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Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 134.djvu/69

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that the wave would be a very striking or obvious feature of the earth's disc as seen from Venus, but that it would be discernible under the same telescopic power which the Herschels, Lassell, Rosse, and others have applied to the celestial objects as seen from the earth, we have little doubt. If so, since not only would it be perceived as a new feature, but also its motion across the Pacific be traceable, and the transience of the phenomenon quickly recognized, it would afford observers on that planet the clearest evidence of the activity of subterranean forces within our earth. Those among the observers living on Venus who were not content merely to observe, but exercised also their reasoning faculties to determine the meaning of what they saw, would perceive that on or about August 13-14, 1868, and again on May 10 last, tremendous throes had shaken some portion of the southern half of that long double continent lying north and south which they have long since recognized on our globe; that the waters of the ocean had thus been mightily disturbed; and that a great wave, or rather a succession of several great waves, had swept across the largest of the terrestrial oceans. They would be able even; by noting the velocity and variations of velocity of the great wave, to determine the depth of the Pacific Ocean, and the manner according to which the depth varies in the neighborhood of different island groups. It is not altogether impossible, indeed, that what we have here described may actually have occurred, though on neither of the occasions when the Pacific has of late been swept by a sea-wave was Venus very suitably placed for observing our planet.

Apart from thoughts such as these, there is much in a phenomenon like this great sea-wave well worth considering. When we recognize in the subterranean forces of our earth an energy competent to disturb the entire surface of the Pacific, we perceive how vain are the fears of those who imagine that the earth's Vulcanian energies are very nearly exhausted. There is nothing to show that at any time of which geology affords evidence throes more mighty than those which have shaken Peru and Chili within the last half-century have disturbed any portion of the earth's frame. In former times indeed, when geologists were accustomed to regard the processes of an entire era as completed in a single throe, men might well believe that the earth had sunk into relative quiescence. But now that close study has enabled them to separate the effects of one process from those of another, to recognize — not in full perhaps, but in great degree — the influence of time as an important factor in geological development, they are able to make a juster comparison between past and present disturbances. The result is, that, although we cannot doubt that the earth is parting with the heat which is the source of its Vulcanian energies, we find every reason to believe that the loss of energy is taking place so slowly that the diminution during many generations is altogether imperceptible. As a modern writer has remarked, when we see that while mountain ranges were being upheaved or valleys depressed to their present position, race after race and type after type lived out on the earth the long lives which belong to races and to types, we recognize the great work which the earth's subterranean forces are still engaged upon. Even now continents are being slowly depressed or upheaved, even now mountain ranges are being raised to a different level, table-lands are being formed, great valleys are being gradually scooped out, old shore-lines shift their place, old soundings vary, the sea advances in one place and retires in another; on every side, nature's plastic hand is still at work, modelling and remodelling the earth, and making it constantly a fit abode for those who dwell upon it.

From The Pall Mall Gazette.


If contrasts go far to make life pleasant, the North-country fisherman has no cause to complain. Day after day you may see him lounging listlessly in thick blue jersey and sou'wester hat, with hands plunged in the pockets of the woolly pantaloons, that are thrust in their turn into the well-oiled boots. But we must hasten to add that on these occasions he is thrown back upon idleness in spite of himself. A rattling gale is blowing on shore; the laden steam-vessels of the northern coal-fleet are lying storm-bound in the mouths of the rivers; the waves are rolling landwards in tumbling banks of foaming-water, and breaking in sheets of spray over the reefs on that rugged coast. Then the fisherman compromises with the elements. He does not sit solitary in his cottage, moping over the fire; but though he exposes himself in the open, he is as careful to be sheltered from the blast as if he were afraid of its taking the bloom off his delicate complex-