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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/74

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

in another, they have been constantly fluctuating. Hall and Dana have well illustrated these points in so far as Eastern North America is concerned. Professor Hull, of the Geological Survey of Ireland, has recently had the boldness to reduce the fluctuations of land and water, as evidenced in the British Islands, to the form of a series of maps intended to show the physical geography of each successive period. The attempt is probably premature, and has been met with much adverse criticism; but there can be no doubt that it has an element of truth. When we attempt to calculate what could have been supplied from the old eozoic nucleus by decay and aqueous erosion, and when we take into account the greater local thickness of sediments toward the present sea-basins, we can scarcely avoid the conclusion that extensive areas once occupied by high land are now under the sea. But to ascertain the precise areas and position of these perished lands may now be impossible.

In point of fact, we are obliged to believe in the contemporaneous existence in all geological periods, except perhaps the very oldest, of three sorts of areas on the surface of the earth: 1. Oceanic areas of deep sea, which must always have occupied the bed of the present ocean, or parts of it; 2. Continental plateaus, sometimes existing as low flats or as higher table-lands, and sometimes submerged; 3. Areas of plication or folding, more especially along the borders of the oceans, forming elevated lands rarely submerged, and constantly affording the material of sedimentary accumulations.

Every geologist knows the contention which has been occasioned by the attempts to correlate the earlier pal├Žozoic deposits of the Atlantic margin of North America with those forming at the same time on the interior plateau, and with those of intervening lines of plication and igneous disturbance. Stratigraphy, lithology, and fossils are all more or less at fault in dealing with these questions; and, while the general nature of the problem is understood by many geologists, its solution in particular cases is still a source of apparently endless debate.

The causes and mode of operation of the great movements of the earth's crust which have produced mountains, plains, and table-lands, are still involved in some mystery. One patent cause is the unequal settling of the crust toward the center; but it is not so generally understood as it should be that the greater settlement of the ocean-bed has necessitated its pressure against the sides of the continents in the same manner that a huge ice-floe crushes a ship or a pier. The geological map of North America shows this at a glance, and impresses us with the fact that large portions of the earth's crust have not only been folded, but bodily pushed back for great distances. On looking at the extreme north, we see that the great Laurentian mass of central Newfoundland has acted as a protecting pier to the space immediately west of it, and has caused the Gulf of St. Lawrence to re-