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Ch. XIV.] THE SEA DRAINED BY GLACIAL ICE.
accumulation of ice that made their abode impossible provided another for them by the lowering of the sea. Then pursuing the subject still further, I saw that all over the world curious questions concerning the distribution of races of mankind, of animals, and of plants, were rendered more easy of solution on the theory that land was more continuous once than now; that islands now separated were then joined together, and to adjacent continents; and that what are now banks and shoals beneath the sea were then peopled lowlands.
I have said that during the glacial period, if, as I believe, it was contemporaneous in the two hemispheres, the sea must have stood at least 1000 feet lower than it now does. It may have been much lower than this, but I prefer to err on the safe side. When geologists have mapped out the limits of ancient glacier and continental ice all over the world, it will be possible to calculate the minimum amount of water that was abstracted from the sea; and if by that time hydrographers have shown on their charts the shoals and submerged banks that would be laid dry, fabled Atlantis will rise before our eyes between Europe and America, and in the Pacific the Malay Archipelago will give place to the Malay Continent. Here is a noble inquiry, an unexplored region of research, at the entrance of which I can only stand and point the way for abler and stronger minds; an inquiry that will lead to the knowledge of the lands where dwelt the peoples of the glacial period who lived before the flood.
Vague and visionary as these speculations must seem to many, to others who are acquainted with the enormous glaciation to which America has been subjected they
will appear to be based on substantial truths. The immense accumulation of ice over both poles, reaching far down into the temperate zones, in some meridians encroaching on the tropics, and in Equatorial America certainly all the land, lying 2000 feet above the level of the sea, supporting great glaciers, involve conditions which must have greatly drained the sea. Lands now submerged must have been uncovered, and on the return of the waters at the close of the glacial period many a peopled lowland must have been overwhelmed in the nearly universal deluge.
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A Nicaraguan criininal–Geology between Ocotal and Totagalpa—Pre
parations at Totagalpa for their annual festival-Chicha-drinking -Piety of the Indians—Ancient civilisation of tropical America -Palacaguina-Hospitality of the Mestizos—Curious custom at the festival at Condego-Cross range between Segovia and Matagalpa-Sontuli—Birds' nests.
We got back to Ocotal, from Depilto, before dark, and made arrangements for setting out on our return to the mines the next morning. Whilst sitting under the corridor, looking across the pretty flower-garden at the glowing western sky, illumined by the last rays of the setting sun, a poor fettered criminal, holding up by means of a string the thick chain that bound together his ankles, came limpiny along, with a soldier behind him armed with gun and bayonet. He had been brought out of prison to beg. In most of the towns of Nicaragua no food is given to the prisoners, whether convicted, or merely charged with crime. Those that have no money to buy food are sent out every day with an armed escort to beg. The prisoner that hobbled up to me was under twenty years of age, and had been convicted of murder and condemned to death. He had appealed against the sentence to a higher court, but I was told that there was scarcely any chance of a decision in his favour, and that he would probably be shot in a day or two. Notwithstanding his critical position, he was lively and cheerful, and when I gave him a small piece of silver was as overjoyed as if he had got news of his reprieve. Jumping away, his clanking fetters making ghastly music, he gleefully showed to his guard the coin that would probably procure him food the few days he had to live. His wretched appearance, impending fate, and shocking levity, had chased away the peaceful feelings with which I had watched the quiet sunset; but as he hobbled off, night, like a pall, fell over the scene; the trembling stars peeped out from the vault of heaven, and soon a million distant orbs proclaimed that the world was but a grain of dust in the vast universe, that the things of earth were but for a moment, and, as a shadow, would pass away.
Next morning, when we wished to settle up with our kind entertainers, they absolutely refused to accept any payment. We had been recommended to the house, and told that we could pay for what we got; but we now learnt that no one was ever refused entertainment, and that no charge was made. We were total strangers, nor should I have any opportunity of returning their hospitality, as I had determined shortly to return to Europe; but all I could prevail upon them to accept was a present to a little girl that lived with the ladies, and of whom they were very fond, calling her “the daughter of the house." Leaving the hospitable Señoras Rimirez with many thanks, we started on our return journey about seven o'clock.
After crossing the river, I noticed boulders of conglomerate in the drift, none of which had occurred in Ch. XV.]
the valley of Depilto. The bed rock was still contorted schists, with many quartz veins. At the top of a steep rise, beyond the river, is a small plateau, or level terrace, fringing the range, formed of a gravelly boulder deposit; then another steep ascent led us to a second higher plateau, like the first, covered with boulders, lying on the level surface. The first beds of the quartzconglomerate occurred about half-way between Ocotal and Totagalpa. Between it and the contorted schists we passed over some soft, decomposing trap-rocks, which, both here and elsewhere, appeared to intervene between these two formations. Over the whole country between Ocotal and Totagalpa were spread many large boulders, great blocks of conglomerate, and of a hard blue trap-rock that I did not see in situ, lying on the upturned edges of the schistose rocks. I should have liked to have worked out the exact relative positions of the quartz conglomerate and the contorted schists, for I have no doubt that a day or two's search amongst the ravines would have shown many natural sections that would have thrown great light upon the subject; but I had no time to devote to it. We were hurrying on every day as far as our mules could carry us, as it was important that I should get back to the mines before the end of the month, and I was only able to note down the exposures that occurred within sight of the road. These, however, were sufficient to show me that the gneiss of Depilto was overlain conformably by the contorted schists ; that the latter were followed by soft trappean beds, and these by thick beds of quartz conglomerate, apparently derived from the degradation of the schistose rocks, with their numerous quartz veins.