Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 45.djvu/259

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THE ICE AGE AND ITS WORK.

about to be subject to severe glaciation, and not only so, but occurred on both sides of each range, as in the Alps, or all round a mountain range, as in our lake district, or in every part of a complex mountain region, as in Scotland from the Frith of Clyde to the extreme north coast—all in this very limited period of geological time. We are further asked to believe that during the whole period from the commencement of the Ice age to our day such earth movements have never produced a single group of valley lakes in any one of the countless mountain ranges and hilly regions throughout the whole of the very much more extensive non-glaciated regions of the globe! This appears to me to be simply incredible. The only way to get over the difficulty is to suppose that earth movements of this nature occurred only at that one period, just before the Ice age came on, and that the lakes produced by them in all other regions have since been filled up. But is there any evidence of this? And is it probable that all lakes so produced in non-glaciated regions, however large and deep they might be, and however little sediment was carried down by their inflowing streams, should yet all have disappeared? The theory of the pre-glacial origin of these lakes thus rests upon a series of highly improbable suppositions entirely unsupported by any appeal to facts. There is, however, another difficulty which is perhaps even greater than those just considered. Whatever may be the causes of the compression, elevation, folding, and other earth movements which have led to the formation of mountain masses, there can be no doubt that they have operated with extreme slowness; and all the evidence we have of surface movements now going on show that they are so slow as to be detected only by careful and long-continued observations. On the other hand, the action of rivers in cutting down rocky barriers is comparatively rapid, especially when, as in all mountainous countries, they carry in their waters large quantities of sediment, and during floods bring down also abundance of sand, gravel, and large stones. A remarkable illustration of this erosive power is afforded by the river Simeto, in Sicily, which has cut a channel through solid lava which was formed by an eruption in the year 1603. In 1828, Sir Charles Lyell states, it had cut a ravine through this compact blue rock from fifty to several hundred feet wide, and in some parts from forty to fifty feet deep.[1] The enormous cañon of the Colorado, from three thousand to five thousand feet deep and four hundred miles long, which has been entirely cut through a series of Mesozoic and Palæozoic rocks during the latter portion of the Tertiary period, is another example of the wonderful cutting power of running water.


  1. Principles of Geology, eleventh ed., vol. i, p. 353.