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Chapter 6




The principles, on which this map was coloured, are explained in the beginning of Chapter VI.; and the authorities for each particular spot are detailed in the Appendix to "Coral Reefs." The names not printed in upper case in the Index refer to the Appendix.)

Description of the coloured map.--Proximity of atolls and barrier-reefs.--Relation in form and position of atolls with ordinary islands.--Direct evidence of subsidence difficult to be detected.--Proofs of recent elevation where fringing-reefs occur.--Oscillations of level.--Absence of active volcanoes in the areas of subsidence.--Immensity of the areas which have been elevated and have subsided.--Their relation to the present distribution of the land.--Areas of subsidence elongated, their intersection and alternation with those of elevation.--Amount and slow rate of the subsidence.--Recapitulation.

It will be convenient to give here a short account of the appended map (Plate III.) [Inasmuch as the coloured map would have proved too costly to be given in this series, the indications of colour have been replaced by numbers referring to the dotted groups of reefs, etc. The author's original wording, however, is retained in full, as it will be easy to refer to the map by the numbers, and thus the flow of the narrative is undisturbed.]: a fuller one, with the data for colouring each spot, is reserved for the Appendix; and every place there referred to may be found in the Index. A larger chart would have been desirable; but, small as the adjoined one is, it is the result of many months' labour. I have consulted, as far as I was able, every original voyage and map; and the colours were first laid down on charts on a larger scale. The same blue colour, with merely a difference in the depth of tint, is used for atolls or lagoon-islands, and barrier-reefs, for we have seen, that as far as the actual coral-formation is concerned, they have no distinguishing character. Fringing-reefs have been coloured red, for between them on the one hand, and barrier-reefs and atolls on the other, there is an important distinction with respect to the depth beneath the surface, at which we are compelled to believe their foundations lie. The two distinct colours, therefore, mark two great types of structure.

The DARK BLUE COLOUR [represented by (3) in our plate] represents atolls and submerged annular reefs, with deep water in their centres. I have coloured as atolls, a few low and small coral-islands, without lagoons; but this has been done only when it clearly appeared that they originally contained lagoons, since filled up with sediment: when there were not good grounds for this belief, they have been left uncoloured.

The PALE BLUE COLOUR [represented by (2)] represents barrier-reefs. The most obvious character of reefs of this class is the broad and deep-water moat within the reef: but this, like the lagoons of small atolls, is liable to become filled up with detritus and with reefs of delicately branched corals: when, therefore, a reef round the entire circumference of an island extends very far into a profoundly deep sea, so that it can hardly be confounded with a fringing-reef which must rest on a foundation of rock within a small depth, it has been coloured pale blue, although it does not include a deep-water moat: but this has only been done rarely, and each case is distinctly mentioned in the Appendix.

The RED COLOUR (4) represents reefs fringing the land quite closely where the sea is deep, and where the bottom is gently inclined extending to a moderate distance from it, but not having a deep-water moat or lagoon-like space parallel to the shore. It must be remembered that fringing-reefs are frequently BREACHED in front of rivers and valleys by deepish channels, where mud has been deposited. A space of thirty miles in width has been coloured round or in front of the reefs of each class, in order that the colours might be conspicuous on the appended map, which is reduced to so small a scale.

The VERMILLION SPOTS, and streaks (1) represent volcanoes now in action, or historically known to have been so. They are chiefly laid down from Von Buch's work on the Canary Islands; and my reasons for making a few alterations are given in the note below.

(I have also made considerable use of the geological part of Berghaus' "Physical Atlas." Beginning at the eastern side of the Pacific, I have added to the number of the volcanoes in the southern part of the Cordillera, and have coloured Juan Fernandez according to observations collected during the voyage of the "Beagle" ("Geological Transactions," volume v., page 601.) I have added a volcano to Albemarle Island, one of the Galapagos Archipelago (the author's "Journal of Researches," page 457). In the Sandwich group there are no active volcanoes, except at Hawaii; but the Rev. W. Ellis informs me, there are streams of lava apparently modern on Maui, having a very recent appearance, which can be traced to the craters whence they flowed. The same gentleman informs me, that there is no reason to believe that any active volcano exists in the Society Archipelago; nor are there any known in the Samoa or Navigator group, although some of the streams of lava and craters there appear recent. In the Friendly group, the Rev. J. Williams says ("Narrative of Missionary Enterprise," page 29) that Toofoa and Proby Islands are active volcanoes. I infer from Hamilton's "Voyage in the 'Pandora'" (Page 95), that Proby Island is synonymous with Onouafou, but I have not ventured to colour it. There can be no doubt respecting Toofoa, and Captain Edwards (Von Buch, page 386) found the lava of recent eruption at Amargura still smoking. Berghaus marks four active volcanoes actually within the Friendly group; but I do not know on what authority: I may mention that Maurelle describes Latte as having a burnt-up appearance: I have marked only Toofoa and Amargura. South of the New Hebrides lies Matthews Rock, which is drawn and described as an active crater in the "Voyage of the 'Astrolabe'." Between it and the volcano on the eastern side of New Zealand, lies Brimstone Island, which from the high temperature of the water in the crater, may be ranked as active (Berghaus "Vorbemerk," II Lief. S. 56). Malte Brun, volume xii., page 231, says that there is a volcano near port St. Vincent in New Caledonia. I believe this to be an error, arising from a smoke seen on the OPPOSITE coast by Cook ("Second Voyage," volume ii., page 23) which smoke went out at night. The Mariana Islands, especially the northern ones, contain many craters (see Freycinet's "Hydrog. Descript.") which are not active. Von Buch, however, states (page 462) on the authority of La Peyrouse, that there are no less than seven volcanoes between these islands and Japan. Gemelli Creri (Churchill's "Collect." volume iv., page 458), says there are two active volcanoes in latitude 23 deg 30', and in latitude 24 deg: but I have not coloured them. From the statements in Beechey's "Voyage" (page 518, 4to edition) I have coloured one in the northern part of the Bonin group. M. S. Julien has clearly made out from Chinese manuscripts not very ancient ("Comptes Rendus," 1840, page 832), that there are two active volcanoes on the eastern side of Formosa. In Torres Straits, on Cap Island (9 deg 48' S., 142 deg 39' E.) a volcano was seen burning with great violence in 1793 by Captain Bampton (see Introduction to Flinders' "Voyage," page 41). Mr. M'Clelland (Report of Committee for investigating Coal in India, page 39) has shown that the volcanic band passing through Barren Island must be extended northwards. It appears by an old chart, that Cheduba was once an active volcano (see also "Silliman's North American Journal", volume xxxviii., page 385). In Berghaus' "Physical Atlas," 1840, No. 7 of Geological Part, a volcano on the coast of Pondicherry is said to have burst forth in 1757. Ordinaire ("Hist. Nat. des Volcans," page 218) says that there is one at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, but I have not coloured it, as he gives no particulars. A volcano in Amsterdam, or St. Paul's, in the southern part of the Indian Ocean, has been seen ("Naut. Mag." 1838, page 842) in action. Dr. J. Allan, of Forres, informs me in a letter, that when he was at Joanna, he saw at night flames apparently volcanic, issuing from the chief Comoro Island, and that the Arabs assured him that they were volcanic, adding that the volcano burned more during the wet season. I have marked this as a volcano, though with some hesitation, on account of the possibility of the flame arising from gaseous sources.)

The uncoloured coasts consist, first and chiefly, of those, where there are no coral-reefs, or such small portions as to be quite insignificant. Secondly, of those coasts where there are reefs, but where the sea is very shallow, for in this case the reefs generally lie far from the land, and become very irregular, in their forms: where they have not become irregular, they have been coloured. thirdly, if I had the means of ascertaining the fact, I should not colour a reef merely coating the edges of a submarine crater, or of a level submerged bank; for such superficial formations differ essentially, even when not in external appearance, from reefs whose foundations as well as superficies have been wholly formed by the growth of coral. Fourthly, in the Red Sea, and within some parts of the East Indian Archipelago (if the imperfect charts of the latter can be trusted), there are many scattered reefs, of small size, represented in the chart by mere dots, which rise out of deep water: these cannot be arranged under either of the three classes: in the Red Sea, however, some of these little reefs, from their position, seem once to have formed parts of a continuous barrier. There exist, also, scattered in the open ocean, some linear and irregularly formed strips of coral-reef, which, as shown in the last chapter, are probably allied in their origin to atolls; but as they do not belong to that class, they have not been coloured; they are very few in number and of insignificant dimensions. Lastly, some reefs are left uncoloured from the want of information respecting them, and some because they are of an intermediate structure between the barrier and fringing classes. The value of the map is lessened, in proportion to the number of reefs which I have been obliged to leave uncoloured, although, in a theoretical point of view, few of them present any great difficulty: but their number is not very great, as will be found by comparing the map with the statements in the Appendix. I have experienced more difficulty in colouring fringing-reefs than in colouring barrier-reefs, as the former, from their much less dimensions, have less attracted the attention of navigators. As I have had to seek my information from all kinds of sources, and often from indirect ones, I do not venture to hope that the map is free from many errors. Nevertheless, I trust it will give an approximately correct view of the general distribution of the coral-reefs over the whole world (with the exception of some fringing-reefs on the coast of Brazil, not included within the limits of the map), and of their arrangement into the three great classes, which, though necessarily very imperfect from the nature of the objects classified, have been adopted by most voyagers. I may further remark, that the dark blue colour represents land entirely composed of coral-rock; the pale blue, land with a wide and thick border of coral-rock; and the red, a mere narrow fringe of coral-rock.

Looking now at the map under the theoretical point of view indicated in the last chapter, the two blue tints signify that the foundations of the reefs thus coloured have subsided to a considerable amount, at a slower rate than that of the upward growth of the corals, and that probably in many cases they are still subsiding. The red signifies that the shores which support fringing-reefs have not subsided (at least to any considerable amount, for the effects of a subsidence on a small scale would in no case be distinguishable); but that they have remained nearly stationary since the period when they first became fringed by reefs; or that they are now rising or have been upraised, with new lines of reefs successively formed on them: these latter alternatives are obviously implied, as newly formed lines of shore, after elevations of the land, would be in the same state with respect to the growth of fringing-reefs, as stationary coasts. If during the prolonged subsidence of a shore, coral-reefs grew for the first time on it, or if an old barrier-reef were destroyed and submerged, and new reefs became attached to the land, these would necessarily at first belong to the fringing class, and, therefore, be coloured red, although the coast was sinking: but I have no reason to believe, that from this source of error, any coast has been coloured wrongly with respect to movement indicated. Well characterised atolls and encircling barrier-reefs, where several occur in a group, or a single barrier-reef if of large dimensions, leave scarcely any doubt on the mind respecting the movement by which they have been produced; and even a small amount of subsequent elevation is soon betrayed. The evidence from a single atoll or a single encircling barrier-reef, must be received with some caution, for the former may possibly be based upon a submerged crater or bank, and the latter on a submerged margin of sediment, or of worn-down rock. From these remarks we may with greater certainty infer that the spaces, especially the larger ones, tinted blue in the map, have subsided, than that the red spaces have remained stationary, or have been upraised.


Having made these preliminary remarks, I will consider first how far the grouping of the different kinds of coral-islands and reefs is corroborative of the truth of the theory. A glance at the map shows that the reefs, coloured blue and red, produced under widely different conditions, are not indiscriminately mixed together. Atolls and barrier-reefs, on the other hand, as may be seen by the two blue tints, generally lie near each other; and this would be the natural result of both having been produced during the subsidence of the areas in which they stand. Thus, the largest group of encircled islands is that of the Society Archipelago; and these islands are surrounded by atolls, and only separated by a narrow space from the large group of Low atolls. In the midst of the Caroline atolls, there are three fine encircled islands. The northern point of the barrier-reef of New Caledonia seems itself, as before remarked, to form a complete large atoll. The great Australian barrier is described as including both atolls and small encircled islands. Captain King (Sailing directions, appended to volume ii. of his "Surveying Voyage to Australia.") mentions many atoll-formed and encircling coral-reefs, some of which lie within the barrier, and others may be said (for instance between latitude 16 deg and 13 deg) to form part of it. Flinders ("Voyage to Terra Australis," volume ii. page 336.) has described an atoll-formed reef in latitude 10 deg, seven miles long and from one to three broad, resembling a boot in shape, with apparently very deep water within. Eight miles westward of this, and forming part of the barrier, lie the Murray Islands, which are high and are encircled. In the Corallian Sea, between the two great barriers of Australia and New Caledonia, there are many low islets and coral-reefs, some of which are annular, or horse-shoe shaped. Observing the smallness of the scale of the map, the parallels of latitude being nine hundred miles apart, we see that none of the large groups of reefs and islands supposed to have been produced by long-continued subsidence, lie near extensive lines of coast coloured red, which are supposed to have remained stationary since the growth of their reefs, or to have been upraised and new lines of reefs formed on them. Where the red and blue circles do occur near each other, I am able, in several instances, to show that there have been oscillations of level, subsidence having preceded the elevation of the red spots; and elevation having preceded the subsidence of the blue spots: and in this case the juxtaposition of reefs belonging to the two great types of structure is little surprising. We may, therefore, conclude that the proximity in the same areas of the two classes of reefs, which owe their origin to the subsidence of the earth's crust, and their separation from those formed during its stationary or uprising condition, holds good to the full extent, which might have been anticipated by our theory.

As groups of atolls have originated in the upward growth, at each fresh sinking of the land, of those reefs which primarily fringed the shores of one great island, or of several smaller ones; so we might expect that these rings of coral-rock, like so many rude outline charts, will still retain some traces of the general form, or at least general range, of the land, round which they were first modelled. That this is the case with the atolls in the Southern Pacific as far as their range is concerned, seems highly probable, when we observe that the three principal groups are directed in north-west and south-east lines, and that nearly all the land in the S. Pacific ranges in this same direction; namely, N. Western Australia, New Caledonia, the northern half of New Zealand, the New Hebrides, Saloman, Navigator, Society, Marquesas, and Austral archipelagoes: in the Northern Pacific, the Caroline atolls abut against the north-west line of the Marshall atolls, much in the same manner as the east and west line of islands from Ceram to New Britain do on New Ireland: in the Indian Ocean the Laccadive and Maldiva atolls extend nearly parallel to the western and mountainous coast of India. In most respects, there is a perfect resemblance with ordinary islands in the grouping of atolls and in their form: thus the outline of all the larger groups is elongated; and the greater number of the individual atolls are elongated in the same direction with the group, in which they stand. The Chagos group is less elongated than is usual with other groups, and the individual atolls in it are likewise but little elongated; this is strikingly seen by comparing them with the neighbouring Maldiva atolls. In the Marshall and Maldiva archipelagoes, the atolls are ranged in two parallel lines, like the mountains in a great double mountain-chain. Some of the atolls, in the larger archipelagoes, stand so near to each other, and have such an evident relationship in form, that they compose little sub-groups: in the Caroline Archipelago, one such sub-group consists of Pouynipete, a lofty island encircled by a barrier-reef, and separated by a channel only four miles and a half wide from Andeema atoll, with a second atoll a little further off. In all these respects an examination of a series of charts will show how perfectly groups of atolls resemble groups of common islands.


With respect to subsidence, I have shown in the last chapter, that we cannot expect to obtain in countries inhabited only by semi-civilised races, demonstrative proofs of a movement, which invariably tends to conceal its own evidence. But on the coral-islands supposed to have been produced by subsidence, we have proofs of changes in their external appearance--of a round of decay and renovation--of the last vestiges of land on some--of its first commencement on others: we hear of storms desolating them to the astonishment of their inhabitants: we know by the great fissures with which some of them are traversed, and by the earthquakes felt under others, that subterranean disturbances of some kind are in progress. These facts, if not directly connected with subsidence, as I believe they are, at least show how difficult it would be to discover proofs of such movement by ordinary means. At Keeling atoll, however, I have described some appearances, which seem directly to show that subsidence did take place there during the late earthquakes. Vanikoro, according to Chevalier Dillon (See Captain Dillon's "Voyage in search of La Peyrouse." M. Cordier in his "Report on the Voyage of the 'Astrolabe'" (page cxi., volume i.), speaking of Vanikoro, says the shores are surrounded by reefs of madrepore, "qu'on assure etre de formation tout-a-fait moderne." I have in vain endeavoured to learn some further particulars about this remarkable passage. I may here add, that according to our theory, the island of Pouynipete (Plate I., Figure 7), in the Caroline Archipelago, being encircled by a barrier-reef, must have subsided. In the "New S. Wales Lit. Advert." February 1835 (which I have seen through the favour of Dr. Lloghtsky), there is an account of this island (subsequently confirmed by Mr. Campbell), in which it is said, "At the N.E. end, at a place called Tamen, there are ruins of a town, NOW ONLY accessible by boats, the waves REACHING TO THE STEPS OF The HOUSES." Judging from this passage, one would be tempted to conclude that the island must have subsided, since these houses were built. I may, also, here append a statement in Malte Brun (volume ix., page 775, given without any authority), that the sea gains in an extraordinary manner on the coast of Cochin China, which lies in front and near the subsiding coral-reefs in the China Sea: as the coast is granitic, and not alluvial, it is scarcely possible that the encroachment of the sea can be owing to the washing away of the land; and if so, it must be due to subsidence.), is often violently shaken by earthquakes, and there, the unusual depth of the channel between the shore and the reef,--the almost entire absence of islets on the reef,-- its wall-like structure on the inner side, and the small quantity of low alluvial land at the foot of the mountains, all seem to show that this island has not remained long at its present level, with the lagoon-channel subjected to the accumulation of sediment, and the reef to the wear and tear of the breakers. At the Society Archipelago, on the other hand, where a slight tremor is only rarely felt, the shoaliness of the lagoon-channels round some of the islands, the number of islets formed on the reefs of others, and the broad belt of low land at the foot of the mountains, indicate that, although there must have been great subsidence to have produced the barrier-reefs, there has since elapsed a long stationary period.

(Mr. Couthouy states ("Remarks," page 44) that at Tahiti and Eimeo the space between the reef and the shore has been nearly filled up by the extension of those coral-reefs, which within most barrier-reefs merely fringe the land. From this circumstance, he arrives at the same conclusion as I have done, that the Society Islands since their subsidence, have remained stationary during a long period; but he further believes that they have recently commenced rising, as well as the whole area of the Low Archipelago. He does not give any detailed proofs regarding the elevation of the Society Islands, but I shall refer to this subject in another part of this chapter. Before making some further comments, I may observe how satisfactory it is to me, to find Mr. Couthouy affirming, that "having personally examined a large number of coral-islands, and also residing eight months among the volcanic class, having shore and partially encircling reefs, I may be permitted to state that my own observations have impressed a conviction of the correctness of the theory of Mr. Darwin."

This gentleman believes, that subsequently to the subsidence by which the atolls in the Low Archipelago were produced, the whole area has been elevated to the amount of a few feet; this would indeed be a remarkable fact; but as far as I am able to judge, the grounds of his conclusion are not sufficiently strong. He states that he found in almost every atoll which he visited, the shores of the lagoon raised from eighteen to thirty inches above the sea-level, and containing imbedded Tridacnae and corals standing as they grew; some of the corals were dead in their upper parts, but below a certain line they continued to flourish. In the lagoons, also, he frequently met with clusters of Madrepore, with their extremities standing from one inch to a foot above the surface of the water. Now, these appearances are exactly what I should have expected, without any subsequent elevation having taken place; and I think Mr. Couthouy has not borne in mind the indisputable fact, that corals, when constantly bathed by the surf, can exist at a higher level than in quite tranquil water, as in a lagoon. As long, therefore, as the waves continued at low water to break entirely over parts of the annular reef of an atoll, submerged to a small depth, the corals and shells attached on these parts might continue living at a level above the smooth surface of the lagoon, into which the waves rolled; but as soon as the outer edge of the reef grew up to its utmost possible height, or if the reef were very broad nearly to that height, the force of the breakers would be checked, and the corals and shells on the inner parts near the lagoon would occasionally be left dry, and thus be partially or wholly destroyed. Even in atolls, which have not lately subsided, if the outer margin of the reef continued to increase in breadth seaward (each fresh zone of corals rising to the same vertical height as at Keeling atoll), the line where the waves broke most heavily would advance outwards, and therefore the corals, which when living near the margin, were washed by the breaking waves during the whole of each tide, would cease being so, and would therefore be left on the backward part of the reef standing exposed and dead. The case of the madrepores in the lagoons with the tops of their branches exposed, seems to be an analogous fact, to the great fields of dead but upright corals in the lagoon of Keeling atoll; a condition of things which I have endeavoured to show, has resulted from the lagoon having become more and more enclosed and choked up with reefs, so that during high winds, the rising of the tide (as observed by the inhabitants) is checked, and the corals, which had formerly grown to the greatest possible height, are occasionally exposed, and thus are killed: and this is a condition of things, towards which almost every atoll in the intervals of its subsidence must be tending. Or if we look to the state of an atoll directly after a subsidence of some fathoms, the waves would roll heavily over the entire circumference of the reef, and the surface of the lagoon would, like the ocean, never be quite at rest, and therefore the corals in the lagoon, from being constantly laved by the rippling water, might extend their branches to a little greater height than they could, when the lagoon became enclosed and protected. Christmas atoll (2 deg N. latitude) which has a very shallow lagoon, and differs in several respects from most atolls, possibly may have been elevated recently; but its highest part appears (Couthouy, page 46) to be only ten feet above the sea-level. The facts of a second class, adduced by Mr. Couthouy, in support of the alleged recent elevation of the Low Archipelago, are not all (especially those referring to a shelf of rock) quite intelligible to me; he believes that certain enormous fragments of rock on the reef, must have been moved into their present position, when the reef was at a lower level; but here again the force of the breakers on any inner point of the reef being diminished by its outward growth without any change in its level, has not, I think, been borne in mind. We should, also, not overlook the occasional agency of waves caused by earthquakes and hurricanes. Mr. Couthouy further argues, that since these great fragments were deposited and fixed on the reef, they have been elevated; he infers this from the greatest amount of erosion not being near their bases, where they are unceasingly washed by the reflux of the tides, but at some height on their sides, near the line of high-water mark, as shown in an accompanying diagram. My former remark again applies here, with this further observation, that as the waves have to roll over a wide space of reef before they reach the fragments, their force must be greatly increased with the increasing depth of water as the tide rises, and therefore I should have expected that the chief line of present erosion would have coincided with the line of high-water mark; and if the reef had grown outwards, that there would have been lines of erosion at greater heights. The conclusion, to which I am finally led by the interesting observations of Mr. Couthouy is, that the atolls in the Low Archipelago have, like the Society Islands, remained at a stationary level for a long period: and this probably is the ordinary course of events, subsidence supervening after long intervals of rest.)

Turning now to the red colour; as on our map, the areas which have sunk slowly downwards to great depths are many and large, we might naturally have been led to conjecture, that with such great changes of level in progress, the coasts which have been fringed probably for ages (for we have no reason to believe that coral-reefs are of short duration), would not have remained all this time stationary, but would frequently have undergone movements of elevation. This supposition, we shall immediately see, holds good to a remarkable extent; and although a stationary condition of the land can hardly ever be open to proof, from the evidence being only negative, we are, in some degree, enabled to ascertain the correctness of the parts coloured red on the map, by the direct testimony of upraised organic remains of a modern date. Before going into the details on this head (printed in small type), I may mention, that when reading a memoir on coral formations by MM. Quoy and Gaimard ("Annales des Sciences Nat." tom. vi., page 279, etc.) I was astonished to find, for I knew that they had crossed both the Pacific and Indian Oceans, that their descriptions were applicable only to reefs of the fringing class; but my astonishment ended satisfactorily, when I discovered that, by a strange chance, all the islands which these eminent naturalists had visited, though several in number, namely, the Mauritius, Timor, New Guinea, the Mariana, and Sandwich Archipelagoes, could be shown by their own statements to have been elevated within a recent geological era.

In the eastern half of the Pacific, the SANDWICH Islands are all fringed, and almost every naturalist who has visited them, has remarked on the abundance of elevated corals and shells, apparently identical with living species. The Rev. W. Ellis informs me, that he has noticed round several parts of Hawaii, beds of coral-detritus, about twenty feet above the level of the sea, and where the coast is low they extend far inland. Upraised coral-rock forms a considerable part of the borders of Oahu; and at Elizabeth Island ("Zoology of Captain Beechey's Voyage," page 176. See also MM. Quoy and Gaimard in "Annales de Scien. Nat." tom. vi.) it composes three strata, each about ten feet thick. Nihau, which forms the northern, as Hawaii does the southern end of the group (350 miles in length), likewise seems to consist of coral and volcanic rocks. Mr. Couthouy ("Remarks on Coral Formations," page 51.) has lately described with interesting details, several upraised beaches, ancient reefs with their surfaces perfectly preserved, and beds of recent shells and corals, at the islands of Maui, Morokai, Oahu, and Tauai (or Kauai) in this group. Mr. Pierce, an intelligent resident at Oahu, is convinced, from changes which have taken place within his memory, during the last sixteen years, "that the elevation is at present going forward at a very perceptible rate." The natives at Kauai state that the land is there gaining rapidly on the sea, and Mr. Couthouy has no doubt, from the nature of the strata, that this has been effected by an elevation of the land.

In the southern part of the Low Archipelago, Elizabeth Island is described by Captain Beechey (Beechey's "Voyage in the Pacific," page 46, 4to edition.), as being quite flat, and about eighty feet in height; it is entirely composed of dead corals, forming a honeycombed, but compact rock. In cases like this, of an island having exactly the appearance, which the elevation of any one of the smaller surrounding atolls with a shallow lagoon would present, one is led to conclude (with little better reason, however, than the improbability of such small and low fabrics lasting, for an immense period, exposed to the many destroying agents of nature), that the elevation has taken place at an epoch not geologically remote. When merely the surface of an island of ordinary formation is strewed with marine bodies, and that continuously, or nearly so, from the beach to a certain height, and not above that height, it is exceedingly improbable that such organic remains, although they may not have been specially examined, should belong to any ancient period. It is necessary to bear these remarks in mind, in considering the evidence of the elevatory movements in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, as it does not often rest on specific determinations, and therefore should be received with caution. Six of the COOK AND AUSTRAL Islands (S.W. of the Society group), are fringed; of these, five were described to me by the Rev. J. Williams, as formed of coral-rock, associated with some basalt in Mangaia), and the sixth as lofty and basaltic. Mangaia is nearly three hundred feet high, with a level summit; and according to Mr. S. Wilson (Couthouy's "Remarks," page 34.) it is an upraised reef; "and there are in the central hollow, formerly the bed of the lagoon, many scattered patches of coral-rock, some of them raised to a height of forty feet." These knolls of coral-rock were evidently once separate reefs in the lagoon of an atoll. Mr. Martens, at Sydney, informed me that this island is surrounded by a terrace-like plain at about the height of a hundred feet, which probably marks a pause in its elevation. From these facts we may infer, perhaps, that the Cook and Austral Islands have been upheaved at a period probably not very remote.

SAVAGE Island (S.E. of the Friendly group), is about forty feet in height. Forster ("Observations made during Voyage round the World," page 147.) describes the plants as already growing out of the dead, but still upright and spreading trees of coral; and the younger Forster ("Voyage," volume ii., page 163.) believes that an ancient lagoon is now represented by a central plain; here we cannot doubt that the elevatory forces have recently acted. The same conclusion may be extended, though with somewhat less certainty, to the islands of the FRIENDLY GROUP, which have been well described in the second and third voyages of Cook. The surface of Tongatabou is low and level, but with some parts a hundred feet high; the whole consists of coral-rock, "which yet shows the cavities and irregularities worn into it by the action of the tides." (Cook's "Third Voyage" (4to edition), volume i., page 314.) On Eoua the same appearances were noticed at an elevation of between two hundred and three hundred feet. Vavao, also, at the opposite or northern end of the group, consists, according to the Rev. J. Williams, of coral-rock. Tongatabou, with its northern extensive reefs, resembles either an upraised atoll with one half originally imperfect, or one unequally elevated; and Anamouka, an atoll equally elevated. This latter island contains (Ibid., volume i., page 235.) in its centre a salt-water lake, about a mile-and-a-half in diameter, without any communication with the sea, and around it the land rises gradually like a bank; the highest part is only between twenty and thirty feet; but on this part, as well as on the rest of the land (which, as Cook observes, rises above the height of true lagoon-islands), coral-rock, like that on the beach, was found. In the NAVIGATOR ARCHIPELAGO, Mr. Couthouy ("Remarks on Coral-Formations," page 50.) found on Manua many and very large fragments of coral at the height of eighty feet, "on a steep hill-side, rising half a mile inland from a low sandy plain abounding in marine remains." The fragments were embedded in a mixture of decomposed lava and sand. It is not stated whether they were accompanied by shells, or whether the corals resembled recent species; as these remains were embedded they possibly may belong to a remote epoch; but I presume this was not the opinion of Mr. Couthouy. Earthquakes are very frequent in this archipelago.

Still proceeding westward we come to the NEW HEBRIDES; on these islands, Mr. G. Bennett (author of "Wanderings in New South Wales"), informs me he found much coral at a great altitude, which he considered of recent origin. Respecting SANTA CRUZ, and the SOLOMON ARCHIPELAGO, I have no information; but at New Ireland, which forms the northern point of the latter chain, both Labillardiere and Lesson have described large beds of an apparently very modern madreporitic rock, with the form of the corals little altered. The latter author ("Voyage de la 'Coquille'," Part. Zoolog.) states that this formation composes a newer line of coast, modelled round an ancient one. There only remains to be described in the Pacific, that curved line of fringed islands, of which the MARIANAS form the main part. Of these Guam, Rota, Tiniam, Saypan, and some islets farther north, are described by Quoy and Gaimard (Freycinet's "Voyage autour du Monde." See also the "Hydrographical Memoir," page 215.), and Chamisso (Kotzebue's "First Voyage."), as chiefly composed of madreporitic limestone, which attains a considerable elevation, and is in several cases worn into successively rising cliffs: the two former naturalists seem to have compared the corals and shells with the existing ones, and state that they are of recent species. FAIS, which lies in the prolonged line of the Marianas, is the only island in this part of the sea which is fringed; it is ninety feet high, and consists entirely of madreporitic rock. (Lutke's "Voyage," volume ii., page 304.)

In the EAST INDIAN ARCHIPELAGO, many authors have recorded proofs of recent elevation. M. Lesson (Partie Zoolog., "Voyage de la 'Coquille'.") states, that near Port Dory, on the north coast of New Guinea, the shores are flanked, to the height of 150 feet, by madreporitic strata of modern date. He mentions similar formations at Waigiou, Amboina, Bourou, Ceram, Sonda, and Timor: at this latter place, MM. Quoy and Gaimard ("Ann. des Scien. Nat." tom. vi., page 281.) have likewise described the primitive rocks, as coated to a considerable height with coral. Some small islets eastward of Timor are said in Kolff's "Voyage," (translated by Windsor Earl, chapters vi., vii.) to resemble small coral islets upraised some feet above the sea. Dr. Malcolmson informs me that Dr. Hardie found in JAVA an extensive formation, containing an abundance of shells, of which the greater part appear to be of existing species. Dr. Jack ("Geolog. Transact." 2nd series, volume i., page 403. On the Peninsula of Malacca, in front of Pinang, 5 deg 30' N., Dr. Ward collected some shells, which Dr. Malcolmson informs me, although not compared with existing species, had a recent appearance. Dr. Ward describes in this neighbourhood ("Trans. Asiat. Soc." volume xviii., part ii., page 166) a single water-worn rock, with a conglomerate of sea-shells at its base, situated six miles inland, which, according to the traditions of the natives, was once surrounded by the sea. Captain Low has also described (Ibid., part i., page 131) mounds of shells lying two miles inland on this line of coast.) has described some upraised shells and corals, apparently recent, on Pulo Nias off SUMATRA; and Marsden relates in his history of this great island, that the names of many promontories, show that they were originally islands. On part of the west coast of BORNEO and at the SOOLOO Islands, the form of the land, the nature of the soil, and the water-washed rocks, present appearances ("Notices of the East Indian Arch." Singapore, 1828, page 6, and Append., page 43.) (although it is doubtful whether such vague evidence is worthy of mention), of having recently been covered by the sea; and the inhabitants of the Sooloo Islands believe that this has been the case. Mr. Cuming, who has lately investigated, with so much success, the natural history of the PHILIPPINES, found near Cabagan, in Luzon, about fifty feet above the level of the R. Cagayan, and seventy miles from its mouth, a large bed of fossil shells: these, he informs me, are of the same species with those now existing on the shores of the neighbouring islands. From the accounts given us by Captain Basil Hall and Captain Beechey (Captain B. Hall, "Voyage to Loo Choo," Append., pages xxi. and xxv. Captain Beechey's "Voyage," page 496.) of the lines of inland reefs, and walls of coral-rock worn into caves, above the present reach of the waves, at the LOO CHOO Islands, there can be little doubt that they have been upraised at no very remote period.

Dr. Davy describes the northern province of CEYLON ("Travels in Ceylon," page 13. This madreporitic formation is mentioned by M. Cordier in his report to the Institute (May 4th, 1839), on the voyage of the "Chevrette", as one of immense extent, and belonging to the latest tertiary period.) as being very low, and consisting of a limestone with shells and corals of very recent origin; he adds, that it does not admit of a doubt that the sea has retired from this district even within the memory of man. There is also some reason for believing that the western shores of India, north of Ceylon, have been upraised within the recent period. (Dr. Benza, in his "Journey through the N. Circars" (the "Madras Lit. and Scient. Journ." volume v.) has described a formation with recent fresh-water and marine shells, occurring at the distance of three or four miles from the present shore. Dr. Benza, in conversation with me, attributed their position to a rise of the land. Dr. Malcolmson, however (and there cannot be a higher authority on the geology of India) informs me that he suspects that these beds may have been formed by the mere action of the waves and currents accumulating sediment. From analogy I should much incline to Dr. Benza's opinion.) MAURITIUS has certainly been upraised within the recent period, as I have stated in the chapter on fringing-reefs. The northern extremity of MADAGASCAR is described by Captain Owen (Owen's "Africa," volume ii., page 37, for Madagascar; and for S. Africa, volume i., pages 412 and 426. Lieutenant Boteler's narrative contains fuller particulars regarding the coral-rock, volume i., page 174, and volume ii., pages 41 and 54. See also Ruschenberger's "Voyage round the World," volume i., page 60.) as formed of madreporitic rock, as likewise are the shores and outlying islands along an immense space of EASTERN AFRICA, from a little north of the equator for nine hundred miles southward. Nothing can be more vague than the expression "madreporitic rock;" but at the same time it is, I think, scarcely possible to look at the chart of the linear islets, which rise to a greater height than can be accounted for by the growth of coral, in front of the coast, from the equator to 2 deg S., without feeling convinced that a line of fringing-reefs has been elevated at a period so recent, that no great changes have since taken place on the surface of this part of the globe. Some, also, of the higher islands of madreporitic rock on this coast, for instance Pemba, have very singular forms, which seem to show the combined effect of the growth of coral round submerged banks, and their subsequent upheaval. Dr. Allan informs me that he never observed any elevated organic remains on the SEYCHELLES, which come under our fringed class.

The nature of the formations round the shores of the RED SEA, as described by several authors, shows that the whole of this large area has been elevated within a very recent tertiary epoch. A part of this space in the appended map, is coloured blue, indicating the presence of barrier-reefs: on which circumstance I shall presently make some remarks. Ruppell (Ruppell, "Reise in Abyssinien," Band i., s. 141.) states that the tertiary formation, of which he has examined the organic remains, forms a fringe along the shores with a uniform height of from thirty and forty feet from the mouth of the Gulf of Suez to about latitude 26 deg; but that south of 26 deg, the beds attain only the height of from twelve to fifteen feet. This, however, can hardly be quite accurate; although possibly there may be a decrease in the elevation of the shores in the middle parts of the Red Sea, for Dr. Malcolmson (as he informs me) collected from the cliffs of Camaran Island (latitude 15 deg 30' S.) shells and corals, apparently recent, at a height between thirty and forty feet; and Mr. Salt ("Travels in Abyssinia") describes a similar formation a little southward on the opposite shore at Amphila. Moreover, near the mouth of the Gulf of Suez, although on the coast opposite to that on which Dr. Ruppell says that the modern beds attain a height of only thirty to forty feet, Mr. Burton (Lyell's "Principles of Geology," 5th edition, volume iv., page 25.) found a deposit replete with existing species of shells, at the height of 200 feet. In an admirable series of drawings by Captain Moresby, I could see how continuously the cliff-bounded low plains of this formation extended with a nearly equable height, both on the eastern and western shores. The southern coast of Arabia seems to have been subjected to the same elevatory movement, for Dr. Malcolmson found at Sahar low cliffs containing shells and corals, apparently of recent species.

The PERSIAN GULF abounds with coral-reefs; but as it is difficult to distinguish them from sand-banks in this shallow sea, I have coloured only some near the mouth; towards the head of the gulf Mr. Ainsworth (Ainsworth's "Assyria and Babylon," page 217.) says that the land is worn into terraces, and that the beds contain organic remains of existing forms. The WEST INDIAN ARCHIPELAGO of "fringed" islands, alone remains to be mentioned; evidence of an elevation within a late tertiary epoch of nearly the whole of this great area, may be found in the works of almost all the naturalists who have visited it. I will give some of the principal references in a note. (On Florida and the north shores of the Gulf of Mexico, Rogers' "Report to Brit. Assoc." volume iii., page 14.--On the shores of Mexico, Humboldt, "Polit. Essay on New Spain," volume i., page 62. (I have also some corroborative facts with respect to the shores of Mexico.)--Honduras and the Antilles, Lyell's "Principles," 5th edition, volume iv., page 22.--Santa Cruz and Barbadoes, Prof. Hovey, "Silliman's Journal", volume xxxv., page 74.--St. Domingo, Courrojolles, "Journ de Phys." tom. liv., page 106.--Bahamas, "United Service Journal", No. lxxi., pages 218 and 224. Jamaica, De la Beche, "Geol. Man." page 142.--Cuba, Taylor in "Lond. and Edin. Mag." volume xi., page 17. Dr. Daubeny also, at a meeting of the Geolog. Soc., orally described some very modern beds lying on the N.W. parts of Cuba. I might have added many other less important references.)

It is very remarkable on reviewing these details, to observe in how many instances fringing-reefs round the shores, have coincided with the existence on the land of upraised organic remains, which seem, from evidence more or less satisfactory, to belong to a late tertiary period. It may, however, be objected, that similar proofs of elevation, perhaps, occur on the coasts coloured blue in our map: but this certainly is not the case with the few following and doubtful exceptions.

The entire area of the Red Sea appears to have been upraised within a modern period; nevertheless I have been compelled (though on unsatisfactory evidence, as given in the Appendix) to class the reefs in the middle part, as barrier-reefs; should, however, the statements prove accurate to the less height of the tertiary bed in this middle part, compared with the northern and southern districts, we might well suspect that it had subsided subsequently to the general elevation by which the whole area has been upraised. Several authors (Ellis, in his "Polynesian Researches," was the first to call attention to these remains (volume i., page 38), and the tradition of the natives concerning them. See also Williams, "Nar. of Missionary Enterprise," page 21; also Tyerman and G. Bennett, "Journal of Voyage," volume i., page 213; also Mr. Couthouy's "Remarks," page 51; but this principal fact, namely, that there is a mass of upraised coral on the narrow peninsula of Tiarubu, is from hearsay evidence; also Mr. Stutchbury, "West of England Journal," No. i., page 54. There is a passage in Von Zach, "Corres. Astronom." volume x., page 266, inferring an uprising at Tahiti, from a footpath now used, which was formerly impassable; but I particularly inquired from several native chiefs, whether they knew of any change of this kind, and they were unanimous in giving me an answer in the negative.) have stated that they have observed shells and corals high up on the mountains of the Society Islands,--a group encircled by barrier-reefs, and, therefore, supposed to have subsided: at Tahiti Mr. Stutchbury found on the apex of one of the highest mountains, between 5,000 and 7,000 feet above the level of the sea, "a distinct and regular stratum of semi-fossil coral." At Tahiti, however, other naturalists, as well as myself, have searched in vain at a low level near the coast, for upraised shells or masses of coral-reef, where if present they could hardly have been overlooked. From this fact, I concluded that probably the organic remains strewed high up on the surface of the land, had originally been embedded in the volcanic strata, and had subsequently been washed out by the rain. I have since heard from the Rev. W. Ellis, that the remains which he met with, were (as he believes) interstratified with an argillaceous tuff; this likewise was the case with the shells observed by the Rev. D. Tyerman at Huaheine. These remains have not been specifically examined; they may, therefore, and especially the stratum observed by Mr. Stutchbury at an immense height, be contemporaneous with the first formation of the Society Islands, and be of any degree of antiquity; or they may have been deposited at some subsequent, but probably not very recent, period of elevation; for if the period had been recent, the entire surface of the coast land of these islands, where the reefs are so extensive, would have been coated with upraised coral, which certainly is not the case. Two of the Harvey, or Cook Islands, namely, Aitutaki and Manouai, are encircled by reefs, which extend so far from the land, that I have coloured them blue, although with much hesitation, as the space within the reef is shallow, and the outline of the land is not abrupt. These two islands consist of coral-rock; but I have no evidence of their recent elevation, besides, the improbability of Mangaia, a fringed island in the same group (but distant 170 miles), having retained its nearly perfect atoll-like structure, during any immense lapse of time after its upheaval. The Red Sea, therefore, is the only area in which we have clear proofs of the recent elevation of a district, which, by our theory (although the barrier-reefs are there not well characterised), has lately subsided. But we have no reason to be surprised at oscillation, of level of this kind having occasionally taken place. There can be scarcely any doubt that Savage, Aurora (Aurora Island is described by Mr. Couthouy ("Remarks," page 58); it lies 120 miles north-east of Tahiti; it is not coloured in the appended map, because it does not appear to be fringed by living reefs. Mr. Couthouy describes its summit as "presenting a broad table-land which declines a few feet towards the centre, where we may suppose the lagoon to have been placed." It is about two hundred feet in height, and consists of reef-rock and conglomerate, with existing species of coral embedded in it. The island has been elevated at two successive periods; the cliffs being marked halfway up with a horizontal water-worn line of deep excavations. Aurora Island seems closely to resemble in structure Elizabeth Island, at the southern end of the Low Archipelago.), and Mangaia Islands, and several of the islands in the Friendly group, existed originally as atolls, and these have undoubtedly since been upraised to some height above the level of the sea; so that by our theory, there has here, also, been an oscillation of level, --elevation having succeeded subsidence, instead of, as in the middle part of the Red Sea and at the Harvey Islands, subsidence having probably succeeded recent elevation.

It is an interesting fact, that Fais, which, from its composition, form, height, and situation at the western end of the Caroline Archipelago, one is strongly induced to believe existed before its upheaval as an atoll, lies exactly in the prolongation of the curved line of the Mariana group, which we know to be a line of recent elevation. I may add, that Elizabeth Island, in the southern part of the Low Archipelago, which seems to have had the same kind of origin as Fais, lies near Pitcairn Island, the only one in this part of the ocean which is high, and at the same time not surrounded by an encircling barrier-reef.


Before making some concluding remarks on the relations of the spaces coloured blue and red, it will be convenient to consider the position on our map of the volcanoes historically known to have been in action. It is impossible not to be struck, first with the absence of volcanoes in the great areas of subsidence tinted pale and dark blue,--namely, in the central parts of the Indian Ocean, in the China Sea, in the sea between the barriers of Australia and New Caledonia, in the Caroline, Marshall, Gilbert, and Low Archipelagoes; and, secondly, with the coincidence of the principal volcanic chains with the parts coloured red, which indicates the presence of fringing-reefs; and, as we have just seen, the presence in most cases of upraised organic remains of a modern date. I may here remark that the reefs were all coloured before the volcanoes were added to the map, or indeed before I knew of the existence of several of them.

The volcano in Torres Strait, at the northern point of Australia, is that which lies nearest to a large subsiding area, although situated 125 miles within the outer margin of the actual barrier-reef. The Great Comoro Island, which probably contains a volcano, is only twenty miles distant from the barrier-reef of Mohila; Ambil volcano, in the Philippines, is distant only a little more than sixty miles from the atoll-formed Appoo reef: and there are two other volcanoes in the map within ninety miles of circles coloured blue. These few cases, which thus offer partial exceptions to the rule, of volcanoes being placed remote from the areas of subsidence, lie either near single and isolated atolls, or near small groups of encircled islands; and these by our theory can have, in few instances, subsided to the same amount in depth or area, as groups of atolls. There is not one active volcano within several hundred miles of an archipelago, or even a small group of atolls. It is, therefore, a striking fact that in the Friendly Archipelago, which owes its origin to the elevation of a group of atolls, two volcanoes, and, perhaps, others are known to be in action: on the other hand, on several of the encircled islands in the Pacific, supposed by our theory to have subsided, there are old craters and streams of lava, which show the effects of past and ancient eruptions. In these cases, it would appear as if the volcanoes had come into action, and had become extinguished on the same spots, according as the elevating or subsiding movements prevailed.

There are some other coasts on the map, where volcanoes in a state of action concur with proofs of recent elevation, besides those coloured red from being fringed by coral-reefs. Thus I hope to show in a future volume, that nearly the whole line of the west coast of South America, which forms the greatest volcanic chain in the world, from near the equator for a space of between 2,000 and 3,000 miles southward, has undergone an upward movement during a late geological period. The islands on the north-western shores of the Pacific, which form the second greatest volcanic chain, are very imperfectly known; but Luzon, in the Philippines, and the Loo Choo Islands, have been recently elevated; and at Kamtschatka (At Sedanka, in latitude 58 deg N. (Von Buch's "Descrip. des Isles Canaries," page 455). In a forthcoming part, I shall give the evidence referred to with respect to the elevation of New Zealand.) there are extensive tertiary beds of modern date. Evidence of the same nature, but not very satisfactory, may be detected in Northern New Zealand where there are two volcanoes. The co-existence in other parts of the world of active volcanoes, with upraised beds of a modern tertiary origin, will occur to every geologist. (During the subterranean disturbances which took place in Chile, in 1835, I have shown ("Geolog. Trans." 2nd Ser., vol. v., page 606) that at the same moment that a large district was upraised, volcanic matter burst forth at widely separated points, through both new and old vents.) Nevertheless, until it could be shown that volcanoes were inactive, or did not exist in subsiding areas, the conclusion that their distribution depended on the nature of the subterranean movements in progress, would have been hazardous. But now, viewing the appended map, it may, I think, be considered as almost established, that volcanoes are often (not necessarily always) present in those areas where the subterranean motive power has lately forced, or is now forcing outwards, the crust of the earth, but that they are invariably absent in those, where the surface has lately subsided or is still subsiding. (We may infer from this rule, that in any old deposit, which contains interstratified beds of erupted matter, there was at the period, and in the area of its formation, a TENDENCY to an upward movement in the earth's surface, and certainly no movement of subsidence.)


The immense surfaces on the map, which, both by our theory and by the plain evidence of upraised marine remains, have undergone a change of level either downwards or upwards during a late period, is a most remarkable fact. The existence of continents shows that the areas have been immense which at some period have been upraised; in South America we may feel sure, and on the north-western shores of the Indian Ocean we may suspect, that this rising is either now actually in progress, or has taken place quite recently. By our theory, we may conclude that the areas are likewise immense which have lately subsided, or, judging from the earthquakes occasionally felt and from other appearances, are now subsiding. The smallness of the scale of our map should not be overlooked: each of the squares on it contains (not allowing for the curvature of the earth) 810,000 square miles. Look at the space of ocean from near the southern end of the Low Archipelago to the northern end of the Marshall Archipelago, a length of 4,500 miles, in which, as far as is known, every island, except Aurora which lies just without the Low Archipelago, is atoll-formed. The eastern and western boundaries of our map are continents, and they are rising areas: the central spaces of the great Indian and Pacific Oceans, are mostly subsiding; between them, north of Australia, lies the most broken land on the globe, and there the rising parts are surrounded and penetrated by areas of subsidence (I suspect that the Arru and Timor-laut Islands present an included small area of subsidence, like that of the China Sea, but I have not ventured to colour them from my imperfect information, as given in the Appendix.), so that the prevailing movements now in progress, seem to accord with the actual states of surface of the great divisions of the world.

The blue spaces on the map are nearly all elongated; but it does not necessarily follow from this (a caution, for which I am indebted to Mr. Lyell), that the areas of subsidence were likewise elongated; for the subsidence of a long, narrow space of the bed of the ocean, including in it a transverse chain of mountains, surmounted by atolls, would only be marked on the map by a transverse blue band. But where a chain of atolls and barrier-reefs lies in an elongated area, between spaces coloured red, which therefore have remained stationary or have been upraised, this must have resulted either from the area of subsidence having originally been elongated (owing to some tendency in the earth's crust thus to subside), or from the subsiding area having originally been of an irregular figure, or as broad as long, and having since been narrowed by the elevation of neighbouring districts. Thus the areas, which subsided during the formation of the great north and south lines of atolls in the Indian Ocean,--of the east and west line of the Caroline atolls,--and of the north-west and south-east line of the barrier-reefs of New Caledonia and Louisiade, must have originally been elongated, or if not so, they must have since been made elongated by elevations, which we know to belong to a recent period.

I infer from Mr. Hopkins' researches ("Researches in Physical Geology," Transact. Cambridge Phil. Soc., volume vi, part i.), that for the formation of a long chain of mountains, with few lateral spurs, an area elongated in the same direction with the chain, must have been subjected to an elevatory movement. Mountain-chains, however, when already formed, although running in very different directions, it seems (For instance in S. America from latitude 34 deg, for very many degrees southward there are upraised beds containing recent species of shells, on both the Atlantic and Pacific side of the continent, and from the gradual ascent of the land, although with very unequal slopes, on both sides towards the Cordillera, I think it can hardly be doubted that the entire width has been upraised in mass within the recent period. In this case the two W.N.W. and E.S.E. mountain-lines, namely the Sierra Ventana and the S. Tapalguen, and the great north and south line of the Cordillera have been together raised. In the West Indies the N. and S. line of the Eastern Antilles, and the E. and W. line of Jamaica, appear both to have been upraised within the latest geological period.) may be raised together by a widely-acting force: so, perhaps, mountain-chains may subside together. Hence, we cannot tell, whether the Caroline and Marshall Archipelagoes, two groups of atolls running in different directions and meeting each other, have been formed by the subsidence of two areas, or of one large area, including two distinct lines of mountains. We have, however, in the southern prolongation of the Mariana Islands, probable evidence of a line of recent elevation having intersected one of recent subsidence. A view of the map will show that, generally, there is a tendency to alternation in the parallel areas undergoing opposite kinds of movement; as if the sinking of one area balanced the rising of another.

The existence in many parts of the world of high table-land, proves that large surfaces have been upraised in mass to considerable heights above the level of the ocean; although the highest points in almost every country consist of upturned strata, or erupted matter: and from the immense spaces scattered with atolls, which indicate that land originally existed there, although not one pinnacle now remains above the level of the sea, we may conclude that wide areas have subsided to an amount, sufficient to bury not only any formerly existing table-land, but even the heights formed by fractured strata, and erupted matter. The effects produced on the land by the later elevatory movements, namely, successively rising cliffs, lines of erosion, and beds of literal shells and pebbles, all requiring time for their production, prove that these movements have been very slow; we can, however, infer this with safety, only with respect to the few last hundred feet of rise. But with reference to the whole vast amount of subsidence, necessary to have produced the many atolls widely scattered over immense spaces, it has already been shown (and it is, perhaps, the most interesting conclusion in this volume), that the movements must either have been uniform and exceedingly slow, or have been effected by small steps, separated from each other by long intervals of time, during which the reef-constructing polypifers were able to bring up their solid frameworks to the surface. We have little means of judging whether many considerable oscillations of level have generally occurred during the elevation of large tracts; but we know, from clear geological evidence, that this has frequently taken place; and we have seen on our map, that some of the same islands have both subsided and been upraised. I conclude, however, that most of the large blue spaces, have subsided without many and great elevatory oscillations, because only a few upraised atolls have been observed: the supposition that such elevations have taken place, but that the upraised parts have been worn down by the surf, and thus have escaped observation, is overruled by the very considerable depth of the lagoons of all the larger atolls; for this could not have been the case, if they had suffered repeated elevations and abrasion. From the comparative observations made in these latter pages, we may finally conclude, that the subterranean changes which have caused some large areas to rise, and others to subside, have acted in a very similar manner.


In the three first chapters, the principal kinds of coral-reefs were described in detail, and they were found to differ little, as far as relates to the actual surface of the reef. An atoll differs from an encircling barrier-reef only in the absence of land within its central expanse; and a barrier-reef differs from a fringing-reef, in being placed at a much greater distance from the land with reference to the probable inclination of its submarine foundation, and in the presence of a deep-water lagoon-like space or moat within the reef. In the fourth chapter the growing powers of the reef-constructing polypifers were discussed; and it was shown, that they cannot flourish beneath a very limited depth. In accordance with this limit, there is no difficulty respecting the foundations on which fringing-reefs are based; whereas, with barrier-reefs and atolls, there is a great apparent difficulty on this head; in barrier-reefs from the improbability of the rock of the coast or of banks of sediment extending, in every instance, so far seaward within the required depth;--and in atolls, from the immensity of the spaces over which they are interspersed, and the apparent necessity for believing that they are all supported on mountain-summits, which although rising very near to the surface-level of the sea, in no one instance emerge above it. To escape this latter most improbable admission, which implies the existence of submarine chains of mountains of almost the same height, extending over areas of many thousand square miles, there is but one alternative; namely, the prolonged subsidence of the foundations, on which the atolls were primarily based, together with the upward growth of the reef-constructing corals. On this view every difficulty vanishes; fringing reefs are thus converted into barrier-reefs; and barrier-reefs, when encircling islands, are thus converted into atolls, the instant the last pinnacle of land sinks beneath the surface of the ocean.

Thus the ordinary forms and certain peculiarities in the structure of atolls and barrier-reefs can be explained;--namely, the wall-like structure on their inner sides, the basin or ring-like shape both of the marginal and central reefs in the Maldiva atolls--the union of some atolls as if by a ribbon--the apparent disseverment of others--and the occurrence, in atolls as well as in barrier-reefs, of portions of reef, and of the whole of some reefs, in a dead and submerged state, but retaining the outline of living reefs. Thus can be explained the existence of breaches through barrier-reefs in front of valleys, though separated from them by a wide space of deep water; thus, also, the ordinary outline of groups of atolls and the relative forms of the separate atolls one to another; thus can be explained the proximity of the two kinds of reefs formed during subsidence, and their separation from the spaces where fringing-reefs abound. On searching for other evidence of the movements supposed by our theory, we find marks of change in atolls and in barrier-reefs, and of subterranean disturbances under them; but from the nature of things, it is scarcely possible to detect any direct proofs of subsidence, although some appearances are strongly in favour of it. On the fringed coasts, however, the presence of upraised marine bodies of a recent epoch, plainly show, that these coasts, instead of having remained stationary, which is all that can be directly inferred from our theory, have generally been elevated.

Finally, when the two great types of structure, namely barrier-reefs and atolls on the one hand, and fringing-reefs on the other, were laid down in colours on our map, a magnificent and harmonious picture of the movements, which the crust of the earth has within a late period undergone, is presented to us. We there see vast areas rising, with volcanic matter every now and then bursting forth through the vents or fissures with which they are traversed. We see other wide spaces slowly sinking without any volcanic outburst, and we may feel sure, that this sinking must have been immense in amount as well as in area, thus to have buried over the broad face of the ocean every one of those mountains, above which atolls now stand like monuments, marking the place of their former existence. Reflecting how powerful an agent with respect to denudation, and consequently to the nature and thickness of the deposits in accumulation, the sea must ever be, when acting for prolonged periods on the land, during either its slow emergence or subsidence; reflecting, also, on the final effects of these movements in the interchange of land and ocean-water on the climate of the earth, and on the distribution of organic beings, I may be permitted to hope, that the conclusions derived from the study of coral-formations, originally attempted merely to explain their peculiar forms, may be thought worthy of the attention of geologists.


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Charles Darwin

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