South American Geology

South American Geology


It is to be hoped that when M.Gay's long-continued and admirable labours in Chile are published, more light will be thrown on this subject.However, the boulders may have been primarily transported; the final position of those of porphyry, which have been described as arranged at the foot of the mountain in rude lines, I cannot doubt, has been due to the action of waves on a beach.The valley of the Cachapual, in the part where the boulders occur, bursts through the high ridge of Cauquenes, which runs parallel to, but at some distance from, the Cordillera.This ridge has been subjected to excessive violence; trachytic lava has burst from it, and hot springs yet flow at its base.Seeing the enormous amount of denudation of solid rock in the upper and much broader parts of this valley where it enters the Cordillera, and seeing to what extent the ridge of Cauquenes now protects the great range, I could not help believing (as alluded to in the text)that this ridge with its trachytic eruptions had been thrown up at a much later period than the Cordillera.If this has been the case, the boulders, after having been transported to a low level by the torrents (which exhibit in every valley proofs of their power of moving great fragments), may have been raised up to their present height, with the land on which they rested.) Finally, notwithstanding this one case of difficulty, I cannot entertain any doubt, that these terrace-like fringes, which are continuously united with the basin-shaped plains at the foot of the Cordillera, have been formed by the arrestment of river-borne detritus at successive levels, in the same manner as we see now taking place at the heads of all those many, deep, winding fiords intersecting the southern coasts.To my mind, this has been one of the most important conclusions to which my observations on the geology of South America have led me; for we thus learn that one of the grandest and most symmetrical mountain-chains in the world, with its several parallel lines, has been together uplifted in mass between seven and nine thousand feet, in the same gradual manner as have the eastern and western coasts within the recent period.(I do not wish to affirm that all the lines have been uplifted quite equally; slight differences in the elevation would leave no perceptible effect on the terraces.It may, however, be inferred, perhaps with one exception, that since the period when the sea occupied these valleys, the several ranges have not been dislocated by GREAT and ABRUPT faults or upheavals; for if such had occurred, the terraces of gravel at these points would not have been continuous.The one exception is at the lower end of a plain in the Valle del Yeso (a branch of the Maypu), where, at a great height, the terraces and valley appear to have been broken through by a line of upheaval, of which the evidence is plain in the adjoining mountains; this dislocation, perhaps, occurred AFTER THE ELEVATION of this part of the valley above the level of the sea.The valley here is almost blocked up by a pile about one thousand feet in thickness, formed, as far as I could judge, from three sides, entirely, or at least in chief part, of gravel and detritus.On the south side, the river has cut quite through this mass; on the northern side, and on the very summit, deep ravines, parallel to the line of the valley, are worn, as if the drainage from the valley above had passed by these two lines before following its present course.)FORMATION OF VALLEYS.

Charles Darwin