape and place, as land above the general surface of the ocean.

We now desire to know, how far those internal operations of the globe, by which solidity and stability are procured to the beds of loose materials, may have been also employed in raising up a continent of land, to remain above the surface of the sea.

THERE is nothing so proper for the erection of land above the level of the ocean, as an expansive power of sufficient force, applied directly under materials in the bottom of the sea, under a mass that is proper for the formation of land when thus erected. The question is not, how such a power may be procured; such a power has probably been employed. If, therefore, such a power should be consistent with that which we found had actually been employed in preparing the erected mass; or, if such a power is to be reasonable concluded as accompanying those operations which we have found natural to the globe, and situated in the very place where this expansive power appears to be required, we should thus be led to perceive, in the natural operations of the globe, a power as efficacious for the elevation of what had been at the bottom of the sea into the place of land, as it is perfect for the preparation of those materials to serve the purpose of their elevation.

IN opposition to this conclusion, it will not be allowed to allege, that we are ignorant how such a power might be exerted under the bottom of the ocean; for the present question is not, what had been the cause of heat, which has appeared to have been produced in that place; but, if this power of heat, which has certainly been exerted at the bottom of the ocean for consolidating strata, had been employed also for another purpose, that is, for raising those strata into the place of land.

WE may, perhaps, account for the elevation of land, by the same cause with that of the consolidation of strata, already investigated, without explaining the means employed by nature in procuring the power of heat, or shewing from what general source of action this particular power had been derived; but, by finding in subterranean heat a cause for any other change, besides the consolidation of porous or incoherent bodies, we shall generalize a fact, or extend our knowledge in the explanation of natural appearances.

THE power of heat for the expansion of bodies, is, so far as we know, unlimited; but by the expansion of bodies placed under the strata at the bottom of the sea, the elevation of those strata may be affected; and the question now to be resolved regards the actual exertion of this power of expansion, how far it is to be concluded as having been employed in the production of this earth above the level of the sea.

BEFORE attempting to resolve that question, it may be proper to observe, there has been exerted an extreme degree of heat below the strata formed at the bottom of the sea; and this is precisely the action of a power required for the elevation of those heated bodies into a higher place. Therefore, if there is no other way in which we may conceive this event to have been brought about, consistent with the present state of things, or what actually appears, we shall have a right to conclude, that such had been the order of procedure in natural things, and that the strata formed at the bottom of the sea had been elevated, as well as consolidated, by means of subterraneous heat.

THE consolidation of strata by means of fusion or the power of heat, has been concluded from the examination of nature, and from finding, that the present state of things is inconsistent with any other supposition. Now, again, we are considering the only power that may be conceived as capable of elevating strata from the bottom of the sea, and placing such a mass above the surface of the water. It is a truth unquestionable, that what had been originally at the bottom of the sea, is at present the highest of our land. In explaining this appearance, therefore, no other alternative is left, but either to suppose strata elevated by the power of heat above the level of the present sea, or the surface of the ocean reduced many miles below the height at which it had subsisted during the collection and induration of the land which we inhabit.

NOW, if, on the one hand, we are to suppose no general power of subterraneous fire or heat, we leave to our theory no means for the retreat of the sea, or the lowering of its surface; if, on the other hand, we are to allow the general power of subterraneous heat, we cannot have much difficulty in supposing, either the surface of the sea to have subsided, or the bottom of the ocean, in certain parts, to have been raised by a subterranean power above the level of the surface, according as appearances shall be found to require the one or other of those conclusions. Here, therefore, we are again remitted to the history of nature, in order to find matter of fact by which this question may be properly decided.

IF the present land had been discovered by the subsiding of the waters, there has not been a former land, from whence materials had been procured for the construction of the present, when at the bottom of the sea; for there is no vestige remaining of that land, the whole land of the present earth having been formed evidently at the bottom of the sea. Neither could the natural productions of the sea have been accumulated, in the shape in which we now find them, on the surface of this earth; for how should the Alps and Andes have been formed within the sea from the natural productions of the water? Consequently, this is a supposition inconsistent with every natural appearance.

THE supposition, therefore, of the subsidence of the former ocean, for the purpose of discovering the present land, is beset with more difficulty than the simple erection of the bottom of the former ocean; for, first, There is a place to provide for the retirement of the waters of the ocean; and, 2dly, There is required a work of equal magnitude; that is, the swallowing up of that former continent, which had procured the materials of the present land.

ON the one hand, the subsiding of the surface of the ocean would but make the former land appear the higher; and, on the other, the sinking the body of the former land into the solid globe, so as swallow up the greater art of the ocean after it, if not a natural impossibility, would be a least a superfluous exertion of the powers of nature. Such an operation as this would discover as little wisdom in the end elected, as in the means appropriated to that end; for , if the land be not wafted and worn away in the natural operations of the globe, why make such a convulsion in the world in order to renew the land? If, again, the land naturally decays, why employ so extraordinary a power, in order to hide a former continent of land, and puzzle man?

LET us now consider how far the other proposition, of strata being elevated by the power of heat above the level of the sea, may be confirmed from the examination of natural appearances.

THE strata formed at the bottom of the ocean are necessarily horizontal in their position, or nearly so, and continuous in their horizontal direction or extent. They may change, and gradually assume the nature of each other, so far as concerns the materials of which they are formed; but there cannot be any sudden change, fracture or displacement naturally in the body of a stratum. But, if these strata are cemented by the heat of fusion, and erected with an expansive power acting below, we may expect to find every species of fracture, dislocation and contortion, in those bodies, and every degree of departure from a horizontal towards a vertical position.

THE strata of the globe are actually found in every possible position: For from horizontal, they are frequently found vertical; from continuous, they are broken and separated in every possible direction; and, from a plane, they are bent and doubled. It is impossible that they could have originally been formed, by the known laws of nature, in their present state and position; and the power that has been necessarily required for their change, has not been inferior to that which might have been required for their elevation from the place in which they had been formed.

IN this case, natural appearances are not anomalous. They are, indeed, infinitely various, as they ought to be, according to the rule; but all those varieties in appearances conspire to prove one general truth, viz. That all which we see had been originally composed according to certain principles, established in the constitution of the terraqueous globe; and that those regular compositions had been afterwards greatly changed by the operations of another power, which had introduced apparent confusion among things first formed in order and by rule.

IT is concerning the operation of this second power that we are now enquiring; and here the apparent irregularity and disorder of the mineral regions are as instructive, with regard to what had been transacted in a former period of time, as the order and regularity of those same regions are conclusive, in relation to the place in which a former state of things had produced that which, in its changed state, we now perceive.

WE are now to conclude, that the land on which we dwell had been elevated from a lower situation by the same agent which had been employed in consolidating the strata, in giving them stability, and preparing them for the purpose of the living world. This agent is matter actuated by extreme heat, and expanded with amazing force.

IF this has been the case, it will reasonable to expect, that some of the expanded matter might be found condensed in the bodies which have been heated by that igneous vapour; and that matter, foreign to the strata, may have been thus introduced into the fractures and separations of those indurated masses.

WE have but to open our eyes to be convinced of this truth. Look into the sources of our mineral treasures; ask the miner from whence has come the metal into his veins? Not from the earth or air above, not from the strata which the vein traverses; these do not contain one atom of the minerals now considered: There is but one place from whence these minerals may have come; this is, the bowels of the earth, the place of power and expansion, the place from whence must have proceeded that intense heat by which loose materials have been consolidated into rocks, as well as that enormous force by which the regular strata have been broken and displaced.

OUR attention is here peculiarly called upon, where we have the opportunity of examining those mineral bodies, which have immediately proceeded from the unknown region, that place of power and energy which we want to explore; for, if such is the system of the earth, that materials are first deposited at the bottom of the ocean, there to be prepared in a certain manner, in order to acquire solidity, and then to be elevated into the proper place of land, these mineral veins, which contain matter absolutely foreign to the surface of the earth, afford the most authentic information with regard to the operations which we want to understand. It is these veins which we are to consider as, in some measure, the continuation of that mineral region, which lies necessarily out of all possible reach of our examination. It is, therefore, peculiarly interesting to know the state in which things are to be found in this place, which may be considered as intermediate between the solid land, upon the one hand, and the unknown regions of the earth, upon the other.

WE are now to examine those mineral veins; and these may be considered, first, in relation to their form, independent of their substance or particular contents; and, secondly, in relation to the contained bodies, independent of their form.

IN examining consolidated strata, we remarked veins and cutters as a proof of the means by which those bodies had been consolidated. In that case, the formation of these veins is a regulated process, determined by the degree of fusion, and the circumstances of condensation or refrigeration. In respect of these, the mineral veins now to be examined are anomalous. They are; but we know not why or how. We see the effect; but, in that effect, we do not see the cause. We can say, negatively, that the cause of mineral veins is not that by which the veins and fissures of consolidated strata have been formed; consequently, that is not the measured contraction and regulated condensation of the consolidated land which has formed those general mineral veins; however, veins, similar in many respects, have been formed by the co-operation of this cause.

HAVING thus taken a view of the evident distinction between the veins or contractions that are particular to the consolidated body in which they are found, and those more general veins which are not limited to that cause, we may now consider what is general in the subject, or what is universal in these effects of which we wish to investigate the cause.

THE event of highest generalization or universality, in the form of those mineral veins, is fracture and dislocation. It is not, like that of the veins of strata, simple separation and measured contraction; it is violent fracture and unlimited dislocation. In the one case, the forming cause is in the body which is separated; for, after the body had been actuated by heat, it is by the reaction of the proper matter of the body, that the chasm which constitutes the vein is formed. In the other case, again, the cause is extrinsic in relation to the body in which the chasm is formed. There has been the most violent fracture and divulsion; but the cause is still to seek; and it appears not in the vein; for it is not every fracture and dislocation of the solid body of our earth, in which minerals, or the proper substances of mineral veins, are found.

WE are now examining matter of fact, real effects, from whence we would investigate the nature of certain events which do not now appear. Of these, two kinds occur; one which has acted in relation to the hardness and solidity, or the natural constitution of the body; the other, to its shape or local situation. The first has been already considered; the last is now the subject of enquiry.

BUT, in examining those natural appearances, we find two different kinds of veins; the one necessarily connected with the consolidating causes; the other with that cause of which we now particularly enquire. For, in those great mineral veins, violent fracture and dislocation is the principle; but there is no other principle upon which strata, or masses formed at the bottom of the sea, can be placed at a height above its surface. Hence, in those two different operations, for forming mineral veins, and erecting strata form a lower to a higher place, the principle is the same; for neither can be done without violent fracture and dislocation.

WE now only want to know, how far it is by the same power, as well as upon the same principle, that those two operations have been made. An expansive force, acting from below, is the power most proper for erecting masses; but whether it is a power of the same nature with that which has been employed in forming mineral veins, will best appear in knowing the nature of their contents. These, therefore, may be now considered.

EVERY species of fracture, and every degree of dislocation and contortion, may be received in the form of mineral veins; and there is no other general principle to be observed in examining their form. But, in examining their contents, some other principle may appear, so far as, to the dislocating power or force, there may be superadded matter, by which something in relation to the nature of the power may be known. If, for example, a tree or a rock shall be found simply split asunder, although there be no doubt with regard to some power having been applied in order to produce the effect, yet we are left merely to conjecture at the power. But when wedges of wood or iron, or frozen water, should be found lodged in the cleft, we might be enabled, from this appearance, to form a certain judgment with regard to the nature of the power which had been applied. This is the case with mineral veins. We find them containing matter, which indicates a cause; and every information in this case is interesting to the theory.

THE substances contained in mineral veins are precisely the same with those which, in the former part of this paper, we have considered as being made instrumental in the consolidation of strata; and they are found in every species of mixture and concretion.

BUT, besides this evidence for the exertion of extreme heat, in that process by which those veins were filled, there is another important observation to be gathered from the inspection of this subject. There appears to have been a great mechanical power employed in the filling of these veins, as well as that necessarily required in making the first fracture and divulsion.

THIS appears from the order of the contents, or filling of these veins, which is a thing often observed to be various and successive. But what it is chiefly now in view to illustrate, is that immense force which is manifested in the fracture and dispersion of the solid contents which had formerly filled those veins. Here we find fragments of rock and spar floating in the body of a vein filled with metallic substances; there, again, we see the various fragments of metallic masses floating in the sparry and siliceous contents.

ONE thing is demonstrable from the inspection of the veins and their contents; this is, the successive irruptions of those fluid substances breaking the solid bodies which they meet, and floating those fragments of the broken bodies in the vein. It is very common to see three successive series of those operations; and all this may be perceived in a small fragment of stone, which a man of science may examine in his closet, often better than descending to the mine, where all the examples are found on an enlarged scale.

LET us now consider what power would be required to force up, from the most unfathomable depth of the ocean, to the Andes or the Alps, a column for fluid metal and of stone. This power cannot be much less than that required to elevate the highest land upon the globe. Whether, therefore, we shall consider the general veins as having been filled by mineral steams, or by fluid minerals, an elevating power of immense force is still required, in order to form as well as fill those veins. But such a power acting under the consolidated masses at the bottom of the sea, is the only natural means for making those masses land.

IF such have been the operations that are necessary for the production of this land; and if these operations are natural to the globe of this earth, as being the effect of wisdom in its contrivance, we shall have reason to look for the actual manifestation of this truth in the phaenomena of nature, or those appearances which more immediately discover the actual cause in the perceived effect.

TO see the evidence of marble, a body that is solid, having been formed of loose materials collected at the bottom of the sea, is not always easy, although it may be made abundantly plain; and to be convinced that this calcareous stone, which calcines so easily in our fires, should have been brought into fusion by subterraneous heat, without suffering calcination, must require a chain of reasoning which ever one is not able to attain. But when fire bursts forth from the bottom of the sea, and when the land is heaved up and down, so as to demolish cities in an instant, and split asunder rocks and solid mountains, there is nobody but must see in this a power, which may be sufficient to accomplish every view of nature in erecting land, as it is situated in the place most advantageous for that purpose.

THE only question, therefore, which it concerns us to decide at present, is, whether those operations of extreme heat, and violent mechanic force, be only in the system as a matter of accident; or if, on the contrary, they are operations natural to the globe, and necessary in the production of such land as this which we inhabit. The answer to this is plain: these operations of the globe, remain at present with undiminished activity, or in the fulness of their power.

A stream of melted lava flows from the sides of Mount AEtna. Here a column of weighty matter raised an immense height above the level of the sea, and rocks of an enormous size are projected from its orifice some miles into the air. Every one acknowledges that here is the liquefying power and expansive force of subterranean fire, or violent heat. But that Sicily itself had been raised from the bottom of the ocean, and that the marble called Sicilian Jasper, had its solidity upon the same principle with the lava, would stumble many a naturalist to acknowledge. Nevertheless, I have in my possession a table of this marble, from which it is demonstrable, that this calcareous stone had flowed, and been in such a state of fusion and fluidity as lava.

HERE is a comparison formed of two mineral substances, to which it is of the highest importance to attend. The solidity and present state of the one of these is commonly thought to be that of water. This, however, is not the case. The immediate state and condition of both these bodies is now to be considered as equally the effect of fire or heat. The reason of our forming such a different judgment with regard to these two subjects is this; we see, in the one case, the more immediate connection of the cause and the effect, while, in the other, we have only the effects from whence we are in science to investigate the cause.

BUT, if it were necessary always to see this immediate connection, in order to acknowledge the operation of a power which, at present, is extinguished in the effect, we should lose the benefit of science, or general principles, from whence particulars may be deduced, and we should be able to reason no better that the brute. Man is made for science; he reasons from effects to causes, and from causes to effects; but he does not always reason without error. In reasoning, therefore, from appearances which are particular, care must be taken how we generalize; we should be cautious not to attribute to nature, laws which may perhaps be only of our own invention.

THE immediate question now before us is not, if the subterraneous fire, or elevating power, which we perceive sometimes as operating with such energy, be the consolidating cause of strata formed at the bottom of the sea; nor, if that power be the means of making land appear above the general surface of the water; for, though this be the end we want to arrive at ultimately, the question at present in agitation respects the laws of nature, or the generality of particular appearances.

HAS the globe within it such an active power as fits it for the renovation of that part of its constitution which may be subject to decay? Are those powerful operations of fire, or subterraneous heat, which so often have filled us with terror and astonishment, to be considered as having always been? Are they to be concluded as proper to every part upon the globe, and as continual in the system of this earth? If these points in question shall be decided in the affirmative, we can be at no loss in ascertaining the power which has consolidated strata, nor in explaining the present situation of those bodies, which had their origin at the bottom of the sea. This, therefore, should be the object of our pursuit; and, in order to have demonstration in a case of physical enquiry, we must again have recourse to the book of nature.

THE general tendency of heat is to produce fluidity and softness; as that of cold is, on the contrary, to harden soft and fluid bodies. But this softening power of heat is not uniform in its nature; it is made to act with very different effect, according to the nature of the substance to which it is applied. We are but limited in the art of increasing the heat or the cold of bodies; we find, however, extreme difference in their substances with respect to fusibility.

A FUSIBLE substance, or mineral composition in a fluid state, is emitted from those places of the earth at which subterraneous fire and expansive force are manifested in those eruptive operations. In examining these emitted bodies, men of science find a character for such productions, in generalizing the substance, and understanding the natural constitution of those bodies. It is in this manner, that such a person, finding a piece of lava in any place of the earth, says with certainty, Here is a stone which had congealed from a melted state.

 

HAVING thus found a distinguishing character for those fused substances called, in general, lavas, and having the most visible marks for that which had been actually a volcano, naturalists, in examining different countries, have discovered the most undoubted proofs of many ancient volcanos, which had not been before suspected. Thus, volcanos will appear to be not a matter of accident, or as only happening in an particular place, they are general to the globe, so far as there is no place upon the earth that may not have an eruption of this kind; although it is by no means necessary for every place to have had those eruptions.

VOLCANOS are natural to the globe, as general operations; but we are not to consider nature as having a burning mountain for an end in her intention, or as a principal purpose in the general system of this world. The end of nature in placing an internal fire or power of heat, and a force of irresistible expansion, in the body of this earth, is to consolidate the sediment collected at the bottom of the sea, and to form thereof a mass of permanent land above the level of the ocean, for the purpose of maintaining plants and animals. The power appointed for this purpose is, as on all other occasions, where the operation is important, and where there is any danger of a shortcoming, wisely provided in abundance; and there are contrived means for disposing of the redundancy. These, in the present case, are our volcanos.

A VOLCANO is not made on purpose to frighten superstitious people into fits of piety and devotion, nor to overwhelm devoted cities with destruction; a volcano should be considered as a spiracle to the subterranean furnace, in order to prevent the unnecessary elevation of land, and fatal effects of earthquakes; and we may rest assured, that they, in general, wisely answer the end of their intention, without being in themselves an end, for which nature had exerted such amazing power and excellent contrivance.

LET us take a view of the most elevated places of the earth; if the present theory is just, it is there that we should find volcanos. But is not this the case? There are volcanos in the Andes; and round the Alps we find many volcanos, which are in France upon the one side, and in Germany upon the other, as well as upon the Italian side, where Vesuvius still continues to exhibit violent eruptions.

IT is not meant to allege, that it is only upon the summit of a continent volcanos should appear. Subterraneous fire has sometimes made its appearance in bursting from the bottom of the sea. But, even in this last case, land was raised from the bottom of the sea, before the eruption made its exit into the atmosphere. It must also be evident, that, in this case of the new island near Santorini, had the expansive power been retained, instead of being discharged. much more land might have been raised above the level of the ocean.

NOW, the eruption of that elastic force through the bottom of the sea, may be considered as a waste of power in the operations of the globe, where the elevation of the indurated strata is an object in the exertion of that power; whereas, in the centre of a continent sufficiently elevated above the level of the sea, the eruption of that fiery vapour calculated to elevate the land, while it may occasionally destroy the habitations of a few, provides for the security and quiet possession of the many.

IN order to see the wisdom of this contrivance, let us consider the two extreme places at which this eruption of ignited matter may be performed. These are, on the one hand, within a continent of land, and, on the other, at the bottom of the ocean. In the one case, the free eruption of the expanding power should be permitted; because the purpose for which it had been calculated to exist, has been accomplished. In the other, again, the free eruption of that powerful matter should be repressed; because there is reserved for that power much of another operation in that place. But, according to the wise constitution of things, this must necessarily happen. The eruption of the fiery vapour from volcanos on the continent or land, is interrupted only occasionally, by the melted bodies flowing in the subterraneous chimney; whereas, at the bottom of the ocean, the contact of the water necessarily tends to close the orifice, by accumulating condensed matter upon the weakest place.

IF this be a just theory of the natural operations of the globe, we shall have reason to expect, that great quantities of this melted matter or fusible substance may be found in form of lava, among the strata of the earth, where there are no visible marks of any volcano, or burning mountain, having existed. Here, therefore, is an important point to be determined; for, if it shall appear, that much of this melted matter, analogous to lave, has been forced to flow among the strata which had been formed at the bottom of the sea, and now are found forming dry land above its surface, it will be allowed, that we have discovered the secret operations of nature concocting future land, as well as those by which the present habitable earth had been produced from the bottom of the abyss. Here, therefore, we shall at present rest the argument, with endeavouring to shew that such is actually the case.

IT appears from CRONSTEDT's Mineralogy, that the rockstone, called trap by the Swedes, the amygdaloides and the schwarts-stein of the Germans, are the same with the whinstone of this country. This is also confirmed by specimens from Sweden, sent me by my friend Dr GAHN. Whatever, therefore, shall be ascertained with regard to our whinstone, may be so far generalised or extended to the countries of Norway, Sweden, and Germany.

THE whinstone of Scotland is also the same with the toadstone of Derbyshire, which is of the amygdaloides species; it is also the same with the ragstone of the south of Staffordshire, which is a simple whinstone, or perfect trap. England, therefore, must be included in this great space of land, the mineral operations of which we explore; and also Ireland, of which the Giants Causeway, and many others, are sufficient proof.

IN the south of Scotland, there is a ridge of hills, which extends from the west side of the island in Galloway to the east side in Berwickshire, composed of granite, of schistus, and of siliceous strata. The Grampians on the north, again, form another range of mountains of the same kind; and between these two great fields of broken, tumbled and distorted strata, there lies a field of lesser hardness and consolidation, in general; but a filed in which there is a great manifestation of subterraneous fire, and of exerted force.

THE strata in this space consist, in general, of sandstone, coal, limestone or marble, ironstone, and marl or argillaceous strata, with strata of analogous bodies, and the various compositions of these. But what is to the present purpose is this, that, through all this space, there are interspersed immense quantities of whinstone; a body which is to be distinguished as very different from lava; and now the disposition of this whinstone is to be considered.

SOMETIMES it is found in an irregular mass or mountain, as Mr CRONSTEDT has properly observed; but he has also said, that this is not the case in general. His words are: "It is oftener found in form of veins in mountains or another kind, running commonly in a serpentine manner, contrary or across to the direction of the rock itself."

THE origin of this form, in which the trap or whinstone appears, is most evident to inspection, when we consider that this solid body has been in a fluid state, and introduced, in that state, among strata which preserved their proper form. The strata appear to have been broken, and the two correspondent parts of those strata are separated to admit the flowing mass of whinstone.

A FINE example of this kind may be seen upon the south side of the Earn, on the road to Crief. It is twenty-four yards wide, stands perpendicular, and appears many feet above the surface of the ground. It runs from that eastward, and would seem to be the same with that which crosses the river Tay, in forming Campsy-lin above Stanley, as a lesser one of the same kind does below it. If have seen it at Lednoc upon the Ammon, where it forms a cascade in that river, about five or six miles west of Campsy-lin. It appears to run from the Tay east through Strathmore, so that it may be considered as having been traced for twenty or thirty miles, and westwards to Drummond castle, perhaps much farther.

TWO small veins of the same kind, only two or three feet wide, may be seen in the bed of the Water of Leith, traversing the horizontal strata, the one is above St BERNARD's well, the other immediately below it. But, more particularly, in the shire of Ayr, to the north of Irvine, there are to be seen upon the coast, between that and Scarmorly, in the space of about twenty miles, more than twenty or thirty such dykes (as they are called) of whinstone. Some of them are of a great thickness; and, in some places, there is perceived a short one, running at right angles, and communicating with the other two that run parallel.

THERE is in this country, and in Derbyshire [See Mr WHITEHURST's Theory of the Earth], another regular appearance of this stone, which CRONSTEDT has not mentioned. In this case, the strata are not broken in order to have the whinstone introduced, they are separated, and the whinstone is interjected in form of strata, having various degrees of regularity, and being of different thickness. On the south side of Edinburgh, I have seen, in little more than the space of a mile from east to west, nine or ten masses of whinstone interjected among the strata. These masses of whinstone are from three or four to an hundred feet thick, running parallel in planes inclined to the horizon, and forming with it an angle of about twenty or thirty degrees, as may be seen at all times in the hill of Salisbury Craggs.

HAVING thus described these masses, which have flowed by means of heat among the strata of the globe, strata which had been formed by subsidence at the bottom of the sea, it will now be proper to examine the difference that subsists between these subterraneous lavas, as they may be termed, and the analogous bodies, which are proper lavas, in having issued out of a volcano[1].

THERE can be no doubt that these two different species of bodies have had the same origin, and that they are composed of the same materials nearly; but from the different circumstances of their production, there is formed a character to these bodies, by which they may be perfectly distinguished. The difference of those circumstances, consists in this; the one has been emitted to the atmosphere in its fluid state, the other only came to be exposed to the light in a long course of time, after it had congealed under the compression of an immense load of earth, and after certain operations, proper to the mineral regions, had been exercised upon the indurated mass. This is the cause of the difference between those erupted lavas, and our whinstone, toadstone, and the Swedish trap, which may be termed subterraneous lava. The visible effects of those different operations may now be mentioned.

IN the erupted lavas, those substances which are subject to calcine and vitrify in our fires, suffer similar changes, when delivered from a compression which has rendered them fixed, though in an extremely heated state. Thus, a lava in which there is much calcareous spar, when it comes to be exposed to the atmosphere, or delivered from the compressing force of its confinement, effervesces by the explosion of its fixed air; the calcareous earth, at the same time, vitrifies with the other substances: hence such violent ebullition in volcanos, and hence the emission of so much pumice-stone and ashes, which are of the same nature.

IN the body of our whinstone, on the contrary, there is now mark of calcination or vitrification. We frequently find in it much calcareous spar, or the terra calcarea aerata, which had been in a melted state by heat, and had been crystallized by congelation into a sparry form. Such is the lapis amygdaloides, and many of our whinstone rocks, which contain pebbles crystallized and variously figured, both calcareous, siliceous, and of a mixture in which both these substances form distinct parts. The specimens of this kind, which I have from the whinstone or porphyry rock of the Calton-hill, exhibit every species of mineral operation, in forming jasper, figured agate, and marble; and they demonstrate, that this had been performed by heat or fusion.

I DO not mean to say, that this demonstration is direct; it is conditional, and proceeds upon the supposition, that the basaltic or porphyry rock, in which those specimens are found, is a body which had been in a melted state. Now, this is a supposition for which I have abundance of evidence, were it required; but naturalists are now sufficiently disposed to admit that proposition; they even draw conclusions from this fact, which, I think, they are not sufficiently warranted in doing; that is, from this appearance, they infer the former existence of volcanos in those places. For my part, though I have made those most strict examination, I never saw and vestige of such an event. That there are, in other countries, evident marks of volcanos which have been long extinguished, is unquestionably true; but naturalists, imagining that there are no other marks of subterraneous fire and fusion, except in the production of a lava, attribute to a volcano, as a cause, these effects, which only indicate the exertion of that power which might have been the cause of a volcano.

IF the theory now given be just, a rock of marble is no less a mark of subterraneous fire and fusion, than that of the basaltes; and the flowing of basaltic streams among strata broken and displaced, affords the most satisfactory evidence of those operations by which the body of our land had been elevated above the surface of the sea; but it gives no proof that the eruptive force of mineral vapours had been discharged in a burning mountain. Now, this discharge is essential in the proper idea of a volcano.

BESIDES this internal mark of an unerupted lava in the substance of the stone or body of the flowing mass, there are others which belong to it in common with all other mineral strata, consolidated by subterraneous fire, and changed from the place of their original formation; this is, the being broken and dislocated, and having veins of foreign matter formed in their separations and contractions.

IF these are mineral operations, proper to the lower regions of the earth, and exerted upon bodies under immense compression, such things will be sometimes found in the unerupted lavas, as well as in the contiguous bodies with which they are associated. If, on the contrary, these are operations proper to the surface of the earth, where the dissolving power of water and air take place, and where certain stalactical and ferruginous concretions are produced by these means; then, in erupted lavas, we should find mineral concretions, which concretions should be denied to bodies which had been consolidated at the bottom of the sea; that is to say, where, without the operation of subterraneous fire, no changes of that kind could have taken place, as has already been observed. But in the unerupted species of lava, that is to say, in our whinstone, every species of mineral appearance is occasionally to be found. Let those who have the opportunity to examine, say, what are to be found in proper lavas, that is, those of the erupted kind. Sir WILLIAM HAMILTON informed me, when I shewed him those mineral veins and spars in our whinstone, that he had never observed the like in lavas.

WE have now formed some conclusions with regard to the nature and production of those parts of the land of this globe which we have had the means of examining perfectly; but form the accounts of travellers, and from the specimens which are brought to us from distant parts, we have reason to believe, that all the rest of the earth is of the same nature with that which has been now considered. The great masses of the earth are the same every where; and all the different species of earths, of rocks or stone, which have as yet appeared, are to be found in the little space of this our island.

IT is true, that there are peculiar productions in the mineral kingdom which are rare, as being found only in few places; but these things are merely accidental in relation to the land, for they belong in property to those parts of the mineral region which we never see. Such are, the diamond of the east, the platina of the west, and the tin of Cornwall, Germany, and Sumatra. Gold and silver, though found in many countries, do not appear to be immediately necessary in the production of a habitable country. Iron, again, is universal in the operations of the globe, and is found often in that profusion which equals its utility. Between these two extremes, we find all other minerals, that is to say, here and there in moderate quantity, and apparently in some proportion to their use. But all these substances are to be considered as the vapours of the mineral regions, condensed occasionally in the crevices of the land; and it is only the rocks and strata (in which those mineral veins are found) that are now examined with regard to their original composition at the bottom of the sea, as well as to that operation by which those bodies had been indurated in their substance, and elevated from the place in which they had been formed.

THUS, we have sufficient reason to believe, that, in knowing the construction of the land in Europe, we know the constitution of the land in every part of the globe. Therefore, we may proceed to form general conclusions, from the knowledge of the mineral region, thus acquired in studying those parts which are seen.

HAVING thus found, first, That the consolidated and indurated masses of our strata had suffered the effects of violent heat and fusion; 2dly, That those strata, which had been formed in a regular manner at the bottom of the sea, have been violently bended, broken and removed from their original place and situation; and, lastly, Having now found the most indubitable proof, that the melting, breaking, and removing power of subterraneous fire, has been actually exerted upon this land which we examine, we cannot hesitate in ascribing these operations as a cause to those effects which are exposed to our view. Now, these may be considered as consisting the solid state and present situation of those stratified bodies, originally formed by subsidence in the ocean; appearances which cannot, in reason, be ascribed to any other cause, and which, upon this principle, are perfectly explained.

IT is not meant to specify every particular in the means employed by nature for the elevation of our land. It is sufficient to have shewn, that there is, in nature, means employed for the consolidation of strata, formed originally of loose and incoherent materials; and that those same means have also been employed in changing the place and situation of those strata. But how describe an operation which man cannot have any opportunity of perceiving? Or how imagine that, for which, perhaps, there are not proper data to be found? We only know, that the land is raised by a power which has for principle subterraneous heat; but how that land is preserved in its elevated station, is a subject in which we have not even the means to form conjecture; at least, we ought to be cautious how we indulge conjecture in a subject where no means occur for trying that which is but supposition.

WE now proceed, from the facts which have been properly established, to reason with regard to the duration of this globe, or the general view of its operations, as a living world, maintaining plants and animals.

Notes

  1. ^ The Chevalier de Dolomieu, in his accurate examination of AEtna and the Lipari islands, has very well observed the distinction of these two different species of lavas; but without seeming to know the principle upon which this essential difference depends. No bias of system, therefore, can here be supposed as perverting the Chevalier's view, in taking those observations; and these are interesting to the present theory, as corresponding perfectly with the facts from whence it has been formed. It will be proper to give the account of these in his own words.

    La zeolite est tres-commune dans certains laves de l'Ethna; il feroit peut être possible d'y en recontrer des morceaux aussi gros que ceux que fournit l'isle de Ferroé. Quoique cette substance semble ici appartenir aux laves, je ne dirai cependant point que toutes les zeolites soient volcaniques, ou unies à des matieres volcaniques; celles que l'on trouve en Allemagne sont, dit-on, dans des circonstances differentes; mais je doit annoncer que je n'ai trouvé cette substance en Sicile, que dans les seules laves qui evidemment ont coulé dans la mer, et qui ont été recouvertes par ses eaux. La zeolite des laves n'est point une dejection volcanique, ni une production du feu, ni même un matiere que les laves aient enveloppée lorsequ'elles etoient fluides; elle est le resultat d'une operation et d'une combinaison posterieure, auxquelles les eaux de la mer ont concouru. Les laves qui n'ont pas été submergées, n'en contiennent jamais. J'ai trouvé ces observation si constantes, que par-tout où je rencontrois de la zeolite, j'étois sûr de trouver d'autres preuves de submersion, et partout où je voyois des laves recouvertes des dépôts de l'eau, j'étois sûr de trouver de la zeolite, et un de ces faits m'a toujours indiqué l'autre. Je me suis servi avec succes de cette observation pour diriger mes recherches, et pour connoitre l'antiquité des laves. Mineralogie de Volcans, par M. Faujas de Saint-Fond.

    Zeolite is very common in certain lavas of Etna. It is perhaps possible to come across pieces there as large as those which the isand of Ferroe has provided. Although this substance seems here to belong to the lavas, I will, however, not say that all the zeolites are volcanic or combined with volcanic materials. Those which one finds in Germany are, they say, in different circumstances, but I should mention that I have found this substance in Sicily only in the isolated lavas which evidently have run under the sea and which have been covered over by its waters. The zeolite of lavas is not a volcanic emission, nor a production of fire, nor even a material which the lavas have envelopped which they were fluid. It is the result of a later operation and combination, with which the waters of the sea have worked to bring about. The lavas which were not submerged never contain zeolite. I have found these observations so constant, that wherever I come across zeolite, I have been certain to find other proofs of submersion, and wherever I have seen lavas covered over with marine deposits, I was sure to find zeolite. One of these facts has always indicated the other to me. I have successfully made use of this observation to organize my research, and to understand the antiquity of lavas. Mineralogy of Volcanoes, by M. Faujas de Saint-Fond]. Here would appear to be the distinction of subterraneous lava, in which zeolite and calcareous spar may be found, and that which has flowed from a volcano, in which neither of these are ever observed.



This is a chapter from Theory of the Earth (historical).
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Cleveland, C. (2008). Theory of the Earth: Part 3 (historical). Retrieved from http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/156595

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