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Geological Observations on South America

Geological Observations on South America

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 9

The section in Diagram 3 is illustrative of the general structure of the great Bay of St. George. At the south headland of the Bay of St. George (near C. Three Points) the 250 plain is very extensive.

(DIAGRAM 3. SECTION OF PLAINS AT PORT DESIRE.

From East (sea level) to West (high):
Terrace 1. 100 Est.
Terrace 2. 245-255 Ba. M. Shells on surface.
Terrace 3. 330 Ba. M. Shells on surface.
Terrace 4. Not measured.)

At Port Desire (forty miles southward) I made several measurements with the barometer of a plain, which extends along the north side of the port and along the open coast, and which varies from 245 to 255 feet in height: this plain abuts against the foot of a higher plain of 330 feet, which extends also far northward along the coast, and likewise into the interior. In the distance a higher inland platform was seen, of which I do not know the height. In three separate places, I observed the cliff of the 245-255 feet plain, fringed by a terrace or narrow plain estimated at about one hundred feet in height. These plains are represented in the section Diagram 3.

In many places, even at the distance of three and four miles from the coast, I found on the gravel-capped surface of the 245-255 feet, and of the 330 feet plain, shells of Mytilus Magellanicus, M. edulis, Patella deaurita, and another Patella, too much worn to be identified, but apparently similar to one found abundantly adhering to the leaves of the kelp. These species are the commonest now living on this coast. The shells all appeared very old; the blue of the mussels was much faded; and only traces of colour could be perceived in the Patellas, of which the outer surfaces were scaling off. They lay scattered on the smooth surface of the gravel, but abounded most in certain patches, especially at the heads of the smaller valleys: they generally contained sand in their insides; and I presume that they have been washed by alluvial action out of thin sandy layers, traces of which may sometimes be seen covering the gravel. The several plains have very level surfaces; but all are scooped out by numerous broad, winding, flat-bottomed valleys, in which, judging from the bushes, streams never flow. These remarks on the state of the shells, and on the nature of the plains, apply to the following cases, so need not be repeated.

(DIAGRAM 4. SECTION OF PLAINS AT PORT S. JULIAN.

From East (sea level) to West (high):
Terrace 1. Shells on surface. 90 Est.
Terrace 2. 430 An. M.
Terrace 3. 560 An. M.
Terrace 4. 950 An. M.)

Southward of Port Desire, the plains have been greatly denuded, with only small pieces of tableland marking their former extension. But opposite Bird Island, two considerable step-formed plains were measured, and found respectively to be 350 and 590 feet in height. This latter plain extends along the coast close to Port St. Julian (110 miles south of Port Desire); see Diagram 4.

The lowest plain was estimated at ninety feet: it is remarkable from the usual gravel-bed being deeply worn into hollows, which are filled up with, as well as the general surface covered by, sandy and reddish earthy matter: in one of the hollows thus filled up, the skeleton of the Macrauchenia Patachonica, as will hereafter be described, was embedded. On the surface and in the upper parts of this earthy mass, there were numerous shells of Mytilus Magellanicus and M. edulis, Patella deaurita, and fragments of other species. This plain is tolerably level, but not extensive; it forms a promontory seven or eight miles long, and three or four wide. The upper plains in Diagram 4 were measured by the Officers of the Survey; they were all capped by thick beds of gravel, and were all more or less denuded; the 950 plain consists merely of separate, truncated, gravel-capped hills, two of which, by measurement, were found to differ only three feet. The 430 feet plain extends, apparently with hardly a break, to near the northern entrance of the Rio Santa Cruz (fifty miles to the south); but it was there found to be only 330 feet in height.

(DIAGRAM 5. SECTION OF PLAINS AT THE MOUTH OF THE RIO SANTA CRUZ.

From East (sea level) to West (high):
Terrace 1. (sloping) 355 Ba. M. Shells on surface. 463 Ba. M.
Terrace 2. 710 An. M.
Terrace 3. 840 An. M.)

On the southern side of the mouth of the Santa Cruz we have Diagram 5, which I am able to give with more detail than in the foregoing cases.

The plain marked 355 feet (as ascertained by the barometer and by angular measurement) is a continuation of the above-mentioned 330 feet plain: it extends in a N.W. direction along the southern shores of the estuary. It is capped by gravel, which in most parts is covered by a thin bed of sandy earth, and is scooped out by many flat-bottomed valleys. It appears to the eye quite level, but in proceeding in a S.S.W. course, towards an escarpment distant about six miles, and likewise ranging across the country in a N.W. line, it was found to rise at first insensibly, and then for the last half-mile, sensibly, close up to the base of the escarpment: at this point it was 463 feet in height, showing a rise of 108 feet in the six miles. On this 355-463 feet plain, I found several shells of Mytilus Magellanicus and of a Mytilus, which Mr. Sowerby informs me is yet unnamed, though well-known as recent on this coast; Patella deaurita; Fusus, I believe, Magellanicus, but the specimen has been lost; and at the distance of four miles from the coast, at the height of about four hundred feet, there were fragments of the same Patella and of a Voluta (apparently V. ancilla) partially embedded in the superficial sandy earth. All these shells had the same ancient appearance with those from the foregoing localities. As the tides along this part of the coast rise at the Syzygal period forty feet, and therefore form a well-marked beach-line, I particularly looked out for ridges in crossing this plain, which, as we have seen, rises 108 feet in about six miles, but I could not see any traces of such. The next highest plain is 710 feet above the sea; it is very narrow, but level, and is capped with gravel; it abuts to the foot of the 840 feet plain. This summit-plain extends as far as the eye can range, both inland along the southern side of the valley of the Santa Cruz, and southward along the Atlantic.

THE VALLEY OF THE R. SANTA CRUZ.

This valley runs in an east and west direction to the Cordillera, a distance of about one hundred and sixty miles. It cuts through the great Patagonian tertiary formation, including, in the upper half of the valley, immense streams of basaltic lava, which as well as the softer beds, are capped by gravel; and this gravel, high up the river, is associated with a vast boulder formation. (I have described this formation in a paper in the "Geological Transactions" volume 6 page 415.) In ascending the valley, the plain which at the mouth on the southern side is 355 feet high, is seen to trend towards the corresponding plain on the northern side, so that their escarpments appear like the shores of a former estuary, larger than the existing one: the escarpments, also, of the 840 feet summit-plain (with a corresponding northern one, which is met with some way up the valley), appear like the shores of a still larger estuary. Farther up the valley, the sides are bounded throughout its entire length by level, gravel-capped terraces, rising above each other in steps. The width between the upper escarpments is on an average between seven and ten miles; in one spot, however, where cutting through the basaltic lava, it was only one mile and a half. Between the escarpments of the second highest terrace the average width is about four or five miles. The bottom of the valley, at the distance of 110 miles from its mouth, begins sensibly to expand, and soon forms

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