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Pebbles in the Street

If you, dear reader, dwell in any northern town, you will almost certainly see paving courts and alleys, and sometimes--to the discomfort of your feet--whole streets, or set up as bournestones at corners, or laid in heaps to be broken up for road-metal, certain round pebbles, usually dark brown or speckled gray, and exceedingly tough and hard. Some of them will be very large--boulders of several feet in diameter. If you move from town to town, from the north of Scotland as far down as Essex on the east, or as far down as Shrewsbury and Wolverhampton (at least) on the west, you will still find these pebbles, but fewer and smaller as you go south. It matters not what the rocks and soils of the country round may be. However much they may differ, these pebbles will be, on the whole, the same everywhere.

But if your town be south of the valley of the Thames, you will find, as far as I am aware, no such pebbles there. The gravels round you will be made up entirely of rolled chalk flints, and bits of beds immediately above or below the chalk. The blocks of "Sarsden" sandstone--those of which Stonehenge is built--and the "plum-pudding stones" which are sometimes found with them, have no kindred with the northern pebbles. They belong to beds above the chalk.

Now if, seeing such pebbles about your town, you inquire, like a sensible person who wishes to understand something of the spot on which he lives, whence they come, you will be shown either a gravel- pit or a clay-pit. In the gravel the pebbles and boulders lie mixed with sand, as they do in the railway cutting just south of Shrewsbury; or in huge mounds of fine sweet earth, as they do in the gorge of the Tay about Dunkeld, and all the way up Strathmore, where they form long grassy mounds--tomauns as they call them in some parts of Scotland--askers as they call them in Ireland. These mounds, with their sweet fresh turf rising out of heather and bog, were tenanted-- so Scottish children used to believe--by fairies. He that was lucky might hear inside them fairy music, and, the jingling of the fairy horses' trappings. But woe to him if he fell asleep upon the mound, for he would be spirited away into fairyland for seven years, which would seem to him but one day. A strange fancy; yet not so strange as the actual truth as to what these mounds are, and how they came into their places.

Or again, you might find that your town's pebbles and boulders came out of a pit of clay, in which they were stuck, without any order or bedding, like plums and raisins in a pudding. This clay goes usually by the name of boulder-clay. You would see such near any town in Cheshire and Lancashire; or along Leith shore, near Edinburgh; or, to give one more instance out of hundreds, along the coast at Scarborough. If you walk along the shore southward of that town, you will see, in the gullies of the cliff, great beds of sticky clay, stuffed full of bits of every rock between the Lake mountains and Scarborough, from rounded pebbles of most ancient rock down to great angular fragments of ironstone and coal. There, as elsewhere, the great majority of the pebbles have nothing to do with the rock on which the clay happens to lie, but have come, some of them, from places many miles away.

Now if we find spread over a low land pebbles composed of rocks which are only found in certain high lands, is it not an act of common sense to say--These pebbles have come from the highlands? And if the pebbles are rounded, while the rocks like them in the highlands always break off in angular shapes, is it not, again, an act of mere common sense to say--These pebbles were once angular, and have been rubbed round, either in getting hither or before they started hither?

Does all this seem to you mere truism, my dear reader? If so, I am sincerely glad to hear it. It was not so very long ago that such arguments would have been considered not only no truisms, but not even common sense.

But to return, let us take, as an example, a sample of these boulder clay pebbles from the neighbourhood of Liverpool and Birkenhead, made by Mr. De Rance, the government geological surveyor:

Granite, greenstone, felspar porphyry, felstone, quartz rock (all igneous rocks, that is, either formed by, or altered by volcanic heat, and almost all found in the Lake mountains), 37 per cent.

Silurian grits (the common stones of the Lake mountains deposited by water), 43 per cent.

Ironstone, 1 per cent.

Carboniferous limestone, 5 per cent.

Permian or Triassic sandstones, i.e. rocks immediately round Liverpool, 12 per cent.

Now, does not this sample show, as far as human common sense can be depended on, that the great majority of these stones come from the Lake mountains, sixty or seventy miles north of Liverpool? I think your common sense will tell you that these pebbles are not mere concretions; that is, formed out of the substance of the clay after it was deposited. The least knowledge of mineralogy would prove that. But, even if you are no mineralogist, common sense will tell you, that if they were all concreted out of the same clay, it is most likely that they would be all of the same kind, and not of a dozen or more different kinds. Common sense will tell you, also, that if they were all concreted out of the same clay, it is a most extraordinary coincidence, indeed one too strange to be believed, if any less strange explanation can be found--that they should have taken the composition of different rocks which are found all together in one group of mountains to the northward. You will surely say--If this be granite, it has most probably come from a granite mountain; if this be grit, from a grit-stone mountain, and so on with the whole list. Why--are we to go out of our way to seek improbable explanations, when there is a probable one staring us in the face?

Next--and this is well worth your notice--if you will examine the pebbles carefully, especially the larger ones, you will find that they are not only more or less rounded, but often scratched; and often, too, in more than one direction, two or even three sets of scratches crossing each other; marked, as a cat marks an elder stem when she sharpens her claws upon it; and that these scratches have not been made by the quarrymen's tools, but are old marks which exist--as you may easily prove for yourself--while the stone is still lying in its bed of clay. Would it not be an act of mere common sense to say--These scratches have been made by the sharp points of other stones which have rubbed against the pebbles somewhere, and somewhen, with great force?

So far so good. The next question is--How did these stones get into the clay? If we can discover that, we may also discover how they wore rounded and scratched. We must find a theory which will answer our question; and one which, as Professor Huxley would say, "will go on all-fours," that is, will explain all the facts of the case, and not only a few of them.

What, then, brought the stones?

We cannot, I think, answer that question, as some have tried to answer it, by saying that they were brought by Noah's flood. For it is clear, that very violent currents of water would be needed to carry boulders, some of them weighing many tons, for many miles. Now Scripture says nothing of any such violent currents; and we have no right to put currents, or any other imagined facts, into Scripture out of our own heads, and then argue from them as if not we, but the text of Scripture had asserted their existence.

But still, they may have been rolled hither by water. That theory certainly would explain their being rounded; though not their being scratched. But it will not explain their being found in the clay.

Recollect what I said in my first paper: that water drops its pebbles and coarser particles first, while it carries the fine clayey mud onward in solution, and only drops it when the water becomes still. Now currents of such tremendous violence as to carry these boulder stones onward, would have carried the mud for many miles farther still; and we should find the boulders, not in clay, but lying loose together, probably on a hard rock bottom, scoured clean by the current. That is what we find in the beds of streams; that is just what we do not find in this case.

But the boulders may have been brought by a current, and then the water may have become still, and the clay settled quietly round them. What? Under them as well as over them? On that theory also we should find them only at the bottom of the clay. As it is, we find them scattered anywhere and everywhere through it, from top to bottom. So that theory will not do. Indeed, no theory will do which supposes them to have been brought by water alone.

Try yourself, dear reader, and make experiments, with running water, pebbles, and mud. If you try for seven years, I believe, you will never contrive to make your pebbles lie about in your mud, as they lie about in every pit in the boulder clay.

Well then, there we are at fault, it seems. We have no explanation drawn from known facts which will do--unless we are to suppose, which I don't think you will do, that stones, clay, and all were blown hither along the surface of the ground, by primeval hurricanes, ten times worse than those of the West Indies, which certainly will roll a cannon a few yards, but cannot, surely, roll a boulder stone a hundred miles.

Now, suppose that there was a force, an agent, known--luckily for you, not to you--but known too well to sailors and travellers; a force which is at work over the vast sheets of land at both the north and south poles; at work, too, on every high mountain range in the world, and therefore a very common natural force; and suppose that this force would explain all the facts, namely--

How the stones got here;

How they were scratched and rounded;

How they were imbedded in clay;

because it is notoriously, and before men's eyes now, carrying great stones hundreds of miles, and scratching and rounding them also; carrying vast deposits of mud, too, and mixing up mud and stones just as we see them in the brick-pits,--Would not our common sense have a right to try that explanation?--to suspect that this force, which we do not see at work in Britain now, may have been at work here ages since? That would at least be reasoning from the known to the unknown. What state of things, then, do we find among the highest mountains; and over whole countries which, though not lofty, lie far enough north or south to be permanently covered with ice?

We find, first, an ice-cap or ice-sheet, fed by the winter's snows, stretching over the higher land, and crawling downward and outward by its own weight, along the valleys, as glaciers.

We find underneath the glaciers, first a moraine profonde, consisting of the boulders and gravel, and earth, which the glacier has ground off the hillsides, and is carrying down with it.

These stones, of course, grind, scratch, and polish each other; and in like wise grind, scratch, and polish the rock over which they pass, under the enormous weight of the superincumbent ice.

We find also, issuing from under each glacier a stream, carrying the finest mud, the result of the grinding of the boulders against each other and the glacier.

We find, moreover, on the surface of the glaciers, moraines superieures--long lines of stones and dirt which had fallen from neighbouring cliffs, and are now travelling downward with the glaciers.

Their fate, if the glacier ends on land, is what was to be expected. The stones from above the glacier fall over the ice-cliff at its end, to mingle with those thrown out from underneath the glacier, and form huge banks of boulders, called terminal moraines, while the mud runs off, as all who have seen glaciers know, in a turbid torrent.

Their fate, again, is what was to be expected if the glacier ends, as it commonly does in Arctic regions, in the sea. The ice grows out to sea-ward for more than a mile sometimes, about one-eighth of it being above water, and seven-eighths below, so that an ice-cliff one hundred feet high may project into water eight hundred feet deep. At last, when it gets out of its depth, the buoyancy of the water breaks it off in icebergs, which float away, at the mercy of tides and currents, often grounding again in shallower water, and ploughing the sea-bottom as they drag along it. These bergs carry stones and dirt, often in large quantities; so that, whenever a berg melts or capsizes, it strews its burden confusedly about the sea-floor.

Meanwhile the fine mud which is flowing out from under the ice goes out to sea likewise, colouring the water far out, and then subsiding as a soft tenacious ooze, in which the stones brought out by the ice are imbedded. And this ooze--so those who have examined it assert-- cannot be distinguished from the brick-clay, or fossiliferous boulder-clay, so common in the North. A very illustrious Scandinavian explorer, visiting Edinburgh, declared, as soon as he saw the sections of boulder-clay exhibited near that city, that this was the very substance which he saw forming in the Spitzbergen ice- fiords. [3]

I have put these facts as simply and baldly as I can, in order that the reader may look steadily at them, without having his attention drawn off, or his fancy excited, by their real poetry and grandeur. Indeed, it would have been an impertinence to have done otherwise; for I have never seen a live glacier, by land or sea, though I have seen many a dead one. And the public has had the opportunity, lately, of reading so many delightful books about "peaks, passes, and glaciers," that I am bound to suppose that many of my readers know as much, or more, about them than I do.

But let us go a step farther; and, bearing in our minds what live glaciers are like, let us imagine what a dead glacier would be like; a glacier, that is, which had melted, and left nothing but its skeleton of stones and dirt.

We should find the faces of the rock scored and polished, generally in lines pointing down the valleys, or at least outward from the centre of the highlands, and polished and scored most in their upland or weather sides. We should find blocks of rock left behind, and perched about on other rocks of a different kind. We should find in the valleys the old moraines left as vast deposits of boulder and shingle, which would be in time sawn through and sorted over by the rivers. And if the sea-bottom outside were upheaved, and became dry land, we should find on it the remains of the mud from under the glacier, stuck full of stones and boulders iceberg-dropped. This mud would be often very irregularly bedded; for it would have been disturbed by the ploughing of the icebergs, and mixed here and there with dirt which had fallen from them. Moreover, as the sea became shallower and the mud-beds got awash one after the other, they would be torn about, re-sifted, and re-shaped by currents and by tides, and mixed with shore-sand ground out of shingle-beach, thus making confusion worse confounded. A few shells, of an Arctic or northern type, would be found in it here and there. Some would have lived near those later beaches, some in deeper water in the ancient ooze, wherever the iceberg had left it in peace long enough for sea-animals to colonise and breed in it. But the general appearance of the dried sea-bottom would be a dreary and lifeless waste of sands, gravels, loose boulders, and boulder-bearing clays; and wherever a boss of bare rock still stood up, it would be found ground down, and probably polished and scored by the ponderous icebergs which had lumbered over it in their passage out to sea.

In a word, it would look exactly as vast tracts of the English, Scotch, and Irish lowlands must have looked before returning vegetation coated their dreary sands and clays with a layer of brown vegetable soil.

Thus, and I believe thus only, can we explain the facts connected with these boulder pebbles. No agent known on earth can have stuck them in the clay, save ice, which is known to do so still elsewhere.

No known agent can have scratched them as they are scratched, save ice, which is known to do so still elsewhere.

No known agent--certainly not, in my opinion, the existing rivers-- can have accumulated the vast beds of boulders which lie along the course of certain northern rivers; notably along the Dee about Aboyne--save ice bearing them slowly down from the distant summits of the Grampians.

No known agent, save ice, can have produced those rounded, and polished, and scored, and fluted rochers moutonnes "sheep-backed rocks"--so common in the Lake district; so common, too, in Snowdon, especially between the two lakes of Llanberis; common in Kerry; to be seen anywhere, as far as I have ascertained, around the Scotch Highlands, where the turf is cleared away from an unweathered surface of the rock, in the direction in which a glacier would have pressed against it had one been there. Where these polishings and scorings are found in narrow glens, it is, no doubt, an open question whether some of them may not be the work of water. But nothing but the action of ice can have produced what I have seen in land-locked and quiet fords in Kerry--ice-flutings in polished rocks below high-water mark, so large that I could lie down in one of them. Nothing but the action of ice could produce what may be seen in any of our mountains- -whole sheets of rock ground down into rounded flats, irrespective of the lie of the beds, not in valleys, but on the brows and summits of mountains, often ending abruptly at the edge of some sudden cliff, where the true work of water, in the shape of rain and frost, is actually destroying the previous work of ice, and fulfilling the rule laid down (I think by Professor Geikie in his delightful book on Scotch scenery as influenced by its geology), that ice planes down into flats, while water saws out into crags and gullies; and that the rain and frost are even now restoring Scotch scenery to something of that ruggedness and picturesqueness which it must have lost when it lay, like Greenland, under the indiscriminating grinding of a heavy sheet of ice.

Lastly; no known agent, save ice, will explain those perched boulders, composed of ancient hard rocks, which may be seen in so many parts of these islands and of the Continent. No water power could have lifted those stones, and tossed them up high and dry on mountain ridges and promontories, upon rocks of a totally different kind. Some of my readers surely recollect Wordsworth's noble lines about these mysterious wanderers, of which he had seen many a one about his native hills:

As a huge stone is sometimes seen to lie Couched on the bald top of an eminence, Wonder to all who do the same espy By what means it could thither come, and whence; So that it seems a thing endued with sense: Like a sea-beast crawled forth, that on a shelf Of rock or sand reposeth, there to sun itself.

Yes; but the next time you see such a stone, believe that the wonder has been solved, and found to be, like most wonders in Nature, more wonderful than we guessed it to be. It is not a sea-beast which has crawled forth, but an ice-beast which has been left behind; lifted up thither by the ice, as surely as the famous Pierre-a-bot, forty feet in diameter, and hundreds of boulders more, almost as large as cottages, have been carried by ice from the distant Alps right across the lake of Neufchatel, and stranded on the slopes of the Jura, nine hundred feet above the lake. [4]

Thus, I think, we have accounted for facts enough to make it probable that Britain was once covered partly by an ice-sheet, as Greenland is now, and partly, perhaps, by an icy sea. But, to make assurance more sure, let us look for new facts, and try whether our ice-dream will account for them also. Let us investigate our case as a good medical man does, by "verifying his first induction."

He says: At the first glance, I can see symptoms a, b, c. It is therefore probable that my patient has got complaint A. But if he has he ought to have symptom d also. If I find that, my guess will be yet more probable. He ought also to have symptom e, and so forth; and as I find successively each of these symptoms which are proper to A, my first guess will become more and more probable, till it reaches practical certainty.

Now let us do the same, and say--If this strange dream be true, and the lowlands of the North were once under an icy sea, ought we not to find sea-shells in their sands and clays? Not abundantly, of course. We can understand that the sea-animals would be too rapidly covered up in mud, and too much disturbed by icebergs and boulders, to be very abundant. But still, some should surely be found here and there.

Doubtless; and if my northern-town readers will search the boulder- clay pits near them, they will most probably find a few shells, if not in the clay itself, yet in sand-beds mixed with them, and probably underlying them. And this is a notable fact, that the more species of shells they find, the more they will find--if they work out their names from any good book of conchology--of a northern type; of shells which notoriously, at this day, inhabit the colder seas.

It is impossible for me here to enter at length on a subject on which a whole literature has been already written. Those who wish to study it may find all that they need know, and more, in Lyell's "Student's Elements of Geology," and in chapter xii. of his "Antiquity of Man." They will find that if the evidence of scientific conchologists be worth anything, the period can be pointed out in the strata, though not of course in time, at which these seas began to grow colder, and southern and Mediterranean shells to disappear, their places being taken by shells of a temperate, and at last of an Arctic climate; which last have since retreated either toward their native North, or into cold water at great depths. From Essex across to Wales, from Wales to the aestuary of the Clyde, this fact has been verified again and again. And in the search for these shells, a fresh fact, and a most startling one, was discovered. They are to be found not only in the clay of the lowlands, but at considerable heights up the hills, showing that, at some time or other, these hills have been submerged beneath the sea.

Let me give one example, which any tourist into Wales may see for himself. Moel Tryfaen is a mountain over Carnarvon. Now perched on the side of that mountain, fourteen hundred feet above the present sea-level, is an ancient sea-beach, five-and-thirty feet thick, lying on great ice-scratched boulders, which again lie on the mountain slates. It was discovered by the late Mr. Trimmer, now, alas! lost to Geology. Out of that beach fifty-seven different species of shells have been taken; eleven of them are now exclusively Arctic, and not found in our seas; four of them are still common to the Arctic seas and to our own; and almost all the rest are northern shells.

Fourteen hundred feet above the present sea: and that, it must be understood, is not the greatest height at which such shells may be found hereafter. For, according to Professor Ramsay, drift of the same kind as that on Moel Tryfaen is found at a height of two thousand three hundred feet.

Now I ask my readers to use their common sense over this astounding fact--which, after all, is only one among hundreds; to let (as Mr. Matthew Arnold would well say) their "thought play freely" about it; and consider for themselves what those shells must mean. I say not may, but must, unless we are to believe in a "Deus quidam deceptor," in a God who puts shells upon mountain-sides only to befool honest human beings, and gives men intellects which are worthless for even the simplest work. Those shells must mean that that mountain, and therefore the mountains round it, must have been once fourteen hundred feet at least lower than they are now. That the sea in which they were sunk was far colder than now. That icebergs brought and dropped boulders round their flanks. That upon those boulders a sea- beach formed, and that dead shells were beaten into it from a sea- bottom close by. That, and no less, Moel Tryfaen must mean.

But it must mean, also, a length of time which has been well called "appalling." A length of time sufficient to let the mountain sink into the sea. Then length of time enough to enable those Arctic shells to crawl down from the northward, settle, and propagate themselves generation after generation; then length of time enough to uplift their dead remains, and the beach, and the boulders, and all Snowdonia, fourteen hundred feet into the air. And if anyone should object that the last upheaval may have been effected suddenly by a few tremendous earthquakes, we must answer--We have no proof of it. Earthquakes upheave lands now only by slight and intermittent upward pulses; nay, some lands we know to rise without any earthquake pulses, but by simple, slow, upward swelling of a few feet in a century; and we have no reason, and therefore no right, to suppose that Snowdonia was upheaved by any means or at any rate which we do not witness now; and therefore we are bound to allow, not only that there was a past "age of ice," but that that age was one of altogether enormous duration.

But meanwhile some of you, I presume, will be ready to cry--Stop! It may be our own weakness; but you are really going on too fast and too far for our small imaginations. Have you not played with us, as well as argued with us, till you have inveigled us step by step into a conclusion which we cannot and will not believe? That all this land should have been sunk beneath an icy sea? That Britain should have been as Greenland is now? We can't believe it, and we won't.

If you say so, like stout common-sense Britons, who have a wholesome dread of being taken in with fine words and wild speculations, I assure you I shall not laugh at you even in private. On the contrary, I shall say--what I am sure every scientific man will say-- So much the better. That is the sort of audience which we want, if we are teaching natural science. We do not want haste, enthusiasm, gobe-moucherie, as the French call it, which is agape to snap up any new and vast fancy, just because it is new and vast. We want our readers to be slow, suspicious, conservative, ready to "gib," as we say of a horse, and refuse the collar up a steep place, saying--I must stop and think. I don't like the look of the path ahead of me. It seems an ugly place to get up. I don't know this road, and I shall not hurry over it. I must go back a few steps, and make sure. I must see whether it is the right road; whether there are not other roads, a dozen of them perhaps, which would do as well and better than this.

This is the temper which finds out truth, slowly, but once and for all; and I shall be glad, not sorry, to see it in my readers.

And I am bound to say that it has been by that temper that this theory has been worked out, and the existence of this past age of ice, or glacial epoch, has been discovered, through many mistakes, many corrections, and many changes of opinion about details, for nearly forty years of hard work, by many men, in many lands.

As a very humble student of this subject, I may say that I have been looking these facts in the face earnestly enough for more than twenty years, and that I am about as certain that they can only be explained by ice, as I am that my having got home by rail can only be explained by steam.

But I think I know what startles you. It is the being asked to believe in such an enormous change in climate, and in the height of the land above the sea. Well--it is very astonishing, appalling--all but incredible, if we had not the facts to prove it. But of the facts there can be no doubt. There can be no doubt that the climate of this northern hemisphere has changed enormously more than once. There can be no doubt that the distribution of land and water, the shape and size of its continents and seas, have changed again and again. There can be no doubt that, for instance, long before the age of ice, the whole North of Europe was much warmer than it is now.

Take Greenland, for instance. Disco Island lies in Baffin's Bay, off the west coast of Greenland, in latitude 70 degrees, far within the Arctic circle. Now there certain strata of rock, older than the ice, have not been destroyed by the grinding of the ice-cap; and they are full of fossil plants. But of what kind of plants? Of the same families as now grow in the warmer parts of the United States. Even a tulip-tree has been found among them. Now how is this to be explained?

Either we must say that the climate of Greenland was then so much warmer than now, that it had summers probably as hot as those of New York; or we must say that these leaves and stems were floated thither from the United States. But if we say the latter, we must allow a change in the shape of the land which is enormous. For nothing now can float northward from the United States into Baffin's Bay. The polar current sets OUT of Baffin's Bay southward, bringing icebergs down, not leaves up, through Davis's Straits. And in any case we must allow that the hills of Disco Island were then the bottom of a sea: or how would the leaves have been deposited in them at all?

So much for the change of climate and land which can be proved to have gone on in Greenland. It has become colder. Why should it not some day become warmer again?

Now for England. It can be proved, as far as common sense can prove anything, that England was, before the age of ice, much warmer than it is now, and grew gradually cooler and cooler, just as, while the age of ice was dying out, it grew warmer again.

Now what proof is there of that?

This. Underneath London--as, I dare say, many of you know--there lies four or five hundred feet of clay. But not ice-clay. Anything but that, as you will see. It belongs to a formation late (geologically speaking), but somewhat older than those Disco Island beds.

And what sort of fossils do we find in it?

In the first place, the shells, which are abundant, are tropical-- Nautili, Cones, and such like. And more, fruits and seeds are found in it, especially at the Isle of Sheppey. And what are they? Fruits of Nipa palms, a form only found now at river-mouths in Eastern India and the Indian islands; Anona-seeds; gourd-seeds; Acacia fruits--all tropical again; and Proteaceous plants too--of an Australian type. Surely your common sense would hint to you, that this London clay must be mud laid down off the mouth of a tropical river. But your common sense would be all but certain of that, when you found, as you would find, the teeth and bones of crocodiles and turtles, who come to land, remember, to lay their eggs; the bones, too, of large mammals, allied to the tapir of India and South America, and the water-hog of the Cape. If all this does not mean that there was once a tropic climate and a tropic river running into some sea or other where London now stands, I must give up common sense and reason as deceitful and useless faculties; and believe nothing, not even the evidence of my own senses.

And now, have I, or have I not, fulfilled the promise which I made-- rashly, I dare say some of you thought--in my first paper? Have I, or have I not, made you prove to yourself, by your own common sense, that the lowlands of Britain were underneath the sea in the days in which these pebbles and boulders were laid down over your plains? Nay, have we not proved more? Have we not found that that old sea was an icy sea? Have we not wandered on, step by step, into a whole true fairyland of wonders? to a time when all England, Scotland, and Ireland were as Greenland is now? when mud streams have rushed down from under glaciers on to a cold sea-bottom, when "ice, mast high, came floating by, as green as emerald?" when Snowdon was sunk for at least fourteen hundred feet of its height? when (as I could prove to you, had I time) the peaks of the highest Cumberland and Scotch mountains alone stood out, as islets in a frozen sea?

We want to get an answer to one strange question, and we have found a group of questions stranger still, and got them answered too. But so it is always in science. We know not what we shall discover. But this, at least, we know, that it will be far more wonderful than we had dreamed. The scientific explorer is always like Saul of old, who set out simply to find his father's asses, and found them--and a kingdom besides.

I should have liked to have told you more about this bygone age of ice. I should have liked to say something to you on the curious question--which is still an open one--whether there were not two ages of ice; whether the climate here did not, after perhaps thousands of years of Arctic cold, soften somewhat for a while--a few thousand years, perhaps--and then harden again into a second age of ice, somewhat less severe, probably, than the first. I should have liked to have hinted at the probable causes of this change--indeed, of the age of ice altogether--whether it was caused by a change in the distribution of land and water, or by change in the height and size of these islands, which made them large enough, and high enough, to carry a sheet of eternal snow inland; or whether, finally, the age of ice was caused by an actual change in the position of the whole planet with regard to its orbit round the sun--shifting at once the poles and the tropics; a deep question that latter, on which astronomers, whose business it is, are still at work, and on which, ere young folk are old, they will have discovered, I expect, some startling facts. On that last question, I, being no astronomer, cannot speak. But I should have liked to have said somewhat on matters on which I have knowledge enough, at least, to teach you how much there is to be learnt. I should have liked to tell the student of sea-animals--how the ice-age helps to explain, and is again explained by, the remarkable discoveries which Dr. Carpenter and Mr. Wyville Thompson have just made, in the deep-sea dredgings in the North Atlantic. I should have liked to tell the botanist somewhat of the pro-glacial flora--the plants which lived here before the ice, and lasted, some of them at least, through all those ages of fearful cold, and linger still on the summits of Snowdon, and the highest peaks of Cumberland and Scotland. I should have liked to have told the lovers of zoology about the animals which lived before the ice-- of the mammoth, or woolly elephant; the woolly rhinoceros, the cave lion and bear, the reindeer, the musk oxen, the lemmings and the marmots which inhabited Britain till the ice drove them out southward, even into the South of France; and how as the ice retreated, and the climate became tolerable once more, some of them-- the mammoth and rhinoceros, the bison, the lion, and many another mighty beast reoccupied our lowlands, at a time when the hippopotamus, at least in summer, ranged freely from Africa and Spain across what was then dry land between France and England, and fed by the side of animals which have long since retreated to Norway and to Canada. I should have liked to tell the archaeologist of the human beings--probably from their weapons and their habits--of the same race as the present Laplanders, who passed northward as the ice went back, following the wild reindeer herds from the South of France into our islands, which were no islands then, to be in their turn driven northward by stronger races from the east and south. But space presses, and I fear that I have written too much already.

At least, I have turned over for you a few grand and strange pages in the book of nature, and taught you, I hope, a key by which to decipher their hieroglyphics. At least, I have, I trust, taught you to look, as I do, with something of interest, even of awe, upon the pebbles in the street.


[3] See a most charming paper on "The Physics of Arctic Ice," by Dr. Robert Brown of Campster, published in the Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society, June, 1870. This article is so remarkable, not only for its sound scientific matter, but for the vividness and poetic beauty of its descriptions, that I must express a hope that the learned author will some day enlarge it, and publish it in a separate form.

[4] See Lyell, "Antiquity of Man," p. 294 et seq.


Charles Kingsley

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