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The Drift



IN the first place, the Drift fell upon a fair and lovely world, a world far better adapted to give happiness to its inhabitants than this storm-tossed planet on which we now live, with its endless battle between heat and cold, between sun and ice.

The pre-glacial world was a garden, a paradise; not excessively warm at the equator, and yet with so mild and equable a climate that the plants we now call tropical flourished within the present Arctic Circle. If some future daring navigator reaches the north pole and finds solid land there, he will probably discover in the rocks at his feet the fossil remains of the oranges and bananas of the pre-glacial age.

That the reader may not think this an extravagant statement, let me cite a few authorities.

A recent writer says:

"This was, indeed, for America, the golden age of animals and plants, and in all respects but one--the absence of man--the country was more interesting and picturesque than now. We must imagine, therefore, that the hills and valleys about the present site of New York were covered with noble trees, and a dense undergrowth of species, for the most part different from those now living there; and that these were the homes and feeding-grounds of many kinds of quadrupeds and birds, which have long since become extinct. The broad plain which sloped gently seaward from the highlands must have been covered with a sub-tropical forest of-giant trees and tangled vines teeming with animal life. This state of things doubtless continued through many thousands of years, but ultimately a change came over the fair face of Nature more complete and terrible than we have language to describe."[1]

Another says:

"At the close of the Tertiary age, which ends the long series of geological epochs previous to the Quaternary, the landscape of Europe had, in the main, assumed its modern appearance. The middle era of this age--the Miocene--was characterized by tropical plants, a varied and imposing fauna, and a genial climate, so extended as to nourish forests of beeches, maples, walnuts, poplars, and magnolias in Greenland and Spitzbergen, while an exotic vegetation hid the exuberant valleys of England."[2]

Dr. Dawson says:

"This delightful climate was not confined to the present temperate or tropical regions. It extended to the very shores of the Arctic Sea. In North Greenland, at Atane-Kerdluk, in latitude 70 north, at an elevation of more than a thousand feet above the sea, were found the remains of beeches, oaks, pines, poplars, maples, walnuts, magnolias, limes, and vines. The remains of similar plants were found in Spitzbergen, in latitude 78 56'."[3]

Dr. Dawson continues:

"Was the Miocene period on the whole a better age of the world than that in which we live? In some respects it was. Obviously, there was in the northern hemisphere a vast surface of land under a mild and equable climate, and clothed with a rich and varied vegetation. Had we lived in the Miocene we might have sat under our own vine and fig-tree equally in Greenland and Spitzbergen and in those more southern climes to which this

[1. "Popular Science Monthly," October, 1878, p. 648.

2. L. P. Gratacap, in "American Antiquarian," July, 1881, p. 280.

3. Dawson, "Earth and Man," p. 261.]

privilege is now restricted. . . . Some reasons have been adduced for the belief that in the Miocene and Eocene there were intervals of cold climate; but the evidence of this may be merely local and exceptional, and does not interfere with the broad characteristics of the age." [1]

Sir Edward Belcher brought away from the dreary shores of Wellington Channel (latitude 75 32' north) portions of a tree which there can be no doubt whatever had actually grown where be found it. The roots were in place, in a frozen mass of earth, the stump standing upright where it was probably overtaken by the great winter.[2] Trees have been found, in situ, on Prince Patrick's Island, in latitude 76 12' north, four feet in circumference. They were so old that the wood had lost its combustible quality, and refused to burn. Mr. Geikie thinks that it is possible these trees were pre-glacial, and belonged to the Miocene age. They may have been the remnants of the great forests which clothed that far northern region when the so-called glacial age came on and brought the Drift.

We shall see hereafter that man, possibly civilized man, dwelt in this fair and glorious world--this world that knew no frost, no cold, no ice, no snow; that he had dwelt in it for thousands of years; that he witnessed the appalling and sudden calamity which fell upon it; and that he has preserved the memory of this catastrophe to the present day, in a multitude of myths and legends scattered all over the face of the habitable earth.

But was it sudden? Was it a catastrophe?

Again I call the witnesses to the stand, for I ask you, good reader, to accept nothing that is not proved.

In the first place, was it sudden?

[1. "Earth and Man," p. 264.

2. "The Last of the Arctic Voyages," vol. i, p. 380.]

One writer says:

"The glacial action, in the opinion of the land-glacialists, was limited to a definite period, and operated simultaneously over a vast area." [1]

And again:

"The drift was accumulated where it is by some violent action." [2]

Louis Figuier says:

"The two cataclysms of which we have spoken surprised Europe at the moment of the development of an important creation. The whole scope of animated nature, the evolution of animals, was suddenly arrested in that part of our hemisphere over which these gigantic convulsions spread, followed by the brief but sudden submersion of entire continents. Organic life had scarcely recovered from the violent shock, when a second, and perhaps severer blow assailed it. The northern and central parts of Europe, the vast countries which extend from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean and the Danube, were visited by a period of sudden and severe cold; the temperature of the polar regions seized them. The plains of Europe, but now ornamented by the luxurious vegetation developed by the heat of a burning climate, the boundless pastures on which herds of great elephants, the active horse, the robust hippopotamus, and great carnivorous animals grazed and roamed, became covered with a mantle of ice and snow." [3]

M. Ch. Martins says:

"The most violent convulsions of the solid and liquid elements appear to have been themselves only the effects due to a cause much more powerful than the mere expansion of the pyrosphere; and it is necessary to recur, in order to explain them, to some new and bolder hypothesis than has Yet been hazarded. Some philosophers have belief

[1. American Cyclopia," vol. vi, p. 114.

2. Ibid., vol. vi, p. 111.

3. "The World before the Deluge," p. 435.]

in an astronomical revolution which may have overtaken our globe in the first age of its formation, and have modified its position in relation to the sun. They admit that the poles have not always been as they are now, and that some terrible shock displaced them, changing at the same time the inclination of the axis of the rotation of the earth." [1]

Louis Figuier says:

"We can not doubt, after such testimony, of the existence, in the frozen north, of the almost entire remains of the mammoth. The animals seem to have perished suddenly; enveloped in ice at the moment of their death, their bodies have been preserved from decomposition by the continual action of the cold." [2]

Cuvier says, speaking of the bodies of the quadrupeds which the ice had seized, and which have been preserved, with their hair, flesh, and skin, down to our own times:

"If they had not been frozen as soon as killed, putrefaction would have decomposed them; and, on the other hand, this eternal frost could not have previously prevailed in the place where they died, for they could not have lived in such a temperature. It was, therefore, at the same instant when these animals perished that the country they inhabited was rendered glacial. These events must have been sudden, instantaneous, and without any gradation." [3]

There is abundant evidence that the Drift fell upon a land covered with forests, and that the trunks of the trees were swept into the mass of clay and gravel, where they are preserved to this day.

Mr. Whittlesey gives an account of a log found forty feet below the surface, in a bed of blue clay, resting

[1. "The World before the Deluge," p. 463.

2. Ibid., p. 396.

3. "Ossements fossiles, Discours sur les Rolutions du Globe."]

upon the "hard-pan" or "till," in a well dug at Columbia, Ohio. [1]

At Bloomington, Illinois, pieces of wood were found one hundred and twenty-three feet below the surface, in sinking a shaft.[2]

And it is a very remarkable fact that none of these Illinois clays contain any fossils. [3]

The inference, therefore, is irresistible that the clay, thus unfossiliferous, fell upon and inclosed the trees while they were yet growing.

These facts alone would dispose of the theory that the Drift was deposited upon lands already covered with water. It is evident, on the contrary, that it was dry land, inhabited land, land embowered in forests.

On top of the Norwich crag, in England, are found the remains of an ancient forest, "showing stumps of trees standing erect with their roots penetrating an ancient soil." [4]In this soil occur the remains of many extinct species of animals, together with those of others still living; among these may be mentioned the hippopotamus, three species of elephant, the mammoths, rhinoceros, bear, horse, Irish elk, etc.

In Ireland remains of trees have been found in sand-beds below the till. [5]

Dr. Dawson found a hardened peaty bed under the bowlder-clay, in Canada, which "contained many small roots and branches, apparently of coniferous trees allied to the spruces."[6]Mr. C. Whittlesey refers to decayed

[1. "Smithsonian Contributions," vol. xv.

2. "Geology of Illinois," vol. iv, p. 179.

3. "The Great Ice Age," p. 387.

4. Ibid., p. 340. "Dublin Quarterly Journal of Science," vol. vi, p. 249.

5. "Acadian Geology," p. 63.]

leaves and remains of the elephant and mastodon found below and in the drift in America. [1]

"The remains of the mastodon, rhinoceros, hippopotamus, and elephant are found in the pre-glacial beds of Italy." [2]

These animals were slaughtered outright, and so suddenly that few escaped:

Admiral Wrangel tells us that the remains of elephants, rhinoceroses, etc., are heaped up in such quantities in certain parts of Siberia that "he and his men climbed over ridges and mounds composed entirely of their bones."[3]

We have seen that the Drift itself has all the appearance of having been the product of some sudden catastrophe:

"Stones and bowlders alike are scattered higgledy-piggledy, pell-mell, through the clay, so as to give it a highly confused and tumultuous appearance."

Another writer says:

"In the mass of the 'till' itself fossils sometimes, but very rarely, occur. Tusks of the mammoth, reindeer-antlers, and fragments of wood have from time to time been discovered. They almost invariably afford marks of having been subjected to the same action as the stones and bowlders by which they are surrounded." [4]

Another says:

"Logs and fragments of wood are often got at great depths in the buried gorges." [5]

[1. "Smithsonian Contributions," vol. xv.

2. "The Great Ice Age," p. 492.

3. Agassiz, "Geological Sketches," p. 209.

4. "The Great Ice Age," p. 150.

5. "Illustrations of Surface Geology," "Smithsonian Contributions."]

Mr. Geikie says:

"Below a deposit of till, at Woodhill Quarry, near Kilmaurs, in Ayrshire (Scotland), the remains of mammoths and reindeer and certain marine shells have several times been detected during the quarrying operations. . . . Two elephant-tasks were got at a depth of seventeen and a half feet from the surface. . . . The mammalian remains, obtained from this quarry, occurred in a peaty layer between two thin beds of sand and gravel which lay beneath a mass of 'till,' and rested directly on the sandstone rock." [1]

And again:

"Remains of the mammoth have been met with at Chapelhall, near Airdrie, where they occurred in a bed of laminated sand, underlying 'till.' Reindeer-antlers have also been discovered in other localities, as in the valley of the Endrick, about four miles from Loch Lomond, where an antler was found associated with marine shells, near the bottom of a bed of blue clay, and close to the underlying rock--the blue clay being covered with twelve feet of tough, stony clay."[2]

Professor Winchell says

"Buried tree-trunks are often exhumed from the glacial drift at a depth of from twenty to sixty feet from the surface. Dr. Locke has published an account of a mass of buried drift-wood at Salem, Ohio, forty-three feet below the surface, imbedded in ancient mud. The museum of the University of Michigan contains several fragments of well-preserved tree-trunks exhumed from wells in the vicinity of Ann Arbor. Such occurrences are by no means uncommon. The encroachments of the waves upon the shores of the Great Lakes reveal whole forests of the buried trunks of the white cedar."[3]

These citations place it beyond question that the Drift came suddenly upon the world, slaughtering the animals,

[1. The Great Ice Age," p. 149.

2. Ibid., p. 150.

3. Winchell, "Sketches of Creation," p. 259.]

breaking up the forests, and overwhelming the trunks and branches of the trees in its masses of dris.

Let us turn to the next question: Was it an extraordinary event, a world-shaking cataclysm?

The answer to this question is plain: The Drift marks probably the most awful convulsion and catastrophe that has ever fallen upon the globe. The deposit of these continental masses of clay, sand, and gravel was but one of the features of the apalling event. In addition to this the earth at the same time was cleft with great cracks or fissures, which reached down through many miles of the planet's crust to the central fires and released the boiling rocks imprisoned in its bosom, and these poured to the surface, as igneous, intrusive, or trap-rocks. Where the great breaks were not deep enough to reach the central fires, they left mighty fissures in the surface, which, in the Scandinavian regions, are known as fiords, and which constitute a striking feature of the scenery of these northern lands; they are great canals--hewn, as it were, in the rock--with high walls penetrating from the sea far into the interior of the land. They are found in Great Britain, Maine, Nova Scotia, Labrador, Greenland, and on the Western coast of North America.

David Dale Owen tells us that the outburst of trap-rock at the Dalles of the St. Croix came up through open fissures, breaking the continuity of strata, without tilting them into inclined planes." [1]It would appear as if the earth, in the first place, cracked into deep clefts, and the igneous matter within took advantage of these breaks to rise to the surface. It caught masses of the sandstone in its midst and hardened around them.

These great clefts seem to be, as Owen says, "lines

[1. "Geological Survey of Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota," p. 142.]

radiating southwestwardly from Lake Superior, as if that was the seat of the disturbance which caused them." [1]

Moreover, when we come to examine the face of the rocks on which the Drift came, we do not find them merely smoothed and ground down, as we might suppose a great, heavy mass of ice moving slowly over them would leave them. There was something more than this. There was something, (whatever it was,) that fell upon them with awful force and literally smashed them, pounding, beating, pulverizing them, and turning one layer of mighty rock over upon another, and scattering them in the wildest confusion. We can not conceive of anything terrestrial that, let loose upon the bare rocks to-day, would or could produce such results.

Geikie says:

"When the 'till' is removed from the underlying rocks, these almost invariably show either a well-smoothed, polished, and striated surface, or else a highly confused, broken, and smashed appearance." [2]

Gratacap says:

"'Crushed ledges' designate those plicated, overthrown, or curved exposures where parallel rocks, as talcose schist, usually vertical, are bent and fractured, as if by a maul like force, battering them from above. The strata are oftentimes tumbled over upon a cliff-side like a row of books, and rest upon heaps of fragments broken away by the strain upon the bottom layers, or crushed off from their exposed layers." [3]

The Rev. O. Fisher, F. G. S., says he

"Finds the covering beds to consist of two members--a lower one, entirely destitute of organic remains, and

[1. "Geological Survey of Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota," p. 147.

2. "The Great Ice Age," p. 73.

3. "Popular Science Monthly," January, 1878, p. 326.]

generally unstratified, which has often been forcibly INDENTED into the bed beneath it, sometimes exhibiting slickensides at the junction. There is evidence of this lower member having been pushed or dragged over the surface, from higher to lower levels, in a plastic condition; on which account he has named it 'The Trail'."[1]

Now, all these details are incompatible with the idea of ice-action. What condition of ice can be imagined that would smash rocks, that would beat them like a maul, that would indent them?

And when we pass from the underlying rocks to the "till" itself, we find the evidences of tremendous force exerted in the wildest and most tumultuous manner.

When the clay and stones were being deposited on those crushed and pounded rocks, they seem to have picked up the detritus of the earth in great masses, and whirled it wildly in among their own material, and deposited it in what are called "the intercalated beds." It would seem as if cyclonic winds had been at work among the mass. While the "till" itself is devoid of fossils, "the intercalated beds" often contain them. Whatever was in or on the soil was seized upon, carried up into the air, then cast down, and mingled among the "till."

James Geikie says, speaking of these intercalated beds:

"They are twisted, bent, crumpled, and confused often in the wildest manner. Layers of clay, sand, and gravel, which were probably deposited in a nearly horizontal plane, are puckered into folds and sharply curved into vertical positions. I have seen whole beds of sand and clay which had all the appearance of having been pushed forward bodily for some distance the bedding assuming the most fantastic appearance. . . . The intercalated beds are everywhere cut through by the overlying 'till,' and

[1. "Journal of the Geological Society and Geological Magazine."]

large portions have been carried away. . . . They form but a small fraction of the drift-deposits." [1]

In the accompanying cut we have one of these sand (s) and clay (c) patches, embosomed in the "till," t1and t2.



And again, the same writer says:

"The intercalated beds are remarkable for having yielded an imperfect skull of the great extinct ox (Bos primigenius), and remains of the Irish elk or deer, and the horse, together with layers of peaty matter." [2]

Several of our foremost scientists see in the phenomena of the Drift the evidences of a cataclysm of some sort.

Sir John Lubbock [3]gives the following representation of a section of the Drift at Joinville, France, containing



[1. "The Great Ice Age," p. 149.

2. Ibid., p. 149.

3. "Prehistoric Times," p. 370.]

an immense sandstone block, eight feet six inches in length, with a width of two feet eight inches, and a thickness of three feet four inches.

Discussing the subject, Mr. Lubbock says:

"We must feel that a body of water, with power to move such masses as these, must have been very different from any floods now occurring in those valleys, and might well deserve the name of a cataclysm. . . . But a flood which could bring down so great a mass would certainly have swept away the comparatively light and movable gravel below. We can not, therefore, account for the phenomena by aqueous action, because a flood which would deposit the sandstone blocks would remove the underlying gravel, and a flood which would deposit the gravel would not remove the blocks. The Deus ex machinhas not only been called in most unnecessarily, but when examined turns out to be but an idol, after all."

Sir John thinks that floating ice might have dropped these blocks; but then, on the other hand, M. C. d'Orbigny observes that all the fossils found in these beds belong to fresh-water or land animals. The sea has had nothing to do with them. And D'Orbigny thinks the Drift came from cataclysms.

M. Boucher de Perthes, the first and most exhaustive investigator of these deposits, has always been of opinion that the drift-gravels of France were deposited by violent cataclysms.[1]

This view seems to be confirmed by the fact that the gravel-beds in which these remains of man and extinct animals are found lie at an elevation of from eighty to two hundred feet above the present water-levels of the valleys.

Sir John Lubbock says:

[1. "M. Soc. d'Em. l'Abbeville," 1861, p. 475.]

"Our second difficulty still remains--namely, the height at which the upper-level gravels stand above the present water-line. We can not wonder that these beds have generally been attributed to violent cataclysms." [1]

In America, in Britain, and in Europe, the glacial deposits made clean work of nearly all animal life. The great mammalia, too large to find shelter in caverns, were some of them utterly swept away, while others never afterward returned to those regions. In like manner pallithic man, man of the rude and unpolished flint implements, the contemporary of the great mammalia, the mammoth, the hippopotamus, and the rhinoceros, was also stamped out, and the cave-deposits of Europe show that there was a long interval before be reappeared in those regions. The same forces, whatever they were, which "smashed" and "pounded" and "contorted" the surface of the earth, crushed man and his gigantic associates out of existence. [2]

But in Siberia, where, as we have seen, some of the large mammalia were caught and entombed in ice, and preserved even to our own day, there was no "smashing" and "crushing" of the earth, and many escaped the snow-sheets, and their posterity survived in that region for long ages after the Glacial period, and are supposed only to have disappeared in quite recent times. In fact, within the last two or three years a Russian exile declared that he had seen a group of living mammoths in a wild valley in a remote portion of that wilderness.

These, then, good reader, to recapitulate, are points that seem to be established:

I. The Drift marked a world-convulsing catastrophe. It was a gigantic and terrible event. It was something quite out of the ordinary course of Nature's operations.

II. It was sudden and overwhelming.

[1. "Prehistoric Times," p. 372.

2. "The Great Ice Age," p. 466.]

III. It fell upon land areas, much like our own in geographical conformation; a forest-covered, inhabited land; a glorious land, basking in perpetual summer, in the midst of a golden age.

Let us go a step further.


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