Charles Darwin: The Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection


But we must return to our more immediate subject. I am convinced that Forbes's view may be largely extended. In Europe we meet with the plainest evidence of the Glacial period, from the western shores of Britain to the Ural range, and southward to the Pyrenees. We may infer from the frozen mammals and nature of the mountain vegetation, that Siberia was similarly affected. In the Lebanon, according to Dr. Hooker, perpetual snow formerly covered the central axis, and fed glaciers which rolled 4,000 feet down the valleys. The same observer has recently found great moraines at a low level on the Atlas range in North Africa. Along the Himalaya, at points 900 miles apart, glaciers have left the marks of their former low descent; and in Sikkim, Dr. Hooker saw maize growing on ancient and gigantic moraines. Southward of the Asiatic continent, on the opposite side of the equator, we know, from the excellent researches of Dr. J. Haast and Dr. Hector, that in New Zealand immense glaciers formerly descended to a low level; and the same plants, found by Dr. Hooker on widely separated mountains in this island tell the same story of a former cold period. From facts communicated to me by the Rev. W.B. Clarke, it appears also that there are traces of former glacial action on the mountains of the south- eastern corner of Australia.

Looking to America: in the northern half, ice-borne fragments of rock have been observed on the eastern side of the continent, as far south as latitude 36 and 37 degrees, and on the shores of the Pacific, where the climate is now so different, as far south as latitude 46 degrees. Erratic boulders have, also, been noticed on the Rocky Mountains. In the Cordillera of South America, nearly under the equator, glaciers once extended far below their present level. In central Chile I examined a vast mound of detritus with great boulders, crossing the Portillo valley, which, there can hardly be a doubt, once formed a huge moraine; and Mr. D. Forbes informs me that he found in various parts of the Cordillera, from latitude 13 to 30 degrees south, at about the height of 12,000 feet, deeply-furrowed rocks, resembling those with which he was familiar in Norway, and likewise great masses of detritus, including grooved pebbles. Along this whole space of the Cordillera true glaciers do not now exist even at much more considerable heights. Further south, on both sides of the continent, from latitude 41 degrees to the southernmost extremity, we have the clearest evidence of former glacial action, in numerous immense boulders transported far from their parent source.

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