Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/81

This page has been validated.

was wafted southwestward by the Arctic currents, while lighter ice from the Rocky Mountains was being borne eastward from these mountains by the prevailing westerly winds. We thus have in the West, on a very wide scale, the same phenomena of varying submergence, cold currents, great ice-floes, and local glaciers producing icebergs, to which I have attributed the bowlder clay and upper bowlder drift of Eastern Canada.

A few subsidiary points I may be pardoned for mentioning here. The rival theories of the glacial period are often characterized as those of land glaciation and sea-borne icebergs. But it must be remembered that those who reject the idea of a continental glacier hold to the existence of local glaciers on the highlands more or less extensive during different portions of the great pleistocene submergence. They also believe in the extension of these glaciers seaward and partly water-borne, in the manner so well explained by Mattieu Williams; in the existence of those vast floes and fields of current-and tide-borne ice whose powers of transport and erosion we now know to be so great; and in a great submergence and re-elevation of the land, bringing all parts of it and all elevations up to five thousand feet successively under the influence of these various agencies, along with those of the ocean-currents. They also hold that, at the beginning of the glacial submergence, the land was deeply covered by decomposed rock, similar to that which still exists on the hills of the Southern States, and which, as Dr. Hunt has shown, would afford not only earthy débris, but large quantities of bowlders ready for transportation by ice.

I would also remark that there has been the greatest possible exaggeration as to the erosive action of land-ice. In 1865, after a visit to the Alpine glaciers, I maintained that in these mountains glaciers are relatively protective rather than erosive agencies, and that the detritus which the glacier streams deliver is derived mostly from the atmospherically wasted peaks and cliffs that project above them. Since that time many other observers have maintained like views, and very recently Mr. Davis, of Cambridge, and Mr. A. Irving have ably treated this subject.[1] Smoothing and striation of rocks are undoubtedly important effects, both of land-glaciers and heavy sea-borne ice; but the leveling and filling agency of these is much greater than the erosive. As a matter of fact, as Newberry, Hunt, Belt, Spencer, and others have shown, the glacial age has dammed up vast numbers of old channels which it has been left for modern streams partially to excavate.

The till, or bowlder clay, has been called a "ground moraine," but there are really no Alpine moraines at all corresponding to it. On the other hand, it is more or less stratified, often rests on soft materi-

  1. "Proceedings of the Boston Society of Natural History," xxii; "Journal of the Geological Society of London," February, 1883.