The mountain structures originated in three great orogenic periods, the earliest in the Archean, the second at the end of the Palaeozoic and the third at the end of the Mesozoic. The Archean mountain chains, which enclosed the present region of Hudson Bay, were so ancient that they had already been worn down almost to a plain before the early Palaeozoic sediments were laid down.
The Mesozoic sediments were almost entirely laid down to the west and south-west of the protaxis, upon the fiat-lying Palaeozoic rocks, and in the prairie region they are still almost horizontal; but in the Cordillera they have been thrust up into the series of mountain chains characterizing the Pacific coast region.
The marine-part of the Lafayette is probably covered by sediments of later age.
The ridges and intervening valleys, long parts of which have an approximately parallel trend from south-west to north-east, were formed by the erosion of folded sediments of varying hardness, the weak belts of rock being etched out to form valleys and the hard belts remaining as mountain ridges.
Under these conditions sediments from the high lands were washed out and distributed widely over the plains, giving rise to a thin but widespread formation of ill-assorted sediment, without marine fossils, and, for the most part, without fossils of any kind, and resting unconformably on Cretaceous, Eocene and Miocene formations.
The sites of deposition varied as the period progressed, for the warping and faulting of the surface, the igneous extrusions, and the deposition of sediments obliterated old basins and brought new ones into existence.
As in other comparable cases, this figure does not make allowance for the oblique attitude in which the sediments were deposited, and should not be construed to mean the vertical thickness of the system.
The terraces represent the out-cropping edges of hard sandstone layers included in the series of plateau sediments, and are named according to the colour of the rock exposed in the south-facing escarpments, the Pink Cliffs (highest), White Cliffs and Vermilion Cliffs.
Most interesting among these are the Henry Mountains, formed by the intrusion of molten igneous rock between the layers of sediments, causing the overlying layers to arch up into dome mountains.
They contain a great variety of sediments and igneous rocks.
In India the same flora occurs in a thick series of fresh-water sediments, known as the Lower Gondwana system, including basal boulder-beds like those of Australia.
To state the case in a few words: there is in South Africa, South America, Australia and India an extensive series of sediments containing Glossopteris, Gangamopteris and other genera, and including beds full of ice scratched boulders.
Afghanistan, forming part of a thick series of marine beds known as the Salt Range group. This group of sediments in the extrapeninsular area of India includes a basal boulder-bed, referred on convincing evidence to the same geological horizon as the glacial deposits of the Indian peninsula (Talchir boulder-beds), South.
In following the progress of plant-life through those periods in the history of the earth of which records are left in ancient sediments, seams of coal or old land-surfaces, we recognize at certain stages a want of continuity between the floras of successive ages.
As the low-lying plains are altogether an alluvial deposit, the coarser sediments accumulate in the regions where the river first overflows its banks to spread out over the plains.
The northern part can best be regarded as a low plateau (once marine sediments) sloping southward, traversed by the large diluvial valleys of the Mississippi, Red and Ouachita rivers, and recut by smaller tributaries into smaller plateaus and rather uniform flat-topped hills.
A very thin soil covers the Edwards Plateau, but on the Llano Estacado are brownish and reddish loams derived from the sediments of a Neocene lake.
The Paleozoic sediments, ranging in age from Cambrian to Permian, occupy the Great Valley, the Valley Ridges and the plateaus still farther west.
Matthew, and are shown to contain fluviatile or channel beds with water and river-living forms, and neighbouring flood-plain sediments containing remains of plains-living forms. Thus we may complete the former physiographic picture of a vast flood plain east of the Rocky Mountains, traversed by slowly meandering streams.
,Among the known fossils are vermes, crustacea and probably brachiopods and pteropods The character of the sediments of the Proterozoic is such as to show that mature weathering affected the older rocks before their material was worked over into the Proterozoic formations.
Like the earlier Palaeozoic systems, the Devonian attains its greatest known thickness in the Appalachian Mountains, where sediments from the lands of pre-Cambrian rock to the east accumulated in quantity.
The site of these mountains had been, for the most part, an area of deposition throughout the Palaeozoic era, and the body of sediments which had gathered here at the western base of Appalachia, by the close of the Pennsylvanian period, was very great.
At this time these sediments, together with some of Appalachia itself, began to be folded up into the Appalachian Mountains.
Triassic SystemThis system has but limited representation in the eastern part of the United States, being known only east of the Appalachian Mountains in an area which was land throughout most of the Palaeozoic era, hut which was deformed when the eastern mountains were developed at the close of the Palaeozoic. In the troughs formed in its surface during this time of deformation, sediments of great thickness accumulated during the Triassic period.
These sediments are now mostly in the form of red sandstone and shale, with conglomerate, black shale and coal in some places.
This widespread submergence, followed by the deposition of marine sediments on the eroded surface of Comanchean and older rocks, is the physical reason for the separation of the system from the Comanchean.
They consist, in most parts of the country, of unconsolidated sediments, consisting of gravel, sand, clay, &c., together with large quantities of tuff, volcanic agglomerate, &c. Some of the sedimentary formations are of marine, some of brackish water, and some of terrestrial origin.
Clastic sediments are less abundant and there are fewer breaks in the succession.
Looking eastward, towards central and northern Russia, we find a wider and much more open sea; but the continental type of deposit prevailed in the northern portion, and here, as in Scotland, we find coal-beds amongst the sediments (Moscow basin).
The plains sediments contain important coal beds, which are worked in nearly every county in the state.
The Devonian beds are well developed in the Blue Mountains, where the lower Devonian sediments at Mount Lambie are estimated to be Io,000 ft.
- Wisconsin forms part of the inner margin of an ancient coastal plain and the oldland of crystalline rocks about which the plain sediments were deposited.
The Jurassic and Cretaceous beds are ordinary marine sediments, but from the Cenomanian to the Oligocene the deposits are of the peculiar facies known in the Alps and Carpathians as Flysch.
The highland rocks no doubt once extended along the whole length of the state from north to south; but they are now crossed by a band of Upper Palaeozoic sediments, which extend up to the valley of the Hunter river and separate the Blue Mountains and the Southern Highlands of New South Wales from the New England tableland to the north.
In western Europe the advent of the Carboniferous period was accompanied by the production of a series of synclines which permitted the formation of organic limestones, free from the sediments which generally characterized the concluding phases of the preceding Devonian deposition.
Sediments approaching to the culm type, with similar flora and fauna, were deposited in synclinal hollows in parts of France and Spain.
In North America, the crustal movements at the beginning of the period are less evident than in Europe, but a marked parallelism exists; for in the east, in the Appalachian tract, we find detrital sediments prevailing, while the open sea, with great deposits of limestone, lay out towards the west in the direction of that similar open sea which lay towards the east of Europe and extended through Asia.
From these high lands sediments were borne down to lodge on the low lands adjacent.
While igneous and metamorphic crystalline rocks form the bulk of the Adirondack area, it is surrounded by a ring of ancient Palaeozoic sediments in which these peripheral lowlands have been developed.
The question is of the age of the sediments from which these were taken.
Recent limestones are being produced in this way and also in some places by the precipitation of calcium carbonate by sodium or ammonium carbonate which has been carried into the sea or formed by organisms. The precipitated carbonate may agglomerate on mineral or organic grains which serve as nuclei, or it may form a sheet of hard deposit on the bottom as occurs in the Red Sea, off Florida, and round many coral islands in the Pacific. Only the sand and the finest-grained sediments of the shore zone are carried outwards over the continental shelf by the tides or by the reaction-currents along the bottom set up by on-shore winds.
The coarser particles of the sediments are deposited near the shore as gravels, sand and muds, but the very fine particles remain in suspension in the colloidal form, and some of this may be acted upon by marine bacteria or (it is surmised) even utilized by diatoms as a source of silica.