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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/376

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Among the facts brought out, a few may be briefly alluded to. The early abandonment of Agassiz's original view of a vast extension of the polar snow caps, and the recognition of separate centers of continental glaciation, now distinctly determined as three in number—a western, a central, and an eastern—the former being the earliest, and the others following in succession; the recognition by the Western geologists of the twofold character of the Glacial epoch, as also determined in western Europe, but less markedly traceable in our Eastern States, though now generally admitted; in close relation to this the determination of the line of the great terminal moraine, traced by successive observers from the Atlantic seaboard to Minnesota, and the subsequent recognition of an older, eroded, and fragmentary morainal "fringe," marking the line of the earlier ice sheet, somewhat beyond the later. With regard to the actual distance of the last glacial retreat, as expressed in years, Professor Fairchild is both cautious and frank. He notes the general consensus of recent observers toward a much shorter period than was formerly supposed—from five to ten or perhaps fifteen thousand years. At the same time, there are many elements of uncertainty involved, and the problem is by no means settled. The Niagara gorge, so long looked upon as a possible chronometer, grows more complicated as it is further studied; the rate of erosion has evidently varied much with the volume of water carried by the river; and this, in turn, has varied with the changes of level, and consequently of drainage routes, in the basin of the Great Lakes. There have been times when only the Erie waters flowed through the Niagara outlet, the upper lake drainage passing eastward independently, until a gradual northern rise of the land, which is proved to be still going on, turned the entire drainage into the present St. Clair route from Lake Huron into Lake Erie, and so through Niagara.

This point leads us to digress for a moment from the address under consideration to allude to a very interesting department of study that is now growing into prominence—to wit, the restoration of pre-glacial geography and hydrography, and the genesis of our existing river and lake systems throughout the northern part of the country. The discussions and results in regard to Niagara and the Great Lakes are somewhat familiar, but the work on the rivers and smaller lakes is not so widely known. Professor Fairchild himself has done much in relation to the "central lakes" of New York State; and one very interesting paper of this kind on The Development of the Ohio River was read before the section by Prof. William G. Light, of Granville, Ohio, besides many papers by others on similar topics.

The work done within a few years upon the glaciers of Arctic