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Robert Dick of Thurso
Chapter XXI. Recommences a Collection of Fossils


“I am not beat yeti” said Dick. “I have resolution, will, and ability to work. Let me try again.”

His flour was wrecked on the 9th of March. A few months later (May 18 th), we find him by the seashore, about six miles east of Thurso, where he had found his last fossil fish. He had to a certain extent got rid of his rheumatism. “I have got the use of my feet,” he says, “and am blest in comparison. It was terrible to be hampered like a hen with a string round its leg.

“Though I did not discover much, yet I am surprised that I found so much. I have dug out of the rocks what no one else ever got out of them. It is cheerless, cold work. Lonely work too. But no good work can be done in company.”

He next visited a hill near Thurso, from two to three hundred feet high, where at one spot the fossil fish lie by the score, fish over fish, packed like herrings in a barrel. With the insight of the poet, he saw the sepulchres of the past beneath his feet.

“Tell me, thou dust beneath my feet,
Thou dust that once had breath,—
Tell me how many mortals meet
In this small hill of death.

“By wafting winds and flooding rains,
From ocean, earth, and sky,
Collected here, the frail remains
Of slumbering millions lie.

“Like me, thou elder-born of clay
Enjoyed the cheerful light;
Bore the brief burden of a day,
And went to rest at night.”

“For my own part,” he says, “I would never have sought after these fish, did not a feeling of wondrous astonishment take possession of me. Every time I think of them, I can scarcely understand how they are there.” And again, “I often feel very much puzzled about those dead fish. I mean as to whether they lived before or since the creation and fall of man. Did Death exist before man’s disobedience? . . . One thing is certain: the present habitable world is a graveyard! ” The fossil fish heretofore discovered had for the most part been broken. Bucklers, scales, bits of fish of various kinds, had been found fossilised, and from these drawings had been made; but parts of the drawings were guess-work. Dick determined to find, if he could, an entire fossil fish, and proceeded to make many searches for it. He thus picturesquely describes one of his journeys for this purpose :—

“On Monday I made a large day’s work (that is, of bread and biscuit making and baking), intending to set out early on Thursday morning. The morning was rainy, but by eleven o’clock I was able to set out on my two hours’ walk to the neighbouring hill-top. After a brief interval I cleared off the rubbish, and began to turn up dead fish. They were all rotten. Many thousands had died and been buried here a long time ago. The mud had choked them, and buried up their bodies, fish over fish, in whole myriads. Thousands of thousands must have died at the same time. 'This platform of death,’ as Hugh Miller phrases it, extends for many miles.

“Standing upright and looking round, I can see Weydale some miles away; and there is reason to believe that the beds of fish on this hill and Weydale are one and the same. It is true, they have been cut across, and the rocks have been disturbed and lifted up —twisted, broken, bent, and what not—in a thousand different ways; and yet I have no doubt they were once continuous. What numbers! I turned them up, rotten, by twos and threes. . . .

“I stood up to rest me, and looked around. It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining brightly. Far south I saw Skerry Ben and Morven. Skerry Ben had hardly any snow wreaths on it, and thin vapour seemed to be rolling away from its summit. Looking over all the intervening space, the country seemed very bare. Nothing broke the uniformity of the prospect until the eye rested on the Dorery Hills, and these seemed black and uninteresting.

“Seaward, all was in motion. The Orkney hills on the north were capped by clouds, which rolled along their summits. Not very far west frowned a dark precipice, at least 200 feet high, at whose base the sea waves were toiling and grinding.

“I went to work again,—raising up thin layers of rock, and turning out rotten fish; but nothing of any worth. As I got down the stone got firmer, and the fish were sounder. But where was my dream? I had fancied that I should find the big fossil. I knew that part of it—indeed two parts of it—were found in this neighbourhood; and I thought that perhaps I might alight on a whole one. But no! There was no fossil for me, such as I wanted; and having raised up a stone with three tolerably good fishes on it, I thought that I had better wend my way home.”

Disappointed but not baffled, Dick continued his researches. “On Monday morning, after my work was over, I walked out some two miles to a quarry by the side of the road, where I knew fish bones abounded. It is not a regular quarry, but a hole out of which stone for road-metal had been taken.

“Imperious Caesar, dead and turned to clay,
Might stop a hole to keep the wind away."

Who knows? One thing is certain—it is so with the poor fish. Nearly all the houses in Thurso are built of dead fish. All the ploughed fields are fields of the dead. The living plants feed on the dead, and so it is everywhere. Was it ever otherwise? Once I believed in a world without death—hideous death. But it is a sad thought that death exists over all creation. Some, however, say that death is necessary and a blessing; because, without it, there could be no progress. Alas! is death then a necessity?

“I went to the quarry by the road-side, and was grubbing away for old bones, to the no small amusement of the passers-by. No doubt they thought me mad. Some looked curious ; some looked pitiful. At last one of them came and planted himself opposite me.

"Hae ye lost onything there?’ ‘No.’ ‘Then what are ye seeking?’ ‘Auld banes.’ ‘Auld banes?’ * Ay, auld fish-banes.’ ‘O, there’s none o’ them there : I’m the man that quarried the hole: there’s nae fish-banes there.’ ‘If ye like to believe me, gudeman, the banes are abundant.’ ‘ Na!’ ‘ Oh yes; it’s an auld burying-ground.’ ‘Eh!’ ‘ Yes; look at that.’

“At this the man came running up the brae, and I handed him a stone all covered with scales. ‘Eh!’ said he, and then he took the stone. He looked at it. ‘Weel,’ he at length observed, ‘that’s trash—nothing but trash.’ ‘It’s an auld burying-ground, I assure ye,’ said I; ‘it’s of great antiquity.’ He threw down the stone and walked away solemnly. I have no doubt he thought me crazy—perhaps something worse.

“I got so many heads, jaws, Coccosteus bones, and such like, that I nearly killed myself in carrying home the stones. My arms are still sore, and my breast is sore. Eor all that, I would carry as heavy a load tomorrow.” .

A few days later he says :—

“I have again been to the limestone quarry on the hill, and have brought thence one fossil fish and some half-dozen of broken bits of other fossils, and only one moss from the waterfall.

I half filled my hat with the Fern Blechnum boreale, or Northern Hard Fern, which I found growing in beauty in sheltered spots. .

“I saw tree stumps in peat banks, molehills, muir-fowl, and lapwings,—and snow wreaths on hill-sides and around lochs. I had a long, long, beautiful walk.

“Hugh Miller, to his dying day, insisted that nothing organic lived in the north of Scotland previous to the deposition of the Old Bed conglomerate. The Old Bed conglomerate was to him the fossiliferous base in the north. He knew and acknowledged the Silurians of the south of Scotland; but he argued that Durness limestone was of

Old Red age. Professor Nicol said it was of mountain limestone. Sir Eoderick Murchison has classed it Silurian.

“When Hugh Miller was in Orkney he saw the Old Eed conglomerate at Stromness, and followed the fossiliferous rocks along the sea-shore upwards, until he found a fossil hone, which he termed the “ Hail,” and he counted how many feet this “nail” was above the Old Red conglomerate. He considered this “nail” the oldest hone in Scotland. So he said. He knew of none older at that time. The Durness fossils being all shells and molluscous animal remains, Hugh probably thought that nothing of a bony nature existed in Scotland older than his Stromness “nail.” And this bone was a fish remain, many hundred feet above the Old conglomerate.

“But what would Hugh have thought of fish underlying Old Eed conglomerate? Fish remains older than conglomerate? Alas, poor Hugh! such is actually the case. The other day I turned up and brought home with me to Thurso the remains of fish that had lain buried below the Old Red conglomerate! But Hugh had seen the 'Base’ in many places, and preferred retaining the old opinion.

“I believe the opinion entertained by our highest geologists is, that there is Old Red conglomerate of many ages; whereas Hugh Miller considered it as of one age—one great formation. He says that it extends from the Grampians to Orkney, and from Peterhead to the Western Isles; that it lies in a continuous stratum of variable thickness; and that no fish lived then in what is now Scotland. A great mistake!

“I have found pieces of clay slate in the Old Red conglomerate; that is, the slate was in existence before the other was formed.

“Those fish I found the other day lived before the Old Red conglomerate was wholly made. A bed with rolled granite ground down into sandy gravel overlies a bed of limestone, and the limestone deposit overlies a bed of limy clay, which contains the fish remains.

“It is a beautiful spot where the dead fish lie buried. All is quiet and still. No sound of any kind, but the wind whistling along the heather. In summer time the royal eagle comes to build beside the waterfall, and to prey upon the muirfowl. Death’s doings are still about us, and who knows how long it is since they first began?”

A few days later, he says:—“Some time ago, one of the flagmen showed me a fossil which he did not understand. It was a fine one, and only your humble servant knew what it was. I had, twenty years ago, furnished Hugh Miller with such a fossil, and this was the only instance of another turning up anywhere. This was found in the quarries. I sent word to London, and Mr. John Miller bought it. It gave me pleasure to find Hugh’s word corroborated. I have not the least doubt that the entire fish will some day turn up, and then it will be seen who was speaking truth.”

Dick also searched the rocks at Murkle Bay, where he had found the big fossil buckler. One day he discovered a rather large bone sticking out of the mass. He went at it with his hammer and chisel. He laboured for nearly four hours, and then he left it to return again on the following day. To get it out, required several weeks of hammering and chiseling. He had to go to the bottom of the bone to get it out. He did not mind the amount of labour he gave to a fossil, provided he could get it out whole. He once worked at a particular bone for six months. The fossil, on this occasion, was a prize. It measured one foot two inches long, by six inches across.

“At the same time,” he said, “I don’t neglect my employment. "Whether I get out the bone or not, I always make sure of doing my day’s work first. I never yet trifled a moment for anything. If I want playing at fossils, I merely rob myself of my rest and sleep.

“It is now twenty years in March last (his letter was dated 7th September 1863) since I found a bone so large. And not only have I got so large a bone, but what is a step in advance, something new. ... I have sawn the four sides of the stem, and also taken four inches off the bottom thickness. It is now portable. It can be lifted. Before, it could not be moved without taking with you the immense rock in which it was imbedded.

“It is very odd, that in twenty years I have never found an entire fish. At that time I found two of those fishes, but much broken up. Hugh Miller was satisfied that they were the same as he figured in his book. That idea is doubted now by some London men; and here am I laughing at them and wishing that I could find another fossil fish. Amen! may it come soon.”

Two months later he wrote to his brother-in-law:— “Perhaps you are thinking that I am busy with those bones on the rocks here; but no! the last bone nearly killed me with fatigue and cold. Besides, I cut my hands, and cut my little finger. Of all the labour I ever tried, there is none like digging on the sea-shore— crouching down on one’s knees in a hole, bothered with incoming water, and hammering, and picking, and sawing all the while.

“I have got another curious evidence about that fish, which Hugh Miller never saw. Perhaps he dreamt of it. Most certainly he spoke of a time when the bone which he figured would yet be found.

“After all, there will be no satisfying of those men’s doubts, until a whole fossil fish, of that particular kind, turns up. I wish I was the lucky finder of it; then I would laugh!

“Indeed, I don’t think I understand the fossil myself. How little do we really know; above all, how little do we know accurately! Ho entire fish has turned up yet; only broken and disjointed pieces. And such pieces! Bones a foot and four inches across. Ho one can credit it, unless he sees them. Perhaps I’ll yet turn up a whole fish! . . . Similar bones to these two bones beside me no human eye ever looked upon until August 1863.”

Dick continued at his digging. On the 31st October he writes:—“During the bypast week I have been unexpectedly no less than three different times digging amongst those dead fish and plants in the rocks on the shores here. I had no intention of being there more than once; but once at it, I could not get off without suffering a great deal. ... I can walk for miles upon miles over these dead fish, almost without drawing a sigh ! Once I felt differently. I was then lost in wonder and mute astonishment. Now it is quite an everyday affair. If I think at all, I think they are part of the still existing creation.

“Many years ago, when Hugh Miller was alive and in his glory, I had seen in a pool of water, bound fast in the rock, a bone. It was a broken bone. The pool was connected with three other pools of salt water. To get at the bone at the bottom of the pool it was necessary to throw out the water from all the pools. I boggled at the labour. ... On Monday last I got up at midnight, toiled at my work, and was off by midday to the sea-shore. After half an hour’s walking, I arrived at the place, took off my hat, my coat, my neckcloth, tucked up my sleeves, and with the assistance of a flat stone I threw out the water. This took me an hour’s incessant work.

“Well, I cut out the fossil bone, and another fragment of bone. Strange to tell, under that bone I found indications of another bone. I toiled away and cleared off the stone—saw that the bone was a good bone, and hoped that it was something new. Returned to it a second day; cut deep round the bone; got wearied out; tried to force it up, and broke my pick handle.

“I returned to it two days after, and spent about an hour in throwing out the salt water. I was awfully tired. I had to go down upon my knees on the hard stone, and was bothered with the salt water, and the wind and rain too. Well, I dug, and dug, and dug, and at last the stone and the bone rose up of themselves. I could hardly convey them home. I was tired and sorej but I am as well as ever again.”

He still went on digging among the rocks as late as the month of December. “The weather,” he says, “has been very stormy and wet. I have been fretting rather impatiently. I had settled it in my mind to go out and get a fossil out of the rocks in order to vindicate the truth told by Hugh Miller, or rather, my own truth; for it was from me that Hugh got his fossils. It is true that I did not name them. Hugh Miller did. He called this fossil Asterolepis, a fish intermediate between Glyptolepis and Holoptychius.

“Since Hugh died, some cantankerous people have printed and made known that the scales figured by Hugh belonged to Glyptolepis, and the head bones belonged to Coccosteus—thus plainly intimating that Hugh had blundered, or that I had misled him; not knowing that in so doing they proclaimed their own ignorance,—that the head, bones, scales, and fin-rays were found together—stuck together ; and thus proving indisputably that they belonged to one fish. It is amazing what ignorance these London men exhibit. They get their views from books. They should study nature on the spot. They did not know that Hugh came to Thurso and examined and saw the fossils in their beds for himself. He saw one of those fish lying in a rocky ledge, but boggled at the toil necessary to raise it up. However, after he went to Edinburgh he wrote to me and asked me to raise it up, which I did; and he tells it in his Book. And yet ignorance says that Hugh’s scales belonged to one fish, and the head bones to another!

“Four days ago I read in an Edinburgh paper a paragraph in which it was said that a Mr. Salter had been lecturing ‘ on the Order of Creation.’ Towards the close of the paragraph Mr. Salter is represented as saying: * Notwithstanding what had been said by the lamented Hugh Miller, no true evidence of the existence of a fish, or any vertebrate animal, was to be found in rocks below the level of the Old Bed Sandstone.’ Now, this was not fair. All that Hugh said was on the authority of those who said they kview. The bones I found in August vindicate the truth as stated by Hugh, and also the bones I found in October. I sent Sir Roderick, in May 1863, one of the same bones with the same kind of scale sticking on it. I sent him also two jaws, with many scales sticking on them.”

A few days later he says:—“I am not satisfied with that paragraph in the Edinburgh paper. It surely could not be Mr. Salter that inserted it. No one is better acquainted with geological matters than he is. Sir Roderick’s right-hand man! What am I to think? Has Agassiz been imposed upon? Has Sir Roderick published a dream? ‘No true evidence of a fish or any vertebrate animal in rocks at a lower level than the Old Red Sandstone!’ Has some reporter erred? Or is there an error in the classification of the rocks? There’s the point.

“Well, in vain did poor Hugh toil, and believe in many creations. How sad to think that he ruined his health for a shadow. And yet, three thousand years ago, all was said to be Vanity.

“I am anxious for a trial for a fossil fish to elucidate the point called in question; hut I am not sheep enough to strike a single blow in wind and rain. And yet I am very anxious to get out at the rocks. I shall have to carry a weighty hammer and wedges, and to work hard besides.”

So soon as the storm abated, Dick resumed his researches among the rocks. He went out with “hammers and chisels and a’.” He began on the 4th of January 1864. It was hard frost. The rocky ledges were covered with thick ice, while long ice-pillars hung from every cliff. The sea was hushed and smooth, its ripples quietly laving the shore. Dick worked for three hours at the place where he had settled down, but he got nothing important—only three fish snouts, some halfheads of fish, jugular plates, gill covers, and fish scales in any quantity. All these he had known twenty years before.

Two days after he returned to the rocks. It was still hard frost. He found nothing new, only fish jaws, a half-head, and scales innumerable. He returned on the 12 th and 14th of January, changing his ground from time to time ; but the results were the same. He found the smiddy hammer very heavy, especially after working with it for some hours. But still he went on.

On the 20th of January he made his fifth trial. He was on the rocks before daylight. It was still hard frost. “I had chosen,” he says, “new ground. I had great expectations. The tide was ebbing fast; and thundering, great, long, high rolling breakers, were dashing themselves on the rocks. And then what foam! I was obliged to wait until the sea had gone down. In the meantime I tried a new place. I raised three large lumps of rock. I split them, and found three rusty, ugly heads of Dipterus and scales. Nothing new.-Then I went back to the real place.

“When I got there, I laid down my weights and reconnoitred. Alas! I saw no hope. The ledges were rotten. I worked until one o’clock at midday, and got only scales, two rotten heads, a bit of plant, and a hit of bone. On my way home I tried another and a very hard spot. I worked there until two o’clock, but found only scales, fin-rays, and gill-covers. I was now chagrined, tired, and hungry! So I returned home, weary and heavy laden.” Next morning he was up at four, working at his trade.

In this way did Dick go on, trying to perfect the knowledge with which he was already partially acquainted, and also trying to acquire new knowledge by his persevering labour among the rocks, with hammer, and pick, and chisels, from day to day. He thus gradually accumulated a new store of fossils. The Asterolepis which he discovered, and which afterwards became the property of Mr. John Miller, F.G.S., was the finest that was ever found2

Dick continued to read the papers on geology which appeared in the newspapers, and particularly in the Athenceum. He could no longer afford to buy books, but he was not a man to believe passively in the views of others, especially when they seemed to be contrary to his own observation of facts. He had a keen eye, and believed what he saw rather than what he read. He had many a hard fight with Peach and Mr. Miller of London, as to the order of creation.

“There has been no new arrangement,” he says, “of the rocks in which the fossil fish have been found. Sir Roderick has figured the new fish as Silurian fossils, and the Silurian rocks are older than Old Red Sandstone; that is, they exist at a lower level. ... It is true that, after the Durness discoveries, Hugh Miller for a time resisted the views of Sir Roderick as to a new classification of the rocks of the north-west of Scotland. Hugh could not bear the idea of his favourite Old Eed giving way to the Cambrian—a deposit older even than the lower Silurian.

“For my own part, I care not much what name or names geologists may give to the various rocks, or the time that was occupied in the accumulation of their respective strata. They were, doubtless, made in succession, after longer or shorter intervals of time. About eleven miles from Thurso there is a small precipice which clearly illustrates the subject. Standing in front of it, I can see with my eyes and handle with my hands the successive strata of which it was originally composed. First, close at my feet, is a bed of rolled pebbles. That is the lowest exposed formation. Next, over that, is a bed of limestone. Then a bed of the ordinary Caithness flagstone; and over that a bed of boulder clay.

“Now, on looking attentively at the rolled pebbles, I find that they are similar to the rock on which they rest. Consequently the hills hereabout were as much stone as they are now before the pebbles were rolled. Next, we can see that these pebbles were rolling about in the lime, for they are crusted with lime just as almond sweetmeats are with sugar. Consequently the limestone was once soft and loose, and the pebbles had sunk amongst the lime, which now lies above them. Then a soft muddy clay was brought by water, and laid above the lime. The whole was hardened into stone. Was it beneath or above the water ? That is a question; but stone it became.

"And then another change occurred. Some great power came into action, breaking up the rocks, and making clay out of them, in some places a hundred feet thick. We know that the clay had become stone, for we often find great lumps of stone amongst the boulder clay, which forms the surface soil of the county.”

There was another thing that excited Dick’s observation. When at the top of Morven, 2331 feet above the sea, he was much struck by the bed of rolled pebbles that graces its top and north front. "How long had they been there? How high the sea must once have stood if they were rolled up by it yonder! Otherwise, the hill must have got a great lift since it was at sea-level!”

All these things surprised and astonished Dick. He pondered them over in his mind. They spoke of a long-past era, when the sea had washed its billows over Caithness, and tossed about the rocks as if they were playthings. Morven had been submerged, or its summit had formed but a little island, along which the sea had laid down its bed of rolled pebbles.

“I have examined attentively,” he said, “the cliffs of stony clays along the valley in which the river Thurso runs. They are so stern-looking, so bare, so densely compacted, that a man working with pick and shovel could make but small progress there. Indeed, they are almost as hard as solid rock. Hence it is that fossil shells still exist undecayed in those clays. They are perfectly impervious. No moisture penetrates them. No decay goes on. And then every stone, and piece of stone, is all grooved and scratched, and furrowed and polished, in a way that running water alone could never have done. No tossing of waves, though ever so violent, could do it. No! If ice and icebergs did not do it, what did ? None can tell. One thing is certain, that those clays are formed out of the rocks on which they lie. And many pieces of rocks are found among them that have travelled far,—rocks from as far as Skye! ”

A lecture having been delivered at Haddington on geology by Mr. Fin lay sou, a copy of the newspaper containing the report was sent to Dick, on which he made the following observations:—

“I fear that he does not hit the assertors of ‘the development hypothesis' so very hard as he imagines. He must know that no geologist says or imagines that all the metamorphic rocks were so formed at one and the same period of time. Though life may he obliterated over wide areas,—when the fiery tempest was over in one sea or part of a sea, the organisms would again find their way hack to their old abodes. The metamorphic rocks are of many ages; and no one can say that, though the mud was changed and became siliceous, the overlying water was unfit to support life. It was the dead they are supposed to have obliterated; the living might have lived on, either in that locality or in some other.

“Hugh Miller tells us of a ship-captain who sailed for days through a shoal of dead floating haddocks; but haddocks are still caught and sold. Hugh Miller was a splendid writer, but he was so highly imaginative as to be rather unsafe to rely upon. Besides, one soon gets tired of all geological reasoning. There is nothing on which the mind of the reader can lay hold upon and rest. ‘What is truth?’ is an old question; but no man in his senses would seek for it in the books of geologists.

“Metamorphic action has arisen from many producing causes. There have been changes from the action of heat, and changes without heat. To understand changes from the effects of heat, I suppose we must go to Iceland. To understand changes without heat, we have only to look around us.

“Last summer, I went one evening down to Murkle Bay. At one corner of the shore, at the west side of the bay, was a pile of sand. It had been accumulated, and lay on the land in a mass, blown up gradually in old times—no one knows how old. The sand was mixed with broken shells and small pebbles. Water had been finding its way through and amongst the sand. The shells had partly decayed. The lime [of the shells] had set, and bound the sand and pebbles, in some places, into a solid mass. In fact, it had became a stone—a rock. It required a smart blow of a hammer to break it. And in much the same way many a deposit of sand has thus become sandstone or freestone.

“Some years ago, I saw in the hands of Dr. Robert Chambers of Edinburgh a piece of siliceous quartzite. It had been taken from one of the metamorphic hills of Sutherland. It had evidently at one time been a mass of loose sand. In fact, it still resembled sandstone more than typical quartz. How it became a mass of flinty stone I know not; but evidently not from the effects of heat.

“Some years ago there was a great talk of liquid silica, or liquid flint—flint, in fact, as thin as water. Many public buildings, it was said, had been built of a material so loose that under weather influences they were falling to pieces4 It was proposed to wash their fronts with this siliceous whitewash, and thus preserve them from further decay. Be that as it may, it is a fact that they can render the softest stone, even soft sand, as hard as flint. They do, in fact, manufacture stones. There is actually such a thing as liquid flint. Man makes it, and nature makes it. Now, you have only to suppose an irruption of liquid flint into soft strata, and very soon after the rock becomes metamorphic.

“I saw, with Mr. Peach of Wick, many of his Durness Silurian fossils—both from the limestone and quartzite. Hugh Miller knew of fossils in quartzite, found to the west of Thurso, such as Worm Holm. The hard metamorphic quartzite had once been loose sand, and under the action of the weather had become sand again.

“Many of Mr. Peach’s limestone fossils were of flint. Indeed, all that I saw were flint casts. The shell had decayed; silica had gradually filled up the place of the shell; and you saw a form like it. Others were interior casts. But the limestone was not equally hard. Now these were from metamorphic rocks—rocks changed without fire, or any heat.

“No doubt there have been outbursts of fiery or molten matter. The gneiss, or metamorphic rocks, to the south of Caithness have all veins of quartz and veins of red granite. These veins are thought to have been molten or hot, and injected into them. Of course, their action was to change the nature of the rocks into which the veins of molten matter were driven. But how, no one can tell. There is a slow metamorphic action, as well as a rapid one.

“Yet no one has any reason to think that such a thing as a universally destructive action ever occurred since life began. There might be death from irruptive forces in the sea at Stornaway or Iceland, yet none at Caithness or Leith. No one supposes that, though all fossils may have been obliterated in metamorphic strata, all life was destroyed at the same time in the overlying waters.

“Agassiz and Hugh Miller believed in many destructions of life, and in many new creations. But Hugh, before he died, knew that it was not so. In his Testimony of the Rocks, he traced existing forms backwards, through all the various deposits, and found no break until he came to the Chalk. ‘If even then', he said. By the expression ‘If even then' he referred to the microscopic animals of the chalk,—found to be still alive in the North Sea, and in the seas between America and Britain.

“In dredging for a platform for the submarine cable, microscopic shells, with flesh on them, were brought up from a depth of a mile and a half. Ehrenberg, Humboldt, and Sir Roderick Murchison have said, that those shells brought up from the deep sea bottom are the same animal as those found entombed in chalk hills in millions.

“All metamorphic rocks are not of the same age; neither are all Silurian. Neither are Old Red Sandstone."

Coal, or any other of the great deposits. Life, in my opinion, was never wholly obliterated since it first began. Some creatures have died out; hut there are no proofs of any new creation.”

It should he mentioned that the letters in which these observations occur, were written without the slightest idea of their ever coming under the notice of the public. They were mostly written for the information and amusement of his sister and his brother-in-law at Haddington. He required of his eldest sister, that his letters to her should be burnt as soon as read. They were therefore destroyed. Fortunately, the letters to his youngest sister have been preserved. They have furnished us with some of the best descriptions of the scenery of Caithness. They have described much of Dick’s scientific investigations, and also some of his domestic history.


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