Geological Observations on South America by Charles Darwin

By Charles Darwin

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Miers,1 to a height of 500 feet, and at a distance of three leagues from the coast: I here noticed barnacles adhering to the rocks three or four feet above the highest tides. In the neighbourhood of Plazilla and Catapilco, at heights of between two hundred and three hundred feet, the number of comminuted shells, with some perfect ones, especially of the Mesodesma, packed in layers, was truly immense: the land at Plazilla had evidently existed as a bay, with abrupt rocky masses rising out of it, precisely like the islets in the broken bays now indenting this coast.

Their width varies much, sometimes being very broad, and sometimes contracting into mere fringes of separate flat-topped projections, and then quite disappearing: at the one spot, where the fourth terrace was visible, the whole six terraces were cut off for a short space by one single bold escarpment. Near Ballenar (thirty-seven miles from the mouth of the river), the valley between the summit-edges of the highest escarpments is several miles in width, and the five terraces on both sides are broadly developed: the highest cannot be less than six hundred feet above the bed of the river, which itself must, I conceive, be some hundred feet above the sea.

Xvii, p. 42. 2. "Voyages de la Comm. , also "Comptes Rendus," Oct. 1842. page 321 hundred to three hundred yards in width, but higher up the valley they expand into plains; the third terrace is generally narrow; the fourth I saw only in one place, but there it was distinct for the length of a mile; the fifth is very broad; the sixth is the summit-plain, which expands inland into a great basin. Not having a barometer with me, I did not ascertain the height of these plains, but they appeared considerably higher than those at Coquimbo.

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