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The process of upheaval

The process of upheaval

We see, then, the necessity that exists for the action of some restorative or preservative force sufficient to counteract the effects of the continuous processes of destruction indicated above. If we consider, we shall see that the destructive forces owe their efficiency to their levelling action, that is, to their influence in reducing the solid part of the earth to the figure of a perfect sphere; therefore the form of force which is required to counteract them is one that shall tend to produce irregularities in the surface-contour of221 the earth. And it will be remarked, that although upheaval is the process which appears at first sight to be the only effectual remedy to the levelling action of rains and ocean-currents, yet the forcible depression of the earth’s surface may prove in many instances yet more effective, since it may serve to reduce the sea-level in other places.

Now, the earth’s subterranean forces serve to produce the very effects which are required in order to counteract the continual disintegration of the shores and interior parts of continents. In the first place, their action is not distributed with any approach to uniformity over different parts of the earth’s crust, and therefore the figure they tend to give to the surface of that crust is not that of a perfect sphere. This, of itself, secures the uprising of some parts of the solid earth above the sea-level. But this is not all. On a comparison of the various effects due to the action of subterranean forces, it has been found that the forces of upheaval act (on the whole) more powerfully under continents, and especially under the shore-lines of continents, while the forces of depression act most powerfully (on the whole) under the bed of the ocean. It need hardly be said that whenever the earth is upheaved in one part, it must be depressed somewhere else. Not necessarily at the same instant, it should be remarked Two considerationsmust havecaused Scheerthe gravestpossible anxiety..


may be either momentarily accompanied by a corresponding process of depression, or the latter process may take place by a gradual action of the elastic powers of the earth’s crust; but, in one way222 or the other, the balance between upheaval and depression must be restored. Hence, if it can be shown that for the most part the forces of upheaval act underneath the land, it follows—though we may not be able to recognise the fact by obvious visible signs—that processes of depression are taking place underneath the ocean. Now, active volcanoes mark the centre of a district of upheaval, and most volcanoes are near the sea, as if (though, of course, this is not the true explanation) Nature had provided against the inroads of the ocean by seating the earth’s upheaving forces just where they are most wanted.

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