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Geological Observations on South America

Geological Observations on South America

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
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near the town, and along the base of the mount, beds of a living Mytilus, raised some feet above the surface of the Plata: in a similar bed, at a height from thirteen to sixteen feet, M. Isabelle collected eight species, which, according to M. d'Orbigny, now live at the mouth of the estuary. ("Voyage dans l'Amerique Merid.: Part. Geolog." page 21.) At Colonia del Sacramiento, further westward, I observed at the height of about fifteen feet above the river, there of quite fresh water, a small bed of the same Mytilus, which lives in brackish water at Monte Video. Near the mouth of Uruguay, and for at least thirty-five miles northward, there are at intervals large sandy tracts, extending several miles from the banks of the river, but not raised much above its level, abounding with small bivalves, which occur in such numbers that at the Agraciado they are sifted and burnt for lime. Those which I examined near the A. S. Juan were much worn: they consisted of Mactra Isabellei, d'Orbigny, mingled with few of Venus sinuosa, Lam., both inhabiting, as I am informed by M. d'Orbigny, brackish water at the mouth of the Plata, nearly or quite as salt as the open sea. The loose sand, in which these shells are packed, is heaped into low, straight, long lines of dunes, like those left by the sea at the head of many bays. M. d'Orbigny has described an analogous phenomenon on a greater scale, near San Pedro on the river Parana, where he found widely extended beds and hillocks of sand, with vast numbers of the Azara labiata, at the height of nearly 100 feet (English) above the surface of that river. (Ibid page 43.) The Azara inhabits brackish water, and is not known to be found nearer to San Pedro than Buenos Ayres, distant above a hundred miles in a straight line. Nearer Buenos Ayres, on the road from that place to San Isidro, there are extensive beds, as I am informed by Sir Woodbine Parish, of the Azara labiata, lying at about forty feet above the level of the river, and distant between two and three miles from it. ("Buenos Ayres" etc. by Sir Woodbine Parish page 168.) These shells are always found on the highest banks in the district: they are embedded in a stratified earthy mass, precisely like that of the great Pampean deposit hereafter to be described. In one collection of these shells, there were some valves of the Venus sinuosa, Lam., the same species found with the Mactra on the banks of the Uruguay. South of Buenos Ayres, near Ensenada, there are other beds of the Azara, some of which seem to have been embedded in yellowish, calcareous, semi-crystalline matter; and Sir W. Parish has given me from the banks of the Arroyo del Tristan, situated in this same neighbourhood, at the distance of about a league from the Plata, a specimen of a pale- reddish, calcereo-argillaceous stone (precisely like parts of the Pampean deposit the importance of which fact will be referred to in a succeeding chapter), abounding with shells of an Azara, much worn, but which in general form and appearance closely resemble, and are probably identical with, the A. labiata. Besides these shells, cellular, highly crystalline rock, formed of the casts of small bivalves, is found near Ensenada; and likewise beds of sea-shells, which from their appearance appear to have lain on the surface. Sir W. Parish has given me some of these shells, and M. d'Orbigny pronounces them to be:—

1. Buccinanops globulosum, d'Orbigny.

2. Olivancillaria auricularia, d'Orbigny.

3. Venus flexuosa, Lam.

4. Cytheraea (imperfect).

5. Mactra Isabellei, d'Orbigny.

6. Ostrea pulchella, d'Orbigny.

Besides these, Sir W. Parish procured ("Buenos Ayres" etc. by Sir W. Parish page 168.) (as named by Mr. G.B. Sowerby) the following shells:—

7. Voluta colocynthis.

8. Voluta angulata.

9. Buccinum (not spec.?).

All these species (with, perhaps, the exception of the last) are recent, and live on the South American coast. These shell-beds extend from one league to six leagues from the Plata, and must lie many feet above its level. I heard, also, of beds of shells on the Somborombon, and on the Rio Salado, at which latter place, as M. d'Orbigny informs me, the Mactra Isabellei and Venus sinuosa are found.

During the elevation of the Provinces of La Plata, the waters of the ancient estuary have but little affected (with the exception of the sand- hills on the banks of the Parana and Uruguay) the outline of the land. M. Parchappe, however, has described groups of sand dunes scattered over the wide extent of the Pampas southward of Buenos Ayres (D'Orbigny "Voyage Geolog." page 44.), which M. d'Orbigny attributes with much probability to the action of the sea, before the plains were raised above its level. (Before proceeding to the districts southward of La Plata, it may be worth while just to state, that there is some evidence that the coast of Brazil has participated in a small amount of elevation. Mr. Burchell informs me, that he collected at Santos (latitude 24 degrees S.) oyster-shells, apparently recent, some miles from the shore, and quite above the tidal action. Westward of Rio de Janeiro, Captain Elliot is asserted (see Harlan "Med. and Phys. Res." page 35 and Dr. Meigs in "Transactions of the American Philosophical Society"), to have found human bones, encrusted with sea-shells, between fifteen and twenty feet above the level of the sea. Between Rio de Janeiro and Cape Frio I crossed sandy tracts abounding with sea-shells, at a distance of a league from the coast; but whether these tracts have been formed by upheaval, or through the mere accumulation of drift sand, I am not prepared to assert. At Bahia (latitude 13 degrees S.), in some parts near the coast, there are traces of sea-action at the height of about twenty feet above its present level; there are also, in many parts, remnants of beds of sandstone and conglomerate with numerous recent shells, raised a little above the sea-level. I may add, that at the head of Bahia Bay there is a formation, about forty feet in thickness, containing tertiary shells apparently of fresh-water origin, now washed by the sea and encrusted with Balini; this appears to indicate a small amount of subsidence subsequent to its deposition. At Pernambuco (latitude 8 degrees S.), in the alluvial or tertiary cliffs, surrounding the low land on which the city stands, I looked in vain for organic remains, or other evidence of changes in level.)

SOUTHWARD OF THE PLATA.

The coast as far as Bahia Blanca (in latitude 39 degrees S.) is formed either of a horizontal range of cliffs, or of immense accumulations of sand-dunes. Within Bahia Blanca, a small piece of tableland, about twenty feet above high-water mark, called Punta Alta, is formed of strata of cemented gravel and of red earthy mud, abounding with shells (with others lying loose on the surface), and the bones of extinct mammifers. These shells, twenty in number, together with a Balanus and two corals, are all recent species, still inhabiting the neighbouring seas. They will be enumerated in the Fourth Chapter, when describing the Pampean formation; five of them are identical with the upraised ones from near Buenos Ayres. The northern shore of Bahia Blanca is, in main part, formed of immense sand-dunes, resting on gravel with recent shells, and ranging in lines parallel to the shore. These ranges are separated from each other by flat spaces, composed of stiff impure red clay, in which, at the distance of about two miles from the coast, I found by digging a few minute fragments of sea-shells. The sand-dunes extend several miles inland, and stand on a plain, which slopes up to a height of between one hundred and two hundred feet. Numerous, small, well-rounded pebbles of pumice lie scattered both on the plain and sand-hillocks: at Monte Hermoso, on the flat summit of a cliff, I found many of them at a height of 120 feet (angular measurement)

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