Discusses growth of various species of coral. Explains significance of dead reefs.
Describes meeting of the Council of the Geological Society; the controversy involving Edward Charlesworth.
Mentions conversations with William Lonsdale about Lonsdale's work on corals and the financial support for his work.
Murchison's views on glaciation in Wales.
Agassiz's observations at Glen Roy.
– As to species of coral I suspect some West Indian and Indian are the same!— But corals alter their habit so greatly according to where they grow, that the subject, will, I fear, for a long time be involved in great obscurity. The Habits of the animals are even less known than their structure & till within these 5 or 6 last years, this was saying, that scarcely anything was known.— For instance, I believe part of the genus Millepora is (as is admitted with the Nulliporæ) plants.
With respect to the dead reefs I do not think the difficulty nearly so great as you do. Of their existence I cannot doubt, especially in the Chagos Group, after the clear & positive accounts of Capt. Moresby.— If Coral-reefs were as general on shores in tropical seas, as vegetation, is on the land, I would admit your metaphor & the difficulty. But we have hundreds of miles of shore in the same great ocean—& all the shores in other oceans—single islands and archipelagoes in seas, where coral-reefs abound, either entirely (or nearly so) destitute of reefs, & yet where the obvious external conditions, which are favourable to their growth, are present. Corals—require food,—why should not an increase of small crustaceæ in the sea, or actiniæ on the shore &c &c during gradual changes in progress, cause corals to cease to flourish in certain areas.— I should even say, that as we see that the presence of reefs is not universal, we ought to expect to find that those same causes, which determine their absence ab origini in some place, should have destroyed them in others—& we find, that when not wholly destroyed, they generally have perished on that side, viz to leeward, where they always seem to flourish least.
I will keep this letter, till my return from the Council where I go tomorrow. Once again thank you for your letter.— Friday morning
The Council sat from three to 5
I had long talk with Lonsdale on Friday— I have not for years seen him so cheerful, or I might say I never saw him really cheerful before. He says he has just written to you. His setting to work at corals as an avowed return for the sum presented to him is a noble return & is one which will, I think, especially please you. He is evidently deeply gratified by the Present.
I had some talk with Murchison, who has been a flying visit into Wales & he can
see no traces of glaciers, but only of the trickling of water & of the roots of
the Heath!. It is enough to make an extraneous man think geology from beginning to end a
work of imagination & not founded on observation. Lonsdale, I observe, pays
Buckland & myself the compliment, of thinking Murchison not seeing as
worth nothing. But I confess I am astonished, so glaringly
clear after two or three days did the evidence appear to me.— Have you seen
last New Eding. Phil. it is ice & glaciers almost from beginning to
end.— Agassiz says he saw (& has laid down)
the two lower terraces of Glen Roy in the valley of the Spean, opposite mouth
of Glen Roy itself, where no one else has seen them. I
carefully examined that spot, owing to two sheep-tracks nearly but not quite parallel to
the terrace,—so much again for difference of observation.— I do not
pretend to say who is right.— I hope M
- f1 649.f1Both millepores and nullipores were originally classed as animals and grouped with the zoophytes, but nullipores were subsequently recognised as lime-secreting algae.
- f2 649.f2Moresby 1840.
- f3 649.f3When William Lonsdale retired as Curator of the Geological Society, a number of individuals applied for the position. Edward Charlesworth's application had already been rejected, but his supporters managed to have a Special Meeting of the Council called to reconsider the question (see Woodward 1907, p. 148).
- f4 649.f4William Charles Linnaeus Martin had served as superintendent of the museum of the Zoological Society, 1830–8.
- f5 649.f5Robert Alfred Cloyne Austen.
- f6 649.f6The ‘old question’ concerned Charlesworth's challenge of Lyell's dating of the Norfolk Crag formations (see letter from Charles Lyell, 29 August and 5 September 1837, n. 9).
- f7 649.f7See letter to Anne Susan Horner, [4 October 1842], n. 4.
- f8 649.f8See letter to W. H. Fitton, [c. 28 June 1842]. For R. I. Murchison's disbelief in Welsh glaciers see Murchison 1843. See also Davies 1969, pp. 287–94.
- f9 649.f9The October issue of the Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal contained a reprint of CD's ‘Notes on the effects produced by the ancient glaciers of Caernarvonshire’ as well as articles by Louis Agassiz and James David Forbes.
- f10 649.f10L. Agassiz 1842, pp. 236–7 and plate 4.