Ragnarok: The Age Of Fire And Gravel
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Pages (PDF): 382
Publication Date: 1883
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The Age of Fire and Gravel is a companion book to Donnelly's more well-known work Atlantis: The Antediluvian World. In Ragnarok, Donnelly argues that an enormous comet hit the earth 12,000 years ago, resulting in widespread fires, floods, poisonous gases, and unusually vicious and prolonged winters. The catastrophe destroyed a more advanced civilization, forcing its terrified population to seek shelter in caves.
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READER,--Let us reason together:--
What do we dwell on? The earth. What part of the earth? The latest formations, of course. We live upon the top of a mighty series of stratified rocks, laid down in the water of ancient seas and lakes, during incalculable ages, said, by geologists, to be from ten to twenty miles in thickness.
Think of that! Rock piled over rock, from the primeval granite upward, to a height four times greater than our highest mountains, and every rock stratified like the leaves of a book; and every leaf containing the records of an intensely interesting history, illustrated with engravings, in the shape of fossils, of all forms of life, from the primordial cell up to the bones of man and his implements.
But it is not with the pages of this sublime volume we have to deal in this book. It is with a vastly different but equally wonderful formation.
Upon the top of the last of this series of stratified rocks we find THE DRIFT.
What is it?
Go out with me where yonder men are digging a well. Let us observe the material they are casting out.
First they penetrate through a few inches or a foot or two of surface soil; then they enter a vast deposit of sand, gravel, and clay. It may be fifty, one hundred, five hundred, eight hundred feet, before they reach the stratified rocks on which this drift rests. It covers whole continents. It is our earth. It makes the basis of our soils; our railroads cut their way through it; our carriages drive over it; our cities are built upon it; our crops are derived from it; the water we drink percolates through it; on it we live, love, marry, raise children, think, dream, and die; and in the bosom of it we will be buried.
Where did it come from?
That is what I propose to discuss with you in this work,--if you will have the patience to follow me.
So far as possible, [as I shall in all cases speak by the voices of others] I shall summon my witnesses that you may cross-examine them. I shall try, to the best of my ability, to buttress every opinion with adequate proofs. If I do not convince, I hope at least to interest you.
And to begin: let us understand what the Drift is, before we proceed to discuss its origin.
In the first place, it is mainly unstratified; its lower formation is altogether so. There may be clearly defined strata here and there in it, but they are such as a tempest might make, working in a dust-heap: picking up a patch here and laying it upon another there. But there are no continuous layers reaching over any large extent of country.
Sometimes the material has been subsequently worked over by rivers, and been distributed over limited areas in strata, as in and around the beds of streams.
But in the lower, older, and first-laid-down portion of the Drift, called in Scotland "the till," and in other countries "the hard-pan," there is a total absence of stratification.
James Geikie says:
"In describing the till, I remarked that the irregular manner in which the stones were scattered through that deposit imparted to it a confused and tumultuous appearance. The clay does not arrange itself in layers or beds, but is distinctly unstratified."
"The material consisted of earth, gravel, and stones, and also in some places broken trunks or branches of trees. Part of it was deposited in a pell-mell or unstratified condition during the progress of the period, and part either stratified or unstratified in the opening part of the next period when the ice melted."
"The unstratified drift may be described as a heterogeneous mass of clay, with sand and gravel in varying proportions, inclosing the transported fragments of rock, of all dimensions, partially rounded or worn into wedge-shaped forms, and generally with surfaces furrowed or scratched, the whole material looking as if it had been scraped together."
The "till" of Scotland is "spread in broad but somewhat ragged sheets" through the Lowlands, "continuous across wide tracts," while in the Highland and upland districts it is confined principally to the valleys.
"The lowest member is invariably a tough, stony clay, called 'till' or 'hard-pan.' Throughout wide districts stony clay alone occurs."
"It is hard to say whether the till consists more of stones or of clay."
This "till," this first deposit, will be found to be the strangest and most interesting.
In the second place, although the Drift is found on the earth, it is unfossiliferous. That is to say, it contains no traces of pre-existent or contemporaneous life.
This, when we consider it, is an extraordinary fact:
Where on the face of this life-marked earth could such a mass of material be gathered up, and not contain any evidences of life? It is as if one were to say that he had collected the detritus of a great city, and that it showed no marks of man's life or works.
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