Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/698

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

In the last century, Swedenborg, Linnæus, Pallas, De Luc, and many other eminent writers took notice of the remarkable fact that in Scandinavia, Russia, Germany, and Switzerland detached rocks or bowlders were found, often in great abundance and of immense size, and of a kind that did not exist in situ in the same district, but which were often only to be discovered in remote localities, sometimes hundreds of miles away. Those who ventured to speculate on the origin of these traveled rocks usually had recourse to water power to account for their removal; and as their large size and often elevated position required some unusual force to carry them, there arose the idea of enormous floods sweeping over whole continents; and for a long time this diluvial theory was the only one that appeared to be available, although the difficulties of its application to explain all the phenomena became greater the more closely those phenomena were studied. Still, there was apparently no other known or conceivable means of accounting for them, and for the enormous mounds of gravel or clay intermixed with bowlders which often accompanied them; and the efforts of geologists were therefore directed to the discovery of how the water power had acted, and by what means the supposed floods could have been produced.

There were not wanting men who saw that no action of water alone could account for the facts. Sir James Hall pointed this out with regard to erratics on the Jura, whose source was undoubtedly in the far-distant Alps; and Mr. Grainger, in America, described some of the parallel grooves and flutings running for nearly a mile in Ohio, strongly arguing that no action of running water could have produced them, but that an agent was required the direction of whose movement was fixed and unalterable for long distances and for a great length of time. No light was, however, thrown on the problem till 1822, when Venetz, a Swiss engineer, finding that existing glaciers varied in extent from year to year and that historical records showed them to have considerably increased during the last eight centuries, was further led to observe that long before the historical era the glaciers had been immensely more extensive, as shown by the smooth and rounded rocks, by longitudinal scratches and grooves pointing down the valleys, and by numbers of old moraines exactly similar in form and materials to those deposited by existing glaciers. He read a paper before the Helvetic Society of Natural History, and urged that glaciers once stretched down the Rhone Valley as far as the

    Man and the Glacial Teriod, by Prof. G. F. Wright, F. G. S. A.; La Période Glaciaire, by A. Falsan; and the Glacialist's Magazine, edited by Percy F. Kendall, F. G. S.; from which works, and from those of Lyell, Ramsay, Geikie, and the American geologists, most of the facts referred to in the present article are derived.