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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 66.djvu/493

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THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY

 

APRIL, 1905.




THE MENACE TO NIAGARA.
By Dr. JOHN M. CLARKE,

NEW YORK STATE GEOLOGIST, DIRECTOR OF SCIENCE AND THE STATE MUSEUM.

FORECASTS by eminent geologists of the future of Niagara Falls have been much in the public eye and have lost some of their novelty though none of their interest. The great cataract, it is said, is committing suicide, and the physical factors which enter into the process have, it is thought, been carefully weighed. If matters proceed as they are now going, the face of the cataract receding without interruption, the falls are to wear themselves out, or if the dominating crustal movement continues, the escarpment is to be left bare because its waters will be stolen away and turned back into Lake Erie.

These are interesting possibilities, but they hardly rise to the dignity of probabilities, for opposing considerations have been left out of the calculations and even the remote periods assigned to their arrival grow longer and more distant in the face of factors overlooked or not sufficiently estimated. Nothing can be as wrong as mathematics or logic where the premises are wrong; nothing more excusable than the trial forecast for the life of a spectacular natural phenomenon, even though it will be and remain improbable till every factor in play has been given its full share in the process.

The problem of Niagara is not simple. As one sees with each change of the sun a new wonder in its fascinating rush of waters, so every reconsideration of the problem of its natural future brings into activity contributory and qualifying elements before unrecognized.

The intelligent public, now quite familiar with these forecasts, looks upon the Niagara cataract as doomed at some remote time and from causes which human power can not control, and doubtless this